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Gordon Bill Clarifying PANYNJ Requirement to Comply With Open Public Records Laws Under Reforms Now Law

Gordon NJ Transit

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Bob Gordon clarifying the requirement that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey comply with open public records laws of New York and New Jersey, as required by legislation signed in both states in 2015 was signed into law today by the governor.

“New Jersey and New York instituted historic reforms aimed at holding the Port Authority accountable by requiring transparency in its operations, just as we require of all public agencies in either state,” said Senator Gordon. “There has been some confusion in the court system concerning enforcement of the laws. We want to make it crystal clear that this agency, which operates major transportation infrastructure in the region and oversees a multi-billion-dollar budget, must adhere to the public records laws in both states.”

In 2014, New York and New Jersey Legislatures passed similar bills regarding Port Authority public records requests, but with different conflict resolution processes. Upon recommendations from Governor Christie, both bills were amended to provide that in the case of conflict, the case should be decided based on the State law where the appeal is filed.

In March 2015, both States enacted similar laws subjecting the Port Authority to FOIL and OPRA. The implementation of the law has been difficult however, with some courts misinterpreting the intent of the legislation as requiring the Port Authority to simultaneously comply with OPRA and FOIL, regardless of the differences between the two laws. The law would clarify this point and help judges enforce the provisions of OPRA for requests under New Jersey jurisdiction.

The new law (SJR-113) will clarify the intent of P.L.2015, c.64, which subjects the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority) to New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) and New Jersey’s open public records act (OPRA). As clarified by this resolution, the intent of P.L.2015, c.64 was to subject the Port Authority to public records laws from New Jersey and from New York, and that appeals filed by requestors against denials of requests by the Port Authority should be decided based on the State law where the appeal was filed, i.e. OPRA in New Jersey and FOIL in New York.

The legislation cleared both houses unanimously and will take effect immediately.