Say Misinformation Has Resulted in Stalled Efforts to Modernize OPMA, OPRA
TRENTON – Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Senate President Steve Sweeney and good government advocates will hold a news conference TOMORROW at 10:30 AM in support of legislation Senator Weinberg has sponsored to modernize New Jersey’s Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) and Open Public Records Act (OPRA).
The news conference will be held in Room 103, across from the Senate Chambers.
“In the years since I’ve introduced measures to bring the Sunshine Law and OPRA into the 21st Century, I’ve received numerous objections to the bills from local officials who are more interested in the status quo than effective government transparency,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “Where their concerns were warranted, we made concessions, and ultimately, I think their input in these instances resulted in better bills. However, there are far too many public officials in the Garden State who seem to believe that they shouldn’t be held accountable by their constituents.”
“At the end of the day, these folks are elected by the public, they spend taxpayer dollars, and ultimately, should be as transparent and accountable as possible,” said Senate President Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “Considering that New Jersey residents pay among the highest taxes in the nation for the various levels of government, they have a fundamental right to know how their tax dollars are being spent.”
The bills, S-1451 and S-1452, would revise New Jersey’s key open government laws to reflect new trends in communicating and accessing information. The “Byron M. Baer Open Public Meetings Act,” also known as the Sunshine Law, was written in 1973; by way of contrast, the Internet hadn’t even been named until 1974. The Open Public Meetings Act was adopted more than a decade ago, before smart phones had gained widespread proliferation among public officials and constituents. The lawmakers noted that it’s past time to update New Jersey’s government laws to reflect the shifting landscape in how people monitor and communicate with government.
Senator Weinberg also noted that she will be introducing language in the bills to reshape the State Government Records Council (GRC) into an independent, effective watchdog of government openness. She said that dealing with the current GRC is frustrating for individuals seeking access to government records, and that the agency needs to set an example for local governments to follow in terms of its own transparency and accountability.
The bills are currently pending in the Senate Budget Committee. They were approved in March by the Senate State Government Committee.