Fast-tracked bill would gut N.J.’s open public records law, experts warn

March 8, 2024

As officials squabbled over a controversial $500,000 consulting contract to deal with the coronavirus crisis inside state-run nursing homes, New Jersey’s top health official made a prediction.

“This is going to be OPRAed,” former state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said in a secretly recorded 2020 conversation, before nursing home deaths exploded into a scandal for Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration. “It will hit the light of day.”

She was referring to the Open Public Records Act, the preferred tool of government watchdogs. Now, top Democrats in the state Legislature are fast-tracking legislation to overhaul OPRA for the first time in more than two decades, giving local, county and state government more resources, time and leeway to fulfill records requests.

Transparency advocates are raising the alarm, saying the proposal would gut OPRA and make it harder for the press, activists and everyday citizens to shine light on government functions.

……..

Marc Pfeiffer, a senior fellow at the Bloustein Local Government Research Center at Rutgers University who helped draft the current law in the early 2000s, said reform was “long overdue” but that the bill as written doesn’t solve many of OPRA’s shortcomings.

“While the bill creates some streamlining, it complicates many issues,” he said.

Pfeiffer said the current bill doesn’t address OPRA’s biggest problem: the Government Records Council. Created along with OPRA to play referee between citizens and their government in records fights, the GRC takes more than two years on average to settle a dispute, a 2022 report from the state comptroller found.

NJ.com, March 8, 2024

Recent Posts

New Paper on Affordable Rental Housing by NJSOARH

Local Landscapes of Assisted Housing: Reconciling Layered and Imprecise Administrative Data for Research Purposes The New Jersey State of Affordable Housing (NJSOARH) project seeks to understand the state of rental housing affordable to low-income and very low-income...

NJSPL – Extreme Heat, Coastal Flooding, and Health Disparities

Extreme Heat, Coastal Flooding, and Health Disparities: Climate Change Impacts on Older Adults in New Jersey By Josephine O’Grady New Jersey is facing a myriad of climate challenges, including extreme heat, heavy precipitation, coastal flooding, and more natural...

New Paper on Foreclosure Crisis by Prof. Eric Seymour

Prof. Eric Seymour co-authors Judged by Their Deeds: Outcomes for Properties Acquired by Contract Sellers Following the Foreclosure Crisis in Detroit Abstract Prior research has documented the reemergence of predatory land contracts in majority-Black neighborhoods in...

EJB Talks with Professor Michael Smart

Transportation, Urban Planning, and Racial Bias: Insights from Professor Michael Smart In this episode of EJB Talks, Stuart Shapiro interviews Professor Michael Smart, beginning with how he became involved in transportation planning and its impact on poverty and...

NJSPL – New Report: 15-Minute Neighborhoods

Report Release: 15-Minute Neighborhoods: A Pathway to Creating Healthier, More Just, Resilient, & Sustainable Communities in New Jersey By Jon Carnegie, June Greeman, and Jacob Thompson READ FULL REPORT Over the past several years, several policy threads have...

Upcoming Events

Master of Health Administration Town Hall

Virtual

The Town Hall is an open and informal forum discussion for students to provide feedback, offer suggestions, and hear the most up to date news about the program. Hosted by […]