OPRA Letter to NJ Governor

May 16, 2024
Governor of the State of New Jersey
Governor Phil Murphy
225 W State Street
Trenton, NJ 08625

Dear Governor Murphy:

The New York Press Club (NYPC) is joining the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists and a number of the state’s media outlets and advocacy organizations in urging you to veto the revised version of the state’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA), as passed by the State Legislature Monday. The revisions will limit the public’s and journalists’ rights to examine government documents by making certain electronic records extremely difficult to get and pay for. The measure, as revised, now includes special service charges and many new limitations on awarding attorneys’ fees to ordinary citizens as well as to media outlets of all sizes. The NYPC echoes the concerns of other organizations in pointing out that the revised OPRA bill on your desk would shroud emails in secrecy and give records custodians power to deny access to many documents, including email logs that help reporters identify specific correspondence of interest. A strong OPRA as currently exists is critical to the public interest and to maintaining a democratic state. There were numerous public hearings on this measure which made the concerns of NJ residents and media outlets clear.

Without being able to see public records, democracy is restricted. We feel strongly that reporters should have the right to use these documents as they seek to uncover political corruption, government waste and police misconduct, all of which have been used in the past to keep officials from breaching the public trust. There are other ways for New Jersey to save money other than trying to hide what are legally public records. NYPC members live and work in New Jersey as well as New York and Connecticut. Our members would be as constrained as New Jerseyans or local media in doing our jobs — finding and telling the truth. Along with our colleagues we ask you to veto this weakened OPRA bill.

Debra Toppeta,
President, New York Press Club