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HomeLocal NewsLawmaker to Gov. Murphy: The OPRA Bill is an Abomination. Veto it

Lawmaker to Gov. Murphy: The OPRA Bill is an Abomination. Veto it

MORRIS COUNTY — Governor Murphy, this is your watershed moment.

Will you stand with citizens or with everything that frustrates New Jerseyans about their government? Will you sign legislation that purports to “modernize” the state’s Open Public Records Act, which reached your desk earlier this month, or veto a bill that is a brazen attack on government transparency and accountability?

In a democratic society, the free flow of information between government and the governed is essential. Transparency is not just a buzzword but a critical component of a functioning democracy. When government operates in the shadows, corruption, abuse of power, and inefficiency flourish. We should view any attempt to weaken OPRA with great skepticism, as it has been essential in preventing or exposing these problems.

Consider the long-term implications. While it may provide short-term relief to government clerks seeking to limit public scrutiny, it ultimately harms the relationship between the government and the citizens it serves. By vetoing this bill, you can demonstrate your dedication to maintaining a transparent government that respects the rights of its citizens and upholds the values of democracy.

No doubt, you face a challenging situation amidst tense budget negotiations, but succumbing to pressure from lawmakers should be the least of your concerns.

You have the opportunity to be a real hero. The earmarks and promises made to secure votes before the bill’s passage are insignificant compared to preserving public trust. The essence of OPRA has always been about government integrity and the questionable manner this bill was pushed through underscores that point.

Sure, OPRA needs modernizing, but you should veto this flawed bill and make the Legislature start from scratch.

This time, ensure real public input by holding hearings on what should be done before drafting a new bill rather than crafting one behind closed doors. In these modern times, we should be expanding access and making the process more efficient, not restricting it.

One of the bill’s most troubling aspects is that it allows state and local agencies to sue people who request too many documents at once, essentially punishing them for seeking information.

Last year, the Township of Irvington sued an 82-year-old woman, claiming her frequent requests “bullied and annoyed” municipal officials. This is a clear example of the bill’s unintended consequences.

Another provision eliminates the requirement for governments that lose records disputes in court to pay the requesters’ legal fees.

Meanwhile, the bill does nothing to stop the commercial mining of government information for profit – the issue lawmakers initially aimed to address but failed to do.

Like a bag of potato chips, this bill offers citizens considerably less while costing more, all supposedly in defense of taxpayers. It’s a bad joke, so public interest groups are screaming.

Some are surprised that conservatives and progressives have rallied against the bill, but if they understood history, they’d realize it strikes at the heart of what is truly American. Those lawmakers who voted for it either flunked history or should have.

You have expressed a commitment to transparency and good governance throughout your tenure. Vetoing this bill would be a strong affirmation of those principles. It would send a clear message that New Jersey values openness and accountability, and we will not tolerate efforts to erode the public’s right to know.

The OPRA reform bill is a step backward. Governor Murphy, I implore you to stand with the people of our state and veto this bill. Like it or not, this is your legacy calling.

By Brian Bergen

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Frank L. Cahill
Frank L. Cahill
Publisher of Parsippany Focus since 1989 and Morris Focus since 2019, both covering a wide range of events. Mr. Cahill serves as the Executive Board Member of the Parsippany Area Chamber of Commerce, President of Kiwanis Club of Tri-Town and Chairman of Parsippany-Troy Hills Economic Development Advisory Board.
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