Nearly 100 public advocacy groups call on Murphy to veto OPRA bill

Nearly 100 publicly advocacy groups — in agreement with the mayors of the state’s two largest cities, the highly respected Office of the State Comptroller and a whopping 81% of state residents — are urging Gov. Phil Murphy to veto a bill that many feel would dramatically weaken the Open Public Records Act.

The bill (S2930/A4045) is so toxic that three members of the Legislature changed their vote to “No” after the initial vote.

These groups, in an open letter to Murphy signed by the New Jersey Working Families Party, said the bill will throw barriers in the way of advocates, journalists and taxpayers seeking to hold their elected officials accountable.

“Access to public records is a cornerstone of democracy and government accountability,” they wrote.

The group attempted to hold Murphy at his word, noting the governor recently said New Jersey must “hold on to the sacrosanct notion of transparency” in any effort to modernize OPRA.

The group said the current legislative language puts a financial burden on working people and community organizations seeking legal counsel when appealing improper record request denials by agencies.

“Provisions that permit government agencies to sue requestors would have a chilling effect on ordinary citizens seeking more information into how their government works and will likely be used as a weapon by government actors seeking to shield their activities from public view,” they wrote. “And language that requires significantly increased specificity for requests — including the names and proper titles of government officials — will incentivize government agencies to withhold records.”

What does the bill solve? The authors said it does very little.

“While this bill is purportedly meant to tackle the problem of commercial requesters using OPRA to harvest data, it does nothing to address that issue. It even allows businesses to obtain records more quickly than advocates, journalists and regular citizens by paying a fee,” they wrote. “At the same time, the legislation does not create any real reform that would make it more efficient, easier and faster to access records to help understand government activity and hold government accountable.”

Public opposition to rollbacks to OPRA has been consistent. A whopping 81% of New Jersey voters oppose attempts to limit access to public records, according to an April 2024 FDU Poll.

The authors said this will be a legacy moment.

“History will remember your decision on this bill,” they wrote. “We ask you to put the fundamental principle of open government at the forefront by preventing it from becoming law.”

  • AAPI New Jersey
  • Action Together New Jersey
  • American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey
  • Asbury Park Press – My Central Jersey Guild
  • Bike Hoboken
  • Black Human Rights Campaign – Newark
  • BlueWaveNJ
  • Casa Freehold
  • Cherry Hill Women’s Center
  • Clean Water Action
  • CWA Local 1081
  • Empower NJ
  • Environment New Jersey
  • Fair Share Housing Center
  • Faith in New Jersey
  • First Friends of New Jersey & New York
  • Food & Water Watch
  • Freedom of the Press Foundation
  • Friends of Liberty State Park
  • Garden State Equality
  • Good Government Coalition of New Jersey
  • Housing and Community Development Network of NJ
  • Hudson County Central Labor Council
  • IFPTE Local 194
  • Indivisible Cranbury
  • Innocence Project
  • Ironbound Community Corp.
  • Latino Action Network Foundation
  • League of Women Voters of Lawrence Township
  • League of Women Voters of New Jersey
  • League of Women Voters Sussex Highlands
  • Local 1940 AFT
  • LWV of Monmouth County
  • Make the Road New Jersey
  • NAACP New Brunswick Area Branch
  • National Council of Jewish Women Bergen County Section
  • New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice
  • New Jersey Black Empowerment Coalition
  • New Jersey Black Empowerment Coalition Action Network
  • New Jersey Citizen Action
  • New Jersey Consortium for Immigrant Children
  • New Jersey Foundation for Open Government
  • New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition
  • New Jersey Institute for Social Justice
  • New Jersey Organizing Project
  • New Jersey Policy Perspective
  • New Jersey Prison Justice Watch
  • New Jersey Public Education Coalition
  • New Jersey Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
  • New Jersey Urban News
  • New Labor
  • Newark Communities for Accountable Policing
  • NJ 11th for Change
  • NJ 21st (f k a Berkeley Heights Community Watch)
  • NJ Communities United
  • NJ Food Democracy Collaborative
  • NJ Urban News
  • NJResistance
  • Not One More Campaign
  • Our Revolution New Jersey
  • People’s Organization For Progress
  • Pilgrim Medical Center
  • Pinelands Preservation Alliance
  • Piscataway Progressive Democratic Organization
  • Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey
  • PSK Strategic Solutions
  • Radio Television Digital News Association
  • Reformed Church of Highland Park
  • Resistencia en Acción NJ
  • Rutgers AAUP-AFT
  • Rutgers Adjunct Faculty Union, PTLFC-AAUP-AFT
  • SafeStreetsJC
  • Salvation and Social Justice
  • Save Our Schools NJ
  • Seeds & Berries
  • Society of Professional Journalists
  • SOMA Action
  • South Jersey Progressive Democrats
  • SPAN Parent Advocacy Network
  • Stanton Strong Inc
  • SWEEP New Jersey
  • The NewsGuild-CWA
  • The Record Guild
  • Tri-State Transportation Campaign
  • United Council of Academics at NJIT
  • Union of Rutgers Administrators-American Federation of Teachers (URA-AFT) Local 1766
  • Unitarian Universalist FaithAction NJ
  • Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center
  • York Street Project