Skip to content

Reporters Committee urges New Jersey lawmakers to vote ‘no’ on OPRA bill

Post categories

  1. Freedom of Information

Update: On June 5, 2024, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill to overhaul the state’s Open Public Records Act into law. 

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is urging New Jersey lawmakers to vote “no” on a Senate bill seeking to amend the state’s Open Public Records Act, warning that the legislation threatens to weaken the transparency law and undercut government accountability reporting.

“Each of the proposed amendments in SB 2930 would have a pernicious effect on the news media’s ability to gather, contextualize, and disseminate important information about the operations of government,” the Reporters Committee wrote in a March 8, 2024, letter sent to the chair and vice chair of the New Jersey Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

The Reporters Committee’s letter focuses on one particular provision of the bill: an amendment to OPRA’s mandatory “fee-shifting” provision that would disincentivize public records lawsuits. New Jersey’s mandatory fee-shifting provision serves to encourage and reward journalists and other members of the public who pursue litigation that benefits their fellow citizens by making it possible for them to recover their attorneys’ fees if they prevail. The proposed bill, however, would make fee-shifting purely discretionary, which would make it more difficult for journalists and other members of the public to secure legal counsel and likely prevent requestors from challenging public records denials.

“Weakening OPRA through SB 2930 will hinder members of the public and news media from telling important stories directly affecting New Jerseyans and will undercut necessary oversight and accountability of government institutions,” the letter concludes.

Stay informed by signing up for our mailing list

Keep up with our work by signing up to receive our monthly newsletter. We'll send you updates about the cases we're doing with journalists, news organizations, and documentary filmmakers working to keep you informed.