New Jersey adopts public records law critics say tightens access to documents

Jun 5, 2024, 1:10 PM

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation on Wednesday overhauling access to the state’s public records, likely making it harder for the public and media to access some documents, according to critics.

Murphy, a Democrat, said he acknowledged the disappointment of social justice, labor and other groups that vociferously objected to the bill.

“If I believed that this bill would enable corruption in any way, I would unhesitatingly veto it,” Murphy said “After a thorough examination of the provisions of the bill, I am persuaded that the changes, viewed comprehensively, are relatively modest.”

The legislation alters the state’s Open Public Records Act, which the public and journalists regularly use to get documents from state and local governments, including budgets, agency receipts, public salaries, correspondence and other information not always easy to unearth.

The bill’s sponsors say they back transparency and want to help beleaguered clerks who cannot always handle a wave of requests, sometimes from commercial interests. The bill’s opponents argued that the measure will make it harder to get documents and comes at a time when Americans’ faith in institutions has been sliding. In a May 2023 survey from AP-NORC and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, a majority of respondents said news stories reporting the facts facing the country or that include in-depth background and analysis are extremely or very helpful in understanding issues important to them.

One provision in the legislation permits officials to charge commercial interests as much as twice the cost of producing records. Other language authorizes agencies to sue requesters they accuse of interrupting “government function.” The new law also ends a requirement for towns to pay attorneys’ fees in court cases they lose over records requests.

The last provision could make it prohibitively expensive for members of the public and news reporters to challenge local and state governments in court, according to the bill’s opponents, including civil rights groups, the state’s press association and dozens of others who testified at committee hearings this year.

The Associated Press signed onto a letter by the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists urging politicians to reject the legislation.

United States News

Associated Press

Report finds Colorado was built on $1.7 trillion of land expropriated from tribal nations

A report published this week by a Native American-led nonprofit examines in detail the dispossession of $1.7 trillion worth of Indigenous homelands in Colorado by the state and the U.S. and the more than $546 million the state has reaped in mineral extraction from them. The report, shared first with The Associated Press, identifies 10 […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Florida prepares for next round of heavy rainfall after storms swamp southern part of the state

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Forecasters warned Floridians to prepare for additional flash flooding after a tropical disturbance dumped as much as 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rainfall in the southern parts of the state, with worsening conditions expected Friday. The disorganized storm system was pushing across Florida from the Gulf of Mexico at roughly […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

1 of 2 abducted Louisiana children is found dead in Mississippi after their mother is killed

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Louisiana woman was found dead in her home Thursday, and her two young daughters were abducted and found hours later in Mississippi — one dead and the other alive, police said. A Louisiana resident who had dated the woman was arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, in connection with the deaths and […]

14 hours ago

Associated Press

Ready to renew your US passport? You can now apply online

WASHINGTON (AP) — There’s an easier way to renew your passport — online. The State Department has opened a trial run allowing a limited number of people to apply for their updated travel documents with a few clicks. You can’t just start anytime — windows will open at midday Eastern time each day and then […]

15 hours ago

Associated Press

You don’t think corn dogs are haute cuisine? These chefs, using alligator sausage, beg to differ.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Stefani De Palma, an award-winning chef and head of the a team vying to represent the Americas in a French culinary competition in January, knew she wanted her team’s work to feature flavors of her native California. The challenge at the Bocuse d’Or Americas competition this week in New Orleans was […]

16 hours ago

Associated Press

Attorney charged in voting machine tampering case announces run for Michigan Supreme Court

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — An attorney charged in connection with an effort to illegally access and tamper with voting machines in Michigan after the 2020 election said Thursday that he’s running for the state’s high court. Republican Matthew DePerno, a supporter of former President Donald Trump, made the announcement on the social platform X. “After […]

16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.


Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

New Jersey adopts public records law critics say tightens access to documents