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Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-Holmdel). (Photo: Courtesy of the New Jersey State Assembly)

Assembly panel advances bill requiring disclosure of public health emergency records

By Nikita Biryukov, December 10 2020 4:16 pm

An Assembly panel advanced a bill that would make communications, reports and other records made under the Health Powers Act subject to disclosure under the state’s public records laws.

“No one can have full confidence in the decision-making process when the administration hides data and refuses to respond to inquiries,” Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-Holmdel) said. “Transparency in government is critically important. The administration should be already providing this sort of information to the public but the fact that it isn’t subject to OPRA disclosure is unacceptable.”

The bipartisan measure would make documents related to the administration’s pandemic response subject to release under the Open Public Records Act, though it does not allow records custodians to release individuals’ identifying information.

Records related to bioterrorism are also exempted from disclosure.

“New Jersey residents deserve to have access to information regarding decisions their government makes during a public health emergency, such as those that have been made during the current COVID-19 pandemic,” Assemblymen Herb Conaway (D-Moorestown) and Gordon Johnson (D-Englewood) said in a joint statement. “Making records associated with the Emergency Health Powers Act public will help improve transparency in our state and bolster public trust.”

The bill cleared a vote before the full State Senate in September. It passed there 39-0.

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