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Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. Photo by Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe

Coughlin open to reexamining OPRA’s legislative exemption

Sweeney firmly opposed

By Nikita Biryukov, January 13 2020 9:30 pm

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin indicated openness to reexamining the legislative exemption provided by the Open Public Records Act, though he said he doesn’t have any current plans to tackle the issue.

“I’ve been focused almost exclusively on the reorganization. I think that’s something I’ll consider when we get beyond Tuesday,” Coughlin said. “In other words, at this time, I haven’t given it any thought. I have 150 bills up on Monday. I have a reorganization to plan for, and that’s where my attention’s been focused.”

OPRA provides two exemptions for members of the legislature. The first shields communications with constituents from disclosure.

The second allows for the non-disclosure of any documents or communications drafted in the course of their official duties.

That includes emails, texts and other messages between lawmakers and legislators.

Coughlin’s stance largely mirrors those of Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, who have said they are open to discussing reforms to OPRA’s legislative exemption.

Senate President Steve Sweeney has said more than once that he’s firmly opposed to reworking the exemption.

“I don’t know that there’ll be any movement on that. I don’t have any current plans to change that,” Coughlin said. “But I’d like to see myself a thorough and thoughtful guy, and if people bring up things, then we’ll talk to them in due course.”

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