A Senate committee advanced a bill that would make documents related to the state’s COVID-19 response subject to the Open Public Record Act Thursday.
“It is in times of uncertainty that we need transparency the most,” Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) said. “Since March, journalists, advocacy groups and concerned citizens have had their OPRA requests stonewalled by the administration using the emergency as grounds for denial and leaving the public in the dark on very basic issues. We wrote the open public records act to build faith and trust in our state government and elected officials, this is the time to uphold that integrity, not discard it.”
The measure, sponsored by Weinberg and Senate Health Committee Chairman Joe Vitale (D-Woodbridge), would make documents drafted or maintained pursuant to the Emergency Health Powers Act subject to OPRA.
The bill provides an exception for personal identifying information and for documents related to bioterrorism.
“Everyone understands that these are unprecedented times but we can’t let the anxiety over uncertainty deny our residents their right to know what their government is doing and why they are doing it,” said Vitale. “This is a fundamental democratic principle and if we don’t hold on to our principles in times of crisis, than we don’t hold them at all.”