HomeAtl HubAtl Hub NewsShrewsbury council opposes OPRA changes

Shrewsbury council opposes OPRA changes

SHREWSBURY The Borough Council approved a resolution expressing opposition to legislative proposals regarding the Open Public Meetings Act and Open Public Records Act.

The New Jersey Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee took action on Senate Bill Nos. 1045 and 1046, which amend the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) and Open Public Records Act (OPRA), on June 29, according to the council agenda.

The committee released the bills to the full Senate without recommendation because the bills are unnecessary, unpopular with the public, and would result in significant financial and administrative burdens on municipalities, according to the council agenda.

According to Borough Clerk Kathleen Krueger, every municipality in Monmouth County approved a resolution expressing its opposition toward the proposals regarding OPMA and OPRA bills.

The council approved the resolution, on Nov. 6, during its monthly meeting, at the municipal building.

“[The borough] is opposed to the changes that they want to make at that level, because it is going to affect the municipal offices, burdening us worst and not just the clerk’s office, but all levels of municipal will be burden by the OPRA [and] OPMA changes in the amendment,” Krueger said. “As it is we are overburdened with what they already have in place and additional changes is only going to be more incredibly burdensome.”

Under the bills, the responsibilities of municipal clerks, who the legislature has already loaded with responsibilities beyond the scope of their office, would be stretched even further than current law requires without a single dollar of additional resources provided to, or authorized to be collected by, municipalities, according to the council agenda.

Democratic Sen. Loretta Weinberg has been spearheading the campaign to modify the OPMA and OPRA bills.

“This has been three years in the making. They are somewhat complex bills, but what they do is they bring them into the 21st century, so that internet is covered,” Weinberg said.

Weinberg said that the resolution was created by the Municipal Clerks’ Association of New Jersey.

The bills would impose a financial burden on municipalities that would not be offset by a revenue source other than the property tax, making the bills unfunded mandates prohibited by the New Jersey Constitution, according to the council agenda.

“In the bill, in spite of the fact that in the resolution says the state gives them no help, the state sets up a webpage at the state’s expense, which will allow a municipality to have its own portal…and all it has to do is feed in their regular contracts, budgets, that sort of thing, and then when everybody makes an OPRA request they can just refer them to the webpage. That is the kind of updating that is done in this bill,” Weinberg said.    

 

Since the bills have not been passed yet Weinberg said, “We are still negotiating [and] we are waiting for some language changes from the League of Municipalities. When we finish all the negotiations, the next step is if we finish before the end of this session it goes before the full Senate for a vote and if not it goes into the new legislature in January.”

For more information visit www.shrewsburyboro.com/council-c1oyf.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.

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