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Proposed clamp on N.J. government records access to be withdrawn

By The Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. — Open-government advocates are declaring victory in their efforts to keep government records in public view.

A task force considering restrictions on New Jersey's three-year-old Open Public Records Act could vote as early as Sept. 8 to withdraw those proposals and start over, a spokesman for the state attorney general's Office confirmed on Aug. 30.

The office's Domestic Security Task Force is weighing how the act should balance domestic-security concerns with transparency in government. At an Aug. 11 meeting, the task force decided there were enough questions about how the proposed rule would work that it should be withdrawn, attorney general spokesman Roger Shatzkin said.

That decision caps an eight-month campaign by environmental and government watchdog groups, such as the New Jersey Work Environment Council, and news organizations to stop the proposal.

Instead of specifically stating which documents should legitimately be kept under wraps — such as blueprints, security and staffing plans of train stations and chemical plants — the groups said the rules would have given town clerks and other low-level government workers broad powers to determine whether public documents revealed national-security secrets.

"This is a major victory for those of us who believe the 'right to know' about [toxins] where we live and work is vital to preventing hazards," said John Shinn, of the United Steelworkers Union.


N.J. governor to scale back public-records restrictions

Announcement welcomed by news media representatives, who had met with officials for several weeks in hopes of revising exemptions to new records law. 08.13.02

Open records

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