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proposed rule would work that it should be withdrawn, attorney general spokesman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.