A DEVASTATING BLOW TO ACCESS Gov. Murphy signs into law onerous changes to NJ’s Open Public Records Act

Guild journalists took every opportunity to testify against the changes but despite widespread condemnation, state lawmakers and Murphy approved the restrictions.


TRENTON – New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday signed into law a bill rolling back significant portions of the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), ignoring the pleas of hundreds of NewsGuild members, community organizers and members of the public calling for the state to protect this vital tool of transparency. 

The NewsGuild of New York – the labor union representing more than 100 journalists working at many of the state’s top newspapers including The Record, Asbury Park Press, New Jersey Herald, Daily Record, Courier News, The Home News Tribune and The Jersey Journal – has been outspoken on its strong opposition to the measures –  NJ bills S2930 and A4045. 

The new changes place significant barriers between journalists and members of the public looking to obtain public information, including: 

  • Allowing government officials to deny requests based on overly broad qualifiers.
  • Imposing new, narrow parameters for journalists and other requestors to access even basic correspondence, while also excluding email and call logs from any request.
  • Letting commercial requestors and data brokers skip the line by paying an extra fee to receive records faster than the press and members of the public.
  • Introducing discretionary fee-shifting, potentially leaving journalists and members of the public on the hook for legal bills related to an OPRA request, even in a victorious case.
  • Assuming all fees and services charged for records are reasonable, creating an obstacle for journalists and members of the public who may attempt to challenge outrageous bills.
  • Giving government entities the right to sue record requestors deemed to be “substantially interrupt(ing)” government functions with OPRA requests.


Numerous Guild members traveled to Trenton to testify on multiple occasions against the bills. Despite strong, clear evidence from NewsGuild members, legal experts and free speech advocates that OPRA is used to support the important work done by our journalists, proponents of these regressive bills bulldozed past the sensible dissent and moved the bills forward, ultimately resulting in both the state House and Senate approving the bill on Monday. 

Governor Murphy then signed the bill into law. 

"Make no mistake about it: This new law restricts access to public records. It makes it harder for the press and members of the public to obtain those records, and goes out of its way to scare them away from requesting them in the first place,” said Mike Davis, acting unit chair of the APP-MCJ Guild, representing journalists at the Asbury Park Press, Courier News and The Home News Tribune. "But government officials trying to hide critical information from the public is nothing new, and our journalists remain undaunted. We will continue our relentless reporting in the pursuit of holding public officials accountable and helping our readers make better-informed decisions about their lives."

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