Murphy’s Seismic OPRA Bellyflop

Phil Murphy was quoted in a Sunday Star-Ledger story as saying he doesn’t think about his legacy.

He probably doesn’t, but how an elected official – like a governor – is remembered is going to happen anyway.

The story in question focused on the governor’s signing earlier this month of the so-called Open Public Records Act reform bill. Like many other observers, it was noted that the governor’s weakening of public access runs counter to some of his genuine liberal tendencies.

After all, he’s the governor who championed driver’s licenses for the undocumented, off-shore wind initiatives, more gun restrictions and also the guy who marched in a 2020 George Floyd protest in defiance of his own pandemic restrictions.

You do get the feeling that Murphy senses the discrepancy as well.

In signing legislation that will change the 20-year-old OPRA law, and in effect, make it harder for average people to find out what their government is doing, the governor practically apologized.

Really.

His lengthy statement acknowledged the criticism by many advocacy groups – groups that ordinarily support the governor – but then reviewed all the good things he has done to promote transparency and good government.

Let’s see.

He questioned Economic Development Authority tax incentives because of alleged political interference.

He expanded voter rights by instituting early voting and made it easier to vote by mail.

And he called for Bob Menendez’ resignation as soon as he got indicted last fall.

All true. But it seems to miss the point.

As mentioned previously here, the bottom line goal of this reform legislation is to make it harder for people to get public information. The bill was changed from its original version, but – nuances aside – the overriding goal did not change.

We must again come back to a line in the bill that says a public agency may deny disclosing personal information if it “has reason to believe” that disclosure of such information may result in harassment.

Since just about any information can lead to someone being “harassed,” that is a massive loophole and one bureaucrats will use. Just watch them.

It was striking that during the debate on the bill, Assemblywoman Victoria Flynn, a Republican co-sponsor, spoke about how hard OPRA was making it for some municipal clerks to do their job. OK. But isn’t providing the public with information a big part of their job?

Within Murphy’s five-page statement, a few sentences stood out.

Here was one of them:

“Over a hundred mayors from both parties have asked for it to be enacted into law. I understand that some may view this support cynically, but I do not believe it is fair to dismiss an overwhelming bipartisan consensus from local elected officials.”

There is a very good reason to view that support cynically. Many mayors – not because they are evil people – enjoy keeping the public in the dark as much as possible. It’s just the way politics is played.

We digress. I ran into a former mayor a few weeks ago, and when I asked him about OPRA, he said he wishes it would go away. He meant the whole concept, not the reform bill.

So, obviously mayors are going to want OPRA to be scaled back. What Murphy ignores is the simple fact that the idea of OPRA was not to please elected officials, but to help the general taxpayer.

Flynn’s comments are in the same ballpark. It’s more important to think of municipal employees than it is the general public.

Murphy noted that mayors “subject themselves to constant scrutiny …”

Of course. It’s part of the job. Don’t run if you don’t like it.

One more thing. Let’s keep in mind that these changes to OPRA have been a very bipartisan accomplishment.

In this case, that’s a negative.

And there’s no reason to be cynical, of course, but the bill was signed the day after the primary election.

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19 responses to “Murphy’s Seismic OPRA Bellyflop”

  1. His film initiative is said to bring in billions of dollars, 1000’s and 1000’s of good paying jobs that people want to do and do for decades after decades………I lived in LA for a few years and while i had nothing to do with the entertainment business if the Gov brings Hollywood home his legacy will shine as will the state

  2. The fact that Murphy signed the law into effect the day after the primary election says it all! A politician in favor of politics NOT the general public! Remember that the next time you see his name on a ballot and vote for a better representative of the people!!!!

  3. There are enough exemptions in the new OPRA law Governor Snaggletooth signed into law so you will see no more objections from the press, unions and other labor organizations .
    It’s over Johnny!

  4. I’d demand a list 9f those 100+ mayors but our right to know has just been abolished.

    Still, it is certainly clear that the public has failed to subject elected officials to constant scrutiny or to exact accountability from the political establishment.

    The United States cannot survive unless Americans rise to the responsibility of citizenship. Everyone who voted for this travesty must lose the next election. I invite you to join me in fighting back. Sign up today: DemocratsFor.US

  5. Great article! Murphy will be forever remembered as the one who killed OPRA. I agree with Lisa McCormick that the people should be allowed to see the list of those mayors that supported the measure. I have no doubt they have skeletons in the closet. And another poster up there was 100% right – the purpose of OPRA was not to please elected officials. It was to grant the public access of information. There’s nothing that Murphy can do or say at this point that will make up for this travesty.

  6. Most people I speak to, from either party, believe that just about everything Murphy has done these past few years has been with an eye toward a run for President in 2028. So, the cynic in me says – how does signing this bill help him do that? He was, as many have noted, a bit conflicted – so what’s in it for him.

  7. Governor Phil KNUCKLEHEAD Murphy has once again proven the P.O.S. that he is. He is nothing more than a Democrat-Socialist puppet for Barack Obama (Murphy was Obama’s ambassador to Germany). Murphy is a carpetbagger from Massachusetts that cares nothing about New Jersey. That’s why he’s not worried about his purported “legacy”. Murphy has damaged New Jersey more in 8 years than all governors combined since the East and West Compact of New Jersey in 1676.

    Democrat-Socialist Murphy has turned NJ into a third-world country with his oppressive tax scheme to pay for illegal immigrants in his “sanctuary state” agenda. He made a lot of promises to New Jerseyans and hasn’t carried through with one. Show me fixed infrastructure and repaired roads in NJ, and I’ll sell you a bridge in Brooklyn. Show me a significant reduction in property taxes, and I’ll show you how to win at 3-card Monty. Murphy was and will always be a “snake oil salesman”, along with his wife. Once Murphy is out of office, he should go back to ruining Massachusetts, where he’s from, and never step foot in NJ again.

  8. A lot of extreme right wing commentators here. I’m doing quite well here under Govenor Murphy’s leadership. Thanks to the Anchor Benefit and funding for the Senior Freeze, my property taxes have been reduced to what I paid 20 years ago. Job well done Govenor Murphy.

  9. If governments and government agencies would post most of their actions on their web sites we would be in much better shape. I recently called my town’s health department to ask if a company had filed a septic application for a construction site. I was told I had to submit an OPRA request. This type of obstructionism is the problem, not citizen abuse.

  10. I couldn’t understand why my neighborhood listserv is warning residents of bears on our local streets. Then I was told that the Governor has outlawed bear hunting for the past two seasons Against the aghast advice of the fellow in charge of animal control. If you don’t want to kill them,then anesthetize them and move them to “bear country”,but these ain’t the ‘Berenstain Bears.”

  11. I’ve lived in this state my entire life. I love where I live and love many individuals in this state. The change I’ve seen in a very short period of time is concerning. Property tax write off great. Who’s going to pay for these benefits? These are questions we all need to think of for ourselves and the furture generations.

  12. My mother was a covid nursing home death. Murphy knew sending covid patients to nursing homes would cause the death of the elderly and HE DID NOT CARE! Murphy belongs in jail nothing will ever change my mind!

  13. T. Sobiek…”extreme right wing” …I didn’t see anything extreme in what I read here…except Murohy’ progressive liberal agenda. If you don’t go along and think like the pacified herd, you’re extreme? This legislation is terrible for public access to what should be public information. I’m happy for you and your property taxes, but this act is oppressive to the public and benefits politicians and the bastards in government who have forgotten that they were elected to SERVE, not RULE and SUPPRESS.

  14. For the Dummy Democrats who think they’re getting great property tax write-offs through ANCHOR and Senior Freeze are as dumb as rocks. One commenter says “who’s going to pay for these benefits?” It’s you and the other taxpayers you idiot! Wait until the town or county re-assesses your property values. I first did a tax appeal. Then, I had a great ANCHOR and Senior Freeze. Cut my property taxes by more than 30%. The following year, the towns reassessed all the properties. I’m paying the same high amount, before ANCHOR, Senior Freeze, and the tax appeal. Total waste of time and effort. Left the state right afterwards. Sold at the height of the market. Made a killing. Moved to a southern state. Bought a larger house and property at half of what I sold my house in NJ for. Property taxes on 2500 sq. ft. house, about an acre of property, public sewer & water, natural gas heat, A/C, built-in pool, is a couple of thousand PER YEAR!!!!!!! Not the $12,000 per year I was paying for nothing (but less services) in NJ. The education tax being linked to property taxes is a racketeering fraud for the NJEA. The NJEA President is making over $2 MILLION/YR. and is mayor of Montclair. Bet NJ teachers don’t know that. Education taxes need to be de-coupled from property taxes, and made to be paid through income and sales taxes–as was originally intended by those taxes. Everyone would then PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE!!!!!!

    You should be demanding massive cuts (of at least 50% in government spending that gives us nothing but more taxes, more regulations, sanctuary cities and state for illegal aliens who are nothing more than parasites, and money feeding the Democrat Party coffers). We get nothing in return but ever higher property and income taxes, less and less services, more and more illegal alien parasites, etc. Time for those who think they’re getting something great with property tax relief to wake up and stop being Democrats-Communists in their slumber.

  15. The new OPRA law is horrible, and I can’t help but think the Norcrosses’ indictments come at an awfully convenient time to try to take the spotlight off the OPRA law.

  16. How do do you what has been abolished. Does anyone really know what the new OPRA regulations says?The League of Municipalities is very much in favor of reform because of the high volume of OPRAs that come from people who do not want to do research themselves – especially lawyers.
    I believe a lot of the angst over OPRA reform could be obviated if governments at all levels were REQUIRED to post all contracts, all fees paid, all budgets, and more on their websites. Why doesn’t the Legislature make it a requirement for towns , counties and state to post more information?

  17. When the election campaign finance statute of limitations was re-written 15 active investigations ‘time’ out. I wonder whose tit was about to be caught in the wringer? Now with more roadblocks, think Christie and bridge gate, I wonder how many investigative reporter stories may never see the light of day. An example of removing public info: My town had an issue over the deer cannons that were firing to scare off deer. The owner of the properties was very politically connected. Many petitions, inquiries and questions, I scoured the DEP website for the regulations, found nothing. The police chief posted the regulations on the township website, all seemed reasonable-our town has a ‘right to farm’ ordinance on the books. Not long after the DEP regulations were removed from the twp website. Our twp website is rarely updated and there is old stuff such as events 5 years ago yet something useful was removed. They also removed the application for a concealed carry permit as well. Gotta wonder why.

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