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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
June 16, 2005


Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General

 

Roger Shatzkin
609-292-4791

 

Attorney General Schedules Public Hearing and Extends Public Comment Period on Proposed OPRA Regulations

TRENTON — A public hearing on proposed regulations to identify those government records that could compromise the state’s ability to defend against acts of sabotage and terrorism and that should be exempted from public access under the state’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA) has been scheduled for July 22, Attorney General Peter C. Harvey announced today. In addition, he said, the period to receive written comments from the public will be open again from July 5 to the date of the public hearing on July 22.

Initially published on October 18, 2004, the proposed regulations were developed to define in clearer and categorical terms a gubernatorial executive order that required a case-by-case examination of information that should be exempted from OPRA because of substantial security concerns. Executive Order 21 required the Attorney General, in consultation with the Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force, to promulgate rules striking a balance between the public’s right to gain access to government records and the need to deny that access when it would materially diminish the State’s ability to protect itself and its citizens. The proposed rules permit a records custodian, in some circumstances, to deny access to such records as those relating to building plans or blueprints, mass transit facilities, bridges, tunnels, public utilities and emergency response facilities. Similarly, they permit a records custodian to exclude access to records pertaining to nuclear power plants, inventories of biological agents and the security of computer and telecommunications networks. Despite these exceptions, the proposed rules provide an additional review process by stipulating that any of the records exempted from disclosure may be disclosed if the head of a cabinet-level agency, with the approval of the Task Force, determines that there is a bona fide need for public access to the record.

“We believe the proposed OPRA regulations strike a careful balance between the need to protect the state and its citizens against terrorism and the need for the public to have access to public records,” said Attorney General Harvey, who also serves as chair of the state’s Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force. “The comments we received, however, reflected a perception, which I believe to be misplaced, that the regulations are too broad. Additionally, a number of comments requested an opportunity for a public hearing. Both public access to government records and the government’s ability to protect its citizens against terrorism are significant interests, and a public hearing may provide us with greater clarity as we move toward final regulations.”

The Attorney General’s Office has filed a notice that will appear in the July 5 issue of The New Jersey Register advertising the hearing. The July 22 hearing will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., in Conference Room A, on the fourth floor of the Hughes Justice Complex, 25 Market St., Trenton.

Persons wishing to testify must request to do so in writing by close of business, July 15. Requests should be submitted to:

Deputy Attorney General Timothy P. Crowley
Office of the Attorney General
P.O. Box 080
Trenton, NJ 08625-0080

Specific presentation times will be assigned and individuals’ remarks will be limited to five minutes. Speakers are requested to provide a copy of their prepared remarks to the hearing officer on the day of the hearing. Individuals who do not preregister to speak will be given an opportunity to speak only if time permits.

Harvey also noted that the public comment period has been extended by opening it again from the July 5 announcement in The New Jersey Register to the July 22 hearing. Individuals who previously submitted comments during the initial 90-day comment period do not have to resubmit them. Written comments should also be sent to DAG Timothy P. Crowley at the address above. The Attorney General’s Office has until October 17, 2005 to adopt final regulations.

A complete copy of the proposed rules (N.J.A.C. 13:1F) is posted on the Office of the Attorney General Web site at: www.nj.gov/oag/rules/oag/rp041018a.htm.

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