Concerns Continue over Changes to New Jersey Open Public Records Act
By Rich Venezia, APG Advocacy Committee
*This article originally appeared in the June 2024 issue of APG eNews

As noted last month in eNews, several Advocacy Committee members were pleased to join APG colleagues and the larger genealogical community at a reception in Washington, D.C., honoring the new U.S. National Archivist, Dr. Colleen Shogan. We were thrilled to meet her and briefly discuss our work on the APG Advocacy Committee. We also met with several Congressional offices to discuss the importance of supporting additional funding to the National Archives, as well as ongoing problems with the USCIS records and their beleaguered Genealogy Program.

We have an update on the situation in New Jersey regarding the proposed changes to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), which we discussed in our April column. Due to all the public pushback, legislators in New Jersey initially rescinded the legislation. However, in mid-May, the legislature fast-tracked a revamped version of the bill and passed it with next to no public debate. (One might call this curious considering the entire point of OPRA is all about… well, government transparency!) While the bill has changed somewhat since our original comments were submitted, many of our concerns remain. In fact, the mayors of New Jersey’s two largest cities (Ras Baraka, D-Newark; Steve Fulop, D-Jersey City) have both called on Governor Murphy to veto the legislation. (Both men are also in the running for the Governor’s seat in 2025.) As of writing, Governor Murphy has yet to sign the bill. If he declines to sign (or vetoes) the bill by 27 June, it will become law automatically.  

We encourage our members in New Jersey to contact their legislators to express their appreciation for a no vote or disappointment in a yes vote. The phone numbers of the of the legislators who voted yes can be found here, whilst the full list of votes is available here. You can also call the Governor’s Office to encourage him to veto the bill, via a “Contact Us” form or phone his office at 609-292-6000.) We also encourage members anywhere with an interest in New Jersey records or governmental transparency to call the Governor’s office to ask for a veto. Remind the Governor that 81% of New Jerseyans want to keep the OPRA law intact. You can read the comment APG submitted to the New Jersey Legislature here. Remember that this was on the earlier version of the bill, which changed somewhat between March and its final passage in May.

On another note, Representative John Larson (D-CT) circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter in the House of Representatives to encourage the Financial Services and General Government Committee to fully fund the National Archives, as requested in President Biden’s FY25 budget. Dozens of colleagues signed on to the letter. We encourage you to see if your Representative did so, and to thank them if so. View the letter here; find Congressional Representatives’ contact details here.

Finally, a reminder of how to sign up for our newly formed Advocacy Special Interest Group (SIG). Please fill out this application. We are hoping to have our inaugural meeting in the coming weeks. Please stay tuned for more ways to advocate, and be sure to let us know if you come across issues you would like us to be aware of and/or for which we can help advocate. You can reach us at