New Jersey's 13th Legislative District

Senator Declan O'Scanlon

District 13

O’Scanlon & DiMaso: Public Health Emergency Reports Must Be Public Record

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Legislation sponsored by Senator Declan O’Scanlon and Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (both R-Monmouth) which makes certain information related to public health emergencies accessible under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) was approved by the Assembly Health Committee.

Sen. Declan O’Scanlon and Asw. Serena DiMaso’s legislation making certain information related to public health emergencies accessible under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) has advanced. (©iStock)

“The foundation of a healthy democracy is an informed public; based on an agreed upon set of concrete facts to empower them to make educated decisions as they so choose,” said O’Scanlon. “We’ve run into issues throughout the pandemic where information was simply not as accessible as it should have been. The administration has, at times, refused to answer too many basic questions. All elected officials should tirelessly endeavor to ensure their constituency is well informed; particularly when our decisions have the ability to cripple our struggling businesses and taxpayers.”

The Governor has rejected requests from media outlets seeking information on the state’s response to the Covid-19 crisis by citing a single line from the Emergency Health Powers Act. Sponsors of the 2005 law have stated expressly that was not the intent behind the legislation.

“No one can have full confidence in the decision-making process when the administration hides data and refuses to respond to inquiries,” DiMaso continued. “Transparency in government is critically important. The administration should be already providing this sort of information to the public but the fact that it isn’t subject to OPRA disclosure is unacceptable. Orders have been issued which have directly inflicted economic devastation on our business community, we must be able to review those public health emergency reports. The Legislature must step in to stop this madness.”

S-2751/A-4813 requires that correspondence, records, and reports filed under the Emergency Health Powers Act are subject to OPRA disclosure. Personal identifying information, however, will be excluded.

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