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General Assembly Votes 73-0 To Pass OPRA Privacy Protection Bill A-4532
Legislation moves on the NJ Senate for further action
TRENTON – (March 23, 2017) – Twenty days after Mercer County Superior Court Assignment Judge Mary C. Jacobson ruled residents who registered for dog licenses in Robbinsville and other townships do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), Bill A-4532 was passed by the General Assembly in a 73-0 Thursday.
The legislation now moves on the NJ Senate for further action. The Senate is in recess until May.
"Robbinsville Township Council and Mayor Dave Fried are thrilled with the outcome of today's General Assembly vote," Council President Dan Schuberth said. "This is another key step forward in our efforts to safeguard the privacy of our residents and reduce costs to taxpayers resulting from frivolous lawsuits. This legislation now moves on to the Senate, and we will be encouraging all 40 members to support it in the hopes of seeing it signed into law by Gov. Christie this summer."
On January 23, 2017, Assemblyman Wayne P. DeAngelo introduced Bill A-4532 aimed at protecting personal information such as name, address, phone number and e-mail on personal government records, thus not subjecting them to OPRA requests. Those records would be relative to pet or home alarm system permits, licenses, or registrations. DeAngelo introduced the legislation in response to concerns raised by constituents who became aware of an invisible fence company seeking to obtain their public information filed in local pet licenses.
Robbinsville Township Mayor Dave Fried and the five-member Council sent a joint letter to all 80 members of the General Assembly earlier this week to encourage passage of the legislation.
On March 3, Judge Jacobson ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Nick D’Alessandro of Bozzi Builders in Mount Holly, and ordered the release of personal information contained in the dog licenses. Robbinsville Township Municipal Clerk initially denied Mr. D’Alessandro's access to the information in September, 2016, and the Robbinsville Township Council voted 4-0 against a settlement agreement with the plaintiff in December.
The company filed OPRA requests with various local governments in order to market their services to these pet owners.
“These types of pet or security systems permits are often required by municipalities for the safety of the community," Assemblyman DeAngelo said. "We cannot allow for these requirements to be twisted and bent to be used to potentially jeopardize the safety of those who people who abide by them. The thought that businesses would seek to use public, personal information to make a buck is not in the spirit of the open public records law. While there are legitimate and necessary purposes for OPRA, this is not one. Residents should not have to worry that obtaining required permits put them in the line of sight for unscrupulous couples who see them as prey."
DeAngelo and Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried testified in favor of the bill in committee on Monday, February 13 at the State House. The legislation emerged unanimously out of committee later that day. The bill then was sponsored by Sen. Turner earlier this month and introduced as NJ Senate Bill S3049.
Should the bill become law, Judge Jacobson said she would allow Robbinsville Township attorneys to file a “motion for reconsideration” of the case.
Approximately 66 percent of surveyed Robbinsville residents did not wish to have their personal information released. A request Friday to only allow the information of respondents who voted ‘yes’ to be released also was denied by the judge on March 3.