SENATE BILL NO. 3048
To the Senate:
Pursuant to Article V, Section I, Paragraph 14 of the New Jersey Constitution, I am returning Senate Bill No. 3048 with my recommendations for reconsideration.
This transparent political stunt masquerading as a bill is politics at its worst. This legislation would prohibit general election candidates for President and Vice-President from appearing on a ballot in New Jersey unless they file a copy of their federal income tax returns for the five most recent years with the Division of Elections and would also prohibit any elector from voting for President or Vice-President unless the candidate complies with the bill’s requirements. This is clearly unconstitutional. The United States Constitution sets the rules in this regard to prevent politics like this bill.
Unwilling to cope with the results of last November’s election, the Legislature introduced this unconstitutional bill as a form of therapy to deal with their disbelief at the 2016 election results, and to play politics to their base. Any claim to the contrary is belied by the press releases its supporters issued immediately upon its final passage and the plain language of the bill.
The bill’s supporters disingenuously assert that the bill is designed to restore transparency — all the while demonstrating a complete disregard for the concept. Not only was this bill rushed through the Senate without reference to a Senate committee — the antithesis of transparency — but also prior to final passage its supporters rejected efforts to make its requirements applicable to State-elected officials as well. In other words, as we have witnessed far too often here and in Washington, “do as I say, not as I do” remains a hallmark mantra of the Legislature.
The hypocrisy and false outrage underlying this bill is stunning — even by Trenton standards. Rather than focus on the multitude of important issues impacting New Jersey’s residents, the Legislature wasted time on a bill that manufactures from whole cloth a qualification for the office of President not found in the United States Constitution in the hope of scoring cheap political points.
Although I have strong doubts that the Legislature has any real interest in promoting greater transparency, I am recommending changes to the bill that would fit the old saying “Doctor heal thyself.” If transparency is what the legislature wants, let’s get our own house in order first. These changes would eliminate the bill’s unconstitutional federal income tax disclosure requirements with a provision designed to bring true transparency and public access to the political process. Specifically, I am recommending an amendment to the Open Public Records Act to eliminate the disclosure exemption for legislative records that the Legislature bestowed upon itself. This long-overdue change will remove the current impenetrable shroud surrounding the legislative process and allow greater public insight into our State government. If the Legislature’s polestar is truly transparency, I am confident the Legislature will concur.
Unlike the bill before me, my proposed changes will engender meaningful transparency, while not running afoul of the United States Constitution. I therefore urge the Legislature to concur with my recommendations.
Accordingly, I herewith return Senate Bill No. 3048 and recommend that it be amended as follows:
Page 2, Title, Line 1: Delete “the disclosure of federal income tax returns by” and insert “increased transparency for the legislative process and amending P.L.1995, c.23.”
Page 2, Title, Lines 2-3: Delete in their entirety
Page 2, Section 1, Line 8: Delete “P.L.1944, c.16 (C.19:14-8.1) is amended to read” and insert “P.L.1995, c.23 (C.47:1A-1.1) is amended to read as follows:
1. As used in P.L.1963,c.73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.) as amended and supplemented:
"Biotechnology" means any technique that uses living organisms, or parts of living organisms, to make or modify products, to improve plants or animals, or to develop micro-organisms for specific uses; including the industrial use of recombinant DNA, cell fusion, and novel bioprocessing techniques.
"Custodian of a government record" or "custodian" means in the case of a municipality, the municipal clerk and in the case of any other public agency, the officer officially designated by formal action of that agency's director or governing body, as the case may be.
"Government record" or "record" means any paper, written or printed book, document, drawing, map, plan, photograph, microfilm, data processed or image processed document, information stored or maintained electronically or by sound-recording or in a similar device, or any copy thereof, that has been made, maintained or kept on file in the course of his or its official business by any officer, commission, agency or authority of the State or of any political subdivision thereof, including subordinate boards thereof, or that has been received in the course of his or its official business by any such officer, commission, agency, or authority of the State or of any political subdivision thereof, including subordinate boards thereof. The terms shall not include inter-agency or intra-agency advisory, consultative, or deliberative material.
A government record shall not include the following information which is deemed to be confidential for the purposes of P.L.1963, c.73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.) as amended and supplemented:
[information received by a member of the Legislature from a constituent or information held by a member of the Legislature concerning a constituent, including but not limited to information in written form or contained in any e-mail or computer data base, or in any telephone record whatsoever, unless it is information the constituent is required by law to transmit;
any memorandum, correspondence, notes, report or other communication prepared by, or for, the specific use of a member of the Legislature in the course of the member's official duties, except that this provision shall not apply to an otherwise publicly-accessible report which is required by law to be submitted to the Legislature or its members;]
any copy, reproduction or facsimile of any photograph, negative or print, including instant photographs and videotapes of the body, or any portion of the body, of a deceased person, taken by or for the medical examiner at the scene of death or in the course of a post mortem examination or autopsy made by or caused to be made by the medical examiner except:
when used in a criminal action or proceeding in this State which relates to the death of that person,
for the use as a court of this State permits, by order after good cause has been shown and after written notification of the request for the court order has been served at least five days before the order is made upon the county prosecutor for the county in which the post mortem examination or autopsy occurred,
for use in the field of forensic pathology or for use in medical or scientific education or research, or
for use by any law enforcement agency in this State or any other state or federal law enforcement agency;
criminal investigatory records;
victims' records, except that a victim of a crime shall have access to the victim's own records;
any written request by a crime victim for a record to which the victim is entitled to access as provided in this section, including, but not limited to, any law enforcement agency report, domestic violence offense report, and temporary or permanent restraining order;
personal firearms records, except for use by any person authorized by law to have access to these records or for use by any government agency, including any court or law enforcement agency, for purposes of the administration of justice;
personal identifying information received by the Division of Fish and Wildlife in the Department of Environmental Protection in connection with the issuance of any license authorizing hunting with a firearm. For the purposes of this paragraph, personal identifying information shall include, but not be limited to, identity, name, address, social security number, telephone number, fax number, driver's license number, email address, or social media address of any applicant or licensee;
trade secrets and proprietary commercial or financial information obtained from any source. For the purposes of this paragraph, trade secrets shall include data processing software obtained by a public body under a licensing agreement which prohibits its disclosure;
any record within the attorney-client privilege. This paragraph shall not be construed as exempting from access attorney or consultant bills or invoices except that such bills or invoices may be redacted to remove any information protected by the attorney-client privilege;
administrative or technical information regarding computer hardware, software and networks which, if disclosed, would jeopardize computer security;
emergency or security information or procedures for any buildings or facility which, if disclosed, would jeopardize security of the building or facility or persons therein;
security measures and surveillance techniques which, if disclosed, would create a risk to the safety of persons, property, electronic data or software;
information which, if disclosed, would give an advantage to competitors or bidders;
information generated by or on behalf of public employers or public employees in connection with any sexual harassment complaint filed with a public employer or with any grievance filed by or against an individual or in connection with collective negotiations, including documents and statements of strategy or negotiating position;
information which is a communication between a public agency and its insurance carrier, administrative service organization or risk management office;
information which is to be kept confidential pursuant to court order;
any copy of form DD-214, or that form, issued by the United States Government, or any other certificate of honorable discharge, or copy thereof, from active service or the reserves of a branch of the Armed Forces of the United States, or from service in the organized militia of the State, that has been filed by an individual with a public agency, except that a veteran or the veteran's spouse or surviving spouse shall have access to the veteran's own records;
any copy of an oath of allegiance, oath of office or any affirmation taken upon assuming the duties of any public office, or that oath or affirmation, taken by a current or former officer or employee in any public office or position in this State or in any county or municipality of this State, including members of the Legislative Branch, Executive Branch, Judicial Branch, and all law enforcement entities, except that the full name, title, and oath date of that person contained therein shall not be deemed confidential; and
that portion of any document which discloses the social security number, credit card number, unlisted telephone number or driver license number of any person; except for use by any government agency, including any court or law enforcement agency, in carrying out its functions, or any private person or entity acting on behalf thereof, or any private person or entity seeking to enforce payment of court-ordered child support; except with respect to the disclosure of driver information by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission as permitted by section 2 of P.L.1997, c.188 (C.39:2-3.4); and except that a social security number contained in a record required by law to be made, maintained or kept on file by a public agency shall be disclosed when access to the document or disclosure of that information is not otherwise prohibited by State or federal law, regulation or order or by State statute, resolution of either or both houses of the Legislature, Executive Order of the Governor, rule of court or regulation promulgated under the authority of any statute or executive order of the Governor.
A government record shall not include, with regard to any public institution of higher education, the following information which is deemed to be privileged and confidential:
pedagogical, scholarly and/or academic research records and/or the specific details of any research project conducted under the auspices of a public higher education institution in New Jersey, including, but not limited to research, development information, testing procedures, or information regarding test participants, related to the development or testing of any pharmaceutical or pharmaceutical delivery system, except that a custodian may not deny inspection of a government record or part thereof that gives the name, title, expenditures, source and amounts of funding and date when the final project summary of any research will be available;
test questions, scoring keys and other examination data pertaining to the administration of an examination for employment or academic examination;
records of pursuit of charitable contributions or records containing the identity of a donor of a gift if the donor requires non-disclosure of the donor's identity as a condition of making the gift provided that the donor has not received any benefits of or from the institution of higher education in connection with such gift other than a request for memorialization or dedication;
valuable or rare collections of books and/or documents obtained by gift, grant, bequest or devise conditioned upon limited public access;
information contained on individual admission applications; and
information concerning student records or grievance or disciplinary proceedings against a student to the extent disclosure would reveal the identity of the student.
"Personal firearms record" means any information contained in a background investigation conducted by the chief of police, the county prosecutor, or the Superintendent of State Police, of any applicant for a permit to purchase a handgun, firearms identification card license, or firearms registration; any application for a permit to purchase a handgun, firearms identification card license, or firearms registration; any document reflecting the issuance or denial of a permit to purchase a handgun, firearms identification card license, or firearms registration; and any permit to purchase a handgun, firearms identification card license, or any firearms license, certification, certificate, form of register, or registration statement. For the purposes of this paragraph, information contained in a background investigation shall include, but not be limited to, identity, name, address, social security number, phone number, fax number, driver's license number, email address, social media address of any applicant, licensee, registrant or permit holder.
"Public agency" or "agency" means any of the principal departments in the Executive Branch of State Government, and any division, board, bureau, office, commission or other instrumentality within or created by such department; the Legislature of the State and any office, board, bureau or commission within or created by the Legislative Branch; and any independent State authority, commission, instrumentality or agency. The terms also mean any political subdivision of the State or combination of political subdivisions, and any division, board, bureau, office, commission or other instrumentality within or created by a political subdivision of the State or combination of political subdivisions, and any independent authority, commission, instrumentality or agency created by a political subdivision or combination of political subdivisions.
"Law enforcement agency" means a public agency, or part thereof, determined by the Attorney General to have law enforcement responsibilities.
["Constituent" means any State resident or other person communicating with a member of the Legislature.
"Member of the Legislature" means any person elected or selected to serve in the New Jersey Senate or General Assembly.]
"Criminal investigatory record" means a record which is not required by law to be made, maintained or kept on file that is held by a law enforcement agency which pertains to any criminal investigation or related civil enforcement proceeding.
"Victim's record" means an individually-identifiable file or document held by a victims' rights agency which pertains directly to a victim of a crime except that a victim of a crime shall have access to the victim's own records.
"Victim of a crime" means a person who has suffered personal or psychological injury or death or incurs loss of or injury to personal or real property as a result of a crime, or if such a person is deceased or incapacitated, a member of that person's immediate family.
"Victims' rights agency" means a public agency, or part thereof, the primary responsibility of which is providing services, including but not limited to food, shelter, or clothing, medical, psychiatric, psychological or legal services or referrals, information and referral services, counseling and support services, or financial services to victims of crimes, including victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, violent crime, child endangerment, child abuse or child neglect, and the Victims of Crime Compensation Board, established pursuant to P.L.1971, c.317 (C.52:4B-1 et seq.) and continued as the Victims of Crime Compensation Office pursuant to P.L.2007, c.95 (C.52:4B-3.2 et al.) and Reorganization Plan No. 001-2008.”
Page 2, Section 1, Lines 9-38: Delete in their entirety
Page 2, Section 2, Lines 40-45: Delete in their entirety
Page 3, Section 2, Lines 1-13: Delete in their entirety
Page 3, Section 3, Line 15: Delete “3.” and insert “2.”
[seal] /s/ Chris Christie
/s/ Gregory L. Acquaviva
Chief Counsel to the Governor