SENATE, No. 1908

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

215th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED MAY 17, 2012

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator  LINDA R. GREENSTEIN

District 14 (Mercer and Middlesex)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Requires a public body to record public meetings and post proceedings on its Internet website.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning minutes of meetings of public bodies and amending P.L.1975, c.231

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    Section 2 of P.L.1975, c. 231 (C.10:4-7) is amended to read as follows:

     2.    The Legislature finds and declares that the right of the public to be present at all meetings of public bodies, and to witness in full detail all phases of the deliberation, policy formulation, and decision making of public bodies, is vital to the enhancement and proper functioning of the democratic process;  that secrecy in public affairs undermines the faith of the public in government and the public's effectiveness in fulfilling its role in a democratic society, and hereby declares it to be the public policy of this State to insure the right of its citizens to have adequate advance notice of and the right to attend and to review the minutes and recordings of all meetings of public bodies at which any business affecting the public is discussed or acted upon in any way except only in those circumstances where otherwise the public interest would be clearly endangered or the personal privacy or guaranteed rights of individuals would be clearly in  danger of unwarranted invasion.

     The Legislature further declares it to be the public policy of this State to insure that the aforesaid rights are implemented pursuant to the provisions of this act so that no confusion, misconstructions or misinterpretations may thwart the purposes hereof.

     The Legislature, therefore, declares that it is the understanding and the intention of the Legislature that in order to be covered by the provisions of this act a public body must be organized by law and be collectively empowered as a multi-member voting body to spend public funds or affect persons' rights; that, therefore, informal or purely advisory bodies with no effective authority are not covered, nor are groupings composed of a public official with subordinates or advisors, who are not empowered to act by vote such as a mayor or the Governor meeting with department heads or cabinet members, that specific exemptions are provided for the Judiciary, parole bodies, the State Commission of Investigation, the Apportionment Commission and political party organization;  that to be covered by the provisions of this act a meeting must be open to all the public body's members, and the members present must intend to discuss or act on the public body's business;  and therefore, typical partisan caucus meetings and chance encounters of members of public bodies are neither covered by the provisions
of this act, nor are they intended to be so covered.

(cf:  P.L.1981, c.176, s.1)

 

     2.    Section 3 of P.L.1975, c.231 (C.10:4-8) is amended to read as follows:

     3.    As used in this act:

     a.     "Public body" means a commission, authority, independent authority, board, council, committee, school district, or any other group of two or more persons organized under the laws of this State, and collectively empowered as a voting body to perform a public governmental function affecting the rights, duties, obligations, privileges,  benefits, or other legal relations of any person, or collectively authorized to spend public funds including the Legislature, but does not mean or include the  judicial branch of the government, any grand or petit jury, any parole board or  any agency or body acting in a parole capacity, the State Commission of Investigation, the Apportionment Commission established under Article IV, Section III, of the Constitution, or any political party committee organized under Title 19 of the Revised Statutes.

     b.    "Meeting" means and includes any gathering whether corporeal or by means of communication equipment, which is attended by, or open to, all of the members of a public body, held with the intent, on the part of the members of the body present, to discuss or act as a unit upon the specific public business of that body.  Meeting does not mean or include any such gathering (1) attended by less than an effective majority of the members of a public body, or (2) attended by or open to all the members of three or more similar public bodies at a convention or similar gathering.

     c.     "Public business" means and includes all matters which relate in any way, directly or indirectly, to the performance of the public body's functions or the conduct of its business.

     d.    "Adequate notice" means written advance notice of at least 48 hours, giving the time, date, location and, to the extent known, the agenda of any regular, special or rescheduled meeting, which notice shall accurately state whether formal action may or may not be taken and which shall be (1) prominently posted in at least one public place reserved for such or similar announcements, (2) mailed, telephoned, telegrammed, or hand delivered to at least two newspapers which newspapers shall be designated by the public body to receive such notices because they have the greatest likelihood of informing the public within the area of jurisdiction of the public body of such meetings, one of which shall be the official newspaper, where any such has been designated by the public body or if the public body has failed to so designate, where any has been designated by the governing body of the political subdivision whose geographic boundaries are coextensive with that of the public body and (3) filed with the clerk of the municipality when the public body's geographic boundaries are coextensive with that of a single municipality, with the clerk of the county when the public body's geographic boundaries are coextensive with that of a single county, and with the Secretary of State if the public body has Statewide jurisdiction.  For any other public body the filing shall be with the clerk or chief administrative officer of such other public body and each municipal or county clerk of each municipality or county encompassed within the jurisdiction of such public body.  Where annual notice or revisions thereof in compliance with section 13 of this act set forth the location of any meeting, no further notice shall be required for such meeting.

(P.L.1981, c.176, s.2)

 

     3.    Section 9 of P.L.1975, c.231 (C.10:4-14) is amended to read as follows:

     9.    Each public body shall keep [reasonably comprehensible] comprehensive minutes of all its meetings, including any portion of a meeting from which the public was excluded pursuant to section 7 of P.L.1975, c.231 (C.10:4-12), showing, at a minimum, the time and place, the members present, the subjects considered, the actions taken, including all motions made, the identities of the moving and seconding members, the vote of each member and each member’s stated reasons, if any, for his or her action or vote, the identity of each member of the public who spoke and a summary of what was said, and any other information required to be shown in the minutes by law[, which] .  Each public body shall cause to be recorded by audio or video recording devices all meetings of that public body and also including any emergency meeting held pursuant to section 4 of P.L.1975, c.231 (C.10:4-9) and shall maintain possession of the recordings for at least seven years to permit their use in litigation, to enforce the provisions of this act, or for public access.  The recordings and draft minutes, marked as such, shall be promptly available to the public, either within two weeks of the meeting or at least three days before the next regularly scheduled meeting, whichever is sooner, to the extent that making such matters public shall not be inconsistent with [section 7 of ] this [act] section.

     The minutes of a meeting of a public body shall include any audio or video recording of the meeting, or any portion of a meeting, made by the public body and such recording shall be available to the public on the same basis as other meeting minutes. However, all recordings of meetings or portions of meetings closed pursuant to subsection b. of section 7 of P.L.1975, c.231 (C.10:4-12) shall be deemed confidential and not a public record, except that a court of competent jurisdiction may determine that disclosure is necessary or proper for the enforcement of the laws of this or another state of the United States.  The minutes or recordings shall be made available to the public by posting for at least five years, in a searchable format, on the Internet website maintained by, or made available to the public body.

     When a public body provides information on the Internet, it shall make a reasonable effort to make the existence and location of its site or pages known to members of the public within its jurisdiction by, at a minimum, including such information in its required written public notices, agendas, and minutes and by announcing it at its public meetings.

     A public body shall provide any requester with free copies of any information that is required to be posted on the Internet site but is not so posted.

(cf: P.L.1975, c.231, s.9)

 

     4.    This act shall take effect 120 days following enactment.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill revises the “Senator Byron M. Baer Open Public Meetings Act,” P.L.1975, c.231 (C.10:4-6 et seq.) (OPMA) and requires a public body to record public meetings by audio or video recording device and to post this information on its Internet website.  The bill requires that each public body keep comprehensive minutes of all its public meetings, and that minutes must include an audio or video recording of the public meeting.  The recordings and draft minutes must be made available to the public on the Internet either within two weeks of the meeting or at least three days before the next regularly scheduled meeting, whichever is sooner.  A public body who fails to post the required information on the Internet must provide a requester with free copies of such information.  In addition, the bill amends the definition of public body in OPMA to specify that this term includes independent authorities and school districts.

     Current law requires that each public body must keep reasonably comprehensible minutes of all its meetings, and it does not specify the method for creating such minutes, nor does the law currently require posting of this information on the Internet.