The NJ Sunshine Law is being revisited, and for good reason. A local democrat, Stephen Sweeney is co-sponsor of the bill. It is good to revisit this law, as it fails to address 21st century communications.
More than 35 years ago, New Jersey’s Open Public Meetings Act — the “Sunshine Law” — was adopted to shed light on government decision making and promote openness at public meetings.
Today, however, with countless advancements in technology since the law was drafted, people are beginning to question whether the outdated legislation is now casting shadows rather than light.
In Trenton, veteran state legislator Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) has introduced New Jersey Senate Bill 1351, which proposes some revisions to the Sunshine Law.
If her colleagues in Senate agree, the revisions could go into effect as early as February. However, if the bill is not signed by January 10 when the current legislative session ends, the S-1351 will expire.
Although they want the bill to pass in this session, Weinberg and co-sponsor Sen. Stephen Sweeney, the West Deptford Democrat who serves as Senate president, have vowed to re-introduce the legislation in the next session if necessary.
I find it interesting that Cumberland County Democrats have a problem with this law. Perhaps, despite their vociferous protestations, all of those text messages furiously sent back and forth during certain notorious meetings were no so innocent after all?
Jan Jannerone, lame duck and just as lame when she wasn’t nearing the end of a much too-long term, seems to have a real problem with the Sunshine Law being revised to embrace current technology, and to include electronic conversations and transmissions committed during public meetings.
Cumberland County Freeholder Jane Jannarone sees the pros and cons of the potential revisions, although she admitted she didn’t know much about what the new legislation was proposing.
“[The Sunshine Law] is a good tool for the public, and I don’t think [residents] should be prohibited” from knowing what’s going on, Jannarone said. “But sometimes some of the public is just overboard.”
Jannarone said she usually keeps her phone nearby in case her child calls or texts, which she claims is also the reason other members of the Cumberland freeholder board keep their phones out at meetings.
“I wouldn’t sit there and text anyone else, but it is my private cell phone and the county does not pay for it,” Jannarone said. “I’m a mother first.”
First of all, “certain people” are contributors to this website, so it is understandable that she would want us kept in the dark about potential backroom dealings committed in the wide open, such as when Bob Balicki and Nelson Thomspon furiously worked the keypads of their cellphones during certain public meetings. Lou Magazzu was also known to be absorbed in texting when he should have been running a freeholder meeting.
If these texts really are innocent, then the sitting freeholders have absolutely nothing to worry about. Currently I am sitting on Jury Duty – and guess what. I am not allowed to have my cell phone even turned on during the time I am on the jury or in jury chambers. Not even ON, let alone receiving messages from family that are so important that they cannot wait a few hours.
Jane, if your family is in such disarray that you cannot be out of contact with them for two critical hours every two week while you serve in a duly elected position where you promised to put the interests of the people of Cumberland County up front, then it is way past time for you to resign. You should have stepped down back when your family situation overshadowed your ability to serve. But I guess you needed that taxpayer funded health insurance so bad that you were able to put your own interests ahead of those of your constituents.