New Jersey bill would subject Port Authority to open records law

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 8/4/2014

A bill halfway through the New Jersey statehouse would make the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey comply with open records laws.

The Senate voted unanimously to advance a bill to the Assembly that would subject the Port Authority to the public records laws of both states. Adherence to the laws would provide the public access to certain internal documents.

The bi-state agency has been under greater scrutiny following the unannounced closure of three lanes in Fort Lee, N.J., this past September that snarled traffic for days on the George Washington Bridge.

Democratic legislators allege the project was political retribution against the Fort Lee mayor because he didn’t endorse Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for re-election last fall.

Port Authority officials say the closures were related to a traffic study. Three officials at the Port Authority have since resigned. Investigations into the allegations about the lane closures continue.

During the New Jersey Senate floor vote, Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Morris, also called on lawmakers to pass his bill to reform the Delaware River Port Authority.

Similar to the Port Authority bill, the DRPA reform effort would allow anyone interested to obtain public records under the state’s Open Public Records Act, Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law, or both.

“People know we cannot rely on the foxes to police these henhouses,” Pennacchio said in a news release.

The Port Authority bill, S2183, awaits consideration in the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee. The DRPA bill, S2013, is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

If Gov. Christie signs the reform bills into law, identical legislation would also need to be adopted in New York. To become effective, lawmakers in both states must endorse changes to bi-state authorities.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a bill on his desk that specifies that records of the Port Authority and meetings of the board and its committees be open to the public.

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