Tag Archive: Ellen Karcher

“Death by a million paper cuts.”

That’s how the property tax problem was described last night by a resident of East Windsor Township. In the pouring rain a few hundred people came out to talk to and hear from the 12th LD’s elected representation: State Senator Ellen Karcher, Assemblyman Michael Panter and Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck in a School Funding Forum hosted by the East Windsor Regional School District. The district consists of E. Windsor and Hightstown Borough; along with more than 50% of the districts statewide, they voted down their budget this year. (All comments in quotes are from residents at the forum.)

Sunshine Law Needs a Little More Sunshine

In 1975, the state enacted The Open Public Meetings Act, more commonly known as the “Sunshine Law”. It was intended to increase transparency and trust in government. While well-intentioned, the bill was full of loopholes.

The state’s “Sunshine Law,”passed in 1975, requires that school boards, town councils and all other public bodies hold open meetings if a quorum is present.

So, if a controversial or politically sensitive topic emerges that a body wants to discuss in secret, the modus operandi is simple: form a subcommittee with a minority of members. That small group can then meet behind closed doors all it wants. Ultimately, the subcommittee makes a recommendation to the full council, which is just about always accepted.

Senator Robert Martin (R-Morris), who led the effort to pass the The Open Public Records Act of 2002, recently propsed legislation to amend the Open Public Meetings Act. The act would require public bodies to post information on a public website, keep audio recordings of meetings, and would require that “virtual meetings” (email, chat rooms, instant messaging, etc) be open to the public just like all other meetings, closing a big loophole facilitated by new technology. A more complete list of key points can be found at the NJ Sunshine Law website.

This is a bill that deserves bipartisan support, and I was glad to learn that Sen. Ellen Karcher (D-Monmouth) is supporting the bill. It took 13 years to get OPRA passed. Let’s hope state legislators act quicker on this. Ask your state legislators to support S-1219.

Then, sign the petition in support of the bill.