NEW JERSEY – Bills signed into law without public testimony and meeting notifications without an agenda are pushing one GOP lawmaker to legislate good governance.
“I refuse to let public officials silence the people of New Jersey,” Assemblywoman Aura Dunn said. “Transparency in government is essential to maintaining public trust.”
Dunn currently sponsors a constitutional amendment (ACR144) to require every bill and joint resolution introduced in the Legislature to be heard in committee and is introducing a bill requiring municipal governments to post agendas prior to public meetings.
“We are a government of the people, not over the people,” Dunn (R-Morris) said. “At the very least, advocates and community members should be given an opportunity to voice their concerns, support and opinions. That is impossible to do when people don’t know what will be discussed at a meeting or meetings are cancelled altogether.”
Dunn says the secrecy at the statehouse during the pandemic has been of particular concern. Gov. Phil Murphy and the Democrat majority in Trenton have faced criticism from Republicans and the public for their lack of transparency during the Covid-19 public health emergency.
“From refusing to comply with public records requests to rushing legislation that allows Murphy to maintain many of his executive pandemic powers, the majority party has essentially closed the door on bipartisanship and public input,” Dunn said. “The majority party has kept the majority of New Jersey in the dark for far too long. It’s time we bring more than one party to the table.”
Dunn also noted that Boards of Education are currently only required to alert the public of the location, date and time of a meeting. Dunn said she is drafting a bill requiring that local governments follow the same announcement rules as the legislature to make sure the public has the opportunity to attend and speak during the public portion.
“Parents have a right to speak to the issues that affect their child’s education,” Dunn said. “Both of my bills come back to good governance. It should be a shared experience. Not a one-sided show.”
Out of the approximately 100 bills being considered by Senate and Assembly committees Wednesday, only seven are sponsored by Republicans, Dunn said.