Bill Text: NJ A4556 | 2020-2021 | Regular Session | Introduced


Bill Title: Requires BPU to establish and maintain electronic public records access service on its website; requires BPU to provide certain notice of its meetings and hearings and allow public comment.

Spectrum: Slight Partisan Bill (Democrat 5-2)

Status: (Engrossed) 2020-11-05 - Received in the Senate, Referred to Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee [A4556 Detail]

Download: New_Jersey-2020-A4556-Introduced.html

ASSEMBLY, No. 4556

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

219th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED AUGUST 24, 2020

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman  ROBERT J. KARABINCHAK

District 18 (Middlesex)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Requires BPU to establish and maintain electronic public records access service on its website; requires BPU to provide certain notice of its meetings and hearings and allow public comment.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning certain functions and duties of the Board of Public Utilities and supplementing Title 48 of the Revised Statutes and amending R.S.48:2-40.

 

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

 

     1.    (New section) As used in sections 1 and 2 of P.L.    , c.    (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill):

     "Access service" means the electronic public records access service established, maintained, and updated, as appropriate, by the board, through the board's Internet website, pursuant to section 2 of P.L.    , c.    (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

     "Board" means the Board of Public Utilities or any successor agency.

     "Emergency" means a period of time during which the Governor has declared the existence of a public health emergency, pursuant to section 3 of P.L.2005, c.222 (C.26:13-3), or a state of emergency, pursuant to P.L.1942, c.251 (C.App.A:9-33 et seq.).

 

     2.    (New section) a. No later than 90 days after the effective date of P.L.    , c.    (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), the board shall establish, maintain, and update, as appropriate, an access service), through the board's Internet website, that shall allow users to obtain board proceeding documents and docket information online.  The access service shall allow users to submit all filings and comments, in electronic or in printed form, to the board and shall provide for the managing and facilitating of public access to all filings, orders, notices, rulemakings, comments, or other board proceeding documents.  The access service shall be subject to all of the following requirements:

     (1)   as soon as practicable, and not later than seven calendar days after a document is filed with the board, the document shall be publicly accessible on the access service, unless a longer period of time is needed, as determined by the board, during an emergency;

     (2)   all documents on the access service shall be available to the public and to parties before the board free of charge;

     (3)   any information within a document that is prohibited from public disclosure by law or board order shall be redacted;

     (4)   all documents shall be text-searchable and machine-readable;

     (5)   to the extent practicable, external websites shall be able to link documents to the access service;

     (6)   the access service shall include digital audio and visual files of board recordings when those files become available; and

     (7)   the access service shall provide a search function for public use.

     b.    In developing the access service, the board:

     (1)   shall not impose, to the extent practicable, a disproportionate impact on pro se litigants; and

     (2)  shall implement technology in order to improve security, data accessibility, affordability, and performance, and to minimize the burden on pro se litigants.

 

     3.    (New section)  a.  Notwithstanding the provision of written advance notice of at least 48 hours, but otherwise in conformity with the other provisions of the "Senator Byron M. Baer Open Public Meetings Act," P.L.1975, c.231 (C.10:4-6 et seq.), the Board of Public Utilities shall make available to the public on its electronic public records access service, established pursuant to section 2 of P.L.    , c.    (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), advance notice of every public meeting and hearing conducted by the board seven calendar days prior to the day of the meeting or hearing, unless a longer period of advance notice is required by law, or a shorter period of advance notice is required, as determined by the board, during an emergency.  The provision of this subsection shall apply to every public board meeting or hearing regardless of the number of board members present at the meeting or hearing.

     b.    For every public meeting or hearing conducted by the Board of Public Utilities, as authorized by law, the board shall:

     (1)   provide, in the advance notice of that public meeting or hearing, pursuant to subsection a. of this section, a description of any action that may be taken by the board under each listed agenda item in the notice; and

     (2)   set aside a portion of the meeting or hearing to allow members of the public to comment on the subject matter of the action described in the written advance notice.

     c.     As used in this subsection, "emergency" means a period of time during which the Governor has declared the existence of a public health emergency, pursuant to section 3 of P.L.2005, c.222 (C.26:13-3), or a state of emergency, pursuant to P.L.1942, c.251 (C.App.A:9-33 et seq.), within this State.

 

     4.    R.S.48:2-40 is amended to read as follows:

     48:2-40. a. A majority vote of the board shall be necessary to the issuance of an order.

     b.    (1)  After the effective date of P.L.2011, c.63, the board shall issue every order in written form.  After the effective date of P.L.    , c.    (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), if a written order, whether in draft or final form, is prepared for consideration by the board prior to a meeting, the board shall make available to the public on its electronic public records access service, established pursuant to section 2 of P.L.    , c.    (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), the text of the written order seven calendar days prior to the day of that meeting.

     (2)   If a matter is an emergency that affects public health and safety, the board may issue a temporary order on the matter orally, but shall within 14 days thereafter issue the order as a written order that does not differ substantively from the oral order.  Any board order issued orally may be made effective immediately, but, regardless of its effective date, if that order is not issued in written form within 14 calendar days thereafter, or the written order is substantively different from the oral order, the oral order shall be void and of no effect as of the 15th calendar day after its issuance.

     c.     The board shall issue any written order by filing a copy thereof with the board secretary.  Every written order issued by the board shall be:

     (1)   served upon the person or public utility affected thereby within [ten] seven calendar days from its filing by personally delivering or by mailing a certified copy thereof in a sealed package with postage prepaid to the person affected or to an officer or agent of the public utility upon whom a summons may be served; and

     (2)   posted [upon the Internet website of the board] on its electronic public records access service, established pursuant to section 2 of P.L.    , c.    (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), within seven calendar days from its filing.

     d.    All written orders of the board shall become effective upon service thereof or upon such dates after the service thereof as may be specified therein.

     e.     The board at any time may order a rehearing and extend, revoke, or modify an order made by it.

(cf: P.L.2011, c.63, s.1)

 

     5.    This act shall take effect on the 90th day after the date of enactment and the Board of Public Utilities may take any anticipatory administrative action in advance thereof as shall be necessary for the timely implementation of P.L.    , c.    (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill requires the Board of Public Utilities (board) to establish, maintain, and update, as appropriate, an electronic public records access service (access service) through the board's Internet website that allows users to obtain board proceeding documents and docket information online.  The access service is to allow users to submit all filings and comments, in electronic or in printed form, to the board and provide for the managing and facilitating of public access to all filings, orders, notices, rulemakings, comments, or other board proceeding documents.

     The access service is to be subject to the following requirements:

     1)    as soon as practicable, and not later than three business days after a document is filed with the board, the document is to be publicly accessible on the access service, unless a longer period of time is needed, as determined by the board, during an "emergency," as that term is defined in the bill;

     2)    all documents on the access service are to be available to the public and to parties before the board free of charge;

     3)    any information within a document that is prohibited from public disclosure by law or board order is to be redacted;

     4)    all documents are to be text-searchable and machine-readable;

     5)    to the extent practicable, external websites are to be able to link documents to the access service;

     6)    the access service is to include digital audio and visual files of board recordings when those files become available; and

     7)    the access service is to provide a search function for public use.

     In developing the access service, the board is not to impose, to the extent practicable, a disproportionate impact on pro se litigants, and the board is to implement appropriate technology in order to improve security, data accessibility, affordability, and performance, and to minimize the burden on pro se litigants.

     Further, the bill requires the board to make available to the public on its access service advance notice of every public meeting and hearing conducted by the board seven calendar days prior to the day of the meeting or hearing, unless a longer period of advance notice is required by law, or a shorter period of advance notice is required, as determined by the board, during an emergency.  This requirement is to apply to every public board meeting or hearing regardless of the number of board members present at the meeting or hearing.  For these meetings and hearings, the bill requires the board to provide, in the written advance notice of the meeting or hearing, a description of any action that may be taken by the board under each listed agenda item in the notice and to set aside a portion of the meeting or hearing to allow members of the public to comment on the subject matter of the action described in the written advance notice.  The bill requires that if a written order, whether in draft or final form, is prepared for consideration by the board prior to a meeting, the board is to make available to the public on its access service the text of the written order seven calendar days prior to the day of that meeting.

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