Lawmakers shield home addresses from public view

(The Center Square) — The home addresses of New Jersey’s elected officials will be shielded from public view under a controversial proposal approved by the state Legislature.

The resolution recently approved by the House and Senate, which doesn’t require Gov. Phil Murphy’s signature, will require public officials on their annual financial disclosure forms to list only the town and county where they own homes. The disclosure will only be required for their primary or secondary residences — not additional property they own.

The measure, filed by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, and several other top legislative leaders, was approved with some bipartisan support from Republicans. It passed the Senate on a 30-7 vote, and the Assembly by a vote of 65-11, with GOP lawmakers mostly opposing it.

But the changes have drawn criticism from open government groups who say the changes will deliver a blow to transparency, allowing lawmakers to shield their properties they own.

To be sure, Coughlin and other supporters argued the changes are necessary to protect the safety of elected officials and their family members amid increasing threats.

“We are living in a different day and age, in which people’s personal information is a click of a button away,” Coughlin said in a recent statement. “That gives real merit to a need for caution and so, in an effort to protect legislators, elected and appointed officials, and their families while balancing our duty toward transparency as elected officials, these bills responsibly shield home addresses.”

New Jersey’s political leaders have been worried about personal safety since the 2020 murder of Daniel Anderl, who was shot and killed by an attorney and self-proclaimed “anti-feminist” who state prosecutors say was targeting Anderl’s mother, U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas.

Last year, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law creating a state Office of Information Privacy to oversee requests from judges, state prosecutors, police officers and members of their families to have their home addresses redacted from public records. The measure, called Daniel’s Law, included $3 million in funding.

In December, Congress passed a similar bill law, also named after Anderl, that seeks to protect federal judges by shielding personally identifiable information and that of their close relatives from public disclosure.

The Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act bans the selling, transferring or posting of judges’ personal information online. It allows U.S. District Court judges to request their information be taken down if it becomes publicly available.

New Jersey lawmakers amended the public disclosure resolution to include a requirement that state legislators “certify” they “are a resident of the legislative district for which they were elected to serve” in their annual financial disclosures.

The resolution, which takes effect immediately, will apply to financial disclosures beginning this year. Those forms are due to the Legislature’s Committee on Ethical Standards by a May 15 deadline.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *