An Unworkable Minority

The OPRA “reform” bill which passed both chamber of the state legislature earlier this week didn’t pull 40+ Democrat votes – at least initially, before they let members change their votes after the fact? – but a bloc of Republicans supplied the votes required for passage.

This latest split within the recently-reduced GOP caucus, trimmed down by a disastrous 2023 cycle, followed what was described to me as a somewhat contentious internal caucus meeting. Some usually reliable conservative votes ultimately got behind the bill, arguing that the expense borne by municipalities and, indirectly, taxpayers wrought by commercial interests and OPRA abusers justified dramatic action. Other conservative members disagreed with how the balancing analysis shakes out.

“I voted no because in my time in the Assembly, I’ve been witness to state agencies that obfuscate, delay, or dodge tough questions,” freshman Assemblyman Mike Inganamort (R-Morris) said, speaking for a majority of the Republican side of the aisle. “We need a strong Open Public Records Act that preserves existing incentives to pursue information to hold these State agencies accountable.”

Fellow Morris County Assemblyman Brian Bergen went further than Inganamort, accusing colleagues who supported the measure (which makes changes including removing the “fee shift” component when government entities unlawfully fail to produce government records) of being “a part of the problem.”

“You are the exact person that people don’t trust,” a visibly angry Bergen added:

I’m going to slightly disagree with Assemblyman Bergen on this one, Save Jerseyans, but it’s a substantive point:

The bill sucking (or not being better than it was) is a symptom of the REAL problem here, which is the NJGOP legislative’s caucus’s chronic inability to walk together.

Democrats, now line-less and taking heat from “progressive” groups like the ACLU-NJ, didn’t have the votes to pass the bill. Would they have eventually found them if the bill was pulled (again), tweaked (again), and brought back next month? Or in the fall? Probably.

But a united GOP caucus might’ve sent not only a louder message to the people of the state but also given themselves bargaining power with they don’t possess relative to most bills in a chamber where Democrats enjoy a super majority. That united front might’ve produced a better bill.

We’ll never know because they didn’t try.

They seem incapable of strategy. Allergic to it even! The side deals, narrow self interests, desire to “accomplish something,” anything, regardless of whether the price is worth it, and often just plain over-thinking it and missing an opportunity in the mists of indecision… unworkable attitudes make for an unworkable caucus.

And I’m consequently running out of reasons to encourage YOU, the readers, to continue supporting legislative Republicans in this state with your donations, volunteerism, and most important your votes.

A true Assembly majority might not even be possible under the current map, but before anyone pretends that’s even an NJGOP goal in 2025, the Trenton Republican gaggle needs to first work on developing a workable minority that’s worthy of our collective support.

Matt Rooney
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MATT ROONEY is's founder and editor-in-chief, a practicing New Jersey attorney, and the host of 'The Matt Rooney Show' on 1210 WPHT every Sunday evening from 7-10PM EST.