On Tuesday, 3/21/06, Assemblywoman Joan Quigley met with two representatives from GSNJ and one from the Advocates for NJ History. GSNJ was represented by Barbara Babcock and me, Joan Lowry. (Barbara is the GSNJ member who got the whole meeting ball rolling. Thank you
Barbara for all your help!) The representative for the Advocates was their lobbyist (yes, a real live lobbyist!), Judy Shaw.
The meeting went exceptionally well and I was very glad to have these two more politically experienced hands on board for the meeting. Assemblywoman Quigley was very pleasant and more than willing to entertain our suggestions. I felt that she was open and interested and that she was upfront with us.
She readily agreed that the years we suggested remain readily accessible (80 years for births, 50 for marriages and 40 for deaths) were more than reasonable. She seemed to suggest that adding in language that states that allows for informational or non-certified copies within those
guidelines would be no problem. She also said that she had no problem with simply deleting the section that said no sharing or disclosing the information. In addition, we discussed the possibility of further changing the bill, using language that was recently drafted by the Advocates and GSNJ with guidance and input from the NJ State Archives. It might be possible to basically redraft the whole bill and make it a really good bill from all viewpoints. This language is not yet posted anywhere. It may be fairly soon - and, when it is, I'll let you know.
The new language would make more clear what records would be "restricted" and who and how people would be able to get those more recent records. It would also make clear what records would remain and become available and allow for more ready access to them. The newer language we suggested also includes language that would allow for (or
actually require) the Dept of Health to turn over more of the older records to the archives. This would continue to make them available to the public to search and would allow for archives staff (rather than the Health Dept) to service the mail requests for copies of the records. Assemblywoman Quigley was interested in the proposal and promised to consider the newer suggestions. We offered to be available to work with
her (and her staff) on the language if she wanted and suggested that we would be glad to answer any questions that might arise. She offered to allow us to see a draft of the new language before it gets released so that we can make sure that it meets our needs. All in all, it was a very positive meeting with a legislator who was responsive to our needs and anticipates working with us to (try to) make everyone happy.
GSNJ and the Advocates for NJ History will stay in touch with
Assemblywoman Quigley's office and will make sure that progress continues to be made. Assemblywoman Quigley, however, is also on the Assembly Budget Committee and she and her staff will have their hands fairly full over the next few weeks with the budget battle. We won't let them forget about us - but can't push too hard right away.
For now - we do suggest that if you have already written - please hold off on making further contacts until they have a chance to consider what we gave them. If you haven't already written, please contact Assemblywoman Quigley's office and offer your support of our proposed changes You also could mention that you appreciate her willingness to be
so responsive to our concerns.
I have many off-list emails from list members that haven't been answered on this issue yet. I hope this may answer some of your questions and do promise to try to get to all the individual emails as soon as I can.
Thank you all for your help, concern, contacts, and willingness to be involved in the process.
Joan M. Lowry, President
Genealogical Society of New Jerseymailto:firstname.lastname@example.org