Study of State Laws and Records Access

An Associated Press study of state laws passed in the five years after 9/11 found that more than 1,000 laws regarding access to records were passed. Of these, for every one law that gave greater access there were more than two laws that restricted access.

The article can be found at: http://www.cjog.net/documents/AP_Sunshine_Week_Reports.pdf

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New Jersey Vital Records Bill

New Jersey has introduced legislation pertaining to access to vital records. Bill A326 “establishes guidelines for dissemination of vital records,” and can be found at:

http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/bills/BillView.asp?BillNumber=A326

It keeps the same guidelines for genealogical (non-certified) copies: available 80 years after a birth, 50 years after a marriage, and 40 years after a death.

However, Section 2 states, “Vital records shall not be deemed to be a public or government record pursuant to P.L.1963, c.73 (C.47:1A-1 et seq.) or P.L.2001, c.404 (C.47:1A-5 et seq.).”

Further, Section 5 states, “A person or entity that uses, transfers, sells, shares or otherwise discloses any information as described in subsection b. of section 3 of this act in a manner that is not authorized under the provisions of this act or any other law shall be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree and shall thereafter be prohibited from making application to obtain any such information pursuant to this act.” It is unclear what would be the implications would be to genealogists using or sharing vital records.

Bill A326 is sponsored by Assemblywoman Joan M. Quigley (District 32, Bergen and Hudson) and Assemblywoman Nellie Pou (District 35, Bergen and Passaic); it is co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle.

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Vermont Bills Concerning Death Certificates

Vermont House Bill H397 and Senate Bill S319 were recently introduced. Each calls for the redaction of Social Security numbers and causes of death from Vermont death certificates.

Link to H 397: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/legdoc.cfm?URL=/docs/2008/bills/intro/H-397.HTM

Link to S 319: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/legdoc.cfm?URL=/docs/2008/bills/intro/S-319.HTM

H 397 had a second hearing on February 1; S 319 will have its second reading very soon.

Representative Peg Flory, a member of the Vermont Judiciary Committee, has informed RPAC that the intent of the bill is to redact the information from the public copy at the Town Clerks offices, but that the information would be left on the copy at the Department of Health. According to Rep. Flory, “I expect we will be working to rewrite the bill so that it clearly gives access to anyone through the Dept. of Health.”

The Senate has not received the House Bill yet; the Government Operations office explained that they will wait until receipt of the bill to set the hearing date and to see what amendments have been made.

David Rencher, RPAC Chair, sent a letter from RPAC to Representative William J. Lippert, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, explaining RPAC’s position on the importance of keeping the Social Security numbers and the cause of death on the certificates. (Read a copy of the RPAC letter.)

RPAC member Jan Meisels Allen sent a letter from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. (Read a copy of the IAJGS letter.)

RPAC will keep you updated with developments on these bills.

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Council of State Archivists Project

The Council of State Archivists received a two year grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to study and analyze the current conditions of preservation of records at the local level and to make recommendations as to the best standards and funding strategies to ensure long term preservation and access to local government records.

RPAC member Jan Alpert served on a user panel.

The recommendations to date can be found at:
http://www.statearchivists.org/lga/index.htm

This is a work in progress; final recommendations should be out soon.

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