Updates on New Jersey and Colorado Legislation Affecting Access to Genealogically Relevant Records #general

jan meisels allen <janmallen@...>

Dear Jewish Genners:

The IAJGS Public Records Monitoring and Access Committee
(PRAMC) monitors legislation that impacts access to vital genealogical
records (birth, marriage, death) and census. In that vein I am informing
you some good and bad news with you regarding pending legislation:

For the good news:

New Jersey A 1390:

IAJGS has been working with the Genealogical Society of New Jersey (GSNJ)-
who is the lead on working on this bill in New Jersey. Representatives of
the GSNJ met with Assemblywoman Quigley, author of NJ A 1390, earlier this
week to discuss how the bill could be amended to meet the needs of
genealogists. The following is culled >from a report by GSNJ on the meeting
to IAJGS PRAMC which has been working with the GSNJ on getting the
bill amended. For all of you who have contacted your New Jersey legislator
or the authors and Assembly Speaker- thank you! It appears all of our contacts
have made significant progress and everyone should be very pleased with
what appears to be amendments in progress! The new language is not yet
available, and of course until it is seen, and we see it does address
adequately all of our concerns we need to remain vigilant.

It will be May before any further legislative progress on the bill will happen
due to the New Jersey Legislature budget process in April.

The following are highlights of what the GSNJ and Assemblywoman Quigley
agreed on to amend the bill:

GSNJ representatives met with Assemblywoman Quigley, author of NJ A 1390, to
work on possible amendments to this bill which would, if enacted as
currently drafted: "remove vital records (birth, marriage, death, fetal
death and domestic partnership records) >from public records and genealogists
would no longer have access to vital records including genealogical copies
that are currently permitted in New Jersey. It also would prevent anyone
including genealogists >from sharing, selling, reproducing or disclosing the
information contained in the vital record. The penalties for violating this
provision are a crime and would prevent the person/genealogist from
applying for vital records in the future. "

At the meeting, Assemblywoman Quigley 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 allows for informational or non-certified copies
within those guidelines would be no problem. Assemblywoman Quigley also
said that she had no problem with simply deleting the section that said no
sharing or disclosing the information. These were all points also made in
the letters and contacts made by the genealogical community, including IAJGS
to the Assemblywoman.

In addition, the GSNJ representatives 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.
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 GSNJ 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. She offered to allow GSNJ to see a draft
of the new language before it gets released so that we can make sure that it
meets the genealogical communities' needs.

When IAJGS PRAMC receives the new language I will let you know if it indeed
meets our needs and if letters need to be written in support or suggesting

The bad news

Colorado H 1357

Earlier this week I was made aware of Colorado H 1357, which had already
passed the Colorado House of Representatives. The bill would restrict access
to immediate family members information contained in marriage applications.
For genealogists, this meant we would not have access to data not otherwise
contained in the marriage license but only in the application: last name if
different at birth, date of birth, parents names, addresses, marital status
and social security numbers. While we do not require Social Security numbers
the other data elements are of major interest to us.

A hearing was scheduled earlier this week in the Colorado Senate Judiciary
Committee. IAJGS PRAMC contacted the authors and sent a statement on our
concerns-to them and the Senate Judiciary Committee for its hearing,
suggesting a 50-year waiting period before the information on the marriage
applications would be available to the public (stating we did not need the
Social Security number, and appreciated the concern about protecting
Coloradans >from identity theft- the underlying reason for the bill).

IAJGS worked with the Colorado Genealogical Council who testified at the
hearing. While the authors were amenable to the 50-year waiting period, the
lobbyists for the County Clerks Association opposed that proposal and the
bill the passed out of the committee unamended by a unanimous vote. It
next goes to the Senate floor for voting. While the bill restricts
information on marriage applications the bill specifically states the
restriction does not apply to vital records, such as the marriage license or
license certificate.

Jan Meisels Allen director
IAJGS and chairperson, Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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