The Honorable (XXX)
New Jersey Assembly
(city state zip)
Re: Assembly Bill 1390Position: Support if amended
Dear Assemblywoman/Assemblyman (XXX):
This letter is to express the concerns of [Your Society] regarding A1390, (of which you are a sponsor) or (which will be introduced in general session in the near future). [Include a short statement providing information on your society, its purpose and a general outlook of its membership.] We respectfully suggest two important amendments be made to accommodate the legitimate interests of family researchers and historians.
Closure of these records would be detrimental to the public interest because they are critical to many types of researchers, among them: genealogists, public health historians, biographers, cultural historians, house historians, and others, whose activities benefit the public in a variety of ways. Vital records are an important source of information, providing facts such as names, event dates, places, and other valuable information.
[We] strongly support the intent of Assembly Bill 1390 to protect individual privacy and to prevent terrorism. We believe the bill can still meet these important objectives and allow genealogical, historical and medical family research. We urge you to consider amending Assembly Bill 1390 to include the following suggested language in section 3(b) as a new subsection (5):
“(5) informational or non-certified copies of records to anyone after 80 years have elapsed with birth records, 50 years with marriage records and 40 years with death records.”
The passage of time (80, 50 or 40 years, as the case may be) ensures the vital records cannot be used for identity theft. The non-certified nature of the copies ensures the records cannot be used to obtain fraudulent identification documents.
Failure to include this amended language in A1390 would close historical records in perpetuity, including records already publicly accessible in the State Archives and elsewhere. Further, this proposed amendment meets with current regulations and restrictions authorized under NJAC 8:2, NJAC 8:2A and NJAC 8:2B.
Secondly, we write to express serious reservations regarding the portion of the bill restricting dissemination of information derived from vital records. Sharing information is an integral part of any serious research, including genealogy and family history. Writing a book, article, or other scholarly treatise – whether a family history, biography, or genealogy – necessarily entails sharing and disclosing information legally obtained by researchers. Restricting, penalizing, or criminalizing sharing of information contained in vital records fundamentally undermines the public’s right of access. Therefore, we advocate striking from the proposed bill section 4(d)(2)(c) in its entirety.
Thank you for your consideration on this matter. Again, we express our sincere support for your goal to prevent identity theft and terrorism by securing vital records.