- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) - The agency at the heart of the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal is changing its rules to open up more access to public records.

At its monthly board meeting Wednesday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey agreed to change bylaws it passed in 2012. Those had attempted to merge open records laws in New York and New Jersey, and the result has been criticized in the wake of the bridge scandal as being too restrictive and too slow.

Wednesday’s resolution requires the agency to apply whichever of the two states’ laws is more favorable to disclosure of documents. A denial of a document request can be appealed to a three-person panel, and then to an independent arbitrator.

New York legislators have already passed a transparency bill, but New Jersey lawmakers are still debating a similar law. Since the Port Authority is a bistate agency, both states have to pass similar laws for them to be binding on the Port Authority.

New Jersey lawmakers have a hearing scheduled on the issue for Thursday.

“We shouldn’t wait for the law to tell us what to do when we know what the right thing is to do,” Port Authority Chairman John Degnan said Wednesday.

The specific details will be voted on at next month’s board meeting, Degnan said.

The new rules would be in effect no later than January 1, and they won’t be applied retroactively to pending open records requests.

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