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A Painful Reminder. A Moment for Change

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TRENTON — This week, committees in the New Jersey Senate and Assembly passed the Civic Info Bill (S2317/A3628), which would revive local journalism, community and municipal information, and civic engagement across New Jersey. The legislation will now move to the floors of both chambers for a full vote.

The bill, which would create a public fund to invest millions of dollars in innovative projects designed to strengthen local coverage across New Jersey, passed the Senate Higher Education Committee by a unanimous vote on Monday. On Tuesday, it passed the State Assembly Budget Committee. The measure moves next to the floor of both chambers, where votes could occur by the end of this week.

Lawmakers introduced the Civic Info Bill last year after New Jersey received $332 million from the auction of the state’s two main public-TV stations, WNJN and WNJT. The legislature missed an opportunity to pass the bill in 2017, but thanks to an outpouring of public support, lawmakers revived the Civic Info Bill this year.

If passed, the law would help improve the quantity and quality of news and information in New Jersey communities, which would benefit longstanding and startup news outlets alike while also launching statewide media-literacy and civic-engagement programs. It would also provide grants to support the information needs of New Jersey’s low-income communities and communities of color.

Free Press Action Fund News Voices Director Mike Rispoli made the following statement:

“Thousands of New Jersey residents have spoken out about the need to pass the Civic Info Bill and ensure that communities are informed and engaged. Residents across the state have seen local news coverage dry up or disappear, leaving too many people in the dark. The committee votes earlier this week have brought New Jersey one step closer to becoming a national model for how to create a 21st-century public-interest media system, one that’s rooted in communities, based on collaboration, and focused on lifting up unheard voices.”

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