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TRENTON — On Thursday, the New Jersey Legislature approved $5 million for the Civic Information Consortium, an innovative public fund that would invest in local journalism, community and municipal information, and civic engagement across New Jersey.

The FY 2019 budget bill that funds the consortium passed the legislature on Thursday and heads to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.

The $5-million appropriation for the consortium is tied to legislation that Free Press Action Fund spearheaded. The Civic Info Bill (S2317/A3628) would create a public fund led by state higher-education institutions to invest millions of dollars in innovative projects designed to strengthen local news coverage statewide.

The Civic Info Bill passed the Assembly on Thursday and is set for a full Senate vote as early as next Monday. If it passes, it will also head to Gov. Murphy.

If passed, the Civic Info Bill 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:

“We’re so close to making history for New Jersey communities that have suffered the effects of years of runaway media consolidation. The Civic Info Bill would ensure that communities around the state are informed and engaged and can participate more fully in local decisions affecting schools, elections and infrastructure.

“Residents around the state have spoken out in support of the Civic Info Bill. They’ve signed petitions, called their lawmakers, attended community forums and participated in lobby days at the statehouse. They’re invested because they’re craving access to better news and information about their communities.

“We’re excited to see lawmakers invest millions of dollars in this innovative approach, and we urge Governor Murphy to sign this bill into law and help make New Jersey 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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