New Jersey still needs a full-time legislature

I think this quote from a few days ago is very troubling:

“It’s very frustrating,” [State Senator Nicholas] Scutari said of [State Senator Brian] Stack’s reversal, noting Stack had voted for the legislation that legalized medical marijuana earlier this year. Scutari said he suspects Stack, also the mayor of financially-strapped Union City, did not want to cross the governor.

I’m not talking about the merits of Stack’s votes. I’m troubled that our New Jersey legislators think their colleagues are too conflicted to vote honestly, and are willing to say so. After all, who would know better?

I know that the particular conflict of mayor vs. legislator only exists for the “grandfathered” politicians, but the truth is that any private or public sector job could face inappropriate pressure from the governor, the boss, the CEO, you name it. State senator should be a job that pays a full salary in exchange for full-time work. Even conservative Chris Christie wants the legislature to spend more time making laws and regulations, so there’s no doubt there’s a need.  

Comments (3)

  1. Bob Zuckerman

    I am a New Jersey native who lived in NY for the last 14 years and has now returned back to my home state, so I can offer the perspective from the Empire State.  The overwhelming majority of legislators in New York are full time, even though they are allowed to have other jobs.  They are paid a base salary of $79K per year, plus they receive per diems for travel back and forth to Albany.  Obviously NJ legislators don’t have that issue to contend with since travel time to Trenton is much shorter.  Also, they are only in session half the year, whereas NJ legislators are in session all year, and yet they are still mostly full time legislators.

    I believe that NJ legislators pay should be raised significantly in tandem with a ban of outside employment.  Outside income should be allowed of course, since people have investments, own real estate, etc.  But if we ban outside employment and get rid of the grandfathering of dual office holding, we will go a long way towards ending the myriad of conflicts that can and often do interfere with governing the state.  

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  2. Bill Orr
    Reply
  3. Senator Loretta Weinberg

    I believe a full time legislature is the ONLY way to stop the dual office/job issues which play an often negative role in the legislative process. It is for this reason that I’ve had a bill in through a few legislative sessions to create a study commission to outline the pros and cons of such a change. I think it’s time has come!”

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