Tag Archive: full-time legislature

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.  

New Jersey NAACP files formal ethics complaint over affordable housing

A number of progressive groups have come out against Senator Lesniak’s plan to “bury”  the Council on Affordable Housing (Senate Bill S1) — I recommend this post by Fair Share Housing Center —  but the New Jersey NAACP has just moved beyond that, and filed a formal ethics complaint. Here’s what they say:

James E. Harris, President of the New Jersey Conference of the NAACP, today filed a formal ethics complaint with the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards, asking for a formal investigation of whether Senators Raymond Lesniak and Christopher Bateman have violated the Legislative Code of Ethics in simultaneously representing over 40 municipalities on affordable housing, planning, and zoning issues and pushing legislation that would substantially change those municipalities’ affordable housing obligations.

NJ NAACP Housing Committee Chairman Mike McNeil said:  “Sens. Lesniak and Bateman have violated the public trust in intermeshing their private legal work and their service to the public as legislators. We are today asking the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards to determine the extent of the violation of public trust and to require Sens. Lesniak and Bateman to recuse themselves from further debate on the bill.”

I really can’t say whether or not Lesniak or Bateman have crossed the line here, but I will say that the outdated conceit that being a state legislator is only part-time work is what leads directly to conflicts of interest and even outright corruption, whether it is holding multiple elected positions or doing business with the town through a law firm. We’d be a lot better off making the members of the Assembly and Senate full time, even if it ends some romantic notions.  

A Roadmap for Reform

In the wake of several high-profile corruption stings in the State of New Jersey, it is an opportune time to seriously improve the condition of Garden State politics.  The following roadmap for reform is meant to provide some thoughtful ideas to help generate a public and constructive dialogue about these important issues in order to enable both our elected leaders and our citizens to begin to develop a consensus for reforming New Jersey politics.