The Legislative Calendar released this morning reveals an active start to the month of May, with four Quorum Calls scheduled over a one-week period, a flurry of Committee Hearings for both the Senate and Assembly (May 4, May 7, and May 11th), and a dual Voting Session scheduled for May 14th, with Senate Committees also meeting earlier that morning. If there is going to something done legislatively to re-open businesses, look for that to happen on May 14th, potentially taking effect as early as May 15th. One bill I’m looking forward to reading is Assemblyman Erik Peterson’s “Healthy Citizens and Healthy Business Act,” which is said to provide a framework for non-essential businesses to re-open.
One issue that I continue to be very concerned about is the lack of transparency on new legislation during this time of crisis. Over the past month, nearly all legislative work is being handled remotely, with members of the public barred from attending committee hearings. Although members of the public have been provided with an email address for the Committees in order to submit testimony on pending legislation, there have been several instances this month where new bills were dropped in the morning, released from Committee that same day, and voted on in the afternoon, without a full copy of the bill ever being posted publicly on the NJ Legislative website for review or comment. A summarized list of the bills being heard is typically posted ahead of time, with a one line description, but the bills themselves have not consistently been made available in time for members of the public to read them and weigh in. Although I understand that the legislature is operating under difficult circumstances, I see this as a very dangerous precedent being set.
At the Voting Session held on April 13th, Senator Sweeney said he was working to figure out a way to host Virtual Committee Hearings, but nothing has been announced in that regard, despite a flurry of legislative activity commencing at the start of next week.
I’ll be monitoring the Legislative Digest carefully over the next few days to see what bills are filed, and “keep an eye” on when they are actually posted on the state’s website for public consideration. In the meantime, if you share my concerns about the lack of adequate public review on pending bills, please take a moment to contact Senate President Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Coughlin, and your local legislators, and urge them to take action to restore proper transparency to the legislative process.
Senate President Sweeney: 609-847-3700
Assembly Speaker Coughlin: 609-847-3500
To find and email your local legislators: https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/SelectMun.asp