Tomorrow is Election Day in New Jersey, with the Governorship and all 120 Legislative seats in the Senate and the Assembly up for grabs. If you haven’t already taken advantage of Vote by Mail or Early Voting, be sure to get to the polls tomorrow to make your voice heard.
And then, make sure you get plenty of rest, because Governor Murphy has already indicated that, regardless of tomorrow’s results, the Lame Duck Session (aka the 11 weeks of utter post-Election Day madness that lasts until the January 2022 Reorganization) is going to entail “a robust agenda.”
In other words: buckle up, things are about to get dicey in the Garden State.
Things are always a bit frantic during Lame Duck, but I expect this year to be worse than usual. Legislators, frenetically campaigning back in their home districts, haven’t been to work in Trenton since late June. (But yes, they have indeed been collecting their taxpayer-funded salaries for the past 4+ months.) It’s not uncommon for the legislature to take the Summer months off, but this year’s siesta was particularly drawn out–which spells trouble in the weeks ahead.
Transparency in government has already taken a hit during the pandemic, with limited public access to committee hearings due to COVID protocols suppressing the amount and diversity of constituent input on legislative bills. Once legislators get past the hurdle of Election Day, they’ll be pushing full steam ahead to move all of the bills that have been languishing for more than a 1/3 of the year.
The post-Election Legislative Calendar was posted late last week, with a Senate Quorum call on the agenda for this Thursday, and the first set of Committee hearings scheduled for Monday, Nov. 8th, with others quickly following, and a full Voting Session scheduled for December 2nd.
This is the time of year when controversial and potentially unpopular bills are rushed through with very little notice. All of the deep-pocketed campaign donors will be expecting a return on their investment, with lobbyists for special interest groups working overtime to get favorable policies passed and pet projects funded.
The weeks leading up to the next legislative session in 2022 is a time for vigilance, because some of the most potentially explosive bills can be fast-tracked–from filing with the Clerk, to a hearing in Committee, to a final vote–within just a few days, or even hours.
No matter who is victorious at the voting booth, the next couple of months are bound to be a roller coaster, and the vast majority of bills put forth will pass with lightning speed.
Of course, there are occasional exceptions, particularly if opponents of a particular measure are swift to organize, and protest loudly and in large numbers. During the 2019 Lame Duck Session, the bold-faced attempt by union-backed (and union employed) legislators to ram through legislation that would have eliminated independent contractor work in NJ was successfully thwarted, but only after a massive effort by freelancers, truck drivers, and other independent workers from a wide variety of professions caught in the crossfire. There were also unsuccessful attempts to remove the religious exemption for vaccine mandates, and to decriminalize marijuana.
Tomorrow, it’s all about taking part in our democratic process, and exercising your right to vote. I’ll be anxiously watching the returns tomorrow evening, but it’s highly unlikely we’ll see any surprises.
Come Wednesday–that’s another story.