There is no crystal ball to peer into to determine what we will be facing in 2023. And yet there are some certainties we know, like the sun
rising and setting, that we can prepare around. And in New Jersey, we can be certain that the state legislature will be active and that there is an election around the corner.
While few in the real world spend time worrying about those two actions, we do not have that luxury. In fact, whether or not people want to
admit to it, everything that impacts you in some way is related to elections and legislative activity. Your powers, your responsibilities, your paycheck and benefits, the taxes you pay, your kids’ education and on and on down to your access to straws and plastic shopping bags all come down to government and election decisions.
What happened last year – or the year before – is not always indicative of what will happen this year. But making predictions is like guessing lottery numbers. You may get one or two right, but guessing them all is easier said than done.
So as we take this look ahead into 2023, there are few things we will be mindful of:
The NJ State PBA is working to accomplish a number of priorities. First, we will be engaging our legislative partners to renew the 20-and-out law before it expires in May. As we predicted, since the law was passed, the number of 20-and-out retirements amounts to 1 percent of the eligible population of PFRS members. This is entirely consistent with the PFRS actuarial analysis we provided the state legislature.
Second, we are drafting legislation to permit the purchase of certain Class 2 special time to apply toward PFRS credit. The language will be shared with the PBA’s board of delegates when it is complete.
Third, we are currently working with the bill sponsors of legislation to eliminate the 2 percent limit on county line-item budget increases. In reality, there has never been any justification for a 2 percent limit. There is no data to support it nor any analysis from the counties that county law enforcement budgets led to runaway spending. The 2 percent number is simply arbitrary, and it fails to take into account the operational needs of these agencies.
We are also working to support legislation to increase penalties on inmates who assault correctional police officers. We also support legislation to apply PERS LEO to correctional police officers and others who are not presently included in the extremely outdated definition of “law enforcement officer” in that law, while at the same time banning any further overage hires outside of PFRS.
These are lofty goals for the remainder of the year, but they are serious ones. However, this list is by no means limited to what we would like to pursue. We are currently tracking nearly 600 bills, and we still have another year in this session. This also doesn’t take into account our efforts to fend off anti-police and other bad legislation.
Elections around the corner
In New Jersey, we are never too far away from another election. But this will be a unique election season because 2023 is one of the few years that the legislature is at the top of the ticket. There is no governor and no other higher offices on the ballot. Not only do these elections have lower turnout, but this is also the first election after redistricting, and some legislators will be running in new territory.
The filing deadline for the primary election to pick candidates comes up in a few short months. As a result, candidates are today making their decisions on whether to run. A few legislators have already pulled the plug.
Senator Nicholas Sacco, who has been redistricted in with another state senator, has chosen to retire at the end of the term. Longtime GOP Senator Chris Connors from Ocean County won’t seek reelection. Senator Jean Stanfield, who defeated an incumbent Democrat in 2021, won’t run again. More retirements and maybe even some primary challenges are probably coming too.
There will be numerous changes in Hudson County, where there will be a new senator and a few new assembly members. We don’t know who will face off against Senator Vin Gopal (D11) or the two district GOP Assembly members, Marilyn Piperno and Kim Eulner, in Monmouth County, which will be a top target race for both parties.
The same intensity is coming soon for District 3, District 4, District 16 and District 38, where redistricting and previous close elections and shifts in political leanings have changed the landscape a bit. Republicans need to win in NJ legislative districts 4, 16 and 38 and to hold where they stand to have any shot of winning back the majority in either the Senate or Assembly.
The Democrats have the benefit of incumbency, power over crafting a budget and control of the legislative agenda. Republicans will try to use those very topics against them. It is a long, long time until November, but the election is already underway whether the people of New Jersey realize it or not.