Get ready to play politics

Legislative Report 

In the roller coaster that is the legislative session, we have seen a small rise and are about to slow down on some level track for a bit. The Senate and Assembly have reached the April budget recess and, for the next month, only the budget committee will be working. The committee will be taking public comment on the governor’s proposed fiscal year 2024 state budget and will start hearings on department budget requests.

In the meantime, there are two things ahead of us: prep time and politics.

The recess is a time for the NJ State PBA to reflect on what priorities or problems have come up or have seen no movement. It is a time to strategize about how best to prepare for the window we will soon have in May and June to lobby for bills before the legislature goes on a much longer election year recess into the fall.

Since this issue goes to print before the budget break actually begins, we could already be ahead of the game on priorities like 20-and-out and other issues. But the recess also gives us a breather to look back to reassess what’s working and to look ahead to see how much work we have left to do before this session ends next January.

It is also a time to take politics into our calculus. In November, all 120 seats in the Senate and Assembly will be up for reelection for the first time in new districts designed by the Redistricting Commission. As an off-year election, the legislature sits at the top of the ticket, and history tells us the voter turnout is going to be low. With political division rampant all around us and many serious issues continuing to fire people up, it is not a pipe dream to believe that this is an election in which PBA members can truly decide the control of the legislature.

I speak about PBA political influence frequently in the magazine, but not as a way to promote Democrats or Republicans. Rather, my commentary is always related to the sole benefit of the State PBA and its members. The only interest at stake is your personal and professional interest. That is why we have friends on both sides of the aisle at all times, why we build and maintain relationships designed to last through turmoil and why we remind you constantly that your participation in the political process means more than you will ever know.

Candidates for the NJ state legislature have until April to file to run in the June primary. We know already that 23 current legislators are retiring or seeking other offices. That is a nearly 20 percent change in the makeup of the legislature, with the potential for a few more people leaving due to retirements or pending the results of the primary. This change also presents challenges and opportunities to us and requires us to pay special attention to the unique political realities that exist across the state.

As we look ahead to the election, it is certain that candidates for legislative office will reach out to PBA Local State Delegates, presidents and members. It is therefore important to remind you that NJ State PBA bylaws prohibit Locals and County Conferences from endorsing candidates for the state legislature. The bylaws provide that only the NJSPBA Board of Delegates can endorse candidates for those offices, and endorsements will not be proposed to the board until after the June primary.

If you are approached by candidates for Senate and Assembly seeking the State PBA endorsement, please advise them to call the State PBA office and speak with me.