As the calendar turned a page into a new year, it is likely most people woke up on Jan. 1 thinking that 2021 couldn’t be any worse than the awful 2020.
But less than a week passed before the country was shocked when an angry mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. The nation still struggles with the scourge of the coronavirus protocols and lockdowns. There is uncertainty all around and genuine fear for what could unfold in the weeks and months ahead. It reminds us that there is no substitute for stability, health and peace of mind.
To that end, the NJ State PBA must remain focused on what is best for its members: stability, health and peace of mind. As we have said many times over the years, everything that touches upon your duties as a law enforcement officer is in some way impacted by an elected official or government agency. From the laws you enforce to the benefits in your paycheck, what happens in Congress, the state legislature and town halls impacts you through your career and into retirement.
As we focus our attention to our legislative agenda for 2020, the PBA remains focused on that. We are currently in the middle of a legislative session that technically doesn’t end until early January 2022. But this will also not be a normal year in Trenton. For one, legislative hearings are still being conducted through Zoom and in-person lobbying in the State House remains on hold. In addition, committees are still not meeting regularly. And on top of everything else we are dealing with 2021 being an election year in which the governor, state senators and Assembly reps will all be facing the voters in November.
If the calendar remains consistent from prior election years, the Senate and Assembly will meet until mid-March, take a brief recess in April, return in May and June to pass the state budget and then go on an extended recess over the summer and into the fall. I do not expect the legislature to vanish in the months preceding the election though, and if Zoom meetings are still the norm, it would not be unexpected to see a plethora of committee action and votes prior to the November election.
We will have plenty of time in the months ahead to review what is at stake in the November elections, the candidates and how the election will be conducted. In the meantime, the NJSPBA has a legislative agenda to fulfill.
First, we are passionately lobbying for the Assembly to pass the “20 and Out” bill (S1017). The bill passed the Senate unanimously in December. Its time has come, and we have had numerous discussions with Assembly leaders about prioritizing the bill early this year.
Secondly, the PBA has been the leading voice for many years in demanding the legislature formally abolish ticket quotas and the use of tickets to “evaluate” police officer performance. We testified in December opposing the use of tickets to punish, shame or manipulate officers to raise revenue. Fortunately, the Senate listened to us and recently passed our ticket quota ban bill (S1322). We will be working to have the bill heard by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee as well.
We are also carefully monitoring other bills that could impact law enforcement. These include Senate Bill 1 regarding shared services, legislative concepts to establish a licensing procedure for law enforcement officers, bills to make changes to civil service and dozens more.
One of the images that stands out from the attack at the Capitol are the law enforcement officers calmly guarding doors while hundreds of rioters pressed into them, shouting, punching and trying to access the building. It was yet another reminder that people around the nation seemed to forget that, above all else, in the middle of 2020, law enforcement officers are heroes who would risk their lives in the face of danger at any moment. We shouldn’t need a riot at the Capitol, a 9/11 attack or yet another death of an officer at the hands of a murderer or a disease to appreciate that.
The State PBA is dedicated to reminding our elected officials as much. What we do in Trenton begins and ends with a simple premise – that we will always fight for the officers who protects our families and our communities. In good times and in bad.