Democrats dominate in getting bills to become laws, with leadership snagging the most wins

February 15, 2024

Republicans introduced just 6% of the bills that became state law in New Jersey’s last legislative session, even though they held 41% of legislative seats.

That’s not exactly eureka! news for anyone who follows politics in Trenton, where Democrats control the Statehouse. But critics say that Democratic dominance in public policymaking can paralyze legislators in the minority party even when they propose policies with bipartisan appeal.

It’s not just partisan sour grapes. Good government advocates, too, say such trends show the system is ripe for reform.

Campaign spending and New Jersey’s unique “county line,” in which the party’s preferred candidates get prime placement on ballots, further expand the power among those who wield a stranglehold on the Statehouse, said Julia Sass Rubin, a professor at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Public Policy.

Rubin pointed to legislative leadership political action committees, where legislators donate campaign funds for legislative leaders to use to defend vulnerable seats or win new ones.

“Legislators elected with the help of leadership PACs become beholden to the leadership and more likely to vote for them as leaders, further concentrating power in their hands,” Rubin said.

Lawmakers first created legislative leadership PACs in 1993, Rubin said. Before then, Senate presidents and Assembly speakers typically served one to four years, but since then, legislative leaders typically remain in their powerful posts until forced out, which further reinforces their power, Rubin said. In the three decades before leadership PACs existed, the Senate presidency changed hands 13 times; in the three decades since, just five people have held the Legislature’s most potent post, noted.

New Jersey Monitor, February 14, 2024

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