TRENTON – In an effort that could bring greater diversity to State government and among those who sit on its various boards and agencies, the Senate passed legislation to establish databases that contain for every person appointed to a State board, commission, or authority, and for every person elected to a public office, the name of the individual, the title of office held, the term of office, the race and gender identity of that individual, as well as the appointing authority.
Under the bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, with its Center for American Women and Politics and Center for Public Interest Polling, would be required to establish and maintain the searchable databases to keep better track of diversity among the ranks of state appointments. The bill would not apply to school boards.
“New Jersey is one of the most diverse states in the union. We need to make sure boards and authorities who serve the people are also reflective of the state’s population, including in regard to race and gender,” said Senator Weinberg. “We often talk in politics and policy about making sure ‘everyone has a seat at the table.’ Right now that is not the case in New Jersey. This legislation will begin to change that gross oversight once and for all.”
The legislation follows recent media reports showing that of appointments to more than 900 seats on 85 of the state’s most influential boards, women held about 28% of the seats as of April 1. Men are in the majority on 67 of the 85 boards, including nearly all of the boards considered the most influential, from the Rutgers Board of Governors to the NJ Transit board and the Board of Public Utilities.
Currently, there are no clear records of gender and race of these board members. The bill would rectify that, and attempt to gain further clarity on the current state of representation and diversity on State boards and committees.
The bill cleared the Senate by a vote of 34-0.