TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Ellen Karcher which would prohibit future elected leaders from holding more than one office at the same time was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 32-2, receiving final legislative approval.
“Dual office-holding is a Trenton tradition that can no longer be tolerated,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, a leading advocate for ethics reform in the State Legislature. “The public interest is not served when elected officials double up on the perks, pay and pensions that come with serving in a dual capacity. New Jersey needs elected leaders who are focused on the task at hand, not juggling the duties of multiple offices.”
The bill, S-3008, would prohibit members of the Legislatures, as well as county and municipal elected officials, from simultaneously holding an additional elective office. The bill would grandfather in elected officials serving in a dual capacity before February 1, 2008, as long as they continuously hold both elected offices. The bill stipulates that should an official lose an election or run for a new office (such as an Assemblyman running for a Senate seat), the official’s grandfathered status would cease.
“While I favor banning dual office-holding immediately, and requiring current dual officeholders to choose one office before their next election, I understand the realities of getting bills passed in Trenton,” said Senator Karcher. “When I was first sworn into office, one of the first bills I introduced was a complete ban on dual office-holding, and the bill was never considered. This compromise bill stands the best chance of being signed into law, and will take the first steps needed to rid New Jersey of dual office-holding.”
“Sometimes, it’s better to be realistic about what we can accomplish today, than to remain stubbornly idealistic, and block any attempt at reforms becoming law,” added Senator Karcher.
Senator Karcher also noted that she will continue to work for a tougher ban which eliminates the grandfathering clause, and called on the electorate to put pressure on grandfathered dual office-holders to support a complete ban.
“I know that even after this bill becomes law, our work isn’t done on dual office-holding,” said Senator Karcher, who voluntarily resigned her seat on the Marlboro Town Council before being sworn in as a State Senator. “I will continue working to persuade my colleagues that we need a complete, loophole-free ban on the practice, and I hope that those officials who are grandfathered under this bill will be held to the highest standards by their voters. But I think that even a flawed ban on dual office-holding, which has the full weight of law, is better than no ban at all.”
The bill was approved by the Assembly by a vote of 69-3 with 8 abstentions last week. It now heads to the Governor to be signed into law.