Rice/Turner Bill Creating Committee to Focus on Economic Justice, Equal Employment Issues Clears Senate

 TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Ronald L. Rice and Shirley K. Turner to create a joint committee to study issues of economic justice and equal employment opportunities in New Jersey was approved today by the full Senate.

“The state’s economic problems hit residents hard, but minorities and low-income people were disproportionately affected and they continue to experience significant hardships, ranging from higher unemployment to a lack of affordable housing. In order to improve conditions for our residents, we have to take a hard look at the disparities that exist and determine how best to address them,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex). “This measure is incredibly important because it will allow us to focus exclusively on issues of economic justice and equal employment and to have a regular public dialogue on these matters. The committee will hear directly from residents, business, labor and civil rights organizations and look for legislative solutions, as well as other remedies, to the problems that so many in our state face.”

This bill (SCR-62) would create the Joint Committee on Economic Justice and Equal Employment Opportunity consisting of 10 members of the Legislature. The committee would be authorized to conduct a continuing study of issues concerning economic justice and equal employment opportunity in this state and would meet and hold hearings at places, throughout the state, as it shall designate.

“New Jersey residents continue to struggle financially as a result of the economic recession and studies show that women and minorities are among those who have fared the worst,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “We have to address the problem of poverty that continues to plague many of our residents. Providing equal access to jobs, housing and other opportunities must be a shared goal in this state and the committee will be focused on tackling these important issues.”

New Jersey’s unemployment rate for April was 6.9 percent.  However, unemployment rates in some of the big cities in the state and in southern New Jersey are still in the double digits. In addition, poverty levels in New Jersey reached the highest levels in 50 years in 2011, according to a September 2013 report by the Legal Services of New Jersey Poverty Research Institute. More than 2.7 million residents, or about 31.5 percent of the total population, were living in true or actual poverty in 2011.  Municipal poverty was the highest in Camden, Passaic, Lakewood, Paterson, Trenton, Newark and Union City.

The committee members would be appointed by the Senate President and Assembly Speaker as follows: one each nominated by the President of the Senate, the Senate Minority Leader, the Speaker of the General Assembly, and the Assembly Minority Leader; and two each nominated by the Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus; the Chair of the Legislative Latino Caucus; and the Chair of the Women’s Legislative Caucus.

The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 35-0. It next heads to the Assembly for consideration.