SENATe Majority Leader M. TERESA RUIZ
29th Legislative District
In 2007, Senator Ruiz became the first Puerto Rican elected to the Senate. Since then she has been re-elected five times. Currently Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ruiz is the highest ranking Latina legislator in state history. She previously served as chair of the Senate Education Committee. Throughout her time in the Senate, she has fought for equity in educational spaces, acting as the leading force in expanding access to early childhood education throughout the state. She also spearheaded the law to build on the federal free and reduced meal program so that all students who qualify for the program could receive breakfast and lunch at no cost, eliminating the reduced category. Furthermore she has sponsored laws to increase diversity within school curriculum and strengthen the Amistad Commission.
The senator has also focused on expanding employment opportunities for underserved communities, sponsoring bill packages to expand apprenticeship programs in the state and increase teacher diversity. The apprenticeship package, which was enacted, created more accessible pathways to careers in high growth industries by incentivizing business participation in apprenticeship programs. In addition, she has taken a targeted approach at mitigating the barriers which prevent people of color from obtaining and retaining full time teaching positions, advancing legislation to establish educator apprenticeship programs, provide loan redemption opportunities and expand alternate route programs.
Furthering her agenda to support new mothers, parents and families, in 2021 Senator Ruiz sponsored a law to provide all New Jersey parents access to one cost-free newborn home visit, creating the most comprehensive nurse visitation program in the nation. Senator Ruiz was also the prime sponsor of a 2020 law to allow candidates to use campaign funds to cover childcare expenses incurred due to campaign activities.
The Senator received a bachelor’s degree from Drew University. She was a 2010 Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow, and a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program. She is vice chair of the Essex County Democratic Party and is deputy chief of staff to Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. She served as a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. Among all of her accomplishments, the title she holds most dear is that of a mother.