Elected Senate President for Record Sixth Term
Trenton – After taking the oath of office as New Jersey Senate President for a record sixth term, Senate President Steve Sweeney called for a major commitment to the state’s priority needs of clean water, education and New Jersey Transit. Addressing the full Senate at the start of the new 2020-2021 Legislative session, Senator Sweeney also spoke about the more recent accomplishments that have improved the quality of life of the people of New Jersey.
“It is an honor to continue to serve as Senate President as we start the third decade of the new millennium,” said Senator Sweeney, who became the longest serving Senate President in New Jersey history. “We have the opportunity to pursue a shared commitment to the primary needs of the people of New Jersey by embracing an agenda of major issues. The national government may be in chaos but we can continue to show that New Jersey can be a beacon of hope, opportunity and accomplishment.”
Senator Sweeney said that the priorities for the new legislative session include funding for better schools, school equipment, school buildings and greater investment in higher education. The top Senate leader also pledged to pursue a multi-faceted clean water plan, which would include safe drinking water and protections for lakes, streams and aquifers. Senator Sweeney also said long-needed reforms for NJ Transit would be a top priority, including dedicated additional funding.
“Clean water is a basic necessity and any formula for success must include quality education and a fully functioning transportation system,” said Senator Sweeney, who praised his leadership team and the members of the Senate Democratic caucus. “These are major challenges that will require a major commitment of resources but we cannot afford to be intimidated. We have to be willing to invest political willpower if we are to make real and lasting progress.”
Senator Sweeney said that he wants to extend the progress made on equal rights to “equal treatment” so that no one in New Jersey’s richly diverse population suffers lost opportunities because of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or criminal history.
“We have made enormous progress on social justice reforms but we need to make the next big steps to go from equal justice to equal treatment,” said Senator Sweeney, who referred to legislative accomplishments on bail reform, reentry services, clean slate and expungement reforms, voting rights for former offenders, independent prosecutors for police involved fatalities, the extension of the statute of limitations for sex offenders and the end of non-disclosure agreements.
To enhance workers’ rights the Legislature has a record of substantial progress, Senator Sweeney noted, including a plan to increase the minimum wage to $15, earned sick leave, an equal pay law, apprenticeship programs, misclassification protections, the Workplace Democracy Act for labor organizing and the WARN Act to protect workers’ rights in bankruptcies.
Actions to improve health care include curbing access to vaping products, improving access to medical marijuana, consumer protections from surprise billing and the landmark Aid In Dying law.
Environmental initiatives include the preservation of more open space, a ban on plastic bags, incentives for electric vehicles and the first steps to keep lead out of the state’s water.
“We have both the opportunity and the responsibility to build upon our successes and face head-on the challenges before us,” said Senator Sweeney. “We can’t be afraid to take on the major challenges and we must have the courage to make an unpopular decision if it is the right one. New Jersey’s future will be shaped by the decisions we make over the coming years.”