NJ Legislature Mulls Ethics Code Overhaul – Bill S729

UPDATE (2/5/16): The bill was re-introduced in the 2016-2017 session as S342 / A943.

Few can argue that the proper handling of ethics matters is an integral part of open, transparent government.  Thus, it may interest our readers to know about Bill S729 (A1195), which proposes fundamental changes to New Jersey’s Local Government Ethics Law.

Ethics St Law Way

Activist John Paff wrote in a June 10, 2015 blog post:

“The most substantial change that the bill…seeks is to abolish the School Ethics Commission, take local government ethics enforcement away from the Local Finance Board and to assign jurisdiction of both school and local government ethics to [the] State Ethics Commission (SEC).  The measure will also allow the SEC to promulgate a statewide ethics code, permit county and local ethics board to adopt codes that supplement the state code and increase the maximum penalty for ethics violations from $500 to $10,000.”

Paff submitted written testimony on S729 to the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee and posted his written testimony online here on June 11.

S729 has since moved through the Senate Committee and was passed by the NJ Senate on June 25, 2015 with amendments.  The latest reprint of bill S729, which reflects the amendments, is online here.  A 1-page Senate statement summarizing the floor amendments is online here.

There has been no activity on the Assembly side, yet.  The bill is before the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
Related article:
Should local ethics boards in N.J. be abolished?  – John Paff is quoted in this article RE his lawsuit against Moorestown for the unapproved minutes from the 2012 Ethical Standards Board meeting.  S342 is also discussed — the bill would amend the Local Government Ethics Law to, among other things, increase maximum fines for ethics violations from $500 to $10,000, transfer enforcement from the Local Finance Board to the State Ethics Commission and abolish all county and local ethics boards.  (S729 in 2014-2015 legislative session)
by Jan Hefler
March 14, 2016