New Jersey State Legislature

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New Jersey State Legislature

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General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   January 13, 2015
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Stephen Sweeney (D)
House Speaker:  Vincent Prieto (D)
Majority Leader:   Loretta Weinberg (D) (Senate),
Louis Greenwald (D) (General Assembly)
Minority Leader:   Thomas Kean (R) (Senate),
Jon Bramnick (R) (General Assembly)
Members:  40 (Senate), 80 (General Assembly)
Length of term:   4 years (Senate), 2 years (General Assembly)
Authority:   Art Article IV, New Jersey Constitution
Salary:   $49,000/year
Last Election:  November 3, 2013
40 seats (Senate)
80 seats (General Assembly)
Next election:  November 3, 2015
40 seats (Senate)
80 seats (General Assembly)
Redistricting:  New Jersey Redistricting Commission has control
The New Jersey State Legislature is the state of New Jersey's legislative branch, seated in the New Jersey State House at the state's capital, Trenton. The Legislature is bicameral, consisting of two houses: the New Jersey General Assembly and the New Jersey Senate.

As of April 2015, New Jersey is one of 19 states that is under divided government and is therefore not one of the state government trifectas.

See also: New Jersey House of Representatives, New Jersey State Senate, New Jersey Governor


Legislative elections are held in November of every odd-numbered year. (The state is in this regard unusual, as most states hold legislative elections in even-numbered years, when Congressional elections are also held.)

The Legislature is empowered to make new law, subject to the Governor of New Jersey's power to veto a bill. However, the veto may be overridden by the Legislature if there is a two-thirds majority in favor of overriding in each House.

Furthermore, by a three-fifths vote, the Legislature may propose an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution. An amendment may also be proposed if the Legislature passes it by a majority in two consecutive years. Whichever manner is adopted, the Amendment must be approved in a referendum to become valid as a part of the Constitution. Another major legislative power is vested in the Senate, which has the sole authority to confirm or reject gubernatorial nominees for judicial and some executive positions.

Unlike most state legislatures, many New Jersey legislators also concurrently hold another office at the county or municipal level.


Article IV of the New Jersey Constitution provides that each Legislature is constituted for a term of two years, split into two annual sessions. Because the Constitution also specifies that all business from the first year may be continued into the second year, the distinction between the two annual sessions is more ceremonial than actual. The two-year legislative term begins at noon on the second Tuesday in January of each even-numbered year, which for the 2010-2012 term was on January 12, 2010. At the end of the second year, all unfinished business expires.

Article IV also allows the Governor of New Jersey to call special sessions of the Legislature. Additionally, a special session can be called if a majority of each legislative house petitions the Governor requesting a special session.


See also: Dates of 2015 state legislative sessions

In 2015, the Legislature will be in session from January 13 through December 31 (Projected).

Major issues

Major issues in the 2015 legislative session include pension reform, funding the Transportation Trust Fund, property taxes and bills aimed at improving the economic climate in Atlantic City after the closing of three casinos in a short span of time.[1]


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature was in session from January 14 through January 1, 2016.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2014 legislative session included lowering property taxes, establishing the "Hurricane Sandy Bill of Rights," pay equity for women, funding for women’s health care and making college more affordable.[2]


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 10, 2013, to January 13, 2014.

Major issues

The major issue for the Legislature is rebuilding the state after superstorm Sandy. Gun control is also expected to be addressed.[3]


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Legislature was in session from January 10, 2012, to January 9, 2013.


In 2011, the Legislature was in session from January 12, 2011, to January 9, 2012.[4]


In 2010, the Legislature convened on January 12, and remained in session throughout the year.[5]

Role in state budget

See also: New Jersey state budget and finances
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The state operates on an annual budget cycle. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[6][7]

  1. Budget instruction guidelines are sent to state agencies in August.
  2. State agency requests are submitted in October.
  3. Agency hearings are held in November and December.
  4. Public hearings are held in March and June.
  5. The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the New Jersey State Legislature on or before the fourth Tuesday in February.
  6. The legislature adopts a budget in June. A simple majority is required to pass a budget.
  7. The fiscal year begins July 1.

New Jersey is one of 44 states in which the governor has line item veto authority.[7]

The governor is constitutionally required to submit a balanced budget. In turn, the legislature is also constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget.[7]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 indicating that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis, while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. The challenges states faced included a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. New Jersey was one of 29 states with mixed results regarding the frequency and effectiveness in its use of cost-benefit analysis.[8]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[9] According to the report, New Jersey received a grade of C+ and a numerical score of 79, indicating that New Jersey was "middling" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[9]

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. New Jersey was given a grade of A in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[10]


The New Jersey Senate is the upper house of the New Jersey Legislature. It consists of 40 Senators. Each member represents an average of 219,797 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[11] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 210,359.[12] Senators must be 30 years of age or older, must have lived in the state a minimum of four years, and must live in the district represented.

Senators serve four-year terms, except in the first term of a new decade, which only lasts for two years. The "2-4-4" cycle was put into place so that Senate elections can reflect the changes made to the district boundaries on the basis of the decennial United States Census. (If the cycle were not put into place, then the boundaries would sometimes be four years out of date before being used for Senate elections. Rather, with the varied term, the boundaries are only two years out of date). Thus elections for Senate seats take place in years ending with a "1," "3" or "7" (e.g., 2011, 2013 and 2017 this decade).

Interim appointments are made to fill vacant legislative seats by the county committee or committees of the party of the vacating person. The office is on the ballot for the next general election (regardless if all other Senate seats are up in that year, such as in years ending with a "5" or "9," such as 2015 and 2019 this decade), unless the vacancy occurred within 51 days of the election. Then the appointment stands until the following general election.

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 24
     Republican Party 16
Total 40

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the New Jersey State Senate from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the New Jersey State Senate.PNG

General Assembly

The New Jersey General Assembly is the lower house of the New Jersey Legislature. The Assembly consists of 80 members. Two members are elected from each of New Jersey's 40 legislative districts for a term of two years. Each member represents an average of 219,797 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[11] After the 2000 Census, each member represented approximately 210,359 residents.[12] To be eligible to run, a potential candidate must be at least 21 years of age, and must have lived in New Jersey for at least two years prior to the election. They also must be residents of their districts. Membership in the Assembly is considered a part-time job, and many members have employment in addition to their legislative work. Assembly members serve two-year terms, elected every odd-numbered year in November. Several members of the Assembly hold other elective office.

The Assembly is led by the Speaker of the Assembly, who is elected by the membership. The Speaker is the third in line after the Lieutenant Governor and President of the Senate to replace the Governor, should he prove unable to execute his duties. The Speaker decides the schedule for the Assembly, which bills will be considered, appoints committee chairmen, and generally runs the business of the Assembly.

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 48
     Republican Party 32
Total 80

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the New Jersey State House of Representatives from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the New Jersey State House.PNG


Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, New Jersey
Partisan breakdown of the New Jersey legislature from 1992-2013

New Jersey State Senate: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the New Jersey State Senate for the first 10 years and the Republicans were the majority for the last 10 years.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

New Jersey State House of Representatives: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the New Jersey State House of Representatives for the last 12 years and the Republicans were the majority for the first 10 years.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of New Jersey, the New Jersey State Senate and the New Jersey House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of New Jersey state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

To read the full report on the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI) in PDF form, click here.

New Jersey was one of eight states to demonstrate a dramatic partisan shift in the 22 years studied. A dramatic shift was defined by a movement of 40 percent or more toward one party over the course of the study period.

The chart below depicts the partisanship of New Jersey state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. New Jersey had Republican trifectas from 1994-2001 and Democratic trifectas from 2004-2009. There were four years when New Jersey finished in the top-10, all of those years with Republican trifectas.

  • SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: 18.67
  • SQLI average with Republican trifecta: 9.75
  • SQLI average with divided government: 21.86
Chart displaying the partisanship of New Jersey government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the New Jersey Legislature are paid $49,000/year. There is no per diem.[13]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

New Jersey legislators assume office at noon of the second Tuesday in January following the election.

Joint Legislative Committees

See also: Public policy in New Jersey

See also

External links