Friday, October 02, 2009

Big Changes Coming to Party Politics

Governor Corzine Signs Legislation to Change Governing of County Political Party Committees

TRENTON - Governor Jon S. Corzine today signed legislation that makes certain changes to current laws governing the activities of county political party committees. The bill, S-930/ A-1904, requires these committees to adopt constitutions and bylaws, calls for specific information concerning committee members to be filed with the county clerk and eliminates fixed terms for committee members and chairs.

"This legislation is another step forward in our efforts to bring more transparency and ethics to government," said Governor Corzine. "I thank Senator Weinberg for her commitment and advocacy on this important issue."

As a result of the legislation, constitutions and bylaws of each county committee are required to be posted on the organization's respective website and copies of the documents must be provided to the county board of elections for website display. In addition, anyone elected or appointed to membership on the county committee is entitled to receive a copy of the constitution or bylaws and that request must be filled within 48 hours of receipt.

"This law is a reform of the party structure here in New Jersey," said Senator Loretta Weinberg, (D-Bergen), who is a long-time advocate of open government. "As the prime sponsor of this bill, we designed it to ensure that there is an even playing field within party organizations with openness and due process. I want to congratulate Governor Corzine on signing such an important piece of legislation - one that now brings our state one step closer to full accountability on all levels of government."

Under the bill, municipal clerks would be required to file an official list of committee members with the county clerk within 20 days after a committee's first meeting following the primary election. This list would be considered a government document available to the public upon request.

"This is a crucial step toward more accountability and transparency at every government level," said Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex/Mercer). "It's long overdue and a welcome addition to making government more open and accountable to the people."

"More transparency and openness is always a good thing," said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This law will put even more emphasis on that goal and make county politics more accessible and accountable to the people."

In addition, procedures for removing committee officers who are unwilling or unable to serve, is required to be included in the organization's constitutions and bylaws. A member's resignation must be accompanied by a notarized letter of resignation signed by that committee member, or, if the resigning committee member fails to provide such a letter, by a notarized letter stating that the resignation has occurred. The chair of a county committee would have a continuing duty to report changes in the committee membership, with appropriate documentation, to the county clerk.

"We're simply doing what should have done long ago - shining more light upon what can often be a key government process seldom seen by the public," said Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen). "This is a positive step in the right direction for all New Jerseyans."

"We can't have fair and open government without a fair and open political process. This law will begin a long overdue effort to level the playing field for candidates that aren't part of the good ol' boys club," said Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, (R-Monmouth/ Middlesex).

Harry Pozycki Chair of the Citizens' Campaign which developed the Party Democracy Act said, "This law will ensure that county party committee people know the rules of the game, know who the players are, and guarantee they are able to vote their conscience when filling county and state legislative vacancies. It lays the foundation for the grassroots of the parties to decide who gets endorsed for major offices and to set the political parties' priorities on issues."

"This new law goes a long way in ending the era of ‘top-down' political party rule," said Assemblywoman Charlotte Vandervalk, (R-Bergen). "It gives meaning to government by and for the people as it provides for increased citizen participation in the decision-making process of county political parties."


Law Man said...

some comments.
first it allows a chairman to hold office indefinitly instead of giving him a fixed term. That is something every county should address in their bylaws.
Second is an interesting question. Can the bylaws extend more powers to the committee then they are given by statute? Currently the duties of the committee consist of filing a vacancy in certain elected offices and electing a chairman. Can bylaws give them a say in picking who gets the party endorsement in a primary?
It does not require municipal committees to have bylaws.
It will be very intereting to see how the county parties go about drafting the bylaws. Will they enshrine powerful chairman or give the power to the people?

One final note. The part of the statute that requires one male and one female is actually unconstitutional. There was a case about 10 years ago out of Ohio I believe, that reached the US Supreme court where this was held.

Anonymous said...

This will be held unconstitutional too. There are U.S. Sup. Ct. cases on very similar issues.