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Stories about New Jersey

Four Republicans file to run in New Jersey gubernatorial primary, Gov. Murphy draws one primary challenger

Four Republican candidates filed to run for governor of New Jersey ahead of the April 5 filing deadline. Jack Ciattarelli, Brian Levine, Philip Rizzo, and Hirsh Singh will compete in the June 8 primary election for their party’s nomination. The general election will take place on Nov. 2.

Ciattarelli and Singh both ran for governor in 2017. Kim Guadagno, the Republican nominee, received 47% of the vote in the Republican primary. Ciattarelli received 31% and Singh received 10% of the vote.

Governor Phil Murphy (D) faces challenger Roger Bacon in the Democratic primary. Murphy won a six-way Democratic primary with 48% of the vote in 2017. This is Bacon’s second run for governor. In 2009, he ran in a four-way primary against then-Gov. Jon Corzine (D) and received 6% of the vote.

New Jersey is currently a Democratic trifecta, with a Democratic governor and Democratic majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. New Jersey was last under divided government in 2017, when Democrats controlled the legislature and Chris Christie (R) was governor.

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New Jersey Governor announces nomination of state supreme court justice

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) announced on March 15 that he would nominate Rachel Wainer Apter to the New Jersey Supreme Court. She will replace Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, who is retiring on Aug. 31.

Wainer Apter has served as a director with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, a counsel to the New Jersey Attorney General, and an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. From 2011 to 2012, Wainer Apter was a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and has also clerked for federal judges Robert Katzmann and Jed Rakoff.

State law requires supreme court nominees to pass the “advice and consent” of the state Senate one week after the governor issues a public notice of the nomination. 

This is Gov. Murphy’s second nominee to the seven-member supreme court. The court will switch from a 4-3 majority of justices appointed by Republican governors to a 4-3 majority of justices appointed by Democratic governors. According to state law, the New Jersey governor may appoint justices to have up to a one-seat partisan advantage on the court, but he or she may go no further than that.

Twenty-six state supreme courts have Republican majorities, 16 have Democratic majorities, and eight have split or indeterminate majorities.

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New Jersey Supreme Court justice schedules retirement

New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Jaynee LaVecchia scheduled her retirement for August 31, 2021. LaVecchia’s replacement will be Governor Phil Murphy’s (D) second nominee to the seven-member supreme court.

Under New Jersey law, when a vacancy occurs, justices of the New Jersey Supreme Court are nominated by the governor. One week after the public notice is issued by the governor, the nominees must be confirmed by the New Jersey State Senate. Newly appointed judges serve for seven years, after which they may be reappointed to serve until age 70, the mandatory retirement age.

Justice LaVecchia joined the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2000. She was appointed to the court by Governor Christine Todd Whitman (R).

Before serving on the state supreme court, LaVecchia served as the New Jersey Commissioner of Banking and Insurance from August 24, 1998, until the time of her judicial appointment. She served as a Law Division Director with the Department of Law and Public Safety from 1994 to 1998. She served as a director and as a chief administrative law judge for the Office of Administrative Law from 1989 to 1994. She also served as an assistant counsel and as a deputy chief counsel with the Office of Counsel to Gov. Thomas Kean (R).

Following LaVecchia’s retirement, the New Jersey Supreme Court will include the following members:

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, appointed by Gov. Jon Corzine (D) in 2007

Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis, appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in 2020

Justice Barry Albin, appointed by Gov. James McGreevey (D) in 2002

Justice Anne Patterson, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie (R) in 2010

Justice Faustino J. Fernandez-Vina, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie (R) in 2013

Justice Lee A. Solomon, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie (R) in 2014

In 2021, there have been nine supreme court vacancies in eight of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies have been caused by retirements.

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Changes to ballot access procedures in the 2021 election cycle

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the two states conducting regular state-level elections in 2021—New Jersey and Virginia—have both made temporary modifications to their candidate ballot access procedures.

Ballot access procedures dictate whether a candidate or political party will appear on an election ballot. These laws are implemented and enforced at the state level. A candidate must prepare to meet ballot access requirements well in advance of primaries, caucuses, and the general election.

New Jersey: On January 25, 2021, Governor Phil Murphy (D) issued Executive Order No. 216, which provided that filing officers “allow for any candidate, delegate, recall, initiative, referendum, or other petition required to be filed prior to an election to be submitted by hand delivery and electronically.” The order also allows for petition signatures to be collected electronically.

Virginia: In January 2021, the Virginia Department of Elections settled a lawsuit over ballot access requirements for statewide candidates in 2021. As a result of the settlement, the signature requirement for statewide petitions was reduced from 10,000 to 2,000, with at least 50 signatures from each U.S. House District (as opposed to the statutory requirement of 400 signatures per district). The settlement also provided for petition signers to submit their signatures electronically.

Ballot access changes in 2020: In 2020, at least 20 states made temporary modifications to their ballot access procedures: Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

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Breaking down partisanship on the New Jersey Supreme Court

A recent Ballotpedia study on state supreme courts revealed that of the seven justices on the New Jersey Supreme Court as of June 2020:

  1. Two justices had some level of affiliation with the Democratic party
  2. Four justices had a Republican affiliation
  3. One justice had an indeterminate partisan affiliation.

In “Ballotpedia Courts: State Partisanship”, we gathered a variety of data on 341 active state supreme court justices across the 50 states in order to understand their partisan affiliations. Based on this research, we placed each justice into one of five categories indicating our confidence in their affiliations with either the Democratic or Republican Parties. These categories are:

  1. Strong Democratic
  2. Mild Democratic
  3. Indeterminate
  4. Mild Republican
  5. Strong Republican

Our confidence measure shows that in 2020, there were two Mild Democrats on the New Jersey Supreme Court (Justices Stuart Rabner and Barry Albin), four Mild Republicans (Justices Lee Solomon, Anne Patterson, Jaynee LaVecchia, and Faustino Fernandez-Vina), and one Indeterminate justice (Justice Timpone). Justice Timpone retired on August 31, 2020, 10 weeks before his mandatory retirement date of November 10, to allow his replacement, Justice Fabiana Pierre-Louis, to join the bench for the September court session. As our study concluded in June 2020, we did not include Justice Pierre-Louis in our research.

New Jersey has informal, but no constitutional rules which mandate a partisan balance on the state supreme court. The National Center for State Courts describes New Jersey’s informal process of ensuring partisan balance on its state supreme court as follows:

“New Jersey’s courts also have a tradition of political balance. Governors, regardless of their party affiliation, have generally followed a policy of replacing outgoing judges with someone of the same party or philosophy. On the supreme court, the traditional balance is three Democrats and three Republicans, with the chief justice belonging to the party of the appointing governor.”

The state of New Jersey has two rules governing judicial appointments: one written, one unwritten. The written law requires that justices are subject to reappointment by the governor and reconfirmation by the legislature after an initial seven-year term. The unwritten rule is that the governor of the state of New Jersey is to appoint justices in a way that alternates the party of the justice each time he receives the opportunity to appoint a new justice to the court to ensure partisan balance on the court.

While John Corzine (D) was governor of New Jersey, he appointed two justices to the court, Helen Hoens and Stuart Rabner. One of his nominees, Stuart Rabner, was Gov. Corzine’s chief legal counsel and the attorney general for the state of New Jersey. Gov. Corzine also reappointed two Republican-leaning justices nominated to the bench by Governor Christine Todd Whitman (R) and one Democratic-leaning justice appointed to the bench by Governor James McGreevey (D).

Governor Chris Christie (R) broke the precedent in attempting to appoint another Republican-leaning justice to the state supreme court without first reappointing Justice Rabner. Gov. Christie also did not reappoint Helen Hoens, who was first appointed by Governor Christine Todd Whitman, and stated that he did so because he knew the Senate would reject her nomination. Justice Hoens is only the second justice in the history of New Jersey to sit on the court and not receive renomination after her second term. The only previous justice not to receive renomination was Justice John E. Wallace, a Gov. James McGreevey (D) appointment who Gov. Christie also did not renominate.

Gov. Christie’s Republican appointments recorded lower partisan Confidence Scores than the justices appointed by Whitman and Corzine. This means that, according to our data, Christie’s appointments were less partisan in their affiliations than the other New Jersey governors with appointments to the court. Christie’s appointments record an average Pure Partisan Score of 4.5. Whitman’s justices register an average Pure Partisan Score of 7. Corzine’s justices register an average Pure Partisan Score of 9. McGreevey’s justices record an average Pure Partisan Score of 7.

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New Jersey state Senator Gerald Cardinale dies

New Jersey Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R) passed away on Feb. 20, after being hospitalized with an illness unrelated to COVID-19. The second-longest-serving New Jersey legislator, Cardinale was first elected to Senate District 39 in 1981, serving until his death. Prior to joining the state Senate, Cardinale was a member of the New Jersey General Assembly from 1980 to 1982.  

During his Senate tenure, Cardinale served as deputy majority leader (1994-2001), majority whip (1992-1993), assistant minority leader (1987-1989), and minority whip (1985-1986). He was also a district-level delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention from New Jersey. Cardinale was one of 51 delegates from New Jersey bound by state party rules to support Donald Trump at the convention. 

If there is a vacancy in the New Jersey Legislature, the vacancy will be filled by an interim appointment by the county leadership of the political party that holds the seat. The office will be on the ballot in the next general election unless the vacancy occurs within 51 days of the election. If that is the case, the appointment would stand until the following general election. This is not the case for Cardinale’s seat, which will be up for election in November 2021.

As of Feb. 23, there have been 27 state legislative vacancies in 20 states during 2021. Ten of those vacancies have been filled. Of the 27 vacancies, 15 are Republican and 12 are Democratic. Democrats have filled seven vacancies, while Republicans have filled three.  

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Four states have ended their statewide mask requirements

New Jersey became the first state to implement a statewide mask order in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on April 10, 2020. Seven other states implemented mask orders later in April 2020 and, in total, 39 states have issued statewide mask requirements at some point during the pandemic.

In recent weeks, states have begun to repeal mask requirements or allow them to expire. Today, thirty-five states have statewide mask orders, including all 23 states with Democratic governors and 12 out of the 27 states with Republican governors.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) announced he is letting the state’s face-covering requirement expire on Feb. 12. Former Gov. Steve Bullock (D) issued the face-covering requirement on July 15, 2020. 

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) lifted her state’s mask order on Feb. 7. Reynolds first issued the face-covering requirement on Nov. 17.

The Wisconsin State Assembly also voted 52-42 on a resolution to end the statewide mask mandate and coronavirus public health emergency on Feb. 4. In response, Gov. Tony Evers (D) immediately issued two new orders reestablishing the public health emergency and mask mandate. All Democrats and seven Republicans voted against the resolution. Republican legislative leadership is challenging the mandate in the state Supreme Court. The Wisconsin State Senate voted 18-13 to overturn Gov. Tony Evers’s (D) coronavirus emergency order on Jan. 26. 

Mississippi became the first state to lift a statewide mask requirement on Sept. 30, 2020, followed by North Dakota on Jan. 18, 2021. Montana is the fourth state to lift a statewide mask order. Iowa was the third state to lift a statewide public mask mandate. All four states that have lifted statewide face covering requirements have Republican governors.

Union representative salaries before the New Jersey Supreme Court

New Jersey Supreme Court reverses appellate division ruling on union representative salaries 

On Feb. 3, the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously reversed a 2019 appellate court ruling that said the Jersey City Board of Education could not pay salaries of union representatives.   

Parties to the suit

The plaintiffs were New Jersey taxpayers Moshe Rozenblit and Won Kyu Rim. The Goldwater Institute, which describes itself as a “free-market public policy research and litigation organization,” represented the plaintiffs. The defendants were the Jersey City Public Schools, the Jersey City Board of Education, and the Jersey City Education Association.

What’s at issue, and how the lower court ruled

The plaintiffs filed a complaint in January 2017 challenging a section of the collective bargaining agreement between the Jersey City Board of Education and the Jersey City Education Association that requires the board to pay the salaries of two teachers working full-time as union representatives. The plaintiffs specifically alleged that this section of the agreement violated Article VIII, Section 3, Paragraph 3 of the state constitution: “No donation of land or appropriation of money shall be made by the State or any county or municipal corporation to or for the use of any society, association, or corporation whatever.” The defendants said the challenged provision was valid under Section 18A:30-7 of the New Jersey Statutes, which permits local boards of education to pay salaries in cases of absence not constituting sick leave. A lower state court upheld this provision of the collective bargaining agreement, prompting the plaintiffs to appeal.

On Aug. 21, 2019, a New Jersey appellate court ruled the Jersey City Board of Education could not use public funds to pay the salaries of union representatives.

How did the New Jersey Supreme Court rule? 

The New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously reversed the appellate court’s decision, reinstating an October 2017 trial court judgment. Writing for the court, Justice Anne Patterson said

We do not share the Appellate Division’s view that the Board’s agreement to the disputed provisions exceeded its statutory grant of authority. In the Education Code, the Legislature empowered boards of education to make rules governing the compensation of teachers, N.J.S.A. 18A:27-4, and to fix ‘the payment of salary in cases of absence not constituting sick leave,’ N.J.S.A. 18A:30-7. The Legislature thus authorized the Board to grant a paid leave to the releasees to allow them to attend to labor relations work pursuant to the CNA. Moreover, because the releasees’ efforts encourage cooperative labor relations and facilitate the early resolution of employer-employee disputes, the CNA’s release time provisions facilitate the Board’s management of the public schools pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:11-1(c). The releasees also further the mediation and resolution of labor disputes in accordance with N.J.S.A. 34:13A-2, a provision of the Employer-Employee Relations Act (EERA). We conclude that the Board’s payment of salaries and benefits to the releasees is within its statutory grant of authority.

The case name and number are Rozenblit v. Lyles, 083434.

What are the responses? 

  • New Jersey Education Association Communications Director Steve Baker said, “We’re pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the principle of collective bargaining in New Jersey. … New Jersey public employees and employers have had the right to collectively bargain the terms and conditions of employment for 52 years. It’s a longstanding practice, and the Supreme Court’s ruling upheld that and affirmed that that right still exists in New Jersey.” 
  • Goldwater Institute Director of National Litigation Jon Riches said, “Public resources should be put to public use, not to advance the private interests of labor organizations. … And we stand ready to work with policymakers in New Jersey and elsewhere to eliminate this taxpayer abuse and require that government employees perform the jobs they were hired to perform, rather than work to advance special interests at taxpayer expense.”

Bureau of Labor Statistics releases annual union membership estimates

On Jan. 22, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its annual estimates of union membership in the United States. The full press release and data set can be found here.

  • The BLS estimates that 34.8% of public-sector workers nationwide were union members in 2020, roughly five and a half times the membership rate in the private sector (6.3%). In 2019, public-sector union membership was estimated at 33.6%.
  • Local government workers were unionized at an estimated rate of 41.7% in 2020, up from 39.4% in 2019.
  • State workers were unionized at a rate of 29.9% in 2020, up from 29.4% in 2019.
  • Federal workers were unionized at a rate of 26.0% in 2020, up from 25.6% in 2019.

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 55 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking. 

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s) 

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. 

  • Kentucky SB142: This bill would require that employees give written consent, revocable at any time, to have union dues withheld from their paychecks. 
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Introduced Feb. 2. 
  • Maine LD97: This bill would bar public-sector and private-sector employers from requiring employees to join or pay dues to a union as a condition of employment. 
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Labor and Housing Committee hearing scheduled for Feb. 17. 
  • Maryland HB486: This bill would make revisions to the collective bargaining process for employees of the University System of Maryland.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • House Appropriations Committee hearing Feb. 3. 
  • Maryland HB837: This bill would establish a separate collective bargaining unit for teachers at the Maryland School for the Deaf.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • House Appropriations Committee hearing scheduled for Feb. 10.
  • Maryland HB894: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for certain community college employees.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • House Appropriations Committee hearing scheduled for Feb. 10.
  • Maryland SB9: This bill would make revisions to the collective bargaining process for employees of the University System of Maryland.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Senate Finance Committee hearing Feb. 4. 
  • Maryland SB138: This bill would extend collective bargaining rights to employees of the Baltimore County Public Library.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Senate Finance Committee hearing Feb. 4. 
  • Maryland SB521: This bill would extend collective bargaining rights to certain graduate students within the University System of Maryland, Morgan State University, or St. Mary’s College of Maryland. 
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Senate Finance Committee hearing scheduled for Feb. 18. 
  • Maryland SB556: This bill would establish a separate collective bargaining unit for teachers at the Maryland School for the Deaf. 
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Senate Finance Committee hearing scheduled for Feb. 25. 
  • Montana HB251: This bill would bar employers from requiring employees to become, remain, or refrain from becoming members of a union as a condition of employment. It would also allow employees to revoke payroll deductions for union dues at any time with written notice. 
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • House Business and Labor Committee hearing scheduled for Feb. 11. 
  • Nevada SB13: This bill would establish that local governments’ ending fund balances of up to 25 percent would not be subject to negotiation during collective bargaining.
    • Referred to Senate Government Affairs Committee Feb. 1. 
  • New Hampshire HB348: This bill would require a public employer to provide notice of a new or amended collective bargaining agreement. 
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee hearing scheduled for Feb. 11. 
  • New Hampshire SB61: This bill would prohibit collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join a labor union.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Senate Commerce Committee reported favorably Feb. 1. 
  • Oklahoma HB1985: This bill would require that school employee unions submit to secret-ballot elections in order to continue on as collective bargaining agents.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Introduced Feb. 1. Referred to House Common Education Committee Feb. 2. 
  • Oklahoma HB2747: This bill would eliminate the Public Employees Relations Board. It would direct municipal public employers to recognize unions as the exclusive bargaining agents for police officers or firefighters upon a majority vote of the members of the bargaining unit.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Introduced Feb. 1. Referred to House County and Municipal Government Committee Feb. 2. 
  • Oklahoma SB634: This bill would require annual authorizations for payroll dues deductions for school employees.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Introduced Feb. 1. Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee Feb. 2. 
  • Tennessee SJR0002: This bill proposes a constitutional amendment that would bar any person, corporation, or governmental entity from denying employment due to an individual’s affiliation status with a union or other employee organization.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Senate Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Feb. 9. 
  • Washington SB5055: This bill would prohibit law enforcement personnel from entering into collective bargaining agreements that prevent, prohibit, or otherwise alter local government ordinances or charters providing for “civilian review of law enforcement personnel.”
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Senate Labor, Commerce, and Tribal Affairs Committee hearing Feb. 3.
  • Washington SB5133: This bill amends the definition of a “confidential employee” for the purposes of collective bargaining.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing scheduled for Feb. 11.

Tom Malinowski wins re-election to Congress

Incumbent Tom Malinowski (D) defeated challenger Thomas Kean Jr. (R) in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District.

Malinowski was first elected in 2018, when he defeated incumbent Leonard Lance (R) 52% to 47%, becoming the first Democrat to win election in the district since 1978. Preliminary returns suggest Malinowski expanded on his 2018 margin this year, winning 54% of the vote to Kean’s 46%.

Both parties’ national committees targeted the district this year, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) naming Malinowski to its Frontline program and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) naming Kean to its Young Guns program. The DCCC and House Majority PAC spent a combined $3.8 million in the district, while the NRCC and Congressional Leadership Fund spent a combined $4.3 million.

After switching parties, Van Drew (R) wins re-election in NJ-02

Incumbent Jeff Van Drew (R) defeated Amy Kennedy (D) in the general election for New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District. 

Van Drew was first elected in 2018 as a Democrat after defeating Seth Grossman (R) 53% to 45%. Van Drew succeeded Frank LoBiondo (R), who held the seat from 1995 until his retirement in 2019.

In December 2019, Van Drew switched his party affiliation from Democratic to Republican. The day before, he was one of two House Democrats to vote against both articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump (R).

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