Lame Duck Wish List

A lame duck session is upon us in Trenton. That’s the time between the November election and January, when all the newbies get sworn in.

Below is my list of everything I hope gets done during the lame duck (but probably won’t!) After each item, we’ll peek into the crystal ball to predict its viability.

Level the Playing Field for LGBTQ businesses

LGBTQ advocates are waiting on NJ Governor Phil Murphy’s executive order promoting LGBTQ-owned businesses by making the contract procurement process more inclusive and equitable.

Jonathan Lovitz is Special Advisor at the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. An Atlantic City native, Mr. Lovitz has helped more than two dozen states, cities, and federal agencies add LGBT Business Enterprises to their procurement and economic development initiatives.

“A more diverse vendor pool makes a stronger New Jersey, and we need every possible job-creating business to succeed in the Garden State at this critical moment for infrastructure development and economic recovery,” Mr Lovitz told InsiderNJ. “And it’s critical to remember that the LGBT community is comprised of women, people of color, veterans, those with disabilities, and more – so the Governor’s inclusion of this one community will create a surge of entrepreneurial enthusiasm from all communities.”

NJ’s LGBTQ community figured prominently in Governor Murphy’s surprisingly narrow reelection victory. If Murphy decides to return the favor right now, all NJ benefits because diversity among suppliers encourages greater innovation and competition which lowers bid prices.

And that means millions of dollars in taxpayers savings across the Garden State.

Something like this, which stalled legislatively, is way overdue.

🔮says: 50-50 Murphy delivers this Executive Order

Ban Indoor Smoking (once and for all!) 

Despite NJ’s 2006-era ban on indoor smoking, a carveout still permits smoking inside Atlantic City’s casinos.

Newly-minted NJ Senator Vince Polistina, whose district includes Atlantic City, campaigned hard to close the loophole that permits indoor smoking on casino floors. Polistina’s likeminded running mates, Don Guardian and Claire Swift, also prevailed adding two more votes to the (hypothetical) whip count to end indoor smoking in casinos once and for all.

Outgoing Senate President Steve Sweeney, whose support remains a prerequisite for anything in Trenton, was not projecting urgency.

“I don’t know what the lame duck’s going to look like. The Legislature and the governor all have to be in agreement. So, we’ll see,” Sweeney said last week, ironically, on the same day as the Great American Smoke Out, an annual event encouraging America’s 34,ooo,ooo (!) cigarette smokers to kick the habit.

🔮says: slim to none. Closing the loophole that permits casino smoking probably won’t happen over lame duck, a missed opportunity.

Reproductive Freedom Act

So long as Republicans want to control the outcome of every single pregnancy in America, the right to an abortion is under grave threat for millions of women nationwide. Texas outlawed abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy and other states (like Mississippi) are lining to do the same. More ominously for supporters of abortions rights, the US Supreme Court is increasingly comprised of anti-choice justices (including three nominated by Donald Trump.)

Given that climate, you might think a liberal state like NJ would double down to protect a woman’s right to decide when to start (or grow) her family. But you’d be wrong. NJ’s reproductive freedom act (RFA), which codifies abortion rights into law and includes comprehensive insurance requirements for abortion and contraception, has languished in Trenton since October 2020.

Under Sweeney’s leadership, Trenton Democrats balked on the RFA because, lacking the courage of their convictions, they decided to protect their vulnerable candidates who ended up losing on Election Day anyway!

If Republicans had their way, every pregnancy in America (all of them!) is forced term. Women who get abortions go to jail along with her doctor and the bestie who came along for the drive.

So what are Democrats (and the handful of pro-choice republicans) doing to protect abortions rights in NJ?

🔮 says: not much chance (20% maybe) the RFA passes during lame duck. Trenton partisans appear too preoccupied with the redistricting process to do any kind of heavy legislative lifting.

Confirm Acting AG Andrew Bruck

When former Attorney General Gurbir Grewal left his post after 3 1/2 years, his top deputy, Andrew Bruck took over as acting Attorney General for the remainder of Murphy’s first term.

The first openly LGBTQ person to lead NJ’s Office of Attorney General, Andrew Bruck has a gift for building cooperation between advocates who might not be natural allies. His smarts, toughness, empathy, and diplomatic skill could make him a transformational leader.

It’s time to remove the word “acting” from his job title and fully, properly confirm him.

🔮 says: a Senate confirmation hearing takes about 2 hours making this the easiest item to the list to actually fulfill. I give it a 25% of actually happening.

Jay Lassiter is an award-winning writer and podcaster best known for legalizing gay marriage and medical marijuana. He’s based in Cherry Hill, NJ and on Twitter @Jay_Lass

 

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