On the same day a jury delivered a guilty verdict in the case of former Police Officer Derek Chauvin, veteran state Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28) said the case should prod New Jersey to “get its act together.”
The senator from Newark has long criticized a legislative leadership agenda that gives the appearance of work getting done on reform bills that die in committee, or make it into law absent key social justice provisions, like marijuana legalization.
A lot of people post Chauvin decision have called on lawmakers to not lose sight of an opportunity to make real changes.
In an interview this morning with InsiderNJ, Rice explained why his home state must not languish and allow Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd to merely serve as a feel-good press release moment.
A Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam, a former police officer, and a veteran lawmaker who early in the process championed the cause of marijuana decriminalization and expungement, Rice dove into what a reform legislative agenda in New Jersey would look like, and why it’s difficult to imagine the sitting establishment budging to secure any meaningful change.
“Unfortunately, the way our systems are set up throughout the country, Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin control a lot of money,” said Rice. “I’m talking about political money through PACS and things like that, and as a result of that some of the groups we are fighting against contribute and so they have to try to bring balance. I get that and we have to try to do the same thing but we don’t get those kinds of contributions as individuals legislators. I’m not in leadership, sometimes chairs will get something close to it because leadership will push it on them, but at the end of the day, they [legislative leadership] control it.
“I try to educate my caucus members to let them know that you have to have some peripheral vision because there are things happening in the legislature and you need to know they’re there while you listen to their apple pie talk,” the senator added.
For the (FULL!) InsiderNJ interview, please watch below: