Sweeney, Singleton: Cabinet-level Department Needed to Promote Diversity and Equity in State Government
Senators also push legislation requiring NJ Division of Investment to expand pool to include ‘underrepresented’ investment advisers
TRENTON – Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Troy Singleton are pushing for the creation of a state Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, asserting that only a Cabinet-level agency would have the clout needed to break through the institutional barriers in state government that exclude underrepresented populations from true economic opportunity.
“Despite the best intentions, it is clear that past efforts to promote equity for people of color and others who have been denied equality of economic opportunity have fallen woefully short,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/ Salem/ Cumberland). “Only a Cabinet-level agency can ensure that New Jersey state government sets an example as a model of diversity, equity and inclusion for other employers. Our diversity is our strength, and we need to capitalize on it.”
Senators Sweeney and Singleton said introduction of their Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion legislation, along with a companion bill requiring the state Division of Investment to diversify its pool of investment advisers, set down a marker for the new Legislature to achieve.
“This proposal holds true the notion that affirmatively advancing equity and equal opportunity is a responsibility of our government,” said Senator Singleton, who will serve in Senate leadership as the Majority Whip in the next session. “This legislation brings both attention and intention to this ideal by taking our aspirational words of inclusion and turning it into a state department focused on bringing those words to fruition. This will afford our state with a workforce that is truly representative of the diverse mosaic that is our state’s population.”
The Rev. Dr. David Jefferson, Sr. Esq., Pastor of the historic Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark and State Chair for the National Action Network, who worked on the development of the proposals, praised the two measures.
“Social justice cannot be fully achieved without economic justice,” said Pastor Jefferson. “Government has a moral responsibility to show the way by providing equal opportunities for everyone. We have to work to break down the barriers to economic equality that have blocked the way for communities of color for far too long. These are steps in the right direction that we must pursue with a continued commitment for progress. For too long New Jersey has lacked the leadership to provide economic empowerment for everyone and not just a few. ”
The first bill, S-4302, would establish the Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and require the development of both State government-wide and agency-specific strategic plans to address diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the State. Existing state government units with responsibilities in these areas would be transferred to the new department.
The Commissioner of the new Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion would be responsible for the following duties and functions:
- consulting and assisting on efforts by the Director of the Division of Investment in the Department of Treasury to use underrepresented financial businesses to provide brokerage and investment management services;
- consulting and assisting on diversity, equity, and inclusion in investments by the State, and its political subdivisions, in the allocation of loans and grants for business formation, and in the provision of low interest loans and down payment support for homeowners; and
- consulting and assisting on diversity, equity, and inclusion in procurement by the State and its political subdivisions.
Currently, 16 states have implemented policies considered relevant to the State as a Model Employer, including states as diverse as Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Minnesota, New York and Vermont.
The second bill, S-4303, also sponsored by Senators Sweeney and Singleton, would require the Division of Investment in the Department of Treasury to make more concerted efforts to use underrepresented financial institutions to provide brokerage and investment management services to the State.
“I am confident that under Senator Singleton’s leadership, these bills will become law in the next legislative session,” Senator Sweeney said.