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The New Jersey Statehouse. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

A law to govern all laws?

Proposed committee would be tasked with making sure laws are enacted, enforced

By Joey Fox, March 24 2023 2:26 pm

Every year in the New Jersey Statehouse, thousands of bills are introduced; hundreds pass the legislature; and most of those become law. Then what?

Well, in theory, each law signed by the governor takes effect, and whatever changes it makes to the existing status quo are implemented. But given the sheer number of laws passed, it’s easy to imagine some of them falling through the cracks.

Under a bill being considered by the state legislature, there’d be a committee to prevent exactly that. The proposed Legislative Enactment Oversight Committee would be a 15-member body tasked with making sure that the state’s laws, resolutions, and commissions are doing what they’re supposed to be doing in a timely manner.

Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D-Perth Amboy), one of the Assembly sponsors of the bill that would create the committee, said that the public deserves accountability about the enactment and enforcement of New Jersey’s laws.

“I’ve done over 300 pieces of legislation in my five years [in the Assembly], and I’ve had, like, 34 bills enacted into law,” she said. “Honestly, we just want to ensure that all these laws are implemented… If they’re actually signed, they should be implemented.”

The bill passed the Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee earlier this week; it has yet to come up for a vote in Senate committee. 

Every Democrat on the Assembly committee voted for the bill, but both Republicans voted against it, which Assemblyman Michael Torrissi (R-Hammonton) said was because of the bill’s not-insignificant price tag. Each of the enactment committee’s 15 members would be paid up to $90,000 a year, $120,000 for the committee chair – a provision that’s likely intended to incentivize joining the committee, but also one that would add up year after year.

“My concern is, it creates another huge bureaucratic entity that I heard is going to cost the taxpayers something like $7 million,” Torrissi said. “To spend that kind of taxpayer money, I need to research it more. Laws are supposed to be followed, but now we have to create another commission to make sure we’re following laws?”

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