Democratic leaders in the State Assembly announced today that they intend to introduce new legislation to increase funding for the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), the state’s campaign finance watchdog, by $1.5 million, or 30% of the agency’s current $5.5 million budget.
“By providing additional funding, this bill ensures the public has a true watchdog when it comes to money in politics,” Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) said in a statement. “The additional funding will enable officials in charge of oversight of campaign spending to have the staff and tools necessary to provide more information to the public.”
The prospective bill likely comes in response to criticisms of the Elections Transparency Act, a wide-ranging campaign finance reform bill that would (among other things) implement a strict two-year statute of limitations on ELEC enforcement actions. ELEC officials had warned that the restrictions in the bill, which is set to pass the full legislature later today, would hobble their ability to adequately enforce campaign finance laws.
Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Voorhees), the prime Assembly sponsor of the Elections Transparency Act, indirectly acknowledged that concern in the announcement of the new funding bill.
“The [Elections Transparency Act] requires ELEC to investigate and hold those who violate the law accountable in a more timely manner,” he said. “This additional funding will ensure ELEC has the resources necessary to accomplish that.”
The funding bill, which has not officially been introduced yet, will likely have to wait a little while before it can begin making its way through the legislature. Today’s legislative session is the last scheduled regular legislative day until May, with legislators focusing primarily on the budget throughout April; it’s not clear how ELEC will cope with increased responsibilities without increased funding in the meantime.