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Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge). (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Coughlin: No timeline for long-stalled legislative financial disclosure reforms

By Nikita Biryukov, June 29 2021 1:07 pm

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) said his chamber and the Senate were working to iron out differences on a bill that would expand legislative financial disclosures but declined to give any timeline for the potential reforms, which have been stalled 18 months.

“We have drafts that have been floating around, like everything else,” the speaker said during a press gaggle Tuesday. “I think we had one, and the Senate version’s a little different than the Assembly version, so we’re looking at that.”

Last January, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) said he would seek changes to the disclosures, which report income from various sources, real property and gifts, among other things.

The reforms sought by Sweeney were uncomplicated. He wanted to increase the number of reporting brackets present on the disclosures. The current forms feature four brackets, the last of which is used to report income of $50,000 or more.

Legislators receive a $49,000 salary, and under the current system, it is impossible to tell from the disclosures whether a lawmaker made $50,001 or millions from a given job.

Sweeney earlier this year said the reforms were still on the docket, though there’s been no noticeable movement in the time since.

Coughlin on Tuesday declined to give a timeline for reforms.

“I don’t put these things on a timeline,” he said, promising “a thorough and thoughtful process.”

They’re not likely to happen soon. With the budget signed into law, the Assembly is preparing to break for the summer. The Senate will join the lower chamber after a Wednesday voting session.

The legislature does not typically hold proceedings in the summer. When it does, emergent circumstances are often involved, and legislative financial disclosure reform isn’t likely to create that sort of pressure.

It’s also not clear whether the chambers will resume normal business in the fall. All 120 seats of the legislature, along with the governorship, are up for election this year. Legislative sources are anticipating a dearth of legislative activity in the run-up to the election.

The reforms might not start moving until the lame duck session.

“When we get it right, we’ll get it right, and we’ll get it done,” Coughlin said.

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