Home>Highlight>Senate clears bill creating ELEC office to investigate sexual misconduct in campaigns, parties

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Senate clears bill creating ELEC office to investigate sexual misconduct in campaigns, parties

By Nikita Biryukov, June 30 2021 4:45 pm

The State Senate approved a bill requiring political parties and campaigns to implement anti-harassment policies for employees in a unanimous 37-0 vote Wednesday.

The measure, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) and State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch) would also require the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission to set up a unit to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct in New Jersey politics and appropriates $2 million toward that end.

“Survivors who complain publicly, or even privately, face retaliation, are not believed and risk losing their political careers,” Weinberg said. “This legislation would enable survivors to confidentially report sexual misconduct to an independent investigative agency and/or to a designated campaign or party official responsible for monitoring anti-harassment policies.”

The bill stems from hearings of Weinberg’s Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey politics and a separate working group on campaign harassment legislation gathered by Gopal.

It would require campaigns and political parties to adopt anti-harassment policies covering on and off-the-clock activities. It’ll also require the covered organizations to conduct anti-harassment trainings and identify staff members to receive confidential sexual misconduct complaints.

The bill would create an 11-member board to oversee rules created by the new ELEC unit.

Six of its members will picked by the governor based on recommendations from the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the State Bar Association, Rutgers University’s Center on American Women and Politics, Rutgers’ Center on Women and Work, The New Jersey Conference of the NAACP and the New Jersey Latino Action Network.

The governor, Senate president, Assembly speaker and minority leaders from both chambers would each pick one of the board’s remaining five members.

The new policies won’t be in place for this year’s general election. The bill has yet to move in the Assembly, which isn’t expected to hold additional proceedings this summer or before November’s races are through.

Even if it had already reached Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk and received his signature, the bill doesn’t go into effect until 180 days after its enactment.

The general election is 125 days away.

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