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Senate President Steve Sweeney. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Sweeney plans to update legislative financial disclosures

Reforms should come early this year, senate president says

By Nikita Biryukov, January 14 2020 2:53 pm

Senate President Steve Sweeney said he intends to update financial disclosures for his members.

“We said we’re going to update ours. We absolutely need to update them. The last time they were updated, it was Senate President [Dick] Codey. So, I’ve been here 12 years. I don’t know when we did it with them, so yea, we’ll modernize it. And we said we would,” he said. “I think the Assembly said they were going to do it too.”

Gov. Phil Murphy will touch on the legislative financial disclosures and a handful of other ethics issues during his state of the state address Tuesday.

Though he did not provide a full list of planned changes, Sweeney said he intended to raise the reported income thresholds. Currently, lawmaker can report income using brackets of less than $10,000, between $10,000 and $24,999, between $25,000 and $49,999 or greater than $50,000.

“The salary for a Senator is $49,000, so obviously we need to raise it,” Sweeney said.

The senate president said he has to discuss other specific changes with Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin.

Sweeney said he intends to make changes to the financial disclosures early this year to provide enough time for lawmakers to learn the new reporting requirements.

“That’s why I said we’re going to do it early, so that people have an understanding what the changes were so we don’t trap anybody by making a mistake and then someone uses that in a campaign that they got hit with an ethics violation because they didn’t know the changes were in place,” he said.

Murphy’s speech will also touch on increased transparency in Trenton. It’s not clear whether that will include reforms to the disclosure exemptions provided to the legislature under the Open Public Records Act.

Sweeney has said more than once that he won’t move to change that exemption, though Coughlin and other top lawmakers have expressed willingness to reexamine the same.

He reiterated his opposition Tuesday then pivoted away from his defense of the disclosure shield provided to the legislature into an attack on Murphy.

“In all honesty, the governor is sitting on people with NDAs and he’s telling us about ethics?” Sweeney said. “You gotta be kidding me.”

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