In New Jersey’s part-time legislature, legislators are often affected by legislation related to their full-time duties.
Teachers vote to make it easier for students to become teachers, police support decriminalization of police spending, and small business owners push bills that help businesses thrive.
These votes often result in minor disputes, especially if the bills pass with significant support. While conservative managers may report conflicting opinions, policymakers say their day-to-day jobs provide the inside information that helps them make better policy decisions.
But sometimes people’s policies can lead to economic problems. That is why there are questions about whether the two top lawmakers will benefit from the money that Gov. Phil Murphy signed it into law this month, specifically one that will raise auto insurance requirements for drivers four times higher than before. Advocates and insurance companies say the change will undoubtedly lead to higher insurance rates for consumers.
Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) and Sen. Jon Bramnick (R-Union), both representing the injured, sponsored the bill, which passed in just a few days of the budget session where hundreds of bills went up. The men said they will protect drivers who choose low insurance rates by telling them to get help with more money in the event of an accident. Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer (R-Gloucester) said it would “just make lawyers richer.”
The senators said he previously denied any disagreement. In a recent phone interview, Scutari said the money would not enrich him, adding that he would “not work” in insurance.
“There are many lawyers in Parliament, and some of them deal with insurance matters. “Not only us, and I’m sure they voted,” he said. “I know it’s allowed because it doesn’t really affect what we do.”
The car insurance bill was one of the few Scutari and Bramnick pushed. Other bills that did not pass the full Legislature before summer would require all auto insurance plans to include at least $250,000 in personal injury coverage – from the current $15,000 – and bar drivers not to use private health insurance as the primary payer for personal injury insurance.
Experts suggest that Scutari and Bramnick will support his words on the bill may pass through the questionable area. Scutari appeared before a Senate committee on one of the charges in June to punish the opposition and I say “the people of New Jersey need this Legislature to protect them from themselves.”
Kirk Johnson, a professor of justice studies at Montclair State University, said lawmakers need to put aside their arguments and vote for bills that will enrich themselves and the people around them.
“In a perfect world, yes, you should quit, and you should say that. But because money drives our politics, both locally and statewide, unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen the way it should,” Johnson told the New Jersey Monitor.
Bramnick did not respond to a request for comment. He defended the minimum wage at an inquiry in June, and has seen lawyers of all stripes, from personal injury to defense attorneys, serve in the Legislature. The 120-member board has 27 practicing lawyers.
“There are teachers in the legislature who vote on issues related to teachers, NJEA representatives, there are environmentalists who work on environmental laws, you have to stop everyone,” he said. “Most of the time, I only talk about issues that are in the consumer’s best interest than the insurance company’s. In most cases, this is difficult and I will continue to do so.”
What are New Jersey’s ethics laws?
Although the patrols that have been established may not be used often, the New Jersey Legislature has a legislative body and a legislative committee to enforce them.
John Farmer, director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, cited articles of ethics that instruct members not to engage in “disturbing emotional or mental” activities while in office. Lawmakers should refrain from voting or taking action on bills that have “personal interests,” he said.
The Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards is authorized to investigate and conduct hearings to determine whether the public trust is being violated, or whether a lawmaker is taking advantage of the law. The committee last met in July 2021 and met seven times during the 2018-2019 legislative session.
Ethics also suggests that as long as the interest does not benefit one legislator – or their family or business – but the entire profession, the committee can recognize that there is no conflict of interest, said Farmer. He declined to comment directly on the auto insurance laws or the senator’s actions.
Johnson said New Jersey’s ethics laws make it clear if a lawmaker participates in a bill it would be invalid.
For example, if a lawmaker who owns a teacher’s pension wants to support a bill that directs millions of dollars to the pension fund, that would be a clear contradiction. But higher wages for school staff due to inflation – which would help the sector as a whole – would be good.
“It’s going to benefit a lot of people, not just (the legislature), but the rest of the community,” he said. “If it’s benefiting you — especially making things worse for the people you’ve elected — that’s a huge red flag.”
Scutari said in a recent interview that the proposed changes to insurance will benefit all drivers and said what they are doing is no different than any other lawmaker.
“What about all the other lawyers in the House of Commons who deal with traffic accidents?” What about all the dentists who handle the medical issues? What about the teachers who are in charge of the laws that have been passed regarding teachers? This has been done a million times. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Scutari said.
The Office of Legislative Services, a nonpartisan office that provides support to the Legislature, has ethics counsel to advise lawmakers and legislative aides. A spokesman did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Scutari said he spoke with the Office of Legislative Services and ethics counsel “a million times” during his 19 years in the Legislature.
Opposition to the law
The insurance bills passed mostly on party lines, but opponents voiced their concerns before moving forward.
Much of the criticism, which has also come from progressive advocates and insurance companies, has focused on how the premiums would enrich low-income people who are already struggling to pay for food, rent, and utilities at a time when prices have risen.
The billwhich Murphy signed into law at the beginning of this month, increases the minimum number of loans and the provision of uninsured or uninsured motorists that the car insurance must be from $ 15,000 to anywhere from $ 25,000 to $ 70,000, depending on when the policy is renewed.
Murphy also signed two others into the package – one measure that should take effect in November want business owners and homeowners carrying rental property death or personal injury insurance and more requiring insurers to disclose policy limits at the request of a lawyer for other reasons, which will take place in October.
Farmer also pointed out the advantages and disadvantages of a part-time Legislature, such as having members who are “in the real world” and can bring expertise in different fields to legislative decisions. It puts members in touch with the concerns of constituents, he said.
“Also, it creates conflict, which is difficult to explain and related to reality,” he said.
If it’s clearly benefiting you — and essentially making things worse for your constituents — that’s a huge red flag.
– Kirk Johnson, professor at Montclair State University
Johnson, a professor at Montclair University, said he did not want to comment directly on the two senators, but said there is “a huge problem with politicians who make laws and policies that benefit them, and at the same time, prevent people from following the laws and policies that benefit them. They elected them in the first place.” .”
He said that the moral boundaries crossed by the president of the senate, as the second most powerful person in the government behind the governor, could be a dangerous example.
“Once he retires and has the next political group, you want to set an example for the successors. I have a lot of experience and realize this, speaking ethically, and trying to set a good example is very important,” he said.
In response, Scutari said he “has never been near any limits” and said he “has never voted for any legislation that has affected me, and I’m sure Senator Bramnick has never voted for it.”
GET TOPICS DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX