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Should NJ legislators serve full time?

Would you like the chance to decide if New Jersey’s 120 lawmakers should work full time and be barred from holding any other job while in office? Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Trenton) is sponsoring a measure that would give voters that opportunity.

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Assembly Chamber at the Statehouse
(Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images)

“There’s been a lot of criticism of the New Jersey Legislature for having too many conflicts of interest and many legislators have outside interests, and the best way to combat that is to require a full-time legislature where members would strictly be concerned about one job,” Gusciora said. “Under my resolution, while they’re holding office they would not be allowed to have any outside income.”

If approved, the legislation would put a question on the ballot asking voters if they’d like to amend the State Constitution to require members of the Senate and General Assembly to serve full time, and prohibit them from engaging in other gainful employment while holding office. The first chance to decide if members should serve this way would be at the general election in 2018.

For several years Gusciora has been pushing this legislation, but it has never gained any real traction. He said he hopes lawmakers will eventually take action on his resolution.

“One scandal and then people start to talk about it again,” Gusciora said. “This would avoid that in the future, so that we wouldn’t have to wait until there’s a crisis.”

Under the measure, a special commission would be created to determine salary and other compensation for full-time legislators. Gusciora said academics and experts would be the ones to decide how much full-time lawmakers should earn. He said that determination should not be left up to the legislators themselves.

“Full legislatures seem to work pretty well in New York, Pennsylvania and California, and it could work well in New Jersey too,” Gusciora said.

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