A 2022 Legislative Review: The Good, the Bad, and What's Next

In a time when civil rights and liberties are under attack across the country, it’s important to celebrate the progress we’ve made in New Jersey, and equally essential to hold those in power accountable to take further action in 2023.  

This past year, New Jersey saw several ACLU-NJ legislative priorities become reality – one of them, creating a licensing scheme for police officers, we began calling for decades ago – to the benefit of everyone who calls the Garden State home. But as we take stock of this year’s accomplishments, it’s also important to look at where the Legislature fell short, and to look forward to what we want for New Jersey in 2023. 

Here’s our snapshot of some of our legislative wins, stalemates, and hopes for civil rights in New Jersey: 

Reproductive Freedom 

The ACLU of New Jersey is committed to ensuring reproductive health care, including abortion, is accessible for all New Jerseyans regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, immigration status, income, or insurance, and continues to center the experiences of patients and providers in the fight for reproductive justice.  

The Good 

In January, New Jersey took the crucial step of reaffirming and protecting the right to abortion by passing the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act, which codified the constitutional right to abortion in the state. And in September, the ACLU-NJ and partners launched efforts to support patients and providers including trainings for providers to help them leverage the new protections and establishing a network of pro bono volunteer lawyers who can offer one-on-one legal consultations and advice to callers who have questions about access to legal reproductive health care in New Jersey. 

The Bad 

When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its devastating ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on June 24, which overturned Roe v. Wade, it emboldened anti-abortion politicians across the country to decimate access to abortion and force millions of people to remain pregnant against their will. And despite the Reproductive Equity Act being in front of the Legislature for consideration, there has not been movement to expand access to abortion through legislation. 

What’s Next 

Abortion remains legal in New Jersey, and has been safeguarded by legislation this year, but there is much more to do to ensure that abortion is a right that is accessible for all who need it. Write your lawmakers today and demand they take immediate action to expand access to abortion in our state.

Police Accountability 

Injustices in policing in New Jersey are deeply rooted in systemic racism. New Jersey must enact policies that reflect the urgency of reducing the outsized power of police and of holding police accountable to their communities.  

The Good 

Nearly 20 years ago, the ACLU of New Jersey led the vanguard of advocates who urged the state to require licenses for all law enforcement officers as one way to stop excessive police power. On July 21, New Jersey saw police licensing become reality as Governor Phil Murphy signed A4194/S2742, appropriating $6 million to establish a licensure program requiring that a person holds a valid, active license to be employed as a law enforcement officer in New Jersey. 

The Bad 

Despite tireless calls from advocates across the state, lawmakers have refused to take legislative action to curb excessive police power, instead moving bills that increase police presence in schools and at the polls. Achieving accountability and transparency in policing is a cultural shift that requires systemic change – and lawmaker action. 

What’s Next 

Implementing a police licensure scheme is an important step in increasing accountability of law enforcement in New Jersey, but there is still much more to be done. The ACLU-NJ continues to call for the passage of a slate of bills – including full transparency for police disciplinary records and granting community review boards subpoena power and the ability to hold concurrent investigations– that would begin to curb excessive police power and place power with communities, especially communities of color that bear the brunt of law enforcement. Make your voice heard by writing to lawmakers and telling them to take legislative action that builds transparency and accountability in policing.

Immigrants’ Rights 

As one of the most diverse states in the nation, New Jersey must take the lead in creating a state that is welcoming for all. This means protecting the rights and well-being of immigrants and all New Jerseyans by drawing a clear line between federal immigration enforcement and our state and local government agencies, while also ensuring that resources are used to support and empower communities, not tear them apart. 

The Good 

In partnership with immigrants’ rights advocates across the state, we’ve been pushing for a New Jersey that is truly fair and welcoming for all who call the Garden State home. It is only through these collaborations that legislation is written, systems are improved, and lives are changed. Our coalitions have only grown stronger, and so will our power in 2023. 

The Bad 

Even though important pieces of legislation to expand language access and codify the separation between state and federal immigration enforcement have been introduced, lawmakers have refused to move the bills forward.  

What’s Next 

The ACLU-NJ continues to call on lawmakers to pass the Values Act – a bill that will allow New Jerseyans to seek protection and support from state and local agencies without fear of deportation – as well as legislation to increase language access at government agencies across the state. Join us by contacting your lawmakers today and urge them to pass the Values Act, an important step toward making New Jersey truly fair and welcoming for all.

How you can help expand and protect civil rights and liberties in 2023 

2022 was yet another year of trials and triumphs, but we’re heading into 2023 more hopeful than ever before. We’re going to keep working to make New Jersey a national leader on civil rights and civil liberties, so we’re taking action on key issues as we begin the new year – join us and contact your lawmakers today.