With Election Day now over, lawmakers must turn back to unfinished business in Lame Duck and advance racial and social justice before the conclusion of the current legislative session. Here are the key issues that lawmakers must prioritize to meet the needs of New Jerseyans and bolster New Jersey as a national leader on civil rights.
For reproductive freedom: ensuring abortion is accessible.
When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade – the landmark decision recognizing the constitutional right to abortion – it stripped millions of people across the country of their fundamental human right to reproductive autonomy and emboldened anti-abortion politicians across the country to go even further.
While abortion is still legal in New Jersey, many people cannot access the reproductive care they need because New Jersey lawmakers have not addressed the barriers that push care out of reach for too many in our state, especially communities of color, immigrants, LGBTQ+ communities, and people who are low-income.
To substantially address these barriers, New Jersey lawmakers must take immediate action to expand access to abortion in our state by passing the Reproductive Equity Act (A4350/S2918). The gap in abortion access is a racial and economic justice issue. New Jersey must guarantee that abortion care is not just legal, but accessible and affordable for all, regardless of insurance, immigration status, or income.
For immigrants’ rights: building a fair and welcoming future.
By passing the Values Act (A1986/S512), New Jerseyans can seek protection and support from state and local agencies without fear of deportation. Increasing trust in public agencies allows all people, regardless of immigration status, to seek public services that are essential to health, education, and well-being. This builds a stronger, fairer, more welcoming state.
To build a fair and welcoming future, it is essential that all New Jerseyans are able to support themselves and their families and fully participate in their communities without fear – this includes expanding language access throughout the state.
The fundamental constitutional protections of due process and equal protection apply to every person, regardless of primary language, national origin, or immigration status. But barriers to language access continue to prevent people from exercising their rights and accessing essential services. Lawmakers can change that by requiring government entities to provide vital documents and translation services in the 15 most common non-English languages spoken in New Jersey (A3837/S2459).
For a stronger democracy: expanding voting rights.
As voter suppression efforts continue across the country, New Jersey must be a leader in expanding and protecting the right to vote. To do so, lawmakers must pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New Jersey (A4554/S2997) to fully protect access to the ballot for all residents, especially voters of color.
The New Jersey Voting Rights Act will strengthen our democracy by reducing barriers to voting, increasing language access and assistance, prohibiting deceptive practices at the polls, and ensuring that communities of color have their ballots counted.
For oversight of policing and empowering communities: creating civilian complaint review boards and community-led crisis response teams.
To demand accountability in policing and place power in the hands of the public, not law enforcement, lawmakers must give communities throughout the state the authority to put in place strong civilian complaint review boards. By passing A1515/S2295, community members will have the power to review the policies, practices, and actions of local police departments and officers.
To be effective, civilian complaint review boards must have the legal authority to oversee law enforcement agencies and the power to conduct independent and concurrent investigations of wrongdoing by officers, issue subpoenas, and make recommendations for discipline when officers are accused of misconduct.
Police departments are asked to respond to a range of community issues, like mental health crises, that could be addressed in other ways. Communities of color are routinely overpoliced and many fear experiencing harm from the police even when they need support and help. A5326 creates a pilot program for Community Led First Response Teams in several New Jersey counties, which will serve as an alternative to law enforcement response to mental health, substance use, and other nonviolent incidents.