BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT
government of the State of New Jersey, like that of the United
States, is divided into three coequal branches: the legislative,
the executive, and the judicial. The principal function of the
Legislature is to enact laws. The Executive Branch (the Governor,
Lieutenant Governor and State agencies) carries out the programs
established by law. The Judiciary (the Supreme Court and lower
courts) punishes violators, settles controversies and disputes,
and is the final authority on the meaning and constitutionality
Legislature consists of two Houses: a 40-member Senate and an
80-member General Assembly. The Senate and Assembly chambers are
located in the State House in Trenton.
must be at least 30 years old and residents of the state for four
years prior to election. Members of the Assembly must be at least
21 and state residents for two years. All legislators must live
in the districts they represent.
legislators spend a considerable amount of their time on legislative
matters, service in the Legislature is considered to be part-time,
and most legislators also hold other employment.
are elected from 40 legislative districts of substantially equal
population. The voters in each district elect one Senator and
two members of the General Assembly.
Every ten years, after the Federal census, the boundaries of the
40 districts are redrawn to maintain an equal population in each
district. This reapportionment of districts is performed by a
bipartisan Apportionment Commission, whose members are appointed
by the state chairs of the two major political parties.
elections are held in November of each odd-numbered year. Members
of the Assembly serve two-year terms. Senators serve four-year
terms, except for the first term of a new decade, which is only
two years. This "2-4-4" cycle allows for elections from
new districts as soon as possible after each reapportionment.
Interim appointments are made to fill vacant legislative seats
by the county committee or committees of the party of the vacating
person. The office is on the ballot for the next general election,
unless the vacancy occurred within 51 days of the election. Then
the appointment stands until the following general election.
New Jersey Constitution provides that each Legislature is
constituted for a term of two years, split into two annual sessions.
Because the Constitution also specifies that all business from
the first year may be continued into the second year, the distinction
between the two annual sessions is more ceremonial than actual.
The two-year legislative term begins at noon on the second Tuesday
in January of each even-numbered year. At the end of the second
year, all unfinished business expires.
Each House sets its own meeting schedule. A typical session day
consists of party conferences around midday followed by open debate
and voting activity in the chambers. Occasionally, committee meetings
may be held on days when legislative voting sessions occur, but
typically committee meetings are held on another day. While both
voting sessions and committee meetings are typically on Mondays
and Thursdays, committee meetings and public hearings can be held
on any day, at the discretion of the committee chair.
Committee meetings and voting sessions are open to the public.
No advance arrangements are necessary to gain admission to the
meeting rooms or the public galleries of the chambers. Access
for joint sessions, however is limited. Joint sessions occur when
the Senate and General Assembly meet together, most often for
an address by the Governor.
House elects a presiding officer from among its members - the
President of the Senate and the Speaker of the General Assembly.
The Senate President and Assembly Speaker are second and third
in line of succession to the governorship after the Lieutenant
President and the Speaker have broad powers within their Houses.
They decide the meeting schedules and the daily calendar of bills
to be considered, preside over the sessions, appoint committee
chairs and members, refer bills to committees for consideration,
and direct the business of their Houses. The Houses elect a Senate
Secretary and Clerk of the General Assembly, respectively, who
supervise the business operations of the two Houses.
party in each House also chooses party leaders: the Majority Leader,
the Minority Leader, assistant leaders, and "whips."
The party leaders help develop party policy on the issues before
Each House establishes a number of standing reference committees
to review legislation. Much of the discussion on the merits of
a bill takes place in committee. Representatives of interest groups
and members of the public are generally given the opportunity
to present their views at committee meetings.
the majority membership of either House belongs to the same political
party, that party is said to control the House. The
presiding officer is a member of the majority party and, in his
or her official capacity, able to support the partys policy
goals by setting the agenda of the House. Committee chairs are
members of the majority party, and committee membership usually
reflects the partisan composition of the House.
the Democrats are the majority party in both Houses. In the Senate
there are 24 Democrats and 16 Republicans. There are 52 Democrats
and 28 Republicans in the General Assembly.
chief function of the Legislature is to enact laws. A proposal
to make a new law, or to change or repeal an existing law, is
presented to the Legislature as a bill. To become law, a bill
must pass both Houses by a majority vote and be approved by the
Governor. How a Bill Becomes Law
presents the steps in the process.
The Legislature can also propose amendments to the New
Jersey Constitution. Such an amendment must be passed by a
vote of 3/5 of each House (24 votes in the Senate and 48 votes
in the Assembly). No action by the Governor is required. If passed,
the proposed amendment is placed on the ballot in November for
a public vote. An amendment may also be presented to the voters
if the Legislature passes it two years in a row by a majority
Additional powers of the Legislature include Senatorial approval
of the Governor's appointments of judges and other officials.
The Legislature is also empowered to ratify amendments to the
U.S. Constitution; appoint the State
Auditor; judge the elections and qualifications of its members;
and institute and conduct impeachment proceedings against State
At the general election in November 1992, the voters approved
a constitutional amendment permitting the Legislature to review
administrative rules and regulations.
FORMS OF LEGISLATIVE ACTION
legislative action is expressed through the passage of a bill,
or by adoption of a resolution, which expresses the sentiments
or opinions of the members. There are three types of resolutions.
A joint resolution must pass both Houses and be signed by the
Governor. A concurrent resolution must pass both Houses, but is
not presented to the Governor. A simple resolution is considered
only by the House in which it is proposed.
THE BUDGET PROCESS
State operates on a fiscal year that begins on July 1 and ends
the following June 30. The Governor delivers the annual budget
message to the Legislature for the ensuing fiscal year on or before
the third Tuesday following the first meeting of the Legislature,
except in a gubernatorial inaugural year when it is delivered
later. (Text of the proposed budget can be accessed at the
State of New Jersey, the web site for the Executive Branch.)
The proposed budget is then reviewed by the Senate Budget and
Appropriations and the Assembly Budget Committees. Committee review
of the Governor's budget proposals is conducted through staff
research and a series of hearings during which members of the
Executive Branch and the public provide testimony. In recent years
legislative budget hearings have generally taken place during
the months of March, April, and May.
The appropriations committees produce a budget in the form of
an annual appropriations bill. As with any other law, the appropriations
bill must be passed by both Houses and approved by the Governor
(or enacted by overriding a veto). The budget must be signed by
CONTACTING YOUR LEGISLATORS
value the opinions and suggestions of their constituents. In addition,
through their professionally staffed district offices, legislators
are prepared to respond to requests for information about legislative
matters or for assistance in dealing with State agencies.
You may call, write or electronically
mail legislators at their district offices. Consult
the Roster of Members listing
at this web site for district office addresses and phone numbers.
Or you may write to your representatives either in care of:
P.O. Box 099
Trenton, NJ 08625-0099
or in care of
Jersey General Assembly
P.O. Box 098
Trenton, NJ 08625-0098
addressing mail to a legislator, the title "Honorable"
should precede the representative's full name. The letter's salutation
should read "Dear Senator" or "Dear Assemblyman/woman."
Office of Legislative Services is the Legislature's
non-partisan agency providing legal, fiscal, research, bill-drafting,
and administrative services; committee staffing; computer database
management; and public information programs and publications.
It operates under the jurisdiction of the Legislative Services
Commission, a bipartisan body consisting of eight members of each
House appointed by the respective presiding officers. The Office
of Legislative Services is housed within the State House Annex,
with the exception of the Office of
the State Auditor, which is located at 125 South Warren Street.
Each party in each House is served by a full-time partisan staff
that operates under the direction of the party leadership. These
partisan staffs provide research, policy, public relations, and
administrative services for their respective party leaders, committee
chairs, and individual legislators. Each of the four partisan
staffs is headed by an Executive Director.
Majority Office Executive Director: Kevin Drennan, State House
South Addition, level A,
Senate Republican Office Executive Director: Christine Shipley,
State House South Addition, level B,
Majority Office Executive Director: Mary Alice Messenger, State House
South Addition, level B,
Republican Office Executive Director: Mark H. Duffy, State House
South Addition, level A,
addition, each legislator maintains a district office with professional