I. Acceptance of Gifts, Favors, Services, Employment or Other Things of Value Relevant provisions of the Conflicts Law and the Code of Ethics: N.J.S.A. 52:13D-14; N.J.S.A. 52:13D-24; N.J.S.A. 52:13D-24.1; sections 2:1, 2:10, 3:1, and 3:11 of the Code. Summary: Generally these provisions restrict legislators and legislative employees from accepting compensation, rewards, employment, gifts, honoraria, or other things of value from outside sources to influence their official duties or for matters related to their official duties. Legislators and legislative employees are prohibited from accepting anything to influence them in the performance of their official duties. With regard to accepting gifts and other things of value for matters relating to official duties, the law was amended on January 14, 2004 and the ethics changes took effect on April 13, 2004. The amendments to N.J.S.A. 52:13D-24 prohibit legislators and officers and employees in the legislative branch of State government from soliciting, receiving, or agreeing to solicit or receive, directly or indirectly, any compensation, reward, employment, gift, honorarium, out-of-State travel or subsistence expense or anything of value from any source other than the State for any service, advice, assistance, appearance, speech or other matter related to their official duties, except as expressly authorized in this law. The only authorized exceptions for legislators and employees to receive things in connection with their official duties from outside sources are:
1. Reasonable fees for published books on matters within one's official duties;
2. Reimbursement or payment of actual and reasonable expenditures for travel or subsistence and allowable entertainment expenses associated with attending an event
in New Jersey, if the costs are not paid by the State;
3. Reimbursement or payment of actual and reasonable expenditures for travel or subsistence
outside New Jersey, not to exceed $500.00 per trip, if the costs are not paid by the State. The $500.00 limitation does not apply if payment is made by: (a) a nonprofit organization of which the legislator or employee is an active member as a result of membership dues paid by the State; (b) a nonprofit organization that does not contract with the State to provide goods, materials, equipment or services; or (c) any agency of the federal government or one or more states or any political subdivision of another state. Members of the Legislature are now required to obtain the approval of the presiding officer of the member's House before accepting reimbursement or payment of expenditures for travel or subsistence outside New Jersey.
"Reasonable expenditures for travel or subsistence" is defined in the law to mean commercial travel rates directly to and from an event and food and lodging expenses which are moderate and neither elaborate nor excessive. " Allowable entertainment expenses" is defined in the law to mean the costs for a guest speaker, incidental music and other ancillary entertainment at any meal at an event, if they are not elaborate or excessive, but does not include the cost of personal recreation, such as being a spectator at or engaging in a sporting or athletic activity which may occur as part of that event.
52:13D-24.1 is a supplement to the Conflicts of Interest Law which took effect April 13, 2004. This section restricts the receipt of things of value from lobbyists or governmental affairs agents as those terms are defined in N.J.S.A. 52:13C-20. A lobbyist is any person, business entity or other organization which uses a governmental affairs agent to influence legislation, regulation or governmental process. A governmental affairs agent is any person receiving something of value to influence legislation, regulation or governmental process by communicating with or providing benefits to, directly or indirectly, public officials, including legislators and legislative staff. Except as expressly authorized in N.J.S.A. 52:13D-24 or when the lobbyist or governmental affairs agent is a member of the immediate family of the legislator or employee, no legislator or employee may accept, directly or indirectly, any compensation, reward, employment, gift, honorarium or other thing of value from a lobbyist or governmental affairs agent totaling more than $250.00 in a calendar year. It is important to note that this restriction applies even though the "thing of value" received from a lobbyist or governmental affairs agent is unrelated to one's public service. The $250.00 limit also applies to each member of the immediate family of a legislator which is defined to be a spouse, child, parent, or sibling residing in the same household.
The above prohibition does not apply if the compensation, reward, gift, honorarium or other thing of value is received in the course of employment with a lobbyist or governmental affairs agent unrelated to one's official duties. The prohibition also does not apply if the legislator or employee makes full reimbursement to the lobbyist or governmental affairs agent of the fair market value of the compensation, reward, gift, honorarium or other thing of value within 90 days of acceptance. Fair market value is defined as the actual cost of the compensation, reward, gift, honorarium or other thing of value.