While working in the legislature, I always wanted to work in the largest committees and commissions.
Let me explain.
If I was really going to get a second job in Trenton, I wanted it to mean something. Have something significant implications, goals, significant political weight and political weight.
Remembering how hard I worked to get to Trenton, after taking the oath of office I wasn’t going to just send it in the mail, pick up a check and wear a special hairpin. What’s the matter?
During my two duties in the General Assembly, I served on the Transport and Budget Committee and volunteered for the Constitutional Commission, the Commission on Domestic Violence, and the Joint Legislative Committee on Civil Service Assistance Reform, in which both chambers worked for the first time. together about the far-reaching consequences of the underfunded Heath and Pension programs. At the time, the budget and transportation were considered committees where important legislation would be considered, and veteran legislators on both sides sought seats on these committees.
As far as I thought I knew the legislative process as a former employee, the reality is that you can begin to understand the full contact nature of Trenton only if you put on the title of legislator and play with the ball. Simply put, this exercise and experience is not subject to and not amenable to learning – it had to be lived.
In the State Senate, I asked for and fought for to work on budget and judicial committees.
I see a common theme here.
Again, like the Assembly’s experiment, both Senate committees were considered difficult, and both required a lot of time and attention. Generally speaking, look at the list of committee members of these two committees and you will usually see more esteemed veterans looking for these places.
The Budget Committee has been a large-scale affair, and Senator Paul Sarlo has always taken this work very seriously. He did a great job managing the chaos. Aside from his tendency to be late, which annoyed those of us who were trained to keep up on time, Paul was always aware of the times of the mysterious budget process, and he made it work. Several others (if any) could navigate these waters, and Paul devotes a lot of time to this cause for $ 46.4 billion.
While I liked the time on the Budget Committee the most and I liked the closeness to the decision-makers in any administration (because it all comes from money), I was most shocked to have spent time on the Senate Legal Committee. To the uninitiated it may seem tedious, but those who do know will give up the firstborn to be named on this committee.
Here’s the truth: as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, you will often be encouraged to vote FOR and sometimes NOT for an important appointment as a Supreme Court judge, cabinet minister, or very important council or commission. Just need to be prepared for such moments. In Trenton it rarely gets bigger than that.
As for the court, I took this role incredibly seriously and did my best to meet with every candidate for the court. I read all the research and references prepared by our skilled staff, and conducted my own independent research.
The question is how to become an effective member of the court? Modestly, what made me effective in the judiciary is that I had a cool and effective role model. To paraphrase Carly Simon’s song, no one has done it better than Judicial President Nicholas Scutari (now Senate President). I have no doubt that my friend Brian Stack will be a great leader of this committee, but Nick was so possessive and professionally graceful in the committee – the presence and demeanor that everyone said and did.
As I have written before, Chairman Scooter took this work extremely seriously and spent a lot of time preparing and verifying it. Make no mistake, the judiciary was HIS committee, and I guess he won’t be too far off as the current Senate president. While Senator Scooty was elected to the Senate 4 years earlier, I spoke to him in Union County when in the 1990s he was a legislator, representing five cities in Union County, and he was the freeholder of Union County. I first saw Nick in action when in 2006 he headed a bicameral commission on pension reform. Six lawmakers spent our summer of 2006 working together on this bipartisan commission, which was clearly composed of members of the assembly and senators – co-chairs Senator Scooty and Assembly member Poe, and among the other 4 members were Senators Gormley and Rice and Assembly members Giblin and O’Toole. . The chairmen brought together lawmakers and special interest groups, and we developed 41 specific recommendations. I enclose here a report for those born in politics after 2006, Civil Servants’ Pension System 2006.
Returning to the management of the Judicial Committee, then Chairman Scooter, regardless of majority or minority party status, allowed each senator to feel an equal part of this important body, broadening our issues (usually me) and encouraging all of us to take our advice seriously and duties by consent. It was a familiar refrain that sounded during the drafting of our Constitution of 1948, our founding fathers wanted just that within the framework of checks and balances in the government of our state.
Because of this credo laid down by the President, with some very limited exceptions, I really believe that we have a top-level judiciary. Senator Scooter’s comprehensive and practical test set us all a serious tone and an extremely high bar. As a member of a minority party, I followed his model and soon mastered the mechanics of a critical judicial committee. I am still called from time to time by members looking for advice on how a complex process works. Again, this is time consuming, and in order to truly understand the nuances and political sophistication that are part of this dynamic committee, it takes someone who really works in the judiciary.
A note for lawmakers: don’t just mail your service.
I saw how some of my legislators showed up late and not prepared just to just sign the ballot papers and leave. This bear service is almost as bad as being in a tank and preventing a budget vote, a significant piece of legislation or a high-profile appointment without proper scrutiny. You are not doing your job and you are not taking your responsibility seriously if you do it that way. You need to roll up your sleeves, do the job you expect, and allow your colleagues to do the same. As I wrote once before, Senate seats do not grow on trees.