New Jersey’s 220th legislative session kicked off Jan. 11, 2022, and quickly shifted into high gear. As we learn to live with COVID-19, legislators, staff members and many advocates returned to the halls of the State House as the Legislature got back to work in-person.
The session began with the swearing in of 21 newly elected members of the state Legislature, five in the Senate and 16 in the Assembly, who were elected in November 2021. Democrats still hold majorities in both houses, though their margins narrowed somewhat in the 2021 election.
New legislative leadership
For the first time in 12 years, the two top leadership posts in New Jersey’s state Senate, the Senate president and the Senate majority leader, will be held by someone other than former Sens. Steve Sweeney (former Senate president who lost his re-election to newcomer Edward Durr), and Loretta Weinberg (former Senate majority leader who chose to retire at the end of her term), respectively. Replacing them are new Senate President Nicholas Scutari, D-22, and Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz, D-29. Both positions remain held by the Democrats despite the change of individuals holding them.
Additionally, the Senate Republican Caucus and the Assembly Republican Caucus needed to select new leaders as former Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean chose to forego re-election to the Senate, so he could campaign for Congress. His former district mate and Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick chose to run for, and was elected to, the Senate seat formerly held by Tom Kean. The Senate Republican Caucus has selected Steven Oroho, R-24, and the Assembly Republican Caucus has selected John DiMaio, R-23, to serve as their leaders for the 2022-23 session.
This leaves the Assembly Democrats as the only caucus with the same leadership it had during the 2020-21 session. The Assembly Democrats selected Assemblyman Craig Coughlin, D-19, to return as speaker and Assemblyman Louis Greenwald, D-6, to return as Assembly majority leader.
Gov. Phil Murphy re-elected
Having won re-election in November 2021, Gov. Phil Murphy was sworn in to serve his second consecutive term on Jan. 18, 2022. Gov. Murphy is not eligible to seek re-election as governor in 2025 and many speculate that he intends to run for president in 2024.
Big picture issues
The governor and legislative leadership, Democrats and Republicans alike, have interpreted the November 2021 election results as a directive to focus on issues of affordability. They have also signaled their intent to do what they can to help New Jersey emerge from over two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.