The legislation in the NJ legislature with respect to a ban on dual-office holding has taken some steps forward over the past few days.
While the Assembly passed a similar version last month - the effective date on the legislation was February 1, 2008. Up until very recently, the Senate version had a similar effective date. That is, until State Senator Sharpe James changed the effective date on his own proposal from February 1, 2008 to an "effective immediately" date. In addition to holding up the process, which now requires the Senate to vote on the new proposal, send it to the Assembly and see if the Assembly will vote on the same effective date, it raises a question as to why James made the change to his own bill.
Of course, there is the matter of James being a long-time dual office holder himself (in addition to State Senator he was Mayor of Newark), which makes the following quote more ironic:
"New Jersey, the Garden State, the second wealthiest state in America, is not brain-damaged to the point that we need one person to hold two elected offices. Hello!"
This part was covered in jmelli's post from yesterday. But the other interesting point to note is that the Assembly Bill's effective date was taken from the original Senate bill James introduced. So, why did James make the change to the bill?
Well, in the article noted above, there is a hint of what the motivation may have been here. At first glance, it would clearly help Senate Majority Leader Bernard Kenny against a potential challenge from dual-office holder Brian Stack (who is both Union City Mayor as well as an Assemblyman). However, as mentioned briefly in the article, the "new" effective date of the legislation may have two more direct beneficiaries - one Sharpe James and his former deputy-Mayor Ron Rice:
But James initial proposal, with the Feb. 1, 2008 started date, would have allowed all dual-officeholders to keep their jobs through the November elections.
James' new proposed ban passed Monday night could thwart off potential Senate challengers in November.
James and fellow Newark Democratic Sen. Ron Rice may face primary challenges from officeholders -- James from Newark Councilman Luis Quintana, and Rice from Essex County Freeholder Bilal Beasley, who is also an Irvington councilman.
Quintana, as Councilman and Beasley, as Freeholder would both have to give up one of their offices if they were to win and this may discourage them from mounting a primary challenge. Another angle here that is important to note deals more with Rice than it does James. Since Newark Mayor Cory Booker is also against dual officeholding and Quintana is a supporter of Booker's, he would likely resign even if there was no requirement for him to do so. And with all that is on Booker's plate, he probably doesn't want to have a mid term election added to that. So that leaves other potential challengers to James, including Teresa Ruiz who has some pretty powerful backers.
So, what is it then? For someone who was a dual-officeholder for nearly a decade (and who has been in elected office for over 35 years), is it a sudden change of heart and a "new and improved" reformist?
Or is it about looking out for himself and his former deputy mayor?
It remains to be seen, but there is a reason why the saying "a tiger doesn't change his stripes" is such a widely used term.