New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently signed S-2866, establishing the Elections Transparency Act, into law. This new law aims to increase transparency in political campaign finance and imposes several new requirements on political candidates and committees, as well as on independent expenditure committees. Of municipal interest legislation sunsets all existing local pay-to-play ordinances and has local governments subject to the limitations outlined in the bill. Based on this issue, the League opposed the legislation, as local discretion is an important aspect for municipalities to best represent and protect their residents. The sunsetting of local pay-to-play ordinances removes this discretion.
The new law also impacts public contracts by establishing a $250 file for a business entity who fails to disclose a contribution or existences of a public contract; removes the prohibition against business entities contributing to State, county, or municipal political party committees; permits the qualified purchasing agent to award contracts over $17,500 but below the contracting entity’s public bidding threshold; and the “fair and open process” includes competitive contracting. In addition, the law defines “fair and open process” as “at a minimum, that the contract shall be: publicly advertised in newspapers, or on the Internet website maintain by the public entity in sufficient time to give notice in advance of the contract; awarded under a process that provides for public solicitation of proposals or qualifications and awarded and disclosed under criteria established in writing by the public entity prior to the solicitation of proposals or qualifications and publicly opened and announced when awarded.”
One of the key requirements of the Elections Transparency Act is that independent expenditure committees must now report all contributions over $7,500 and all expenditures. Additionally, candidates and committees are required to report contributions over $200, and there are modifications to campaign contribution reports and other requirements. The bill also establishes a cumulative reporting requirement for independent expenditure committees and modifies the definitions of independent expenditure and independent expenditure committee.
The Elections Transparency Act also directs the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) to create and maintain a database containing information that business entities are required to disclose and report to the commission under current law. The law allows expenses incurred by the public officeholder or a candidate. or committee for litigation or legal costs arising from campaign activities to be paid from campaign election funds. It also allows major political parties and their county political party committees to create a depository account, separate from any campaign depository account, to be deemed as the “housekeeping account” to pay eligible expenses for non-political purposes.
The Elections Transparency Act provides that the position of executive director of ELEC would require an appointment by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate.
The League recommends reviewing the Election Transparency Act with your local municipal officials to determine the impact local pay-to-play ordinances and procurement process.
Contact: Andrew LaFevre, Legislative Analyst, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481, x116.