Key Social Justice Legislation Voted Out of Legislature Today Reports

NEWARK – Key legislation on two social justice initiatives spearheaded by the Institute and its partners were voted out of the legislature today: voting rights restoration for people on probation and parole and apprenticeship legislation.

“On the winding road of making change, days like this are deeply gratifying,” said Ryan P. Haygood, President & CEO of the New Jersey Institute of Social Justice. “The Institute believes deeply that in order to create a more racially and socially just New Jersey, systemic policy change is essential. Seeing that change come into fruition through the legislative process is incredibly encouraging. These two legislative initiatives will make a real difference in people’s lives and the state of democracy in New Jersey. Now it’s on to the Governor’s desk, and we urge him to act quickly.”

The Senate today passed S4260, which will restore the vote to 83,000 people in New Jersey on parole and probation. The Institute has been advocating for voting rights restoration for two years through its 1844 No More campaign, named for the year New Jersey denied the vote to people with criminal convictions and, in its Constitution, restricted the vote to white men.

One of those 83,000 people is Ron Pierce, the Institute’s Democracy & Justice Fellow – a husband, veteran, and college graduate on parole – who has not been able to vote for over 30 years. Pierce has always valued the right to vote, and remembers Election Day being a meaningful one in his house growing up, where coffee and donuts after voting was a tradition.

“It is difficult to believe this is not just another dream of this day, but the actual day. I can’t help but think of the lessons my father instilled in me, that voting is not only a right, but our duty to our community, family and friends,” said Pierce. “Since the day I received the letter advising me I had been disenfranchised, I have yearned to regain this right and this obligation. Now when the Governor signs this bill into law, I will once again be part of the chorus that is the collective voice of the community and will be sure to have coffee and donuts at the house. We are so close.”

Ron’s story and those of other people impacted by this issue can be found in the Institute’s Value to the Soul report.

“This legislation will bring us 83,000 times closer to the day when New Jersey joins states like Maine and Vermont and becomes a robust and inclusive democracy that does not silence people with criminal convictions,” said Henal Patel, Associate Counsel at the Institute. “As we celebrate today’s momentous step forward and then the bill becoming law, we will continue the fight to restore the vote to the 19,000 people in prison who are not included in this legislation.”

Also today, the Assembly passed a package of apprenticeship bills based on the Institute’s Becoming the United States of Opportunity report. These bills will create a robust and inclusive apprenticeship program in New Jersey and help reduce the racial wealth gap by increasing educational and workforce development opportunities for those facing traditional barriers to employment.

“New Jersey is one of the nation’s wealthiest states, but has some of the worst racial disparities in wealth and economic opportunity,” said Jayne Johnson, Senior Counsel at the Institute. “For generations, systemic barriers kept communities of color and lower income residents from having a part in New Jersey’s economic success. Apprenticeships help to close the growing economic divide between highly-educated, specially trained workers—who are receiving a greater share of income gains—and low-wage workers whose hopes for attaining the American Dream are slipping away.”

Once signed into law, this legislation will help create job training for middle-skill positions in high-growth industries—where positions range from paramedics, opticians, and dental assistants to IT technicians, software developers, construction and building inspectors, machinists, and air traffic controllers. Apprenticeships are a win-win for New Jersey employers and employees alike.

The apprenticeship bills that passed today are:

· A-4602 / S-3067: Establishes a five-year Apprentice Assistance and Support Services Pilot Program that offers child care and transportation stipends to qualified participants

· A-4603 / S-3061: Provides corporation business tax and gross income tax credits for businesses that participate in apprenticeship programs registered with the New Jersey Department of Labor (DOL); establishes a grant program for tax-exempt organizations participating in DOL registered apprenticeship programs

· A-4604 / S-3066: Creates a five-year High-Growth Industry Regional Apprenticeship Development Grant Pilot Program in the northern, central, and southern regions of the state

· A-4656 / S-3064: Establishes a task force to develop a statewide plan to diversify apprenticeships

To read the full release, click here

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