Supporting Diverse Opportunities For All New Jerseyans

This month, we have celebrated Black History Month to recognize past accomplishments of African Americans with an eye to the future. However, our goal for a more fair, equitable and all-encompassing society is to broaden the goal to all marginalized minorities or groups that society has ignored or closed out.

Today, the words diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) pop up more frequently. However, when I took office, I never thought that DEI were just buzzwords. Indeed, I had promised myself to be an advocate for the haves, the somewhat haves, and the have-nots.

I realize that many might be unfamiliar with my bills or how I have tried to fulfill that promise. That’s why this blog highlights only a portion of my efforts.

However, by now, you know that I believe actions should always follow ideas. In that context, here are a few of the bills I’ve introduced that insist on fairness and transparency for all.

  • Senate Bill No. 382. Requires entities at every level of government to conduct periodic studies of racial and ethnic disparities in public contracting. My legislation adds evenhandedness to the bidding process. No one should lack access to public contracting because of race or ethnicity.
  • Senate Bill No. 818. Makes FY 2022 supplemental appropriation of $1,250,000 for Minorities in Police recruiting grant program. My legislation aims to recruit qualified minority law enforcement candidates in our New Jersey law enforcement academies. It’s my belief those in law enforcement should reflect the community where they work.
  • Senate Bill No. 841. Establishes the Department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as a principal department in the Executive Branch. This bill establishes a requirement, to be overseen and enforced by the new department, that any entity which receives a development subsidy or financial assistance from the state submit and implement a strategic diversity, equity, and inclusion plan to the Department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.  The plan intends to assist corporations and not-for-profit entities in better understanding the state’s demographics while affording minority-owned and women-owned businesses more opportunities to participate in procuring goods and services to the public and private sectors.  
  • Senate Bill No. 855. Creates a state business assistance program to establish contracting agency procurement goals for socially and economically disadvantaged business enterprises. How do we know if someone gets a fair shake in the procurement process if they entered the business with a built-in disadvantage? I would suggest that we set goals for these groups and monitor them so that we objectively judge whether our current process is fair, transparent and supportive.
  • Senate Bill No. 1029. Authorizes State Chief Diversity Officer to conduct a disparity study concerning the utilization of minority-owned and women-owned businesses in the State procurement process. We’ve heard the cliché you can’t change or improve what you don’t measure. This bill would provide a study that will give us an objective view of where we are regarding procurement opportunities for minorities and women and set real-work guidelines that would ensure that this group has the same opportunities as everyone else.

I did not support these legislative efforts with the idea of giving an advantage to any group. We often use the expression “a level playing field” when discussing the issue of opportunity. It still has merit because that’s what I seek. And anyone with an ounce of historical knowledge and a touch of kindness knows it hasn’t always been equal. Indeed, some might argue it’s still unfair.

My legislation, one bill at a time, aims to provide opportunity to all New Jerseyans.

That’s my take, what’s yours?