Trenton’s elected officials will no longer be able to hold off on filing financial disclosure forms for nearly a full year after being elected, after Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed bill S-103 into law this week.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, updates the state’s Local Government Ethics Law to require all elected municipal officials to file financial disclosure forms within 30 days after being elected into office.
“Increased transparency in government is the key to gaining and maintaining public trust,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen, in a statement. “As elected officials, we have to be accountable to the people who put us in office, and that accountability needs to start immediately. Residents around the state work hard to earn an honest living, and they need to know their elected officials are doing the same. These taxpayers deserve nothing less from us.”
Local government officers in New Jersey are required to file annual financial disclosure forms that list sources of income in excess of $2000, speaking or miscellaneous fees exceeding $250, gifts of more than $400, names of business interests, and pieces of real property.
Previously, an April 30 deadline was established for the filing of financial disclosure forms, but such a system failed to take into account the existence of municipalities like Trenton where municipal elections are held in May.
That situation made it so Trenton’s elected officials could avoid filing their disclosure forms for nearly an entire year after taking office, but that situation has been eliminated with the passage of Sen. Weinber’s bill.
For New Jersey, the new law is a good baby step towards increased accountability in New Jersey municipal government, but it was exactly that: a small step.
If Sen. Weinberg is serious about her commitment to increased transparency, she should stick to statements she made earlier this month calling on state legislators to work on comprehensive pay-to-play reform, which is something that has eluded the Democratically-controlled legislature.