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NJ Democrats Ramp Up Efforts to Move State to Left in Post-Christie Era

Push is on to enact gun-control legislations and measure to help undocumented immigrants pay for college — among others — all blocked by former governor

greenwald
Credit: Amanda Brown
State Assemblyman Louis Greenwald (D-Camden)

With Democrats now in total control of Trenton — there's a new governor, Phil Murphy, plus large majorities in both houses of the Legislature — efforts are underway to enact liberal laws previously blocked by former Republican Gov. Chris Christie. 

On Monday the Assembly is expected to vote on a package of six gun-control measures, versions of which Christie vetoed in his second term. The bills would reduce the capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds, ban body armor-piercing bullets, require background checks for private gun sales, and authorize the seizure of guns when a mental health patient poses a threat.

Assemblyman Louis Greenwald referenced relatives of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims in introducing the bills at a committee hearing last month. "Their words ring in my head and in my heart and haunt me every time we wake up and see another tragedy," he said.

Across the hall in the state Senate on Monday, Democrats will vote to give undocumented college students access to state financial aid programs. Christie had rejected this very proposal in 2013 even as he signed a bill allowing so-called dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children — to be eligible for in-state college tuition.

Priced out of an education

Sara Mora, an undocumented immigrant and recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, will be in Trenton Monday to lobby for the bill with other activists from Make The Road New Jersey. She has earned a college associate's degree but recently turned down a chance to continue her education at Seton Hall University because she couldn't afford the tuition. As an undocumented immigrant, she was ineligible for financial assistance from state tuition programs. This bill would change that policy.

"It's not a handout," said Mora, 21. "It's not money regardless, just because you're a DACA recipient or undocumented. It's just a fair chance at applying."

Also on Monday, lawmakers are expected to approve a bill boosting the rights of women and minorities to file pay-discrimination claims. The Wall Street Journal said this would be among the toughest pay equity laws in the country.

All of these measures are supported by Murphy, who in a radio appearance on Sunday referenced another effort to move New Jersey to the left. Murphy said on 107.5 WBLS that he plans to pursue a host of measures on voting rights, including automatic voter registration for those signing up for driver's licenses, in-person early voting, voting rights for ex-offenders, and an allowance for 17-year-olds to vote in party primaries.

"Because we're not afraid of democracy. We'll take the consequences," he said. "The more people who are engaged, the more people who vote, the better off for our state and country. That's the playbook that we're going to execute."

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