Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean testified in opposition to a proposed amendment to the New Jersey Constitution, SCR-43/SCR-152/ACR-205, at a public hearing today in the Senate State Government Committee.
Included below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Testimony for Public Hearing on SCR-43/SCR-152/ACR-205
Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean
December 13, 2018
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak.
I am here to express my strong opposition to SCR-43, SCR-152, and ACR-205.
The constitutional amendment that’s before us today is undemocratic. It’s a shameless stunt and a power grab that is designed to give Democrats in the Legislature a permanent majority.
Those aren’t my words. Rather, they’re the dire warnings expressed by a host of independent election experts, newspapers, civil rights leaders, and academics from across the political spectrum.
In fact, not a single person, not a single expert, not a single organization…left, right, or center…has come out in support of this proposal.
To the contrary, the many detractors have been unified in their opposition.
They’ve warned that the proposed amendment would disenfranchise millions voters, regardless of party affiliation.
They’ve said it would limit competition by prioritizing an advantage for Democrats in the New Jersey Constitution over every other consideration.
And over the last three days, well over 2,000 New Jersey residents have signed a petition on our website at senatenj.com/fairelections opposing the amendment.
Still, despite all of those concerns, Democrats in the Senate and General Assembly continue to advance this constitutional amendment….
…not because it’s in the public’s interest….but because it’s in their political interest.
There is one reason, and one reason only for this proposal…to cement the Democratic legislative majorities in perpetuity.
This amendment is not about making elections fairer or more competitive.
It’s about power, plain and simple.
It’s about growing their political power at the expense of our democracy.
It’s about diminishing the ability of voters to hold incumbent officeholders accountable, regardless of what they do.
It’s about giving those in the majority power to do whatever they want, whenever they want, over any voter objections.
Throughout the process of considering this amendment, the majority has demonstrated exactly how they would abuse their power going forward if the amendment is adopted.
Let’s take a look at what they’ve done.
They’ve ignored public opinion and rejected the advice of experts.
They’ve run roughshod over the legislative process.
At our last hearing, they tried to change the language of the amendment even after the vote had begun, and then they mischaracterized their actions.
And today, they’re holding simultaneous public hearings in both the Senate and General Assembly to prevent people from having the opportunity to testify before each committee.
Even worse, only one of these public hearings will count in the official record. We don’t know which one, so it’s likely much of the dissent expressed today will not make it into the final public record.
Democrats will get to pick the transcript that disguises the opposition best.
The incumbent majorities in the Legislature are giving us a clear preview of exactly how they will rule should this amendment be enacted.
These brazen actions are simply a prelude.
Citizens will lose the power to hold legislators and political parties accountable at the polls.
New Jerseyans will be left with little more than an illusion of choice when they enter the voting booth in future legislative elections.
The outcome will be assured before the first vote is cast.
That is of concern not just to Republicans, but to everyone.
To their credit, dozens of organizations from across the political spectrum have transcended their traditional affiliations to oppose this proposal together.
They see what’s clear to everyone. There’s no good government purpose this. All of the supposed benefits have been disproved.
To suggest otherwise is an insult to the intelligence of everyone in this room.
So, I urge my colleagues in the majority to stop this charade. Stop pretending this is some good government reform.
It may be good for Democratic incumbent officeholders, but it’s clearly bad for our democracy.
Please do the right thing and table this ill-conceived amendment.
Copies of this testimony and a joint letter from all fifteen members of the Senate Republican caucus in opposition to the amendment have been provided to both the Senate State Government and Assembly Judiciary committees.
Please note that the letter applies equally to the identical versions of the amendment, SCR-43, SCR-152, and ACR-205.