MONMOUTH COUNTY – Senator Vin Gopal (D-11) today announced that he will be joining a bipartisan team of state legislators, to introduce first in the nation legislation creating unprecedented and long-needed oversight over harassment and discrimination in New Jersey campaigns and political parties.
The bill, which Gopal will introduce in the legislative session beginning on January 14, aims to create a new, independent process that allows political and campaign staff and volunteers to immediately report cases of harassment or discrimination without fear of retaliation.
“I’m grateful to Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D), Senator Kristin Corrado (R), Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (D), and Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R) for graciously agreeing to join me in spearheading this important bill, and for their continued guidance on this critical legislation in recent days. I also want to thank Patricia Teffenhart of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault for all of her expertise and guidance as we continue to craft this bill,” said Gopal.
“This is an important step in making our state more inclusive and addressing the harassment and misogyny found throughout New Jersey politics,” Gopal added. “Every person deserves to feel safe in a political campaign, but if that sense of safety is ever violated because of inappropriate conduct, there needs to be a mechanism in place to address it.”
“It is clear that we still have much left to do if we want to change the culture in Trenton,” said Senator Weinberg. “Right now, there is no system in place in political campaigns that allows survivors to share their experiences, which leaves women under threat of retaliation if they report their harasser. It is clear that it is time for a change for tens of thousands of young women and men who work on these political campaigns.”
“It’s clear that real reform, focused on increasing safety and equity in our political arena, will require us to shed the weight of the flawed and informal structures that have allowed individuals who harass and assault to maintain power, or close proximity to it. This legislation, addressing codes of conduct, mandatory training, and clearly defined reporting processes for our colleagues involved in politics, is a significant step forward in our collective pursuit of sustainable change. We must raise the bar for participation in politics and hold ourselves to the highest standards. This is a significant step in the right direction and we look forward to working with the bill sponsors, legislative and executive leadership, and like-minded allies to see this legislation through to enactment,” said Patricia Teffenhart, Executive Director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
“Ultimately, this reform is about implementing fairness – real fairness – in the workplace,” said Assemblywoman Munoz. “Volunteers and staffers enter politics because they dream of making a difference, and are willing to work hard to make that possible. They deserve to be able to pursue that passion without belittlement, retaliation, or assault.”
“Too many women working in politics dedicate their passion and their careers to this industry but find that the industry feels little dedication to them in return,” said Assemblywoman Pintor Marin. “Instead, women are pushed into inappropriate situations for others’ gratification, forcing them to be on guard everywhere. Rather than a system that works to protect harassers and abusers, we need a system that puts women first.”
The independent process created by the bill would provide for:
· multiple avenues for individuals to easily report cases of harassment or assault,
· oversight by at least one professional specialized in support for survivors of sexual assault,
· new guidelines and requirements for political campaigns and organizations to create formal anti-harassment policies and training, and
· penalties for non-compliant entities and individuals.
“We will continue meeting with leaders in local and state politics, staffers in political campaigns and organizations, and survivor support professionals to ensure that a diverse and experienced set of stakeholders have input into the bill’s language before it is introduced,” said Gopal.