POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Bills on pensions, ‘dark money’ and the lottery advance

It was a busy voting day at the State House Thursday where several bills moved one step closer toward becoming law.

After years of pleas from watchdogs and activists, the state Senate unanimously approved a bill to expand election reporting laws. It’s the first major move toward putting an end to “dark money” in New Jersey political campaigns.

The legislation requires that independent groups disclose donors who have raised money for elections using secret identities. An ELEC analysis found New Jersey’s top 25 special interest groups spent $74 million trying to influence elections in 2017 — with $41 million coming from “dark money” groups.

The Senate Committee on State Government, Wagering, Tourism, and Historic Preservation also met. A bill to require public officers or employees convicted of corruption, harassment, or sexual misconduct to forfeit their pensions was approved by the committee.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Kristin Corrado, contained an update inspired by the MeToo movement.

“Unfortunately I think it’s necessary. Time after time we read about people doing bad things. And knowing there’s no consequences, knowing that maybe they’ll get probation and they’ll walk away from their job keeping their pension. And that should never happen,” said Corrado.

Another piece of legislation that passed through committee will never touch most of us. The bill would allow lottery winners to keep their identities secret forever, if they so choose.

Few states allow winners to keep their fortunes private. In December, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a similar bill, but a loophole allows New York state lottery winners to create an LLC to keep their names secret.

The pension and lottery bills still need to be passed by the full state Senate and Assembly before they head to the governor’s desk.