Progressive groups push 2019 agenda at the State House

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

It was billed as the people’s State of the State address. The first speaker, Rev. Charles Boyer of Bethel AME Church in Woodbury, seemed to have Democratic leaders in mind.

“While political infighting and chess playing seem amusing to those in power, actual people and families are suffering every day from inaction,” he said.

The group’s agenda included fighting racism.

“In this atmosphere it seems like people of color always get the short end of the stick. We have black appointees and confirmations being held hostage as a negotiation tactic. We have thousands of people in prison, probation, or on parole whose voting rights should be restored,” Boyer said.

The agenda included a $15 minimum wage, something the groups have been promoting for years.

“Two years ago the Legislature passed a comprehensive minimum wage bill that Christie vetoed. We’re just asking them to do the same thing — pass a clean bill now when there is a governor that would sign it,” said Marcia Marley, president of BlueWave NJ.

Also on their agenda, driver’s licenses for New Jersey’s estimated 400,000 unauthorized immigrants.

“We have to take our children to school, we have to go to work and in this temperature sometimes you’re waiting outside for a cab for 30 minutes or longer,” said Andrea Lopez from Wind of the Spirit.

About 60 people from more than two dozen organizations stood in the cold to make their points. There was a woman whose home was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy and still needs help. Environmental groups were present and wish Gov. Phil Murphy would do more in that realm.

“You can declare a moratorium now, today, on all new fossil fuel infrastructure in New Jersey,” said Agnes Marsala, the president of People Over Pipelines.

The ACLU spoke on behalf of legalizing marijuana.

“We can take marijuana legalization and make sure that it centers around racial and social justice and make sure that we’re no longer leaving people with collateral consequences, or incarcerating people because of marijuana possession — something that people routinely do across the state, white folks do across the state, without any sort of interaction with the criminal justice system,” said Amol Sinha, the executive director of ACLU-NJ.

Tuesday will be the governor’s day to shape reality. Monday, the liberal groups seized the bullhorn.

“We have all, in one way or another, been deeply disappointed by the lack of progress we’ve made in the last year, even as other states have made major steps in the direction that we were supposed to lead,” said Ryan Haygood, president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

Murphy is considered New Jersey’s most progressive governor ever, but there was a message at Monday’s event for him: The progressive coalition is not happy about the state of the state today.