Weinberg workgroup to host public forum Tuesday on proposed anti-harassment bill

Public listening session seeks comment on plan to create investigative unit within ELEC to review sexual misconduct complaints in political arena

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and the Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey Politics announced Friday that they will be hosting a public listening session on Zoom at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The group is seeking public comment on the proposal to create an independent investigative unit within the Election Law Enforcement Commission to review complaints of sexual misconduct in the political arena.

Tuesday’s forum will be open to the media and the public, and those wishing to speak or view the forum can register here.

The creation of an Office on Discrimination and Harassment Prevention within ELEC, the adoption of anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies by political campaigns and party organizations, and the provision of anti-harassment training were among the core recommendations in the workgroup’s Jan. 14 report and are the key components of Senate Bill 3389/Assembly Bill 5364.

The bill would enable survivors to confidentially report sexual misconduct to the independent investigative agency and/or to a designated campaign or party official responsible for monitoring anti-harassment policies.

“This legislation was developed based on the recommendations and lived experiences of survivors that were shared with the workgroup in public and private forums, written recommendations and follow-up discussions over the last year,” Weinberg (D-Teaneck) said.

“We are convening this forum to have a conversation on whether the bill succeeds in addressing the concerns of survivors and how it can be improved. It provides an opportunity to have a public conversation in a less formal setting before the bill goes through the legislative committee hearing process in Trenton.”

In addition to the anti-harassment legislation that is the subject of Tuesday’s workgroup meeting, eight bills endorsed by the workgroup to protect the rights of survivors of sexual assault, improve law enforcement and judicial case management and training, and codify harassment and discrimination policies throughout state government have been moving through the Legislature, and legislation has been proposed to create an independent public advocate to protect the rights of women in the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women and other vulnerable populations under state supervision and care.

Weinberg created the workgroup in the wake of a Star-Ledger/NJ Advance Media report in which 20 women told of being groped, propositioned, harassed and even sexually assaulted while serving as campaign staffers, political operatives, legislators and lobbyists.

The workgroup includes:

  • Gov. Sheila Oliver;
  • Alison Accettola, Senate majority general counsel;
  • Laurel Brennan, secretary-treasurer, New Jersey State AFL-CIO;
  • Elizabeth Coulter, director of public health, Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey;
  • Sonia Delgado, partner, Princeton Public Affairs Group;
  • The Rev. Lesly Devereaux, chief operating officer, Devereaux Diversity Group LLC;
  • Rosa Farias, deputy executive director, Casino Reinvestment Development Authority;
  • Jeannine LaRue, senior vice president, Kaufman Zita Group;
  • Sabeen Masih, vice president of public affairs, Capital Impact Group;
  • Debbie Parks, international vice president, AFSCME;
  • Crystal Pruitt, Franklin Township Council;
  • Lisa Randall, commissioner, Bergen County Improvement Authority;
  • Julie Roginsky, co-founder, Lift Our Voices;
  • Christine Shipley, executive director, New Jersey Senate Minority Office;
  • Patricia Teffenhart, executive director, New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault.