By the time you read this, Governor Phil Murphy will be aggressively tackling the many opportunities and challenges facing New Jersey with the enthusiasm and vigor that is characteristic of a brand new administration. His commitment to a “stronger and fairer” New Jersey is obvious in cabinet appointments that reflect diverse leadership from a variety of sectors and the Garden State’s multicultural population. The 218th N.J. State Legislature is also infused with fresh leadership—including a new Assembly Speaker, Craig Coughlin from Middlesex County. As a result of the election and cabinet appointments, no less than 15 new legislators were sworn in on January 9. Bills not passed by both the Assembly and the Senate and signed by Governor Christie must be reintroduced for consideration and hundreds have already been reassigned new bill numbers.
Governor Murphy and the new legislature face an extraordinary amount of pressure in light of the need to balance the state’s budget and discover new state revenue. Payments to the state pension plan and the negative impact of recent tax reform will be top on the list of concerns that will affect a state budget proposal in the first 100 days of office. And speaking of opportunities and challenges, the nonprofit arts community faces a state appropriation that’s been frozen at the same level for the last eight years. Leaders from the arts, tourism, and history communities have met for more than a year to discuss ways that the current Hotel/Motel Occupancy Fee legislation may be amended to ensure that state revenue intended to fuel these industries reflects the significant contributions they make to N.J.’s economy and quality of life. Stay tuned for policy recommendations that will need your support to have a lasting impact. So what can you do to help make a difference? Keep checking ArtPride’s Arts Action Center for alerts and be sure you are signed up to receive email notifications (the sign-up button is on that webpage). Make sure you know your legislators, especially if they are new. Did you send them a letter or email to congratulate them on their recent election? Have you invited them to an upcoming exhibit or performance? The more they are familiar with cultural events in their districts, the easier it will be to request their sponsorship of proposed legislation or support of a new policy. The new year presents us with not only new faces in the legislature and administration, but the chance to forge new relationships and refresh ongoing ones. As the budget season heats up during the spring and early summer, this is the best time to sow the seeds for success. And finally, don’t forget to keep ArtPride staff aware of your endeavors on the ground. Your advocacy efforts, no matter how small they may seem to you, are really important to move the entire field forward. The N.J. nonprofit arts industry is a dynamo, and your voice is not only unique but loud. Be sure to exercise that voice often and if you’re not 100 percent sure of the facts, consult ArtPride staff – they will make sure you have all the tools you need.