Oliver Becomes First African-American Woman To Lead NJ Assembly

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TRENTON – Sheila Y. Oliver on Tuesday took the oath of office as New Jersey’s 169th Assembly Speaker, vowing to put the Assembly’s focus on reviving New Jersey’s economy and targeting property taxes and inviting  the public to air ideas on tackling New Jersey’s problems.

Oliver (D-Essex) was sworn as the 214th Assembly organized at the Trenton War Memorial. Oliver is the first African-American woman to lead a legislative house in New Jersey.  She is also, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, just the second African-American woman in American history to lead a legislative house, following only Karen R. Bass of California.

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“We know we have many things to take care of, but nothing is more important than the people of New Jersey and nothing is more important to them and to me than jobs, the economy and property taxes,” Oliver said. “Those issues deserve our attention and they will get our attention.”

The new Speaker said she “will be looking for ways for the public to experience transparency in how our government operates” as she announced her intention to visit all 40 legislative districts.

“And in addition to these visits, today I am pleased to announce that we will schedule special public hearings to allow the public to speak directly with legislators on possible solutions to New Jersey’s problems,” Oliver said. “The hearings will be hosted by bipartisan Assembly leaders, held at a time convenient to the public and with a focus on hearing from our constituents.”

During Tuesday’s ceremony, 80 Assembly members elected in November took their oaths. The Assembly will be controlled 47-33 by Democrats.

Joseph Cryan (D-Union) was will serve as the new Assembly Majority Leader and Jerry Green (D-Union) as the Speaker Pro Tempore. Alex DeCroce (R-Morris) will continue as the Assembly Minority Leader, Jon Bramnick (R-Union) remains the Republican Conference Leader and David Rible (R-Monmouth) was elected as the Minority Whip.

During the ceremony and during a news conference before it in which she was joined by Cryan, DeCroce and Bramnick, Oliver, 57, of East Orange, also announced:

• The Assembly Budget Committee will hold early hearings. She said the panel will work to “begin finding ways to save money and cut costs without hurting our children, our less fortunate, our middle-class and our senior citizens.”

“As a matter of fact, I expect our focus on property taxes, jobs, the economy and the budget will be our singular focus in the months ahead,” Oliver said.

• The Assembly will look at unfinished business from the 2006 and 2007 property tax reform efforts.
“We need to do more, so we will, among other things, look to the unfinished business from our special session on property taxes,” said Oliver, who was first elected to Assembly in 2003.

• The Assembly Regulatory Oversight Committee will be reinstated and charged with the goal of reducing burdensome regulations on New Jersey’s business communities. Gaming issues will be heard by this committee.
One of her main goals, Oliver said, is “establishing a business environment where companies already here in New Jersey want to stay and companies from other parts of the country want to join them.”

• The Assembly Tourism and Gaming Committee will be renamed the Assembly Tourism and Arts Committee to put more focus on issues facing New Jersey’s arts programs.

“As Assembly Speaker, I want to create an environment where we can in a bipartisan nature address problems that face real people,” Oliver said. “After all, that’s what the people of New Jersey clearly want. They know we share their values of a quality education, access to health care, worker rights, creating a business friendly environment and providing as much tax relief as possible.”


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