Novel Social Policies Meet Money Woes in N.J.

State Sen. Leonard Lance, a Republican and minority leader, called much of the Democrats' agenda a "whitewash" that would have little reverberations outside the state.

"The issues that are most important to me, that are important to all of our state's taxpayers are fiscal. The issues don't get the headlines or the national attention, but we have burgeoning state death in New Jersey and that has caused great trouble in the past and will in the future," Lance said.

In July 2006, Corzine shut down the government over a budget impass with the legislature.

Some have already begun to raise questions about the legality and practicality of barring sex offenders -- even those who crimes did not involve using the Internet – from cyberspace.

"The sex offender law is going to be extremely difficult to enforce, and it is unclear if it is even constitutional. But there was little debate on either of these issues," said Riccards of the Hall Institute.

Lance called the HIV and sex offender laws "bipartisan" and "essential to our children's well being," but along with many of his Republican colleagues voted against repeal of the death penalty.

Will Other States Follow N.J.'s Lead?

On Dec. 17, Corzine signed a bill repealing the state's death penalty, the first state to abolish capital punishment in a generation.

"Today New Jersey is truly evolving," he said at the bill signing. "I believe society first must determine if its endorsement of violence begets violence, and if violence undermines our commitment to the sanctity of life. To these questions, I answer yes."

The governor also said he believed that other states would follow New Jersey's lead, seeing capital punishment as both an immoral and expensive alternative to life in prison.

Lance disagreed. "I can't imagine such bans are the way of the future nationally. I'd imagine federalism will prevail. I don't think it's inevitable that the death penalty will be repealed in every state."

Aside from Democratic control of the state government, pundits have credited the relationship between Corzine and New Jersey Senate President Richard Codey as a factor in passing the social legislation.

Following an automobile accident in April that left Corzine hospitalized for two weeks, Codey stepped in as acting governor.

The two men have since worked together closely, with Codey personally introducing both the bills on HIV testing for expectant mothers and newborns, and barring sex offenders from the Web.

Codey is convinced that New Jersey is making history, and other states are soon to follow in its footsteps.

"We've been flooded with phone calls on the HIV and sex predator laws from legislators from around the country," Codey said. "Every day we're praised with doing away with the death penalty."

More than progressive social policy, or even the budget crisis, Codey fears corruption will always be the first thing associated with the Garden State's politicians.

"A lot of what we've accomplished has been hidden behind the corruption issue. Corruption is still here, but at least fewer of our guys have been arrested than the guys on the Cincinnati Bengals," he said.

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