Murphy signs law barring landlords from asking about criminal histories, establishes wealth disparity task force ahead of Juneteenth

New Jersey

FILE – In this Dec. 15, 2020 file photo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a news conference after witnessing the first coronavirus vaccinations at University Hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark, N.J. While Murphy has pledged to be transparent throughout the coronavirus pandemic, his administration has denied or slowly responded to requests for records related to spending, communications and decision-making.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

PATERSON, N.J. — New Jersey landlords won’t be able to inquire about potential renters’ criminal histories under a new law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.

The Democrat signed the Fair Chance in Housing Act Friday on what was the state’s first official celebration of Juneteenth as a paid holiday for state workers.

Murphy also signed legislation making the third Friday in June a state holiday. June 19 or Juneteenth commemorates when word reached enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, that slavery had been abolished.

President Joe Biden signed similar nationwide legislation on Thursday.

The new New Jersey housing legislation aims to eliminate housing instability that contributes to recidivism, according to the governor.

“As we commemorate Juneteenth, we must commit to both remembering the past and continuing to take action to ensure communities of color, especially Black Americans, achieve the full equity they deserve,” said Murphy . “Today, I am proud to sign the Fair Chance in Housing Act into law and work to level what has been for too long an uneven playing field when it comes to access to housing. I thank the sponsors and advocates for their tireless commitment to making this bill a reality and ensuring that New Jersey is a fairer place to live.”

Murphy also announced Friday that Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Marlene Caride, Rutgers University President Dr. Jonathan Holloway, and Council of New Jersey Grantmakers President and CEO Maria Vizcarrondo will lead the Governor’s Wealth Disparity Task Force. They will be joined by additional government officials, academic researchers, and faith and community leaders to be announced at a later date.

The Wealth Disparity Task Force will advise the Murphy Administration on strategies aimed at addressing the various causes and effects of wealth disparity in New Jersey. The task force will prioritize efforts towards equity among all members of the New Jersey community by studying the causes of the inequality that has prevented the state from reaching its full potential in the past. By working to achieve inclusion of groups and individuals who have previously been marginalized, the task force will create comprehensive strategies and solutions to achieve a fairer distribution of wealth in New Jersey.

“In my State of the State Address in 2020, a month before the pandemic swept over our state, I announced my intention to form a task force focused specifically on the issue of our state’s gaping racial wealth disparity,” said Murphy. “Lieutenant Governor Oliver, Commissioner Caride, Dr. Holloway, and Maria Vizcarrondo are the right choices to lead the Wealth Disparity Task Force. As esteemed and experienced leaders in government and education, they are well qualified to tackle this issue and advocate for the inclusion of all in prosperous future of our state.”

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