June 18, 2019

Editorial: Poking a bear in Mount Laurel

We didn’t fall for the partisanship defense, and neither did Carol Murphy, a Democratic New Jersey Assembly member — and a Mount Laurel resident.

The Republicans in Mount Laurel have found out the hard way that sometimes when you poke a bear, the bear bites back.

The Township Council — all-Republican until last year, when two Democrats were elected — decided that a year before the pivotal 2020 presidential election, the governing body should be nonpartisan, because partisanship has no place at the local level.

Many in the community took issue, believing the proposed ordinance to hold a voter referendum was a poorly masked ploy by Mayor Kurt Folcher, Councilman Irwin Edelson and Deputy Mayor Linda Bobo — all up for re-election next year — to avoid running alongside the humongous Republican elephant in their column, Donald Trump.

Nevertheless, the three Republicans pushed ahead with their plan for a referendum this November. The initial vote was 3-2 along party lines. The vote to adopt will be on Monday.

That’s the poke.

We didn’t fall for the partisanship defense, and neither did Carol Murphy, a Democratic New Jersey Assembly member — and a Mount Laurel resident.

That’s the bear.

Faster than you can tweet “covfefe,” Murphy used her power and persuasion in a Democratic-controlled Legislature to fast-track a bill, introduced late last month, that would amend state law regarding the number of signatures needed on a petition to change municipal elections by referendum.

Under the current law, a referendum can be initiated by 10% of the local votes cast during the last Assembly election, or by a simple majority of the council.

Under Murphy’s changes, at least 25% of the local votes would be required, or the approval of at least two-thirds of the governing body.

In the ruthless game of politics, it pays to have a defense if you go on offense, and the Republicans didn’t figure on Murphy in their own backyard.

It’s also disingenuous for Folcher to complain about Murphy’s power play by stating, “It is pitiful that Carol is so partisan that she can rush a bill through the state government. ...” Equally flimsy was his argument that a nonpartisan election would benefit the town because it works so well for school boards and fire districts. When was the last time you voted in a fire district election? Or have you ever?

This was always about partisanship.

How this controversy plays out remains uncertain. It’s possible that the Legislature could approve Murphy’s bill, which was cosponsored by Sen. Troy Singleton, D-7th of Delran, and get the governor to sign it into law before the council’s Monday meeting.

It is also unclear if this legislation would actually affect the referendum, since the ordinance is already in the works, so the matter could end up in a courtroom.

But even if it doesn’t, we support the bill and the higher vote percentage. Changing municipal elections from partisan to nonpartisan should not be taken lightly, especially if the election date changes from November to May (Mount Laurel’s Republicans claim they would still endorse a November election date).

Under Murphy’s bill, Mount Laurel would have to get 3,205 signatures. If Folcher, Edelson and Bobo sincerely believe this is what their community wants, how crazy could it be to get 3,205 signatures in a town with over 40,000 people?

No more crazy than poking a bear.

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June 17, 2019

Bill to block Mount Laurel election change advanced

The bill was introduced by Assemblywoman Carol Murphy last month in response to controversy surrounding the Republican proposal to change the town’s local election, and it has moved with uncommon speed through the Legislature so that it can conceivably be considered by Gov. Phil Murphy before Mount Laurel’s governing body acts.

TRENTON — Legislation that could potentially block Mount Laurel from holding a referendum to switch its municipal election to nonpartisan status is not just for show.

The bill was introduced by Assemblywoman Carol Murphy last month in response to controversy surrounding the Republican proposal to change the town’s local election, and it has moved with uncommon speed through the Legislature so that it can conceivably be considered by Gov. Phil Murphy before Mount Laurel’s governing body acts.

The Mount Laurel Township Council is scheduled to next meet on June 24 to vote to adopt an ordinance that would place a referendum on the November election ballot asking voters to approve or reject the proposed change to nonpartisan.

In nonpartisan elections, candidates running for municipal offices do not run in the June primary and are not identified as either Democrat, Republican or third-party. Instead, candidates run on submitted slogans without their party affiliations being revealed.

Most nonpartisan towns hold their municipal elections separate from the November general election on the second Tuesday in May, but a 2010 state law allowed those towns to move their elections from May to November without losing the nonpartisan status, and Mount Laurel officials have said they intend to keep the election in November if voters approve the change to nonpartisan.

Murphy’s bill could conceivably stop the effort though. It would amend state law to specify that a referendum to change a municipal election to nonpartisan can only be initiated by a voter petition signed by at least 25% of the votes cast in a municipality during the last General Assembly election, or the approval of an ordinance by at least two-thirds of the full governing body.

Under the current law, a referendum can be initiated by 10% of the votes cast in the municipality at the last General Assembly election, or by a simple majority of the council.

In the last General Assembly election, held in 2017, Mount Laurel had 12,820 residents vote. Under Murphy’s proposal, 3,205 signatures or an affirmative vote by the township council of at least 4-1 would be needed to initiate a referendum.

The Mount Laurel ordinance was introduced last month by a 3-2 party line vote carried by the council’s three Republicans — Mayor Kurt Folcher, Councilman Irwin Edelson and Deputy Mayor Linda Bobo — who have embraced the potential change, arguing that the switch to nonpartisan elections will remove hyperpartisan politics from local issues and that local voters should have the right to decide how their council is elected.

The council’s two Democrats — Kareem Pritchett and Stephen Steglik — and other local and state Democratic officials, have said moving to nonpartisan status would suppress turnout and benefit Republicans by allowing them to hide their party affiliation when they are up for re-election next year alongside President Donald Trump.

Carol Murphy, who is the wife of Mount Laurel Democratic Committee chair Michael Muller, has been an outspoken opponent of the proposed election change in the township and succeeded in getting her bill fast-tracked to the chamber floors of the Assembly and Senate after she introduced it on May 20.

In a statement, the 7th District assemblywoman said lawmakers have a moral obligation to encourage voter participation and that she was proud her legislation has advanced so quickly.

“I’m proud that we have successfully moved this legislation to the floor in both houses because we must prevent the politicizing of the electoral process being attempted in Mount Laurel from happening anywhere in the State of New Jersey,” Murphy said. “If a municipality wishes to change their form of government to nonpartisan, where we see substantially lower voter participation and increased costs to the taxpayer, it is responsible to raise the standard to protect residents.”

The bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Troy Singleton, D-7th of Delran in the Senate, was advanced from both the Assembly Appropriations Committee and the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee without testimony on Thursday, clearing it for possible floor votes by the full Assembly and Senate this week when the two chambers meet.

If majorities in both chambers approve it, the bill would go to the governor to consider and could conceivably become law before Mount Laurel’s June 24 meeting.

It was unclear Friday if the legislation could impact Mount Laurel if it becomes law after the council has already initiated its referendum through a local ordinance. If that occurs, it would likely fall to a court of law to decide.

Folcher defended the majority on council’s push to switch to the nonpartisan form, arguing that it has worked well for the school board and fire districts. He said Murphy’s legislation could deny residents the opportunity to decide the issue at the poll.

“Unfortunately, Carol Murphy and the Democrat political machine that dominates New Jersey think its a game and they pursue victory at all costs and do not care about what it does to communities and the state. They obviously prefer a partisan local election that is decided on national issues rather than local issues. We don’t. We believe local elections should be about local candidates and that the power rests with the people and not party bosses or machines,” Folcher said Saturday. “It is pitiful that Carol is so partisan that she can rush a bill through the state Government to help her Mount Laurel Municipal Chair husband Michael Moeller that essentially takes power away from the people of Mount Laurel and everyone in the state at the same time.”

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May 19, 2019

As Mount Laurel considers nonpartisan referendum, lawmaker steps in

Just days before a controversial proposal that supporters say will remove politics from local government by referendum is set to be introduced by the Township Council, a lawmaker has introduced a bill that would require the collection of a significant amount of signatures to advance the measure.

The council proposal aims to switch elections in Mount Laurel from partisan — where candidates are identified by political party — to nonpartisan, where candidates are not identified by political party, and must be clearly offset from party lines on any ballot.

The only way for a municipality to do so is by holding a referendum, putting it to the voters to decide. An ordinance to initiate the referendum to be placed on November’s ballot is on the council’s Monday meeting agenda for introduction.

Since the idea was first discussed by the Republican-controlled council back in March, it has been met with strong opposition from both local and state Democratic officials, who’ve called it voter suppression and allege that the move is only in the self interest of the Republicans, who do not wish to be affiliated with President Donald Trump in the 2020 election, when their seats expire and they are up for re-election.

Mayor Kurt Folcher has defended the proposal, arguing that politics should not play a role in local government and that at no cost to the township, why not propose the question to the public and let the voters decide.

Democratic Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, a Mount Laurel resident, spoke out against the switch to nonpartisan elections at the April 22 council meeting, and on Thursday, she introduced a bill that would require a voter petition signed by at least 25 percent of the votes cast in the municipality at the last General Assembly election, or the approval of an ordinance by at least two-thirds of the full council, in order to initiate a referendum on the switch. Murphy is married to Michael Muller, chair of the Mount Laurel Democratic Committee and leader of the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee.

Under the current law, a referendum can be initiated by 10 percent of the votes cast in the municipality at the last General Assembly election, or by a simple majority of the council.

In the last General Assembly election, held in 2017, Mount Laurel had 12,820 residents vote. Under Murphy’s proposal, 3,205 signatures or an affirmative vote by the township council of at least 4-1 would be needed to initiate a referendum.

Both Democratic council members, Kareem Pritchett and Stephen Steglitz, have voiced their opposition to the proposal. Folcher, Deputy Mayor Linda Bobo and Councilman Iriwn Edelson are Republican.

In a statement Friday, Murphy called the proposed switch to nonpartisan elections “shameful” and “misguided,” adding that she felt compelled to introduce the legislation because the switch would result in voter disenfranchisement.

“The idea that local government officials can place a referendum on the ballot to change their form of government because of their own political calculations needs to end in the state of New Jersey,” Murphy said. “This is a serious change that they hope to squeeze through this year because without a statewide contest, we anticipate extremely low voter turnout. Mount Laurel residents deserve better and this should not happen here or anywhere in the state because democracy is sacred.”

Reached by email Friday, Folcher called the Democrats’ vocal criticism of the proposal “an orchestrated voter suppression effort” to stop Mount Laurel voters from having a say in what type of elections they prefer.

“They (Democrats) have soured the environment in the meetings to the point where everyday people don’t even want to get up and participate,” Folcher wrote. “There are a handful of partisans that are doing everything they can to stop it from happening. Step back and apply reason, putting the referendum on the ballot costs nothing and does not change the nature of Mount Laurel elections. It is THE PEOPLE (sic) that will decide what they want.”

Folcher also noted that 40 percent of Mount Laurel voters choose not to affiliate with any political party, and that the outspokenness at meetings is not representative of township residents. Folcher said that Murphy’s proposed legislation does not change the township council’s plans to move forward with the ordinance.

“It is politicians like this that make people hate partisan politics and shines a spotlight on the reason people want change like non-partisan elections. Of all the pressing issues affecting NJ - property tax and education costs squeezing of the middle class - She wants the State Government to focus on preventing Mount Laurel residents from having a say in their government. Pitiful,” Folcher wrote in an email.

If the ordinance is adopted, Mount Laurel voters will be asked on the November ballot to answer yes or no to the question, “Shall the charter of the Township of Mount Laurel governed by the Council-Manger (Plan E) form of government be amended, as permitted under the plan, to provide for the holding of regular municipal elections in May,” according to the draft ordinance posted on the township’s website.

If approved by voters, the switch would result in the township’s election being held on the second Tuesday in May.

However, the ordinance also states that if voters approve of the switch to a nonpartisan government, the council will, by a separate ordinance, change the nonpartisan election from May to the general election held in November. Folcher, Bobo and Edelson have also stated they only want elections to be held in November.

For Murphy’s bill to become law, it would have to be approved by the state Assembly, Senate and signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.

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December 17, 2018

‘Antwan’s Law’ for traffic safety advances to Gov. Phil Murphy

Two years ago, city residents and students came together to mourn the loss of one of their own, who was hit by a car while walking along Route 130.

Antwan Timbers Jr. was 17 when he was hit walking home with a friend shortly after midnight in May 2016 along the highway, which has repeatedly been named the state’s most dangerous road for pedestrians due to its high death toll. Timbers’ death was one of a state-high 50 traffic fatalities in Burlington County that year.

His classmates decided that something needed to be done in his honor, so they decided to work with then-state Sen. Diane Allen, R-7th of Edgewater Park, to create a package of bills to make the roadway safer.

After two years of work, legislation to reduce the speed on the roadway was adopted by the Assembly on Monday, after it was adopted by the Senate in April. The bill will become law if signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.

Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, D-7th of Mount Laurel, said during the voting session in the Assembly on Monday that she was sponsoring the bill “in memory of Antwan Timbers” and on behalf of Principal Jim Flynn and the students of Burlington City High School. The measure passed 74-0, with three abstentions.

“In the wake of this tragic incident, this bill is a commonsense measure to protect pedestrians and students who regularly cross Route 130 to utilize everyday amenities,” Murphy said. “I applaud the efforts of Antwan’s former classmates and the Burlington City High School administration for championing this legislation and enacting positive change in our community.”

The bill reduces the speed limit to 25 mph on the highway near Burlington City High School, located between High Street and Jacksonville Road on Route 130 North, and Wilbur Watts Intermediate School between Wood and High streets on Route 130 South. Currently, the speed limit is 40 mph in that area, except when it’s 25 mph during peak hours when students are going to or leaving the schools.

Along with lowering the speed limit on that section of Route 130, the bill reduces the area leading up to the school zone to 35 mph. It also triples the fine for speeding in the designated area. Fines are dependent on many miles over the limit a motorist is driving.

“No student should feel like his or her life in danger while walking to and from school during the week or going to the convenience store on the weekend, but that’s the reality for many Burlington students,” said Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-7th of Delran, a co-sponsor of the bill. “In honor of Antwan and all those who have tragically lost their lives on Route 130, this legislation would make this portion of Route 130 safer for pedestrians.”

Besides the schools, the section of the roadway also contains commercial properties, such as a convenience store, two fast food restaurants, two pizzerias, a pharmacy and an ice cream parlor that students and residents visit. By reducing the speed throughout the entire section, lawmakers said it would make visiting those establishments a bit easier for pedestrians.

“This section of Route 130 is an active business section frequented by students going about their daily routine,” said Assemblyman Daniel Benson, D-14th of Hamilton, a co-sponsor of the bill. “Reducing the speed limit will caution drivers to be vigilant and to slow down whether school is in session or not.”

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September 18, 2018

Legislation would require towns and school districts to video record meetings

Municipalities and school boards across New Jersey would be required to video record their meetings and then post the recordings on their websites under legislation penned by a Burlington County lawmaker.

Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, D-7th of Mount Laurel, introduced the measure in March and has pushed for its approval, arguing that video recording meetings is an inexpensive way to boost local government transparency and participation

The measure would amend the state’s Open Public Meetings Act to require all municipal and school board meetings to be video recorded and posted on the local government websites. It would also require closed session meeting minutes to be posted on the websites once they are determined to no longer be confidential.

“The idea is so these folks who can’t attend meetings know what’s going on (with their local government),” said Murphy. “Most of our municipal buildings and local governments have the capability to videotape, so it shouldn’t be any real hardship.”

But some lawmakers and local government representatives aren’t so sure the legislation won’t create a burden for towns and school boards.

The issue of the expense was debated briefly Monday during a hearing on the measure before the Assembly State and Local Government Committee, which voted 4-1 with one abstention to advance the bill to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

The committee also approved a second open government bill Murphy sponsored to require municipal governments to accept complaints via their websites and deliver electronic notices, alerts and announcements to residents who request them through email, text messages or social media.

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, R-25th of Morris Township, voted “no” on both measures, arguing that they were both unfunded mandates and therefore unconstitutional.

“If we think it’s a good idea, let’s bite the bullet and pay for it,” Patrick Carroll said during the hearing, adding that he heard from local officials in his district that storing video files on their websites could become expensive because the files take up large amounts of space.

He said linking to a free site like may be a better solution but that the mandate that all municipal meetings be recorded might still be a burden.

Officials from the New Jersey State League of Municipalities and the New Jersey School Boards Association said the intent of the bill was good, but that they had many of the same concerns as Patrick Carroll.

“We are concerned it is an unfunded mandate, not all municipalities have recording equipment or resources,” said Lori Buckelew, a senior legislative analyst with the New Jersey League. “You also need resources to operate it.”

John Burns, of the New Jersey School Boards Association, said the association doesn’t believe video recording should be mandatory. If it is required, he said it should be mandated for the state and county governments as well.

“If it’s good for school board and municipalities (to video record), shouldn’t it be good for all (government) bodies,” Burns said.

Meetings of the full Senate and Assembly are video recorded and posted on the Office of Legislative Services website, along with audio recordings of the legislative committee hearings.

Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, who chairs the State and Local Government Committee, said he believes many municipal governments and school boards are already video recording their meetings as a service to residents.

“I think it’s good government and a good way to be transparent,” said Mazzeo, D-2nd of Northfield.

In Burlington County, at least six municipalities already video record their council or committee meetings, according to a Burlington County Times survey. Most all others record only the audio and only some post that audio on their town’s website.

Chesterfield Committeewoman Andrea Katz attended Monday’s legislative hearing and spoke in favor of requiring video recording, arguing that it is worth the small expense.

“When talking to my constituents, I find people are very interested in what happens in our public meeting, but it’s hard to get to these meetings. We’ve all got family commitments; it’s hard. But they want to know what’s happening,” Katz said. “We want to be able to know what’s going on with our governing bodies. It builds trust, which is very important.”

Mazzeo agreed but said he planned to speak to Murphy about possible amendments to try to make it easier for towns and school districts to implement.

“I don’t want to put an unfair burden on municipalities as far as cost,” he said. “There’s more conversation that needs to be done on this bill.”

Reached Tuesday, Murphy said she was open to amendments and was seriously considering whether additional public meetings should be included. She also said she was pursuing a funding source to help cover local expenses.

“I’m looking at pursuing a funding source to resolve any potential unfunded mandate concerns,” Murphy said in a statement. “New Jersey residents are all entitled to full transparency.”

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May 29, 2018

Assemblywoman Carol Murphy quickly becoming a force in Trenton

Carol Murphy may be just shy of six months into her first year as a member of New Jersey’s General Assembly, but she’s hardly a novice about the inner workings of state government.

Prior to last year’s election, the Mount Laurel Democrat spent close to a decade as a staffer for the New Jersey School Development Authority and the likes of Assemblywoman Gabriela M. Mosquera, D-4th of Gloucester Township, and Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-14th of Plainsboro.

In fact, Murphy is such a familiar figure in the Statehouse that a legislative aide accidentally slipped up and called her Carol during a meeting rather than her new title of Assemblywoman Murphy.

“I’m just getting used to the title. I appreciate the respect that accompanies it, but to me I’m just Carol,” Murphy said Friday during an interview.

“Just Carol” may be how the assemblywoman describes herself, but to the rest of New Jersey’s government, she’s rapidly becoming synonymous with some of the thorniest policy matters the Legislature is wrestling with, including the ongoing state budget negotiations, health care, economic development, gun control and marijuana legalization.

Those issues aren’t easy for any lawmaker to navigate. But being in the center of those issues is exactly where she saw herself last February when she first announced her intention to run for the open 7th District Assembly seat of fellow Democrat Troy Singleton.

“I remember working with (Mosquera) and talking about ways to promote her district and I thought ‘You know what? These are things that Burlington County can utilize.’ But the only way for me to do that was to take that leap and run.”

Singleton’s seat became open after Diane Allen, the district’s longtime Republican senator, announced her intention to retire from politics at the end of her term, making Singleton the instant favorite to succeed her as senator.

But what most people don’t know is that months before that, Murphy was quietly preparing to mount a challenge against Allen if she opted to run for re-election.

That’s no knock on Allen, who is renown as one of the most popular and respected lawmakers in state history, but rather a reflection of Murphy’s drive to serve in the Legislature, even if it meant challenging against an opponent most political watchers considered unbeatable.

“I knew I needed to get my name out there,” said Murphy, adding that she was more than happy to run for an Assembly seat after Allen announced her retirement and Singleton announced his interest in moving to the Legislature’s upper chamber.

Murphy went from longshot challenger to huge favorite as she joined Singleton and longtime Assemblyman Herb Conaway on the Democrats’ 7th District ticket. All three candidates won in a landslide.

More work followed the election as the former staffer started the process of hiring her own staff, finding office space and preparing to take the oath and begin legislating.

The last task came naturally. Murphy loves to talk about legislation and policy and she has become the prime sponsor of dozens of the bills on issues ranging from campaign finance reform and small business development to animal protections and veterans unemployment.

Among the dozens of measures with her name attached, two stand out as particularly important to the legislator.

The first is one she penned to improve health care access, by providing health care workers, such as nurses, home health aides, physical therapists and others, with parking placards so that they may park their motor-vehicles on street areas or parking lots that may be restricted or metered.

“This seems like the simplest thing, but it’s also one of the most needed,” Murphy said about the proposed placards, which would be issued to hospitals and other health care providers annually to assist their homecare workers with parking issues.

“It’s one of the first bills I put in and it’s one I’ve really been pushing. Accessible health care is something we need more of,” she said.

Other lawmakers agree. During a hearing on the measure in the Assembly Transportation Committee earlier this month, the panel’s chairman Daniel Benson, D-14 of Hamilton Township, reflected on the difficulties a nurse providing round-clock-care for his grandmother faced finding street parking near his grandmother’s home.

“There was just no off-street parking in her neighborhood,” Benson said. “A bill like this would be much more helpful and make life just a little bit easier for those doing God’s work.”

The second bill deals with sexual harassment and ensuring that the Legislature has a clear and strict policy that is distributed to elected members and government employees. It also requires the policy to be reviewed and updated every two years, and that members and employees must complete a training course on the subject and policy every two years as well.

Murphy said she was prompted to write legislation on the issue in response to the nationwide #MeToo movement, which was spurred on by revelations of sexual harassment in both Hollywood and Congress.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin has already ordered an update to the Legislature’s existing harassment policy, which was originally drafted eight years ago.

Murphy said her legislation would work in concert with that update and also would codify that a similar reviews and updates should occur in the future and that there is adequate record-keeping.

A recent Associated Press report last month revealed that there were no publicly available records of sexual harassment complaints involving members of the Legislature or their employees during the last decade.

“I have all the confidence in the world about what Speaker Coughlin is going to do. This (bill) is for future officials who might think they don’t have to something,” she said. “This should have been done a long time ago, and my bill holds everyone accountable.”

Murphy also said she had no hesitation introducing the measure as a new lawmaker.

“I wanted to make sure I was heard about this and for people to take me seriously on this issue,” she said. “I believe very much in listening carefully and hearing all sides, but when I’m 100 percent sure about what I’m talking about, I express my feelings.”

Her past experience as a former legislative staffer also provided her with some insight, since she was aware that the existing policy was not well-known.

“What good is a policy if no one knows about it,” she said.

Murphy also credited her prior experience with helping her move quickly on the sexual harassment bill and others.

“You know where to go and who to talk to. And working with (Schools Development Authority) gave me a great education on how local governments work,” she said.

Among the other bills Murphy has introduced are several government transparency bills, such as as measure requiring school districts to post on their website information about its payroll, expenditures and weekly bills and vouchers. Another of her bills would require municipal governments to email notices and other announcements to residents who request it.

“Taxpayers have a right to know where their money is going, and you should be able to know what’s happening at every level of government,” she said.

There’s much else on her plate, including roundtable meetings with mayors, superintendents and business leaders, as well as more work on gun safety and improving government technology.

Her job may be considered part-time, but Murphy is happy to make it her full-time occupation and one she hopes to continue.

“I feel like I’m making a difference with the things that are really important,” she said.

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January 10, 2018

New District Assemblywoman Carol Murphy Sworn In

The first Democrat from Mount Laurel to ever serve in the state legislature and the first Assemblywoman to represent the district in 20 years was sworn into her first term in the New Jersey State Assembly on Tuesday. Carol Murphy will represent the 7th Legislative District, which includes Cinnaminson, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, Beverly, Bordentown City, Bordentown Township, Burlington City, Burlington Township, Delanco, Delran, Edgewater Park, Fieldsboro, Florence, Palmyra, Riverside, Riverton, and Willingboro.

She was elected to office in November, running alongside Herb Conaway. She won the seat vacated by Troy Singleton, who captured the State Senate Seat that belonged to Republican Diane Allen. Allen retired on Tuesday. Murphy was one of five new Democrats sworn in on Tuesday when the new legislature reorganized. The Democratic majority is now 54-26, its largest since 1974.

"I understand the challenges facing working families in New Jersey," Murphy said in a prepared statement. "Having lived paycheck-to-paycheck, having paid my own way through college, having served as a caregiver to both of my parents before they passed, I can relate to the struggles many people in our state face on a daily basis. One of the reasons I ran for Assembly is so that I could channel these experiences into real life solutions to address the rising cost of living in this state, the crushing burden of student loan debt, and the everyday needs of our working families. Today that work begins."

Murphy will serve on the Budget Committee, the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee and the Judiciary Committee. Conaway will serve on the Appropriations Committee, the Health Committee and the newly established Science and Technology Committee.

Murphy is the daughter of a Bronze Star US Army Veteran. She learned the importance of public service from an early age and has dedicated her life to making a difference. She has worked in state government for the last 14 years.

She first served as Community Relations Manager for the New Jersey Schools Development Authority, where she established a transparent government records division and worked closely with the community to address local and environmental concerns that resulted in the building and modernizing of public schools across New Jersey.

More recently, she served as a policy director for the state legislature. She focused on issues such as pay equity, raising the minimum wage, funding women's healthcare, fully funding education, growing the economy, reducing the property tax burden, standing up for LGBTQ rights, and reducing gun violence. This included the establishment of a law that she worked with state lawmakers and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords on that removes domestic violence abusers' access to firearms. 

Murphy is married to her husband, Michael. She serves as a member of the Girl Scouts Trefoil Society, as a Girl Scouts Delegate for Burlington County, and as the founder of Maria's Women United, a South Jersey organization dedicated to supporting Democratic women. 

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