Legislative Ministry Accomplishments
Fall 2015 Through Spring 2016
The Princeton Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry (“Princeton Legislative Ministry”, for short) has worked to support state and national policies which are consistent with UU values and to give our congregation’s members the opportunity to learn about these issues and express their views.
The statewide Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of New Jersey – UULMNJ – grew out of our own congregation when we decided to initiate a collaboration among the 21 New Jersey congregations to work on advocacy issues based on our shared values. We support UULMNJ through strong volunteer efforts and financial contributions.
Our congregation’s liaisons to UULMNJ are Gena Whitney, Katrina Homel, Elaine Nigam, and Frances Prestianni. Many other congregants are involved on the various task forces and volunteer to work on issues.
UULMNJ Executive Director Craig Hirshberg spoke on racial justice at our congregational Sunday worship service in November 2015. Her presentation was followed by a meeting to discuss current Legislative Ministry issues and structure.
During the 2015-16 year, Princeton Legislative Ministry worked with the statewide UULMNJ, UU congregations, other religious and advocacy groups on the following issues:
The Princeton Legislative Ministry initiated a new project on eliminating racism working in conjunction with UU congregations. The two statewide UULMNJ meetings focused on racism and the relation of the Task Forces’ agendas and racism.
Criminal Justice Reform Task Force
- The Princeton Legislative Ministry was one of the sponsors of the July 2015 Million People’s March against Police Brutality, Racial Injustice and Economic Inequality, which took place in Newark with sixteen of our congregation’s members participating. We also participated in the State House Rally for Justice in November 2015, organized by the NJ Clergy Coalition for Justice.The goal of the rally was to show support for legislation that will mandate body cameras for all NJ police officers and proper training of law enforcement in order to manage implicit racial bias.
- With a full legislative agenda in 2015, the Task Force also continued to track legislation that would limit the use of solitary confinement, eliminate restrictions for receiving Work First NJ General Assistance by convicted drug offenders, prevent restraint of women prisoners during childbirth, and reform the parole system, among other important bills.
- In conjunction with the Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, members of the Task Force provided support for bringing a replica solitary confinement cell to several faith communities in the state, including an event held at our congregation in October, 2015.
- Executive Director Craig Hirshberg presented testimony on behalf of UULMNJ to the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee regarding regulation and taxation of marijuana.
- Our Young Adult Group held a discussion on marijuana reform based on the Incarceration Reform Task Force discussion material.
Environmental Justice Task Force
- State legislation on renewable energy was the major issue for the year. Renewable Energy Transition Act (RETA) mandates targets for renewable energy and requires that by 2050, 80% of New Jersey’s electric power needs be met through renewable energy. Legislation was reintroduced in the January 2016 session.
- Our congregation collected 69 letters addressed to the Chair of Telecommunications and Utilities Committee (NJ legislature) and related letters to NJ Assembly Representatives supporting consideration of the legislation.
Economic Justice Task Force
- We participated in the June 2015 Lobby Day sponsored by the Housing and Development Network which focused on legislation related to foreclosure, affordable housing and Sandy relief.
- Worked with Fair Share Housing to insure implementation of State mandates on affordable housing, legislation on paid sick leave for all, and other economic justice issues.
Reproductive Justice and Women’s Health Task Force
- We participated in the Planned Parenthood Action Fund Lobby Day which focused on availability of women’s health services.
- We collected 50 letters supporting the Planned Parenthood staff in Colorado after the violence there.
- Focused on driver’s licenses for the undocumented and the refugee crisis.
Gun Violence Prevention
- Princeton Legislative Ministry submitted testimony on personalized hand guns at the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee; legislation requires retailers to sell smart guns after they are available in addition to other guns; urged support for legislation which restricts hand guns for those convicted of domestic violence.
Celebration for Justice
- Our Music Director, Marge Herman, and our congregation’s choir with other UU choirs participated in the MUUsic Festival in March celebrating faith, equality, compassion and justice through song.
Total congregational contribution to UULMNJ was $8,200 including both budget and Social Justice Committee funding.
- Funding from congregation’s budget was $3,280 ($10 per member)
- $4,920 from Social Justice Committee funds ($15 per member) for a total of $25 for each of our congregation’s 328 members.
- In addition, we sponsored a brunch which raised over $500 for the Legislative Ministry.