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(TRENTON) – The Assembly’s incoming Democratic Majority Caucus on Thursday chose Sheila Y. Oliver to continue as Assembly Speaker and selected Assembly budget chief Lou Greenwald as the new Assembly Majority Leader. Oliver added that John Wisniewski will serve as a key Assembly Deputy Speaker with expanded duties, Vincent Prieto will become the new Assembly Budget Committee chairman, Jerry Green will continue as Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore and Gordon Johnson will serve as Majority Conference leader.
Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) became the Speaker in January 2010 after first being elected to the Assembly in 2003. As the Speaker, she has led Democratic efforts to create jobs and stimulate economic growth, control property taxes, provide working class tax relief and reform education, while fighting cuts to health care programs for women and the poor and to programs that help distressed cities.
“I’m honored to once again have the chance to lead the ‘People’s House’ and to guide its steadfast efforts standing up for working class New Jerseyans and their families,” said Oliver, of East Orange. “The people have made it clear that they want Democrats leading this house, and we will never waiver from the commitment we’ve made to work together in unity to protect New Jersey’s middle-class and working poor.”
Oliver is the only African-American woman to lead a chamber in the New Jersey Legislature’s history. She is the second woman and second African-American to ever serve as Speaker. She will lead an Assembly controlled 48-32 by Democrats during the upcoming 2012-13 legislative session, a one seat gain from the current session.
“I thank my colleagues for showing me continued confidence and look forward to working with this new leadership team to make New Jersey a more affordable place for everyone to live and raise a family,” Oliver said.
Greenwald (D-Camden) joined the Assembly in 1996. He has been the Assembly Budget Committee Chairman since 2002. Greenwald led the efforts to reform New Jersey’s auto insurance system, sponsored the law creating the Amber Alert system, spearheaded the effort to establish a nationally designated cancer center in South Jersey and has sponsored numerous property tax reform and job creation bills.
“I am humbled by the support of my colleagues and excited by the chance to build on the partnership I developed with Speaker Oliver during my tenure as budget chairman,” said Greenwald, of Voorhees. “I can assure New Jersey residents that this team will be working tirelessly to continue protecting their priorities, whether it’s job creation, property tax relief or accessible health care. The voters have made clear that they want Democrats in charge legislatively, and we will get the job done for them.”
Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset) has served in the Assembly since 1992 and has been Speaker Pro Tempore since 2008. The Plainfield resident has been a leader in fighting for affordable housing reform, protecting children and spurring economic development.
“It’s an honor to continue to work with Speaker Oliver and to be part of this new leadership team that will strive, day in and day out, to make New Jersey a better place,” Green said. “We share the values of New Jersey’s working class residents and will continue making those values our top concern.”
Johnson (D-Bergen), of Englewood, will replace the retiring Joan Quigley as Majority Conference Leader. Johnson, a retired law enforcement official, has been a member of the General Assembly since 2002, sponsoring bills to combat racial profiling and improve emergency preparedness and helping to make the New Jersey Israel Commission permanent.
“I hope to bring a steady hand to my new role guiding this caucus through its public policy decisions with the fundamental goal of advocating for middle-class and poor residents struggling to make ends meet,” Johnson said. “We have some important decisions to make, and I look forward to everyone working together to get things done for the residents who embraced us because we embrace their concerns.”
As one of the senior members of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) will serve as a prominent Assembly Deputy Speaker with expanded duties. First elected in 1995, Wisniewski has chaired the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee since 2002 and has sponsored legislation to make school buses safer, overhaul motor vehicle agency operations, enhance teen driver safety and strengthen fire safety in college dorms and elsewhere.
“We have assembled a leadership team dedicated to working together each and every day to do what’s right for working class families,” Wisniewski said. “With millionaires enjoying the Governor’s tax cuts, it’s more important than ever that we work together to protect New Jersey values and our middle and low income families struggling to make ends meet.”
Prieto (D-Hudson) will replace Greenwald as Budget Committee Chairman. Prieto, a Cuban native, joined the Assembly in 2004. He’s been chairman of the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee and has sponsored legislation advocating for adoptee rights, transportation and infrastructure safety, property tax relief and job creation.
“We understand that living in New Jersey the last two years under the current administration has not been easy for the middle-class and poor, but this leadership team and this caucus will push forward with the constant goal of making New Jersey a more affordable place to live and work,” Prieto said. “The budget committee is where much of that work begins, and I’m committed to using my new position to be a strong advocate for our working class families.”