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The New Jersey Senate was established as the upper house of the New Jersey Legislature by the Constitution of 1844, replacing the Legislative Council. There are 40 legislative districts, representing districts with average populations of 210,359 (2000 figure). Each district has one senator and two members of the New Jersey General Assembly, the lower house of the legislature. Prior to the election in which they are chosen, senators must be a minimum of 30 years old and a resident of the state for four years to be eligible to serve in office.
From 1844 until 1965 (when redistricting could be done following the Reynolds v. Sims decision), each county was an electoral district electing one senator. Under the 1844 Constitution the term of office was three years, which was changed to four years with the 1947 Constitution. Since 1968 the Senate has consisted of 40 senators, who are elected in a "2-4-4" cycle. Senators serve a two-year term at the beginning of each decade, with the rest of the decade divided into two four-year terms. The "2-4-4" cycle was put into place so that Senate elections can reflect the changes made to the district boundaries on the basis of the decennial United States Census. If the cycle were not put into place, then the boundaries would sometimes be four years out of date before being used for Senate elections. Rather, with the varied term, the boundaries are only two years out of date. Thus elections for Senate seats take place in years ending with a "1", "3" or "7" (i.e. next elections in 2021, 2023 and 2027).
Interim appointments are made to fill vacant legislative seats by the county committee or committees of the party of the vacating person (since a constitutional amendment passed on November 8, 1988). The office is on the ballot for the next general election, even if the other Senate seats are not up for election in that year (such as in years ending with a "5" or "9", such as 2009 or 2015). The sole exception to this is if the vacancy occurred within 51 days of the election, in which case the appointment stands until the following general election.
Senatorial courtesy is a senate tradition that allows home county legislators to intercede to prevent consideration of a local resident nominated by the Governor for a position that requires Senate confirmation. Any of the senators from the nominee's home county can invoke senatorial courtesy to block a nomination, temporarily or permanently, without any obligation to justify the basis of their actions.
Governor Corzine nominated Stuart Rabner on June 4, 2007, to be the next Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, replacing James R. Zazzali, who was nearing mandatory retirement age. Shortly after the nomination, two members of the Senate from Essex County, where Rabner resides, blocked consideration of his confirmation by invoking senatorial courtesy. State Senator Ronald Rice had initially blocked the nomination, but relented on June 15, 2007, after a meeting with the governor.Nia Gill dropped her block on June 19, 2007, but did not explain the nature of her concerns, though anonymous lawmakers cited in The New York Times indicated that the objection was due to Rabner's race and Governor Corzine's failure to consider a minority candidate for the post.
Also in June 2007, Loretta Weinberg used senatorial courtesy privileges to hold up consideration of a new term in office for Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli.
Until 2010, in the event of a gubernatorial vacancy, the New Jersey Constitution had specified that the President of the Senate (followed by the Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly) would assume the role of Acting Governor and retain their role in the Senate (or Assembly). An Acting Governor would then assume the governorship while retaining the reins of power in their house of the legislature.
^ abOur Legislature, New Jersey Legislature. Accessed January 10, 2018. "Legislative elections are held in November of each odd-numbered year. Members of the Assembly serve two-year terms. Senators serve four-year terms, except for the first term of a new decade, which is only two years. This '2-4-4' cycle allows for elections from new districts as soon as possible after each reapportionment."
^New Jersey ConstitutionArchived June 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, New Jersey Legislature. Accessed January 10, 2018. "Any vacancy in the Legislature occasioned otherwise than by expiration of term shall be filled by election for the unexpired term only at the next general election occurring not less than 51 days after the occurrence of the vacancy, except that no vacancy shall be filled at the general election which immediately precedes the expiration of the term in which the vacancy occurs. For the interim period pending the election and qualification of a successor to fill the vacancy, or for the remainder of the term in the case of a vacancy occurring which cannot be filled pursuant to the terms of this paragraph at a general election, the vacancy shall be filled within 35 days by the members of the county committee of the political party of which the incumbent was the nominee from the municipalities or districts or units thereof which comprise the legislative district. Article IV, Section IV, paragraph 1 amended effective December 8, 1988."
^ abJones, Richard G. "Senator Drops Objections to Corzine Court Nominee", The New York Times, June 20, 2007. Accessed June 20, 2007. "Senator Gill had delayed Mr. Rabner's confirmation hearing by using "senatorial courtesy" -- an obscure practice through which senators who represent the home county of nominees may block consideration of their confirmations."
^ abCarmiel, Oshrat. "Deadline looms for Molinelli's job", The Record (Bergen County), June 20, 2007. Accessed June 20, 2007. "Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli, whose term expired last month, may have to wait until the fall to be considered again for a second term if state Sen. Loretta Weinberg doesn't sign off on his nomination today.... Weinberg is invoking an unwritten practice called senatorial courtesy, which allows state senators to block consideration of gubernatorial nominees from their home counties without explanation. The courtesy tradition, as applied to Molinelli, requires each senator from Bergen County to sign off on his nomination before the Judiciary Committee can consider the nomination."