TRENTON — On Monday, New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald introduced legislation to provide a $5-million supplemental appropriation to fund the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium.
The consortium bill passed the state legislature earlier this year and was signed by Gov. Phil Murphy. The law creates a first-of-its-kind nonprofit with the mission of reviving, strengthening and transforming local media in New Jersey.
While the state’s FY 2019 budget set aside $5 million for the bill, the Murphy administration now says the earmarked funds are not available to support the nonprofit consortium. Weinberg and Greenwald’s new legislation (S-2987 and A-4456, respectively) fixes this oversight and provides the consortium with the money it needs to launch.
“Signing that bill was, as they say, a no-brainer,” Gov. Murphy said during a call-in show on WBGO-FM on Monday evening. "We are committed to try to figure out not just to establish this in law … but also to put resources behind it that allow it to do the work it’s intended to."
When funded, the Civic Information Consortium will invest in projects designed to revitalize local news, community information, civic engagement and technology across the state. Free Press Action Fund developed the legislation by drawing on more than two years of community input, including ways to ensure the consortium responds to the needs of New Jersey residents and protects the independence of the journalism it funds.
Mike Rispoli, director of Free Press Action Fund’s News Voices project, made the following statement:
“This legislation fulfills New Jersey’s commitment to fund the consortium and should be passed by the state legislature as soon as possible. Murphy signed into law an ambitious project that will change how New Jersey residents are informed and engaged. If fully funded, the consortium will serve as a model for other states to follow, supporting a 21st-century public-interest media system rooted in local communities.
“New Jerseyans came out by the thousands to support this new concept for local journalism and civic engagement. Now that it’s the law, the governor and the legislature must pass this supplemental appropriation and provide the funding required to make the consortium a reality.”