New Jersey governor signed an executive order that bars landlords from asking tenants about their criminal history

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

  • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy passed legislation that bars landlords from asking prospective tenants about their criminal history.
  • The new law is an attempt to make housing more equitable for people of color.
  • Landlords can only inquire about criminal history if an applicant has met certain parameters, like registration as a sex offender.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday signed an executive order that broadly prohibits landlords from inquiring about a tenant’s criminal history.

Murphy signed the Fair Chance in Housing Act to honor Juneteenth, the holiday that recognizes the end of slavery in the United States.

The bill was designed to make housing more equitable for people who are denied housing based on their criminal history. Scholars and activists for decades have said that the criminal justice system is racist, leading in part to people of color facing a disproportionate risk of getting housing applications denied.

“As we commemorate Juneteenth, we must commit to both remembering the past and continuing to take action to ensure communities of color, especially Black Americans, achieve the full equity they deserve,” Murphy said in a press release.

“Today, I am proud to sign the Fair Chance in Housing Act into law and work to level what has been for too long an uneven playing field when it comes to access to housing,” Murphy said. “I thank the sponsors and advocates for their tireless commitment to making this bill a reality and ensuring that New Jersey is a fairer place to live.”

The legislation bars landlords from asking about a prospective tenant’s criminal history unless they’ve met certain parameters, like having been flagged as a sex offender or convicted for making meth in federally-assisted housing, the text of the Fair Chance in Housing Act says.

Only after a landlord makes a conditional offer to a tenant, the legislation says, can the former run a criminal background check.

The move has been heralded by leaders of civil-rights organizations across New Jersey.

“The Fair Chance in Housing Act will significantly impact Black and brown communities who have been devastated by our broken criminal justice and housing systems for generations,” said Richard T. Smith, NAACP New Jersey State Conference President.

“We thank Governor Murphy for his strong support, and for signing this essential step towards equity into law,” Smith added, according to the press release from the governor’s office.

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New Jersey tried luring Netflix, Disney, and other Hollywood studios after Georgia passed its controversial voting law

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy

  • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy sent a letter to Hollywood studios like Netflix and Disney on Thursday.
  • Murphy wanted to lure studios to the state after backlash to Georgia’s new voting law.
  • Some media companies like ViacomCBS and AT&T have issued statements opposing the controversial bill.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

New Jersey wants to be in business with Hollywood.

The state’s governor, Phil Murphy, sent a letter to major Hollywood studios like Disney, Warner Bros., and Netflix on Thursday in an attempt to lure business away from Georgia after it passed a controversial voting law, according to several outlets that obtained the letter, including The Wall Street Journal and The Hollywood Reporter.

Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, signed the sweeping elections bill into law on March 25, which has been met with backlash from Democrats and civil-rights groups who say it targets Black communities. Among the most controversial aspects of the bill are changes to absentee voting and banning volunteers from delivering food, water, and other items to people waiting in long voting lines.

Murphy wrote that “restricting the right to vote is more than just wrong, it’s un-American” and that the “vast majority” see the law as “an attack on people of color by a Governor and Legislature willing to do anything to stay in power.”

Georgia offers attractive tax incentives that have made it a major Hollywood production hub. Murphy emphasized New Jersey’s 30% tax credit on film projects and a 40% subsidy for any brick-and-mortar studio development, according to THR.

“Our new $14.5 billion economic incentive package makes the Garden State just as competitive as Georgia to attract film and television production businesses,” Murphy wrote. “One thing is clear: when it comes to social policies, corporate responsibility, and – not to be overlooked – economic opportunity, New Jersey is now a top contender for your business.”

Some media companies have issued statements condemning the Georgia law, but have not called for a boycott of the state.

ViacomCBS, the parent company of Paramount Pictures, was the first major media company to speak out: “We unequivocally believe in the importance of all Americans having an equal right to vote and oppose the recent Georgia voting rights law or any effort that impedes the ability to exercise this vital constitutional right.”

Comcast, NBCUniversal’s corporate parent, and AT&T, which owns WarnerMedia, Warner Bros., and Atlanta-based CNN, followed with their own statements.

Comcast said: “Voting is fundamental to our democracy. We believe that all Americans should enjoy equitable access to secure elections and we have long supported and promoted voter education, registration and participation campaigns across the country to achieve that goal. Efforts to limit or impede access to this vital constitutional right for any citizen are not consistent with our values.”

AT&T’s CEO John Stankey said in part: “We believe the right to vote is sacred and we support voting laws that make it easier for more Americans to vote in free, fair and secure elections. We understand that election laws are complicated, not our company’s expertise and ultimately the responsibility of elected officials. But, as a company, we have a responsibility to engage.”

Disney and Netflix have not released statements regarding the Georgia voting law.

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