Third Legislative District
Senate President Steve Sweeney represents the Third Legislative District, which includes portions of Gloucester and Cumberland counties and all of Salem County.
Steve Sweeney entered public service after his daughter was born with Down syndrome. He was horrified at the manner in which individuals with disabilities were treated and set out to make a difference not just in his daughter’s life, but in lives of those in his community. In Gloucester County, he helped build schools that catered to special needs children, and established parks that allowed children with disabilities to play sports. As senator, he sponsored laws that removed references to “retardation” in state statutes and created a statewide registry of offenders who abused individuals with developmental disabilities.
He served on the Gloucester County Board of Chosen Freeholders from 1997 to 2010 and was Freeholder Director from 1998 until 2010. During that time, he helped county taxpayers save $30 million through shared services.
First elected to the New Jersey Senate in 2001, Senator Sweeney has been reelected three times. He was chosen by the Democratic Majority to lead the Senate in the 214th Legislature in 2009, and took the oath as Senate President on January 12, 2010.
An ironworker by trade, Senator Sweeney has taken the lessons he has learned from years of working atop buildings and bridges and used them to advocate on behalf of organized labor and the rights of workers. He has sponsored laws to raise New Jersey’s minimum wage and, having known himself what it is like to have to collect unemployment benefits, has advocated for legislation that would protect these funds so that they are there for those who need them. When his daughter was born, Senator Sweeney spent nearly two months with her in the hospital, an experience that helped him craft and create New Jersey’s Paid Family Leave program. In 2010, Senator Sweeney helped design and pass thirty bills, known collectively as “Back to Work NJ,” that aimed to help create jobs and economic growth in New Jersey. Continuing to fight for New Jersey’s middle class working families, in 2012 Senator Sweeney introduced the “New Jobs for New Jersey Act,” which would provide incentives to small businesses that hire those who have been out of work for thirty or more days. Senator Sweeney also has sponsored numerous laws to strengthen the ability of law enforcement to protect children from sex offenders and protect the families of police officers, firefighters and emergency services personnel killed in the line of duty.
As Senate President, he has taken a leading role in promoting property tax relief and refocusing the state’s fiscal priorities. In 2011, Senator Sweeney proposed sweeping reforms to the public employee pension and health benefits systems that will save taxpayers over $120 billion over a 30 year period and will save the pensions of hundreds of thousands of public employees. The reforms have been hailed as a national model for other states. Senator Sweeney was also instrumental in crafting the state’s new two-percent property tax cap, as well as reform of the arbitration procedures for police and fire contract disputes. In 2011, Senator Sweeney was named as a “Politician Who’s Ahead of the Curve” by Philadelphia Magazine for his continued support of shared services between local government units.
In 2012, Senator Sweeney sponsored legislation that would establish marriage equality for all New Jersey residents.
The Senate President sponsored a law that expands the development of offshore wind energy, making New Jersey a leader in the development of this alternative energy source and paving the way for the state to become the nation’s wind-energy manufacturing hub. Previously, he led the fight to ban the hazardous gasoline additive MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) which has been proven to contaminate ground water and private wells. Senator Sweeney also is a strong supporter of farmland and open space preservation, and has worked to deliver funding for communities throughout New Jersey to protect pristine land from development.
Senator Sweeney is active in a variety of local organizations and has received numerous accolades from business leaders, volunteer organizations, labor advocates, environmentalists and other organizations from around New Jersey, including the 2009 Partners in Advocacy Award from the Arc of New Jersey and the 2009 Legislative Excellence Award from the New Jersey Council of County Colleges. In April 2010, Senator Sweeney was honored by the New Jersey Travel Industry Association with their Friend of Tourism Award. In 2011, Senator Sweeney was honored as a Legislator of the Year by several organizations, including the New Jersey Conference of Mayors, NJ Veterans of Foreign Wars, New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, and the Constitutional Officers Association of New Jersey. Senator Sweeney was also honored in 2011 by the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Construction Managers Association of America (CMAA), as well as the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. In December 2011, Senator Sweeney was presented with the “Paul L. Troast Public Service Award” by the NJ Business and Industry Association for his efforts to help spur economic growth and job creation in New Jersey. In 2012, he was awarded the “Humanitarian Award” by the Boys and Girls Clubs of New Jersey, and was also honored by Integrity House, an organization that works to provide treatment for addiction and recovery support. On March 18, 2013, he received the 2013 Robert B. Meyner Award from the New Jersey State Bar Association.
Senator Sweeney was born on June 11, 1959 in Camden and is a graduate of Pennsauken High School. He is currently the General Organizer for the International Association of Ironworkers.
Senator Sweeney and his wife, Patti, were married in 1986. They live in West Deptford with their two children, Stephen and Lauren.