From 1991 to 2002, Lance served in the General Assembly. He was Vice Chairman from 1996-2000 of the Appropriations Committee when it handled the state budget. While he was Appropriations Committee Chairman (2000-2002), the committee oversaw state finances, taxation and spending on individual legislation.
In 2002, he was elected to the New Jersey Senate, serving as Minority Leader from 2004—2007. While in the Senate, he also served on the Joint Budget Oversight Committee, the Legislative Services Commission, and the Budget and Appropriations Committee where he served as Ranking Minority Member. He also was as the Republican Senate Caucus' chief point person on budget and finance issues. In 2007 he was removed as Republican Leader for not being "politically tough enough."
The Highlands Act
In 2004 State Senator Lance cast his vote in favor of passing the “Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act,” ostensibly for the purpose of protecting clean drinking water and preserving open space and empowered the NJ Department of Environmental Protection - an agency notorious for its onerous, anti-business regulation and opposition to development of any kind - to enforce the act. Unfortunately, the legislation had the practical effect of severely restricting and in many cases, prohibiting property owners in Hunterdon, Morris and Warren counties from developing their own land.
The “Lance Amendment”
Leonard Lance brags about being the author of an amendment to the state constitution that prohibits state borrowing without voter approval. However, Since 1844, the New Jersey Constitution prohibited borrowing without voter approval. Unfortunately, the state legislature ignores it and the state Supreme Court does nothing to stop them if they are challenged.
In 2007, Lance issued a press release attacking Gov. Corzine for his attempt to borrow $2.5 billion without voter approval. Unfortunately for Lance, it was his own debt legislation (SCR-39) that included a loophole permitting the borrowing.
New Jersey Supreme Court Justices
It’s worth noting that while a State Senator, Leonard Lance voted to re-confirm for lifetime tenure three of the justices who ruled in favor of borrowing without voter approval: Deborah Poritz, Virginia Long and Jaynee La Vecchia. Prior to Lance’s vote to reconfirm them, these same justices rendered several bad decisions:
When asked to justify voting to re-confirm for life an activist and liberal justice, Lance responded, "Debbie is an old friend." Apparently, author Bob Ingle hit the proverbial nail on the head when he noted that when it comes to Leonard Lance, "cronyism trumps principle."