Senator Turner is serving her fourth term in the New Jersey Senate. Prior to serving in the Senate, Shirley served two terms in the Assembly in 1993 and 1995. During the 208th Legislature, Senator Turner became the first woman and first African-American to be elected as Senate President Pro Tempore. She is a member of the Senate Education Committee and a member of the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee. In addition to her official committee assignments, Senator Turner also serves as a member of several boards, organizations, and associations. Among her affiliations, she serves on the Task Force on Child
Abuse and Neglect, the State Council for Adult Literacy Education Services, the
Cancer Institute of New Jersey Leadership Council, the State Museum Board of Trustees, and the Coretta Scott King Humanitarian Group. Senator Turner is also the founding member of the Women’s Legislative Caucus and a member of the Legislative Black Caucus. Recently, she was appointed as a Commissioner for the Education Commission of the States, a national, nonpartisan interstate compact devoted to education.
Senator Turner has built a reputation as the conscience of the Senate whose independent voice and
sense of duty and integrity places human needs above partisanship and politics. She has worked in a
bipartisan fashion to build a significant record of legislative accomplishments, working to enhance the
health, safety, and well-being of New Jersey’s children, strengthen families, promote public health,
develop and support small businesses, and also fostering economic production and job growth. The
breadth of legislation she has sponsored reflects the needs and interests of her diverse district, which
includes Ewing, Hopewell, Lawrence, Pennington, Princeton, and Trenton.
Among Senator Turner’s legislative accomplishments, she has created laws to require that the health and
safety of a child be the State’s paramount concern in cases where a child is placed outside the home;
require criminal history checks of child care center employees, and school employees and volunteers;
establish procedures for the placement of a minor child whose caretaker is incarcerated; enhance school
bus safety; provide more scholarship opportunities, including allowing students to attend two-year and four-
year state colleges at no cost; establish nutrition standards and eye exams for students; and promote
mentoring and after-school programs for at-risk youth. Senator Turner has been critical of the State’s
practice of placing at-risk children out-of-state and away from the support of their families. As Chair of the Senate Education Committee, Senator Turner has overseen legislation which has improved education for children in primary and secondary schools and helped to keep New Jersey’s schools among the highest
performing in the nation. She has recently worked to expand school choice by permanently establishing
such a program in the Department of Education.
Senator Turner received national acclaim for her efforts to protect jobs by preventing publicly-funded jobs
from being outsourced to foreign countries, setting the precedent for 21 other states that followed Senator
Turner’s lead. She has also established laws to provide MicroCredit Business loans for women; mandate
insurance coverage of minimum hospital stays for mastectomies and child birth; and protect consumers
from identity theft, predatory lending, and telemarketing calls. She also pioneered the legislation that
eventually established bars and restaurants as smoke-free. Senator Turner has also worked to create
increased opportunities for affordable housing and homeownership.
Senator Turner was in the forefront of legislation to abolish the death penalty and worked to create drug
court programs statewide for first-time, non-violent offenders. She has fought to reduce gun and gang
crimes and violence by establishing zero tolerance for illegal weapons and ammunition sales and
transfers. She has fought to reform unfair and unaffordable motor vehicle surcharge laws, with a goal of
restoring drivers’ licenses and removing the barrier to employment. Senator Turner has been a strong
voice for government reform. She was the prime sponsor of the legislation that created the clean
elections pilot programs and has been active in her support for other ethics and election reforms. Her
voting record consistently reflects her efforts to reduce patronage and promote efficiency in government
spending. She is continuing the fight to help reform New Jersey’s regressive property tax system and to
promote and encourage consolidation of school districts and municipalities.
As a career educator, Senator Turner has been dedicated to New Jersey’s youth, helping them to build
bright futures. She is a former Trenton public school teacher, a former EOF counselor to disadvantaged
youth who are first-generation college students, and a former counselor for the New Jersey Youth Corps to
help prepare youth for employment. She currently works at Rider University where she is an Associate
Director of Career Services advising college students and alumni in their career plans. She received a B.
S. in education from The College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State College) and a M.A. in guidance
and counseling from Rider University. She earned doctoral credits in education at Rutgers University.
Senator Turner is a former Mercer County Freeholder and Freeholder vice president. She and her
husband Donald have two children, daughter, Jacqueline and son-in-law Gregory and son, Chet and
daughter-in-law Tonia. They have five grandchildren, DeRon, Briana, Bryson, Faith, and Chandler.