New Jersey Law

Central Railway Terminal in Liberty State Park

Donald T. DiFrancesco

Download PDF
(908) 757-7800 ext. 125


Barbara Carlson

Donald DiFrancesco was the 51st Governor of New Jersey and a long-time member of the State Senate. Don served the citizens of New Jersey with distinction for more than 25 years.

Governor DiFrancesco’s career in public service began with his election to the New Jersey General Assembly in 1975 when he was just over 30 years old. He was re-elected in 1977 and served on the Assembly Institutions, Health and Welfare Committee as well as on the Banking and Insurance Committee. He was Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee on Ethical Standards.

In a special election in 1979, he was elected to the New Jersey State Senate, to which he was re-elected six times, representing the 22nd Legislative District. He served as Minority Leader from 1982 to 1984. In 1992, he was chosen to serve as President of the Senate, and set a record for serving in that role for a decade. As Senate President, Governor DiFrancesco sponsored the constitutional amendment prohibiting unfunded State mandates, the 2000 law that renewed the Transportation Trust Fund, and the 1999 Bond Act that led to the establishment of the Garden State Preservation Trust Fund, a $98 million initiative to preserve open space, farmlands and historic properties.

As Senate President, Governor DiFrancesco served as Acting Governor (as mandated under New Jersey’s constitution at that time) at least once a year while Governors Florio and Whitman travelled out of state. In 2001, when Governor Whitman resigned to become Administrator of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, Governor DiFrancesco became the first New Jersey legislator since the amendment to the 1947 State Constitution to serve in the dual role of Governor and Senate President. He served with distinction, providing New Jersey with outstanding leadership, particularly during the difficult period following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Governor DiFrancesco’s legacy of leadership relating to health care, children and families is evidenced in the success of the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund, which has provided more than $100 million in grants to over 4,000 families whose insurance and income cannot meet the medical bills for children with major illnesses. He was also the prime sponsor of the Family Leave Act in New Jersey, the first of its kind in the United States. As Acting Governor, he also unveiled the $53 million “KIDSNEEDS ACTION PLAN,” which supported a range of initiatives for children from infancy to adolescence.

A strong advocate for higher education throughout his career in public service, Governor DiFrancesco’s efforts led to a vastly improved technology infrastructure, as well as key additions to and improvements in the capital facilities at New Jersey’s higher education institutions. He also sponsored legislation to establish the New Jersey Better Educational Savings Trust, a state-managed program designed to encourage saving for college. Governor DiFrancesco is a frequent lecturer at public schools and universities. There, he shares his years of experience in state government and keen insight into the political process, providing students with an invaluable perspective on public service in the modern era.

He currently serves on the Boards of Directors of the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, The Tri-County Chapter of the American Red Cross, University Hospital and Children’s Specialized Hospital of Mountainside, as well as Crime Stoppers of Somerset County, an organization dedicated to promoting safer communities through a partnership with law enforcement, media and local residents. Governor DiFrancesco previously served on the Board of Directors of Commerce Bancorp for several years.

Governor DiFrancesco was conferred an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree by Rutgers. He also holds honorary degrees from Kean University and Centenary College.

Practice Areas


  • Pennsylvania State University, B.S., 1966


  • Seton Hall University School of Law, J.D., 1969


  • New Jersey, 1969