By Dari Kotzker
This past year saw some significant bills signed into law and a fair share of vetoes. Legislators worked in a bipartisan manner on many of these groundbreaking initiatives but partisan votes made for some lively debates. The four legislative leaders agreed that one of their proudest moments was when the governor signed a bill merging Rutgers and UMDNJ .
“I certainly think the highpoint was higher education restructuring and the associated bond referendum, those were extraordinarily important for the future of of the state of New Jersey, both from a jobs perspective and affordability of higher education, making sure New Jersey is a strategic leader not only in the region but around the globe in both job creation and higher education achievement,” said Sen. Tom Kean, Jr. (R-21).
Assembly speaker Sheila Oliver said a priority for her and Senate President Steve Sweeney was the minimum wage bill and constitutional amendment, both passed in the Senate and Assembly and now are on the governor’s desk.
“Many businesses have lamented that “it’s sticker shock” for them to pay another $1.25, but when I look at the work done by low wage workers, they are really helping business to earn their bottom line,” said Oliver. “We introduced another bill whish is out as Plan B, if we cannot reach a reasonable consensus around enactment of a minimum wage increase, we are going to put the question on the ballot for voters.”
But there’s another issue that remains high on Sen. Sweeney’s agenda.
“For me, honestly, marriage equality was a priority for me,” he said. “We made it S-1 for a reason, it’s civil rights, and the fact that when we first put it up a couple of years ago, it only garnered 14 votes. This time it was 24, it passed both houses and got to the governor’s desk. So that’s a priority and we’re going to work to override his veto on that.”
And there were other highlights. Assemblyman Jon Bramnick said “There’s no question there were historic bipartisan pieces of legislation that the governor signed in, whoever thought we could have teacher tenure reform in the state, whoever thought we could cap property taxes, and who thought we could deal with pension that were going to either could bankrupt the state ot simply fall apart years from now.”
Hurricane Sandy was hands down the biggest event of the year, and strongly affected the legislature. With a series of public hearings and an influx of new legislation, both parties plan to work together in a bipartisan manner to help the people of New Jersey.
“We have to work in a bipartisan way to find real solutions to what they call harden the infrastructure, make sure the utilities are held accountable, make sure the infrastructure is strengthened going forward,” said Kean.
“Storms like this aren’t Republican or Democratic, and the last thing the public needs to see is both sides fighting over political issues rather than worrying about the taxpayer, the person that has been impacted the most,” said Sweeney.