In Trenton, Lawmakers Get Back to Work, Waiting for the Governor to (Perhaps) Return

By David Cruz

There was a certain casuality in Trenton today. Starting times for committee meetings seemed to be merely suggestions as lawmakers shot the breeze with colleagues like it was the first day of spring semester. This is how it is when the self-proclaimed adult in the room is out of town, on his own independent study. Sitting in on the various committee proceedings today? Senate President Steve Sweeney, hoping to promote an agenda, knowing full well that the executive branch partner he needs to get anything done, is simply not around.

“You know we’re hoping to get a lot of things that we think are going to get the state moving forward,” said Sweeney. “I say this on a regular basis. You can’t starve the state back to fiscal health. You need to make the investments. Even with the limited dollars you have, you need to put them in places that are going to give you the biggest bang for your buck, and that’s what we’re hoping to do this year.”

The Democrats are focusing on poverty — today committee meetings on poverty assistance and homelessness — but are also promising to revisit their key issues, like gun safety, with Sen. Loretta Weinberg promising to re-introduce the smart gun bill that got a pocket veto from the governor.

“We’re back again,” insisted Weinberg. “All this bill does is roll back a gun regulation. It takes away the mandate that when this technology is available, it would be the only kind of gun one could buy In New Jersey. We’re rolling that back, very simply to say the retailer must offer one for sale.”

Which would almost certainly draw another veto from the governor. What’s the old saying about the definition of insanity?

“We are doing the best we can,” added Weinberg.

Asked if the Legislature was now acting as the adult in the room, she responded, “I’ve always felt I was the adult in the room. It didn’t take this to do that but I might be biased about that. But I think with our Senate president, we have really stepped into a breach in terms of government.”

So, is the Legislature just collectively waiting to see what happens with the presidential race?

“I think there is an element of that,” said Sen. Linda Greenstein. “That all of us are in a waiting mode. But, we’re all taking the steps that we think are right. We can’t sit back and decide, is he going to pass something, or not pass something. We’re just putting forth what we want to do. What we think is right and the chips will fall wherever they fall.”

Which is generally on the big desk in this office, which, as we mentioned, sits mostly unoccupied these days, save for an occasional fly in, like the quick visit this past weekend for blizzard patrol or the even briefer visit Tuesday to announce a deal on Atlantic City. In the meantime, it’s lawmakers over here and bill signer over there.

“They can do that for a while but sooner or later, you have to get down to brass tacks when things have to get done and sooner or later, they will get done,” said Sen. Sam Thompson. “[The calendar] will force people to get things done. There’ll be no choice.”

So, if you’re waiting for solutions on the Transportation Trust Fund or gun control or jobs or pretty much any major issues, you may find yourself waiting well until after all this winter’s snow is finally gone.