Judiciary Committee unanimously approves three Murphy Cabinet appointees

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Gov. Phil Murphy has made much of his majority-woman Cabinet. Monday, three of those women were approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

First up was Christine Norbut Beyer, Murphy’s choice to lead the Department of Children and Families. That’s the agency that focuses on child abuse and neglect in New Jersey. Beyer comes to it from a senior position at the nationally known Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“My previous six years at Casey Family Programs, the largest national foundation in the country focused solely on child welfare, has equipped me with the knowledge and understanding of the most pressing and relevant issues facing child welfare today,” Norbut Beyer said.

She once ran DYFS, the old Division of Youth and Family Services, which would later become the Department of Children and Families. She promised senators a 21st century child welfare system.

Republican Sen. Gerald Cardinale asked if regulations on her department were undermining its work.

“Right now, there are not any regulations, or federal regulations, that I think prohibit the work of the department, that prohibit youth and families from getting the services that they need,” said Norbut Beyer.

Next up was Catherine McCabe, Murphy’s pick to run the Department of Environmental Protection. She said New Jersey’s DEP has a national reputation for excellence and she ticked off Murphy’s priorities: climate change, clean energy, offshore wind and zero emission vehicles.

“I am eager to support these and the governor’s other initiatives and to bring to New Jersey the training and the expertise that I have built up over a long career dedicated to environmental protection. My passion for environmental protection has been life long. It began with a love of nature,” McCabe said.

McCabe was an environmental lawyer at the Justice Department for 20 years and later Deputy Regional Administrator of the U.S. EPA in New York. Her guiding principals, she said, would be adherence to the law and to science. She promised the senators a balanced approach.

They asked her about such things as air pollution in low-income neighborhoods, prescription drugs in the water supply and the slowness of the permitting process.

“I hope to have a dashboard put up so that I will be able to see where the various permits are in the various processes so that we can have an overview, a quick dashboard type overview, of how fast we’re able to move permits,” McCabe said.

Environmentalists support her nomination.

“What we see in Commissioner McCabe is someone who will help straighten out the department and help it move forward again and heal some of the damage that’s been done there,” said Jeff Tittel, state director for the NJ Sierra Club.

“She knows her stuff and I think she’s going to be one of our great commissioners,” Sen. Bob Smith said.

Murphy’s nominee to be Commissioner of Transportation, Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, was also approved unanimously by the committee.