Murphy addresses school security, announces three Cabinet appointments

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Gov. Phil Murphy spoke 45 minutes at a news conference on the issue of school security. He deplored and condemned last week’s shooting at the school in Parkland, Florida. He was backed up by the attorney general, the state police superintendent, the director of Homeland Security and other officials. He assured New Jerseyans that the state is doing everything it can think of to prevent a similar tragedy from happening in a New Jersey school.

“Today we will review current protocol and outline additional steps being taken at the state level to augment the vigilance already being practiced by local law enforcement. Let me be perfectly clear, nothing we are doing here can be a replacement for comprehensive gun safety reform at the federal level, including a ban on military-style weapons, preventing those with mental illness from having access to guns and instituting universal background checks on all gun sales. We cannot pull Congress’ feet away from the fire. There must be action in Washington. Ours is the only nation in the world where these scenes unfold time and again. Enough is enough. And if you don’t want to listen to my plea, then listen to the pleas from students, first and foremost from Marjory Stone Douglas High School, listen to the pleas of the next generation. If Congress doesn’t act, they certainly will,” said Murphy.

Some of the ideas to come out of the press conference were moving community policing into school buildings, creating a regional compact with other states to tighten gun regulations, creating a school safety specialist in every high school, having the principal designate some person to be that.

Earlier Tuesday, the governor was at NJIT in Newark on another mission to announce three new Cabinet appointments, thus filling out the bulk of his cabinet.

All three are women. Murphy has selected Zakiya Smith Ellis out of Washington, D.C. and the Obama administration for secretary of higher education. Former Army Captain Sue Fulton to be chair and chief administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission. And Deirdre Webster Cobb as CEO and chair of the Civil Service Commission. He ventured a belief that his is the most diverse cabinet of any state in the nation and the first one in New Jersey history to have more women than men.

“With these three nominations, all of which as always are subject to Senate confirmation, we are making history. For the first time in New Jersey’s 242 years, the majority of a governor’s Cabinet appointees will be female,” Murphy said. “It has taken us a short 56 governors to get to this point.”

Smith Ellis comes out of the Lumina Foundation in Washington. Fulton identifies with the LGBT community and is a graduate of West Point. Webster Cobb has 3o years in state government, most recently at the Treasury Department.

“I feel confident in saying that New Jersey has the most diverse cabinet of any state in our nation. This is who we are — strong and diverse,” Murphy said.

So Murphy’s two events Tuesday were focused on school shootings and announcing the new Cabinet selections. Wednesday, the governor is expected to sign his first piece of legislation restoring funding to women’s health.