POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

NJ lawmakers vote on a raft of bills in final session

BY Briana Vannozzi, Correspondent |

Even with roughly 250 bills to get through, yet another snow storm to compete with, and the weight of a former Governor’s death hanging over the State House, lawmakers seemed ever-ready for today’s final push.

“We’re hoping the bills that go through today will come to fruition by the governor signing them,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle.

Both the Senate and Assembly met for the final time of this legislative calendar. They were drumming up support for measures that require New Jersey to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement, another to dissolve the Waterfront Commission of the New York Harbor and one to ban the sale of so-called bump stocks — the device used by the Las Vegas gunman that turned his weapon into a machine gun.

Meanwhile, Gov. Chris Christie signed 40 other bills into law, including several that add protections for domestic violence victims and expand civil rights for nursing moms.

Lawmakers tried one final time to prevent a bill that will subsidize Amazon’s headquarters to the tune of $5 billion should it decide to locate here.

“We don’t have a workable system in place to hold recipients of our tax credits, these tax credits that the EDA hands out, accountable,” said Assemblyman Jay Webber.

But that went nowhere fast.

“Mr. Speaker, Assembly bill 5340 has received 61 votes in the affirmative, 10 in the negative and 0 abstentions,” Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver said.

A rushed vote on a bill to create a pension loophole for former Camden Mayor Dana Redd initially failed to get enough support and raised a few eyebrows. It’s intended to allow elected officials, like Redd who is also a former state senator, to reenter the public pension system after jumping to a different public office. The bill was re-posted for full consideration later in the evening and gained approval by a single vote.

But today’s session was also notable for the seats that will change come Tuesday. Several longtime lawmakers were honored for their work, and said their goodbyes.

“Loved serving under you and your leadership on transportation and the independent authorities and your voice will indeed be missed in this chamber,” said Sheila Oliver.

“There are points in time where things like this are said about you. One is at your funeral and the other is when you leave the Assembly,” Assemblyman John Wisniewski said. “But, I want to thank my colleagues for all of the kind words and thoughts.”

“This is not a goodbye,” Sen. Ray Lesniak said.

So it seems the torch is ready to be passed, though many are watching to see how the Senate handles the reorganization. And if any surprise changes will be made to chairmanships, that may help draw a line between the North and South Jersey stronghold on both chambers.