By Brenda Flanagan
When the road to reforming the Port Authority took a sharp political detour late Saturday night, it left Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi almost speechless.
“I was quite shocked and surprised and disappointed,” she said.
Republican Schepisi co-sponsored — spent months fine-tuning — the package of bills vetoed by her fellow Republican, Chris Christie.
“Some people moved heaven and earth on both sides of the the party to actually move forward, and if there were issues with it, if there were problems with it, somebody should have said, ‘You know what guys, let’s work together.’ So I think from a communications perspective, there was breakdown everywhere,” she said.
Not that the surprise vetoes targeted any particular party, she says.
“It wasn’t a partisan thing. Nobody can claim, ‘OK, because I’m a Democrat I didn’t know,’ or ‘I’m a Republican, so I knew.’ I think it took everybody by surprise,” said Schepisi.
“I think it’s not surprising that Gov. Christie would take charge of the issue and really take control, as it’s his leadership style, to really reform the agency,” said Republican Political Strategist Jeanette Hoffman.
Hoffman says Christie’s move to supersede the Legislature without even asking for input sends a message.
“Gov. Christie’s a strong leader, so he’s not gonna nibble around the edges of reform. He’s gonna take charge. He’s gonna take control of the issue of reforming the Port Authority,” she said.
“I think that that opens him up to criticism, for not being transparent perhaps in his attempt to reform the Authority,” said PublicMind Pollster Krista Jenkins.
Jenkins says Christie’s got a lot riding on these Port Authority reforms. After the Bridgegate scandal uncovered apparent dysfunctional operations and political machinations at the bi-state agency, it remains under federal investigation and political repercussions could still be damaging for both Christie and Gov. Andrew Cuomo — both men with big ambitions. In fact, the two met privately at a Carlstadt restaurant four days before the vetoes.
“I believe it’s in their interest to act in tandem. And again, they’re both chief executives and I think it’s both in their interest for claiming the mantle of reform rather than ceding the control of it to their legislatures,” Jenkins said.
Meanwhile, across the aisle, Democrats fumed at first.
“I thought it was a slam dunk, but I guess there were different thoughts,” said Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.
Prieto says New York’s Legislature term expires in a couple days. So a New Jersey override?
“I think that may just be a futile effort, so I don’t know yet what our plans are gonna be for moving on,” he said.
Reactions from pols and pundits keep on coming, but not from Christie, he had no public schedule today. Speaker Prieto says politicians on both sides of the river will plan to navigate a new path forward.