By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
Dozens of animal rights activists filled the Statehouse hoping for an override of a Gov. Chris Christie veto. At issue, a ban on putting pregnant pigs into gestation cages where they can’t move.
“Currently in New Jersey it is legal to confine a pig in a space when they can’t even turn around for her entire life. Sen. [Ray] Lesniak’s bill would simply allow them to do that,” Matthew Dominguez said.
“They can’t roll over, they can’t stand up, they can’t turn around,” Lesniak said.
Nine other states have banned the practice. Some believe Christie vetoed it with an eye on the pork industry and the Iowa primary. And some expected Republicans to exercise some of the new-found independence they displayed 10 days ago in pushing back Christie’s choice to be their leader. But the override needed 27 votes and got only 25. Sponsor Lesniak said he’ll try again.
“At the request of the sponsor, we’re going to hold the bill,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.
Earlier, the Senate unanimously confirmed Judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina to be the next associate justice on the State Supreme Court. Sen. Lesniak complained Fernandez-Vina had not been responsive at his confirmation hearing. Sen. Kevin O’Toole disagreed.
“We heard his testimony. We voted 13-0. But I think it’s a disservice to him today to get on the floor and put an asterisk next to his name,” said O’Toole.
There is no asterisk, Lesniak assured him and even he joined the unanimous vote.
Two college tuition bills also topped today’s agenda. The Assembly Higher Education Committee moved a bill to study the idea of having the state pay a college student’s tuition and let the student pay it back gradually.
“We call it pay-forward, pay-back. It’s based on a model in Oregon that’s been going through their legislative process also,” said Asw. Celeste Riley.
And the Senate passed the DREAM Act, which would allow the children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at New Jersey public colleges and universities. Democrats argued that the affected population eats American food at school, plays American sports and starts the day with the Pledge of Allegiance.
“They’re American. They’re as American in their heart as you and I,” said Sen. Jim Whelan.
“Education is the great equalizer, and we’re gonna deny somebody because their parents brought them here? They didn’t have a say” asked Sweeney.
The lone Republican to rise offered an argument against.
“There are not enough slots in our public four-year colleges for every New Jersey student who wishes to go, period,” said Sen. Robert Singer.
The DREAM Act passed 25-12 and now goes to the Assembly.