POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

State’s legal personnel take questions in Senate budget hearings

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has visited all 21 counties to hear about police-community relations.

“I have learned that people have lost faith in their government and faith in public leaders. And I think that’s what prompted us to stand up the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability to restore that faith in government,” he said.

Grewal has initiated or joined 21 lawsuits against the Trump administration. Republican Sen. Steve Oroho asked him about that.

“I take no pleasure in doing it,” Grewal said. “We don’t viscerally react to everything coming out of the federal government. But we ask ourselves two questions. One, is what they’re doing unlawful? And two, does it affect New Jersey? And if we can answer yes to both those questions, then we consider joining or issuing a comment letter.”

Oroho also poked at the sanctuary cities issue. Republicans think state law enforcement sometimes refuses to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

“Civil immigration enforcement, that’s their lane. State law enforcement, we enforce the criminal laws of the state. You can come report crimes to us, you won’t get deported. That’s not out job. That’s their job. We’re not telling them not to do their jobs. They should do their jobs and we’ll do our jobs. And that’s why this whole idea of a sanctuary city or a sanctuary state is so offensive to me. We’re not giving anyone sanctuary to commit crimes,” Grewal said.

Grewal wouldn’t say whether his office is investigating nepotism at the Schools Development Authority. He wouldn’t say where he stands on recreational marijuana. He embraced The Star-Ledger’s data-driven report last year on police use of force, saying one bad cop can poison a relationship.

“Sometimes we take two steps forward and then get dragged backward. We’re working too hard to build trust between law enforcement and community that we just don’t have tolerance for that type of conduct,” he said.

“Data collection systems such as this will allow us to be in a better position to make sure that the highlights The Star-Ledger pointed out, and the great job journalism is supposed to do to inform public policy in a positive way, will allow us not to see repetitiveness of this type of nature,” said Sen. Troy Singleton.

The atmosphere was cordial.

“Sometimes we can disagree on policy, but obviously your professionalism is second to none,” Oroho said. “I really appreciate that.”

After Grewal, the chief administrator of the courts pointed to a budget shortfall in the program that monitors defendants under the new bail reform law.

“What we are proposing is that you take the filing fee revenue, put it into the general fund, and fund this operation like other aspects of state budget,” said Judge Glenn Grant, acting administrative director of New Jersey Courts.

New Jersey’s judiciary has long been highly thought of. Grant used the phrase “good government movement” to describe what he sees going on.