Lawmakers to push for override of Christie veto of Port Authority reforms

BY DUSTIN RACIOPPI Bergen Record

State Sen. Robert Gordon said Tuesday that the New Jersey Legislature will mount an effort to override the veto by Governor Christie of legislation that would have put in place a broad set of ethical, financial and administrative reforms at the Port Authority.

Gordon, D-Fair Lawn, a primary sponsor of the bill, said he has spoken with Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who has agreed to move ahead on a vote.

“I told him I wanted to do an override. He said that's fine,” Gordon said in an interview Tuesday morning.

A spokesman in Sweeney’s office confirmed that he supports attempting an override but did not have any details on when that might take place.

Gordon said he also has spoken with New York Assemblyman James Brennan, who wants to reintroduce the identical bill, which was vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, next year. Since New York’s legislative session ends Wednesday, there is no time for an override vote in that state so lawmakers there would have to go through the process of passing the bill again. New York officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning.

Since the Port Authority is a bistate agency, the legislation would have to be passed in both states before it could take effect.

Overriding the veto in New Jersey would be a challenge. The legislature has not overridden a Christie veto in his five years as governor and an override would require a two-thirds majority in both houses, rather than a simple majority.

That means 27 votes in the Senate and 54 in the Assembly.

There are 24 Democrats in the Senate, so three Republican votes would be needed. Although the bills passed both houses unanimously, several Republican senators have said they approve of the recommendations proposed on Saturday by a panel appointed by Christie and Cuomo.

“I will certainly be reaching out to my Republican colleagues to find three votes,” Gordon said.

Gordon said he feels the vote is an important move for both legislatures to fight for reforms they worked hard to craft and should be implemented at the Port Authority. The panel's recommendations, he said, are commendable but would not be bound by law, a major sticking point for legislators.

“What the governor was doing, I think, was decorative. He was in effect stopping the effort to give the agency up for scrutiny, but proposing different reforms, which were not mutually exclusive, so he could look like the great reformer,” Gordon said.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, said she supports voting to override the veto but also said she is “fully prepared” to endorse many of the reforms proposed by the two governors. She described them as separate sets of reforms, and said the legislative measures should be used as a starting point to overhaul the agency.

“They are two entirely different ideas and laws and they should be complementary to each other,” said Weinberg, the Senate majority leader who is co-chairing the legislative committee investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closures, which prompted the intense scrutiny of the agency a year ago. “I agree with this approach.”

And Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood, said she is “absolutely” supportive of an override vote in the Assembly.

“We've heard the peoples' voices. It's been thwarted by the governors. I think it is in the best interest of both states that we move forward on these reforms,” said Huttle, a primary sponsor of the Assembly bill.

Email: racioppi@northjersey.com