New Jersey lawmakers plan new Port Authority overhaul

By MICHAEL CATALINI

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A new bill to overhaul the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey could be coming soon, New Jersey lawmakers said Wednesday, the latest development after the failed March effort to override Gov. Chris Christie's veto of a bill passed unanimously in both states' legislatures.

The proposal includes many of the original provisions, including a four-year capital plan, protections for whistleblowers and a requirement for board members to disclose conflicts of interest, Democratic state senators Bob Gordon and Loretta Weinberg and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle said.

Lawmakers have linked the overhaul to the 2013 closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge - sometimes called Bridgegate - arguing the controversy shows why the authority needs to be reformed.

"The Port Authority needs major systemic reforms that will put an end to the problems that led to the Bridgegate scandal and the secret machinations behind the massive 2011 toll hikes," Gordon said in a statement.

Senate Democratic spokesman Mark Magyar says it's unclear when the legislation will be formally introduced but said passage could come by the end of June. The lawmakers say they're open to further changes.

Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts declined to comment. The governor does not usually comment on bills before they reach his desk.

Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed identical bills in December and instead recommended suggestions from a joint commission. New Jersey Senate Democrats mounted a veto override effort earlier this year, but Senate Republicans, who offered their own bill, have never rebuffed Christie and did not side with Democrats on the overhaul either.

The New Jersey lawmakers say they are including some of proposals from Christie and Cuomo's panel, like ending funds the governors can tap for special projects.

Efforts to pass similar legislation in New York are stalled, but New Jersey lawmakers say they're working with Brooklyn Assemblyman James Brennan.

Changes to the Port Authority require identical legislation to be enacted in both states.

The agency oversees the region's bridges, airports, marine terminals and rail tunnels and has an operating budget of $2.9 billion.