Sponsors of bi-state Port Authority reforms will jointly urge governors to sign bills into law

By Steve Strunsky NJ.com

NEW YORK — The New York and New Jersey sponsors of two Port Authority reform bills approved overwhelmingly by both state legislatures have scheduled a joint a press conference Tuesday to urge the governors to sign the measures into law.

Lawmakers from both sides of the Hudson River will gather at New York State legislative offices in lower Manhattan, following approval of the bills by the New Jersey State Assembly on Nov. 13. The Assembly's votes of 74-0 and 74-0 with one abstention made it the last of the four houses of both legislatures to approve the bills, following unanimous approvals by the other three.

In order to take effect, bi-state legislation governing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey must be approved in identical form by both state legislatures, and with the bills now requiring only the governors' signatures, the measures are poised to become what sponsors say would be the first pieces of bi-state legislation enacted since 1991.

Assemblymwoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), the Assembly's prime sponsor, confirmed that she would attend the afternoon gathering in support of the legislation, which she called 'historic." Laurie Wheelock, the counsel to Assemblyman Jim Brennan (D-Brooklyn), a New York sponsor, confirmed that the assemblyman would be on hand. 

The measures are intended to enhance transparency and accountability at the Port Authority in the wake of the September 2013 George Washington Bridge lane closures, which revealed division and dysfunction at the agency, and has prompted ongoing legislative, criminal and civil investigations. 

One of the bills, A3350, would, among other requirements, subject the Port Authority to both states' freedom of information statutes, allowing those who believe their document request was wrongly denied to sue the agency under either state law.

The other, A3417, contains provisions including mandatory annual reports by the agency to both states' legislatures, and whistleblower provisions requiring employees to report impropriety to revamped Port Authority inspector general’s office, with protections against what they believe to be impropriety.

Christie and Cuomo share control of the Port Authority through their power to appoint commissioners and veto their actions. Neither has said whether he plans to sign the measures. 

Christie ordinarily would have 45 days from the Assembly approval date, or until Dec. 28, to veto or sign the measures before they automatically became law, Huttle said. However, in this case he has until early January, when the state Senate has its first quorum following the holiday recess, Huttle said.  

In New York, Cuomo has ten days to sign the bill after it is delivered to his desk, which hasn't happened yet, said Wheetlock. But it will soon, she added, because if the year ends and the bill has not been signed, vetoed or become law by default, the measures expire and must be approved by New York lawmakers all over again. 

Steve Strunsky may be reached at sstrunsky@njadvancemedia.com. Follow hin on Twitter @SteveStrunsky. Find NJ.com on Facebook.