N.J. Legislature sends Christie competing Port Authority reform bill

Ryan Hutchins, Politico New Jersey

TRENTON — Democrats in New Jersey moved forward Thursday with their own plan to reform the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, sending Gov. Chris Christie a measure he is all but certain to veto.

The bill (S708), which passed the General Assembly, 67-0, with six abstentions, is a competing proposal to one that has already passed the New York Legislature and been signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Without an approval in Trenton, though, that proposal cannot take effect.

“Trying to get identical legislation agreed upon and passed in both houses of two separate legislatures is no easy feat, especially legislation that remains true to our intent and tackles our main goals,” Democratic Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, a primary sponsor, said in a statement. “But after a lengthy, multi-year process, I’m confident that we’ve come to an agreement that does just that.”

The Democrats who back measure say it would do a far better job of addressing systemic issues with the notoriously secretive bi-state authority. While much of the legislation mirrors what has been enacted in New York, it also includes several provisions meant to give lawmakers additional oversight. That has been the main sticking point.

The proposal, which had one Republican sponsor in the Assembly, would have to win approval in New York, where lawmakers could pass chapter amendments to reconcile the differences between this bill and the version signed last year. New York Assemblyman James Brennan, a Democrat who sponsored the bill Cuomo signed, is now pushing for the Legislature in Albany to adopt the new proposal.

There was no debate before the New Jersey Assembly voted on the measure, in contrast to the State Senate, where Republicans and Democrats argued at length over the legislation back in February.

Senate Republican leader Tom Kean Jr. is the primary sponsor of the legislation that has already passed in New York. He says he had actually created the legislation originally, but that New York moved on it sooner. He has been unable to get the bill (S355) posted in his chamber, and asys the measure that passed on Thursday will not be approved.

“There is no consensus support for the proposal that New Jersey Democrats are pushing, and it has zero chance of becoming law,” Kean said in a statement before the vote.