TRENTON – New Jersey’s Democrat-controlled Legislature led another failed attempt at successfully overriding a Gov. Chris Christie veto Thursday.
The majority party was unsuccessful in garnering a two-thirds majority in the Senate to override the governor’s veto of legislation mandating increased transparency at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The override attempt failed following a 22-15 vote. Democrats needed 27 votes to pass the override.
“This veto is nothing less than a hoax on hard-working, middle-class commuters,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bob Gordon (D-38), speaking of Christie’s veto message.
“He gutted the legislation to stifle any attempt at transparency at the Port Authority at a time when toll payers need it most,” he said. “He has foisted a sham veto upon the Legislature. He has responded with language that attempts to divert our attention from the issue before us. He knows that any attempt to reform the Port Authority requires an identical bill to be enacted by the New York Legislature. He knows that the language he proposed will derail the effort.”
The proposed PANYNJ Transparency and Accountability Act, S1761, was conditionally vetoed by Christie in July after the upper chamber moved it off the floor following a 29-0 vote in support of the measure.
Five Republican lawmakers – Sens. Diane Allen (R-7), Jennifer Beck (R-11), Tom Kean Jr. (R-21), Michael Doherty (R-23) and Sean Connors, (R-9) – supported the measure when the Senate took a vote on the bill in March.
Kean, speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, urged lawmakers to support the governor’s language and proposed adding an amendment to the bill to include the governor’s language, arguing lawmakers should “use this opportunity to expand” the oversight to other state authorities.
Kean’s request for an amendment was promptly tabled.
In his veto message, Christie recommended that the bill be amended to incorporate “Shadow Government Reform to provide the tools necessary to ensure the accountability of other multi-jurisdictional and regional authorities throughout the state, including the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, and the Passaic Valley Water Commission.”
Among other things the legislation proposed, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey commissioners would be required to provide direct oversight of the authority’s chief executive and senior management; oversee the implementation of financial and management controls and operational decisions; and establish policies concerning the compensation of officers and employees.
Responding to comments made by Senate lawmakers during the override vote, a Christie spokesman said Democrats have “no appetite for real, non-partisan reform by rejecting the governor’s request,” said Michael Drewniak in a statement.
“Senator Gordon’s sudden awakening to the problems of the Port Authority has been absolutely remarkable. All those years when the problems grew at the Port Authority, he and his Democratic colleagues never made a peep, never lifted a finger,” he said.
“This bill was unnecessary, redundant and deeply partisan,” Drewniak continued. “If they had any interest in bringing real reform and transparency to these independent agencies, they wouldn’t do it piecemeal or for partisan benefit; they would act on the governor’s comprehensive reform proposal to expand this type of accountability to these types of authorities, boards and commissions collectively.”