Weinberg seeks to repeal referendum kill bill

Making up for her accidental yes vote on a bill that creates a ten-year wait between municipal ballot questions, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) on Friday announced that she authored a bill intended to effectively repeal it.

“Senators are human and we do make mistakes from time to time,” Weinberg said in a written statement.  “During the ‘lame duck’ period of the last legislative session, we advanced and enacted a flurry of new laws, most of which are in the best interests of the public and make New Jersey a better place to live.  Unfortunately, the so-called ‘referendum kill bill’ does more harm than good, and we should seek a repeal of the provisions to protect the voting rights of the general public.”

The legislation Weinberg is seeking to repeal passed the senate and assembly with the bare minimum number of votes.  The day before he left office, former Gov. Jon Corzine announced that he would veto it, but minutes before Gov. Christopher Christie was sworn in, Corzine announced that he signed it. 

Under the previous law, municipalities could hold referendums to change their forms of government every two to four years, depending on the type of government.  Now groups that want to change the form of government can only get a question on the ballot once every 10 years.

Weinberg’s bill would change the wait time for new initiatives and referendums to five years if a ballot question changing the form of government is passed, and revert back to the original law’s timetable if it fails. 

“I can understand the need for stability as new forms of government attempt to find their footing within a municipality, but the ten-year standard is simply too long, and must be amended,” she said. 

The bill that passed last month was considered a direct attack on a New Brunswick reform group made up mostly of Rutgers students who want to change the city’s council from all at-large members to a mix of at-large and members from specific wards, making it easier for them to elect sympathetic council members.  The group narrowly lost a ballot question to change the form of the city’s government last year, and planned to try again in 2011.   

Although the bill was sponsored by legislators from Union County in both the senate and assembly, Assemblyman Joseph Egan (D-New Brunswick), who is also a New Brunswick councilman, lobbied members of his caucus to vote yes on it.  

Weinberg seeks to repeal referendum kill bill