Casino industry overhaul finds Senate passage

TRENTON – The Senate today passed two bills to transform Atlantic City; both need Assembly approval before moving to the governor’s desk.

The first bill, S11, establishes a state-controlled Atlantic City Tourism District and is sponsored by state Sen. Pres. Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic City).

It also broadens the powers and duties of the Casino Redevelopment Authority and transfers oversight of the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority under its watch.

It was approved 24-9, with mostly Republican opposition.

The second bill, S12, sponsored by Whelan and Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) revises various aspects of casino industry regulation, the Casino Control Act.

It was approved 22-13, with roughly the same opposition.


COAH bill heading to a stall


The Democrat’s version of affordable housing reform, S1, was on the agenda for the Senate today, but was held back by its chief sponsor, Lesniak, who said the main issue in the amendment process is finding a fair and practical reference for the second round of reviews by the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH).

At a press conference this morning, Gov. Chris Christie said he will not sign a half-reform, erring on the side of no action if the piece of legislation doesn’t agree with him.

The bill will eliminate COAH and reforms other aspects of the state’s enforcement of affordable housing requirements.

The current bill was passed by the Assembly, 43-32, last week.


Women’s health bill vote


A fight over women’s healthcare funding, headed by state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), was lost months ago when the governor rallied enough votes against the measure to kill it on grounds of cost.

Weinberg has spun out a piece of the original bill, now S2393, which requires the state to file for expansion of Medicaid coverage for family planning services, bringing more funding back to the state for women’s heathcare centers.

“This has no budget impact,” said budget committee Chair Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge), answering one of the major question, then the other: “This is not about abortion.”

After passing by the Assembly, 45-25-9, in November, it cleared the Senate today, 26-12.


Free the toolkit


Republican Senators Tom Kean Jr (R-Westfield), Joe Kyrillos (R-Middletown), Steve Oroho (R-Franklin), and Kip Bateman (R-Branchburg) all requested several of Christie’s leftover toolkit bills be moved out of committee, but were defeated in their motion.

The governor’s traveling “days-left” board hit zero today, although Christie said he’ll start negative days until all if his measures have been heard.


Impeachment of River-Soto


State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair) stood against the actions of state Supreme Court Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto, a protest that she said “manipulated and undermined the integrity of the Supreme Court and our judicial system.”

“This is an issue of impeachment,” she said, “because this is an issue of open defiance…of his position.”


Butt of the joke


Christie in his town hall speeches has berated the legislature for handling menial legislation while dragging their feet on his more important proposals.

One of the butts of his repeated spiel is S2175, which establishes procedure for destroying certain contraband tobacco products and cigarettes.

The bill passed today, 37-0.


  Casino industry overhaul finds Senate passage