Gov. Chris Christie Tuesday proposed comprehensive reform regarding so-called ‘independent’ authorities, boards, and commissions.
Since taking office, Christie has vetoed meeting minutes 21 times of various commissions and boards. He also acted to remove commissioners at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners and the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission, where malfeasance and inappropriate conduct were uncovered.
In a release, Christie stated that extending veto authority to entities lacking gubernatorial oversight will allow him to prevent these types of abuses before they occur.
The so-called “Shadow Government Reform” legislation would extend gubernatorial veto authority and additional oversight tools to the Governor’s Office and State Comptroller, establishing and/or enhancing Christie’s ability to police the actions of such independent entities.
“The writing is on the wall for New Jersey’s shadow government – the abuse stops now,” he said in a release. Among other things the legislation would do the following:
- Provide gubernatorial oversight through veto within a 15-day window and mandatory service of agendas and minutes upon Governor’s Authorities Unit request;
- Expressly provide that board members will serve without compensation;
- Provide the Governor with authority to remove a member of the governing body of a regional authority for cause;
- Require financial disclosure statements from the members of the governing bodies of each regional authority;
- Expressly define entities as “regional authorities” so that they will be subject to other forms of state oversight, including Executive Orders and ethics requirements;
- Explicitly grant the state Comptroller the authority to inquire into the financials of the regional authorities; and
- Subject all “regional authorities” to the New Jersey Conflicts of Interest Law administered by the State Ethics Commission.
As written, the proposed law would specifically include the N.J. Meadowlands Commission, the Passaic Valley Water Commission, the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission, and the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, as well as any other water, sewer, or environmental authority with ownership of assets and services provided in more than one county.
Speaker Sheila Oliver could not be reached Wednesday for comment due to ongoing redistricting meetings, but spokesman Tom Hester said: “The Assembly has already advanced legislation to control salaries and benefits at state commissions and authorities and is always interested in reviewing proposed legislation.”
A bill, A2505, sponsored by, among others, Nellie Pou, (D-35), Paterson; Paul Moriarty, (D-4), Turnersville; and Gordon Johnson, (D-37), Teaneck, would regulate salaries of such employees and bring them more in line with salaries of state employees.
The bill, introduced in March of last year, underwent amendments, passed in the Senate last month and was received in the Assembly.
In response to Christie’s proposal, a spokesman for Senate President Steve Sweeney said: “The governor has removed commissioners, placed his own people in charge and forced out dozens upon dozens of employees at these agencies. He is getting everything he wants without the unnecessary measure of consolidating more power for himself.”