Senate pushes to get judicial pension constitutional amendment on ballot

TRENTON – The state Senate is immediately firing back at the New Jersey Supreme Court following the high court’s recent ruling on judicial pension.

State senators plan to host a public hearing this week on a proposed constitutional amendment, SCR110, that would clarify the Legislature’s authority to pass laws regarding taking contributions from justices’ and certain judges’ salaries for employee benefits, according to the proposal, Senate Democrats announced.

The public hearing is the next step before the Legislature can vote on the proposed amendment, which needs a three-fifths majority vote – 24 in the Senate and 48 in the Assembly.

According to the state Constitution, both houses need to vote on the proposal on or before Aug. 2.

The proposed constitutional amendment is sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Sen. Shirley Turner (D-15) and has bipartisan support. It unanimously cleared a Senate committee in June. An identical proposal has already been introduced in the Assembly.

The announcement of the public hearing comes hours after the state Supreme Court ruled the Legislature and Gov. Chris Christie overreached when they passed New Jersey’s landmark overhaul of pension and benefit contributions. The 3-2 decision ruled that judicial pensions for sitting judges are protected under the state Constitution.

The Senate president issued a statement within an hour of the court’s ruling, blasting the court’s decision.

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver agreed, saying a statement that when the Legislature “passed the landmark pension and benefit reform legislation last year it was with two distinct goals in mind – to protect taxpayers and to protect the long-term solvency of our employee pension systems.”

“This ruling threatens to undermine those goals and we intend to put forth a legislative remedy that would ensure that does not happen,” she said. “Therefore the Assembly will move swiftly to consider a constitutional amendment that will resolve the court’s legal concerns while enabling us to move forward with a fiscally responsible plan to shore up our pension systems.”

The Senate Labor Committee will meet Thursday at 2 p.m. to hold a public hearing on SCR110.

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Senate pushes to get judicial pension constitutional amendment on ballot