Rutgers bill sparks heated exchange between Sweeney and Oliver

Apparently Rutgers University continues to be a controversial topic in the legislature as lawmakers seek to dissolve the university’s board of trustees.

The bill to dissolve the board, sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney in the upper chamber and Assemblyman Vincent Prieto in the lower house, caused raised voices and bad blood between Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver last night, according to sources from both houses.

According to a Senate source, Oliver had agreed to post the bill for a vote yesterday.  When the Assembly balked at voting on the measure, sources say Sweeney headed down to Oliver’s office to confront the speaker.  The two met behind closed doors where sources say they had a “heated conversation.”

“There was a lot of frustration,” said the Senate source.  “It’s been out there all week.  Nobody was hiding anything and it’s a pretty simple bill.”

Soon after, Sweeney and the rest of the Senate left the building.

But an Assembly source disputes that Oliver made a commitment on the bill and said she had questions over the effects of eliminating the 59-member board of trustees. Oliver was angry, according to the source, because she first learned of the existence of the bill from a news account and not from the Senate president.

According to the Assembly source, it’s unlikely the bill had enough votes in the lower chamber as only 19 Democrats were on board by the end of the night.  One of those Democrats, Assemblyman John Burzichelli, was apparently called to come to Trenton from Pennsylvania where he was on a television shoot, so that he could vote on the measure if need be.

The fate of the bill is uncertain at this point, but the legislature is due to be back in Trenton on July 8.

Rutgers bill sparks heated exchange between Sweeney and Oliver