The chairman of the committee where a bill dealing with Jersey City’s pension system stalled and touched off a firestorm between Democratic officials says the legislation in question was never on his radar screen.
Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-36) said Tuesday he was never contacted about moving pending legislation through his committee that Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulops claims is being blocked by the state’s top lawmaker as a form of political retribution.
“No city officials contacted me on this bill. It just wasn’t on my radar screen,” Sarlo said. “As the Senate budget chairman, especially when you get into the lame duck session, there’s so many bills that I was personally approached on, … [but this one] wasn’t put on my radar screen.”
Sarlo made the statement a day after Fulop, a Democrat, charged Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) with refusing to post a bill, S3096, because Sweeney wants to punish him.
As chairman of the Senate Budge and Appropriations Committee, which is where the bill is currently sitting, Sarlo says it’s routine for state officials looking to push legislation through before the end of the legislative session to contact him directly.
“There are a significant amount of bills that are left with not a lot of committee time left to handle them,” he said, explaining “we do our best to prepare our final draft agenda” based on the nature of the bill.
The bill in question deals with Jersey City’s pension system. The Assembly passed a version nearly unanimously on Dec. 19 after it was introduced in both chambers earlier in the month.
Fulop accused Sweeney on Monday afternoon of preventing the bill from hitting the floor for a vote because of a personal grudge.
“Anybody who puts a personal vendetta ahead of the public good isn’t only spineless, but doesn’t deserve to hold public office,” Fulop told PolitickerNJ on Monday.
The mayor disagreed no one from Jersey City was advocating on behalf of the legislation and argued it would have been hard for Sarlo to be unaware of the bill.
“While I respect Senator Sarlo, the history here speaks to a different story. Firstly, Senator [Sandra] Cunningham and Assembly Speaker [Vincent] Prieto both dropped the bill in mid-December,” Fulop said. “Secondly, there are email records from OLS working with Jersey City since August on this bill. Thirdly, Senator Cunningham herself sits on the budget committee. … The reason we have representatives in Trenton is to advocate on behalf of their district, which is what happened in this case.”