State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37), the co-prime sponsor of two bills to reform the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, today joined her fellow chair of the Select Committee on Investigation (SCI) with a resounding repudiation of Governor Chris Christie’s and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s mutual decision to veto the legislation.
Weinberg noted that the bills (S2181/A3417 and S2183/A3350) would have provided for a systemic overhaul of the agency by imposing comprehensive transparency and accountability standards, and represented the first major bi-state reform effort for the Port Authority since the George Washington Bridge lane closings a year ago.
Identical bills passed both houses of the New York and New Jersey Legislatures. Since the Port Authority is a bi-state authority, identical legislation must be passed and signed in both states before it can take effect.
Today, New York Governor Cuomo joined the Bridgegate-bruised New Jersey governor with a veto, preferring to embrace recommendations submitted by the Bi-State Special Panel on the Future of the Port Authority.
“Both Governors embrace the spirit and intent of the extensive reforms contained in the omnibus pending legislation, Senate Bill No. 2181 in New Jersey and A3944C/ S7721 in New York,” read a statement from the governors’ offices, “however, to more fully execute on reform in every area of Port Authority operations, management, and transparency, they are asking their respective Legislatures to review the extensive analysis and insights contained in the Special Panel’s report to guide the crafting of broader and more comprehensive reform legislation.
“Therefore, while neither Governor is approving the legislation as passed, they are urging their respective Legislatures and the Port Authority to work with them to implement the broad reforms package recommended by the Special Panel, recommendations which will mark a new beginning and form a basis for meaningful reform for decades to follow.”
Weinberg and Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19) didn’t buy the Christie-Cuomo rejection of the bills.
“I am gravely disappointed that our governor passed up another opportunity to reform the Port Authority, and that Governor Cuomo did not see the value of enacting these very basic reforms,” said the senate majority leader, co-chair of the Select Committee examining the George Washington Bridge scandal that snarled the Christie administration.
“These are changes we advocated long before the George Washington Bridge lane closures,” Weinberg said. “We’ve now seen a breakdown at the agency become a national scandal, top level staffers within state government and the Port Authority resign, and a federal investigation is under way. It is indisputable that the agency needs an overhaul, and comprehensive transparency and accountability standards enshrined in state law. These bills should have served as the foundation for our long-term reform effort.
“The public and legislators in each state have demanded these changes,” she added. “The New York and New Jersey Legislatures approved the bills unanimously. It is well past time to reform this agency. Delaying this effort any further means the Port Authority will remain vulnerable to the kind of dysfunction and abuse of power that shut down lanes on the worlds busiest bridge and endangered residents for four days last year. It also means the agency can continue to operate as if it is above the law. This inaction is disappointing. Frankly, it raises serious questions about the support for any meaningful and lasting changes at the bi-state agency by those at the highest level of state government who are in the position to make it happen.”
Wisniewski offered his own statement in response to the veto.
“It’s stunning that the governors wouldn’t sign even thee basic reforms that were in these bills. It’s difficult to comprehend how these bills were not signed, considering the problems we’ve seen and uncovered at the Port Authority over the past year,” said the SCI co-chair. “The Port Authority needs top-to-bottom reform. If these governors won’t even take the first step toward reform, then I fear for the commuters of New York and New Jersey already suffering under their lack of leadership.”