TRENTON — Proclaiming they “have the stronger bill”, Democratic lawmakers who led the charge on today’s failed veto override of a 100 page Port Authority reform bill rejected pleas from their Republican counterparts to strike a bi-partisan compromise during a press conference following the vote.
“We are just going to keep doing this until we get it done,” said Assemblyman Robert Gordon (D-38), the primary sponsor of 2151. “Even if we have to wait for a new governor.”
Originally slated for March 5 but postponed until today, Senate Democrats have spent the last several weeks attempting to recruit Republican support for an override of the veto, passed down by Gov. Chris Christie late last year, despite the bill first unanimously passing both houses in New Jersey. Aiming to overhaul and bring greater transparency to the bi-state agency in the wake of recent toll hikes and traffic scandals, it coincides with the advancement of legislation in New York’s legislature with the same goal in mind.
Those efforts ultimately failed today, however: Democrats were two Republican votes short of the three needed for a two-thirds majority. Only state Senator Mike Doherty (R-23), who had earlier expressed his support for the bill, joined Democrats in voting for the override.
Following the vote, Gordon and his fellow Democrats, including state Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-38) and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-38), reiterated their opposition to a Republican version of the bill sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean (D-21) that he argues preserves much of the reforms included in Democrats’ version. But Democrats disagree, however, countering that the Republican bill is a “watered-down” version of their own that weakens too many of the provisions in it.
Gordon said Republicans’ votes — aside from Doherty’s, who Huttle praised for standing on principle — were “driven by politics,” as well as fear of “retribution from the governor.” He also expanded on the “hostile” rhetoric he said he’s heard come out of the mouths of Republican during private conversations about governor Christie, noting many have admitted to feeling disrespected by the front office of late.
While the Democrats said they are open to clarifying or tweaking parts of the bill Republicans find problematic, they said they ultimately plan to return to square one with the legislation, beginning again with a bill pending Assembly, sponsored by Huttle, and the bill in the Senate, sponsored by Gordon and Weinberg.