TRENTON – They emerged from the caucus chamber, the most famous hair in the assembly no less out of place though some confessed to its having been slightly mussed in the back chamber fracas over how to proceed on a state takeover of Atlantic City.
In the middle of the scrum, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-6) of South Jersey had faced off with Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) of the north, trying to drive a version of the takeover bill backed by both Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Governor Chris Christie. But Prieto was dug in against it, infuriating Christie in particular, who seized on every occasion in front of a microphone to go nuclear on the lawmaker from Hudson County.
After emerging in late afternoon from a caucus chamber that one member described as being akin to the scene of a family fight, Greenwald expressed a hopeful view that he could work with Prieto to hammer out a version of the state takeover bill acceptable to both sides.
“In the caucus, Prieto told me that he would not allow the city to go to bankrupt, and that security will emanate through South Jersey,” the assembly majority leader told PolitickerNJ. “We are all on the same page, and what this still needs is agreement around all three parties [the assembly, senate and the governor’s office].”
Greenwald has throughout the crisis expressed his desire for a compromise but post caucus he voiced his most affirmative view to date that lawmakers could reach one. Still, it hinges on whether Prieto is operating under an accurate legal assessment that delays can occur without sinking the city into the bankruptcy Greenwald insists it must avoid.
“I absolutely support a compromise.” Greenwald said. “The truth of the matter is our position has been we cannot allow anyone to dig their feet in that allows bankruptcy. That would be an apocalypse for South Jersey. But the speaker has told me he has no intention of allowing the city to go into bankruptcy. Our position now is that we are in the process of verifying that information.”
The majority leader described the caucus talks as work accomplished on a “productive day.”
“People are talking,” he said. “I offered to stay throughout the night.
“Of course, I’m not going to stay here alone,” he cracked.
If the assembly forges a separate, compromise version from the ones that exist now, lawmakers would presumably have to reconvene in the senate to consider a new version of the bill. Senate sources told PolitickerNJ that the lower house would have to first reach a deal that produced a single document to review prior to commenting on whether Sweeney would be amenable to reexamining the issue with another floor vote. But the same sources did not rule out such an occurrence.