TRENTON – The caucus session lasted longer than The Leopard, that epic, two disc catastrophe starring Burt Lancaster. This one starred Lou Greenwald, who weathered a lambasting from North Jersey lawmakers irritated that the assembly majority leader would attempt to undercut Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) on the Atlantic City state takeover bill.
There was anger in that caucus room earlier today, with more than a handful of northerners calling out southern lawmakers who signed a letter contravening the speaker’s Atlantic City bill. Sources told PolitickerNJ that the lawmakers called out the south for behaving like automatons, walking in lock step and carrying out orders from above. They also objected to what they sniffed out as a plot emanating from the south to dethrone Prieto with the help of a Gov. Chris Christie-enabling Republican caucus.
“Shameful,” one source said.
Southern lawmakers pushed back, asserting their autonomy. Bad language flew back and forth, a source told PolitickerNJ. Although he remained an unspoken presence, the figure of South Jersey Democratic boss George Norcross III loomed large in the caucus room.
But Greenwald dominated the attention of his fellow assembly people.
“He needed to have apologized,” one source said, fuming, a reference to what he insisted was the assembly majority leader’s efforts to humiliate Prieto with an alternative bill.
Greenwald told PolitickerNJ after the epic backroom encounter that he was hopeful of a compromise, remarks that colleagues heard as the starting point for safe passage of Prieto’s bill – the only one which made it out of a committee today – the alternative to the senate’s AC takeover version authored by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3).
A source close to the backroom discussions said assembly people wanted to get an opinion from the Office of Legislative Services (OLS) about a point of legal concern in the Sweeney bill, a matter that at the very least the lower house would have to confront and rectify were it to undertake anew consideration of support for the southern delegation’s preferred Atlantic City legislation, the source said.*
But with Greenwald’s and the south’s efforts to turn Middlesex and other lawmakers against Prieto apparently dead and buried and the speaker’s bill out of committee, those northern forces appeared to have found a reason to celebrate a victory for Prieto.
Others were more cautious.
“We were in there for four hours and nothing was resolved,” a source told PolitickerNJ. “Unless I’m missing something, there was no discussion of a compromise. This was straight lecturing of Greenwald, with people making it clear to Lou that it was completely inappropriate what he did. There was a lot of calling a spade a spade, though no one mentioned Norcross.
“No, there was no nuts and bolts about the bill,” the source added. “It was all about people posturing. North versus south. It wasn’t helpful.”
* Editor’s Note: An original version of this story said the OLS opinion on the bill already existed, which is not the case. PolitickerNJ regrets the error.