On Monday, Democratic state senators announced that they will soon attempt to override a veto by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The target of the override vote is S-992, a bill that aims to ensure equal pay for equal work for men and women through increased penalties for employers who fail to pay equitable wages. That vote is set for Monday December 19.
State Senator Sandra Cunningham (D-31) is one of the co-sponsors of the legislation. In a release following the announcement of the override vote, Cunningham said that the bill is necessary to help speed along progress in New Jersey.
“As a new generation of young women prepares to enter the workforce, they should do so with the assurance that they will be treated as equals no matter their gender, race, or religion. This legislation will bring transparency to wages and help to combat wage discrimination,” Cunningham said in a statement. “This will help to change the culture of inequality that unfortunately still exists in the workplace and help to close the wage gap between men and women.”
Democrats have never managed to get an override through the legislature during Christie’s time as governor, but it is not for lack of trying. While the legislature has attempted over 50 times to override a veto, the most successful attempt came in October of last year when Senate President Steve Sweeney was able to wrangle up enough votes in the state senate on a bill aimed at reporting any attempt to expunge the mental illness records of gun buyers. However, that measure eventually stalled in the assembly and did not become a veto override.
But, in the past year, dynamics have shifted significantly.
While Sweeney supports the equal pay legislation—and voiced that support in the press release on the issue—his ability to garner enough votes to get the override passed may be hindered by his current political standing. When he successfully orchestrated enough votes in the senate race last year on the gun bill, Sweeney was considered at that time considered a frontrunner in the 2017 gubernatorial contest. Now however, Sweeney is out of the contest due to early maneuvers from former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy that gave the senate president no path to victory.
While Sweeney’s failure to enter the gubernatorial race may have little impact on the potential for an override if any, it is possible that members of the legislature may not be so apt to go along with someone whose political favor they need not curry. However, the support among Democrats in the legislature has been overwhelming on the issue to this point.
The dynamic has also changed for Christie. At the time that the senate voted for a veto in October 2015, Christie was still running for president. Now, he is a lame duck governor with few national prospects following his scheduled January 2018 departure from the state house. That shift in Christie’s standing may mean that Republicans in the legislature may be more willing to go against him than they were in the past. That change could potentially up the number of Republican legislators who defect and decide to vote for the override.
The bill was vetoed by the governor in May of this year after passing in both the state senate (28-4) and assembly (54-14). Because only 27 votes in the senate and 54 are needed in the assembly to pass the bill, it it possible the measure will pass provided that numbers stay the same.