N.J. Democrats Plan Port Veto Override, Reject Compromise

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New Jersey’s top Democratic lawmaker scheduled an override vote of Governor Chris Christie’s veto of a bill to overhaul the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, rejecting a Republican compromise.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat from West Deptford, plans a March 16 effort to void Christie’s veto of a bill that would have altered the scandal-plagued authority’s management structure. Republican Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean’s proposal for a competing measure is a “distraction,” Sweeney told reporters Thursday on a conference call.

Because the Port Authority is a bi-state agency, any overhaul must clear both legislatures. New York and New Jersey lawmakers unanimously passed the measure, which was vetoed by Christie, a Republican, and Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on the Saturday evening after Christmas.

“We had a bill that passed 611-0 -- quite frankly I don’t think that’s ever happened anywhere in this country,” Sweeney said. “Republicans in the Senate have an opportunity to stand up and reaffirm their vote.”

Compromise Effort

Kean, a Republican from Westfield, said on Feb. 27 that he would introduce a bill as soon as March 5 that would combine components of the legislative efforts with recommendations from a report that accompanied the governors’ vetoes.

Senator Robert Gordon, a Democrat from Fair Lawn who sponsored the authority overhaul measure, said the Kean bill doesn’t go far enough in clamping down on conflicts of interests and ensuring authority properties aren’t sold in a “fire sale.”

Joining Sweeney and Gordon on the call was Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, co-chair of a panel investigating the agency and the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal embroiling Christie and allies there.

“I cannot and will not support his proposal,” said Gordon, who told reporters during the 40-minute call that he’s been meeting with Republicans to build support. “All we need is two votes.”

Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for Christie, didn’t immediately return a telephone call seeking comment on the planned override.