Lame Start for Lame-Duck Legislative Session in Trenton
State lawmakers haven’t exactly come bursting out of the election with action at the Statehouse since last week’s election.
That’s due in part to the gubernatorial election. In past Novembers when there’s a looming change of administrations, the lame-duck legislative tends to get off to a slower start. On top of that, Democrats added to their majority and have a fellow Democrat, Phil Murphy, becoming governor in mid-January.
But there’s not even a schedule yet. The main reason for the slow start is internal squabbling among Democrats, who’ve been engaged in a months-long leadership fight in the Assembly that will end with a vote Monday to make Craig Coughlin the speaker in January, ousting Vincent Prieto.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who allied with Coughlin, said late last week he hadn’t yet spoken with Prieto since the election.
“I would like to sit down with him just to strategize lame duck – if there’s going to be a lame duck,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester.
Regardless of the slow start, Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., R-Union, expects action over the coming eight weeks on new laws and appointments.
“We’re all coming for air. It’s been a little while since we’ve been here. But I think we be efficient if we want to,” Kean said.
Sweeney anticipates there will be some action. He said that he hopes bills the Senate passed dealing with higher education affordability are taken up by the Assembly. He said the Senate must concur with changes made to a package dealing with expungement of criminal records.
Beyond that, he asked senators for other priorities to take to Gov. Chris Christie.
“We want to get our act together and then go see Gov. Christie and say, ‘These are bills we’d like to get done,’” Sweeney said. “And you know, it’s like anything, I’m sure there’s bills he’d like to get done. And we’ll see if we can match it up.”
Sweeney didn’t indicate whether the interest arbitration cap in place for police and fire salary negotiations is likely to be taken up, as Christie wants. The cap is due to expire Dec. 31.
Christie has filed a few lame-duck nominations with the Senate already, including a replacement for the Gloucester County prosecutor; putting Sen. Joseph Kyrillos Jr., R-Monmouth, in a paid position on the board of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey; and shifting Parole Board chairman James Plousis over to become the leader of the Casino Control Commission.
Though Murphy won’t have an official say on what the state government does until he takes office Jan. 16, Sweeney said he’ll have a voice in what happens over the next two months.
“Of course,” Sweeney said. “But the things we’re talking about, the governor-elect I would expect to support because they’re Democrat-sponsored bills.”