Christie rips lawmakers, wants bills to sign by year’s end

Posted: November 15, 2011

Gov. Christie wants some bills on his desk.

The full-time Republican governor laid out his vision Tuesday for what legislation he wants to sign in the next two months.

The problem? He's waiting on part-time Democratic legislators who aren't revealing their specific plans for the lame-duck session of the Legislature, which begins in earnest in two weeks.

There could be room for compromise, with Democrats sponsoring some of the bills Christie endorses. But such bipartisanship cooperation was not on display Tuesday. Christie's office slammed legislators - some of whom are in Atlantic City this week for the League of Municipalities annual convention - for not working hard enough.

"Let's hope that they aren't just running out the clock, but willing to address some of N.J.'s most pressing issues," Christie tweeted Tuesday.

For their part, Democrats noted that Christie's office was e-mailing news releases about a do-nothing Legislature while he was in California wrapping up a trip in which he was interviewed, live and online, from Facebook's headquarters.

"The Democratic legislative agenda was just soundly endorsed by voters, so perhaps the governor should spend less time spouting silly statements and defending tax cuts for millionaires, and more time working with us to help working-class families," Democratic Assembly spokesman Tom Hester Jr. said in an e-mail.

The reference to tax cuts for millionaires refers to Christie's refusal to raise taxes on high-income earners. The Democrats plan to pursue a so-called millionaire's tax again, but likely not in the next month.

Here is a look at other legislation that will either become law in the coming months, morph into new compromised laws, or continue to languish in the halls of Trenton:

The Opportunity Scholarship Act creates a pilot voucher program for poor children in failing districts to attend school elsewhere. Although Democratic leaders oppose the plan, which has Christie's full-throated endorsement, it has some Democratic support, and leaders could post it for a vote.

The School Children First Act creates a teacher-evaluation system, based in part on student test scores, that would be used to determine a teacher's salary and tenure status. Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) has said he opposes this cornerstone of Christie's education agenda.

The Urban Hope Act, sponsored by Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden) and supported by Christie, allows private entities to operate public "transformation" schools in struggling districts such as Camden. There could be enough Democratic votes for this proposal, but a new version of the bill is expected and has yet to be released.

Charter School "reform" proposals are offered by both parties.

An ardent charter-school advocate, Christie supports a bill that would allow local school boards and higher-education institutions to authorize charter schools. It enables for-profit businesses to run charter schools, and it allows the hiring of noncertified teachers.

Democrats, meanwhile, are pulling back the reins. One of their bills allows only three colleges or universities - and no school boards - to authorize new charter schools. Another bill increases the transparency of charter-school governance and creates criteria for revoking a school's charter. A third mandates that in most towns, voters would have to approve a new charter school before it opened.

All three Democratic bills were approved by the Assembly and await action in the Senate.

Ten "jobs" bills to help reduce the state's higher-than-average unemployment rate were moved by Democrats through a Senate committee in September and are the stated top priority of legislative leaders. Whether Christie decides to sign the package of proposals, though, is another matter.

The package includes bills that: invest some pension funds into state businesses; expand loan opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses; expand financial incentives for redevelopment; create a Business Action Center to act as a liaison between the state and businesses; and offer new training opportunities for the unemployed.

Civil service "reform" empowers towns that operate under civil service rules, which govern the hiring and firing of employees, to pull out of the system entirely. This Christie proposal also lets municipalities furlough, or temporarily lay off, employees. The bill has gone nowhere after Christie conditionally vetoed a Democratic version of a bill to modernize the civil service system.

Ending cash payouts for unused employee sick time is supported, in some form, by both parties. But the proposal stalled after Christie conditionally vetoed a Democratic version of such a bill earlier this year. A new bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D., Camden), would cap payments at $7,500, but Christie has said that was not good enough.

Ethics "reform" proposals offered by Christie ban legislators from collecting two government paychecks; enact more detailed financial-disclosure statements for elected and other state officials; and ban "wheeling," the practice of hiding pay-to-play donations from contractors and labor unions. But Democrats do not appear to be eager to hand the governor a victory in this area, saying he has his own ethical problems, due to his frequent political trips.

Shadow government "reform" establishes gubernatorial veto power over certain local authorities and boards, which have repeatedly been cited for ethics, transparency, and financial problems. Christie, however, might need to bust another agency for waste to capture the Democrats' support for this bill.

Elimination of public pension eligibility for nongovernment workers, such as those who work at the nongovernment agencies like the state League of Municipalities or New Jersey School Boards Association. Christie is pushing this measure.

Contact staff writer Matt Katz

at 609-217-8355,,

or @mattkatz00 on Twitter. Read his blog, "Christie Chronicles,"


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