It was refreshing to hear a legislative Democrat recently remark that when they need to bounce ideas off the Christie Admin, they get called back “immediately.” Often by the Deputy Chief of Staff. The comment was revealing in terms of what the implication was: under the previous ( Democratic! ) Governor…that was not always the case.
It was also uplifting to see Both Democrats and Republicans taking the lead on the four bills intended to reform the pension system. Steve Sweeney had Minority Leader Tom Kean’s name pretty closely following his own in the first sentence of the press release. Christie was sorta non-committal in a Tuesday press conference about where he is on those bills. He certainly seems to support the concept, even if he hasn’t given direct input just yet.
But there are other areas where the inevitable push and pull of a Democratic legislature and a Republican Governor could soon lead to a fracture.
One of those is S-1, the COAH bill. The fact that it is the very first bill on the new legislature’s agenda is an indication of what a top priority its been for one of the Senate’s most potent operator’s: Ray Lesniak. He has been working on a bill to end COAH as we know it for six months. So, when Christie suddenly announces that he will be working outside of that process by immediately suspending COAH and appointing his own advisory panel to come up with a plan, I cannot imagine Lesniak is thrilled.
In fact, I hear that he feels Christie is trying to “steal his thunder” on this issue. Christie did not rule out working with Lesniak, but did say he “made it clear” to the Union County Dem that he is approaching this his own way.
Lesniak is outta town but issued a statement saying he expects to have S-1 pass both houses “well in advance of the the 90-day timeline for recommendations from the Governor’s advisory penal.” Zing.
Anyway, a committee vote is expected on the bill March 8 ( which just happens to be my birthday ). I am told that Sweeney has promised Lesniak to push S-1…so we’ll see if the Guv can convince him not to.
The flip side of course is that Christie was forced to take ownership of this issue after being slammed by Paul Mulshine and others on the right who consider gutting COAH one of the state’s top priorities. The thinking is that Christie can’t very well sit passively by and let a Democrat take the lead on this.