- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 30, 2014

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - The New Jersey state Senate will probably vote next month as it attempts to override Gov. Chris Christie’s recent veto of a bill aimed at overhauling the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Sen. Robert Gordon said Tuesday that a vote is planned for either Jan. 13, the day Christie is scheduled to give his annual State of the State address, or Jan. 15.

Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill Saturday that had passed unanimously in both legislatures and that would have required an annual audit, the creation of an inspector general’s office, restrictions on lobbying and a program to protect whistleblowers, among other provisions.

The vetoed legislation stretches back to the 2013 lane closures at the George Washington Bridge that ensnared Christie and involved an ex-aide of his and a former Port Authority official. The legislation, though, has deeper roots and has long been the object of change-minded lawmakers. For instance, a 2012 internal audit called the authority challenged and dysfunctional.

The governors instead embraced their own panel’s organizational reforms, which included installing a single executive officer instead of two senior officials from each state, as well as calling for the resignation of the authority’s commissioners. The Port Authority hired Promontory in September for $1 million to compile the report, Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman said.

Christie and Cuomo created their panel to consider reforming the authority in May. The report became public Saturday.

Gordon said that he’s optimistic the Democrat-controlled Senate can get the two-thirds needed to override, but that he realizes the move typically fails. He likened the tolls that commuters pay to the Port Authority, which controls the region’s bridges, tunnels and airports, to taxes.

“If my Republican colleagues are concerned about people paying more … they should endorse a process that makes finances a lot more visible,” he said.

Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr. said that the vetoed legislation was “a good first step,” but that he’s supportive of the governor’s position. Asked whether Republicans would support the override effort, Kean said only that he is ready to help lawmakers and the governor reach “common ground.”

There’s not much time for an override to succeed, Gordon acknowledged. With New York’s Legislature about to begin a new session, a spokesman for the Assembly speaker said it’s not “practical” for legislators to vote on an override.

Gordon said that if the override fails, he plans to reach out to the governors, lawmakers in both states and officials at the Port Authority to start the process over.

“It’s really under total control of two people- the two governors,” Gordon said. “We need to extend oversight to the Legislatures and open (it) up to public scrutiny.”

If the override succeeds, it would then head to the Assembly for consideration.


Associated Press writer David Klepper in Albany contributed to this report.

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