- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Senate Democrats plan to move forward with an override vote of Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a bill overhauling the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and are rejecting a Republican compromise measure.

Their decision comes as reform efforts in New York and New Jersey have stalled, and after Senate Republican leader Tom Kean Jr. last week proposed blending parts of a bill passed unanimously in both legislatures with suggestions from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Christie. Kean has said his bill has the best effort at becoming law, but Democrats blasted it.

Senate President Steve Sweeney said the bill distracts from reform and Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said Kean’s bill weakens lawmakers’ original efforts. State Sen. Bob Gordon called Kean’s measure a “watered-down” version of reform.

Reforming the authority, which operates the region’s bridges, tunnels and airports, would require both states to enact the same bill.

The vetoed legislation would have established an inspector general’s office, called for regular audits of the agency, added whistleblower protections and subjected the authority to legislative oversight.

Sweeney called on Republicans Thursday to stand by their earlier vote.

“Everyone’s talking about compromise,” Sweeney said. “Reaffirm your vote.”

That’s not likely to happen. Kean said he opposes the override effort and predicted it would fail.

“It’s unfortunate the Senate president is choosing to move a political solution, a grandstanding solution, but as I’ve said before this is a piece of legislation that is substantive,” Kean said in an interview Thursday.

Gordon said he thinks Kean was trying to provide “cover” for his members in his caucus unhappy about facing an override vote.

Kean said he was just dealing with the reality that the governors oppose the initial bill and that his effort has the best chance of getting enough support.

Christie and Cuomo vetoed a bill in December that passed both state legislatures unanimously. The vetoes angered lawmakers who vowed to override the governors. In New Jersey, Republicans have never overridden Christie and do not appear poised to do it in this case.

Without their support, though, Democrats do not have enough votes to overcome Christie’s veto.

Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said Kean’s bill contains “many of the best elements of reform” and that Christie looks forward to playing a “constructive role” as the bill moves forward. Roberts did not say if Christie supports the measure.

Cuomo spokeswoman Beth DeFalco said Cuomo would review the proposal and work with stakeholders on reforms.

Kean planned to introduce his bill Thursday but the session was postponed because of the weather. He says he will introduce it on Monday.

The override vote is set for March 16

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