- Associated Press - Sunday, May 3, 2015

Democrats who control the New Jersey Legislature say allegations that three former allies of Gov. Chris Christie engaged in criminal activity over lane closures at the George Washington Bridge show why reforming the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is necessary.

Reaction to the news that former Port Authority official David Wildstein has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and that U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman is pursuing a case against former Port Authority executive Bill Baroni and one-time Christie aide Bridget Kelly poured in swiftly.

Why lawmakers are pushing for an overhaul:

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REMINDER OF SCANDAL

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said the charges are a reminder why Christie was wrong to veto a unanimously passed overhaul of the Port Authority last year.

The measure called for an audit report, established whistleblower protections and required strict conflict-of-interest disclosures. The effort has been slow going.

“We know what happened here was a grave threat to public safety and a blatant abuse of government power. It can never be repeated, and I pray lessons have been learned,” Prieto said.

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TAKE TWO

New Jersey lawmakers last week revived efforts at passing an overhaul of the Port Authority. State Sens. Bob Gordon and Loretta Weinberg with Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle said they’ve been working with New York lawmakers and are about to unveil new legislation they hope will be enacted in both states.

In December, Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed reform measures passed without any opposition in both legislatures, though they did recommend changes suggested by a commission whose members they appointed. Among those changes was the consolidation of the agency’s leadership into one position instead of two.

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LESSONS LEARNED?

In a statement on Friday, the Port Authority says it has already been undertaking many efforts to “rebuild the public’s trust.” While lawmakers approve some of the changes they want them to have the force of law, Weinberg has said.

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