Assembly moves to prevent gubernatorial beach time should N.J. shut down again

 People stream onto the beach at Island Beach State Park after it reopened at 8 in the morning July 4 in Seaside Park, N.J. New Jersey's budget stalemate between Republican Gov. Chris Christie and the Democrat-controlled Legislature led to a state government shut down, and state parks closed to the public until late Monday night, just in time for the Fourth of July. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

People stream onto the beach at Island Beach State Park after it reopened at 8 in the morning July 4 in Seaside Park, N.J. New Jersey's budget stalemate between Republican Gov. Chris Christie and the Democrat-controlled Legislature led to a state government shut down, and state parks closed to the public until late Monday night, just in time for the Fourth of July. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

In a rare summer session, New Jersey’s Assembly has passed several bills in response to the recent three-day government shutdown during the state budget impasse.

A measure requiring state beaches and recreation areas to remain open for the first seven days of a budget-related shutdown won unanimous support.

That would prevent widespread inconvenience during a Fourth of July holiday weekend, said Assemblyman John McKeon, D-Essex.

“This is about the families that save all year for that vacation in Stokes Forest and have to send the Winnebago back because they don’t have place to park it,” he said Monday. “It’s about that carload of kids for 20 bucks that can go to Island Beach State Park and cool down and see the fireworks at Liberty State Park.”

A second measure would prevent any governor from using the state-owned beach house at Island Beach State Park during a future government shutdown.

That bill sets an important tone for the conduct of state government officials, said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex. It stemmed from widely distributed photos of Gov. Chris Christie lounging on the beach with his family during the shutdown. 

“The governor can stay in Drumthwacket. He has his own private residence. He could stay there,” said Wisniewski. “But he can’t rub salt in the wounds of the people of the state of New Jersey by going to what I would consider a needless excess, the state beach house.”

Assemblyman Jon Bramnick said lawmakers are wasting their time on the measure.

“I am convinced that this will never be a problem in the future, that Democrat governors won’t use it, and Republican governors won’t use it,” said Bramnick, R-Union.

The state Senate has not acted on that bill, and there’s no indication if Christie would sign it.

Christie has indicated he will sign the third bill the Assembly approved that will give retroactive pay to nearly 35,000 state employees who were furloughed during the shutdown over the first three days of July.

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