Assembly rebuffs Christie on N.J. bail overhaul — but may reconsider

 As New Jersey Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, right,  and Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto, second right, listen, Gov. Chris Christie addresses a joint session of New Jersey's Legislature after calling for a special session to work on overhauling New Jersey's bail system Thursday. (AP pPhoto/Mel Evans)

As New Jersey Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, right, and Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto, second right, listen, Gov. Chris Christie addresses a joint session of New Jersey's Legislature after calling for a special session to work on overhauling New Jersey's bail system Thursday. (AP pPhoto/Mel Evans)

The New Jersey Assembly turned down Gov. Chris Christie’s call for quick approval of some bail overhaul measures, but supporters aren’t giving up.

Christie urged a joint session of the Legislature to pass a constitutional amendment allowing judges to deny bail for defendants considered dangerous along with a measure to create pre-trial release system for less serious offenses that does not require posting bail.

“As a former prosecutor, I’m telling you that this is something that is urgently needed and will serve the people of our state fairly and justly,” Christie said Thursday.

Democratic Assembly leaders left the Statehouse without posting the measures for a vote despite an emotional appeal from the governor.

“Some will argue that this is not a crisis. To me, every day that someone fears for their life on our streets is a crisis,” the governor said. “To me every day that someone is deprived of their liberty in a jail for no reason is a crisis. “

There is still time for the Assembly to act on the bail overhaul measures recommended in a 120-pager report by the state Supreme Court committee.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli said he is optimistic that the Assembly will approve the measures by the Monday deadline for getting the constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

“I’m not disappointed, because we are proceeding along. There’s still time,” he said. “I’m holding out hope for that, and I’ve cancelled my plans for the beach.”

Some lawmakers have concerns about who can be held for pre-trial detention and how much the assessment system would cost, said Burzichelli, D-Gloucester.

Costs are another consideration, according to Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto, D-Hudson.

Estimates range for “$30 million to north of $100 million. it’s probably somewhere in between,” he said. “So that’s something, but that’s a two- year implementation that we can look at it. We can always retweak it as we go along.”

Prieto said he may schedule an Assembly session on Monday for lawmakers to vote on the measures.

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