N.J. Assembly balks at voting on Christie book deal, newspaper ad bill

New Jersey Assembly chamber is seen during voting on bills at the Statehouse

New Jersey Assembly chamber is seen during voting on bills at the Statehouse

After a day-long effort failed to muster enough support for approval, New Jersey’s Assembly skipped votes on two controversial measures in its last session of the year Monday.

One of those bills would have given raises to judges and legislative staff  and allowed Gov. Chris Christie to profit from writing a book while still in office.

“It was an array of things in the caucus that, at this point in time, there was no support for it,” said Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto. “Some of them, it was the book deal. Some of them was in deference to raises and the cost of it.”

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo said he got hundreds of emails and phone calls from constituents who didn’t like the idea of handing out raises following a gas tax hike.

“They’re worried about paying their own bills. They don’t want to see anybody at this point get large raises as was dictated in that bill,” he said. “And I don’t think they’re interested in rewarding the administration on a book deal at this point.”

Prieto said that measure is dead, but the other bill — allowing towns to post legal notices online instead of paying to publish them in newspapers — will be a top priority when lawmakers return in January.

The measure sparked robust discussion among his caucus members Monday, and Prieto said it may be changed to garner enough votes for approval.

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi believes modifying the original proposal is a good idea.

“To be able to maybe accept some of the compromise positions that the papers have put forth and to be able to work together and figure out a means of reducing costs to the taxpayers,” she said.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski was in full agreement that the bills should not have been voted on Monday.

“They were rushed through in a week without an ample opportunity for everyone who has an interest in them to be heard,” he said. “It does a disservice to this institution and the process, and it justifiably gives our constituents reason to call into question the motives for bills like that being moved so quickly.”

The newspaper industry has vigorously opposed the change in policy for legal notices and disputed the Chrisitie admnistration’s estimate of $80 million in savings.

The New Jersey Press Association describes it as an assault on government transparency that could force newspapers to lay off employees or close.

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