The Pig Gestation Bill is on the Senate calendar for an override vote this afternoon. The bill, which would prohibited NJ pig farmers from caging gestating pigs in a manner such that they can not move or lay down for most of their lives passed both houses of the legislature overwhelmingly last spring. Christie vetoed the bill, noting that the State Supreme Court upheld the Humane Standards that the State Board of Agriculture and Department of Agriculture have set and enforced in accordance with the 1995 Administrative Procedures Act. In his veto message, Christie said he was confident the Board and Department would continue to monitor the humane treatment of gestating pigs, and that bill would inappropriately criminalize a practice that is not opposed by the American Veterinary Medical Association nor the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.
Christie critics and skeptics have said that the governor vetoed the bill with an eye toward the 2016 Iowa Republican Presidential Caucuses. Iowa is the largest producer of pork in the United States.
Don’t bet on an override, warn legislators who spoke to MMM on background.
As a matter of policy, since they voted for the bill last spring, the Republicans we talked to have learned that it is the Democrats supporting the bill, not Christie, who are playing presidential politics. The bill would not impact the quality of life for New Jersey pigs. No one knows of at New Jersey pig farmer that uses the gestation crates that the bill would prohibited.
As a matter of politics, New Jersey Legislative Republicans are united with the governor, the rift over this move to oust Tom Kean, JR as Senate Minority Leader notwithstanding. They are not going to weaken Christie’s negotiating position with the Trenton Democrats over a bill that has no impact on what is happening in New Jersey.
“Things are back to normal,” one legislator said, “The governor underestimated the trust, respect and affection the Senate Caucus has for Tom (Kean, Jr), and mishandled that situation. But when your friend makes a mistake, you don’t trash the friendship.”
Our friends at InTheLobby are questioning Trenton Democrats political sanity. Daily Muse says the Democrats seem to be poised to blame Governor Christie for NJ’s average 4% property tax increases, yet they are giving Christie very strong ammunition with which to run against them in the coming legislative election by failing to pass the “tool kit,” pension and benefit reform and expanded veto power over the shadow government of the authorities and commissions.
But a lot of what is taking place in Trenton these days confuses us.
We get that Democrats are looking to blame Christie for the 4% rise in property taxes. Higher property taxes are always a good campaign issue, especially in a year when all 120 seats in the Legislature are up for re-election.
What we don’t get is why the Democrats are giving Christie so many talking points to counter that with on the campaign trail. They won’t pass the bulk of the tool kit; they haven’t passed the pension or benefit reforms; and they won’t give Christie the expanded veto power over authorities that he wants.
We know that the unions are opposed to the pension and benefit reforms. And we know that the Assembly is balking at any health benefit reforms, saying that the reforms should be made in collective bargaining. Which, by the way, doesn’t sound like it’s a point that will sell well with the rest of New Jersey’s voters, but we’ll see how firm the Assembly’s resolve is after Senate President Steve Sweeney posts his health benefit bill for a vote.
But that still leaves the question: why don’t Democrats call Christie’s bluff, and pass the rest of the tool kit, the epanded veto power, and the pension and benefit reforms? They’ll still have the 4% increase in property taxes, and they’ll take away one of his campaign speeches. Otherwise, he will barnstorm the state, accusing Democrats of being beholden to the special interests, and choosing them over the taxpayers.
Frankly, as it stands now, it’s almost as if Democrats instead are giving Christie a tool kit of campaign rhetoric he can them against them this fall.
I don’t think the Democrats behavior is confusing at all. They are doing what they always do; protecting the status quo and hoping to find ways to preserve the troughs from which they and their friends are swilling.
There are two things the Democrats are waiting for before they will do anything about Christie’s reform agenda. 1) The new legislative map and 2) certainty that Christie will complete or not complete his term.
The Democrats don’t want Christie’s reforms to happen ever. They want the economy to improve so that the public’s mood improves and cash starts flowing into the Trenton coffers. They want to bide their time waiting for an angry electorate to become complacent again in order that Trenton can resume its spending rampage.
If the Democrats think the new legislative map favors their retaining control of the legislature they won’t give Christie the reforms he is proposing. If the new map is one they think favors Republicans picking up at least one house of the legislature, the Dems are likely to be more cooperative with the governor.
Likewise, so long as there is a Christie for President buzz, the Democrats are motivated to stall on his agenda. Their stalling weakens Christie’s resume of accomplishment if he does run for president. If he runs, they won’t have to deal with him. They don’t know how tough Kim Guadagno is, but they don’t think she is as tough as, or as talented a politician as Christie is.
There is not likely to be any movement on Christie’s reform agenda before the November election, unless we get a new legislative map that is a clear Republican gerrymander. That is not going to happen.
Regardless of the map, Christie will make this election a statewide race. Every district will be a race between Christie and his legislative running mates vs. the Democratic legislative candidates. The governor will spend the summer and fall on the campaign trail throughout New Jersey with the power of incumbency. The election will be a referendum on Christie’s reform agenda.
If Christie pulls off another improbable statewide victory by winning both the Senate and the Assembly, turning blue jersey red, his presidential prospects will soar. The clamour for him to run for president will become a national demand. If he can turn the governor’s office over to Kim Guadagno with a Republican legislature to enact the reform agenda he can declare that he has succeeded in turning Trenton upside down and that he is accepting the call to save our country from another four years of Obama.
Should the Democrats retain control of both houses of the legislature and retain or expand their margin of majority, Christie’s national prospects become more complicated. On one hand a statewide defeat would hurt Christie’s national prospects on the top of the national ticket. On the other hand he might personally conclude that with the legislature safely in the hands of the Democrats for another 10 years that he has turned Trenton as upside down as it is going to get. In that case, the Vice Presidency might not look so bad if the thinks the eventual GOP nominee in 2012 has a chance to beat Obama.
I don’t see anything happening with Christie’s reform agenda until after the November election, nor do I see the Christie for President buzz going away or getting louder before the November election.
The Chris Christie for President buzz just won’t go away, no matter how strongly the governor declares he’s not running. Pretty soon the state police will consider putting Christie on a suicide watch.
Ann Coulter’s comment at CPAC…that the GOP either run Chris Christie or Mitt Romney will be the nominee and lose…has reignited the smoldering Christie for President banter.
In cable TV and radio interviews today, Coulter has said Christie is the only Republican who can defeat President Obama, and the governor would have her support even though she questions how conservative he is.
From the left, we have Star Ledger columnist Tom Moran, who helped make Christie a national figure with the famous, “You should see me when I’m really pissed” video. Moran wrote a piece for Sunday’s paper/website which was essentially a white flag of surrender from New Jersey’s Democratic establishment.
After comparing Christie to Oprah, detailing the powerful Democratic support Christie has won over in Hudson and Essex counties, and explaining how hopeless it has become for Trenton Democrats to oppose Christie’s reforms, Moran himself endorsed the Christie agenda:
He’s winning this argument because he’s right on the core issue — New Jersey has promised more than it can deliver. Governors all over the country, in both parties, are moving in the same direction out of necessity.
If Christie can win over Moran, maybe Coulter is right.
Perhaps the question should not be, “Is Chris Christie ready to be president?” as he repeatedly protests that he is not. Perhaps the question should be, “Is Kim Guadagno ready to be governor?”
More than 50 nominations awaiting action in state Senate
By Senator Joe Kyrillos
The failure of the Democratic majority in the state Senate to even consider, much less vote on, many of Gov. Chris Christie’s nominees started as ridiculous and is now verging on a constitutionally dangerous level of dysfunction. The state constitution states clearly that the governor is to make appointments to the courts and various agencies, and the Senate is to consider them and render its approval or disapproval.There are about 53 nominations ready to be heard by the Senate, including the director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, who regulates doctors, nurses and pharmacists; four members of the state Board of Education; and most importantly, a nominee for the state Supreme Court.
In addition, millions of dollars are being appropriated by important bodies such as the Turnpike Authority, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the Sports and Exposition Authority by members whose terms have expired despite new appointments to these posts having been submitted long ago.
When I brought this subject up on the floor of the Senate, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee responded that the current situation with regard to gubernatorial appointments pending before the Senate is completely normal. With all due respect to my colleague, that is not true.
The Democrats’ inaction on appointments is unprecedented. Roughly 68 percent of the nominations submitted to the Senate this year have been stalled. In 2009, just 18 percent of Gov. Jon Corzine’s nominations were held up. In 2002, under Gov. James McGreevey, only 8 percent were delayed.
The blatant partisanship on display by Senate Democrats is more than irresponsible, especially with regard to the appointment of Anne Patterson to the state Supreme Court. That nomination has languished in the Senate since May, all because the Democratic Senate president wanted someone else for the job.
Refusing to even consider an extremely well-qualified nominee is a reprehensible dereliction of duty that will allow the chief justice of the Supreme Court to appoint an interim justice himself.
Allowing the court to choose its own members sets a dangerous precedent. Doing so circumvents the separation of powers between the branches of government and weakens checks and balances on an unelected judiciary. The chief justice will be able to appoint a member who is accountable to nobody but himself, with no check on his or her power by the public or the Legislature.
Unfortunately, should the Senate not act on these nominations before the middle of January, the nominations will expire. This will cause an additional delay in filling these vital offices. The clock is ticking on nominations to courts, boards, commissions and agencies that affect the daily lives of New Jersey residents.
Playing politics with the appointment process is more than a blemish on the institution of the Senate; it is a finger in the eye of the public that elected us to go to Trenton and get to work.
The Democratic leadership of the State Legislature went along with Governor Chris Christie in capping NJ’s property tax increases at 2% last July with the understanding that they would get to work on and pass the governor’s “tool kit” which enables municipal leaders to responsibly reduce the cost of local government in September.
Rather than focusing on municipal government reform, the Democratic leadership is focusing on the Christie administrations failed “Race to the Top” application for $400 million in federal education dollars. Nothing that the Democrats discover in their “Race to the Top” circus will bring NJ the $400 million the Christie administration applied for. That $400 million is not coming, just as Frank Pallone’s $400 million to count fish is not coming.
Trenton Democrats need to put policy over politics. They can hold hearings on the Race to the Top snafu after they have passed the tool kit. They will get just as much political mileage and just as much money (none) from Race to the Top hearings held in December or January as they will from hearings held now.
Failure to pass the tool kit will lead to massive municipal layoffs and service cuts throughout New Jersey while property taxes increase by 2%. This week, just in Monmouth County, we have seen two clear examples of why the tool kit is necessary. In Belmar a mediator awarded the police department a 15% salary increase while Highlands announced that they might layoff 12 of their 53 employees, including three police officers. There will be literally hundreds of stories like this throughout the state if the legislature doesn’t pass the tool kit legislation before municipal leaders start crafting their 2011-2012 budgets.
Maybe that is what Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver want to happen. Maybe their focus is on next year’s state legislative elections and they think they have a better chance of keeping control of the legislature if New Jersey’s municipalities are in chaos next year with rising crime and garbage piling up on the streets because only the most highly paid municipal employees are still working while their former junior colleagues are collecting unemployment or moving out of state to take lower paying government jobs elsewhere.
Sweeney and Oliver wouldn’t do that, would they? Will it work if they do? I don’t think so.