Bills passed unanimously by the state legislatures of New Jersey and New York that would institute an array of reforms at the Port Authority will not be signed into law by Governor Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a ranking Senate Democrat said late Saturday afternoon.
Sen. Loretta Weinberg of Teaneck said the state Senate Office was informed by Christie's office that the bills, which are awaiting the signatures of both governors, will be vetoed on Saturday. Weinberg said the office was told that a separate bill making the Port Authority subject to public records laws in both states will be conditionally vetoed. She said the Senate office was informed of the impending development in advance of a joint announcement by the governors expected later today.
The legislation would have initiated broad administrative, procedural and ethics reforms at the Port Authority, including requiring efficiency studies by outside experts every two years, imposing restrictions on lobbying, and forcing agency officials to appear before state lawmakers to answer questions about any topic.
Instead, the governors were expected to announce a list of reforms proposed by their own appointed panel, Weinberg said.
Here is a press release that just got sent out from Christie and Cuomo:
Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Governor Chris Christie accepted the comprehensive and wholesale changes recommended by the Bi-State Special Panel on the Future of the Port Authority. At its core these changes call for restructuring the agency's overall operations, including reorganizing the leadership of the Board of Commissioners and the executive management of the Port Authority with the creation of a single Chief Executive Officer and the modification of the Chairperson's role. The reorganization accepted by the Governors will also return the Port Authority fully to its original mission – developing and maintaining the world's largest transportation system and infrastructure.
The structural reorganization of the Authority will create clear lines of responsibility and accountability that start with its leadership. A single Chief Executive Officer -- to be hired as expeditiously as possible based on a national search directed by the Board of Commissioners -- will replace the Executive Director and Deputy Executive Director. The current Chair and Vice-Chair roles will be modified in one of two ways. Either the Chair and the Vice Chair positions will be replaced with two Co-Chairs, one recommended by each Governor, for election by the Board of Commissioners, or the chairmanship will be rotated between the two states on an annual basis. Either approach promotes a long-term balance between the policy interests of the respective states, and present a more equitable model to the public stakeholders of the Authority. The CEO and either Co-Chairs or rotating Chair and Vice-Chair will constitute the Office of the Chair, a senior operations committee.
Organizational changes to the Agency to demand increased accountability is only part of the Special Panel's recommendations to maintain trust with the public it serves. Governors Cuomo and Christie are embracing initiatives to increase transparency of the Port Authority's deliberations and operations.
Additionally, Governors Cuomo and Christie accept and endorse the transparency legislation, Senate Bill No. 2183 (First Reprint), and S6718C/A8785C, but with some sensible changes to eliminate confusion that would be caused by the bill as currently drafted. The recommended changes will make it easier for individuals pursuing public records under the law. The Governors continue to embrace the previously announced Freedom of Information policy, which ensures access to the Port Authority's records under both States' laws, and the recent practice of strictly limiting the use of executive sessions for Board deliberations and using public meetings whenever possible.
Additionally, the Port Authority has been instructed to prepare a revised Code of Conduct to drive a renewed focus on ethics and compliance throughout the agency, and the Governors are calling for the creation of a Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer position to ensure the highest ethical conduct.
Why are they vetoing a reform bill that passed both state legislatures 612-0 for their own "reforms"?
Is this just about grabbing the narrative?
Is this a head fake, with their "reform" only looking like "reform"?
What I'm seeing so far suggests it's a little bit of both:
From @AssemblymanWiz: "It's difficult to comprehend how these bills were not signed, considering the problems we've seen and uncovered"
— Zack Fink (@ZackFinkNews) December 27, 2014
From main NYS sponsor of PA reform legislation @NYGovCuomo opted to veto on a Saturday night...“The veto is without merit."
— Zack Fink (@ZackFinkNews) December 27, 2014
I'll have more in a bit.
But suffice to say, Cuomo and Christie are doing something that will have great import here both for their own powers and the millions of people in both states who are served by the Port Authority.