Pressure Mounts on New Jersey Legislature to Move Port Authority Public Disclosure Bills

NJLeg 9_22_2014

One man stands in the way of advancing the issue of transparency at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey: Assembly Transportation and Independent Authority Chairman John Wisniewski. And today, the New York Times editorial page joined advocate groups in calling upon the New Jersey legislature to act.

While Chairman Wisniewski’s Committee is set to hold a hearing on 11 bills regarding transparency and accountability at the bi-state agency this coming Monday, including the important Port Authority public disclosure bills, the effort falls disappointingly short. Chairman Wisniewski has listed these bills for “discussion only,” meaning that there will be no vote on the bills regardless of the discussion, and therefore they cannot be released from committee.

Monday’s “discussion only” agenda comes on the heels of this past Wednesday’s PANYNJ Board of Commissioners meeting, during which the commissioners unanimously passed a resolution calling for a proposal which would require PANYNJ, which currently has its own policy regarding public disclosure, to abide by the public-disclosure laws of both New York (FOIL) and New Jersey (OPRA). Chairman John Degnan stated that he anticipates the new policy to be in place by January 2015 absent any progress by the legislatures of both states.

Though the New Jersey Senate passed one of the two necessary public disclosure bills in June, and the second was released from the Senate Transportation Committee yesterday, Wisniewski’s committee remains a choke point for legislative efforts. The New York State counterparts to these New Jersey bills are currently awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature.

*A3417
(Vanieri-Huttle)
Increases transparency and accountability at PANYNJ.
[NY Bills S.7721/A.3944-C (Lanza/Brennan)]
*S2183
(Gordon/Weinberg/Pennacchio)
Requires PANYNJ be subject to NY Freedom of Information Law and NJ open public records act.
[NY Bills S.6718-C/A.8785-C (Ranzenhofer/Paulin)]

Because these bills pertain to a bi-state agency, they require bi-state legislation. But the ball remains in New Jersey’s court in order to bring any legislative efforts by both states to fruition. While New Jersey technically has the remainder of the 2014-2015 legislative session to deliver these bills to Governor Christie for his signature, New York’s legislative session concluded in June and will not resume until January 2015. Should the pending New York transparency bills not be signed by Governor Cuomo by December, the legislation in New York will be withdrawn and must be reintroduced in next year’s session. Of course a veto by either Governor could thwart all efforts.

While Assemblyman Wisniewski can reconvene his committee and vote upon the bills in the future, listing the bills for “discussion only” is simply delaying the much needed structural changes at PANYNJ. Assemblyman Wisniewski should do what’s best for New York and New Jersey and bring the Port Authority public disclosure bills to a Committee vote sooner rather than later.

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