There will now only be one legislative committee investigating the George Washington bridge lane closures that have led to Gov. Chris Christie’s inner circle following votes of both chambers of the state Legislature Monday.
The Assembly and Senate each met at Noon Monday, voting to support a resolution that combines into one bi-cameral panel the investigative committees separately convened in each.
The Assembly voted 70 to 0 to support the measure after easy passage in the Senate.
The committee, scheduled to meet
Monday afternoon, is comprised of:
- Assemblywoman Marlene Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic);
- Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris/Somerset)
- Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex/Passaic)
- Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex/Mercer)
- Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington)
- Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-Monmouth)
- Sen. Kevin O’Toole (Bergen/Essex/Morris/Passaic)
- Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen/Passaic)
- Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen)
- Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon)
Assembly Republicans made a push to amend the measure, calling for the addition of a third, Republican, co-chair for the committee, among other changes.
Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, R-Monmouth, said the addition of a third co-chair would be a step in the right direction toward a truly bi-partisan effort.
“It would prove that this process is more than a witch hunt,’’ Handlin said.
The Republican move to amend the resolution failed. Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald adamantly shut down Handlin’s characterization.
“I think we need to be careful before we use words like ‘witch hunt,’’’ Greenwald said. “This is not a witch hunt. We know one thing: There was an abuse of power. We don’t know how deep it goes.”
Congealing the two panels signals a coming together for Democrats after both chambers separately created their own investigative committees last week, each with subpoena power.
Only the Assembly committee, however, was seated. Chaired by Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, the committee issued 20 subpoenas to Christie insiders and top brass at the Port Authority. Records demanded by the committee are due back Feb. 3.
"This is the optimal approach to ensuring the people of New Jersey get the answers they need to these questions about the abuse of government power," Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen), has said in a release.
The new committee creates a 12-member Select Committee on Investigations. Like the previous committees, it will be made up of eight Democrats and four Republicans -- five Assembly Democrats, three Senate Democrats, three Assembly Republicans and one Senate Republican.
Under the joint committee, Wisniewski would co-chair with Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen. But the joint panel will retain the former Assembly committee’s legal counsel, Reid Schar, the former assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Blagojevich’s is serving a 14-year federal sentence for corruption after he was found guilty of soliciting bribes for political appointments, including the 2008 vacant U.S. Senate seat of then-President-Elect Barack Obama, while he was governor.