Bill would have been a path to poverty for public employees

Legislative leaders used the chaos of the last few days of the recent lame duck session to push through a bill on the last day of the session, Jan. 13, intended to create a permanent Path to “Progress” panel. The panel would have been charged, among other things, with investigating and making recommendations about the cost of public employee benefits. That bill was part of the larger Path to “Progress” legislation introduced and pushed by Senate President Steve Sweeney last spring. 

By not signing the legislation to create the panel by Jan 21, the governor vetoed the bill. Any bills passed between the 10th and last day of a voting session become law only if the governor signs them. He has seven days after the end of the session to act on the bills, otherwise they are “pocket vetoed.” A pocket veto cannot be put up for an override vote in the Legislature.

NJEA urged the governor to veto the bill, in accordance with his publicly stated position in favor of working with public employees to achieve solutions rather than imposing harmful changes.

NJEA opposed the bill and was pleased with the governor’s veto. In addition to issuing a position statement, NJEA members and elected association leaders lobbied legislators at the Statehouse in the weeks and days leading up to Jan. 13, the day of the last votes of the 2018-19 legislative session. In addition, NJEA members across the state sent over 15,000 emails to each legislator in just under 72 hours, making it clear that the bill was an unacceptable attack on public employees.

Calling the Path to “Progress” bill a “return to Chris Christie’s approach of finger-pointing and blame,” NJEA’s statement contended that the legislation “would create another costly, permanent, bureaucratic panel, filled with political appointees, for the express purpose of promoting the same failed agenda that has been used to unfairly scapegoat public employees for the state’s many fiscal failures.”

NJEA urged the governor to veto the bill, in accordance with his publicly stated position in favor of working with public employees to achieve solutions rather than imposing harmful changes.

The pressure applied by NJEA members created tension in the Legislature. In the final tally, eight senators refused to vote on the bill, along with two “no” votes from Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, and Sen. Ron Rice, D-Essex, a strong act of defiance in the face of pressure from their leadership to support the bill. In the Assembly, 13 members did not vote, while seven voted against the bill.

NJEA will continue to oppose all elements of the Path to “Progress” bill that target public employees.

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