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Six Months into Murphy’s Term, Senate Confirms Six Cabinet Members

One reason process lasted as long as it did: disagreements over school funding between Sweeney and Repollet, new commissioner of education

Zakiya Smith Ellis
Zakiya Smith Ellis, Secretary of Higher Education

Halfway through Gov. Phil Murphy’s first year, the Senate yesterday confirmed six key members of his Cabinet, ending an unusually drawn-out confirmation process punctuated by a dispute between the governor and Senate President Steve Sweeney.

The primary holdup involved the nominations of Lamont Repollet as commissioner of the Department of Education and Zakiya Smith Ellis as Secretary of Higher Education. Sweeney blamed the delay on differences in opinion about how to fund schools.

After an appearance before the Senate Budget Committee, where Repollet pledged to work with lawmakers to address concerns about school funding, some of those differences appeared to be smoothed out. He and Smith Ellis won approval from the Senate in its first session since the budget break.

Also approved were Catherine McCabe at the state Department of Environmental Protection, Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti at the Department of Transportation, Marlene Caride at the Department of Banking and Insurance, and Christine Norbut Beyer at the Department of Children and Families.

The action leaves only the job of superintendent of the New Jersey State Police unfilled, according to Dan Bryan, the governor’s spokesman. Col. Patrick J. Callahan, acting superintendent, has been nominated to the post, but has yet to be confirmed.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to have these six stellar individuals leading key departments across state government,’’ said Murphy in a statement from his press office. “Each has a distinctive role to play on this team, and I look forward to continuing our work together in ensuring we have a stronger and fairer New Jersey for all of our residents.’’

The confirmations brings to 11 the number of women serving in cabinet-level posts, a record that Murphy has touted as being the most diverse in New Jersey’s history.

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