Republicans Threaten Boycott of GWB Lane Closures Committee

NJ Spotlight News | April 17, 2014 | Politics
Republican members of the special committee say the process hasn't been inclusive.

By David Cruz

The prospect of Republicans boycotting future meetings of the select committee on investigations is real, say GOP members, a result of weeks of what they say is little cooperation or sharing of information. Today, committee members met via conference call to plot their next moves. Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick was on the call.

“Hey, if we’re going to be part of this process, we’re going to need information,” he said. “We’re going to need documents that we ask for. If we’re going to move a resolution, we don’t want to be treated like second-class citizens.”

It had been coming for weeks. Republicans on the select committee on investigations were already frustrated at what they say is a less than inclusive majority, but when chairman John Wisniewski said Republican Amy Handlin was showboating last week, it proved to be a bridge too far.

“I have here a whole pile of reform bills that includes bills that have been sponsored by you, Mr. Chairman, and by you, Madam Chairwoman, and I have others sponsored by members of this committee on both sides,” Handlin told committee members last week. “What on earth is stopping us from moving forward on this legislation today?”

In the testiest exchange among members of the committee so far, Wisniewski responded testily. “I could do the same thing,” he said, holding up a batch of documents. “The governor vetoed a bill that was put in front of him to address this, so to showboat here to talk about how we can now put forward legislation today Assemblywoman. We’re not done with our work.”

Not all the Republicans on the committee think a boycott is a great idea. But, said one, it’s like we’re not on the committee now anyway. The most recent charge from Republicans is that they can’t get a detailed accounting from the committee’s attorney, who has so far cost over $200,000. Committee Co-Chair Loretta Weinberg says the Republicans aren’t being entirely truthful. She says summations of the bills have been made public — unlike, she says, bills from the governor’s internal investigation.

“There are more detailed invoices, which will list who the counsel interviewed, when and for what reason,” she said. “Those invoices are obviously confidential but every committee member can come into the office and look at the detailed billing statements whenever they choose.”

Which Handlin did today, she says, after having to wait around the Statehouse for someone to finally find them. “This is a perfect example of the kind of behavior that is causing us to really question the whole purpose of this committee,” she added.

The committee is expected to issue more subpoenas for testimony sometime next week. It remains to be seen how this latest controversy will affect the way they conduct business, going forward.