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(TRENTON) - The full Assembly on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Wisniewski, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Charles Mainor granting the legislature authority to disapprove the minutes of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), a move the sponsors say could help avert massive toll increases like the latest that went into effect on Sunday.
"Despite our best efforts, there are relatively few controls in place to curb the waste, abuse and secrecy that have taken place at the Port Authority," said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). "This legislation would institute much-needed oversight to help us avoid future abuses and create more accountability so things like questionable toll increases aren't heaped on commuters without proper justification."
The bill (A-2166), approved by a vote of 44-31, would require the PANYNJ to transmit the minutes of its meetings to the legislatures of both New York and New Jersey for review and approval.
"As of yesterday, non E-Z Pass drivers are now paying $13 to travel across the Hudson River, a move that the legislature has been powerless to stop," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "In any economy that's an enormous burden. We need to make sure that the Port Authority is operating in the best interest of residents and the only way to do that is to have the proper system of checks and balances in place to monitor their decisions."
Either legislature, by concurrent resolution, may disapprove the minutes within 10 business days of receipt of the transmission. If neither legislature acts within the prescribed period of time, the minutes shall be deemed to be approved by each legislature and subject to the Governor's veto authority under existing law.
"These toll increases have made commuting to work simply unaffordable for some constituents," said Mainor (D-Hudson). "Despite the public outcry when the Port Authority announced the toll hikes, there was virtually nothing the legislature could do to stop them from being implemented. This legislation will create two extra sets of eyes and ears to look out for toll payers' interests."
In order to become effective, New York would have to pass substantially similar legislation as well. The measure now awaits consideration by the Senate.
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"When you're asked to cast a vote on a bill and it seems innocuous, and it's got a hidden land mine that perhaps only an expert would see, it would sort of behoove those experts to tell us in advance rather than make us look, shall we say, a little bit indecisive later on." - Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25).- NJTV
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