Assemblyman John McKeon's (D-West Orange) proposed legislation to change the way the governor appoints U.S. senators in the event of a vacancy has drawn outrage from top Republicans, including Gov.-elect Christopher Christie.
"It's garbage. It's political lying," said Christie during an eventful press conference in which he also rallied against pensions for non-government employees and the appointment of Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Joseph Spicuzzo to a seat on the Sports and Exposition Authority. "There are no niceties to be put around this. This is a political power play by the party that's losing power, and it's wrong."
Christie said McKeon's claim that his bill would save $10 million by eliminating the option for governors to call special elections a "fantasy."
"Do you really think that's John McKeon is intent on this? Did he wake up one morning and say I'm worried that a governor might call a special election?" said Christie.
At one point, a reporter tried to follow up on one of Christie's points.
"Let me finish please. I'm in the middle of a rant here," Christie joked.
State law empowers the governor to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat by appointment until the next general election.
But Christie noted that Corzine filled his own senate seat upon assuming the governorship under the old rules, and urged him to veto any legislation that changed the appointment law.
"I have to say, Governor Corzine did not complain, nor did members of the legislature complain, when Governor Corzine used the exact system that is in place today to appoint his replacement," said Christie.
Before Christie's press conference, state Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Hamilton) called the bill a "partisan rush job."
"It's insulting to the voters, it's insulting to Frank Lautenberg, and I will fight it with every ounce of energy that I have," said Baroni. "I'm going to do everything I can to come as close as I can to filibuster this."
Baroni acknowledged that he does not have the power to filibuster, but said "there are ways that the minority can exert its influence."
Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-Colts Neck), who sits on the Assembly State Government Committee, which the bill will have to pass through, called it "petty partisan politics."
"I will be a definite no vote on this," she said. "And I think the general public will see right through it."
Christie said that the McKeon legislation, along with Spicuzzo's appointment to the Sports and Exposition Authority, were two things he thought were going wrong with the transition.
In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which cleared his nomination for a vote in the full Senate, Spicuzzo indicated that he thought the Xanadu project - which is in the Meadowlands in Southern Bergen County -- was in Middlesex County, where he has been Sheriff since 1980. He also did not know what the Sports Authority budget was, how many employees it had, or that PSL's were personal seat licenses.
Christie said Spicuzzo was "probably the most unqualified candidate for the Sports Authority you can find" and indicated that Corzine should withdraw the Sheriff's nomination.
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