Monday, July 29, 2013

Open-space funding bill narrowly passes in NJ Senate

** Updated at 6:25 p.m.**

It's been a nail-biter for NJ Keep it Green, a 180-member coalition of green groups that's been campaigning hard for passage of open-space funding initiative, SCR 160, in the New Jersey Senate today. 

The organization sent a worried message to its members early this afternoon saying that many Republican Senators, who supported the original bill, were flip-flopping.

That apparently was because of communications from the Governor's office.
Bill sponsor Sen. Bob Smith said Governor Christie’s office called Republican senators over the weekend and “pressured” them to vote against the resolution, according to 
The Record and the Asbury Park Press.

A three-fifths majority of each house (24 in the Senate) is required before Aug. 5 to put the question on this year’s general election ballot in November. If it passed by a simple majority (21 votes in the Senate) but less than three-fifths, the state constitution requires the Legislature to pass it again next year before it goes to the voters. 

At 3:50 p.m.,the Senate board showed 19 yes votes and 7 no votes, and some supporters feared that the legislation would fail to reach either landmark.

By 4:45, however, two additional votes were secured. The 21st vote had pushed the bill into the single-win column. 
Keep it Green even held out hope that three more senators could be persuaded to leave their vacations and drive to Trenton to propel the bill onto the General Election ballot.
** Update: At 5:20 p.m., the tally was 22 yes votes—two short of the ballot mark **
While the legislation has been strongly supported by most environmental groups in the state and by agriculture, conservation, recreation and historic preservation organizations as well, the NJ Sierra Club, and the NJ Environmental Federation--two heavy hitters--both lined up with state employee and teachers unions in opposing it. Early today, the Sierra Club put out a press release essentially declaring the legislation to be dead.

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