Assembly refuses to rush S-1; plans to work on comprehensive housing policy for the fall

Thanks for the shout-out. Promoted by Rosi Efthim

June 30 has come and gone – the day that Gov. Christie and Sen. Lesniak had set as their deadline for passing S1, the deeply flawed and unconstitutional proposal to overhaul New Jersey’s housing policy. Thanks to an upswell of opposition to S1 and to the leadership of Speaker Sheila Oliver, Majority Leader Joe Cryan, Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee Chair and Vice-Chair Jerry Green and Mila Jasey, and Assembly Economic Growth Committee Chair Al Coutinho, S1 did not pass. Instead, the Legislature will work on alternative approaches to changing New Jersey’s housing policy over the summer.

Looking back, June was quite a busy month for those who opposed S1:

June 3 – S1 voted out of Senate Economic Growth committee. Although there was a strong showing of opposition from a wide range of groups, Sen. Lesniak did not allow any testimony at the hearing.  

June 3 – Statement released by every Catholic Bishop in New Jersey in opposition to S1 and support of Mount Laurel doctrine.

June 7 – Star-Ledger editorial opposing S1 process; further editorials throughout June from Asbury Park Press, Courier-News, Home News Tribune, New Jersey Law Journal also oppose the bill.

June 9 – Over 100 civil rights, environmental, special needs and supportive housing, religious, and labor groups release statement in opposition to S1.

June 10 – S1 was passed by the Senate. Senator Rice, Turner and Weinberg voted no.  The following Senators abstained or did not vote:  Allen, Madden Jr., Ruiz, Ciesla, Norcross, Vitale, Doherty and Smith. Sen. Norcross shortly after criticizes the bill as unfair to South Jersey, and Sen. Weinberg releases a statement explaining her no vote.

June 15 – A coalition of over 15 groups propose an alternative approach instead of S1 in a Trenton press conference, including the NAACP, Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, New Jersey Regional Coalition, Sierra Club, Corporation for Supportive Housing, Supportive Housing Association, and Coalition on Affordable Housing and Environment.

June 17 – The Assembly Housing and Local Government committee held a hearing on S1.  Everyone who signed up was able to testify, providing the first open public hearing on the bill.  The hearing took almost four hours, and large flaws with the bill were vocalized with overwhelming opposition to the bill. At the end of the hearing, the committee decided not to take a vote.

June 24 – The Assembly Budget committee voted out A3055, extending suspension of statewide non-residential development fee to October 30, 2010, to the full Assembly. After Assembly votes to pass the bill with overwhelming support, Senate refuses to hear it.

June 26 – Despite vocal statements by the Christie administration and Sen. Lesniak alluding to having the bill on Christie’s desk by the end of the month, Speaker Oliver quoted by the Star-Ledger stating, “[S1] will not get a vote in committee this summer but we hope to get it to a point where we can vote on it in the fall.”

As we celebrate an interim victory, we look forward to working with the wide range of groups opposed to S1 and legislative leadership this summer to come up with a better approach to New Jersey’s housing policy, expanding on the joint proposal presented at the June 15 press conference.

We would like to thank Assembly Speaker Oliver, Majority Leader Cryan, Committee Chairs Green and Coutinho, and Vice-Chair Jasey, along with Sens. Norcross, Rice, Turner, and Weinberg, for their efforts to slow the rapid movement of the bill. We now hope that they will work to see that the best possible bill presented to the Legislature in the fall.

Most of all, we thank those 100-plus groups, and all of you on BlueJersey who worked hard to stop what seemed like, in the words of the Asbury Park Press, a “runaway train” and had faith in the democratic process. There were so many people who we would have never met except through BlueJersey that played a critical role in stopping S1 – thanks so much to all of you! As I said at the Bloggers Breakfast at the DfA training this Sunday, nobody should understimate the power of the BlueJersey community to help push important public policy in NJ.

Special thanks also go to the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, which partnered with us in leading the opposition to S1.  

We know we have a long road still ahead of us, and we look forward to walking it with you together.

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