AP reported Friday afternoon that State Senate President, union official, and Freeholder President Stephen Sweeney says he will resign his position on the Gloucester County Freeholder Board by the end of this year. He thus fulfills a promised he had previously made. PolitickeNJ quotes him as saying, “It’s time I’m winding up one career and focusing on where I’m at.”
A judge had ruled in July that the Gloucester Freeholder Board had violated the Sunshine Law and that a court-appointed monitor must be hired. On Thursday the Star Ledger reported that Retired Judge John Sweeney (no relative of the senator) was named the Gloucester County’s Compliance Officer and will begin overseeing the board starting September 1.
On Wednesday Governor Chris Christie signed into law a bill (S-763/A-2078) sponsored by Sweeney which authorizes the director of a board of freeholders, with the consent of a majority of members, to exercise veto power over proposed actions of county authorities. Freeholder Executive Directors in those counties where there is such a position, already have the veto authority. However, many counties such as Gloucester do not have such a position so their board gains new power. Politicker NJ quotes him as saying, he’s “seen knucklehead decisions where this power would have come in handy.”
With his resignation he will not have much time to exercise this new power. Presumably, however, he will have more time to focus on his role as Senate President, a position he assumed the beginning of the current session after dethroning Sen. Codey. Sweeney got off to a quick start by supporting Governor Christie in creating initial pension reforms. Again working with Christie he helped to avert a state shut-down, but he allowed the budget bill, replete with cuts, to pass with little challenge. He negotiated quietly with the governor on a 2% property tax cap bill which has met a mixed reaction. On two issues of particular interest to progressives, he failed in his effort to enact a higher tax rate for millionaires, and just prior to becoming Senate President he voted against marriage for same-sex couples.
Although he ranks number two in Trenton power circles, so far he and the legislature have been overshadowed by the more dominant and insistent personality of the governor. With the legislature returning in September, he will have another opportunity to display renewed leadership, more independence from the governor, and creative Democratic solutions needed to address current social and financial issues.