The failed override and what transpired next

Understanding parliamentary procedure might be harder than understanding quantum mechanics. Most of us know little about the inner workings of what happens on the legislature’s floor or the complexity of how a bill becomes a law. What happened to the override is the subject of this diary.

The press accurately reported that the failed override vote on the gun control / mental health bill (S2360) was 51 in favor, 17 against, 11 abstentions, and 1 not voting. However, 54 votes were needed to override the veto. It is common for there to be one or two abstentions on a vote. It is uncommon for there to be 11 abstentions – legislators who vote neither YES nor NO but in effect are voting against its passage.

Now there is no formal record of the override vote tally nor of who abstained. In fact the vote does not even exist, as is explained below.

As the voting moved toward an end it became apparent that there were insufficient votes to override. The Democrats did not want the override to stand because if it did the effort would die and the bill could not be overridden. So they closed the voting early and took the vote tally off the wall board.

Then Republican Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce made a motion to reconsider the bill hoping to have the override formally killed. Next Democratic Assemblyman Louis Greenwald intervened with a motion to table her motion so that he would be tabling the override vote and giving the Democrats another opportunity to override the veto later. Hence the only vote that is on record on this matter is the result of Greenwald’s tabling effort which went along party lines:
Asm.  12/3/2015  –  MOTION TAB MOTION   –  Yes {47}  No {31}  Not Voting {1}  Abstains {0}.
In effect the earlier, uncompleted override vote disappears and there is no formal record of the original override vote nor of who abstained.

There is a tentative date of December 17 to launch another override effort. Party members on the floor know well who abstained as this information was briefly on the wall board before being deleted. Possibly some of the abstainers,  including Minority Leader Jon Bramnick who originally sponsored the bill, will change their vote. Maybe the second time will be the charm.

Whew! Procedures like this move swiftly on the floor and can be unclear even to those in the gallery. All of this was explained to me by a professional who knows well how a bill becomes a law, and much more about how our legislature operates.

Comments (3)

  1. deciminyan

    One of my memories from high school is doing a book report on Profiles in Courage, written by then-Senator John F. Kennedy. It was about senators who bucked the party line to do what they thought was right, despite the electoral consequences. Perhaps someone should write a sequel about the New Jersey GOP delegation and title it Profiles in Cowardice.

  2. CreedPogue

    “The bill was fine and now it is not” is the GOP’s position. It looks like the Governor’s conditional veto would also delay implementation (even with his “changes”) for over a year (AFTER the 2016 Election). The GOP is supporting THAT as well.


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