The Last Day of the 64th Legislative Session, Senator Phil Murphy
Some Republicans sidle up to me once in a while and say “Thank you for being here”. They appreciate the fact that Democrats are independent of the majority and provide some balance. Understand that they like being in the majority, but are happy to have someone with them when battling what borders on megalomania coming from the House leadership side of the Legislature. A good example of this was on display this past week when, following a House leadership tantrum on the 78th day of the session in late April, we convened on Tuesday to complete our work. Evidently, enough time had passed to cool off and listen to reason. What happened? At the end of the session, two bills were introduced that skipped the regular process of testimony that takes months. Both were from the House Republican leadership; one was to reduce the oil tax voted in by the people – that rush job succeeded – the other was a bill to include legislators on an executive branch board – PERS. A couple of Republicans were ticked off that the PERS board had negotiated the past six months for their health insurance carrier. It was between longtime carrier BCBS and the winner, Sandford insurance. When this was made public during the middle of the session, some were mad because they did not know about it, even though it was done legally by smart people on both sides. That binding contract was not good enough for some in the House, who attached language guaranteeing certain provisions including legislative presence on the board to the PERS funding bill. Both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate realized that this last minute bill was wrongheaded, that the PERS (Public Employees Retirement System) agency budget needed funding without being turned into a political football. So too did House Democrats and some Republicans. But the House Republicans are threatened by their leader to follow or else lose their committee chairmanships and vice chairmanships. (Committee chairs and their assistants – Vice chairs like the power of running the meetings and being able to put down on their campaign literature that they are chairmen.)
Are you still with me? I ask because if one really wants to understand what is happening, one must appreciate how humans work with power/influence. One should also understand and recall that absolute power corrupts absolutely – that was true when the saying was coined thousands of years ago and is true today. Democrat, Republican, business, religion, etc., it does not matter. Only an outstanding human can remain impervious to the tug of unchecked power and resist abusing it. ANYWAY, in conference committee leading up to Tuesday the Senate stayed united against the House until the final five minutes of their last meeting when a compromise was reached and the House agreed to pare their legislative representation on the board from four to two – one Democrat, on Republican. What did we end up with? A funded agency which now has two legislators on their board so they know what is happening. In other words, the Senate, which was united on a clean funding bill, lost to the House. Growth in government? Yep.