Assembly Ceremony: Coughlin Takes The Speakership; Greenwald Chokes Up; Bramnick’s ‘Rational Majority’ Speech

The Assembly kicked off its swearing-in ceremony just a little while again at the War Memorial, as the chamber prepares to formally begin the new session.

Assembly Minority Leader Bramnick swore-in LD13 Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso and LD24 Assemblyman Harold Wirths, who joins districtmate Parker Space.

Assemblyman – and soon-to-be-Speaker Craig Coughlin swore-in Assembly members Roy Freiman of LD16 and Yvonne Lopez of LD19, replacing former Assemblyman John Wisniewski.  Assemblywoman Carole Murphy took the oath.  So did Shanique Speight and John Armato.

 

 

Dana Burley was sworn-in as Clerk of the Assembly, a veteran and respected chamber presence.

Jerry Green, absent due to illness, was reupped officially as Speaker Pro Tempore, while Lou Greenwald was installed for another tour of duty as Majority Leader.  Choking back tears, an emotional Greenwald talked about his family onstage.

 

The procession

 

“Today, I step to this podum for my 12th term, and 4th term as Majority Leader.  But I do not intend to dwell on history,  Today, we face a reactionary cyncism and intolerance.  I have always believed in the power of the spoken word to lift people up’ as he quoted RFK and slammed Trump, without mentioning the president by name.  Invoking his twins, he pressed on pay equity, saying ‘we will make sure the gender wage gap is a relic of history.’

As Greenwald spoke, a source told Insider NJ that ‘it will be an all-out Sweeney-Murphy war, and, of course, the taxpayers lose.’

Lou Greenwald

Greenwald continued, showing pictures of children killed in the Sandy Hook massacre, shared with him by a father.  Crying, Greenwald said ‘we can and we must do more.’

Seizing the moment, the Majority Leader drove home a big Democratic agenda, bolstered by an incoming Democratic governor next week in Phil Murphy, with an emphasis on pay equity and gun control.

Sworn-in by Coughlin, Minority Leader Jon Bramnick took the podium and said ‘I intend to seek common ground, but we will spiral clearly and loudly.  One party rule can be extreme at times’.

Bramnick continued, “I would hope all 80 members enact serious fiscal reforms.  Much more work needs to be done.’

 

Jon Bramnick

If Greenwald went big and bold, with big national-sized issues, then Bramnick tried to keep the discussion on fiscal issues.

But, he said, ‘tweets that hurl insults at one another do not solve the problems of the country or the state.  Stop chasing  ratings and start searching for the facts’, he chastised cable news media.  ‘Whether left wing media or directly from the White House, we the rational majority must be louder.’

It was a well-received speech by Bramnick.

Gordon Johnson nominated Craig Coughlin for Speaker, to a big cheer from the audience.  Nancy Pinkin seconded the nomination, as Raj Mukherji moved for nominations to be closed.

A done deal: Speaker Craig Coughlin.

Justice Barry Albin swore-in the new Speaker, who stood onstage with his family, and paid tribute to the late Governor Brendan Byrne.  He ackowledged the presence of former Gov. McGreevey and former Speaker Joe Roberts in the audience.

“What I really am is a guy who grew up in South Amboy” said Coughlin, acknowledging that no one really knows him.  “But if you read the political blogs, you know me as lowkey and a backbencher.”

He spoke up growing up in the Kennedy era – he was 10 when JFK was president.  He says the state has gotten too expensive and spoke of families worrying about their children going to college, about workers having enough income to pay rent, about commuters worrying about inadequate mass transit.  Quality schools and affordability.

He committed to a government that values those worries and aims to alleviate them.  He pledged to work to improve mass transit to get people to work on time, to big applause.  He addresses chronic hunger – ‘we can and we will fix that’ – as an issue near and dear to his heart.

“I am humble enough to know that it takes all of us to make the Assembly work.  I will not be afraid to chart that path when necessary,” he says, to applause from the audience.

That’s a key line, as Coughlin notes that, like his predecessor, he won’t be afraid to break from the Senate.

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