GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN Day One: Reworked Horizon Bill or Bust

TRENTON – As the government shut down at midnight, some of the lawmakers who fastened the padlock on those doors could summon some sense of redemption over the fact that they worked through the night.

Here are the basics of what is going on this morning on day one of the shut down:

A stripped down version of the Horizon bill will go before Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32). Former Governor Dick Codey is working with the speaker to try to get him to back the new bill. That’s a dicey role for Codey, given his bad history with Governor Chris Christie. The governor is so touchy, he may not back a bill that he suspects contains the avuncular ex governor’s fingerprints. Codey is close to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Murphy.

The new Horizon bill would contain a cap on how much money the government can take out of the reserve fund. The governor originally sought $300 million. S-4, state Senator Joe Vitale’s (D-19) proposed Horizon restricting bill, did not contain that figure, a point Vitale strove to make when he introduced the bill to the Senate Budget Committee. A new version would spell out a cap.

If Prieto does not accept the reworked bill, he could face the consequences as early as today. Christie said he was playing a dangerous game, and while labor unions and business advocates back him, he still only mustered 26 votes for his budget, which remains frozen on the board overlooking the assembly chamber.

This morning, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) and Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald planned to meet to discuss possible alternatives going forward. The session is expected to resume later this morning. A source with knowledge of the meeting between the party leaders  told InsiderNJ that the men will entertain a plan to remove Prieto if they cannot get the speaker to budge on Horizon.

The only name that people have heard as an alternative to the sitting speaker is Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-19) of Middlesex. “He appears to be the anointed one,” a source close to negotiations told InsiderNJ. Republicans have noted that while Democrats hate one another on either side of their divided caucus, they find Republicans equally insufferable and those ranks of Prieto backers do not appear willing to cut a deal to make Bramnick speaker in order to deny Coughlin.

If Republicans stay unified and align with South Jersey and Middlesex and those other Democrats in that camp, they could get in the neighborhood of 49 votes, comfortably above the 41 mark. That’s without the help of Assemblyman Chris Brown (R-2), who voted for the budget and presumably would not vote aye to dump the sitting speaker. It’s also presuming that those Democrats who abstained last night on the budget bill would vote in favor of ejecting Prieto.

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