Pot Heads to Caucus Amid Late Senate Arm Twisting

Senate President Steve Sweeney wanted to introduce subpoena power for the lawmakers on the Katie Brennan panel to now turn their full attention on the embattled state Schools Development Authority (SDA). NJ Senators did not support this action.

They don’t have the votes in the senate tonight to legalize recreational marijuana tomorrow but the front office kept leaning to try to extract the 21 votes required to get it done.

They seemed to be stuck at 17 or 18, depending on who you asked, and a source said Senate President Steve Sweeney’s (D-3) people wanted Governor Phil Murphy to bench press the final three or four votes.

It looked grim, as the neophyte governor attempted to button hole upper chamber lawmakers with time ticking down.

His hail mary appeal?

Republicans.

And one recent Republican-turned Democrat.

A source told InsiderNJ that Murphy allies continued to work on Republican Senators Bob Singer (R-30), Kip Bateman (R-16) and Declan O’Scanlon (R-13). They prayed they had a shot with Senator Dawn Addiego (D-8) but apparently she doesn’t like the 5lbs piece in the expungement reform, and it’s by statute so they can’t amend. There was late effort too in the direction of Senator Nilsa Cruz Perez (D-5).

A source in the assembly – while acknowledging a greater degree of comfort in the lower chamber  -insisted it wasn’t over, and placed some hope in the final senate caucus scheduled ahead of the noon session.

But Bateman, who voted against releasing marijuana legalization from the senate judiciary committee, was still a no.

A second source said if the caucus yielded the same 41-43ish situation in the assembly and 18ish in the senate, leadership would likely convene a press conference stipulating that they would continue to work on a few potential amendments and reconvene in 30 days – maybe less. Talk resurfaced too of a ballot question – to take the heat off the caucus.

At his last press conference on the subject last Thursday, Murphy left the door open for immediate negotiations in the aftermath of a possible Monday failure, which, again, several sources anticipated.

A shift seemed to have occurred among the governor’s allies.

Recreational marijuana would pass, just not the version on the table right now, and just not Monday.

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