Prieto Has Procedure on His Side: His Foes Would Require a Super Majority for an Overrule


NEWARK – With business groups and unions behind him, Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) appears dug in against a Horizon bill that paves the way for a government taking of the insurance company’s reserve funds even as members of his own party in favor of the bill prepare to remove him from power.

Prieto has procedure on his side if he finds himself in a position to check mate a senate version of the bill – but the cost of his unwillingness to move could be a government shutdown if lawmakers can’t come to an agreement before the end of the week.

The speaker’s rivals would require a super majority – 60 votes – to overule him and pass the bill – a heavy lift in light of a caucus that stridently opposed the Horizon bill when they kicked it around last week. Just as in the senate, legislative powers affiliated with George Norcross III and/or Middlesex County, in this case Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-6) and/or Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-19) – an alternative to Prieto as speaker – either work the phones or make the rounds in search of ways to finesse people to their side.

As in the senate, Horizon allies have put forward bulked up school aid in exchange for the promise of  support for state Senator Joe Vitale’s (D-19 ) controversial bill. Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin’s (D-29) stand on Horizon, for example, is all about $27 million Newark stands to get on education funding, a microcosm of district to district talks. In LD11, veteran Republican Senator Jennifer Beck opposes the Horizon bill, and it is assumed that the Democrats in her district in the assembly will support the legislation in exchange for bulked up school aid and the chance to make the case for negotiated dollars for school kids.

Again, Prieto says he won’t post the Horizon bill, and won’t budge, his position empowered by the alliance he has with similarly disposed groups, including the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), public labor groups and pro business organizations, and media entities that have expressed opposition to the bill. But education funding is the enticement to chip away at his caucus, and Essex lawmakers aren’t the only ones in talks.

Deals for increased school aid in the end could fall under the line item veto pen of Governor Chris Christie, leaving the South, Middlesex and their allies in position to point the finger of blame at Prieto and what they deem to be his stubbornness over Horizon.

The conversation is playing out amid ongoing considerations by the party of legislative leadership positions, with Pintor Marin favored to get a budget chairmanship in exchange for backing Coughlin as speaker.



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