Scutari’s War Room: Senate Judiciary Chair (and Union Dems Chair) Set to Sit with Murph Admin on Pot Bill; While Linden Intensifies

NJ's Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards dismissed a complaint filed by Linden Mayor Derek Armstead against state Senator Nick Scutari. The complaint alleged that a Scutari ally had intimidated Armstead's allies, tried to deny their civil rights and attempted to force them out of a Democratic County Committee race.

Following scheduled Senate Judiciary Committee hearings tomorrow afternoon, Senator Nick Scutari (D-22) will huddle up with the Murphy Administration to hash (sorry) out the fine points of his proposed marijuana legalization legislation.

He has to work on some things, he admits.

But he feels it’s basically almost there.

“I don’t want to give them a bill that’s conditionally vetoed,” the legalization-championing senator told InsiderNJ.

He faces some bill sanding.

That was to be expected, he says.

While Scutari was pinned down in a competitive chairman’s race to lead the Union County Democratic Committee, state Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28) seized the bully pulpit to make his case for decriminalization (not full-blown) marijuana legalization.

“He took advantage of some down time with information,” Scutari acknowledged. “It doesn’t change anything. Maybe some people on the edges are swayed a little. In the end, the challenges are the same: getting the votes and getting it to Murphy’s desk. I went to the last [Rice-led] caucus meeting and gave a speech and it was well-received.”

Triumphant in his contest with Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr to win the Union County Democratic chairmanship, Scutari admitted that political Stalingrad situation was “completely distracting.”

But the work is still there.

“This bill didn’t go anywhere,” Scutari said.

And Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) has given the senator his commitment.

“He assures me he can get the votes,” Scutari said. “There are not that many hardcore no’s.”

Even as Scutari undertakes that Trenton consideration, he faces a local battle in his hometown of Linden.

Doubling as chairman of the local Democratic Committee, Scutari backs Councilwoman Gretchen Hickey for mayor against foe incumbent Mayor Derek Armstead.

Exposing the local rift, Armstead ran as the vice chair on a ticket with Mahr.

Now Scutari’s back with the warpaint on at Hickey’s shoulder.

A third candidate, Councilwoman Rhashonna C. Cosby, is also running in the June Democratic Primary.

Animated by the prospect of Armstead and Cosby taking votes from each other, Scutari’s allies say they will apply the same fervor citywide on behalf of Hickey that they activated on behalf of Scutari in the chair’s contest earlier this year.

It’s a street fight ongoing as Scutari assumes the negotiations chair with the Governor’s Office on the marijuana backroom front.

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