Senate President Sweeney Urges Lawmakers To Override Christie Veto On 'Sandy Bill of Rights'

The Record ( — Thursday, May 22, 2014

State House Bureau
The Record

Senate President Stephen Sweeney is calling on lawmakers to override Governor Christie's veto of legislation, which he says would make the distribution of federal disaster relief more efficient and transparent.

Christie conditionally vetoed the bill earlier this month saying it would "prove impossible to implement."

Sweeney said lawmakers are partnering with the Housing & Community Development Network of New Jersey, New Jersey Citizen Action and New Jersey Working Families Alliance, to push an override attempt.

"I traveled around the state along with the recovery advocates and heard directly from the people impacted on what they needed," Sweeney said in a statement Thursday. "First and foremost was that they just wanted answers to their questions. The bill of rights does that, so why anyone would be against that kind of transparency is beyond me."

Sweeney made his announcement at the home of Matthew and Jennifer Toole in Manasquan. The couple and their eight children still have not returned to their house since the Oct. 29 storm. The family is among the thousands on a waiting list for a grant of up to $150,000 that can be used for rebuilding and elevating homes.

The bill, which Sweeney has dubbed the "Sandy Bill of Rights," passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously in March. Among other things, it would require the state to let grant applicants know the status of their requests, their rights to an appeal upon being rejected and what place they are in on a waiting list and the rationale for that ranking.

Christie said in his veto message that the proposal would violate state and federal law. He said the recommendations were "rife with illegal priorities and unquantifiable administrative costs that would prove impossible to implement, frustrate sound future disaster planning and all but certainly exceed federal funding for program administration."

Staci Berger, president and chief executive officer of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, called lawmakers to join Sweeney in overriding Christie's veto. She attended Sweeney's event in Manalapan Thursday.

"Sandy survivors should have an equitable, open and fair process so they know how to get help and can determine where they stand in the long line for resources to plan for their future," she said in a statement. "Our recovery has been a drawn-out and uncertain process. Legislators who voted for the sandy Bill of Rights can make it better for the Tooles and families like them."

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