NJ Gov. Phil Murphy's First Veto Override?

It would be the first veto override in New Jersey in two decades. Here's what could happen.

Patch — June 10, 2019

By Tom Davis, Patch National Staff

UPDATE: It appears that both sides may have reached an agreement to prevent an override. Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon, said the Assembly passed a new bill by a 68-0-4 vote, adding:

"I thank Governor Murphy for his willingness to work cooperatively with us. This is, above all, a good government bill. The people of New Jersey deserve to know the origin of the money used to influence our political process. Transparency is critical if we are to ensure the trust of the public. This bill goes a long way to achieving that goal."

ORIGINAL STORY: You could argue that New Jersey's problems are rooted in party politics. But what if nobody can get along?

That seems to be the issue as New Jersey leaders brace for what could be the state's first veto override in two decades. What makes it unique is that Democrats appear willing to override a fellow Democrat, Gov. Phil Murphy.

At issue is a bill that would require "dark money" political organizations to disclose their donors. Sources told Patch that both sides - Democratic lawmakers and the Murphy administration - are close to hammering out a deal that could prevent an override.

But the negotiating hasn't stopped both sides from sniping at each other. The governor's conditional veto of the bill last month frustrated Senate President Stephen Sweeney so much that he said the state Legislature is ready to override anything if it doesn't meet their approval.

"At some point the legislature has to say, hey, if you're going to continue to do this, we're going to have to start overriding," Sweeney told NJTV.

If it comes to that point, Sweeney's going to get help from Republicans.

Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick said his caucus is prepared to help supply the required two-thirds support needed to override Murphy's conditional veto of legislation to boost disclosure requirements for groups that try to influence elections.

"There is overwhelming support to override the governor's dark-money veto in the Assembly Republican caucus," said Bramnick, R-Union. "Transparency is desperately needed, and this important piece of legislation would help restore the public's trust in government."

The dispute may be rooted in the escalating feud between Murphy and South Jersey political boss George Norcross, a childhood friend and close ally of Sweeney. Murphy's administration has been investigating the decisions to award tax breaks to companies tied to Norcross. Norcross even recently sued Murphy to get him to stop the probes.

Sweeney, meanwhile, has been largely opposing Murphy on a number of policies since his friend has been embroiled in the feud with the governor. Indeed, Sweeney is staunchly opposed to Murphy's millionaire's tax proosal - and Democrats have openly questioned who's been funding the governor's efforts to promote the policy, especially through his television commercials.

And since the commercials have been running, the talk of a veto override of the dark-money bill has picked up.

Murphy said he has perfectly logical reasons for conditionally vetoing the bill. He said he returned the bill to the Legislature with recommendations to strengthen disclosure requirements, eliminate loopholes and expand the scope of the state's pay-to-play laws.

"Strengthening disclosure requirements will help bring greater transparency to the work of government and enhance public trust in the political process," said Murphy. "Sadly, S1500, as currently written, falls short of that goal."

He has support, too. A coalition of 21 progressive groups from across New Jersey sent a letter to legislative leaders today demanding that they hold off on a vote to override Murphy's veto of controversial campaign finance legislation.

The bill, sold as an attempt to improve campaign finance disclosures, would instead kneecap progressive groups, the letter said. "It would impose sweeping new financial disclosure requirements on thousands of nonprofits that do not take part in electoral politics but advocate for clean air, civil rights and reproductive freedoms," according to the groups, which include the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters and New Jersey Citizen Action.

Here is how the bill, which received near-unanimous approval by both the state Assembly and Senate, would work - if it ever gets enacted:

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