1/14/20 BY DAN ULLOA
Attended by legislators, former Governors, legislative aides, lobbyists, party leaders, and others, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) detailed progress the state has made and where he’d like to see it go in the future.
And he did not mention cannabis once.
Last year when he was still pushing it, he discussed it extensively.
He did talk about fighting addiction and mental illness and said opioid death decreased by three percent after three years of double-digit increases. In addition, Murphy said he wants to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent crimes.
“Let’s live up to justice,” Murphy said. The Governor also extolled the signing of the expungements bill and said he gave people back the right to vote. So that was some good progress.
But he said nothing about the ballot referendum in November to legalize cannabis. Granted, it really was not a win to laud after the failure of cannabis reform to pass twice.
However, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Brmanick (R-Union) did criticize him for focusing on marijuana too much in his press conference rebuke.
He also did not mention a desire to deal with decriminalization, which means it’s not a priority. That’s not to say that he won’t pass a bill that will decriminalize cannabis before the ballot referendum passes.
Murphy harped again on the idea of a millionaire’s tax with great applause from his staff and supporters but not from the legislators. State President Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speakers Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) behind him had on poker faces. Both have disagreed with him on the issue and nearly shut the state government down because of it.
He also talked about doing more about improving ethics in New Jersey and corporate tax reform.
(Good luck with that!)
Sweeney controls the State Senate without a doubt. And it has been said Sweeney has often been exceedingly hesitant to give Murphy quick victory wins. As often Murphy brings up the idea of a millionaire’s tax, Sweeney mentions his “Path to Progress” plan which cuts the benefit of public workers.
The state worker unions of CWA and NJEA are close allies of Murphy, along with many other left-leaning groups.
Thus, the rich banker Governor is more progressive than the middle-class union leader State Senate President. The Governor has more allies in North while Sweeney has allies in the South, backed by its Boss, George Norcross III.
In 2017, Craig Coughlin became Assembly Speaker after the Middlesex County Democratic Chair Kevin McCabe made a deal whereby his Central Jersey allies would support Sweeney for State Senate President at the expense of then-Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) who was given a position on a prestigious board afterward.
In the new legislature that was sworn in prior to the State of the State, two Republicans replaced Democrats in the Assembly and one Democrat in the State Senate. However, all three were from the region that made Jeff Van Drew switch parties, so it’s not a great surprise. Moreover, both chambers are still firmly in Democratic control. Sweeney also became the longest-serving Senate President.