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Old 01-09-2018, 11:40 AM
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Mary Pat Campbell
Join Date: Nov 2003
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Plan to increase some N.J. politicians' pensions heads to Christie

A controversial bill that would enhance the pensions of well-connected former Camden Mayor Dana Redd and some other New Jersey elected officials is now in the hands of Gov. Chris Christie after being rushed through the state Legislature.

The state Assembly voted 41-19, with three abstentions, at the Statehouse in Trenton on Monday to give final legislative approval to the Democratic-sponsored measure less than a month after it was introduced.

The state Senate -- which, like the Assembly, is controlled by Democrats -- passed the legislation 23-9 last month.

It's now up to Christie, a Republican who has long been allies with Redd, to either sign or veto the bill before he leaves office Jan. 16.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, another Redd ally, said he doesn't know if Christie will sign it.

"We passed it," Sweeney, D-Gloucester, told reporters after Monday's vote. "We'll see what he does."

The measure (S3620) would allow some politicians to re-enroll in the state's Public Employees' Retirement System after being kicked out because they switched positions.

The most notable beneficiary would be Redd, a Democrat who just finished two terms as mayor of Camden. Redd -- who is also aligned with influential south Jersey Democratic powerbroker George Norcross III -- often teamed with Christie and Sweeney to push the revitalization of the city over the last decade.

Sponsors say the bill would also benefit some other elected officials -- such as state Assembly members James Beach, D-Camden, and Ralph Caputo, D-Essex -- but they have never specified how many.

The legislation was fast-tracked through the lame-duck legislative session -- with support from a number of Republicans -- before a new set of lawmakers is sworn in Tuesday and Christie is succeeded by Gov.-elect Phil Murphy a week later.

New Jersey's pension liability is more than $90 billion -- among the largest in the nation.

But Democratic leaders say he cost to taxpayers is minor because the legislation would affect a small number of officials in a pension system where more than 80,000 are enrolled.

Still, there was a temporary hold-up Monday when both the current state Senate and Assembly gathered for their final voting sessions.

Only 32 members of the Assembly initially voted for the bill -- nine votes short of the 41 it needed to pass.

Hours later, though, sponsors gathered enough votes to it to pass with the minimum votes needed.

At issue is a 2007 law that mandated all newly elected officials be placed in a less generous "defined contribution" pension plan similar to a (401)k.

Incumbent elected officials were allowed to stay in the traditional pension system, as long as they kept the same office -- with the exception of lawmakers who moved between the state Senate and Assembly.

That meant when when Redd -- then a state senator and Camden councilwoman -- was elected mayor in 2010, the pension she had been collecting since 1990 was frozen.

The bill passed after Politico New Jersey reported last week that Redd is a top contender for a high-paying job overseeing the Rowan University/Rutgers-Camden Board of Governors.

Brent Johnson may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find Politics on Facebook.

Chris Christie signs bill requiring stress tests, fee transparency at state pension funds
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Monday signed into law a requirement that the largest pension systems in the New Jersey Pension Fund, Trenton, conduct stress tests to determine how well they can respond to changing market conditions.

The legislation will affect five of the seven pension systems in the $77.5 billion New Jersey Pension Fund — the Public Employees' Retirement System, the Teachers' Pension and Annuity Fund, the Police and Firemen's Retirement System, the Judicial Retirement System and the State Police Retirement System. The teachers, public employees and police/fire systems account for about 97.5% of total New Jersey Pension Fund assets.

"The stress test analyses must provide a forward-looking projection, which considers the effects of long-term conditions and patterns of behavior of the investment market," said the legislation, which codifies practices by the trustees of the pension systems.

The stress-test goal is to "assess how well the investments of each of the state-administered retirement systems are likely to perform in periods when market returns are significantly above or below baseline assumed returns," the legislation said.

The legislation also requires the State Investment Council to report on — and make public — fees charged by external managers to the New Jersey Pension Fund, thus codifying current council practice. The council develops policies for the Treasury Department's Division of Investment, which handles investments for the New Jersey Pension Fund.
The Latest: Bill letting some re-enroll in pension passes
The Latest on the New Jersey Legislature's final day of voting for the current session (all times local):

7:15 p.m.

The New Jersey Assembly approved a bill to allow a handful of public officials to re-enroll in the pension system after being kicked off when elected to a new office.


inRead invented by Teads
The bill now heads to GOP Gov. Chris Christie's desk.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney said the bill that passed corrects an oversight in the 2007 law that established a 401(k)-style retirement plan for newly elected officials

Former Democratic Camden Mayor Dana Redd is among the officials who would benefit. Sweeney confirmed that Democratic lawmakers James Beach, a Camden County state senator, and Ralph Caputo, an Essex County assemblyman, could also benefit from the legislation.

New Jersey has one of the worst-funded pensions in the country, with a liability estimated at about $80 billion to $90 billion.


4:10 p.m.

New Jersey legislators have sent to Gov. Chris Christie's desk a measure authorizing billions of dollars in tax credits to lure Amazon's second headquarters to the state.

The Democrat-led Legislature passed the bill on Monday, as they considered dozens of bills during their final session before a new governor and legislators are sworn in.

Christie, a Republican, has signaled support for the bill. He hands state government over to Democratic Gov.-elect Phil Murphy on Jan. 16.

Aside from the bill aimed at Amazon, lawmakers also considered legislation prohibiting operating a drone while intoxicated and a measure to crack down on reckless driving.

Financial rescue legislation for nuclear power plants appears to be on hold after outgoing Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto failed to post it for a vote.


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