TRENTON, N.J. – Up in smoke? Apparently!
A last minute backroom push for legal pot votes came up short on Monday, Save Jerseyans, as Senate President Steve Sweeney signaled to state media not longer after Noon that the 21 votes required for final State Senate passage were simply unattainable, at least for today:
BREAKING: No pot today. pic.twitter.com/T28UGcEpXm
— Matt Arco (@MatthewArco) March 25, 2019
Half an hour from the scheduled start of the Senate session and the legal weed bill is three or four votes short there, I’m told. That matches others’ reporting.
— Matt Friedman (@MattFriedmanNJ) March 25, 2019
The Assembly reportedly had enough votes lined up for passage but, given that the entire Assembly is on the ballot this fall (the Senate is not), observers say Speaker Craig Coughlin was reluctant to make members in swing districts take a potentially tough/controversial vote if the legislation had no chance of passing in the Senate anyway.
Republican State Senator Declan O’Scanlon of Monmouth County may’ve joined the majority in exchange for concessions including a dedication of revenues to property tax relief. In the end, the margin against the bill was too wide for a deal with one Republican to make a difference.
Sweeney’s release is chummy in tone; all the same, veteran Trenton watchers also surmise that Sweeney COULD have pressured South Jersey Democrat State Senators to support the bill. He didn’t. Parochial electoral concerns given South Jersey’s more purple political hue? Or the latest provocation in a ‘cold war’ between the Governor and Murphy?
In the end, the bill itself likely proved to be its own worst enemy. From a $42 PER OUNCE weight tax to expungement for possession of up to 5 pounds (!) of marijuana, social justice warriors and the law and order crowd alike found plenty to dislike about what even many supporters privately conceded was a deeply flawed piece of legislation.
My two cents? The blame for today’s pot vote snafu rests squarely with Phil “Comin’ at-ya” Murphy and his team of scrubs. They half-assed a major legislative priority and got the result they deserved. Open a lemonade stand on a busy corner on a 100-degree day and this crew would still run it into the ground…