New Jersey lawmakers pass Port Authority transparency bills stemming from bridge closure

TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey lawmakers passed a pair of measures Thursday stemming from the politically motivated lane closures near the George Washington Bridge last year.

The Assembly approved legislation that would subject the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to the open-records laws of both states. It also would require an annual audit, lobbying restrictions and the creation of whistleblower protections.

The proposals gained momentum after Gov. Chris Christie’s administration faced scrutiny over the lane closures, according to Democratic Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, who co-sponsored the legislation.

“The Port Authority has been a dysfunctional agency plagued with abuse and mismanagement for many years,” she said, pointing out that toll prices on the George Washington Bridge are slated to rise to $14. “For us to pay those type of tolls and not see accountability where that money is going is inexcusable for the residents and commuters of New Jersey and New York.”

The bill passed with Republican support.

“We’ve reached a good place in the state of New Jersey,” said Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick. “Hopefully we can leave the bad politics to the past.”

Both states must adopt identical bills for the legislation to take effect. New York lawmakers passed the measures in June, while New Jersey’s Senate passed one in June and the other in September.

The measures now head to Christie. An administration spokesman did not immediately return a message seeking comment. In New York, the proposal awaits action by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A spokesman for the Democratic governor said the legislation is under review.

Christie vetoed a similar bill in 2012, Vainieri Huttle said, noting that his opposition came before the lane closure scandal that resulted in a legislative investigation and threatened the governor’s 2016 presidential ambitions.

“I think the pressure now is on him and Governor Cuomo. When both bodies of the Legislature of New York and New Jersey voted out unanimously, it’s going to be very difficult not to sign this bill into law,” she said.

The authority runs tunnels, bridges and major airports in both states.


Associated Press writer David Klepper contributed to this report.