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Assembly will not vote on bail overhaul plan

TRENTON (AP) — Gov. Chris Christie’s power of persuasion is coming up short on bail reform — at least for now.

Gov. Christie addresses the legislature about bail reform
Gov. Christie addresses the legislature about bail reform (Kevin McArdle, Townsquare Media NJ)

The New Jersey governor urged lawmakers during a rare special session he convened Thursday to pass two bills that would let judges keep suspects who are considered dangerous in jail as they await trial and release low-level suspects so they don’t have to sit for months in jail if they can’t afford to pay bail.

But Democratic Assembly leaders announced before the governor’s remarks that they would not be scheduling a vote for Thursday as the governor had urged, saying they still have questions about the bills that have yet to be addressed.

The measures include an amendment to the state constitution and an accompanying law. The only way to land the constitutional amendment on the ballot this year is for both chambers of the Legislature to take action by Monday.

The state Senate plans to vote on the bills Thursday afternoon.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto made clear Thursday that conversations would be continuing in the coming days and said a vote could come before a Monday deadline.

“Hopefully we’ll get there,” he told reporters. “I think at the end of the day we should be able to have it, but I want to make sure we move as a unit.”

During his remarks in the grand Assembly chamber before heading to New Hampshire on a campaign trip, Christie said the current law unfairly punishes low-income residents and allows dangerous criminals to walk the streets. He told the stories of individuals who’d committed violent crimes while out on bail and who’d lost months behind bars before charges against them were dismissed.

“It doesn’t seem possible that today we actually have a system where those who are at the greatest risk for having their lives thrown off course because they do not have the means or the options to make bail sit behind bars and those who pose the greatest danger and the greatest threat to our communities walk free,” he said.

He said the measures were “long overdue” and asked those gathered “to act and act today.”

“I urge all of you who have this responsibility to not let the moment pass. Act today. Move forward and get this done,” he said.

 


(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed)

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