In advance of Thursday’s special session of the legislature, Gov. Chris Christie held a State House press conference Wednesday to urge lawmakers to pass bail reform measures. Flanked by advocacy group leaders, Christie said the time to act is now.

Gov. Christie makes a statement regarding bail reform (Kevin McArdle, Townsquare Media NJ)

One measure would amend the constitution to give judges the discretion to deny bail for dangerous criminals pending trial. If approved before Aug. 4, a question would be placed on the November 2014 General Election ballot asking voters for their approval. Christie also called for passage of a bill that would set guidelines to determine bail eligibility and create bail alternatives for people charged with nonviolent crimes.

“We are nearly out of time to act. Legislators are running the risk of running out the clock on getting this done for an entire ‘nother year,” Christie said. “It’s not a fair system. It’s not a system that makes sense and it’s not a system that works for people who we are supposed to be protecting.”

The governor told the story of a Trenton man who was arrested multiple times for serious offenses, but still released on bail. He said the man later led a home invasion during which a gun was pointed at an 8-month-old baby’s head as the thugs demanded that their demands be met.

The measures will pass if they are posted for a vote, Christie said.

While the governor has the power to call the legislature back for a special session, he does not have the power to force them to vote on anything. In a phone interview Tuesday, Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto did not commit to posting the bill or the resolution for a vote on Thursday.

“We’ll hear him out,” said Prieto (D-Secaucus). “This will give us time for us to have a discussion with our caucus. We’re going to be in Trenton on Thursday and then we’ll see what plays out on that day.”


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