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Christie’s political play on bail reform

If Gov. Chris Christie does to decide to seek the GOP nomination for president in 2016 he may have put himself in a win-win situation on the issue of bail reform.

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Gov. Christie addresses the legislature about bail reform
Gov. Christie addresses the legislature about bail reform (Gov. Office)

According to one political expert, if the Democrat-controlled Assembly follows the Senate’s lead and approves two measures by Monday, the governor comes across as bipartisan and if they refuse to act, Christie can call them obstructionists.

“If the Assembly fails to act or votes against it, he can say that the Democratic leadership stood in his way, that he’s far-sighted, they’re short-sighted,” said Fairleigh Dickinson University political science professor Peter Woolley. “The governor has license to criticize the Democratic leadership in the Assembly.”

There are two components to the bail reform legislation. The first would amend the Constitution to give judges the discretion to deny bail pending trial. If passed by both houses before Aug. 4, a question would be placed on the November 2014 general election ballot asking voters for their approval. The other facet is a bill that would set guidelines to determine bail eligibility and create bail alternatives for people charged with nonviolent crimes.

The full State Senate approved both measures Thursday following Christie’s address to the legislature in a quickly called and rare special session. Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus) said his caucus still had concerns, but a vote has been scheduled for Monday.

If the Assembly passes the measure he can say that as a Republican he reaches out and makes deals with people across the aisle. That’s what he wants to offer to voters. His theme in campaigning is that he’s a guy who gets things done with a Democratic legislature. In a sense he wins either way,” Woolley said.

The chairman of the Democratic State Committee, John Currie, also said the bail reform push Christie made does seem very political.

“I find it curious that Gov. Christie would wait to sound an alarm and demand immediate legislative action at a time when he so desperately wants a political victory,” Currie said in an email. “That Christie is suddenly demanding the approval of a constitutional amendment so soon after he broke his promise to pensioners, and while he is mired in scandal, is curious at best.”

 

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