Democrats vote to sue after Christie makes concealed-carry easier
Democratic lawmakers are voting to sue Gov. Chris Christie’s administration over changes to rules making it easier to obtain concealed-carry permits that take effect next month.
The state Senate voted 21-16 Monday to pass a resolution, SCR149, supporting a legal challenge to the rule expanding the justifiable need standard for issuing handgun carry permits. The Assembly is expected to do the same, perhaps at its voting session Thursday.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said the lawsuit is necessary because Christie is “violating the will of the Legislature,” which passed a resolution invalidating the rules, a power that was granted to the Legislature by a constitutional amendment in the mid-1990s.
“We’re not going to let the governor basically dictate. He’s not the king. He’s the governor. They don’t dictate to the Legislature,” he said. “They can work with the Legislature. We’ve worked with him very well in the past. But we’re not going to let him basically do his own will without us weighing in on it.”
“We believe we’re correct,” said Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen. “And had the governor not just ignored us, we wouldn’t be going to court.”
The Christie administration said the Legislature didn’t properly send the necessary notifications to enforce the procedures for invalidating a regulation it deems inconsistent with legislative intent. It also says the changes meet legal requirements.
No Republicans voted for the resolution. Two Democrats also voted against it – Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson, and Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May.
Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Bergen, said the resolution is “silly” because Christie is simply taking the language from a court decision and putting it into a state regulation. He also said none of the current lawmakers were serving when the law in question was adopted, which he says makes it impossible to know the legislative intent.
“The impact of this resolution is going to be to cost the taxpayers of the state of New Jersey legal funds. Legal funds for a case that we can’t win. Legal funds that are being spent essentially to pursue a political, not a policy, objective,” Cardinale said.
“This is throwing good money after bad,” he said. “We don’t have all this money that we can – we have so many things that we can spend money on. We have pension funds that are short of money. You want to spend this money? Put it in the pension fund. At least you’ll do some good with it.”
Sweeney said the Legislature won a similar case over civil-service changes so questioned why Christie would forge ahead knowing the Legislature would sue again.
Weinberg said she doesn’t know how much money the lawsuit could cost.
“But, you know, it’s going to be less than the $15 million he’s going to spend on his appearing in opioid ads, I can guarantee you of that,” Weinberg said.
The Assembly has voting sessions Thursday and the following Thursday.
The change in the regulation is due to take effect April 3.