Prieto: A lot was accomplished in 2014
It is not uncommon for Gov. Chris Christie to refer to the state Senate and General Assembly as the "do nothing Legislature." It's a description lawmakers don't like and one with which they've never agreed. Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus) said 2014, his first year as the leader of the Assembly, was a year marked by major accomplishments.
"Vocational and technical education was a package of legislation that I got over the governor with seven total bills. Five of them were signed into law. Two of them were vetoed, but the veto message was that there was money attached and the governor said that it needs to be addressed during the budget," Prieto said.
The vocational and technical; education package was designed to help train those who either don't want to attend college or can't afford it. Prieto said there are opportunities for those who don't go on to an institution of higher education.
"Another thing we did was allowing adoptees to be able to get their birth certificates. That was a big priority of mine. It had been a bill for 34 years that had not been able to get done. It got signed into law. I think that was a great day for those adoptees," Prieto explained.
Police and firefighter interest arbitration reform was another accomplishment according to the speaker. Under the bill approved Dec. 22, the 2 percent cap on base salary increases in arbitration awards would be extended to Dec. 31, 2017, and the awards would be compounded for each year of the contract. The length of time that an arbitrator has to make a decision would be increased from 45 to 90 calendar days, and the timeframe during which a notice of appeal of an arbitrator's decision must be filed would be increased from seven to 14 days.
"There was bail reform that I think was a major thing that to get done," Prieto said. "It will keep high-risk offenders in jail so judges will be able to keep them without bail and low-risk offenders, judges will be able to let them out."
Restoring funding for Urban Enterprise Zones is another accomplishment Prieto cited.
"The other thing was getting on the ballot a question for funding for open space. This now is a revenue stream that is going to be there going forward. You won't have to bond any longer," Prieto explained.
In the end, Prieto said 2014 was a good year, but also acknowledged that there is a lot to do in 2015.