Who Really Sets the Democratic Agenda in Trenton? [AUDIO]
As most experts expected, Democrats retained control of both the State Senate and the General Assembly after last week's elections.
There are 24 Democrats in the Upper House as compared to 16 Republicans. In the People's House, the Democrats have a 48-32 majority. Many cynics and political insiders however, don't believe the Democratic leaders in the two houses are really calling the shots.
According to many, South Jersey Democratic powerbroker George Norcross and his counterpart to the north, Joe DiVicenzo, the Essex County Executive are the men truly setting the Democratic agenda in Trenton.
Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver whose rise to the leadership position was said to be orchestrated by DiVincenzo denies others are pulling the strings. She says members of her party worked together on public worker pension and health benefits reform and, "There was no outside push from any external source for the legislature to focus on those issues."
Oliver contends that the press is behind the perception that DiVincenzo and Norcross are running the show. She says, "I think you really demean the members of the legislature when you, as the media continue to press that there are outside, external influences that drive the agenda in these respective houses. That is not the case."
The Speaker insists, "There are issues that are of importance to many members across the spectrum and I think that the members of both of our houses are quite capable of identifying a legislative agenda, moving it through their respective chambers and it has nothing to do with anyone or any external influence."
State Senate President Steve Sweeney is now in his second term as top dog in the Upper House. Many believe Norcross was behind the coup that ousted Dick Codey as Senate President two years ago so that he could be replaced by Sweeney.
Sweeney says, "We're going to fight with this Governor (Republican Chris Christie) when we know he's wrong, but we are not going to fight at the expense of the taxpayers. We're going to fight for the taxpayers."