TRENTON – The NAACP is holding its national conference in Atlantic City this summer, and the state might spend $2 million to help make that happen.

A bill appropriating state funds to support costs associated with the one-week meeting of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization was among those sent to Gov. Phil Murphy on last week’s last day of the past legislative session.

It passed almost exclusively along party lines in the Assembly, 49-24, where the only Republican to support it was the Legislature’s only Black Republican, Assemblyman Antwan McClellan, R-Cape May. The vote was more bipartisan in December in the Senate, where six of 15 Republicans were in favor.

Assemblyman Brian Bergen, R-Morris, called the idea lunacy.

“It’s hard actually for me to even say this with a straight face. Two million dollars so the NAACP can have a conference in Atlantic City. Have we lost our minds?” Bergen said.

Bergen said that regardless of the group and what it does, it’s insulting to waste money on a private group’s party.

“Do we do this for the VFW, the American Legion, the police, the fire?” he said. “The answer is no because it would be ludicrous to propose this in any other potential circumstance.”

It’s not unheard of for the state to spend money in conjunction with a private event. NJ Transit made upgrades to its infrastructure in the Meadowlands in advance of the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium in 2014. The state spruced up roads approaching Philadelphia when the Republican National Convention was held in that city in 2000.

The money wouldn’t go to the NAACP New Jersey State Conference directly, as was envisioned in the initial version of the legislation. It would go to the state Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, which couldn’t spend it for any other purpose other than costs associated with Atlantic City hosting the July convention.

Still, Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger, R-Monmouth, asked if it sets a precedent that other groups could demand – perhaps the NRA or Right to Life, he said, citing examples that would be less in sync with the Murphy administration and the Legislature’s Democratic majority.

“One of the concerns I have is that: Would this open the floodgates for every other private organization to want the same deal?” Scharfenberger said.

The bill, S4218, is among 141 pieces of legislation Murphy must sign or veto by noon Tuesday. Any bills he doesn’t act on are rejected by a ‘pocket veto’ and would have to start the legislative process again.

Murphy helped the Atlantic City NAACP campaign for the convention and formerly served on the national NAACP’s board.

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The Senate passed the bill 27-5 on Dec. 20. Here’s how the vote broke down:

Democrats

Yes: Addiego, Codey, Cruz-Perez, Cryan, Cunningham, Diegnan, Gopal, Greenstein, Lagana, Madden, Pou, Ruiz, Sarlo, Scutari, Singleton, Smith, Stack, Sweeney, Turner, Vitale, Weinberg

No: Gill, Rice

Not voting: Beach, Sacco

Republicans

Yes: Kean, Oroho, Pennacchio, Polistina, Singer, Testa

No: Connors, O’Scanlon, Thompson

Not voting: Bateman, Bucco, Corrado, Doherty, Holzapfel, Schepisi

The Assembly passed it 49-24-4 on Jan. 10.

Democrats

Yes: Armato, Benson, Burzichelli, Calabrese, Caputo, Carter, Chaparro, Chiaravalloti, Conaway, Coughlin, Danielsen, DeAngelo, Downey, Egan, Freiman, Giblin, Greenwald, Holley, Houghtaling, Jasey, Johnson, Karabinchak, Kennedy, Lampitt, Lopez, Mazzeo, McKeon, McKnight, Mejia, Moen, Moriarty, Mosquera, Mukherji, Murphy, Pintor Marin, Reynolds-Jackson, Spearman, Stanley, Sumter, Swain, Taliaferro, Timberlake, Tucker, Tully, Vainieri Huttle, Verrelli, Wimberly, Zwicker

Abstain: Schaer

Not voting: Jimenez, Quijano, Speight

Republicans

Yes: McClellan

No: Auth, Bergen, Bramnick, Catalano, Clifton, DeCroce, DeFuccio, DePhillips, DiMaio, DiMaso, Dunn, Kean, McGuckin, Munoz, Peters, Peterson, Rooney, Scharfenberger, Simonsen, Space, Stanfield, Thomson, Webber, Wirths

Abstain: Dancer, Gove, Rumpf

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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