Two Democratic state senators from Hudson County say they will oppose a controversial constitutional amendment on legislative redistricting when it comes before the Senate for a vote this month.
Brian Stack, who is also the mayor of Union City, and Nicholas Sacco, also the mayor of North Bergen, are joining Gov. Phil Murphy in opposition to the plan that would shift appointment power from the two state party chairman to a shared arrangement between the party heads and the legislative leadership. The bill would also create a formula for drawing districts that would be included in the constitution.
“I have a great deal of respect for Senate President Steve Sweeney, but I cannot agree with him on this redistricting proposal,” said Stack. “The existing redistricting system has resulted in the largest Democratic majorities in recent history and increasing representation for Hispanic residents and other minority communities in the legislature. I fear that the proposed changes would reverse that progress at a time when we should be working to make our legislature more diverse and responsive to the needs of the people we serve.”
“This proposal would create an imbalance of power with representation of North Jersey counties being diluted in the legislature and given that our region is continuing to grow and propel the state’s economy forward that outcome would be fundamentally unfair,” Sacco said. “I agree with Governor Murphy that this plan should not be advanced, and we should instead focus on legislative priorities that the people of New Jersey want to see move forward.”
To place a referendum on the ballot in 2019, the Legislature must approve the issue in two consecutive years: 2018 and 2019.
Senate President Steve Sweeney, who is strongly pushing the constitutional amendment plan, may not have the votes.
Sweeney needs 21 of the 25 Democrats in the Senate to support the measure, meaning he can only have four defections.
In addition to Stack and Sacco, State Sen. Richard Codey (D-Roseland) is also expected to vote no.
Sacco had been expected to oppose the initiative, but Stack is a Sweeney ally. A third Hudson Senate, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City), is expected to vote yes.
State Sen. Nellie Pou (D-North Haledon) is still the swing vote and must choose between Sweeney and Democratic State Chairman John Currie, who is also the Passaic County Democratic chairman. If Pou sides with Sweeney, she risks losing the Passaic Democratic organization line for re-election in 2021.
Three other Democratic senators remain uncommitted so far: Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence); Nia Gill (D-Montclair); and Joseph Lagana (D-Paramus).
State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark), who strongly opposed the redistricting constitutional amendment the last time it was considered, has now committed to vote for it.
The 15 Senate Republicans appear united in their opposition to the plan.