Retiring Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg will resign from the legislature on January 7 to take an $82,000-a-year seat on the Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield Board of Directors, Senate President Steve Sweeney said on Thursday.
Weinberg, the liberal lion of Trenton, has been slotted for a direct appointment by Senate President Steve Sweeney for some time, but Sweeney’s unexpected defeat in his own re-election campaign means that he would leave office on the same date as Weinberg in January.
“Loretta Weinberg’s distinguished career of public service has been defined by a selfless commitment to the needs of others and a fierce determination to improve the quality of life for everyone – especially those experiencing hardship,” said Sweeney. “I have complete confidence in her ability to contribute to Horizon’s role and responsibilities as the largest health insurer in New Jersey with a mission that embraces charitable services for those in need.”
If Sweeney didn’t fill the open seat before January 11, the appointment will go to his successor, Nicholas Scutari. There’s no guarantee that Scutari would honor Sweeney’s commitment.
The non-partisan New Jersey Office of Legislative Services had provided a legal opinion that suggests that Weinberg needed to leave the Senate early to avoid any appearance of holding two state positions at the same time. Leon Sokol, the longtime counsel to the Senate Democrats, has concurred with the opinion, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
“The delivery of affordable medical care is more important than ever in a rapidly evolving health care industry,” Sweeney said. “Loretta will be an astute and effective advocate for the people Horizon serves.”
The 86-year-old Weinberg announced earlier this year that she would not seeking re-election to a sixth term in the Senate, ending a 29-year career in the New Jersey Legislature. Assembly Speaker Pro-Tempore Gordon Johnson (D-Englewood) will succeed Weinberg in the Senate on Tuesday.
The early departure for Weinberg will leave the 37th district without a senator for the legislature’s final lame duck session on Monday. State law requires at least seven days before a special election convention could be held.
The Star-Ledger first reported Weinberg’s resignation.