Senate President Steve Sweeney started to steer clear of the Select Committee’s investigation into Gov. Phil Murphy’s hiring of former Schools Development Authority Al Alvarez this week, much as he did during the Select Committee investigation into Bridgegate.
On Monday, when the legislature formally created the more recent Select Committee, Sweeney deferred a number of questions, including ones on the timeline and scope of the investigation to Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, who, along with Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, is the select committee’s co-chair.
Sources close to the Senate President say the effort is a deliberate one, both to ease political tensions with Murphy spawned by the Democrat-controlled legislature’s creation of the committee and to provide the committee with a shield of sorts.
In this case, Murphy would do well to remember the firestorm former Gov. Chris Christie generated when he suggested reporters “take the bat out” on Weinberg for a change, though the current governor is known as much for his aversion to such remarks as Christie was for his proclivity for the same, even if Murphy speaks frequently about calling balls and strikes.
It’s not quite clear how closely Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin’s will mirror Sweeney’s, as the latter has drawn the bulk of reporters’ questions relating to the select committee directed to the two legislative leaders.
A source close to Coughlin said the speaker had the ability to comment on the committee’s hearings and how they are conducted, noting that he would not interfere with them.
It’s possible Sweeney will do the same, as he has not gone totally silent on the matter as of yet.
For Weinberg, Sweeney’s distance seems the to be the right move.
“Because we’re the co-chairs, we will be responsible for how the committee operates, we will be responsible for the tenor of the committee, and we will be together responsible for the outcome, so that’s appropriate for them to leave that to us,” she told the New Jersey Globe Saturday.