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State Sen. Troy Singleton. (Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Veto override on the table for dark money bill

Singleton will decide whether to override, Sweeney says

By Nikita Biryukov, May 13 2019 3:37 pm

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to note specific issues Sen. Singleton had with Gov. Murphy’s conditional veto at 4:19 p.m.

Senate President Steve Sweeney would not rule out a veto override the dark money bill that has languished in various states of passage since January.

“The prime sponsor is Sen. [Troy] Singleton, and it’d be up to him if he wants me to put it up for an override,” Sweeney said. “If he does, I will.”

Earlier Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed the bill, which would require 501(c)(4)s and similar independent expenditure groups to publicly disclose the identities of those contributing more than $10,000 and of expenditures worth more than $3,000.

In his conditional veto, Murphy removed a provision barring elected officials from running such groups.

The provision, added by amendment to a previous version of the bill, was largely viewed as targeting Essex County Freeholder Director Brendan Gill, who runs the Murphy-aligned 501(c)(4) New Direction New Jersey.

Eliminating that measure could lead to candidates circumventing contribution limits imposed by law on candidates and officeholders.

Murphy’s version would also require companies that have received $25,000 or more from a government agency for economic development would be required to annually disclose information about any contributions made to candidates, PACs and political parties, among others.

The provision could be a shot at power broker George Norcross, with whom Murphy has entered a feud over tax incentives meted out by the Economic Development Authority.

Singleton didn’t say outright that he would seek a conditional veto, but he suggested it was a possibility.

“Once they digest it, I’ll be happy to answer any of their questions, but provided that they are comfortable with direction that I have articulated about what the bill actually does and what the governor’s conditional veto actually takes away from accountability and transparency, then I’ll be asking them to move forward and we’ll make a determination as a caucus whether we do that or not,” Singleton said when asked about the possibility of a veto override.

Singleton and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, the bill’s prime sponsor in the legislature’s lower chamber, condemned Murphy’s veto in a joint statement shortly following the close of the day’s Senate voting session.

The senator said the bill’s pay-to-play provision and the provision on tax credit recipients would be better placed in S1479, a separate pay-to-play reform bill Singleton is sponsoring. That bill has not moved out of committee since it was introduced in Feb. 1.

He also said a provision in governor’s conditional veto requiring disclosure from LLCs was extraneous because those groups were already covered in the bill passed by the legislature.

Also of concern were changes to provisions requiring grassroots lobbying groups to disclose their efforts in a more timely manner. They are currently required to so annually.

Finally, Singleton said a provision in Murphy’s version requiring the disclosure of electioneering expenditures worth more than $10,000 within 60 days of a primary or general election would be improved by expanding that time frame to January of an election year.

“The governor’s conditional veto missed the mark extensively, and I think what will happen because of the way the conditional veto is structured, we will not have the transparency and accountability that I think we all want for these independent expenditure committees because I can’t support the conditional veto as it’s written,” Singleton said. “Frankly, it’s my hope that my colleagues see it the same way and we can actually do something that will create transparency and accountability in the independent expenditure world.” 

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