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Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

Weinberg: EDA select panel a ‘fine committee’

Majority leader says Sweeney picked a broad range of legislators

By Nikita Biryukov, May 30 2019 12:58 pm

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg on Thursday praised Senate President Steve Sweeney’s picks for the Special Committee for Economic Growth, which was convened to investigate the benefits of the Economic Development Authority’s tax programs.

“I think he picked a broad base of our caucus along with whoever the minority picked, so I think it’s a fine committee,” Weinberg said. “I think Sen. [Bob] Smith has a long legislative background to chair such a committee.”

Smith, the committee’s chair, was one of nine senators to vote against the 2013 bill that enabled the EDA programs now facing scrutiny from various fronts.

“There’s a bunch of stuff in this very big bill that I think is going to come back to bite the Legislature in rear end,” Smith said on the senate floor in 2013. “I’d ask you to read it carefully and consider your vote carefully. It’s a shame it was amended at the end to make it a really ugly bill.”

The committee’s three other Democratic members are State Sens. Nilsa Cruz-Perez, Dawn Addiego and Joseph Lagana.

Cruz Perez has frequently levied criticism at Gov. Phil Murphy since the task force he convened to investigate abuses of the EDA’s programs took aim at Camden-based firms with ties to Democratic powerbroker George Norcross.

Addiego, a recent addition to the Democratic party — she defected from the GOP earlier this year — also represents portions of Camden County.

State Sen. Bob Singer will chair the committee on the Republican side. He’ll be joined by State Sens. Tony Bucco and Declan O’Scanlon.

It’s not yet clear what tack the committee will take in its investigation, though Politico reported that one of its first actions was to send a letter to Murphy’s task force instructing the latter to retain all documents related to its inquiries.

One thing’s for certain: Weinberg’s pleased she won’t have to handle another select committee so soon after she chaired the one investigating the hiring of former Schools Development Authority chief of staff Al Alvarez, who was accused of sexual assault by State Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency chief of staff Katie Brennan.

“I’m glad that those of us on the other select committee got a respite,” Weinberg said.

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