Assembly & Senate to Merge Efforts - Reid Schar to Serve as Special Counsel to New Panel
New Jersey's Democratic legislative leadership on Tuesday announced the Assembly and Senate will merge their efforts to investigate questions surrounding the decision to close access lanes to the George Washington Bridge and other matters raising concerns about the abuse of government power.
The Assembly and Senate will create a joint legislative committee that will have subpoena power and utilize the special counsel already brought on by the Assembly - former Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar.
The 12-member panel will feature eight Democrats and four Republicans, the leaders announced. It will have 5 Assembly Democrats, 3 Senate Democrats, 3 Assembly Republicans and 1 Senate Republican.
It will be co-chaired Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), who have led each house's respective efforts.
The 20 subpoenas issued last week by the Assembly's investigatory committee remain pending. Those subpoenas seek documents and other materials by Feb. 3.
"This is the optimal approach to ensuring the people of New Jersey get the answers they need to these questions about the abuse of government power," said Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen). "I'm happy we've reached an agreement allowing us to proceed forward together. We are also relying strongly on the keen advice of our special counsel to streamline the legislative investigations and make clear to everyone that we expect full cooperation and responsiveness as this inquiry proceeds."
“This joint committee provides the most effective and efficient way for the Legislature to uncover the facts and determine exactly what happened,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “I would like to thank Speaker Prieto for his leadership in helping to merge these committees and my colleague, Senate Majority Leader Weinberg, for her steadfast commitment to bringing this situation to light.”
"We have many questions about this abuse of government power, and with this joint legislative committee we will strengthen our bipartisan effort to follow the evidence and provide the answers the people of New Jersey deserve," said Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). "This joint committee will have the focus and resources it needs to continue what has so far been a methodical and deliberate inquiry based on hard evidence. I look forward to continuing this effort with my Senate colleagues and the advice of Mr. Schar."
"The questions concerning the potential abuse of power at the highest levels of government have continued to mount," said Weinberg (D-Bergen). "Both houses of the Legislature have recognized the need to conduct an examination of these very serious matters. A joint committee will allow for a coordinated and focused investigation, which we believe will provide the most effective means of getting to the facts. I look forward to co-chairing this committee with Assemblyman Wisniewski and to working with the members to investigate all of the allegations in a thorough and deliberative manner in order to uncover the truth for the people of New Jersey."
"We have made progress in learning what happened with this threat to public safety and abuse of power, but many questions remain unanswered," said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), who as chairman of the Assembly transportation panel began this investigation last legislative session and has been chairing the Assembly Select Committee on Investigations. "With the combined resources and experience of the Assembly and Senate and the expertise of Mr. Schar, Sen. Weinberg and I will work together to ensure the people of New Jersey learn the truth. I look forward to cooperation and responsiveness from everyone involved in this bipartisan inquiry to get the answers New Jerseyans need."
Further details on creation of the committee will be announced.