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NY, NJ Govs Veto Bill To Reform Port Authority

New York & New Jersey (Composite Image)

  The governors of New York and New Jersey have vetoed legislation intended to clean up the troubled Port Authority. 

The bill was designed to right an agency long known for dysfunction and scandals, it would have created an office of inspector general and required annual audits of the agency. It also would have restricted lobbying and created a whistleblower protection program.

The bill passed the state legislatures this year.

Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo announced their vetoes in a joiny-statement Saturday, sayiong measures they've come up with on their own will go further in bringing accountability to the agency.

(c) 2014 AP

Here is additional information provided by the Governors:

Governors Cuomo and Christie accept and endorse the transparency legislation, Senate Bill No. 2183 (First Reprint), and S6718C/A8785C, but with some sensible changes to eliminate confusion that would be caused by the bill as currently drafted. The recommended changes will make it easier for individuals pursuing public records under the law. The Governors continue to embrace the previously announced Freedom of Information policy, which ensures access to the Port Authority's records under both States' laws, and the recent practice of strictly limiting the use of executive sessions for Board deliberations and using public meetings whenever possible. Additionally, the Port Authority has been instructed to prepare a revised Code of Conduct to drive a renewed focus on ethics and compliance throughout the agency, and the Governors are calling for the creation of a Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer position to ensure the highest ethical conduct. 

"In May, Governor Christie and I ordered a broad review and evaluation of the Port Authority's structure, management, operations, and governance to find ways for the Port to better serve both states and improve as a global transportation and commerce hub," Governor Cuomo said. "The recommendations put forward by the bi-state panel include important reforms to address the Port's inefficient and outdated governing structure and will help bring new transparency and effectiveness to the agency as it approaches its tenth decade of service. I am pleased by the work and recommendations issued by the bi-state panel, and look forward to a new era for the Port Authority."

"These changes reflect the need for a profound and necessary reimagining of the Port Authority governing structure, operations, and transparency in its oversight of the world's largest transportation and commerce network," said Governor Chris Christie. "Governor Cuomo and I have remained advocates for reform at the Port Authority and are encouraged by these recommendations from the bi-state panel." 

Comprehensive and Sweeping Changes To Be Enacted:

  • · Governors Cuomo and Christie are requesting each and every Commissioner to tender an offer of resignation to be considered by their respective Governor
    · Creating a single Chief Executive Officer to replace the Executive Director and Deputy Executive Director
    · Modifying the Chairperson’s role with the creation of Co-Chairs or a rotating chairmanship between the two states on an annual basis 
    · Creating a Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer
    · Reforming the Port Authority's public-records and ethics guidelines, fully consistent with each state's open public records laws
    · Adopting a new Mission Statement to refocus the authority on its original core mission of developing and overseeing regional transportation infrastructure
    · Reinstating the Port Authority's regional leadership role by initiating a comprehensive planning effort in 2015 with a strategic vision focused on expanding and developing new regional transportation capacity
    · Investing in the region's airports in a manner that ensures that these vital facilities are equipped to serve as the gateway to the region for travelers and goods from around the world 
    · Prudently divesting existing real estate holdings and restricting future real estate investments to those integral to the Authority's core transportation mission
    · Pursuing the construction of a new Port Authority Bus Terminal to meet the increasing requirements of this vital element of the Trans-Hudson transportation network
    · Modernizing Port Commerce facilities to increase their efficiency and maximize the potential of the ports as the premier portal for cargo entering the United States
    · Seeking an improved operating model for the PATH rail system, including potentially partnering with a third-party operator, to enhance the PATH's operational performance and reduce its financial deficit

As part of their actions today, Governors Cuomo and Christie are seeking to enact bi-state legislation consistent with the Special Panel's Report. To that end, the Governors are acting uniformly on the pending Port Authority legislation of both states.

Both Governors embrace the spirit and intent of the extensive reforms contained in the omnibus pending legislation, Senate Bill No. 2181 in New Jersey and A3944C/ S7721 in New York. However, to more fully execute on reform in every area of Port Authority operations, management, and transparency, they are asking their respective Legislatures to review the extensive analysis and insights contained in the Special Panel's report to guide the crafting of broader and more comprehensive reform legislation. Therefore, while neither Governor is approving the legislation as passed, they are urging their respective Legislatures and the Port Authority to work with them to implement the broad reforms package recommended by the Special Panel, recommendations which will mark a new beginning and form a basis for meaningful reform for decades to follow.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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