Combining the efforts of two separate panels created earlier this month, members of both the Assembly and Senate unanimously voted Monday to establish a joint committee with subpoena power to continue the investigation into the widening George Washington Bridge scandal.
The 12-member bipartisan committee will be led by Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) and state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), both of whom served as chairs for their respective single-house committees.
With a split of eight Democrats to four Republicans, the panel will also include Assembly members Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morristown), Marlene Caride (D-Ridgefield), Lou Greenwald (D-Voorhees), Amy Handlin (R-Belford), Holly Schepisi (R-Westwood), Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Trenton), state Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair), Linda Greenstein (D-Cranbury) and Kevin O'Toole (R-Wayne).
"Throughout the earlier stages of this investigation, it became clear that for every answer we uncovered, many more questions arose," Wisniewski said. "Forming this joint committee is the best way to streamline and expedite our inquiry in order to obtain the answers we need to prevent future abuses of power."
Reid Schar, a former assistant U.S. Attorney who led the corruption trials against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, will serve as special counsel to the committee.
As a matter of procedure, the new committee will reissue subpoenas to the same list of 20 people and organizations that the Assembly panel targeted several weeks back. Despite the reissuing, the deadline for the subpoenaed parties to turn in the documents remains Feb. 3.
Both on the floors of the Legislature and during the committee's first meeting, which was held shortly after both houses voted, Republicans took issue with the Democrats' handling of the process, as well as the number of Republicans represented on the panel.
Carroll, who was a member of the initial Assembly panel, said on the floor prior to the vote that he felt "more like an audience member than a committee member" during the first meeting earlier this month.
It's still unclear as to when the committee will plan to meet next.
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