The Legislature's top Democrat is pushing back against Gov. Phil Murphy's calls for a bill that would remove the state-residency requirement for New Jersey Transit engineers, saying his administration already has the ability to waive the requirement.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, indicated that the administration is able to waive the requirement through its Employee Residency Review Committee.
"We urge the committee to exercise that authority immediately," Sweeney said in a statement issued late Thursday. "It is the most effective way to quickly put more engineers to work and to alleviate a shortage that has been a problem in the making for years."
NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett and Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti spent several hours earlier in the day testifying before a joint Assembly-Senate transportation hearing, during which lawmakers grilled the two over weeks of cancellations and delays, equipment failures, staffing shortages and poor communication between the agency and commuters.
During the hearing, Murphy’s office issued a statement calling for the Legislature to fast-track a bill that would permanently remove the residency requirement.
“New Jersey Transit must be given the ability to hire mission-essential employees who live in neighboring states so they can be put to work turning around our system,” Murphy said.
And Senate Transportation Chair Pat Diegnan, D-18th District, indicated during the hearing that Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District, were in agreement on getting a bill to Murphy’s desk within the next month.
But a legislative official indicated that such a measure, Senate Bill 630, which would remove the residency requirements for “positions of critical need” such as train engineers, has already been in the works.
The Senate approved S630 on June 7, and on June 11, the Assembly Bill 1241 was referred to the Assembly Budget & Appropriations Committee.