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Key legislative initiatives likely won't take back seat to Alvarez hearings

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Senate President Stephen Sweeney cast doubt on the notion that a legislative inquiry into the Murphy administration's hiring practices could delay votes on key policy issues such as marijuana legalization and a minimum wage increase.

“It doesn’t have to, it really doesn’t have to,” Sweeney, D-3rd District, told NJBIZ on Wednesday at the Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest’s Strictly Business event in West Orange.

Yesterday Katie Brennan, chief of staff at the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, testified for over four hours to lawmakers over her sexual allegations against Al Alvarez, a former campaign staffer for Murphy who was hired as chief of staff of the Schools Development Authority despite the transition team’s knowledge of the accusations.

Brennan said she told four Murphy officials about the allegations; however, Alvarez only left his post in October ahead of a report by the Wall Street Journal detailing the allegations.

The committee is scheduled to convene Dec. 18 and its members said they have not ruled out the possibility of calling the governor himself to testify.

But lawmakers have otherwise been able to move ahead with key legislative proposals before the Dec. 17 voting session, which is the last of 2018, Sweeney said.

By then the Senate is expected to vote on a controversial redistricting bill, which could dramatically overhaul how the state’s legislative districts are drawn. Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District, said the Assembly has plans to take up the measure as well.

Also, separate marijuana bills are on track to head to a full vote in both the Assembly and Senate.

“We’re there, we’re at the doorstep. It’s just if the administration is willing to get engaged,” Sweeney said.

As for the Murphy’s call for an incremental hike in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, Sweeney said, “When the governor said ‘we could probably figure out minimum wage in an hour,’ he’s probably right. An hour or two, we could work it out.”

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Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel Munoz covers politics and state government for NJBIZ. You can contact him at dmunoz@njbiz.com.

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