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Grapevine

Grapevine: Seeking opportune moment

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The Economic Opportunity Act passed the Assembly last week, but sources say it won't be the last time the Assembly votes on the measure.

Sources say changes are still being made to the Senate version. If those amendments stick, the bill would need a vote in the Senate as well as a second vote in the Assembly, where the measure was overwhelmingly approved last week.

Lawmakers are still working on last-minute changes to the bill, with a lobbyist from the commercial real estate group NAIOP saying his group is "continu(ing) to refine this bill" in the Senate "so that New Jersey will have the most competitive and fiscally responsible incentive program and TIF (tax increment financing) program in the nation."

Other changes are in part designed to ensure Steve Sweeney's home turf of South Jersey benefits equally from the bill.

Meanwhile, as a backdrop to those negotiations, the bill's chief Senate sponsor, Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), is locked in a tense primary battle that's likely to keep him occupied until the June 4 election.

Proponents of the bill had hoped to pass the measure before the April budget break, then during the budget break, then sometime in May, but the timeline has continued to slide. The best window now, according to another source, is the first half of June, "before the intense budget debate and discussion ensues later in June."

The delays have been a particular point of frustration for business advocates, since the bill has the support of both parties, as well as Gov. Chris Christie.

Could Booker bolster Buono?

The most important person in the 2013 gubernatorial election could be someone not even on the ballot.

Tongues are wagging about how the race between Christie and Barbara Buono might be affected if a special election is held to fill Frank Lautenberg's seat in Washington, D.C.

The senator's term doesn't expire until 2014, but the speculation is surfacing because Lautenberg has been too ill to travel to the capital for many congressional votes — though he did appear in the capitol earlier this month. If Lautenberg were to not finish his term, Christie would replace him temporarily. If the vacancy occurred by Sept. 10, a special election would be held in November to pick Lautenberg's successor.

Political observers assume Cory Booker would run in the special election, which would be a "game changer" for the governor's race, said one longtime political observer.

The source predicted Democrats will have trouble getting their base out this year, since "they don't have any money, and they're not coordinated. And the urban vote will stay home." But the Newark mayor on the ballot, "with money and his attractiveness to the base, especially in the urban areas — it would gin up the numbers."

Polls continue to show Christie leading by a wide margin over Buono, who has struggled to keep up with the money and attention the governor attracts. Booker on the ballot is "the biggest potential the Democrats have this year to change the dynamic," the source said.

If Lautenberg was out of office soon, the governor could call for a special election before November to avoid the Booker effect. But the source doubted Christie would do that, saying it was "highly unlikely. Too obvious."

The source didn't know if having Booker on the ballot would mean a victory for Buono, but said it could boost turnout enough to help the Democrats retain majority of the state Senate.

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact managing editor Joe Arney at joea@njbiz.com.

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Grapevine: Seeking opportune moment

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The Economic Opportunity Act passed the Assembly last week, but sources say it won't be the last time the Assembly votes on the measure.

Sources say changes are still being made to the Senate version. If those amendments stick, the bill would need a vote in the Senate as well as a second vote in the Assembly, where the measure was overwhelmingly approved last week.

Lawmakers are still working on last-minute changes to the bill, with a lobbyist from the commercial real estate group NAIOP saying his group is "continu(ing) to refine this bill" in the Senate "so that New Jersey will have the most competitive and fiscally responsible incentive program and TIF (tax increment financing) program in the nation."

Other changes are in part designed to ensure Steve Sweeney's home turf of South Jersey benefits equally from the bill.

Meanwhile, as a backdrop to those negotiations, the bill's chief Senate sponsor, Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), is locked in a tense primary battle that's likely to keep him occupied until the June 4 election.

Proponents of the bill had hoped to pass the measure before the April budget break, then during the budget break, then sometime in May, but the timeline has continued to slide. The best window now, according to another source, is the first half of June, "before the intense budget debate and discussion ensues later in June."

The delays have been a particular point of frustration for business advocates, since the bill has the support of both parties, as well as Gov. Chris Christie.

Could Booker bolster Buono?

The most important person in the 2013 gubernatorial election could be someone not even on the ballot.

Tongues are wagging about how the race between Christie and Barbara Buono might be affected if a special election is held to fill Frank Lautenberg's seat in Washington, D.C.

The senator's term doesn't expire until 2014, but the speculation is surfacing because Lautenberg has been too ill to travel to the capital for many congressional votes — though he did appear in the capitol earlier this month. If Lautenberg were to not finish his term, Christie would replace him temporarily. If the vacancy occurred by Sept. 10, a special election would be held in November to pick Lautenberg's successor.

Political observers assume Cory Booker would run in the special election, which would be a "game changer" for the governor's race, said one longtime political observer.

The source predicted Democrats will have trouble getting their base out this year, since "they don't have any money, and they're not coordinated. And the urban vote will stay home." But the Newark mayor on the ballot, "with money and his attractiveness to the base, especially in the urban areas — it would gin up the numbers."

Polls continue to show Christie leading by a wide margin over Buono, who has struggled to keep up with the money and attention the governor attracts. Booker on the ballot is "the biggest potential the Democrats have this year to change the dynamic," the source said.

If Lautenberg was out of office soon, the governor could call for a special election before November to avoid the Booker effect. But the source doubted Christie would do that, saying it was "highly unlikely. Too obvious."

The source didn't know if having Booker on the ballot would mean a victory for Buono, but said it could boost turnout enough to help the Democrats retain majority of the state Senate.

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact managing editor Joe Arney at joea@njbiz.com.

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