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Gordon & Weinberg: Port Authority Bill Takes Concerns To Heart, But Won’t Compromise Accountability

TRENTON – Senator Bob Gordon and Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (both D-Bergen) said today that new legislation they are sponsoring to rein in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will heed some of the concerns brought to their attention by the agency’s leadership, but that they will not compromise on their goal of bringing greater accountability to the multi-billion-dollar agency.

The Senate Transportation Committee today released the bill (S-1761), which maintains the needs for annual audits of the Port Authority’s books, among other strong accountability measures.

The new bill would require 72-hour notice of any public hearing and would require at least two-thirds of the agency’s commissioners be present. The prior bill (S-1115) called for five days notice and would have mandated every commissioner be present for a public hearing to be held; the Port Authority wanted neither provision.

“While we are sensitive to the needs of the Port Authority to conduct its business in a timely manner, we will not compromise on requiring greater accountability to the toll-paying public,” said Gordon. “We can allow them to pursue the deals they need to promote economic development and create jobs while also protecting the commuters who ultimately finance those deals. We have to strike the right balance.”

“The Port Authority should not be allowed to get a free pass ‘just because,’” said Weinberg. “With billions of dollars in contracts, nothing should be conducted behind closed doors. While there may be legitimate needs for the Port Authority to act swiftly on some matters, there is no legitimate need for them to keep their operations secret. It will prevent the kind of sorry scenes that played out last year when the public came to speak against toll increases, but saw no commissioners there to hear them. The public deserves nothing less than open government, whether it be in Trenton, town hall or Port Authority headquarters.

The bill was released 4-0 with one abstention and now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

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