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Legislative Black Caucus Chair Calls On Governor To Apologize To Speaker Oliver

Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee Chair, Senator Ronald L. Rice, D-Essex, speaks at a meeting of his committee.

Text Messages Show Governor Christie is “Plain Wrong”

TRENTON – On behalf of the members of the Legislative Black Caucus, Senator Ronald L. Rice, the chair of the caucus, today called on Governor Chris Christie to apologize to Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, a Caucus member, whom the Governor called a liar last week in response to her remarks that she had sought meetings with the Governor to discuss his “tool kit” measures and reach a compromise with him on arbitration reform. Electronic communications between Speaker Oliver’s staff and the front office support the Speaker’s assertions.

“As a prominent African American leader and a co-equal partner in government, Speaker Oliver deserves a little more respect from the State’s chief executive,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “As lawmakers, we recognize that in the halls of the Statehouse, political rhetoric can get heated, and things can get said, but we’re hoping cooler heads prevail here. The people of the Garden State elected Governor Christie to be a rational leader and to work with Democratic and Republican legislators, and we hope he’ll think twice before taking out his scheduling frustrations on well-meaning members of the Legislature.”

Prior to last week’s press conference, the Speaker’s office had made multiple attempts to schedule a meeting between Speaker Oliver and Governor Christie on the Governor’s “tool kit” bills, but were ultimately denied a meeting. Senator Rice said that while the Governor and Legislative Democrats may disagree on the best course of action for the State of New Jersey in regards to his “tool kit” reforms, the existence of correspondence seeking to schedule a meeting to hash out compromise shouldn’t be a point of contention.

“We think the Governor is just plain wrong in his assertions, and we think he owes the Speaker a sincere apology,” said Senator Rice. “It’s understandable for two well-intentioned people to disagree over policy, but character assassination over whether someone sought meetings or not is completely unacceptable, particularly coming from our State’s top elected leader. If the Governor is serious about working with the Legislature on a bipartisan basis to promote positive change for the people of New Jersey, he’ll do the right thing and apologize to Speaker Oliver for his over-the-top rhetoric and uncalled-for antics.”

Senator Rice said he will be reaching out to Governor Christie’s office to schedule a meeting with the Governor and the Legislative Black Caucus to address some of the Caucus’s concerns with “tool kit” legislation and the tone of political dialogue in the State of New Jersey.