By CAROL COMEGNO
A bill to provide an additional $7.2 million for restoration of the battleship USS New Jersey was sent Monday to acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco's desk for approval.
That occurred after the Assembly gave its final approval to the legislation in a 63-2 vote.
"Today we celebrate another great day for our great battleship," said Assemblyman George Geist, R-Camden, a main co-sponsor of the bill.
DiFrancesco was expected to sign it today before leaving his posts as senator and acting governor. He was the main Senate sponsor of the battleship money, and introduced the bill in March 2000 after the Navy donated the highly decorated ship to a nonprofit group in South Jersey. That group, the Home Port Alliance, reopened it in October as a floating museum and memorial on the Camden Waterfront.
"I would hope he would sign it since he is the prime Senate sponsor of the bill. It would be a promise kept," said Patricia Jones, Home Port Alliance co-chairwoman.
If not signed into law by today, the bill would die.
It's unclear how the money will be used because the Delaware River Port Authority wants the bulk of it to help repay an $6 million loan to the alliance to finish building the battleship pier, Jones said.
"Any additional revenue that comes to the battleship will be most welcome and well-used however it is dispersed," she said.