Two S.J. Democrats make bid to abolish Battleship Commission
By ARON PILHOFER
Gannett State Bureau
TRENTON -- Two South Jersey Democrats introduced a bill in the Assembly Thursday that would abolish the New Jersey Battleship Commission and redirect more than $1 million it raised to the organization overseeing the ship's restoration in Camden.
Those behind the Camden site have had a frosty relationship with the commission and its chairman, Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth, since the group recommended to the Navy that the battleship go to Bayonne.
The Battleship Commission, established in 1979, raised money through its Battleship Foundation with the sale of commemorative license plates and through income tax checkoffs.
The Navy last month went against the commission and chose Camden as the permanent home for the ship. Azzolina again ruffled some feathers when he said he wasn't sure if the Camden organization is entitled to all the funds.
"Just because they got the site doesn't mean they can grab money that's been around," he said in an interview last month.
The bill sponsored by Assemblymen Robert J. Smith, D-Gloucester, and Joseph Roberts, D-Camden, calls for the funds to be placed into the state General Fund for use on the battleship.
With two Democrats backing the bill in a Republican-led house, Azzolina said he doubts the legislation has much chance.
"Now they are trying to take the funds just like that," he said Thursday after learning of the bill. "The money belongs to the Battleship Foundation, and it can spend the funds how it sees fit."