action quashes bill on USS New Jersey
Gannett State Bureau
Assembly Speaker Jack Collins
vowed Thursday to kill a bill aimed at bringing the mothballed
Navy battleship USS New Jersey to Bayonne, saying the Legislature
should stay out of the ongoing tug-of-war over the ship.
Collins, a Salem County Republican, would
rather see the ship berthed in Camden, but said he would not
post any bill that puts the Legislature in the fray over where
the ship will be moored. Under federal law, it is up to the Navy,
which owns the ship, to make that decision.
"It does not matter if the legislation
calls for the designation to Bayonne or Camden, I absolutely
will not post such a bill for a vote in the Assembly," said
Collins. "The Legislature should not have its hand in determining
the final berthing of the USS New Jersey.
The bill, introduced last week by North Jersey
lawmakers, reiterated that the state-appointed New Jersey Battleship
Commission has the authority to operate the ship. The commission
has already chosen Bayonne as the ship's home port. South Jersey
lawmakers want the ship berthed in Camden.
By refusing to put the measure up for a vote,
Collins, from South Jersey, has effectively quashed it. The bill's
first stop would have been the Assembly Commerce, Tourism, Gaming
and Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee, whose chairman
is also chairman of the Battleship Commission, Assemblyman Joseph
Azzolina, who has sought for almost 20 years
to have the ship brought back to New Jersey, denies that the
bill would have put the ship in Bayonne. He said it simply qualifies
how the commission operates, and who should sit on it.
But even the bill's other sponsors acknowledge
that its intent was to place the ship in the hands of the commission,
and ultimately, in Bayonne.
Sen. John J. Matheussen, R-Gloucester, said
he will ask Senate President Donald T. DiFrancesco, R-Union,
to follow Collins' lead, although by killing the bill in the
Assembly, Collins effectively killed it in both houses anyway.
"I thought the bill, quite frankly, was ill-intended. This
really is the Navy's decision," Matheussen said.
The Camden contingent received another boost
this week with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew
Cuomo saying he supported docking the battleship in Camden.
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