Source: The Star-Ledger -
Assemblyman Jay Webber wants to let his colleagues phone it in — literally.
On a Friday evening in July, just one Assembly member – Reid Gusciora (D-Mercer) — was in the chamber. But 70 members were recorded as present by staffers who walked around the room and pushed the buttons on their desks. The so-called quorum was constitutionally mandated to start the clock ticking on a mandatory 20-day waiting period for a proposed constitutional amendment to allow judges to deny bail to some defendants.
“I had several constituents who called and emailed me and said it’s not right, and quite frankly I agree with them,” Webber (R-Morris) told The Auditor, who added that he understands that such maneuvers have been done before and he’s “not blaming anybody.”
But he wants to do something to change it. Under a resolution Webber introduced on Monday, Assembly rules would no longer require members to actually be in the Statehouse to ring in for a quorum on non-voting days. Instead, they could check in by phone, video or any another type of electronic communication device.
That would enable them to conduct “routine business” such as introducing bills and resolutions, and lay proposed constitutional amendments on members’ desks for 20 days as the constitution requires, without actually going to the Statehouse. But they would still need to give their consent to be recorded, and they’d have to actually show up to begin voting sessions.
To establish a quorum, 41 members must be present.
“When you have a citizen Legislature and need to do routine things like introduce bills so committees can hear them and debate them, it just seems like an anachronism to bring everybody down there and have a quorum,” Webber said. “Let’s all just consent, either in person or by telephone, and they can go about their routine business.”
A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), who will decide whether or not to put up Webber’s proposal for a vote, did not respond to an email seeking comment.