TRENTON - New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney won't rule out revisiting legislation that could threaten a source of revenue for the state's newspapers and cost up to 300 jobs.
The bill would eliminate a requirement that legal notices for such things as foreclosures, proposed ordinances, and public contracts be printed in newspapers. Instead, towns and counties would have the option of publishing the notices online.
The legislation stalled in the Legislature on Monday after Gov. Christie, Sweeney (D., Gloucester), and other legislative leaders rushed to change the law within the span of a week.
Assembly lawmakers killed separate legislation that would have allowed Christie to cash in on a book deal and granted raises to officials across all three branches of government.
Christie, a Republican, has blasted the legal-notice mandate as "corporate welfare" for newspapers and said the legislation would be a "top priority" after the holidays.
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D., Hudson) also vowed to address the issue "relatively soon," after the measure failed to win enough support in his chamber Monday.
After an unrelated event discussing state services for people with disabilities on Wednesday in Trenton, Sweeney told reporters, "Depending on what the Assembly does, we'll have a discussion in the Senate."
He added that print newspapers needed to find a way to profit from their online products or "change their business model."
"I don't think the government should be subsidizing industries," Sweeney said. Christie, without providing evidence, has said the legal-ad law costs taxpayers $80 million annually.
An industry group, citing a 2011 survey, says the state's newspapers earn closer to $20 million from legal notices, only one-third of which is paid for by governments with taxpayer dollars.
The nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, the Legislature's research arm, says the bill's potential costs or savings are "indeterminate."
The state Economic Development Authority has awarded more than $7 billion in tax incentives to companies since 2010 in an effort to lure businesses to New Jersey or prevent them from leaving.
The tax-break boom accelerated after the Democratic-controlled Legislature passed a bill in 2013, signed into law by Christie, that streamlined the state's economic incentives programs.
Prieto said Monday that he would not reconsider the bill that would have changed state ethics law to let Christie profit off a book while in office and granted raises for judges, legislative staff, cabinet members, and others.
Sweeney suggested that bill was dead in his chamber, too. "Why would I be advancing it when it's been announced it's done?" he said Wednesday.
He defended the legislation, though, saying higher salaries were needed to attract more talent to state government. Sweeney also noted that other states allow governors to sign book deals.
"Should there be a national ban on governors being allowed to write books?" he asked.