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Pascrell and Menendez Introduce Legislation to Protect States Right to Enact Pay To Play Reform

Washington, DC, February 1, 2005

Senate companion bill introduced by Senators Lautenberg and Corzine would
protect New Jersey highway dollars from federal government decision

In reaction to a wrongheaded federal decision, and in response to a call from the Governor, Congressmen Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-8) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ-13) today have introduced the "Pay to Play Reform Protection Act."  Senators Lautenberg and Corzine are introducing companion legislation in the Senate.  The bills would amend federal law to allow both state level pay to play reform to advance, and federal-aid highway funds to flow to New Jersey.

The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) recently threatened to withhold millions in federal dollars from the NJ Department of Transportation.  Citing the recently amended NJ Executive Order 134 (which restricted political donors from bidding on state contracts), the FHWA withheld funds claiming pay-to-play restrictions could unfairly prevent a contract from going to the lowest bidder.  The Pascrell/Menendez bill would take down this roadblock on the path of reform.

"New Jersey is trying to clean up its act and restore public confidence in state government," stated Rep. Pascrell, a member of the House Transportation Committee.  "What they are doing is going a step further in the process of creating good government, to ensure that there is no conflict of interest by decision makers.  We believe that the "Pay to Play Reform Protection Act" will prohibit the federal government from standing in its way."

Original cosponsors of the legislation are Congressmen Pallone, Holt, Andrews, Payne and Rothman"

"The bottom line is we need to remove any roads blocks in federal law so something like this does not happen again," said Senator Lautenberg. "That is why I sponsored this legislation in the Senate so New Jersey will always receive the federal transportation dollars allocated by Congress."

"I asked our delegation to come through for us, and they did," Acting Governor Richard J. Codey said. "This legislation will help us in the fight against public corruption - a fight that received a setback from the Federal Highway Administration's misguided decision. This bill will let us keep our strong pay-to-play ban and receive the transportation funds we need. This is something the people of New Jersey need and deserve."

"I'm a strong supporter of good government practices like the anti-pay-to-play executive order, and this bill will make sure that New Jersey remains one of the most progressive states when it comes to demanding accountability and openness from its government," said Rep. Bob Menendez.

"The federal government should not stand in the way of efforts in New Jersey to have the highest ethical standards possible," stated Senator Corzine.  "Limiting the influence of campaign contributions should not disqualify New Jersey from receiving needed highway funds.  It is nonsensical to suggest New Jersey can't clean up its campaign finance laws without interference from the federal highway administration.  I'm hopeful that we can get this legislation enacted to keep the federal government out of an area of New Jersey policy where it had no business intervening in the first place.

Under FHWA's position, the New Jersey Department of Transportation was unable to award any federal-aid contracts.  As a result, more than $260 million worth of state construction and professional service contracts were stalled, risking hundreds of construction jobs, congestion relief, and overall driver safety.

"We can no longer hold up this most necessary funding," added Rep. Pascrell.  "The overall quality of life for New Jersey residents is at stake.  We're talking about safe routes to schools, congestion mitigation, air quality, and transportation enhancement projects."


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