Corzine signs anti-corruption bills amid criticism

Corzine signs anti-corruption bills amid criticism

September 4, 2007  AP

Despite claims from critics who said it wasn't tough enough, Gov. Jon S. Corzine on Tuesday signed legislation barring lawmakers elected after Feb. 1 from holding more than one elected office in New Jersey.

The bill was among four measures signed by Corzine that Democrats hope will highlight their efforts to combat public corruption. Corzine signed the bills in the 12th Legislative District, a key battleground in this fall's elections.

Democrats are looking to retain legislative control in the fall vote. They control the Assembly 50-30 and the Senate 22-18.

The ban affects only officials elected after Feb. 1, meaning the 17 legislators and other local officials who hold more than one elected office can retain their seats until they either give them up or lose re-election.

"We're reduced to saying it's better than nothing," said Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth. However, Beck said the ban doesn't fix the current "moral and ethical cesspool in Trenton."

Beck represents the 12th District and is running for Senate there this year against incumbent Democrat Ellen Karcher, who sponsored the ban. Karcher is a Marlboro resident who resigned from that community's town council before joining the Senate in January 2004.

Karcher said a flawed dual office holding ban is better than nothing. She said she wanted an immediate ban, but noted a proposed immediate ban introduced in 2004 received no consideration.

"It's been a long, tough fight," Karcher said.

Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex, another bill sponsor, dubbed the ban "a quantum leap forward."

"The days of unmitigated dual office holding are numbered," said Assemblyman Michael Panter, D-Monmouth, another bill sponsor.

Corzine signed the dual office holding ban while expressing reservations it wasn't tough enough.

"It is not the bill I wanted," Corzine said, though he called the bill "a step in the right direction."

He also signed legislation to:

• Allow prosecutors to seek monetary penalties from those convicted of public corruption crimes to reimburse defrauded public entities.

• Make it a crime to knowingly misuse public grants, loans, assets and property.

• Make individual legislative voting records available online.

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