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Following Homeland Security Hearing, Quijano Says She Will Re-Introduce Legislation Formerly Sponsored by DeCroce, Pennacchio

Following today’s hearing into the protocols and procedures currently governing the use of State Police helicopters, Assembly Homeland Security Committee Chair Annette Quijano announced that she is reintroducing legislation previously sponsored by Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce and Senator Joseph Pennacchio that would prohibit the use of state helicopters for personal and political events.

In doing so, Quijano called on DeCroce and Pennacchio to join her in sponsoring the legislation in a bipartisan show of support to help encourage swifter passage of the law.

“As I said during the hearing today, this is an issue that has come up time and time again for both political parties,” said Quijano (D-Union). “In the interest of protecting the taxpayers of this state, the prudent thing to do at this point is to put an end to the ambiguities surrounding the use of state helicopters and establish a clear set of rules governing this practice.”

The announcement of the legislation came after a lengthy hearing today in which State Police Superintendent Colonel Joseph R. Fuentes testified before the committee on the practices and protocol currently governing the use of state police helicopters. Quijano noted that the helicopters in use today were purchased to replace the state’s aging fleet and primarily intended for critical homeland security activities and medical emergencies and, when necessary, to transport governors safely and swiftly to important state business.

The hearing was called after it was revealed that Governor Christie used the State Police helicopter to travel to and from his son’s baseball game and a private meeting with political donors.

The legislation Quijano intends to introduce was first sponsored by DeCroce and Pennacchio in December of 2002 and reintroduced again in 2004, prior to Quijano joining the Assembly. To view a copy, click here. In addition to prohibiting helicopter use for personal and political reasons, the bill would also require quarterly reports to the Legislature on the governor’s use of state helicopters.

“I understand that the Assembly Minority Leader now believes that gubernatorial use of helicopters is ‘a long established and cost-neutral practice’ but he clearly felt differently at one time,” added Quijano. “I hope Assemblyman DeCroce and Senator Pennacchio continue to maintain their support for this legislation and will join me as sponsors.”

Quijano intends to introduce the legislation during the next Assembly session.