Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver today said the gaming summit kicking-off Friday in Atlantic City will serve as the legislative Democrats’ answer to the Hanson Commission, which was created by gubernatorial executive order.
“The Governor and the Republicans had their task force, and now Democrats have our fact-finding mission,” said Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “Regardless of party, the goal remains the same: create a path for renewal and rejuvenation of the state’s gaming, sports and entertainment industries. All areas of the state and points of view are being represented and I am quite sure the discussions will bear that out.”
“The Republican administration has offered their plan, and now it’s time for the Democratic majority to take a look at it and also put forth its own ideas,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “But as everyone has seen, we are open to all ideas, no matter where they come from, as evidenced by some of bills we’ve advanced to benefit the horse racing industry that were sponsored both by Democratic and Republican lawmakers. The ultimate goal is to devise a plan that benefits all regions, with all points of view heard and taken into consideration.”
Sweeney and Oliver announced the summit as a means of bringing together lawmakers, industry leaders and policy experts to publicly examine the recommendations of the Hanson Commission — officially the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Gaming, Sports and Entertainment — released July 21.
Sweeney and Oliver named Senator Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic) and Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem) to lead the talks. In addition to the co-chairs and the Senate President and Speaker, other members named to the summit include Senators Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union), Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen/Essex/Passaic) and Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland) and Assembly members Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), Matthew W. Milam (D-Cumberland/Atlantic/Cape May) and Connie Wagner (D-Bergen).
“Unlike the report we recently received, this will be an open process and everyone will get a chance to speak their minds,” Oliver said. “We hope our Republican colleagues we take advantage of that opportunity along with all other interested parties as we work towards a solution acceptable to both the Republican governor and the Democratic Legislature.”
“The summit is our caucuses’ chance to wrap our hands around the Hanson Commission’s thinking in an open forum,” said Sweeney. “We will tackle this issue fairly and evenly and will work with the Governor and our Republican colleagues on the finer points of a final plan everyone can agree to.”
Additional meetings to be held at the Meadowlands and in Trenton are being planned.