TRENTON – Is it possible for a state to have gridlocked government to match what is happening in Washington?
Consider the case of New Jersey, where action on important state issues frequently get bottled up by task forces, special commissions and "blue ribbon'' panels created by Gov. Chris Christie or the Legislature.
Washington gridlock will be brought back into focus Tuesday night when President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address, but here are five examples of government avoidance of issues in Trenton:
1. Christie signed Executive Order 161 last Aug. 1 creating the New Jersey Pension and Health Benefit Study Commission, a five-member panel that was instructed to "report its findings and recommendations to the governor as soon as possible.''
Lawmakers and public workers watched Christie's State of the State speech last week for details about the panel's suggested overhaul to the program. But there was nothing. The Republican governor said the study isn't done yet after nearly six months and made no promises about when there will be action.
2. Christie's task force on domestic violence last year blew its deadline for a report by five months. Only when advocates mobilized and scheduled a press conference at the Statehouse to call out the delay did the report on the availability of technology to track domestic violence offenders suddenly materialize.
3. Starting in September, Christie and state and local leaders have held two private summits to form an Atlantic City recovery plan and a third meeting will take place Thursday. Christie in November declared it was time from an economic standpoint to"stop the bleeding'' after four casinos closed down but he didn't mention the seaside city's woes in his State of the State speech.
4. Christie vowed in 2012 that legislation for a massive gas tax increase would be dead on arrival if Democrats sent such a bill to his desk. In recent months Christie hasn't ruled out a gas tax increase because, he says, "everything is on the table'' to ensure there's money to pay for roads and infrastructure projects. He frequently references talks that he's he had, or is planning to have, with Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto to resolve the issue but none of the three men have revealed any details.
Meanwhile, 56 percent of residents said they oppose a raise in the state's gas tax, compared to 41 percent who support it, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll published in December.
5. Christie signed a bill creating a security task force for schools two years ago that is just now holding public hearings, according to an NJspotlight.com story with the headline, "What has school security task force been doing for the past two years?''Measures such as placing screening systems at school entrances, stationing police officers in each building, and improving emergency response times were to be considered. Other education panels on the state's testing system and special education services also haven't issued reports.