Wednesday, April 15, 2015
NJ Highlands Council Full of Lame Ducks under Governor Christie
By Candace Mitchell
This year will be a crucial one for the New Jersey Highlands Council as they prepare to update the 464-page Regional Master Plan. This is one of many big moves the Highlands Council has made with Governor Chris Christie in office.
Under the Highlands Act, the governor has a large hold over the Council. The governor nominates all 15 council members, two of whom are at the recommendation of the Senate president and Assembly speaker, according to NJ Spotlight.
Governor Christie’s involvement with the NJ Highlands Council came early in his first term. When he took office in January 2010, four seats were vacant and six were holdovers, members who are serving beyond their terms, allowing Christie to fill 10 positions, according to nj.com.
All 14 members currently on the Council are holdovers, according to NJ Spotlight, and most were appointed by Christie. The holdovers could be replaced at any time, but they would have to be approved by state Senate Democrats, so many speculate that Gov. Christie will not replace any council members.
In the past, Christie criticized the 2004 Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act, a law affecting towns in seven counties that is implemented by the Council.
The update to the Regional Master Plan, set to occur this year, will offer guidance on building in the extensive area hosting reservoirs and water supply streams stretching from the Ramapo River in Mahwah to the Delaware River in Hunterdon County.
With another big move coming up for the Highlands Council, the importance of Governor Christie’s control and decisions regarding the council will become more and more noteworthy.