TRENTON - Chris Christie took less than 24 hours as governor to challenge Trenton's style of rule-making and political bargaining.
In a series of eight executive orders, signed in a ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Christie froze many pending regulations and created a red-tape review to assess them.
He laid out a set of what he called common-sense principles that he said should apply to all new rules and legislation, and then demanded state regulators find ways for cash-strapped towns to pay for new mandates.
He gave a prominent nod to casino workers, assuring them their industry would not close during any future state shutdown. But he challenged labor unions by including them under pay-to-play restrictions, which ban public contracts worth more than $17,500 going to recent political donors.
In advance of the budget process looming this spring, he set up a council of economic advisers to serve at his pleasure.
And he promised a new era of transparency in government by moving to publish frequent financial updates online.
Christie's first acts of executive power were:
Executive Order 1: Freezes a selection of 154 proposed rules and regulations, which the Governor's Office says can be done "without compromising the public health, safety or welfare, and without prejudicing the rights of the people of the State of New Jersey." Those pending rules will freeze for 90 days and will be reviewed.
Executive Order 2: Sets out common-sense principles for rule-making, designed to "energize and encourage a competitive economy to benefit businesses and ordinary citizens." In practice, the order allows for waivers of rules that agencies decide are burdensome. Critics say that allows state officials to turn a blind eye to cases where rules are being broken.
Executive Order 3: Creates the Red Tape Review group, to be chaired by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. That group will undertake a review of all pending and proposed regulations, plus executive orders from past administrations. The group will recommend which ones can be streamlined.
Executive Order 4: Stops state departments and agencies from passing certain laws that would cost towns money to implement, without identifying how they might pay for them. The order said the state "has imposed such unfunded mandates in order to improperly transfer responsibility for providing certain services to local governments, in an effort to meet the State's balanced budget."
Executive Order 5: Creates a new council of economic advisers to the governor. The five-member council will be chaired by Bob Grady, who helped chair the transition team's task force on budget and taxes.
Executive Order 6: Says Casino Control Commission employees are essential state workers. The move means casinos will not have to close in any future state government shutdown – as happened during 2006's budget negotiations.
Executive Order 7: Adds unions to the list of groups who cannot receive state contracts of more than $17,500 if they have donated more than $300 to a campaign for governor or county political committee in the previous 18 months.
Executive Order 8: Seeks to fix the state's "disjointed financial reporting and inadequate fiscal transparency that has contributed to the failure to recognize the scope and severity of New Jersey's financial condition." Now, quarterly and monthly treasury reports will include revenues from all sources, and would include details of how independent authorities spent taxes, fees, tolls and debt. All these pieces of data would be collected on a central Web site for people to search.
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