NEWARK, NJ - During a visit on Dec. 19, to Saint James AME Church in Newark, which also has a location in South Orange, Gov. Phil Murphy praised its senior pastor as a "megatalent" with a passion for criminal justice reform.
That's why, the governor said, he nominated the Rev. Dr. Ronald Slaughter for the state Parole Board.
"We've had many discussions about the need not just for comprehensive criminal justice reform but for ensuring that we welcome those who have served their time back into our society as full men and women," Murphy told congregants during an afternoon address to the church. "His commitment to this principle is one of the reasons why I nominated him to serve on the state parole board and I look forward to your service, Reverend."
Yet, six months after Murphy sent Slaughter's nomination to the state Senate for approval, the Reverend has yet to have a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
His nomination, along with more than 70 others, including superior court judges, remain in legislative limbo, an apparent victim of the ongoing tensions between the governor and Senate President Steve Sweeney.
Sitting to Murphy's left during his address was another of the governor's nominees, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Saunders, whose appointment as an alternative to the parole board is also being held up in the Senate. Saunders was previously appointed to the parole board by former Gov. Jim McGreevey and served from 2002 to 2012.
"It's frustrating. A guy like that fully deserves it...I would be lying if I said I was happy about it," Murphy said, responding to a question about Slaughter's nomination during a press availability in the church's basement.
"There are too many folks who have been put forward and I don't see any reason why they are not getting over the goalline," Murphy said, adding that Slaughter "is literally uniquely positioned in terms of his passion and its (the parole board's) responsibilities."
Murphy was at the church to give a noontime recitation of his accomplishments during his first year in office. He ticked off numerous pieces of legislation that he had signed, much of it from the progressive agenda he championed on the campaign trail.
However, two of his signature issues -- legalizing adult use marijuana and a $15 an hour minimum wage -- have been held up in the legislature, though there are indications that both could pass next year.
Last year, Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin opposed the governor's proposed budget that called for tax hikes, including a imposing a tax on millionaires that Murphy favored. The budget standoff nearly led to a shutdown of the government before Murphy agreed to scale back the tax hikes.
The Murphy administration is also facing a legislative probe into its hiring practices after his staff hired a campaign staffer to a state job who had been accused of raping another campaign staffer.
Sweeney told TAPinto Newark said he is awaiting a tête-à-tête with the governor before moving on the nominations.
"We have not sat down for negotiations about nominations as of yet," Sweeney said. "We want to sit down. It is the legislature's right in its advise and consent role to discuss these nominations, and we haven't had a judicial committee meeting in some time about this."
At a press availability Dec. 20 in Summit, Murphy said he expected his nominees to be approved.
“We don’t put people up expecting that they don’t get confirmed, so everybody we put forward we hope would be confirmed,” Murphy said.