The state Legislature’s top elected official said he was “extremely disappointed” that Gov. Phil Murphy vetoed a bill that would create a process for wiping certain marijuana offenses from criminal records, and that he “didn’t see” the move coming.
Murphy vetoed Senate Bill 3205 late Friday, sending it back to lawmakers arguing the state needs an automatic, digital process for expunging those types of convictions and that the measure did not do enough to revamp and fix the state’s beleaguered and overburdened criminal records expungement system.
But Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, countered that Murphy had ample time to present lawmakers with his concerns about S3205, rather than conditionally veto the bill.
“This is the problem we’ve had. There are so many conditional vetoes of the bill, we probably could have worked out,” Sweeney told reporters following a Senate voting session Monday morning. “They react to our bills after we pass them instead of getting with the sponsors prior.”
The governor’s office said that was inaccurate and that “the administration reaches out prior to the bill’s passage in order to work collaboratively with lawmakers on the issue.”
“The bill failed to provide the adequate resources in order to deliver on the promise of expungement,” said an administration official. “In order for the expungement to proceed, the State Police needs X amount of resources, meaning personnel and financial resources, in order to actually review and process them. They already have expugmenets that they already need to process and this adds more.”
Murphy proposed lawmakers create a task force to study how the state could create a digital system to automatically clean offenders’ records for those who stay out of trouble for 10 years – rather than require the person to actively apply for expungement – and the kinds of technology necessary for such a change to the system.
While this automatic expungement system is hashed out, Murphy suggested the creation of a system for petitioning the court for a clean slate expungement.
Sweeney did not address the merits of Murphy’s veto message, criticizing only the ways by which the governor aired his concerns about the legislation. “It’s just really disappointing because it’s going to slow things down and fewer people are going to get served,” the senate president added.
S3205’s main sponsor, Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-31st District, condemned the governor’s veto, saying his proposed changes could weaken the legislation. She declined to speak with reporters following the Monday voting session.