State House renovation plans put on hold amid court battle

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TRENTON -

A $300 million renovation project on the New Jersey State House has been put on hold while lawmakers fight about the plan in court.

A lawsuit filed by lawmakers charges that the plan is unconstitutional because funding for it was never approved by a vote.

Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to renovate what he calls “a firetrap” was approved by the unelected board of the state’s Capitol Joint Management Commission. The commission says that the project could end up costing up to $700 million.

Seton Hall professor Matt Hale says that the governor’s way may have been the only way to get the project approved.

“The only way a statehouse renovation like this is going to happen is by an unpopular governor at the end of his term and Christie fits both of those bills. In terms of how he did it, letting the bonds out, that’s a little aggressive,” Hale says.

Sen. Ray Lesniak is one of the lawmakers who filed the suit in the superior court. He says the public should have a say as to whether or not the project moves forward.

A temporary restraining order was issued for any demolition starting on the executive wing until June 14. That is when a judge will hear oral arguments in the case in superior court.

“It’s very typical New Jersey,” Hale says. “Most people this is a good idea. Most people realize it’s really, really expensive and sometimes those things are in conflict with each other.”

Christie says that the aging building does not meet safety codes.

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