In Brief

Lawmakers approve search to replace top legislative staff officials

By: - January 7, 2022 1:45 pm

The Trenton Statehouse (Getty Images)

Lawmakers approved a search to replace two top-ranking officials in the Office of Legislative Services Friday.

The Legislative Services Commission approved the creation of a committee to seek replacements for OLS Executive Director Peri Horowitz and legislative counsel Jason Krajewski by voice vote Friday afternoon.

Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) was the only legislator on the 16-member bicameral panel to vote no. She raised objections about the previous search in 2015 and asked for lawmakers to play a more direct role than they did then.

“We must have an executive session to discuss the qualification of the applicants,” she said. “We didn’t the last time. I had serious objections about their qualifications, but it couldn’t be discussed with the whole committee because we could not get enough votes to have an executive committee.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) disagreed, noting the sitting OLS officials were unanimously selected by executive directors from majority and minority offices in the Senate and Assembly.

“When you have both sides of the aisle coming back with an agreement, normally it means you probably got it right,” Sweeney said.

The New Jersey Globe first reported the commission would authorize a search to replace Krajewski and Horowitz.

The Office of Legislative Services is a nonpartisan body that provides the Legislature with a bevy of support services. Among other things, its workers draft bills, conduct research for lawmakers, and maintain the Legislature’s website.

“The Office of Legislative Services provides critical services to the Legislature,” Horowitz said. “I fully respect the commission’s authority, but I’m disappointed that the meeting leaves the hard-working and dedicated staff without clarity.”

It’s unclear whether the two OLS officials will retain their positions while the search is conducted. Because their continued employment is a personnel issue, the commission moved into executive session before discussing it.

In an emailed statement, Krajewski thanked the commission and legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle for allowing him to serve as legislative counsel for the past six years. The New Jersey native noted several complicated legal questions his office addressed during the pandemic, including ones on measures to allow remote committee meetings and voting sessions and a three-month stopgap budget enacted in the summer of 2020.

“It is an unhappy circumstance of the legislative counsel position that someone is always dissatisfied with the opinions and advice I am asked to provide,” he said. “But I hope on reflection, legislators and senior staff will value and speak favorably of my unwavering dedication, at any hour and under any circumstance, to providing useful, definitive legal advice and my unfailing commitment to protecting the best interests of the Legislature as an independent and co-equal branch of our state government.”

The commission scheduled a second meeting for 9 a.m. Monday. It’s not clear what items will appear on that meeting’s agenda.

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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.