GWB Probe Now in Hands of Assembly

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -

The state investigation into why George Washington Bridge approach lanes were suddenly blocked, which Democrats allege was political retribution for a mayor not endorsing Gov. Chris Christie’s reelection bid, will end next month unless the New Jersey Assembly renews subpoena power for the lawmaker leading the probe.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski said he will file paperwork for a vote on extending his ability to subpoena documents and employees of the Port Authority. His subpoena power expires at the end of the session on Jan. 14.

Democrats suspect two local-access lanes were closed to punish Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor for refusing to endorse Christie, a Republican, who sought broad bipartisan support ahead of an expected presidential run in 2016. Christie has denied it.

The unannounced closings caused traffic backups that lasted hours on streets of Fort Lee, where the mouth of the bridge is located. The lanes were ordered reopened after four days by the executive director of the authority, who is an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Christie’s top two appointees at the bistate agency have said the lanes were closed for a traffic study, and Christie has said repeatedly he doesn’t doubt their explanation. The deputies have both resigned.

Wisniewski was given subpoena power early this year to investigate the authority’s finances. But the Democrat needs 41 votes to continue. The chamber has 48 Democrats and 32 Republicans.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney defended his Republican ally last week, saying “no one can possibly imagine that the governor ordered this.” And influential South Jersey Democrat George Norcross III said Democrats should be “focusing on their own profile”rather than the lane closures.