From the 7/5 issue of Politifax:
THE MERGER. All you need to know about the process -- not the merits -- of the higher ed merger is that, as Bob Smith pointed out in his floor speech before the vote last week, the people who wanted this to happen dropped 48 pages of amendments -- to a 121- page bill -- on legislators' desks about eight hours before they had to vote on it. (And, as one of our wags put it, we're "absolutely certain every member of the Senate and Assembly used that time to digest thoroughly every aspect of those amendments as well as the short range and long term implications of the alterations.") That may be all you need to know, but that's not all we're going to tell you. For one thing, the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers is in Smith's district, so perhaps those on the other side of this issue to whom he has ties found it relatively easy to forgive his lack of enthusiasm for their pet project. For another, there was so much going on that we have to limit ourselves to just the highlights. All it apparently took to get the Rutgers Board of Trustees to back off its threat of taking the whole thing to court and sweeping away an OLS report that said the Trustees must sign off on any merger was a legal opinion by Bill Harla of the DeCotiis firm, which represents Cooper Health System, that it was irrelevant to the final version of the bill. (The Board of Governors approved the plan before it saw the final version but with the proviso that it not lose Rutgers-Camden and that it have a year to do its due diligence. That might in some of your minds call forth the question why this had to pass now rather than get the due diligence -- not to mention the cost estimates -- done before the vote. We can't answer that. All we can say in response is that perhaps now you can see why this issue -- and, for that matter, all of New Jersey politics -- fascinates us.) Then, there's the proliferation of boards of trustees, which is always a way to get better governance for any organization, right? The one that matters is the one that'll oversee the Rutgers-Camden/Rowan joint projects. It'll have two Rutgers trustees, three Rutgers governors, and four gubernatorial appointees from southern counties. One of our more cynical wags called it "the inevitable Trojan horse. All you need is one Governor or Trustee to side with the five appointees . . ." and his voice trailed off. On the merits of the merger we remain agnostic. Maybe it will, as Joe Vitale put it, "catapult New Jersey onto the national stage." Perhaps it is "a win for everybody" that will "triple the size of Rutgers-Camden," as Don Norcross prognosticated." It might even save money, as a Treasurer's report opined. It could even be "the best thing to happen for Camden in the last 50 years," as George Norcross predicted. If it is, it would be a big hunk of the Norcross legacy -- and might make everybody forget the sausage making that brought it about.