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History--1970s & 1980s: Cahill, Byrne & Kean
Apart from the income tax, Byrne's eight years in office saw the development of the New Jersey Sports complex with Giants Stadium and the indoor sports and entertainment arena (controversially first named after Byrne); legislation to protect the resources of the Pinelands; the creation of New Jersey Transit; approval of casino gambling in Atlantic City; the establishment of Liberty State Park; imposition of strict controls on the use and shipment of cancer-causing chemicals; construction of new sewage treatment facilities to end untreated ocean discharges; and the authorization of a state compensation fund to meet losses and finance cleanups of toxic chemical and oil spills, which became the model for the federal Superfund program.
Byrne considered the preservation of the Pinelands his most significant achievement. After first encountering difficulty in securing sufficient support in the legislature, he issued an executive order barring most construction until a more permanent planning and regulatory program was enacted. The controversial action promptly was challenged in the courts, but succeeded in building pressure so that Byrne's proposal was enacted as the Pinelands Protection Act. After the law went into effect, a plan developed by the Commission created by the legislation sharply curtailing new construction was approved by the US Department of the Interior pursuant to complementary federal legislation which established the Pinelands National Reserve.
-- New Jersey Supreme Court
During Byrne's time in office, the New Jersey Supreme Court, in addition to its landmark role in the Robinson v. Cahill litigation, took other aggressive actions. In 1975, in Southern Burlington County NAACP v. Township of Mount Laurel, the Court held that a system of municipal land use and zoning regulation making it physically and economically impossible to provide low and moderate income housing was unconstitutional. The "Mount Laurel" case subsequently led to controversial state legislation to establish goals for affordable housing in each municipality. In 1976, the Court's In re Quinlan decision held that the father of 21-year-old Karen Ann Quinlan, who had lapsed into a vegetative state after a night of drinking alcohol and taking tranquilizers, was legally able to order her removal from the ventilator thought to be essential to keeping her alive. After the ventilator was disconnected, she unexpectedly continued to breathe on her own, subsequently dying ten years later of pneumonia. The "right-to-die" decision received global attention, and led to legislation in New Jersey and other states defining procedures to be followed in similar situations.
In February 1980, NBC News reported that the FBI had been conducting an undercover investigation under the code name Abscam in which an agent had been posing as a wealthy Arab purportedly interested in investing in Atlantic City, offering payments for support of his projects from local, state and federal officials. Of over thirty officials who were investigated, those convicted included New Jersey's US Senator Harrison Williams; Congressman Frank Thompson of Mercer County; and state Senator and Camden Mayor Angelo Errichetti. Five members of the US House of Representatives from other states also were found guilty, along with members of the Philadelphia City Council.
-- 1981 election of Thomas Kean
The November 1981 election for Byrne's successor resulted in the closest election in the state's history, only decided three weeks after the election with a recount showing Republican Thomas H. Kean--a descendant of William Livingston, the state's first governor elected in 1776--defeating Democrat James J. Florio by 1,767 votes.
After he took office, Kean proceeded to pursue policies to mandate minimum statewide teacher salaries and allow licensing of teachers without traditional education training; extend state land-use control over wetlands; and expand support of the arts, most notably with the construction of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.
Kean's two terms in office also benefited from the 1980s economic recovery, as new housing and office construction was spurred by national policies to lower credit costs. The state labor force grew by over a half million, and was increasingly well-educated, filling the demand for more technical positions, particularly in technology and service industries which emerged to provide jobs formerly offered by heavy industry. Household income during the decade ending in 1990 rose over 23% in constant dollars to $41,000, the second highest in the nation behind only Connecticut. But the prosperity was uneven; the number of families living in poverty with children under five years old doubled over the ten years and over half of the state's population growth became more dependent on foreign immigrants, many of whom lacking education, language skills and financial resources to compete in the new economy.
* Governor Brendan T. Byrne Administration, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University
* Governor Tom Kean: From the New Jersey Statehouse to the 911 Commission by Alvin Felzenberg
* Governor Thomas H. Kean Administration, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University
Next-- 1990s: Florio & Whitman
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