TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation Friday aimed at preventing mortgage foreclosures on houses damaged by Superstorm Sandy but not before he derided lawmakers over the measure's wording and possible effects.
Christie, a Republican, called the bill passed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature "sloppily written, ill-conceived and politically pandering," but said he was signing it Friday because it would help some victims.
"I have chosen to sign it to give Sandy victims the morsels of relief this vanity exercise of a bill offers," he said.
Democratic Assemblyman Troy Singleton said the legislation was based on hours of hearings with victims of the 2012 storm. He chided Christie for calling lawmakers panderers and pointed to the governor's own invocation of his handling of the storm during his 2013 re-election effort.
"For someone who based his re-election campaign on his handling of the storm to call our efforts political pandering seems disingenuous at best," Singleton said. "It can't be that bad of an initiative because his signature is now on it."
The bill's sponsors cast it as a common-sense measure that will help victims more than four years since the devastating storm.
"The idea of Sandy victims facing foreclosure because of problems they did not create is asinine," said Democratic Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro.
The law requires the state Department of Community Affairs to publicly report where funding tied to grant application denials goes. Christie says he is concerned the requirement could impact recovery efforts or increase borrowing costs. He said he is instructing the department to come up with criteria for the mortgage relief provisions to ensure it aligns with the state Constitution.
Under the law, Sandy victims could get a temporary stay of foreclosure proceedings if they are eligible for certain programs but haven't received funds. Among his concerns, Christie said Sandy victims who have mortgage default problems can get relief even if those issues are unrelated to storm damage.
Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29, 2012, and the governor's office estimates 365,000 buildings were damaged, based on the number of insurance claims. The Fair Share Housing Center says 40,500 primary residences and 15,600 rental units sustained "severe" or "major" damage in the storm.
For Sandy victim homeowners currently in foreclosure litigation and eligible to receive relief funds, homeowners could apply for a stay of proceedings.