New Jersey Lawmakers Honor Late Senator

By John Celock

Renaming a highway after New Jersey’s longest serving state legislator advanced Thursday.

The state Assembly unanimously passed legislation that would rename Rt. 15 in Sussex County after former Sen. Robert Littell (R-Franklin), who passed away in November 2014. Littell retired from the Legislature in 2008 following 40 years of service. The bill now goes to Gov. Chris Christie (R).

“Transportation is something he felt strongly about. He proposed putting a monorail down the middle of Rt. 80. He had a study commission,” Assemblywoman Allison Littell McHose (R-Franklin) told the Assembly about her father. “He cared very much about his constituents. He loved New Jersey.”

The short debate over the legislation, which has previously passed the state Senate, focused on paying tribute to Littell and his work in the Legislature. Littell McHose thanked her colleagues for providing that opportunity, noting that on her father’s last day in the Senate, a backlog of legislative business prevented any retiring senators from delivering farewell addresses or hearing tributes from colleagues.

Lawmakers focused on Littell’s career and his service from 1968 to 1990 in the Assembly and from 1990 to 2008 in the Senate. During his tenure, Littell served as chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. According to the bill, Littell’s legislative accomplishments included legislation related to open space preservation, farmland preservation, transportation and children.

Thursday’s debate focused more on Littell the man rather than Littell the lawmaker.

“He was a wonderful person who would to debate issues with you without holding a grudge,” Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Belleville) said. “He will live with me in my heart forever.”

Caputo served in the Assembly with Littell during the Democrat’s first stint as a legislator in the early 1970s. Assemblyman Parker Space (R-Wantage), who represents Littell’s former district paid tribute to Littell’s work on behalf of Sussex County.

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) said it was appropriate to rename Rt. 15 after the late senator.

“Those people who had the privilege to drive on Rt. 15 it is one of the most beautiful roads in New Jersey. It winds through Sussex County,” Bramnick said. “It is appropriate we name it after Senator Littell.”

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Secaucus) also permitted Littell’s widow, former New Jersey Republican Party Chairwoman Ginny Littell, to address lawmakers. She focused her remarks on thanking lawmakers for the tribute to her late husband.

“I can’t thank you enough for honoring my husband this way,” Mrs. Littell said. “Transportation, roadways, public safety were so meaningful to him in the Assembly and in the Senate.”