By Jonathan Lai, Inquirer Staff Writer

The leader of the New Jersey Assembly is trying to block the entire list of 176 construction projects at colleges and universities across the state while she seeks answers to how decisions were made on the $1.3 billion in grants.

 New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver. (Mel Evans / Associated Press)
New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver. (Mel Evans / Associated Press)
“… Many issues concerning the validity of the administration’s specific awards in the approved project lists have come to my attention,” Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D., Essex) wrote Tuesday to Gov. Christie. “Concerns about the process by which the ‘review committee’ made the selections have also been raised.”

Oliver’s objections are focused on $10.6 million slated for Beth Medrash Govoha, an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva in Lakewood.

“These grants may be subject to challenge under the establishment clause of the United States Constitution as a violation of the separation of church and state,” reads a resolution Oliver introduced Monday to reject the statewide list, which includes $118 million for Rowan University and $357 million for Rutgers University.

A $645,323 grant to Princeton Theological Seminary, a predominantly Protestant school, also has been criticized.

Though the funding for the $1.3 billion in projects comes from five sources – each with its own rules – the core of the money comes from the $750 million Building Our Future Bond Act approved by voters in the fall.

The Legislature had 60 days from the time Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks presented the list to reject, in full, those to be funded from the bond act, including the grant to the yeshiva.

To be invalidated, the list would have to be rejected by both houses.

“The Senate president does not support holding up 176 projects on New Jersey’s college campuses because of questions regarding only two of them,” Christopher Donnelly, a spokesman for Stephen M. Sweeney (D., Gloucester), said in an e-mail. “He does, however, think that the applications should be made public.”


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