‘Snooki’ bill capping NJ college speaking fees could soon go to Christie – NJ.com

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie will soon depart from office, but his contempt for the MTV series “Jersey Shore” looks like it’s about to live on in law.

For seven years, his fellow GOP Assemblyman John DiMaio (R-Warren) has waged a battle to pass what’s become colloquially known as the “Snooki bill,” which would curb university speaker fees at public universities by capping them at $10,000.

The wellspring of DiMaio’s ire is the $32,000 honorarium paid in 2011 to Nicole Elizabeth “Snooki” Polizzi, the star of MTV’s reality series that ran from 2009-2012.

For that sum, Polizzi imbued Rutgers students with life advice such as to use Aussie brand shampoos and conditioners to maximize hair volume.

Now, DiMaio says, he finally has the votes to pass it and put it on the governor’s desk.

“When somebody gets paid $32,000 to say ‘Work hard and party harder,’ it gives one pause,” DiMaio said Thursday morning. “This is a message to all the state universities: Be prudent about who you’re inviting.”

For Christie, unindicted isn’t innocent, Bridgegate prosecutor says

DiMaio’s original bill (A714) called for zero tax payer dollars to go to speaker fees, but in order to win over its Democratic sponsor in the state Senate, Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-Hudson), DiMaio agreed to instead cap speaking fees at $10,000 and have them apply to speakers all year round, not just at commencement addresses.

The compromise legislation passed the Senate unanimously last June (40-0) and similarly sailed through the Assembly’s higher education committee (8-0).

Asked if he was concerned that this might keep Rutgers from accessing Nobel laureates as well as reality stars when it came time to book speakers, DiMaio said the money could still be raised independently.

“They can go out and solicit private dollars,” DiMaio said, “And they should be finding private dollars. Any expense you add, adds to the pile and is ‘death by a thousand cuts’ with regard to costs. Kids are leaving with mountains of debt and we need to be absolutely prudent.”

A vote on the “Snooki bill” is scheduled for 1 p.m. in the Assembly.

Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) confirmed DiMaio had rustled enough support for the bill to get it to pass.

“After all, you’ve got kids struggling to get courses into the schedule,” Greenwald said.

If approved, it will go to Christie’s desk, but it’s unclear if he would sign it. A spokesman for the governor did not immediately return a request for comment.

However, Christie publicly said he held the show in low regard. He told ABC News in 2011 that it was populated with carpetbaggers from New York, and therefore “bad for New Jersey…because it’s a mis-characterization” of what Garden State residents are truly like when down the shore.

Two of the show’s eight cast members — Samantha “Sammi” Giancola and Deena Nicole Cortese — were born and raised in New Jersey.

Giancola was from Hazlet and attended William Paterson University, where she was a midfielder on the women’s soccer team.

Cortese was from New Egypt and attended Brookdale Community College in Lincroft.

Nevertheless, that same year, the governor also vetoed a $420,000 tax credit — dubbed the “Snooki subsidy” — for the MTV show, saying the program did “nothing more than perpetuate misconceptions about the state and its citizens.”

DiMaio admitted on Thursday he hadn’t discussed with the governor whether he’d signed the bill if it passed, but then asked, “Why wouldn’t he? It’s commonsense, dollars and cents savings.”

Claude Brodesser-Akner may be reached at cbrodesser@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClaudeBrodesser. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.

‘Snooki’ bill capping NJ college speaking fees could soon go to Christie – NJ.com