Chris Christie

Good Riddance to Chris Christie

How the governor spent his last day in office

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Chris Christie
Cheriss May/Sipa USA/Newscom

Chris Christie's term as New Jersey's governor expired at noon on Tuesday. The ways he chose to spend his last hours in power should remind libertarians how happy we should be to see him go.

On Monday—his last full day in office—the state's most unpopular governor since William Franklin signed a flurry of bills that pile even more restrictions onto New Jersey's already overtaxed, overregulated residents on everything from firearms to drones.

By far the most consequential of these was a ban on bump stocks, introduced by a trio of Democratic legislators back in November in response to the deadly shooting in Las Vegas.

Christie, who has a decidedly mixed record on gun rights, initially intimated in the days following the shooting that he would be opposed to such a bill, saying "I just don't believe that a whole bunch of new gun laws are going to change that reality" on an October 2 radio show.

But a few days later, the governor was changing his tune, saying through a spokesman that he was "more than willing" to consider new restrictions and telling reporters that since "a bump stock is not a gun," and its prohibition should not be considered gun control.

The new legislation, which gives bump stock owners 90 days to turn over their devices or otherwise face 5 years in prison and a $15,000 fine, only tightens New Jersey's already notoriously strict gun laws—laws, mind you, that Christie himself denounced when he was trying to win a Republican presidential primary.

Christie also signed a bill that amends prior pension reform efforts to let a few select officials pad their retirement pay.

The new pension bill—passed on the last day of New Jersey's legislative session with the minimum number of votes required—allows elected officials to re-enroll in the top tier of the Public Employee Retirement System after having been forced into "defined contribution" plans by a 2007 pension reform law. The most obvious beneficiary is former Camden mayor and longtime Christie ally Dana Reed, who will reportedly see her pension increase threefold.

New Jersey is arguably the state imost crippled by pension debt, with $90 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. Christie is well aware of this fact, having made it a major part of his State of the State Address last week.

Having restricted gun rights and boosted his cronies' pensions, Christie still had enough ink left in his pen to sign a range on new restrictions on drone operators. S3370 makes it a criminal offense to use a drone for hunting, empowers the state to strip people of their right to own or operate a drone for life as a condition of their parole, and makes it punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine to fly a drone under the influence of an "intoxicating liquor, a narcotic, hallucinogenic, or habit-producing drug."

Once viewed in some quarters as a crusading reformer, Christie turned out to be yet another big government Republican eager to back any number of intrusions into the Americans' private lives, from mass NSA surveillance to pot prohibition. With his presidential ambitions dashed and his governorship at an end, libertarians can finally bid him good-bye and good riddance.