Governor Florio began his career in public service in the U.S. Navy, on active duty and later in the Active Naval Reserve, retiring after 22 years with the rank of lieutenant commander. He first sought elective office in 1969, winning a seat in the New Jersey General Assembly. In 1974 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from New Jersey’s 1st Congressional District, where he served until 1990, when he took office as the state’s 49th governor.
During his tenure in Congress he became deeply knowledgeable about two often beleaguered but vital issues that undergird a vibrant and sustainable economy — wise stewardship of the environment as a critical resource, and the importance of investments in rail transportation of all kinds. He used that knowledge to:
- author the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, known as the Superfund law, the nation’s primary program for cleaning up hazardous waste sites;
- play a key role, as chairman of the House Subcommittee with jurisdiction over environmental matters, in the drafting or passage of virtually every major piece of federal environmental legislation;
- play a key role, as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Transportation and Tourism of the Energy and Commerce Committee, in every piece of railroad legislation passed during his tenure. He was the prime sponsor of The Staggers Act, which deregulated rate-setting in much of the railroad industry; he sponsored all Amtrak reauthorization bills; and he drafted the legislation that privatized Conrail and deregulated U.S. freight railroads.
In addition, Gov. Florio became an authority on energy and international trade issues. He served on the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board during the Clinton administration; he was a member of the Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee (TEPAC) to the U.S. Trade Representative, and he served as a member of The Bretton Woods Committee, a private bipartisan group committed to international economic leadership.
His accomplishments as governor of New Jersey are no less significant. In his first year in office he signed into law the Clean Water Enforcement Act, one of the strongest environmental laws of its type in the United States. He was responsible for shepherding the original contract, a unique tri-party agreement between the Port Authority, NJ Transit and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to study the idea of constructing a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel — an initiative that came to be known as Access to the Region’s Core. And he expanded the scope of activity for NJ Transit, enhancing its distinction as the only statewide commuter transit network in the country.
A hallmark of Gov. Florio’s public-service career has been to emphasize the importance of, and to advocate for, coordinated planning at the state level. He believes that public investments in infrastructure should guide private development, not the other way around. It was during his tenure as governor that the first State Development and Redevelopment Plan was adopted — committing to paper for the first time the policy that state investments in transportation, housing and water and sewer services should be made first in already-built areas, rather than in the new, lower-density suburbs and exurbs that had been growing during the mid-1980s.
Since his return to the private sector, Gov. Florio has continued to use his voice to elevate conversations on the big issues that will affect New Jersey’s future, including the importance of coordinated planning and the need for investment in upgrading infrastructure in our older communities in order to support growth. He is an honorary co-chair of New Jersey Future; an honorary co-chair of Jersey Water Works, a collaborative focused on addressing the water infrastructure crisis in the state’s older communities; and co-chairman of the Regional Plan Association’s New Jersey Committee. He is a frequent and thoughtful presence at these and other organizations’ policy events throughout the state, where he shares his time and wisdom generously.
He has also given generously of his time and wisdom in his ongoing commitment to educating the next generation of leaders in New Jersey. He is a Senior Fellow for Public Policy and Administration at the Edward J. Bloustein of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, where he has taught for more than 20 years and where an endowed chair for a visiting distinguished public policy lecturer carries his name. He also has taught at Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute for Politics and Rutgers’ Law School in Camden.
Governor Florio serves on the board of directors of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute and is a trustee of the Fund for New Jersey. Previously he served as chairman of the board of directors of the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York and as chairman of The Pinelands Commission in New Jersey. He is a founding partner of Florio Perrucci Steinhardt & Cappelli, and is chairman of the firm’s energy, environmental law, government and regulatory affairs and healthcare law groups.
Governor Florio has received numerous awards and honors, including the 1993 Profile in Courage Award, presented by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. In 2008 he was designated as a Lifetime Honoree Member of the New Jersey Short Line Railroad Association; and he is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees.