Author: NJ Assembly Republicans

McGuckin & Wolfe Combat Rise in Fentanyl Deaths, Upping Penalties for Manufacturing, Dealing the Opioid

Press Release -

Senator Jim Holzapfel (R-Ocean) has introduced legislation to increase criminal penalties for unlawfully manufacturing, distributing or dispensing fentanyl – a prescription opioid found to be up to 50 times more powerful than heroin. The lifesaving measure has received support in the Assembly, with fellow District 10 legislators Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and Dave Wolfe sponsoring the Assembly version of the bill.

“The evidence is undeniable – fentanyl is so dangerously potent that even one use can be an instant death sentence,” Senator Holzapfel, a former Ocean County Prosecutor said. “As we continue to wage war against this crisis, we must ensure that those who unlawfully place this deadly drug in the hands of our loved ones and neighbors face the same criminal penalties as those who manufacture or dispense heroin.”

In New Jersey, overdose deaths attributed to fentanyl tripled in 2014. State officials have reported that the drug is often laced with heroin – a deadly combination that continues to fuel the opioid abuse epidemic in Ocean County and across New Jersey. The drug is odorless, colorless and nearly impossible to detect, compounding the risk for users who are unaware that the heroin could be laced with the far more powerful substance.

Gregory P. McGuckin

“Here, in Ocean County, we simply cannot turn a blind eye to this rapidly growing crisis,” McGuckin said. “Our community has been hit harder by the opioid epidemic than almost anywhere else in the state. I signed on as a prime sponsor of this bill because I believe we can and must do more to get fentanyl off our streets and away from those we love the most, before more lives and communities are torn apart by the cycle of addiction.”

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is usually prescribed for those suffering from severe chronic pain, such as terminally ill cancer patients. Despite the drug’s catastrophic potency, the penalties for unlawfully manufacturing or distributing fentanyl under current law are less severe than the fines and prison terms imposed on those who produce or dispense heroin or cocaine.

Current law classifies unlawfully producing or distributing 5 or more ounces of fentanyl as a second degree crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and, or a hefty fine. S-1026 would establish this crime as a first degree offense, doubling the maximum prison sentence from 10 to 20 years. In addition, those convicted of unlawfully producing or dispensing less than one ounce of fentanyl would also face longer prison terms and larger fines. All convicted must serve a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of one-third to one-half of the sentence imposed.

Dave Wolfe

“This bill is a commonsense update to current law that will save countless lives – pure and simple,” Wolfe said. “It’s time to send a strong message to fentanyl dealers and manufactures that there is a serious price to pay for committing these crimes.”

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Dancer’s idea of digital license to be studied

Source: Tri-Town News -

The state Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) will examine what it would take to move a primary form of identification out of an individual’s wallet and into smartphones.

Legislation calling for a study into the development and implementation of a digital driver’s license smartphone application was recently signed by Gov. Chris Christie. The examination is expected to focus on the advantages, costs and risks associated with a move away from a traditional driver’s license, according to a press release.

Ron Dancer

One of the legislation’s sponsors, Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Ocean, Monmouth, Burlington and Middlesex), said that digital licenses would be a boon to the MVC and motorists if they can be implemented.

“Use of this app will allow the MVC to update licenses instantly and reduce the number of trips by motorists to the MVC offices, while also giving drivers the ability to register their vehicles electronically,” Dancer said. “The feasibility study’s costbenefit analysis will provide useful information to determine if this application makes sense and is worth testing.”

Proponents of a digital driver’s license cite a number of features with the technology, including increased privacy and security measures associated with modern smartphones, as many smartphones can be remotely locked, wiped of information or located with a global positioning system if they are lost or stolen, according to the press release.

“We are more likely to leave home without our wallet than without our cellphone,” Dancer said. “For those who desire the option to have an electronic driver’s license, a summons for not having a plastic (driver’s license) from the MVC in our possession will be a thing of the past.”

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Rible Statement On Proposal To Increase Minimum Wage to $15

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Dave Rible

Assembly Republican Conference Leader Dave Rible released the following statement in response to today’s proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour:

“As a former small business owner I can tell you firsthand that nearly doubling the minimum wage will significantly impact the business community. Business owners will be faced with tough decisions that could ultimately force them to reduce their current workforce and choose not to hire new employees.

“Simply put, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour will have serious ramifications on our state’s businesses that could ultimately lead to higher unemployment. We should instead prioritize improving our business climate by reducing the tax burden on these hardworking men and women who are struggling to maintain their workforce and keep their businesses open.”

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Bucco: Dems’ Minimum Wage Proposal a Job Killer

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Anthony M. Bucco

Deputy Assembly Republican Leader Anthony M. Bucco released the following statement on the Democrats’ proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour:

“The Democrat’ plan to increase the minimum wage for a second time in just over two years will force jobs out of New Jersey and further hurt our economy. Once again, they are using the constitution to decide a public policy that is the Legislature’s responsibility. Our focus should be on discussing ways to improve the economy. My colleagues across the aisle continue to miss the point. Putting people back to work by cutting taxes and reducing burdensome regulations is the only way to help the New Jersey working class.”

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Bramnick: Dems’ Minimum Wage Proposal Will Continue to Force Jobs Out of New Jersey

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Jon Bramnick

Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick issued the following statement regarding the Democrat proposal to raise the minimum wage:

“The Democrats’ plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 is bad public policy if the goal is to create more jobs. Business owners already find New Jersey’s business environment to be difficult with high taxes and burdensome regulations. We should discuss raising the minimum wage, but it must be done in a measured way and understanding that we must be competitive with other states.”

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Chris A. Brown: Mission to Israel seeks business, investment for Atlantic County

Atlantic City Press op-ed by Chris A. Brown -

Chris A. Brown

The first time I traveled to the Middle East on government business, I was a young lieutenant ordered by the U.S. Army to leave law school, pick up a rifle and fight to liberate a country I never heard of called “Kuwait.” Being young and full of bravado, it was my desire to hurt as many of the bad guys as I could.

Now, 25 years later, I’m going back to the Mideast on government business, except this time I’m carrying a briefcase and I’ll be fighting for the working families and retirees of Atlantic County. Being wiser, more experienced, I hope to build as many lasting relationships as possible with our friends in Israel.

The Democrat Majority leadership in Trenton pushing for North Jersey casinos requires us to move quickly and find new ways to diversify the local economy. Traveling to Israel now can help expedite transitioning Atlantic City into a destination resort and attracting and developing industries beyond hospitality for Atlantic County. At my own expense, I will embark on a legislative mission to Israel to encourage Israeli companies to do business with Atlantic County and hopefully create more job opportunities for families.

Since 1988, New Jersey and Israel have shared a Sister-State Agreement to encourage capital investment and joint business ventures between the state and Israel. Over this time, Israel has become New Jersey’s 13th largest trading partner, with N.J. companies exporting about $860 million in products to Israel. For a country roughly the size of New Jersey, Israel enjoys the fifth largest venture capital market in the world and leads the world in start-ups per capita. Atlantic County should be in the mix when it comes to doing business with Israel.

We need to let Israeli companies looking for investment opportunities know what a gem we have here in Atlantic County. We provide convenient access to Philadelphia and New York City, with an international airport connected to the FAA Technical Center and the Stockton Aviation Research Technology Park; research and educational support through Stockton University and Atlantic Cape Community College; prime real estate at Bader Field and the Hamilton Racecourse; and convention and trade show space.

Experts note many Israeli high-tech startup companies are interested in expanding to or locating in New Jersey, and may very well be attracted to our geography, infrastructure and the special economic incentives the state offers under GROW NJ.

Atlantic County’s Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan, released last September, recommended the county focus on the aerospace and aviation industry. Israel is a logical prospect to invest here since it already imports 59 percent of its aircraft parts from the United States. The demand is there.

Moreover, Atlantic County’s role in drone development can help both countries stay at the forefront of innovation and protecting citizens.

During the first Gulf War, I heard the sirens warning of incoming Scud missiles and watched as U.S. Patriot missiles soared into the sky intercepting the Scuds. The ability of a free and democratic society to defend itself against terrorism is a fundamental right. Newer state-of-the-art systems like the Iron Dome, a rocket defense platform, help counter terrorist acts. Yet, as effective as current defense systems are, the reality is that we need to stay ahead of new threats, and there is no reason new systems can’t be developed right here in Atlantic County.

Along with encouraging better business relationships, I’m eager to ask my hosts about their approaches to keeping their families safe from terrorism. Israel has been engaged in a war on terror since becoming a nation in 1948, so I’m interested in learning if there are methods we could employ here to keep families safe from any potential threats.

This is a very challenging time for families, who are uncertain about their future and wonder if Atlantic County will remain an affordable place to raise children and eventually retire. I believe, with so much on the line, it’s worth the effort to see if Atlantic County can be the right fit for an Israeli company to invest capital and create jobs here, or purchase goods and services from existing businesses here.

For me, heading back to the Middle East is best expressed by the Hebrew word “chesed,” which captures the blend of the responsibility and kindness one feels toward a friend. I’m excited to share the advantages Atlantic County has to offer with our friends in Israel.

Chris Brown, of Ventnor, is a Republican representing the 2nd District (nearly all of Atlantic County) in the N.J. Assembly.

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NJSBA to Honor Bramnick with James J. McLaughlin Award

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Jon Bramnick

The New Jersey State Bar Association’s Civil Trial Bar Section has named Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick as a recipient of its James J. McLaughlin Award.

The award is presented each year to individuals who demonstrate civility, legal competence and professionalism in the practice of civil trial law.

Bramnick, a certified civil trial attorney, will receive the award at the group’s annual awards dinner on Thursday, February 18, 6 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick.

Bramnick is a partner in the law firm of Bramnick Rodriquez Grabas Arnold and Mangan based in Scotch Plains. He was admitted to the New York Bar in 1978 and the New Jersey Bar in 1984. Bramnick holds a B.A. in political science from Syracuse University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He also holds a J.D. from Hofstra University’s School of Law.

To register for the event visit njsba.com or call NJSBA’s Member Services at 732-249-5000.

For convenience, NJSBA members can – download this registration form; Judges – download this registration form; and Non-members – download this registration form and fax to 732-249-2414.

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Brown voices objection to North Jersey casino bill

Press of Atlantic City -

A bill that would ask voters to approve up to two North Jersey casinos took a step forward on Monday.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee released a proposed constitutional amendment to end Atlantic City’s state gambling monopoly and allow casinos to open in the northern part of the state. The bill passed the committee by a 5-2 vote.

The vote fell along party lines. Republican Assemblymen Erik Peterson, R-Hunterdon, Somerset, Warren, and Chris Brown, who is not normally on the Judiciary Committee but was put there Monday because of his public opposition to North Jersey casinos, voted against the bill.

Brown, R-Atlantic, sparred with Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, one of the bill’s sponsors, for nearly half an hour over the legislation. Brown argued the bill should be held until the tax rate the new casinos will pay on their gambling revenue is specified.

Under the bill, up to one-third of the tax revenue will go toward redeveloping Atlantic City for 15 years starting in the second fiscal year after the bill’s enactment. But until a tax rate is specified, it’s unclear how much money would go toward helping the resort, where four casinos closed in 2014. Atlantic City casinos currently pay an effective tax rate of 9.25 percent on gross gambling revenue. By comparison, Pennsylvania casinos pay an effective tax rate of 55 percent.

Chris A. Brown

“If we’re supposed to have an intelligent debate and an intelligent conversation about amending the constitution, why wouldn’t we be honest with people and tell then what the tax rate is going to be so they know exactly what they’re voting on?” Brown said.

Caputo, D-Essex, said the tax rate will be included in the enabling legislation and should be determined before voters decide on new casinos in November.

The amendment also doesn’t specify the locations of the new casinos, but says they must be at least 72 miles away from Atlantic City and be in separate counties.

Atlantic City’s gambling industry has halved over the last nine years, from $5.2 billion in 2006 to $2.7 billion in 2015.

But Brown cited studies that say Atlantic City will lose $500 million in gaming revenue if there are North Jersey casinos, possibly offsetting any revenue gains from the new casinos.

“If we accept Deutsche Bank’s estimate that North Jersey casinos will generate $500 million in gaming revenue, even in an oversaturated market, the state sees no net gain by expanding gaming,” Brown said.

The bill also sets a minimum $1 billion investment in each new casino. It also gives Atlantic City casino operators just 60 days to apply for one of the two new licenses. After that, any company could apply for a license.

The Senate version of the bill passed the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee in January. The amendment must now pass both the Senate and Assembly with three-fifths majorities to be placed on the November 2016 ballot.

Then voters would decide on Election Day whether to approve the amendment.

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Panel Approves Property Tax Relief Bill Sponsored by Webber

The bill restores funding from Energy Tax Receipts to provide direct property tax relief

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Republican Jay Webber to provide direct relief to property taxpayers cleared the State and Local Government Committee today. Webber’s bill (A-302) increases money to municipalities from the energy tax receipts program, and requires towns to subtract the additional aid from its adjusted tax levy to benefit property taxpayers.

Jay Webber

“It’s time to use the energy tax receipts to provide its intended relief for property taxpayers,” said Webber, R – Morris, Essex and Passaic. “The money was a promise of relief for property taxpayers, and using it for anything else is unacceptable. Restoring funding can keep that promise and begin lowering property tax bills.”

The bill increases the distribution from the energy tax receipts aid. Phased in over a five-year period, the increase restores approximately $331 million in reductions to consolidated municipal property tax relief aid and energy tax receipts.

A-302 Implementation

Year 1: $67,425,727-(20%)
Year 2: $134,851,453-(40%)
Year 3: $202,277,180-(60%)
Year 4: $269,702,906-(80%)
Year 5: $337,128,633-(100%)

Data specific to municipalities in Legislative District 26:

 

Municipality FY17 +20% FY18 +40% FY19 +60% FY20 +80% FY21 +100%
Essex County
Fairfield Borough

$100,918

$201,837

$302,755

$403,674

$504,592

North Caldwell Borough

$38,335

$76,670

$115,004

$153,339

$191,674

Verona Township

$69,525

$139,050

$208,574

$278,099

$347,624

West Caldwell Township

$86,672

$173,344

$260,016

$346,688

$433,360

Morris County
Butler Borough

$67,332

$134,665

$201,997

$269,330

$336,662

Jefferson Township

$109,004

$218,008

$327,012

$436,016

$545,020

Kinnelon Borough

$47,425

$94,850

$142,274

$189,699

$237,124

Lincoln Park Borough

$52,910

$105,821

$158,731

$211,642

$264,552

Montville Township

$135,127

$270,254

$405,380

$540,507

$675,634

Morris Plains Borough

$52,599

$105,197

$157,796

$210,394

$262,993

Parsippany-Troy Hills Township

$270,981

$541,781

$812,672

$1,083,562

$1,354,453

Rockaway Township

$90,941

$181,883

$272,824

$363,766

$454,707

Passaic County
West Milford Township

$137,678

$275,357

$413,035

$550,714

$688,392

Total

$1,259,447

$2,518,667

$3,778,070

$5,037,430

$6,296,787

 

Data specific to Morris, Essex, and Passaic counties:

 

County FY17 +20% FY18 +40% FY19 +60% FY20 +80% FY21 +100%
Essex County $7,679,576 $15,359,152 $23,038,728 $30,718,304 $38,397,880
Morris County $3,020,244 $6,040,488 $9,060,731 $12,080,975 $15,101,219
Passaic County $3,438,636 $6,877,272 $10,315,907 $13,754,543 $17,193,179
 
Total $14,138,456 $28,276,912 $42,415,366 $56,553,822 $70,692,278

 

 

Assemblyman Webber’s extended comments about the bill, appearing in a weekend opinion piece, are here:

Here is a simple principle: something named a “Property Tax Relief Fund” should do what it says and actually bring relief to property taxpayers. Too often, however, funds collected by our state government for “property tax relief” really just fuel more spending at the local level and bring no real relief for beleaguered taxpayers.

We have seen this with the New Jersey Income Tax, where billions of dollars annually are put into the “Property Tax Relief Fund” and then transferred to local governments, where the money is spent rather than sent to property owners for tax relief. The cruel result of that chicanery is that New Jerseyans are left with both high income and high property taxes.

Another example is the state government’s Energy Tax Receipts Property Tax Relief Fund, which contains the collected fees paid by utilities for usage of public right-of-ways for sewer, water, gas, and electricity lines. As its label suggests, that fund is supposed to provide property tax relief to our residents. But it doesn’t. Instead, for years state government has diverted those energy receipts into its general fund to spend at the state level.

Many municipal officials object to that practice, claiming that those energy receipts should go to their local budgets, ostensibly to reduce the local property tax burden. But that’s not what will happen. If the money is given to municipalities without restriction, the vast majority of it will just be spent, like so much of the income tax dollars that go back to school boards, and property taxpayers will be left out in the cold again.

Local elected officials face many challenges, and no one should minimize the difficulty of their jobs or the significance of their efforts to balance their budgets. It’s understandable that public officials on the local level would be tempted to seek state subsidies to ease their budgetary pressures. But the “it’s-our-money” mindset is wrong and is one of the reasons New Jersey has the nation’s highest property taxes.

There is a better approach. Scheduled for consideration in Trenton next week is a bipartisan bill that I sponsor that would send the energy receipts back to municipalities, but with a crucial mandate: the funds must go to a direct reduction in property taxes. This initiative dictates direct relief for taxpayers, and gives local officials no option to spend the money. It puts taxpayers first, where they belong.

The bill would mean a real cut in the state’s property taxes, not a reduction in their growth. It would provide more than $325 million annually in direct property tax relief from just this one fund — $2.6 million in annual tax relief for Freehold taxpayers; $1.35 million in annual tax relief for Parsippany residents, and $2.3 million annual tax relief for Bridgewater residents, to cite just a few examples.

Sending money directly back to taxpayers (or, better, letting them keep more of it in the first place) is the path to real property tax relief. Sending money from the state to a lower level of government and hoping property taxes decline is not working — and never has. If there is one thing we have learned, it is that when government gets its hands on our money — at any level — it spends it.

Of course, this energy-receipts initiative alone is not a magic-bullet fix for the property tax crisis, and we should not be satisfied with stopping at this one proposal. Nevertheless, this new policy is the first of its kind to dictate that state aid to municipalities translate directly to tax relief for property taxpayers. Also, importantly, the initiative demands a mindset change among public officials who chronically spend taxpayer money and call it “property tax relief.” And with that, the bill holds the hope of even more substantial property tax relief going forward.

For more than a decade, New Jerseyans rightly have cited crushing property taxes as their number one concern. Let’s take the opportunity to lower property taxes now, before even more of our families and neighbors read this sort of opinion piece online from North Carolina, Pennsylvania, or Florida.

# # #

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Handlin Bill Package to Combat Abuse against the Elderly & Disabled Approved by Assembly Panel

Assembly Republican Press Release -

The Assembly Human Services Committee approved a bipartisan package of bills on Monday sponsored by Assemblywomen Sheila Oliver, Amy Handlin, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Annette Quijano to combat abuse and fraud against the elderly and disabled in New Jersey.

The bipartisan legislation approved today is the result of ongoing discussions between former Speaker Oliver, Deputy Republican Leader Handlin and more than a dozen prominent stakeholder agencies and corporations from throughout the state. The bills are a legislative response to help senior citizens avoid being swindled by unscrupulous scammers.

The first bill (A-1120) would establish the “New Jersey Task Force on Abuse Against the Elderly and Disabled” and the second bill (A-590) would require the state to disseminate information to protect seniors against fraud.

Amy Handlin

“The best weapon to assist the elderly from being conned by predators is giving them useful tips on how these con artists operate,” said Handlin (R-Monmouth). “Many of these swindlers operate offshore and are difficult to apprehend. Senior citizens must be made aware of the tricks and devious ways they solicit money or obtain personal information. Scammers not only prey on the elderly and disabled, but any unsuspecting individual,” explained Handlin. “Regardless of education or business experience, everyone is a potential target. The worst thing to think is that it could never happen to you or a loved one.”

Among the stakeholders that have met with Oliver and Handlin and offered their expertise or pledged their support on this issue are: AARP, Citizen Action, Barnabas Health Systems, NJ Black Issues Convention, Verizon, AT&T, Essex County Division on Senior Services, Sussex County Area on Aging, NJ National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, NJ Food Council, NJ State Library, Garden State Pharmacy Owners, NJ Bankers’ Association, Rutgers School of Social Work, Valley National Bank and NJ Transit.

For important information how a person can protect themselves, please refer to the following article: “Top 10 Senior Scams and How to Avoid Them.”

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