Author: NJ Assembly Republicans

Bramnick Welcomes Sweeney’s Support for Strategic Long-Term Planning

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Jon Bramnick

Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union, Morris and Somerset, said he was pleased to learn that Senate President Steve Sweeney supports Bramnick’s idea to create strategic long-term bipartisan commissions or committees.

Bramnick looks forward to working with the Senate President on many long-term issues affecting the State of New Jersey.

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Bramnick discusses legislation on violent crime epidemic in NJ

NJ 101.5 -

Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) wants to hold a special session of the New Jersey Legislature this summer to deal with the state’s growing violence epidemic.

Jon Bramnick

“I’m hoping that we can have a special session of the Legislature to discuss all of the crime-related bills and include a broad-based discussion on violence,” Bramnick said. “As soon as we do that, the public will understand that the Legislature is taking it seriously.”

Bramnick said he plans to reach out to Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus) and ask him to join the push for a special session.

New Jersey has seen an epidemic of violence, including the recent murder of Jersey City police officer Melvin Santiago, as well as a number of shootings in Camden, Newark, Jersey City, Trenton and Paterson.

For months, Bramnick has been introducing legislation to tackle the state’s violence problem, and he’s hoping current events will encourage the Legislature to take action.

“We need to make it more apparent to criminals that they’re more likely to go to jail and less likely to get an early release. We have seen an epidemic of violence – children shot in the streets as a result of crossfire, police officers shot point blank.” Bramnick said.

One bill sponsored by Bramnick would make all forms of sexual assault subject to sentencing under the No Early Release Act. Another would increase the maximum penalty for attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. A third measure upgrades the crime of threatening to physically harm a prosecutor, law enforcement officer, or a member of their family to a crime of the second degree.

Another bill backed by Bramnick would create the first degree crime of home invasion, and upgrades burglary of a residence to a second degree crime under certain circumstances. The leader also introduced legislation which provides that the presumption of non-imprisonment for certain third and fourth degree crimes does not apply to a person convicted of theft of a firearm.

Finally, Bramnick has a bill which clarifies that a so-called “knockout game” assault, which is an assault by a person attempting to cause someone to lose consciousness by a single punch or kick, would be graded as a third degree aggravated assault.

“There are individuals and legislators who believe that punishment is not the answer to criminal acts. To me, it’s one of the answers,” Bramnick explained.

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Bramnick says ‘the devil is in the details’ on bail reform

Bergen Record -

A deadline early next week is pushing Democrats in the Legislature to find consensus on measures that would transform New Jersey’s bail system aimed at improving public safety and treating the poor more fairly.

The complex reform package has changed numerous times – concerns have been raised about costs, the details, and the influence of interest groups pushing the debate. The changes have been structural and significant enough that some advocates have praised the bill, then condemned it, then gone back to supporting it as it was amended. Now, after a deal appeared close then fell apart, Democrats are hopeful something can move forward soon.

The push for change straddles party lines. The question is whether the Legislature will act by the first week in August, which is the latest they can vote on a constitutional amendment to get it on the November ballot.

The package has two main changes. One is the constitutional amendment that would deny what is now a guaranteed right to monetary bail for some high-risk offenders. The other would alter the pretrial system to allow low-risk offenders to be released without paying monetary bail – many charged with low-level crimes are stuck in jail as they await trial because they can’t pay.

Jon Bramnick

“The devil is in the details,” said Republican Assembly Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union. “Procedurally, what kind of bureaucracy do you set up and what does it cost?

“That is a debate you have to have.”

Gov. Christie has pressed the Legislature to amend the constitution to keep offenders who are considered a high risk of committing another serious crime behind bars. In late June, he spoke of Samuel Vincent, 18, who was charged with weapons offenses and robbery but was out on bail when he was connected with a shooting at a Trenton funeral. After police charged Vincent for the shooting, he was released on bail. Then he was charged with stealing a car and fleeing police.

Earlier this year, a committee headed by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said the bail system had serious flaws. Monetary bail’s purpose is to guarantee that the accused show up at trial. Rabner said the system ensnared the poor unfairly, resulting in unnecessary incarceration and a higher-frequency of guilty pleas.

A nonpartisan fiscal estimate said that under the bill, about $42 million could be expected in new revenue through new court fees – which is about $13 million less than what the changes are expected to cost once fully implemented. It will cost money to hire staff to monitor those who are released.

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Dancer legislation would punish “upskirters”

NJ 101.5 -

When someone uses a cellphone to secretly record videos or take pictures under the dresses or skirts of unsuspecting victims, it’s called “upskirting.” One New Jersey legislator said the perpetrators of this crime need to be punished more harshly.

A bill introduced by Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Jackson) would clarify that upskirting is a crime under the state’s invasion of privacy law.

Ron Dancer

“It’s a shame that it has to come to this, but there are these electronic peeping Toms out there,” Dancer said. “Now we need laws pertaining to the electronic surveillance of our intimate parts.”

Under Dancer’s legislation, upskirting would be a third-degree crime. Those convicted would face three to five years in prison, a $15,000 fine, or both. Upskirting would be a second-degree crime if it’s committed against a person under 18. Second-degree crimes are punishable by a sentence of five to 10 years behind bars, a fine of up to $150,000, or both.

“These people are not just keeping the images or videos for themselves,” Dancer said. “It’s going through cyberspace as well today, so this I believe will send a very strong message: There will not be a loophole for an electronic peeping Tom.”

In March, Massachusetts’ highest court ruled that upskirting was not illegal because the females who were photographed while using mass transit in Boston were not partially or completely nude. In response to the ruling, a law has already been enacted in Massachusetts criminalizing the practice. Dancer said women in New Jersey deserve the same protections.

Victims would also have an opportunity to collect civil damages should the measure be signed into law. A judge would have the discretion to award actual damages, punitive damages and reasonable attorney’s fees.

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Bramnick comments on new pension reforms leading to new surge in N.J. retirements

Spource: The Star Ledger -

Jon Bramnick

As Gov. Chris Christie bangs the drum for a second round of pension reform in New Jersey, public officials and union leaders are bracing for another wave of public workers rushing to retire.

Employees in state and local government headed for the door in record numbers at the beginning of Christie’s first term, thanks in part to laws passed by the governor and state lawmakers asking public workers to pay a larger share of their health and pension costs. More than 20,000 retired in 2010, followed by 19,500 the next year.

After slowing the next two years, the pace of public worker retirements is picking up again, according to state Treasury Department figures.

A total of 11,916 employees are scheduled to retire through the end of this month — a nearly 9 percent spike from the same point in 2013. If the pace continues, about 17,000 may file papers by the end of the year. A total of 15,700 public workers retired last year.

The change comes as Christie gets ready to introduce further changes to the pension system, which is facing $40 billion in unfunded liabilities.

The Republican governor, a potential 2016 presidential candidate who rose to popularity partly because of his pension fights with public worker unions, said the previous changes didn’t go far enough. He has put curtailing the costs of public employee benefits at the top of his summer agenda, suggesting the state could go bankrupt without more action.

Some union leaders say more public workers may be planning to retire out of fear they could see their pensions and health benefits cut if they don’t get out now.

But Steve Baker, a spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association, the state teachers union, said he’s not convinced this year’s 9 percent increase in retirements was caused by Christie’s warnings, saying numbers fluctuate from year to year.

“They may be on the higher end of the range, but they’re certainly within the range,” he said.

Among public workers, retirements for teachers and non-uniformed government workers are both up 12 percent so far this year, while police and firefighter retirements are down 14 percent. Retirements for the State Police dropped from 145 to 83, the figures show.

In the decade before Christie was governor, public workers retired at a rate of 13,656 a year. Since he took office, the clip is at 17,602 — a 29 percent increase.

Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie’s office, stressed that “retirement numbers rise and fall year to year” and declined further comment.

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, one of Christie’s Republican allies in the state Legislature, stressed that it’s possible the new reforms would only affect recently hired employees.

“The system as we know it, if we’re going to change it, it would be changed for people coming into the system,” Bramnick (R-Union) said. “I don’t think the fear is necessarily justified.”

Officials say that retirements have allowed local governments to avoid layoffs. But they also fear that more increases will further deplete workforces that are already short-staffed.

That, Colligan said, would hurt police forces that are “just recovering from the 2011 exodus” caused by the last pension reforms. “Now, I’m afraid we have a whole new group of people ready to leave,” he said.

The overall public labor force has dropped since Christie took office. As of June, preliminary federal data show New Jersey employs 563,300 workers in state and local government — 900 fewer than at this point last year and about 27,000 fewer than before Christie took office.

Dressel said those likely to retire are the ones with the most experience, holding top positions — clerks, tax collectors, police brass.

“Just this week, I heard of three towns looking for chief financial officers because of retirements,” he said. “It puts a strain on staffing levels. You’ve got to find experienced people to fill those jobs.”

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Handlin speaks about Fulop getting a free pass on his mini-Bridgegate

Source: Star Ledger op-ed by Tom Moran -

Amy Handlin

Two months after Gov. Chris Christie’s crew deliberately snarled traffic at the George Washington Bridge, another manufactured traffic jam bottled up one of Jersey City’s port terminals for several hours on consecutive days.

This one was the brain-child of Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, the ambitious young Democrat who took office last year and already has his eye on the governor’s mansion.

“We had 350 to 400 trucks that couldn’t leave,” says James Devine, who ran the terminal as its CEO. “When you realize it’s a deliberate effort, that’s just not acceptable.”

Ask Fulop, and he’ll tell you this was a routine safety check, one of several across the city in recent months. His motive, he swears, was pure.

But there is a darker possibility. The terminal land is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. And only days before this “safety check” in November, Fulop had announced the city was filing a mega-lawsuit against the agency, seeking $400 million in unpaid taxes.

So was this a stunt to pressure the Port Authority? Did the mayor, like the governor’s crew, misuse the machinery of government?

Then chief of police Robert Cowen, who is locked in a bitter feud with Fulop, says the answer is yes. The mayor ordered this over his objections, he says, and the motive was to pressure the Port Authority.

Devine has no doubt: Police officers at the scene told him they felt it was improper, he says. And in his seven years at the terminal, nothing like this had ever happened.

“Truck drivers make money on what moves,” he says. “You sit them in the yard for an extra two or three hours, and that’s significant.”

A spokesman for the Port Authority said diplomatically that the agency was “extremely concerned” and that the move was unprecedented.

When I asked Fulop about this, he said he had documents that exonerate him. After several days of delay, he offered up two emails that describe other traffic stops in the city.

Exoneration? Not close.

Asked to discuss these competing claims, Fulop refused to comment. Which makes you wonder: Why would the normally talkative mayor be hiding under his desk if he did nothing wrong?

Sadly, Democrats on the special committee investigating Bridgegate are showing their partisan colors by refusing to investigate this.

A Republican on the committee, Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, asked the committee to issue subpoenas to Fulop and Cowen, to hear their testimony under oath, to dig for documents as the committee did in Bridgegate. But Democrats refused.

“This falls smack into our laps,” says Handlin (R-Monmouth). “I’m left to conclude that the real problem here is it’s an allegation of abuse by a Democratic official rather than a Republican official. There’s no other explanation.”

Republicans have been griping about the committee since Day One, and most of the criticism has been nonsense. The committee has followed the Bridgegate bread crumbs carefully.

But by turning a blind eye to potential wrongdoing by a leading Democrat, the committee is handing critics a weapon and breathing new life into the charge of partisanship.

Granted, Bridgegate is a more serious case. It paralyzed Fort Lee for four days over the protests of police and ambulance crews, putting the public safety at clear risk.

And the evidence of wrongdoing in Bridgegate was much stronger from the start. The committee issued subpoenas only after the media revealed the infamous email from Patrick Foye, the Port Authority’s executive director, who called the lane closures illegal and ordered them reversed.

Finally, in Jersey City, the mayor’s main accuser, Cowen, has an ax to grind. The mayor recently demoted him, over unrelated issues, and Cowen is likely to challenge the move in court.

Still, why not support Handlin’s motion to investigate a case that clearly falls within the committee’s mandate?

“It’s a diversionary tactic to try to take the committee’s eye off the ball,” says Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), the committee co-chair.

Two Democrats signed a letter with Republican members asking the acting attorney general to investigate. But again, that’s treating Fulop’s traffic jam with a softer touch than Christie’s.

To Devine, the CEO of the terminal, the irony is that these “safety checks” created a hazard on the docks as moving trucks and loading equipment were squeezed together.

“The drivers were all trying to get around one another and cutting each other off,” he says. “When it’s like that, tempers flare, and you don’t know what can happen. It really was an egregious safety issue.”

But was it deliberate? The circumstantial evidence is strong. But we’ll probably never know for sure.

And that, apparently, is just fine with Democrats in Trenton.

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Rible Lauds DOT Action to Promote “Move Over” Law

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Will use message signs July 28-August 1 to raise awareness of law designed to protect emergency workers on highways

Dave Rible

Assemblyman Dave Rible, R-Monmouth, applauded the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) for its decision to promote the state’s “Move Over” law by advertising the policy on its variable message signs.

“Police officers and other emergency personnel put themselves in danger every time they respond to an incident on our busy highways,” explained Rible. “The “Move Over” law is a simple way to help keep police and others who work on our roadways safe.”

Rible, who sponsored the 2009 law known as the “Move Over” law, called for the DOT to act after accidents in which a Waldwick police officer was killed and two Pine Beach officers injured. The DOT will increase its efforts to raise awareness of the law which requires motorists to slow down and change lanes when approaching emergency workers on the state’s highways.

“I am pleased the DOT has agreed to help promote this important public safety initiative,” commented Rible. “I am hopeful that by making more people aware of this law, we can help prevent future tragedies on our roadways.”

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Fiocchi explores workforce development and career opportunities

Daily Journal letter-to-the editor by Sam Fiocchi -

Sam Fiocchi

Sam Fiocchi

Recognizing the potential career opportunities that vocational training and technical education provide, I hosted a Workforce Development Roundtable discussion on Monday with businesses leaders and vocational and technical school administrators to discuss employment opportunities available to people with the proper training. The roundtable was held at the Cumberland County Vocational Technical Education Center.

With the closing of at least three Atlantic City casinos, many workers who make their livelihood from the industry face an uncertain future. The good news is that there are opportunities to transition into a new vocation. Career and technical education allows students, regardless of age, the chance to learn the necessary skills that are required. Job recruiters and educators exchanged their ideas on what kinds of jobs are in demand and where people can get the training they need. The roundtable was a great opportunity for everyone to learn.

In May, I introduced a package of workforce development bills designed to provide people with employment opportunities by obtaining skill sets in demand. One measure, A-3197, creates “The Partners for Growth Council,” a cross-section of organized labor, education, business and government working together to identify unfilled job openings. Members will develop training programs that address the educational needs of those seeking employment.

This legislation is the perfect opportunity to match job seekers with companies that have employment needs in certain technical areas. Vocational and technical schools are the linchpin that matches the supply and demand for labor.

I want to thank Dina Elliot, superintendent of the Cumberland County vo-tech, for hosting this productive meeting. We will be holding a follow-up meeting in the late fall or winter to discuss advances or ideas that will match workers with jobs.

Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi
R-1st District

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Rodriguez-Gregg discusses incentivizing the right businesses in NJ

NJ 101.5 -

Maria Rodriguez-Gregg

Maria Rodriguez-Gregg

Assemblywoman Maria Rodriquez-Gregg(R-Medford) and Assembly Republican Conference Leader Dave Rible (R-Wall) joined business leaders to discuss boosting job creation and growing the economy.

Dave Rible

Business tax incentives were also discussed, with a focus on making sure incentives that are already available in New Jersey are being offered to the right industries.

“There needs to be a shift of where we’re going to focus those programs when it comes to industry and where it’s going to be most productive,” Rodriguez-Gregg said. “Certain industries are certainly going to have better growth in New Jersey.”

Since the pharmaceutical and energy industries are highly likely to create jobs and contribute to the state’s economy, it makes sense to ensure New Jersey is doing everything possible to make incentives attractive to those industries, Rodriguez-Gregg said.

Surrounding states are offering incentives to businesses that are working, such as New York’s tax-free zones, according to David Brogan, first vice president of the New Jersey Business Industry Association.

Rodriguez-Gregg said she’s concerned that New Jersey could lose jobs if incentives aren’t offered in a smart way. “I think that’s a concern for everyone. We are starting to see that.”

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Rodriguez-Gregg hosts industry groups for conference on drumming up business in N.J.

Source: NewsWorks.org -

Some Republican lawmakers met with business leaders at the Statehouse in Trenton Thursday to map out strategies for making New Jersey more attractive for business.

Representatives of business organizations said the state’s income tax and corporate business tax and a variety of regulations can deter companies from setting up shop in New Jersey.

Meanwhile, tax incentives are helping to make the Garden State more attractive, said Dave Brogan with the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

“I think that’s going to help in our competition with other states. States across the nation are developing innovative and very attractive incentives and tax policies to lure businesses away from New Jersey,” Brogan said. “You see what New York has done with the tax free zones. They’ve lowered their business corporate tax.”

Maria Rodriguez-Gregg

Maria Rodriguez-Gregg

Assemblywoman Maria Rodriguez-Gregg said New Jersey should shift the focus of those incentives to industries that can create the most jobs.

“There needs to be a shift of where we’re going to focus those programs when it comes to industry and where it’s going to be the most productive in job creation,” said Rodriguez-Gregg, R-Burlington. “There’s certainly good opportunities in New Jersey for the pharmaceutical industry, so we need to maybe focus there.”

She said she is optimistic about the prospects for improvement in the state’s economy as long as no new taxes are enacted that could adversely affect the business community.

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