Author: NJ Assembly Republicans

Bramnick on ‘Meet the Leaders’ [video]

Source: Meet the Leaders / Cablevision [video] -

As the New Jersey State League of Municipalities held its 100th anniversary Conference at the Atlantic City Convention Center, Meet the Leaders host Jeff Henig sat down with the leadership of the New Jersey Assembly, Speaker Vincent Prieto and Minority Leader Jon Bramnick. The show focused on the recent Assembly election results, as well as the Transportation Trust Fund, the pension debate, and numerous pieces of legislation vetoed recently by Governor Chris Christie. The discussion clearly shows the differences of opinion between the Democratic and Republican parties.

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Chris Brown: A.C. Needs Comprehensive Recovery Plan, Not PILOT Bills

Source: Press of Atlantic City [Op-Ed by Chris A. Brown] -

Chris A. Brown

Over 50 years ago, Bob Dylan asked people to “admit that the waters around you have grown, so you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changin’.”

Few words could more aptly describe what we’re facing here in Atlantic County.

Middle-class working families and retirees deserve leaders who will admit the waters around us have grown and are willing to develop a recovery plan for Atlantic City that addresses our dual foreclosure and unemployment crises, while providing long-term solutions that are fair to everyone.

In other words, stop treading water and start swimming toward a real recovery.

The PILOT bills, at their core, are a response to the complaints of casino executives claiming they are tired of paying higher property taxes due to the fiscal mismanagement of Atlantic City and a declining gaming market.

No kidding. Get in line. Everyone in Atlantic County is tired of paying high property taxes and watching the decline of the gaming market.

Casino executives say the PILOT is needed to “stop the bleeding” from tax appeals. The truth is we’ve already bled out. The Taj Mahal is the only remaining casino with a pending tax appeal, but the PILOT does nothing to stop it. Once this appeal is settled, the assessed values of the casinos should be at fair market value, negating future appeals.

Worse, the PILOT creates an unfair tax structure that freezes property taxes for casinos on the backs of our middle-class families and small businesses; provides no money for economic reinvestment or marketing for the city to grow our economy; and fails to take into account the profit casinos make on their non-gaming amenities.

Now with the governor’s conditional veto of the PILOT, where do we go from here?

While I applaud the hard work of Mayor Don Guardian, City Council and Emergency Manager Kevin Lavin, there is still no long-term plan in place to right-size the city’s budget. According to Moody’s, the city “balanced” its budget this year by deferring $40 million in pension and health benefits contributions, while relying on an infusion of $30 million from Atlantic City Alliance money. The problem with this kind of budgeting is that our middle-class families will be left holding the bag in two years when the ACA money runs out and these bills for $70 million come due.

Even for a town that built its reputation on gimmicks, we have to acknowledge anything short of a comprehensive approach, buttressed by consensus, will sink the city into bankruptcy.

I believe we must re-examine the recovery plan entirely.

The whole point of the summit last year was to formulate a comprehensive recovery plan for Atlantic City through idea-sharing and bi-partisan consensus building. Yet, the process was prematurely torpedoed by political motivations overwhelming the need to do what was right. Consequently, we are no closer to a long–term solution than we were a year ago.

It’s time to hit the reset button.

We should start by getting the recommendations of Emergency Manager Lavin. It seems to me, since taxpayers spent over $455,000 for Lavin and his team, we ought to hear what he has to say before we finalize our plan for Atlantic City. Shouldn’t we have the benefit of Lavin’s professional analysis after his 11 months on the job so we can move forward with his advice?

As part of this reset, I re-issued my 10-point recovery plan, which stabilizes property taxes for all middle-class families throughout Atlantic County; maintains our ability to attract new revenue and properly market the city; and, most importantly, spurs job creation that helps families afford their homes and gives them an opportunity to prosper in the future.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, and fully expect people to agree with some of my proposals and disagree with others. That’s OK. What’s important is that we have an open, honest, public discussion. Everyone needs to understand that no person or party has cornered the market on good ideas.

We have a forgotten middle-class in Atlantic County that will continue to shrink if we don’t get it right. Our working families deserve leadership that recognizes just how high the waters have grown, and is willing to swim in the right direction to find real, long-term solutions so we don’t sink like a stone.

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

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Rumana: We Need a Better Expungement Bill

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Assembly Republican Whip Scott Rumana said today he will sponsor a new bill in the Assembly regarding the expungement of mental health records. Rumana’s bill is identical to Sen. Tom Kean’s legislation (S-3218) which was introduced last month.

Scott Rumana

“This override is an attempt by the Democrats to claim a political victory over the governor at the expense of good public policy,” said Rumana, R-Passaic, Bergen, Essex and Morris. “The Democrats are pushing a bill which has a loophole that allows the mentally ill to expunge their records then turn around and apply for a gun permit later. My legislation involves law enforcement for all mental health expungements and strengthens the burden for applicants with prior mental health commitments from obtaining an identification card to purchase a firearm.”

The current bill, which Governor Christie vetoed, requires law enforcement to be consulted only when individuals seek to buy a gun. Rumana’s bill requires law enforcement to be consulted on all mental health expungements.

“A more comprehensive approach is needed that protects the public by preventing people with mental health issues from obtaining a firearm,” concluded Rumana.

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Bramnick, Rumana discuss transportation funding

Source: Excerpted from NJBiz -

Here’s a surprise to no one: At last week’s 100th annual New Jersey State League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City, the Transportation Trust Fund was on the tip of many people’s tongues.

Just like it was last year, and for some, the year before that as well.

It started with a panel last Wednesday featuring the state’s legislative leaders. Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) referred to the TTF crisis as the No. 1 priority heading into the upcoming lame duck legislative session.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Secaucus) mostly agreed with him, adding that while the much-discussed gas tax solution may be politically unpopular, it’s inevitable and necessary.

Republicans didn’t refute the need for some sort of a tax hike to help restore the TTF, but, as they have repeatedly done in the past, brought up the need for some sort of correlating tax decrease, such as an elimination of the estate or inheritance tax.

Jon Bramnick

“At this point, I will settle for any discussion for a lower tax, right here, right now,” Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) said.

Quipping that he is beginning to feel like “Bernie Sanders on the right,” Bramnick said that without some sort of decrease, he’s concerned with what type of message New Jersey is sending to the rest of the country by continuing to hike taxes.

“Why don’t we talk about some tax that we can lower? … People are running for cover in this state,” Bramnick said.

Sound familiar?

While legislative leaders are now agreeing to work together on a fix, most of last week’s rhetoric ended there. Sure, they all hope that a solution will be realized quickly, but no one is ready to say the state won’t be pressing up against next year’s June deadline, searching for an eleventh-hour deal.

Sources within the business community say that’s unacceptable, especially given the prolonged nature of the TTF debate over the last two years.

A more desired deadline? By budget season, sources say.

The following day at the conference, a sparsely attended morning panel also debated the issue, again offering more hope that a solution will be reached as opposed to details on how one would be achieved.

Scott Rumana

“At the end of the day we have to find a solution and we’re committed to doing that,” said Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-Westfield).

Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) did mention his proposal of raising the gas tax by 25 cents per gallon, an idea that was met with some audible groans from the audience.

But the Republican-favored notion that a gas tax increase should be tied to a decrease somewhere else in the budget is one that is lost on Wisniewski.


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Dancer on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst rejection of pipeline route: We’ll work with NJNG on other alternatives

Source: Burlington County Times – he commander of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst has nixed a proposed alternative route for a New Jersey Natural Gas pipeline, arguing that it would have too great an impact on base operations.

The decision by Col. Frederick Thaden was a setback for state and local officials pushing for New Jersey Natural Gas to consider an alternative route for a proposed high-pressure transmission line through northern Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean counties.

New Jersey Natural Gas is seeking state approval for its preferred route through Chesterfield, North Hanover, parts of the joint base and towns in Monmouth and Ocean counties before connecting with its system in Manchester, Ocean County.

The 28-mile pipeline, called the Southern Reliability Link, would provide a second transmission feed for the company’s service area, which it says would provide more reliability and resiliency, particularly in the event of a major disaster like Superstorm Sandy. But the pipeline has also generated significant opposition, mostly from environmental groups opposed to natural gas drilling, called “fracking,” and from residents and elected officials concerned that the proposed route is too close to area homes and businesses.

In response to local fears, Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, R-12th of Plumsted, and Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th of Robbinsville, led a group of local officials that asked Thaden to consider the feasibility of an alternative pipeline route that would traverse a greater portion of the military installation in order to avoid coming close to the homes and businesses in Chesterfield and North Hanover.

The proposed alternative would run from Chesterfield south along the median of Route 68 and then cross through the joint base to Manchester.
In an Oct. 6 letter addressed to Dancer, Thaden said the alternative route would present “numerous impacts to operational requirements, to (joint base) residents and personnel, and to the environment.” Also, he warned that a route from the east side of the installation to the west side would need to traverse base ranges and would require an expensive and time-consuming search for unexploded ordnance…

Reached this week, Dancer said he respected Thaden’s position and stressed that the opposition to New Jersey Natural Gas’ proposed route was not intended to compromise the joint base and its mission.

“Burlington and Ocean counties are bedroom communities to the joint base. We would do nothing to compromise its mission or place it at risk,” Dancer said, adding that he would continue to press for an alternative route for the pipeline, away from local homes.

“We will continue to try to work with New Jersey Natural Gas on other alternatives,” he said.

Another alternative route would use Route 68 and existing utility easements used by Jersey Central Power & Light. New Jersey Natural Gas officials have said it’s not viable because it goes through preserved farmland.

Dancer, however, has written legislation to permit gas pipelines on preserved farms, provided there are already existing utility easements on them and the line would serve a federal military installation.

Dancer introduced the legislation Monday and said he’s still hopeful it could become law in time to influence New Jersey Natural Gas’ proposal, which is pending before the state Board of Public Utilities.

“Looking at the BPU schedule, I think there’s still an opportunity,” he said.

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Ciattarelli legislation will regulate Uber, Lyft and similar services

Source: Excerpted from Packet Media -

Car service Uber is eating into the business of other cab companies in the area, something that cabbies are upset about and want local officials to address.

Several taxicab drivers approached Township Council last week to express their concerns about Uber, whose drivers have been making arrangements to pick up people at the Princeton Junction Train Station, to the dismay of licensed taxicab drivers.

“We’re struggling out there,” said Daniel Palumbo, who owns AAA Taxi and is a board member of the West Windsor Taxi Association.

One Trenton lawmaker said Tuesday that he had co-sponsored legislation that would address some of those concerns.

Jack Ciattarelli

“We should welcome and celebrate an innovation like Uber, especially in a sprawl state like New Jersey,” state Assemblyman Jack M. Ciattarelli (R-16) said.

“At the same time, we need to ensure a fair and level playing field for all businesses,” Mr. Ciattarelli said. “That’s why you’re seeing bills in state legislatures across the country, including New Jersey, where I’ve co-sponsored (legislation that) addresses insurance and safety requirements for mobile app taxi services.”

“Uber has reacted to various legislative proposals by making changes to their insurance and driver background check policies. We’ll know very soon if the marketplace has corrected itself or if pending legislation still needs to be enacted,” he said.

For its part, Uber said this week that there are more 13,000 state residents who drive for the company, and that they have to go through a background check. In addition, every ride is insured with $1.5 million in liability insurance, the company said.

“New Jerseyans are choosing Uber because we’re connecting riders to safe, reliable transportation and offering drivers a flexible income opportunity that lets them work when and where they want,” said Uber New Jersey spokesman Craig Ewer by email Wednesday.

Mr. Palumbo also pointed out potential safety and security issues that passengers may face when they use a smartphone “app” to contact a Uber or Lyft driver.

While commercial taxicab drivers must undergo background checks and pay fees, Uber or Lyft drivers are not subject to the same rules and regulations as taxicab drivers, he said.

“For me, for the last 27 years, we have abided by rules and regulations,” Mr. Palumbo said. Without regulations, New Jersey has effectively created a business — Uber and Lyft drivers — that operates without any license, he said.

Another taxicab driver supported Mr. Palumbo, and said that he would like to see the Uber drivers abide by the same restrictions as commercial taxicab drivers. Passengers do not know who is driving them when they get into a Uber car, and it is likely that the car owner’s insurance company may not provide coverage if there were to be an accident, he said.

Woodly Lapointe, who also drives a taxi, said that every year, he receives a “stack of papers” that must be filled out. While he has to fill out forms for fingerprints and also pay a fee, a neighbor has said that he might start driver for Uber — without having to fill out the forms, he said.

There are 34 taxicab licenses issued by West Windsor Township, and would-be drivers have waited for years to be issued a license, Mr. Lapointe said. They have to buy a license, but Uber drivers do not have to do so, he said.

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Carroll: Refugee screening is ‘a relatively unintensive’ process [video]

Source: Excerpted from NJTV News [video] -

The House voted to have the FBI do background checks on Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and to have the directors of the FBI, Homeland Security Department and national intelligence confirm that each applicant poses no threat if resettled in the U.S.

New Jersey Congressman Leonard Lance says “With the current conflict raging in the Middle East, we cannot be certain that all individuals seeking refuge from that region pose no threat to the American people.”

Michael Patrick Carroll

“It’s a relatively unintensive process, because the people that are coming from Syria have the kind of records that normally we would expect from people seeking refugee status. So they’re doing the best they can, but it’s a very difficult process given the nature of events in Syria over the last couple of years.” -Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll

But, Congressman Bill Pascrell says the House turned its back on American values.

“We’re not going to sacrifice what we, as Americans, are. We’re not going to do this. When women and children, who have nothing on their back, nothing,” Pascrell said.

The U.S. has helped resettle about 2,500 Syrian refugees since the civil war started in 2011. The Obama administration has said about half are children. Roughly two percent are single men of combat age.

Syria’s four-year-old civil war with the Islamic State, in the mix targeting innocent civilians – has chased millions from the country, scattering them across the region.

Refugees seeking resettlement to the U.S. must first apply to the United Nations.

The U.S. Refugee Corps steps in and does interviews as part of lengthy 20-step process to confirm someone’s identity through iris scans, databases that involve the State Department, the National Counterterrorism Center and Department of Homeland Security which currently has the final say as to who’s approved.

In most cases, refugees from around the world get an approval in the field, but Syrian refugees must have their cases sent to Washington, where Homeland does a another security review and ultimately approves or disapproves.

“My concern is there are certain gaps that I don’t want to talk about publicly in the data available to us,” said FBI Director James Comey.

Gaps as in issues with vetting any one from war-torn Syria with jihadists on the rampage and the U.S. not being able to determine who’s an innocent and who’s a terrorist.

At this state homeland training session, one professor says it’s an acceptable risk:

“You take a good heard look at it, you run it through databases, you determine is there a threat or not and if there’s not you welcome them in,” said Seamus Huges from George Washington University. “There’s always going to be a level of risk when you do these type of things.”

But not for long time immigration critic and state Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll.

“It’s a relatively unintensive process, because the people that are coming from Syria have the kind of records that normally we would expect from people seeking refugee status,” he said. “So they’re doing the best they can, but it’s a very difficult process given the nature of events in Syria over the last couple of years.”

The Paris attacks and reports of some attackers having trained in Syria led to a majority of governors saying no more Syrian refugees and a raging debate about whether the land of immigrants should close its doors now.

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Dancer proposes Skype marriages for military

Source: Politico New Jersey -

A New Jersey lawmaker has introduced a bill that would allow couples to apply for a marriage license and get married with one of the two present via video conferencing or telephone, but only if that person can’t be there because of military obligations.

Ron Dancer

“It’s important from a military perspective in the sense that obviously anything can happen,” the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, said in a phone interview. “They could have their date set for the wedding and the military calls … and you have leave. Your duty comes first as far as the government is concerned.”

Dancer, a Republican from Ocean County, got the idea from New Egypt resident Ed Treadaway, whose son, also named Ed, is in the Army and stationed in Hawaii. The younger Treadaway’s wedding is scheduled for Dec. 20, but he he won’t be back from Hawaii until Dec. 18, a Friday. The state requires couples to wait 72 hours to get married after obtaining a marriage licenses.

Treadaway said his son managed to get the waiting period waived. But once he arrives, he’ll have to rush from the airport to the county clerk’s office to make sure he gets there before the office closes for the weekend.

A 2012 New Jersey law enables couples with one spouse serving in the military overseas to get married by proxy if the overseas partner signs over power of attorney to someone who would stand in for him or her. There’s nothing to stop the absent partner from watching through video conferencing.

Dancer’s proposal (A-4822) would cut out the need for the stand-in. And by using videoconferencing programs like Skype, couples will be able to document the moment, he said.

“They can officiate the marriage and furthermore have it recorded,” Dancer said. “They have it for the rest of their lives.”

Such weddings are legal only in a few states, according to The New York Times.

Matt Rooney, a family law attorney and conservative blogger, said making it easier for members of the military to get married helps ensure that spouses at home have access to benefits.

“For people who are serving their country, it makes perfect sense. If you’re over in Korea for an extended period of time, if you’re forward deployed, you don’t have the opportunity everyone else has to protect your loved ones,” Rooney said. “And a big part of that is ensuring you’re married so your sweetheart or the other parent at home has access to the benefits they’re entitled to.”

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Auth Resolution Aims to Allow Service Members to Carry Firearms on Military Installations

Assembly Republican Press Release -

A resolution (AR-265) introduced by Assembly Republican Robert Auth calls on President Obama and Congress to allow military personnel to carry loaded firearms on military bases and facilities.

Robert Auth

Robert Auth

“The United States has enemies who have sworn to attack those who defend freedom, and our disarmed servicemen are sitting ducks,” said Auth, R — Bergen and Passaic. “After the attacks at Fort Hood and in Chattanooga, it is time arm our troops so they can defend themselves.”

Earlier this year, a terrorist shot and killed four Marines and a Navy petty officer at two military recruitment centers. Fort Hood, in Texas, was attacked twice in five years, with 17 soldiers killed and more than 45 injured.

“Our soldiers, sailors and Marines are well-trained and proficient with their firearms,” said Auth. “We trust them to defend our freedom around the globe, but leave them defenseless against a very real threat on our home soil. Allowing them to carry weapons will ensure a different outcome the next time a terrorist opens fire at a military installation.”

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Top N.J. lawmakers still split on gas tax hike, pensions

Source: – At last year’s annual New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference, the top four leaders of the state Legislature agreed on at least one thing: Aside from property taxes, the most pressing issues facing the Garden State were replenishing its nearly depleted fund for road and transportation projects and fixing its debt-ridden public-worker pension system…

A year later, the lawmakers had the same discussion during a panel about New Jersey’s future at the League’s 100th annual conference Wednesday — but they didn’t appear much closer to agreeing on solutions, even if the problems have gotten worse.

The state Transportation Trust fund is months from running out of money at the end of the fiscal year in June.

Democrats who control the Legislature continue to push raising New Jersey’s gas tax — the second-lowest in the country — for the first time since 1988…

Jon Bramnick

“Raising the gas tax may be inevitable,” Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick said on the panel. “But people are running for cover in this state.”

Bramnick said he would “settle for any discussion of a lower tax.”

“Whichever one you want,” Bramnick said. “I’ll take any one. When does it stop?..”

As for pensions? New Jersey’s public-worker retirement system faces a $40 billion shortfall.

Christie said the state simply didn’t have enough money in the last two budgets to make full payments to the fund. But Democrats say the governor broke a 2011 law he signed promising to increase payments over time…

“We’re not finished,” Bramnick said of pension reform, noting that the state pays $3.2 billion a year on health benefits. “Things change all the time. We cannot afford to go on for next time years paying that kind of money. We need to change that platinum plan.

“It’s not that I want to do it,” he said. “It’s not great politics. But we will not avoid it forever.”

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