Category: Clips

Bucco, Carroll, Webber welcome opening of AFP Community Center

Source: Daily Record -

Offering to “help every American, no matter their walk of life, to live a truly prosperous life,” Americans for Prosperity Foundation President Tim Phillips joined several Morris County Republican leaders for the official opening of its first New Jersey community center.

Michael Patrick Carroll


“AFP has been around for nine years now. I went to the very first organizational meeting. I was the only elected official there…It’s good to have its presence in New Jersey and sure as hell good to have it in Morris County.” – Asm. Michael Patrick Carroll


Jay Webber

“I think it’s a great idea, with a lot of excellent services they plan on providing. Just a center for folks to use, meet and talk about important things like how to pay for college, how to save on your family budget, all positive and productive things.” – Asm. Jay Webber


The center, located at 550 W. Main St. at the crossroads of Mountain Lakes and Boonton Township, will serve as the headquarters for the foundation, frequently described as the educational arm of the AFP, a grassroots political organization known for advocating economic freedom and individual liberty.

“We seek to put forward policies that will bring those two foundational aspects of a prosperous life into being,” Philipps said. “That’s what we do, literally from Arizona to New Jersey and from Florida to Wisconsin, and everywhere in between. Here in New Jersey, we’re committed to those goals as well, and we’re going to be active here for a long time.”

The center will be part of the influential conservative organization with 34 state chapters and affiliates, and reporting to have 2.3 million members, with more than 100,000 in New Jersey making contributions either to the AFP or its foundation.

The event drew some of the highest profile Republicans in Morris County, including Sens. Joseph Pennacchio and Anthony R. Bucco, Assemblymen Anthony M. Bucco, Michael Patrick Carroll and Jay Webber, Freeholders John Krickus and Douglas Cabana and Morris County Clerk Ann Grossi. Boonton Mayor Cyril Wekilsky and Mountain Lakes Mayor Doug McWilliams also attended.

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Assemblyman Fiocchi Talks Law and Government with Local Students [video]

Source: SNJ Today [video] -

Sam Fiocchi

Sam Fiocchi

First District Assemblyman, Sam Fiocchi helped students understand the law-making process, how the government works, and the individual jobs of local, state, and U.S. government.

It’s important to get students involved and aware of the political process.

“They say children are our future, and the future looks bright,” said Fiocchi. “I’ve attended and visited several schools, so it’s important to know what they think because these are our future leaders, our future businessmen, our future teachers, our future elected officials. So it’s important to know what they think and what we can do to help them follow their dreams in the future.”

The Assemblyman then opened the floor for questions to better help students understand their government, as well as learn what the younger generation expects from their elected officials.

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Fiocchi urges stronger beach protection efforts [audio]

Source: WBGO 88.3 FM [audio] -

Sam Fiocchi

Sam Fiocchi

A New Jersey lawmaker wants to reactivate the state’s Beach Erosion Commission.

Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi says the Commission hasn’t met in 14 years. He says damage to dunes from the recent nor’easter shows why the panel should get back to work, pushing for better shore protection measures.

“Any time you have an event like we had and it causes beach erosion you lose your beaches or you have problems with you beaches, it makes it more vulnerable to the next event. We still have probably another month or a month and a half that we consider the hurricane and nor’easter season. So it puts us at vulnerability to further weather events.”

Fiocchi is also urging legislative approval of a bill he sponsored to double the state’s $25 million annual contribution to the New Jersey Shore Protection Fund. That money comes from the collection of realty transfer fees.

“There is a need to make sure we protect our beaches which is not only public safety but for our tourism industry. Tourism creates $38 billion worth of taxable revenues for the state of New Jersey so we need to raise those beach replenishment funds.”

CLICK HERE to listen to Sam Fiocchi interview

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Ciattarelli disappointed as off-track wagering site clears final hurdle

Source: Packet Publications -

Get ready to place your bets.

The off-track wagering facility on Route 206 South in Hillsborough has been approved by the state’s acting Attorney General — the final arbiter in a nearly two-year long process. The off-track horse wagering parlor and restaurant will be in the former Maestro 206 restaurant.

The application was endorsed last month by the N.J. Racing Commission. Final approval required a review of the application process by Acting Attorney General.

Jack Ciattarelli

Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, a Hillsborough resident, expressed disappointment that the application had cleared its final hurdle.

“Given current law, we knew that this was an uphill battle,” said Mr. Ciattarelli. “We did our very best to advocate as to why the application should have been rejected. I know our advocacy was successful in causing the Acting Attorney General a most thorough review and extra careful consideration. In the end, it is still very disappointing to hear of the approval.

“Throughout the process, we have vigorously maintained that OTWs belong in densely populated, urban areas desperately in need for economic development. That is not Hillsborough,” Mr. Ciattarelli said.

Hillsborough Mayor Doug Tomson said, “Permitting an OTW facility to operate in Hillsborough, or any town, should be decided by the municipality, not the racing commission. This may work in some towns, but I don’t think it is a fit for Hillsborough.”

The OTW applicant, Darby Development, is also clearing up another problem related to its opening — the validity of its liquor license. The Township Committee rescinded the license in August because it had lapsed for lack of use. The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission granted a special ruling on Sept. 15 to allow the license application to proceed. It now rests with the Township Committee to reapprove and likely will be addressed within the next two meetings, the mayor said Tuesday.

The OTW applicant, Darby Development, is also clearing up another problem with opening — the validity of its liquor license. The Township Committee rescinded the license last month because it had essentially lapsed for lack of use. The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission granted a special ruling on Sept. 15 to allow the license application to proceed. It now rests with the Township Committee to reapprove and likely will be addressed within the next two meetings, the mayor said Tuesday. 



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Reconvene Beach Erosion Commission while there’s time, says Fiocchi

Source: 92.7 WOBM -

Beach erosion and dune depletion in the aftermath of the weekend nor’easter triggers a call from a South Jersey Assemblyman to reconvene a commission that hasn’t met in over a decade.

Sam Fiocchi

Sam Fiocchi

Cape May Republican Sam Fiocchi (R-1) contends that the state’s Beach Erosion Commission has an urgent mission to “investigate and study the protection and preservation of the beaches and shore front of the state from erosion and other damage from the elements,” according to statements he released today.

After inspecting the shorefront in Cape May, Fiocchi pointed to the urgency of keeping businesses, homes and lives on the shore intact. “We were fortunate [Hurricane Joaquin] missed us, but as I saw today, our dunes have been eroded and our beaches are susceptible as we approach the winter season when nor’easters most commonly occur.”

Fiocchi volunteered to take a seat on the panel, which in 2001 included then-Monmouth Senators John Bennett and Joseph Palaia. In previous years, shore representation included state Senator Joseph Kyrillos (R-13) and former Senator Andy Ciesla and Assemblyman Dave Wolfe (R-10).

Fiocchi, who also represents Atlantic and Cumberland Counties, co-sponsors an Assembly bill that would double the state contribution to New Jersey’s Shore Protection Fund to $50 million – legislation long championed by Margo Walsh, Executive Director of the Red Bank-based Jersey Shore Partnership.

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Angelini and Casagrande discuss school funding, gun control and consolidating town and school services

Asbury Park Press – Assemblywomen Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande, both R-Monmouth, say they’re frustrated by a Democratic-controlled Legislature and its ties to special-interest groups that prevent reform. ‘Both’ spoke Monday with the Asbury Park Press editorial board. The discussion centered on hot-button issues such as school funding, gun control and consolidating town and school services.

Caroline Casagrande

One of the biggest issues in District 11 is school funding in Freehold Borough. The district’s classrooms are overcrowded, and residents say they can’t shoulder the burden of paying for the student spike alone. “The children (in Freehold) are grossly under adequacy,” said Casagrande. She called it “maddening” that 31 urban districts, formerly known as Abbott districts, absorb 60 percent of all school funding. “Our school dollars are still fully locked up in who was impoverished in 1986; leadership in both the Senate and Assembly have blocked reforms to redistribute those funds. It’s such an injustice.”

Mary Pat Angelini

Angelini supported drawing a strong link between mental health and gun ownership. She also expressed frustration that one of her bills to give priority in firearm applications to those who are victims of domestic abuse had gone nowhere.
“This is good policy, good legislation, and we can’t get any traction,” she said.

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Rumana: Stop lightweight wood construction [op-ed]

Source: The Daily Journal [Op-Ed by Scott Rumana] -

Scott Rumana

Following January’s devastating Avalon Bay at Edgewater fire that raced through the apartment complex, it was clear changes to the state’s construction code were necessary. In response, I introduced legislation that would place a moratorium of up to two years on the approval for and/or construction of multifamily housing developments using lightweight wood construction until the state’s building code was revised and adopted.

On Sept. 21, the newly revised code took effect — without the desperately needed changes. To be fair, the review process began before the Edgewater blaze. And while the Department of Community Affairs did gather feedback on the dangers of lightweight wood construction, officials noted that state code could not exceed International Code Council guidelines. Not all stakeholders, however, agree with the DCA’s interpretation of how far from the International Code Council’s standards New Jersey’s code can deviate. Firefighters, residents and lawmakers were baffled by the DCA’s explanation.

Regardless, there obviously is a disconnect between the International Code Council and where New Jersey needs to be on this issue. The clock is ticking. It is clearly time for a moratorium to be put in place to protect both residents and first responders. It’s imperative that this moratorium bill, A4195, be posted and passed to give theLegislature time to approve broader legislation that will ultimately change building standards in our state.

The legislation requires the DCA commissioner to evaluate the safety of lightweight wood construction for multiple dwellings and, if found to be unsafe, it would be prohibited. In the meantime, projects in the approval process would be put on hold. When the commissioner makes his ruling and adopts appropriate changes, such projects would go through an expedited reapproval process. This is a common-sense public safety measure.

Avalon Bay at Edgewater’s wood construction and truss-style roof were at the root cause of the blaze’s rapid spread and structural collapse, according to fire officials. Buildings constructed with such highly flammable materials are virtual tinder boxes. They create a dynamic that should a fire occur, it’s completely devastating. Nothing can stop it.

The Edgewater fire was a wake-up call. It destroyed more than half of the 408-unit complex, shut roadways and schools and displaced more than 1,000 residents, destroying their belongings and killing their beloved pets. Had the inferno occurred during the middle of the night, when the vast majority of residents were at home, the loss of life would have been unimaginable.

It’s no secret that lightweight wood construction is popular with developers. It is faster, cheaper and very much legal. The firefighting community has opposed this type of construction and materials for years because, as first responders, they are well aware they can be lethal. In fact, representatives from at least six firefighter associations rallied recently at the Edgewater site to again voice their opposition to this type of construction and call for better fire safety standards. It’s a shame it took a fire of this magnitude, in which so many residents lost so much, to shine a light on its dangers.

Thankfully, there was no loss of life at the complex. We may not be as fortunate next time. As a legislator, I am not willing to play Russian roulette with the lives of our residents and first responders.

The intent of this legislation is to force all stakeholders to the table and arrive at a solution now! It has been more than six months since the Edgewater conflagration. It’s time to hold the Legislature’s feet to the fire. Stop construction and you will have a solution in short order. Once the solution is in place, the moratorium will be immediately canceled.

Scott Rumana serves as the Assembly Republican Whip. He represents Passaic, Bergen, Essex and Morris counties.

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Rumana views possible TTF deal as solution for Route 80 bottleneck

Source: Bergen Record -

In the nearly five decades since Route 80 was added to the junction of Routes 23 and 46 at a rail crossing in Wayne, you might think some bright civil engineer would have designed adjoining ramps to improve access for tens of thousands of drivers who use this chaotic Spaghetti Bowl.

But motorists going south on Route 23 from West Milford, Pequannock and Riverdale still can’t exit directly onto Route 80 west and those going east on 80 from Morris County still can’t exit directly onto 23 north.

“You almost go in complete circles to get anywhere,” said Wayne’s Marcia Chapman, who drives there nearly every day. “Will we ever get direct access?”

That question has been asked for decades. In 1995, engineers actually found a solution involving flyover ramps.

Scott Rumana

“It would have cost more than $250 million,” recalled Assemblyman Scott Rumana, a former Wayne mayor and Passaic County freeholder who was part of a task force chosen to find access solutions. “I’d say that plan would probably run $350 million to $400 million now.”

But about eight years ago, engineers came up with another plan — for $35 million to $40 million.

Instead of building elaborate flyover ramps, state Department of Transportation consultants brought the price way down by finding enough space to build additional ground-level spaghetti ramps, said Rumana, the ranking Republican on the Assembly transportation committee.

From Route 23 south, a new ramp would go beneath an existing access ramp, continue alongside a second ramp under a rail trestle, then merge with the second ramp before it entered Route 80 west. From Route 80 eastbound, consultants found a way to build a ramp that would skirt several other ramps in an open field before connecting with an existing ramp that leads to northbound 23.

“The engineers who figured this out were ingenious,” said Rumana, referring to consultants for Jacobs Engineering. (A company spokesman would acknowledge only that the firm formally submitted its plan to the Department of Transportation a year ago.)

Rumana’s definition of ingenious goes something like this: Making the impossible seem possible because engineers “were creative enough to reduce costs by something like 90 percent.”

But “ingenious” isn’t a word that the Wayne lawmaker uses to describe New Jersey’s current mechanism for financing highway improvements, which relies heavily on the state Transportation Trust Fund. After years of heavy borrowing, the fund’s revenue — mostly from the state motor-fuels tax — is now funneled almost entirely to pay interest on its bonds. Sticking to a campaign promise, Governor Christie has refused to approve legislation that would boost the 14.5-cent-a-gallon tax.

“If we had the money from the trust fund,” Rumana said, “this is exactly the kind of project that could get some traction, because it affects so many people.”

From 300 to 400 crashes are reported on some leg of the Spaghetti Bowl each year.

More than 300,000 cars cross every day to reach the Willowbook Mall, or one of the smaller adjacent shopping centers, or the huge rail-and-bus park-and-ride at Route 23 and West Belt Parkway, or the scores of major office buildings and businesses in a five-mile radius of the interchange. That’s more traffic than the George Washington Bridge generates each day.

Rumana saw renewed hope for the missing links last week when Christie announced he could support a motor-fuels tax hike if Democrats approved a comparable reduction in the state inheritance tax.

“This project offers huge benefits at minimal cost,” he said, noting that DOT staff has recently begun screening it closely.

But that doesn’t mean the missing ramps will be built anytime soon, said Steve Schapiro, the agency’s chief spokesman.

“Until trust-fund issues are settled, there is no money.” Shapiro said firmly. “So final decisions for things like this are a long way off.”

Until then, drivers like Sam Jaresky are relying on global positioning systems — not state government — to move smoothly through the Spaghetti Bowl.

“I feel sorry for out-of-towners,” said the Wayne motorist. “Thank God for GPS.”

Odd, wet traffic jam

Mainly because of all the media chatter over potential hurricane conditions, most drivers seemed to be well-prepared for the traffic slowdowns caused by this weekend’s rainstorms, but there was no way to avoid the big wet jam at the Route 46 bridge under construction near Bergen Turnpike in Little Ferry on Monday.

Cars were backed up for nearly five hours while engineers for the DOT and United Water tried to locate the source of a water-main break at the work site of the contractor, Conti Construction.

“But they couldn’t find the cutoff valve,” said Little Ferry Police Chief Ralph Verdi. “It was buried in layers of concrete in the new pavement.”

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Bramnick supports middle-class tax cut to supports NJ’s recreational boating industry

Source: NJ Spotlight -

This year’s summer boating and fishing season may be over, but industry advocates are hoping a bipartisan push to offer new tax breaks on boat purchases in New Jersey remains a top concern for state lawmakers this fall.

The state Senate last week voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill that would set a maximum amount for sales taxes on boats or yachts purchased in New Jersey while reducing the sales tax for all boat sales here by 50 percent.

Jon Bramnick

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union) was supportive. He noted Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi (R-Cumberland) proposed the exact same change that Christie wrote into the conditional veto on the Assembly floor in June, only to see Democrats shoot it down.

“I support middle-class tax cuts, and the change proposed by (Fiocchi) provides a boat-tax discount to the middle class,” Bramnick said. “It’s good for consumers and our economy, and the Assembly should approve it as soon as possible.”

The bill incorporates changes advanced by both Democrats who control the Legislature and Gov. Chris Christie, a second-term Republican. It has the support of the state’s boating industry, as well, but critics say it will help the rich more than anyone else.

Christie has roundly criticized Democratic legislative leaders in New Jersey while on the campaign trail this year as he seeks the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination, but the two sides have been raising similar concerns about a New Jersey boating industry that’s been hit hard in recent years by an economic recession, Superstorm Sandy and competition from other Atlantic seaboard states that have been battling to offer the most generous tax breaks on boat and yacht sales.

The measure currently before New Jersey lawmakers is the product of a bill they originally approved in June that was sent back to them by Christie in the form of a conditional veto issued in August.

The newest version, which includes Christie’s recommendations, would cap at $20,000 the maximum amount of sales tax that New Jersey could levy on a boat or yacht sold here. It would also cut to 3.5 percent the sales tax rate on all boats purchased here.

Melissa Danko, executive director of the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey, said the bill is “desperately needed to support our struggling industry.” Boat registrations, she said, have fallen by nearly 100,000 since 2001.

“Tax caps like these encourage buyers to stay in-state to make their purchases; whether high-, mid- or low-dollar. This also increases the likelihood that maintenance and repairs will also stay local,” Danko said. “The jobs preserved and created are those of sales representatives, production workers, dock operators, mechanics and more.”

But critics of the measure complain that the tax breaks will go to people with the means to buy the most expensive boats. And they say the lost revenue will come at the expense of a state budget that is already shorting investments in education, transportation and public-employee retirements, among other priorities, they say.

Another vote is still needed in the Senate, but given the ease of last week’s approval — only one senator voted against the current version of the bill — all eyes have turned now to the Assembly. And consideration of the tax breaks comes as all 80 Assembly seats are up for grabs in November, with Republicans aggressively seeking their first majority in roughly a decade.

An earlier version of the bill that only featured the $20,000 sales-tax cap passed the Assembly by a 66-4 margin in June. But that was before Christie issued his conditional veto, which kept the $20,000 cap, but also proposed the across-the-board reduction of the sales tax on all boat purchases. It was that change that the Senate gave approved last week.

When asked about the fate of the new version of the bill in the Assembly, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) said yesterday that Prieto “plans to review the conditional veto and talk to sponsors.”

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union) was more supportive. He noted Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi (R-Cumberland) proposed the exact same change that Christie wrote into the conditional veto on the Assembly floor in June, only to see Democrats shoot it down.

“I support middle-class tax cuts, and the change proposed by (Fiocchi) provides a boat-tax discount to the middle class,” Bramnick said. “It’s good for consumers and our economy, and the Assembly should approve it as soon as possible.”

Danko, from the Marine Trades Association, said the bigger issue is the need to support the state’s recreational boating industry.

“This is not about tax breaks for the wealthy, as many have claimed,” she said. “The reality is that local manufacturers, dealers, marinas and repair shops will see the greatest economic benefits.”

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NJ cops should be protected under hate crime law, Dancer says

Source: NJ 101.5 -

Ron Dancer

In New Jersey it is a bias intimidation crime when one person threatens another based on race, religion, color, gender, sexual orientation, disability or gender identity. Police officers are not currently protected under the statute, but [Assembly Republican Ron Dancer] said they should be.

He said that threats against a cop should be taken as seriously as the crime that often follows that threat.

“Legislation that I am proposing would expand the bias intimidation/hate speech statute to include law enforcement officers. There needs to be consequences for threatening to target and kill a law enforcement officer,” said Dancer (R-Jackson).

Cops could use all the protection they can get. According the Officer Down Memorial Page 26 police officers have been shot and killed in the line of duty in 2015, including Greg Alia with the Forest Acres Police Department in South Carolina who was murdered by a suspect on Wednesday. Three cops died this year after being assaulted.

“The recent ambushes and assassinations of our law enforcement officers simply because they wear a blue uniform, that demands action. I recognize and respect that freedom of speech is a constitutional right, but when someone is threatening to kill our law enforcement officers there needs to be strict penalties,” Dancer said.

Hate speech would be criminalized when it rises to an actual threat against a cop under Dancer’s plan. He said he would formally introduce a bill when the assembly returns to Trenton after this November’s elections.

“The First Amendment exists precisely to protect the most offensive and controversial speech from government suppression. The best way to counter obnoxious speech is with more speech. Persuasion, not coercion, is the solution,” said a statement on the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey website.

Dancer already introduced another bill (A-3611) that would expand the definition of a terroristic threat to include threatening to kill a police officer.

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