Category: Clips

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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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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Bramnick: Let’s talk about lowering a tax

Source: – Tax relief doesn’t appear to be on the way anytime soon for New Jersey residents — in fact, top state lawmakers meeting here Wednesday spent much of the time talking about how to raise revenue.

During a panel discussion, the officials agreed that the New Jersey’s highest-in-the-nation property tax is a concern, but they focused much of the discussion at potentially raising a different tax.

Democrats on the panel said replenishing the state’s transportation trust fund is the top issue facing the Legislature and that hiking the gasoline tax is an option to address it.

Jon Bramnick

“All we’re talking about is raising taxes. But first why don’t we talk about some tax that we can lower?’’ said Republican Assembly leader Jon Bramnick…

Sweeney, the Senate president, conceded that a higher gasoline tax is an option, adding, “The solution won’t be a popular one.’’

Bramnick said he’d rather focus on having the state’s school-funding formula retooled “to something that’s more fair, because (much of the school funding budget of) $9 billion of our $34 billion budget goes to a limited number of school districts, and much of that money has not created success.”

“It’s time to take it away from the courts and do a constitutional amendment and make it more fair. That’s how you reduce property taxes in many of our towns and cities,’’ he said.

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Bramnick to Dems: ‘Don’t Get Cocky’

Source: PolitickerNJ -

Despite a turbulent Election Day that saw New Jersey’s Republican Party lose four seats on the General Assembly, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick wants the state’s Democrats to know that Republicans will not go down without a fight.

Jon Bramnick

“Send the message back to my friends in other parties: We are coming to get you next year,” said Bramnick during a League of Municipalities event at the Borgata. “Don’t get happy. Don’t get cocky. Don’t get confident.”

The Borgata event—which was hosted in the honor of statewide Republicans—was co-hosted by Bramnick, Assembly Republican Conference Leader Dave Rible and Assembly Republican Whip Scott Rumana. The event was well attended by Republican leadership from all over NJ including Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, Assemblyman Parker Space and Assemblyman Anthony Bucco Jr., among others. Attendees also included a number of Republican Mayors like Springfield’s Denis McDaniel and Fair Lawn’s John Cosgrove, and party county chairs.

“I think the Democrats have to be very careful about being too confident,” Bramnick said. “I am proud of all the Republicans who are here tonight and I am convinced that when it comes to policy long-term, we are right on the issues.”

Former LD38 candidate Mark DiPisa was also in attendance at the event despite the fact that his campaign combusted when it surfaced that his running mate Anthony Cappola had written a book containing language that was insulting to minority and religious groups. Like Bramnick, DiPisa said he thinks that the future of the Republican Party is bright despite losses in districts like his. DiPisa also said that he is “interested in continuing to help the party” but isn’t yet sure what his future role will be.

In addition to being the first day of the League of Municipalities conference, Tuesday also marked another special day for Bramnick: his wife Patricia’s birthday. To celebrate the special occasion, Bramnick brought out a cake dedicated to his wife and had her blow out the candles at the event.

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Bill Allowing Unauthorized Residents Driver’s Licenses Comes at Unfortunate Time


Hundreds chanted in Spanish at the War Memorial and marched through Trenton for the right to get a New Jersey driver’s license — even though they’re in the U.S. without the proper documents. They testified before the Assembly Homeland Security Committee. Carla Estrada talked about spending hours on the bus.

Sponsors say a driver’s license could enhance the lives of more than 450,000 undocumented people who live and work in New Jersey. About a dozen states already already offer the privilege — and, like the California version — would be restricted to state use only with a printed warning: “Federal Limits May Apply.”

But in the wake of attacks by ISIS terrorists in Paris, the proposed license legislation encountered stiff resistance.

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

“If you look at just what happened around the world, TSA confirmed that those licenses could be utilized to get on airplanes. That was just in the last few months. There are a lot of things that do impact on national security issues,” said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi.

Governor Christie issued a statement condemning the bill, saying to give “…the most important piece of Homeland Security identification…to people with no definitive proof of their identity…in the current environment is not only irresponsible, but dangerous.”

The governor flatly stated, if this bill ever gets to his desk, he will veto it “immediately.” With Republican lawmakers also expressing deep concerns, this driver’s license proposal faces a very difficult road.

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Schepisi raises issues on bill to give unauthorized immigrants N.J. driver’s licenses

Star Ledger -

A controversial bill that would allow unauthorized immigrants in New Jersey to obtain a state driver’s license moved forward Monday — despite a rare proclamation from Gov. Chris Christie that he would veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.

The state Assembly’s homeland security committee voted 3-2 along party lines to approve the measure (A4425), which would establish a license for residents who cannot prove they are living in the U.S. legally.

Hundreds of people rallied at the Statehouse in Trenton to support the bill, and advocates for both sides debated its merits for hours in front of the committee.

In a highly unusual move, Christie — a Republican presidential candidate — issued a statement in the middle of the hearing saying he is “disturbed” that the Democratic-controlled state Legislature is “even considering the bill.”

“As a former United States Attorney, I know that the driver’s license is the single most important piece of homeland security identification,” Christie said. “Yet, the Legislature proposes giving that to people with no definitive proof of their identity. To consider doing this in the current environment is not only irresponsible, but dangerous.”

“If it were to ever reach my desk, it would be vetoed immediately,” he added.

The bill seeks to have New Jersey join 12 states and Washington D.C. who already have laws allowing unauthorized immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

More than half a million residents — or about one in every 20 people — in New Jersey are unauthorized immigrants. And supporters of the measure say many of them drive without taking a test to get a license, registration, and insurance.

Critics, however, said even if unauthorized immigrants are allowed licenses, that doesn’t mean they will obtain insurance.

They also argued that enacting the legislation compromises New Jersey’s security — especially in the wake of the Paris attacks, in which authorities say one of the attackers used a fake Syrian passport to enter Europe.

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

“This is one of my biggest, grave concerns — particularly with what’s going on in the world right now — that we’re providing a document,” said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen), one of the two Republicans on the panel who voted against advancing the bill. “With a driver’s license, you can do more than just drive. You can purchase a firearm in pretty much every state. You can board an airplane. You can open bank accounts.”

Schepisi said she doesn’t want New Jersey to send a message saying, “Okay, if you don’t have driving privileges, and if you are here illegally, come to New Jersey and you can get all these things.”

Instead, Schepisi said, the bill should be amended to include steps to make it safer — including fingerprinting applicants, setting up a waiting period, and requiring people to prove they’ve been living in New Jersey for a substantial amount of time.

Pat DeFilippis of Toms River had a similar view.

“There’s terrorists, and we don’t know who they are and where they come from,” DeFilippis told the panel, “and we’re going to give licenses to people who don’t belong in this country in the first place? Why are we pandering to people who don’t belong here?”

Under the bill, applicants would have to be able to prove their identity, date of birth, and residency in New Jersey. If they can’t, they would have to obtain alternative documents that would be reviewed by the state Motor Vehicle Commissions. Those residents would have to pay as much as $50 more for the license on top of the usual fees.

Quijano said the measure would also require that the licenses specify that they are valid only for driving and they would not be considered federal IDs.

Carla Estrada, 24, of Pennsauken, said when she was a student at Camden County College, she spent about six hours commuting on buses for a simple reason: Her parents are unauthorized immigrants, and they would not drive her 30 minutes to campus out of fear they stopped by police and deported.

“In a week, I would spend up to 24 hours on the bus instead of doing something more productive, like going to my job and earning more hours, so I could help pay for my college,” said Estrada, who has since gained legal status under an executive order by President Obama.

The bill now advances to the Assembly’s appropriations committee.

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