Category: Clips

Carroll hits breaks on drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants

Source: NJ Advance Media -

The Dover Board of Aldermen has passed a resolution saying immigrants in the country illegally should have access to driver’s licenses.

The resolution urges the state Legislature to adopt a similar measure so that it could be signed into a state law by Gov. Chris Christie.

Michael Patrick Carroll

State Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris) is one local legislator who definitely won’t be supporting the resolution.

“New Jersey should not be in the business of undermining federal law,” Carroll said.

The message to immigrants here illegally, Carroll added, should be “go home,” not “you can have driver’s licenses.”

Carroll said he has met many of the immigrants and “They are very nice folks. They’re good people. We just don’t have a place for them. They’re undercutting our jobs and wages.”

Mayor James Dodd, a supporter of the measure, called it a “win-win” for everyone in Dover, where more than 70 percent of the population is Hispanic.

“It’s a mechanism for us to give them proper identification,” Dodd pointed out. “They’re here working and paying taxes, so we might as well know where they live.”

Dodd said having driver’s licenses will help the immigrants with their “quality of life.” It will enable them to get to work legally and drive their children to school legally, he said.

Dover officially is listed as having about 20,000 residents, “but we all know it’s a lot more than that,” Dodd added.

He added that other communities with many immigrants, including Elizabeth, have passed similar resolutions.

Dodd acknowledged that some immigrants in the country illegally have international driver’s licenses they were issued in other countries, but to get a New Jersey license, one must be either a U.S. citizen or a legal resident of the United States.

 

 

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Rodriguez-Gregg, Brown introduce bill to increase transparency in propane sales

Source: Burlington County Times -

Chris J. Brown

Maria Rodriguez-Gregg

Maria Rodriguez-Gregg

Three Burlington County lawmakers want to make sure backyard grillers are not burned by misleading labels for propane sales.

Legislation introduced by state Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego and Assembly members Chris J. Brown and Maria Rodriguez-Gregg, all of the 8th District, would require retailers that sell propane for tanks or cylinders to display both the price per cylinder and the price per pound for the propane gas.

Retailers who do not comply or who charge consumers more than the displayed price per pound would be subject to a $100 fine for a first offense and up to $500 fine for a second or subsequent offense.

The three Republican lawmakers said the bill is intended to increase transparency surrounding propane sales to make sure consumers aren’t short-changed in the exchanges. They cited Federal Trade Commission actions brought against two of the country’s largest propane tank exchange companies — Blue Rhino and AmeriGas — for price fixing and colluding to lower the amounts of propane sold in each tank from 17 to 15 pounds without informing consumers.

“This legislation acts as an important consumer protection. It allows those purchasing propane to make a more informed decision,” Addiego said.

“The last thing families planning a barbecue should have to worry about is whether or not they are being duped into paying more money for less.”

Brown and Rodriguez-Gregg said that the increased use of propane canisters for cooking warrants more transparency, and that constituents in the district, which includes Evesham, Medford, Pemberton Township and most of southern and eastern Burlington County, have complained about the sales.

“We have heard the calls of our constituents to address this issue, and we are moving forward with a common-sense solution,” Brown said.

Rodriguez-Gregg said the bill would force retailers to give their customers a “clearer picture of what they are getting per dollar, similar to the way gas prices are advertised.”

The requirements would go into effect six months after the measure becomes law.

To become law, the bill must be approved by the Assembly and Senate and be signed by the governor.

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Handlin: NJ Transit hasn’t made case for another fare hike

Source: Asbury Park Press [Op-Ed by Asw. Amy Handlin] -

I represent thousands of Monmouth County commuters who depend on mass transit to get to work five days a week. By proposing a hefty fare hike, NJ Transit is taking them for a ride.

Amy Handlin

Anyone looking at the pattern of spiraling ticket prices over the years can see that the increases have been disturbingly erratic as well as very large, never lower than 9 percent and as high as 22 percent. I can’t imagine a business raising prices, especially in such large increments, with no apparent rhyme or reason.

Whatever the justification for each increase at the time, the overall approach seems to be management-by-crisis, with inadequate — or at least indiscernible — forecasting and financial planning. I researched the price per mile of mass transit in five other systems — New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C. — and, needless to say, we top the list.

According to NJ Transit, such comparisons are spurious because the organizations typically sponsoring them cherry-pick certain routes to get the most dramatic contrasts. But I didn’t. I simply compared the cost of my ticket to travel 40 miles on the North Jersey Coast Line against the cost of a ticket to travel 40 miles on the other systems. Whatever the statistical explanation for the differences, they are real and they factor into the crushingly high cost of living and working in this state.

Like many longtime residents, I remember the bad old days in the early 2000s, when NJ Transit became notorious for a free-spending culture with multiple lobbyists on five-figure retainers to rake in more and more money. Fortunately, those days are over. But the memory still rankles, and it spurred me to take a hard look at the agency’s current consultant contracts. I was provided with a document summarizing contracts awarded and paid out on a 5-year cycle from 2009-2014.

I acknowledge upfront that the total cost of approximately $33 million pales in comparison to NJ Transit’s yearly non-capital budget of approximately $1 billion. But obviously, the millions add up over time. More immediately, the contracts raise questions about efficient allocation of resources.

For instance, there are over 300 separate contracts with dozens of different companies and divisions of companies at various stages of the execution and payment cycle. I’m left wondering how it is physically possible for internal staff to constantly and consistently monitor hundreds of contracts with dozens of consultants to prevent billing excesses or mistakes. At a minimum, this means the agency is paying a significant chunk of its salary budget to contract administrators, their supervisors and their supervisors’ supervisors. I wonder if that’s the best use of extremely limited funds.

I also worry that it’s too easy to hire consultants for certain tasks simply because things have always been done that way. Here are two examples:

  • There is a $28,000 contract for a task described as “Review of existing studies.” Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems to me that someone somewhere in the organization should be sufficiently competent to review its own studies.
  • Another contract for roughly $60,000 was awarded for a survey of South Jersey bus customers. The consultant is a company called TechnoMetrica, which on its website is identified as “America’s most accurate pollster, having come in #1 in the 2004 and 2008 Presidential elections.” With all due respect to this company, does NJ Transit really need to pay the rates of a national political pollster to survey its bus customers? I wonder if anyone checked whether the Rutgers Center for Survey Research or the Vorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers could have done the same work at a much lower cost.

Finally — and in some ways, the most unsettling finding of all — I learned that labor agreements have not been settled in several years. That raises the specter of a retroactive pay increase, which could cause yet another fare hike proposal hard on the heels of this one.

The bottom line: If the agency’s goal is to convince the public that a significant fare increase is justified and necessary, it has much more work to do. At a minimum, its spokespeople must demonstrate that NJ Transit has a rigorous financial forecasting model in place — and will use it to avoid a future of continually hitting people erratically, unexpectedly, and deeply in the pocketbook.

Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, R-Monmouth, is deputy Republican leader in the state Legislature.

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Space-sponsored bills to protect bee industry advance

Source: The Advertiser News -

Three bills Assemblyman Parker Space sponsors to protect and enhance the state’s commercial and recreational bee industry, which is essential to the Garden State’s food supply, recently won Senate Economic Growth Committee approval.

Parker Space

“Most people are not aware of just how important bees are to the agriculture industry, specifically to our food chain,” said Space, R-Sussex, Warren and Morris, whose family has farmed in Sussex County for eight generations. “In New Jersey, they are instrumental in pollinating our cranberry, blueberry, strawberry, peach, pumpkin, squash, and apple crops.”

Space said the state’s $7 million honey bee industry contributes to the production of nearly $200 million worth of fruits and vegetables annually.

“These measures will provide additional protections to the state’s 3,000 commercial and hobbyist beekeepers while ensuring they conform to safety standards,” Space said.

One bill extends “Right to Farm” protections to commercial beekeepers to protect them from nuisance complaints. Currently, if a complaint is filed, the case is referred to a municipal court which can be time consuming and costly. In addition, prosecutors and judges usually have little understanding of the industry. Under this measure, such complaints would be referred to a county agricultural board which better understands issues involving beekeeping.

Beekeeping as a hobby is gaining popularity in New Jersey in both urban and suburban areas, but because the general public and local officials know very little about the hobby, some municipalities are attempting to ban beehives. Space’s second bill allows for hobbyist beekeeping and protects hobbyist beekeepers by authorizing the state Department of Agriculture to regulate the keeping of beehives while at the same time giving municipalities a role in managing this growing hobby at the discretion of the Department. It also requires the Department to prepare best management practices for hobbyist beekeepers.

The third bill establishes a fine of up to $500 for each offense when an individual intentionally destroys a man-made native bee hive. A native bee is native to the state and, unlike a honeybee, does not produce honey, but provides for the pollination of crops and plants.

 

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O’Scanlon bill could usher in self-serve gas in NJ

Source: Philly Voice -

Declan O'Scanlon

New Jersey State Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon announced Friday that he will be introducing a bill that would allow state residents to pump their own gas. The law would not only require Jersey stations to have at least one self-service pump, but would also decriminalize the act of fueling your vehicle on your own.

O’Scanlon, a Republican representing the state’s 13th district, said in a press release that the law prohibiting pumping your own gas is “antiquated.” New Jersey is one of only two states, Oregon being the other, that still doesn’t allow the practice.

“I am offended by people that argue that New Jerseyans are mentally incapable of pumping their own gas without setting themselves on fire,” O’Scanlon said in the statement.

He did, however, note that language would be inserted to require safety signs at pumps for drivers.

“’Do not, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, set yourself on fire!!’ I think that should resolve these concerns.”

Those concerns are in fact the reason that pumping gas for drivers is illegal in the first place.

New Jersey’s Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act and Regulations, a law that was enacted in 1949, states that the reasoning for gas station workers being responsible is essentially to protect the public from blowing themselves up:

Because of the fire hazards directly associated with dispensing fuel, it is in the public interest that gasoline station operators have the control needed over that activity to ensure compliance with appropriate safety procedures, including turning off vehicle engines and refraining from smoking while fuel is dispensed.

Yet while the fear of this happening is the face of the law’s reasoning, Star Ledger columnist Paul Munshine explained in a 2014 piece that the full story isn’t so simple. An entrepreneur’s cheap prices at a self service station back before the law was enacted caused a gasoline special interest group that had political sway to make the practice illegal.

The law has been challenged on several occasions, as noted in a timeline of the act put together by NJ.com. Interestingly enough, that same timeline cites polling that shows most New Jersey residents don’t want to pump their own gas, and few support overturning the law.

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Munoz, other GOP lawmakers may oppose legislation to cap out-of-network healthcare costs

Source: NJ Spotlight -

A key Republican legislator on healthcare issues says that it’s unlikely members of her caucus will support a complex Democratic bill aimed at tackling healthcare prices, but instead will work to create an alternative.

Nancy Munoz

Assemblywoman Nancy F. Munoz (R-Morris, Somerset, and Union), a nurse by training, said it’s important to consider the surprise bills charged by providers who are outside of a patient’s insurance network, but that Republicans don’t want to see the state set limits on healthcare prices.

While she didn’t provide details of what the Republicans are planning, Munoz said it might include an arbitration component.

The Democratic bill, which had been in the works for years, may be a central point of differentiation between the two parties. The measure seeks to make the amount that providers bill to patients and insurers more transparent, and to limit these payments to no more than two-and-a-half times the median amount paid by commercial insurers.

While Republicans can’t block bills in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, Gov. Chris Christie may be unlikely to sign such a major piece of legislation if Republicans are strongly opposed to it. That’s why the position staked out by Munoz — a leading Republican on healthcare issues with a history of working with Democrats on significant bills — is important.

Munoz predicted that some highly skilled doctors would choose not to practice in the state if they faced legally capped reimbursements.

“We don’t want to lose the best and brightest from the state of New Jersey,” she said.

The Democratic sponsors of the Out-of-Network Consumer Protection, Transparency, Cost Containment and Accountability Act, A-4444/S-20, have indicated a willingness to work with the various healthcare stakeholders on the bill.

But a major stakeholder group — the organizations representing doctors — have come out forcefully against the key pieces of the bill. Another group — the New Jersey Hospital Association — is raising concerns that legislators want to pass the bill too quickly.

The bill would:

  • require providers to notify patients whether they are inside the patient’s insurance network and give an estimated out-of-pocket cost at least 30 days before a nonemergency or elective procedure;
  • establish a publicly available healthcare price index that lists the median price by in-network commercial insurers and limits out-of-network payments to a range between 75 percent and 250 percent of the median;
  • allow out-of-network providers or insurers, it they don’t reach agreement on a price within 30 days after a bill is sent, to request binding arbitration, with the arbitrator choosing one side’s proposed price, subject to the payment range;
  • and bar providers from waiving a patient’s out-of-pocket costs — which bill sponsors say is used by providers to attract patients — unless it would be a hardship for the patient.

“I think we would all agree that there are some outliers who are really giving this a bad name,” Munoz said of out-of-network bills. “Charging $120,000 for an arthroscopic knee exam is pretty ridiculous.”

She made the remarks as part of a panel discussion at a healthcare summit hosted on Saturday by the New Leaders Council, a nonprofit that seeks to recruit and train progressive political leaders.

Munoz said it’s inappropriate to set legal limits on what doctors can be paid based on median payments, since some doctors have unique, lifesaving skills. Munoz has worked as a nurse and her late husband, Assemblyman Eric Munoz, was a trauma surgeon.

Neil Eicher, top lobbyist for the hospital association, noted that his association hasn’t taken an official position on the bill, allowing “every single department in every single hospital” to digest its provisions.

“I think at the end of the day, we have to make sure that patients are protected from inadvertent or surprise medical bills. I believe that hospitals do play a role in that,” Eicher said.

But Eicher added that hospital officials are concerned about “the speed with which this bill may move through the Legislature. I’ll say that — for a bill that turns the delivery system on its head in many ways, I think we do need to really take time to analyze the effectiveness of the bill and its impact” on hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, assisted-living facilities and healthcare professionals.

The insurance industry has been warmer in its response to the bill. Sarah M. Adelman, lobbyist for the New Jersey Association of Health Plans, said New Jersey insurers spent more than $1 billion on out-of-network costs last year, and that consumers would benefit if these costs were reined in.

While state law requires insurers in some cases to pay patients’ out-of-network bills, the health plans, employer groups, and consumer advocates note that these costs lead insurers to increase the premiums paid by all people with health insurance.

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O’Scanlon Proposes Self-Service Gas Stations In New Jersey [video]

Source: CBS New York [video] -

Big changes could be in store for New Jersey drivers, who might be stuck pumping their own gas if some lawmakers get their way.

Full service is now the law at New Jersey gas stations, but that could become a thing of the past, CBS2’s Ilana Gold reported.

“I don’t mind doing it myself,” said Emre Ataman of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.

But as WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported, for drivers born and raised in New Jersey, pumping your own gas is a foreign concept.

“There’s no reason for it,” said John Okoye of Secaucus. “One of the best things about New Jersey is that you don’t have to pump your own gas.”

Declan O'Scanlon

But state Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Red Bank) is among a bi-partisan group leading the effort to end the ban on self-serve. He said convenience is one aspect.

“It really irks me when I pull into a gas station and have to wait,” O’Scanlon said.

Backers also said self-service would be cheaper.

The proposal would not do away with full service altogether. Under the proposal, gas stations would have to keep at least one full-service island for three years.

Then in terms of pricing and staffing: “The market ought to decide these things, not government,” O’Scanlon said.

The proposal would also require gas stations to put up safety signs for customers.

But gas station attendants told CBS2’s Gold they did not like the idea at all.

“This is not good for us,” said Waquar Zaman, an attendant at a Gulf station in Jersey City who now fears for his job. “We are living on this job – my house earning; I am earning from this job.”

But O’Scanlon said he is not trying to eliminate jobs, and said full service will still be offered if there is demand for it.

The state Senate just started looking at the bill on Friday. If it passes a vote in both houses and Gov. Chris Christie signs it into law, it could go into effect by the end of the year.

New Jersey and Oregon are the only states where it is illegal to pump your own gas.

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Fiocchi and Brown: quality, not quantity important in sponsoring legislation

Atlantic City Press -

South Jersey Democrats want a program to recruit, select and train veterans for school security positions. They also wants to regulate the operation of low-speed electric bicycles. They try to make a lot of laws.

Bob Andrzejczak and Vince Mazzeo are among the top Assembly members in terms of sponsoring bills, according to data from the state Legislature. Andrzejczak a primary sponsor of 340 bills introduced in 2014 and 2015, as of May 10. That’s the fourth-highest out of the chamber’s 80 members. Mazzeo is a primary sponsor of 234, the 14th-most in the Assembly. Among first-term Assemblypersons, Andrzejczak and Mazzeo are ranked second and fourth, respectively.

There are so many bills out there that another local Assemblyman, Sam Fiocchi, introduced a resolution to reduce what he describes as duplicate bills.

Sam Fiocchi

Sam Fiocchi

Fiocchi, a Republican who represents the same district as Andrzejczak, said some lawmakers make minor changes to existing bills and re-introduce them as new bills. He said that’s a waste of time and revenue.

A few of Fiocchi’s bills have been “duplicated” by Andrzejczak, an email from Fiocchi’s staff said. Fiocchi introduced ACR12 in January 2014 to “preserve the right of people to fish, hunt, trap and harvest fish and wildlife. Andrzejczak introduced ACR 210 almost a year later to “guarantee the people’s right to fish, hunt, trap and harvest fish and wildlife.”

Fiocchi, who is a primary sponsor of 91 bills, said “less is more” in terms of sponsoring bills.

“It’s not about quantity for me. It’s about quality,” Fiocchi said.

Both Fiocchi and Chris A. Brown haven’t had any primary sponsored bills signed into law during the 2014-15 period. Fiocchi said as the minority party, it’s difficult to move bills.

Assemblyman Brown, R-Atlantic, a primary sponsor of 74 bills, agreed that less is more. He also said there is more to being a legislator than sponsoring bills, like educating and debating fellow legislators on the effects of a North Jersey casino and requesting the Department of Gaming Enforcement to hold hearings on the financial liability of Caesars Entertainment.

“I think it’s important that I do all those other things,” Brown said.

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Could O’Scanlon’s bill end N.J.’s ban on self-serve gas?

Declan O'Scanlon

Source: Star Ledger -

A bill to be introduced by a Monmouth County lawmaker could end New Jersey’s decades-long ban on pumping your own gas.

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, said he plans to introduce a bill to phase in self-serve gas that wouldn’t make motorists go cold turkey if they prefer to have an attendant do it for them.

“I’m amazed at how many folks raise this issue with me. It’s the right thing to do, so we’ll see,” he said of the bill’s chances in a state where some drivers pride themselves on not pumping their own gas.

The bill, announced on Friday, comes after an NJ Advance Media report revealed that no one has been prosecuted for pumping their own gas in the last two years. It also comes as lawmakers in Oregon, the only other state in the nation with a law similar to ours, are considering measures to allow self service in parts of that state.

O’Scanlon said his bill mirrors the provisions in a self service bill introduced by State Senator Gerald Cardinale.

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McHose, Space support immigration lawsuit against Obama

Source: Lehigh Valley Live -

Three northwest New Jersey officials have signed on in support of a lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

Alison Littell McHose

Parker Space

State Sen. Steve Oroho, Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose and Assemblyman Parker Space (all R-Warren/Sussex/Morris) said Friday that they are the only New Jersey legislators to join a court brief supporting Texas and 20 other states suing the federal government.

“We will continue to take a tough stand against illegal immigration by opposing … blanket amnesty.”

The brief was filed this week by Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), according to a news release.

The New Jersey legislators in the release said they oppose implementation of a program called Deferred Action for Parents of American and Lawful Residents, or DAPA. The program would allow certain people to temporarily stay and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The program has been suspended due to the legal challenge.

Oroho, McHose and Space said the executive orders “circumvent federal law” and provide incentives to people in other countries that lead to them taking “life-threatening risks and subjects others to human and sex trafficking.”

“We will continue to take a tough stand against illegal immigration by opposing any action by the federal government to grant blanket amnesty as well as opposing any state measures such as drivers’ licenses for illegal aliens or college financial aid for illegal aliens,” they said.

Gov. Chris Christie earlier this year also joined a brief opposing Obama’s immigration reform, according to nj.com.

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