Category: Clips

Simon:New Jersey bail reform ballot question – a definite “Yes”

Trenton Times op-ed by Donna Simon -

Donna Simon

One of the most important choices voters will make Nov. 4 is on the public question asking if the state’s constitution should be amended to empower courts to deny bail to dangerous offenders. Amending New Jersey’s constitution should not be taken lightly, but this time it is certainly justified.

Currently, in New Jersey, all persons charged with a crime are entitled to be released on bail, regardless of their past record or the threat he or she poses to society.

Too frequently, this system has led to a predictable cycle of more crime, more violence and more heartache for New Jersey families. In November, the public will have the power to put an end to the crime sprees committed by individuals who neither fear the law nor respect the right of people to live in peace.

I first proposed this initiative in the Legislature in 2012 and, after having overcome several hurdles to get legislative approval, it is now up to the voters to decide.

When bail reform legislation recently passed through both houses, not a single vote was cast against it. Advocacy groups representing different community organizations, law enforcement and religious affiliations also recognize the need for bail reform.

In March, a committee appointed by the state’s chief justice, Stuart Rabner, recommended that courts focus on the safety of the community — and not access to bail money — when deciding who goes free and who remains locked up. Currently, judges can only take into consideration the nature of the crime and whether the bail that’s set ensures that the defendant appears in court.

If approved by voters, New Jersey’s law will be similar to federal law. A judge would have the authority to deny pretrial release if it is determined the offender would be a threat to the safety of another person or the community, would not appear in court for his or her hearing, or would obstruct the criminal justice process.

Accounts of violent acts committed by accused individuals free on bail are horrifying.

A man who was granted bail in April 2013 was arrested in July 2014 and charged with home invasion and robbery in Trenton. The accused now faces five counts of first-degree robbery, four counts of fourth-degree aggravated assault, second-degree burglary and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Amazingly, he was ultimately granted bail, despite the danger he clearly poses while awaiting justice.

In another shocking incident, a funeral was interrupted by gunfire by four shooters, one of whom had known gang affiliations and had been released on bail.

Judges must be allowed to keep dangerous individuals off of the street and protect our communities until the offender’s guilt or innocence is determined. Defendants have a right to due process, but society is entitled to be protected from those who are considered a threat to their right to live in peace and without fear. Amending the constitution gives judges the legal framework to deny bail if it puts that right at risk.

One of the best choices voters can make Nov. 4 is saying “Yes” to reforming New Jersey’s bail system.

Donna Simon (R-Somerset) represents the 16th Legislative District in the New Jersey General Assembly.

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Brown, Handlin, Legislators Announce Support for Israel’s Right to Self Defense

Source: The Alternative Press -

The New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, representing 11 Jewish federations throughout New Jersey, convened legislative leaders in Trenton September 15 in order to express solidarity with the State of Israel and the Jewish community. Joining them was Deputy Consul General of Israel in New York Amir Sagie.

“The possibility of ‘quiet’ in Gaza is certainly welcome,” said Mark Levenson, President of the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations. “Yet, the conflict continues to play out in the media and there is significant mis-information. AR154 and today’s Senate resolution set the record straight. Israel’s moral compass has always been set at peace with its neighbors, but the same cannot be said of Hamas while it continues to actively seek the destruction of Israel. Reports emanate that Hamas is already re-building terror tunnels and trying to re-stock weapons. Most important is for people to be willing to stand up, speak out and try to set the record clear. We are deeply appreciative of the New Jersey legislative bodies for willing to stand up and be counted.”

Levenson chaired an educational mission to Israel sponsored by the State Association of Jewish Federations in March 2014 on which twelve state legislators participated.

Chris A. Brown

Assemblyman Chris A. Brown, the first prime sponsor of the AR154 and a veteran twice activated for war, expressed why he feels it is important to support Israel, “The ability of our friend Israel to defend itself against terrorism is a fundamental right necessary to guarantee it can survive as a free society.”

Amy Handlin

Another prime sponsor Assemblywoman Amy Handlin offers her rationale for speaking out, “AR154 recognizes that has Israel made comprehensive peace offers in the past, including fully withdrawing from Gaza, giving Palestinians a place entirely of their own to build and manage — a concrete result for moderate Palestinians to show for their efforts. In light of New Jersey’s shared humanitarian values with Israel, it is important that we speak out that Hamas does not share those values because it kicked out the moderates in a bloody civil war and has since focused on building rockets and underground tunnels to attack Israel and Israelis rather than on building a vibrant society and looking out for ordinary Palestinians.”

Deputy Consul General of Israel in New York Amir Sagie explained that he came to Trenton “to strongly express the gratitude of the Israeli people for this show of support and these meaningful resolutions. As an Israeli diplomat,” he added, “It is a unique pleasure to join hands with our partners in NJ, the one state that we compare to Israel more than any other, not just because of the relative size, but because we are inextricably linked together in our profound belief in freedom and respect for democracy.”

Assembly Republicans who expressed support for AR154, through sponsorship, attendance at the press conference or other meetings includes:

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21)
Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R-11)
Assemblyman Chris A. Brown (R-2)
Assemblyman Tony Bucco (R-25)
Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-11)
Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-13)
Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz (R-21)
Assemblyman Dave Rible (R-30)
Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-40)
Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-39)
Assemblywoman Donna Simon (R-16)
Assemblyman Dave Wolfe (R-10)

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Bramnick seeks leniency for Philly woman who mistakenly carried gun into N.J.

Source: NewsWorks -

The top Republican in New Jersey’s Assembly says it defies common sense to make a woman with no criminal record face a mandatory prison sentence for bringing a licensed handgun into the state.

Shaneen Allen, a mother of two from Philadelphia, would not have been guilty of anything in 30 other states when she crossed into New Jersey with a gun she’s permitted to carry in Pennsylvania, said Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union.

Jon Bramnick

Bramnick said Tuesday he’s pleased the Atlantic County prosecutor’s office is reviewing its decision to deny Allen entry into a pretrial-intervention program.

“It tugs at my heart to think about a woman going to jail under these circumstances, and I’m convinced that the county prosecutor will probably see that a reasonable outcome would be something other than state prison time,” he said.

If an agreement is not reached that will allow Allen to avoid a prison sentence, Bramnick said he’ll urge legislative leaders to call an emergency session to vote on a measure giving prosecutors more discretion in such cases.

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Bramnick urges Atlantic County prosecutors to use discretion in Shaneen Allen case

Source: PolitickerNJ -

Jon Bramnick

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) today urged prosecutors in Atlantic County to reconsider the case of Shaneen Allen, a Pennsylvania woman who was arrested for possessing a legal firearm in Atlantic County earlier this year, and called on lawmakers across the state to revisit the issue of prosecutorial discretion to better deal with similar circumstances.

Bramnick held an impromptu press conference in the Statehouse where he passionately explained why he thinks Allen ought to receive a lesser punishment — either a disorderly persons offense or the opportunity for pretrial intervention, he said — for her crime.

“There comes a time as a legislator, as a human being, that something happens that mandates you to make a public statement,” Bramnick said. “Now the reason I became a public legislator, a public official, is because when I see something that goes against my grain, that to me defies common sense, I need to speak out.”

Allen, who possessed a Pennsylvania concealed-carry permit for the weapon when she was pulled over during a traffic stop outside of Atlantic City but hadn’t registered the gun in New Jersey, now faces a three year mandatory prison sentence under New Jersey law, some of the harshest in the country when it comes to gun carrying. Bramnick argued that that sentence is to steep for someone who had no idea the weapon she was carrying was illegal in New Jersey.

She could’ve driven through 30 other states with more lenient gun restrictions and not have been found guilty of the crime she now faces, he said.

“We know she made a mistake, and we also know that she was technically in violation of a law of this state,” Bramnick added. “The question that I raise, and I think many members of the legislature would agree with me, is: is this a case where a woman that has no criminal record go to jail? I cannot find anyone in the legislature who believe this woman should go to jail. I am convinced that we will change the law.”

Bramnick referred to a bill introduced by Assemblyman Ronald Dancer several weeks after Allen’s arrest that aims to provide relief for mandatory minimum sentences for certain firearms offenses. That bill (A3608) would encourage prosecutors, like the one in Allen’s case, to use their own discretion when punishing offenders, giving them flexibility to either impose a mandatory sentence or have the defendant enter into a pretrial intervention program based on the convicted person’s background.

“That is common practice in the state,” Bramnick said, referring to the use of discretion by prosecutors in other cases across the state. “I would hope that’s what would happen in Atlantic County. Now once again, I am not here to tell the prosecutor what to do. I am simply saying that as a Minority Leader, this was not my intent when we voted for a very strict handgun law.”

Bramnick, who’s among a handful of top lawmakers in Trenton being touted as a possible gubernatorial successor to Gov. Chris Christie, said if there is no agreement between the prosecutors and the defense in Allen’s case, the legislature should take action. He called on Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-32) and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) to convene an emergency legislative session to consider Allen’s case if it came to that.

“It tugs at my heart to think about a woman going to jail under these circumstances,” Bramnick lamented, adding later that he “wouldn’t normally do a press conference with respect to one issue, but it’s just so damaging to someone’s life.”

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Bramnick Calls for More Discretion in Gun Cases

Source: WBGO FM [audio] -

The top Republican in New Jersey’s Assembly says it defies common sense to make a woman with no criminal record face a mandatory prison sentence for bringing a licensed handgun into the state.

Jon Bramnick

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick says Shaneen Allen, a mother of two from Philadelphia, would not have been guilty of anything in 30 other states when she crossed into New Jersey with a gun she’s permitted to carry in Pennsylvania.

Bramnick is pleased the Atlantic County prosecutor’s office is reviewing its decision to deny Allen entry into a pre-trial intervention program.

“It tugs at my heart to think about a woman going to jail under these circumstances and I’m convinced that the county prosecutor will probably see that a reasonable outcome would be something other than state prison time.”

If an agreement is not reached for Allen to avoid a prison sentence, Bramnick says he’ll urge legislative leaders to call an emergency session to vote on a measure giving prosecutors more discretion in such cases.

“Because we cannot have a woman without a criminal record with two children going to state prison for what I consider a serious mistake.”

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Bramnick on Legislative remedy urged for handgun case

Asbury Park Press -

The Assembly Republican leader wants a special session of the state Legislature to take up a bill clarifying the intent of handgun laws.

Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, R-Union, said he is calling for the session in large part because of the case of Shaneen Allen, the Pennsylvania woman arrested in Atlantic County in 2013 for unlawful possession of a handgun, even though the weapon was legally registered in her home state.

The state’s strict Graves Act mandates a minimum prison term of five years for violators. Allen has said she did not know it was illegal to bring the weapon into New Jersey. The Atlantic County prosecutor has declined to dismiss the charges, but he told a Superior Court judge recently that he was reviewing his office’s position on the case, according to the Press of Atlantic City.

A trial date for the case has been moved from Oct. 6 to Oct. 20.

Jon Bramnick

“There are 30 states that she could have driven through that she would not have been guilty of anything whatsoever,” Bramnick said Tuesday. “We know she made a mistake and we also know that she was technically in violation of the law of this state.”

But, Bramnick said, he knows of no one in the Legislature or in the public who believes Allen should go to jail.

Bramnick called for immediate action on a bill, A-3608, sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-Ocean, that would allow for pre-trial intervention for violators such as Allen.

“Judges should be allowed to use their discretion if there was no criminal record or intent.” Dancer said previously.

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Bramnick: Sending Shaneen Allen to prison would be a ‘mistake’

NJ 101.5 -

Philadelphia resident Shaneen Allen is a single mother of two with no criminal record, but she is facing a mandatory three-year prison term because last year she was caught with a gun in New Jersey that she’s legally allowed to possess in Pennsylvania. Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick doesn’t think Allen should go to jail as a result of the violation.

Jon Bramnick

“I’m convinced that when we passed this law that we were not looking to put Shaneen Allen in jail,” said Bramnick (R-Westfield). “We cannot have a woman without a criminal with two children going to state prison for what I consider a serious mistake.”

Under legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Jackson) judges would have the option of not sending someone like Allen to prison if the person from out-of-state is caught with a gun in New Jersey and meets three requirements.

“Number one, the individual would have no criminal record. Number two, the individual would have no known association or affiliation with any street gangs and number three, the individual must be in compliance with its home state gun laws,” Dancer said when he introduced the bill in August.

The Atlantic County prosecutor is reviewing the Allen case. If a settlement is reached that doesn’t include prison time that would be great Bramnick said, but if Allen is sent to jail the assemblyman said he will ask for a special session of the legislature to pass Dancer’s bill.

“This is a case where a woman who has no criminal record should not go to jail,” Bramnick said.

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Webber Pleased NJTEAM Act Cleared by Key Senate Panel

Source: PolitickerNJ -

The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee blew through a host of bills during its hearing in the Statehouse today.

Among the docket of bills, which included legislation aimed at raising awareness for Parkinson’s Disease (S1173) and a “Reader Privacy Act” (S967) that would extend reader privacy protections to book purchases, including the purchase of electronic books, was the New Jersey Tuition Equality for America’s Military (NJTEAM) Act (S3114), a bill which would allow military veterans who attend public colleges or universities in New Jersey to pay in-state tuition rates.

The bill’s release prompted a response from the sponsor of identical legislation in the Assembly.

Jay Webber

“Many of our returning service men and women are looking for opportunities to build a career once they leave the military,” said Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-27). “One of the avenues to pursue in that quest is continuing their education at a college or university in New Jersey. Offering in-state tuition at a public college to all American veterans can help them acquire the knowledge and skills today’s employers are seeking at a reasonable price.”

The NJTEAM Act amends current law to provide that a veteran, irrespective of where they live, will be regarded as a resident of the state for the purpose of determining tuition.

“These patriots answered the call to serve our country and helping them obtain a degree gives them a better chance at obtaining a job,” said Webber. “We want these men and women to come home to New Jersey, and express our gratitude to those who have contributed to our country’s security and have asked nothing in return.”

The senate committee released the bill with 11 votes in favor.

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Fiocchi Letter: Don’t Play Politics with People’s Livelihoods

Source: South Jersey Times -

To the Editor:

Sam Fiocchi

Sam Fiocchi

As most readers know by now, Sen. Jeff Van Drew and Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak, both D-1st Dist., trumpeted the formation of a “bipartisan economic development task force” recently. Despite their rhetoric, the reality of bipartisanship didn’t extend to me.

A few months ago when Van Drew introduced the task force resolution (SR-71), I sent a letter to Senate President Sweeney, D-3rd Dist., formally requesting to serve on the task force. Unfortunately, once news of my request became public, not only was it denied, but a new resolution was introduced (SR-78) to change the way appointments to the task force were to be made. Why?

It’s disappointing that Van Drew and Andrzejczak allowed naked partisanship to get in the way of doing what is best for the people we jointly represent. Does it make any sense that someone who was elected by the voters to represent the First Legislative District in the state Assembly and has nearly four decades of private sector experience running and growing a local business would be left off a local economic development task force?

I meet middle-class residents every day who struggle to make ends meet or keep their business afloat. Creating good-paying jobs and economic opportunity for them remains my top priority. That is why I volunteered to serve on the economic task force three months ago and am still willing to serve, despite the unfortunate political maneuverings to keep me off.

Since taking office, I’ve sponsored legislation, supported initiatives, and continued roundtable discussions with local business and community leaders I started during the campaign, aimed at reigniting our economy to put our friends and neighbors back to work.

While the Van Drew-Andrzejczak task force may yield some positive outcomes, it remains troubling to me that Van Drew, who has represented this district in Trenton for 13 years, needs another task force and another two years to tell him what’s wrong with the local economy and how to fix it.

The public rightfully expects their legislators to put aside party differences and do what’s right. We shouldn’t play politics with people’s livelihoods.

I stand ready to stop talking about these problems and start solving them. I am hopeful my Democratic colleagues here in the First Legislative District will join me in that challenge.

State Assemblyman

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Republicans support domestic violence bills passed by NJ Assembly

Source: Asbury Park Press -

With multiple references to suspended NFL star Ray Rice, the Assembly unanimously approved a half-dozen measures Monday aimed at combating domestic violence.

None of the proposals was written in response to Rice knocking his now-wife unconscious in an Atlantic City casino hotel elevator in February or last week’s video release of the incident. In fact, four of the bills have been awaiting action since 2010.

But the controversy surrounding the former Rutgers University and Baltimore Ravens running back lent a sense of immediacy to the passage of the package that would allow victims to testify by closed-circuit television and allow them to claim self-defense to justify any force they use to protect themselves from someone who is subject of a restraining order.

There are more than 70,000 domestic violence cases a year in New Jersey. More than 4,500 are severe enough to trigger a restraining order.

Rice avoided trial by agreeing to enter the state’s Pretrial Intervention Program. Charges will be dismissed if he successfully completes the program. The NFL suspended him for two games, until the video was made public. He has now been suspended indefinitely, and the Ravens terminated his contract.

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, R-Monmouth, said more protection for victims needs to be done. For instance, she said it’s unacceptable that 40,000 domestic violence cases go through municipal courts, whose judges get 90 minutes of training on the subject. She said people who testified before the Assembly committee that considered the bills said Rice’s admission to the PTI program wasn’t unique.

Caroline Casagrande

“We have a long way to go in connecting the intentions of this house – because I assure you, everyone in this house believes that if you knock a woman unconscious and drag her out of an elevator you belong in prison – and what’s actually going on in the courthouses across New Jersey,” she said.

Casagrande and 12 fellow Republican women lawmakers issued statements following the votes that called on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign over his handling of domestic violence, both the Rice issue and the indictment of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson for injuring his son by disciplining him by lashing him with a thin branch.

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