Category: Clips

Schepisi: Absence of NJ Transit chief made legislators ‘look foolish’

Source: Excerpt from -

Leaders of NJ Transit skipped a legislative hearing Friday to investigate the beleaguered agency’s safety record, leadership problems and ongoing financial crisis. The decision by NJ Transit Executive Director Steve Santoro to miss the hearing, announced to legislators via text message at 9 p.m. Thursday, came three weeks after an NJ Transit train crashed into Hoboken Terminal, killing a young mother and injuring 110 people.

The text message, according to Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Madison), came just hours after the state Assembly voted unanimously to give itself subpoena power to investigate NJ Transit.NJ Transit officials, late Friday, disputed McKeon’s account that Santoro cancelled his appearance by text message.

No matter how the message was delivered, Santoro’s last-minute cancellation angered lawmakers of both parties, including some Republicans who had argued that subpoena power was unnecessary because NJ Transit officials could be trusted to produce information voluntarily.

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

“We argued against subpoena power, and it makes us look foolish … when people don’t show up,” said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R – Westwood. “This is not a partisan issue. This is about transparency.”

[In Santoro's absence, the state’s transportation commissioner, Richard Hammer, was left to do the talking. He said] Santoro did not attend the hearing because he was meeting instead with officials at the federal Railroad Administration, which is monitoring safety problems at NJ Transit, Hammer said. In an email sent to reporters Friday evening, Santoro said he will attend the legislature’s next hearing on NJ Transit, scheduled for Nov. 4.

Friday’s event, a joint hearing of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee and the Assembly Judiciary Committee, is the first step of an investigation by state legislators into NJ Transit, which has come under fire in recent months. Gordon led with questions about the safety record of the agency, which has experienced 157 train accidents since 2011, three times more than the Long Island Railroad, according to the data collected by the Federal Railroad Administration.

When Hammer finished his testimony, he stood and exited quickly out of the Statehouse Annex through a side door, as DOT staff attempted to block reporters from asking questions. Hammer climbed into a waiting SUV.

read more

Webber, Auth oppose assisted suicide bill


Jay Webber

Source: Courier Post – Over the emotional pleas of advocates and lawmakers, the Assembly narrowly passed an assisted suicide bill Thursday that would allow some terminally ill patients to seek a prescription for a lethal dose of drugs that they could then administer to themselves.

The bill now advances to the Senate, where a similar bill perished in 2014. It’s expected to be discussed and, likely, voted on at a Nov. 10 meeting of the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee…

Before the vote, one hospice nurse from Mercer County, flanked by survivors of terminal diagnoses, said that she has “never, ever had a patient ask for suicide,” and that assisted suicide “does not leave room for miracles…”

Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris, said having the option of assisted suicide might make terminally ill people feel obligated to take their own life as a way to ease stress on caregivers.

“I don’t want to live in a state or country where we give the impression to people who are disabled or sick or dying that they have an obligation to end it quickly, to preserve their assets for us or so they’re not a burden for us,” he said.

Echoed Assemblyman Robert Auth, R-Old Tappan: “They get to choose to do it, but you don’t know what type of pressure is being put on them and by whom.”

Robert Auth

Robert Auth

Auth said the bill has a “fatal flaw” in that it does not prevent a representative of an insurance company from being a witness to a patient’s written request for lethal medicine.

Webber and Auth were joined in their dissent by more than two dozen religious, medical and other organizations that held a news conference shortly before the vote.

Sarah Steele, who has outlived a terminal brain cancer diagnosis by a decade, expressed concern that having assisted suicide as an option would incentivize insurance companies to stop covering expensive forms of treatment like chemotherapy and surgery. She also worried about the example that state-sanctioned suicide would set for other non-terminally ill individuals contemplating suicide.

read more

Schepisi: Adequate providers, services needed for mental health care, drug addiction

Source: NJTV News – Mental health and addiction agencies are banding together to stop the state from transitioning to a fee-for-service health care model. That’s the system that moves away from predetermined contract fees by drawing down federal dollars. Instead it requires doctors to charge for each service provided — like tests or scans. Some experts say that leaves big gaps for state reimbursements.

“The model works in theory, but in practice the system — the mental health system is going to lose tens of million of dollars in revenue that’s going to affect people with mental illness and their families,” said Lou Schwarcz, CEO of the Mental Health Association of Morris County.

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

At a legislative breakfast in Bergen County, community health care providers and families in need of mental health services hoped to convince lawmakers that state funding cuts to charity care and the fee-for-service change would hit mental health services hard…

Patients with mental health and substance use disorder now account for nearly half of the growth in hospital emergency room visits. According to a new report from the NJ Hospital AssociationED visits increased by 117,000 patients from 2014 to 2015. Nearly 54,000 or almost 46 percent were cases of mental health or substance use disorder.

“We have such a significant issue with mental health services, drug addiction. They’re tied in together and so its something where by we need to assure we have the adequate providers and services available for our constituents,” said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi…

Event organizers say they’ve collected more than a thousand signatures on a petition from folks who will be personally affected hoping to influence the governor and legislature to keep contract dollars intact. Saying that if the financial ramifications don’t appeal to them, perhaps the human expense will.

read more

Schepisi, DiMaio weigh in on physician-assisted suicide


Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

Source: NJ 101.5 News – The Assembly plans to vote Thursday on a thorny, somber moral issue: Should terminally ill patients be able to end their life when they choose with the help of their doctor?

The Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act would allow New Jerseyans with an irreversible illness and a life expectancy of less than six months to get a prescription from their doctor for the medication that can end their life. It sets up a timeline that includes multiple requests and witnesses…

Four states currently allow physician-assisted suicide. The plan has been under consideration in New Jersey for four years. Two years it passed the Assembly with the bare minimum of 41 votes. Nine of the ‘yes’ votes were cast by people who are no longer in the Assembly…

Proponents for the disabled have lobbied hard against the bill. Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, one of four Republicans who voted for the bill in 2014, said she understands the “slippery slope” argument and that she doesn’t want to see the proposal applied to the disabled.

But after seeing eight relatives and friends die of cancer, including one who begged her to help her kill herself, Schepisi said better end-of-life options are needed.

“All I know is whether it’s better palliative care, whether or not it’s better hospice, whether or not it’s aid-in-dying, there’s got to be a better way than watching the people who I loved and cared about so much and seen how awfully they suffered in their final days,” Schepisi said.

John DiMaio

Assemblyman John DiMaio, R-Warren, opposes the proposal. He, too, points to personal experience: This year, his mother-in-law rallied a few times when it appeared she would succumb to cancer, then lived at his home for a few months before finally dying in August.

“In that period of time, she could have said, ‘Ah, I’m gone.’ But during the summer there were many days she was at the pool, in the pool — living life,” DiMaio said.

“I would like to think that every day of life she had in the sun was very important,” he said. “I know that on Aug. 2, when my wife and I were at either side of the bed, and we held her hand as she passed away, God took her that day. And that was her time.”

read more

Carroll, Ciattarelli call for action on misspent 9-1-1 system overhaul funds

Source: – State lawmakers pledged to expedite an overhaul of New Jersey’s antiquated 911 system after a report revealed that hundreds of millions of dollars raised to pay for the live-saving upgrade had been spent elsewhere.

But they conceded that finding the money will be tricky…

Michael Patrick Carroll

In 2004, lawmakers passed a 90-cent surcharge on every monthly phone bill in New Jersey, telling the public they would use the money to build a state-of-the-art 911 system to keep pace with technology – and save lives.

During the past 12 years, that added up to a whopping $1.37 billion.

But an NJ Advance Media analysis found that just 3 percent of that money, or about $42 million, has actually been put toward the upgrade since 2005, and almost nothing has been spent on it during the past eight years.

In response, federal officials said New Jersey had become the poster-child for taking money away from one of the most critical public safety systems…

The money instead goes to the Department of Law and Public Safety and the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, specifically rural policing, urban search and rescue, the Office of Homeland Security, the National Guard and the general operating budget of the New Jersey State Police.

Some lawmakers seemed frustrated with the actions of their own legislative body, bemoaning a practice that has become all too common. In New Jersey, the only way to legally dedicate money for a specified purpose is to ask voters to approve an amendment to the state Constitution.

So no matter the intent of the original 911 law, the state budget trumps all.

Jack Ciattarelli

“The only way that you don’t get the wool pulled over your eyes as a voter is if you insist it gets constitutionally dedicated,” Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris) said. “A tax is always for general funding purposes no matter what the sponsors say…”

Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-Somerset), who has announced plans to run for governor in 2017, proposed expanding the fee to include prepaid phones, calling the current arrangement unfair.

“Using tax dollars for anything other than their intended purpose is wrong and erodes the public trust,” Ciattarelli said. “When one considers that our 911 communication system saves lives, it’s critical that it remain state-of-the-art. We need to right this wrong and ensure the public safety.”

read more

Bramnick: Trump talking about media bias


Jon Bramnick

Source: NJTV News – “They even want to try to rig the election at the voting booths. And believe me, there’s a lot going on,” said Donald Trump.

Trump claims millions of illegal votes will game the presidential election, but that’s not what he actually means, according to various surrogates — including Gov. Chris Christie. The governor didn’t take questions after today’s town hall in New Providence, but yesterday Christie told NBC that the problem’s not intentional or mechanical fraud — but rather the media’s rigged news coverage. He says mainstream media ignores Hillary Clinton’s Wikileaked documents, but focuses instead on Trump’s alleged sex scandals…

“He’s talking about media bias. And there may be some evidence of that, but there’s no evidence of any rigged election, meaning the clerks of this state are somehow in somebody’s pocket. That’s not true in New Jersey and I don’t think it’s true nationally,” said Assemblyman Jon Bramnick.

Bramnick warned accusations of rigged elections undermine the public’s faith and that Trump the businessman perhaps doesn’t realize the political implications.

“If you lose an election and you say it was stolen — meaning something was done that was illegal or there was fraud — that’s a message to your constituents that the result is unfair. And in this country, historically the transition of power from Democrat to Republican, from Republican to Democrat, is a model for the world,” Bramnick said.

read more

Dancer: Gas Tax Hike Will Impact Price of Everything From Baby Lotion to Shoe Polish


Ron Dancer

Source: SaveJersey – Fuel isn’t the only thing bound to get more expensive when New Jersey’s gas tax rises 23-cents per gallon on November 1st, Save Jerseyans.

On Tuesday, good old Assemblyman Ron Dancer pointed out how everyday household products, ranging from deodorant and baby lotion to toothpaste and shoe polish, are petroleum-based products and will consequently increase in price along with gasoline.

“It isn’t just a gas tax, it’s a petroleum products tax,” explained Dancer. “This will raise the price of everyday items like baby lotion and baby oil, hair care products, cold cream and lip balm, cooking spray, body and skin care lotion, even shoe polish. In fact, all consumer products that aren’t directly taxed will cost more at the check-out due to increased truck transportation costs as a result of this tax also being applied to diesel fuel with a fully phased-in 29 cent per gallon increase.”

The list of petroleum products is extensive (here’s a more extensive list). In fact, Americans consume the equivalent of three-and-a-half gallons of oil every day.

It’s just one more reason why the gas tax advocates’ tired “out-of-staters will pay much of the tax’s cost” line is utter and complete garbage.

read more

Editorial supports Dancer’s consumer protection bill

Source: Asbury Park Press editorial -

Many of us read online customer reviews to get a better sense of whether we should spend our money on a particular restaurant, hotel, lawn service or book, or utilize the services of a particular doctor, dentist or financial adviser.

Those reviews often tell us what those who provide the goods or services will not. It helps make the free market work as intended. It helps us separate the excellent from the mediocre from the substandard. It helps counteract the propaganda of the provider with the experiences of other consumers. It helps the consumer know the truth about a product or service — or at least something more closely approximating it than information or images included on the business’ website.

Unfortunately, many businesses and service providers have begun to insert clauses in their contracts that prevent us from posting any negative reviews online. Positive reviews, no problem?

Ron Dancer

To correct this imbalance, Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-Ocean, has introduced legislation that would prohibit so-called “anti-disparagement” provisions in consumer contracts and service agreements that waive a consumer’s right to make any statements regarding a business’ goods or services or penalize them for saying anything negative about it.

Most consumers aren’t aware of the gag clauses, which are generally secreted within boilerplate language found online when customers click the “accept” button under “terms and conditions.” Few bother to read them. In written contracts, the non-disparagement clause can be found in the fine print.

“This is about freedom of speech and a person’s right to express their opinion,” Dancer said. “If someone has a good experience with a company’s product or service, businesses welcome those positive reviews, but if they’ve had a bad experience some businesses are trying to silence consumers by threatening them with lawsuits. It’s wrong.” We agree.

Under Dancer’s bill (A-3141), violators would face up to $5,000 for a first offense and up to $10,000 for each subsequent offense. It also would allow consumers to seek civil damages.

Two other states have passed similar laws — California and Maryland. The California law bars companies from using non-disparagement clauses unless consumers waive their right to complain. The Maryland law deems gag clauses a deceptive trade practice under the state’s consumer protection law. Violators are subject to civil and criminal penalties.

At the federal level, a bill co-sponsored by Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J., that passed the House last month would void existing non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts and give the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general the authority to take enforcement action against businesses that attempt to use such clauses to silence consumers. A similar Senate bill awaits action.

If passage in Washington makes Dancer’s bill moot, so much the better. If the legislation stalls or gets watered down, New Jersey lawmakers should waste no time in moving ahead with Dancer’s version. Consumers (voters) should have a lot to say about it if they don’t.

read more

Brown: Many questions, no answers in casino expansion legislation

Source: Excerpt from Associated Press -

New Jersey voters are still in the dark about plans to build two new casinos in the northern part of the state, even after lawmakers tried Thursday to clarify key details three weeks before a statewide referendum on the issue.

A state Assembly panel approved a non-binding resolution expressing “legislative intent” regarding the proposed construction of casinos near New York City.

But it gave no details, including where they would be built, at what rate they would be taxed, and how the resulting tax revenue would be allocated. Polling shows the question appears headed for defeat, and the two men who would build the casinos have cut off financial support for the ballot question, conceding it will likely lose.

Chris A. Brown

“We are being told this resolution will clarify questions so the voters can make an informed decision,” said Assemblyman Chris Brown, an Atlantic City-area Republican and one of the staunchest opponents of the ballot question that would amend the state Constitution to permit casino gambling outside the seaside gambling resort.

“We are telling people it’s going to answer their questions, yet there is not one spot in the bill where it tells you where the casinos are going,” he said. “There is no mention of what the tax rate is. This is simply deja vu all over again, the same recycled argument that you’re not backing by any facts. There aren’t any.”

Assemblyman John McKeon, a north Jersey Democrat who supports expanding casinos to his part of the state, said he is frustrated that the ballot question that’s going before the voters leaves so much unsettled.

“It is rife with ambiguities,” he said. “North Jersey casinos are coming, if not this time, then in two years, when we may get smart enough to say, ‘It’s going to be in the Meadowlands.’”

read more

Rumana on vote against ban on hunting black bears

Source: Excerpt from the Bergen Record -

The Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee voted 5-1 to advance a bill that would end the legal hunting of black bears, such as the hunt currently underway in northern New Jersey.

By an identical vote, the committee also forwarded a resolution that opposes any expansion of the legal bear hunting season and calls for it to be restricted to the original six-day hunt.

Scott Rumana

The lone dissenter on both votes was Assemblyman Scott Rumana, R-Wayne, who described himself as an animal lover and not a hunter.

Rumana said allowing the bear population to grow unchecked is not a solution.

“These are animals that have the potential to harm and kill humans,” Rumana said.

“If we find a way to have birth control or population control I’d be all ears for that as opposed to hunting,” Rumana added. “But right now, that is the one thing we can do to tamp down the population growth.”

Ed Wengryn, research associate for the New Jersey Farm Bureau, said letting the bear population expand will create crop and livestock losses for farmers. He said bee keepers as far south as Monmouth County have reported bears breaking into their hives.

“We already know there are bears in the Pinelands,” Wengryn said after the hearing. “If they get into the cranberries and blueberries, they could devastate those crops.”

The hearing came as the state’s first bow-hunting season in more than 40 years for black bear is underway. In the first three days, 368 bears had been killed during the bow hunt in Northern New Jersey, which continues through Saturday.

read more

Page 1 of 36212345102030...Last »