Category: Clips

Space, Phoebus applaud Christie’s conditional vetoes on smart guns, handgun permits bills

Source: Associated Press -

Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday rejected legislation to increase the sales of smart guns, saying the measure would make the state “inhospitable” to legal gun ownership.

Christie, a Republican, conditionally vetoed the measure that would have required state gun retailers to keep an inventory of smart guns, which can be fired only by authorized users. He sharply criticized the Democrat-led Legislature, which sent him the bill for the second time this year in June. He had previously pocket-vetoed the measure.

“This bill is reflective of the relentless campaign by the Democratic legislature to make New Jersey as inhospitable as possible to lawful gun ownership and sales, and I refuse to allow that to happen,” Christie said.

Democrats said Christie’s veto amounted to an attempt to “pander” to out-of-state pro-gun groups.

Parker Space

The three Republican legislators in the 24th District — state Sen. Steve Oroho and Assembly members Parker Space and Gail Phoebus — issued a joint statement praising Christie.

In their statement, Oroho, Space and Phoeubus said:

“We applaud Governor Christie’s conditional vetoes issued today on A-3689 and S-816 and we urge Democrat legislative leadership to post these changes for a vote when the legislature convenes in September. We have long been supporters of concealed carry and repealing the ‘smart-gun’ mandate.

“Unlike New Jersey, over 40 states have some type of shall-issue concealed carry laws,” the three lawmakers said. “We have been behind the times in enacting this important self-defense legislation and we believe the time is now to allow law-abiding citizens the right to protect themselves and their families. In addition, repealing New Jersey’s “smart gun” law is the prudent thing to do since this technology does not exist. The 2002 law was a back-door ban on handguns.

Gail Phoebus

Gail Phoebus

“Gun ownership is an individual right enshrined in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and reiterated in the Heller and McDonald United States Supreme Court decisions. New Jersey’s gun laws have consistently been ranked as some of the toughest in the nation and law-abiding gun owners have abided by them even when they have not necessarily agreed with the strict limitations. After many attacks on our rights which have gone way too far, we are pleased the Governor took the action he did today,” their statement concluded.

The legislation would have required New Jersey gun retailers to keep an inventory of the weapons and would have amended a 2002 law regarding smart guns.

The 2002 law mandates that retailers begin selling only smart, or personalized, handguns within three years of them being available anywhere in the country, but the law has never gone into effect because no guns have been classified as meeting the criteria necessary for the requirement.

Lawmakers say the existing law had the unintended consequence of delaying the sale of personalized handguns because opponents pressured gun retailers in other states not to sell the weapons.

Gun rights activists worried that actions to market smart guns in Maryland and California in 2014 could have activated the law in New Jersey. They argued that the vetoed legislation amounted to an attempt to compel the market to accept “dangerous and unreliable technology.”

The company Armatix markets a .22-caliber handgun that can only be fired if it’s within range of a unique wristwatch, but New Jersey’s Christie-appointed attorney general determined in 2014 that the weapon does not meet the state’s definition of a personalized handgun.

Christie also conditionally vetoed another bill requiring residents to show a “justifiable need” to obtain a firearm permit. Christie instead called for lawmakers to make it easier for residents to obtain a permit.

Under current law, residents seeking a handgun permit must apply to their local police chief and a Superior Court judge and show a “justifiable need,” defined under regulations as the urgent need for self-protection, to obtain the weapon. The legislation would have made the stricter definition state law.

Christie, who earlier announced regulatory changes to make it easier for resident to get guns, criticized the proposal and said the “justifiable need” standard has made it “nearly impossible” for residents to obtain a concealed carry permit.

 

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O’Scanlon, Bucco join Gov. Christie’s efforts to increase efficiency at MVC

Source: Morristown Patch -

Gov. Chris Christie ended online driver’s license fees and took other steps aimed at reducing Motor Vehicle Commission wait times and costs on Wednesday.

Christie visited the Randolph MVC agency to announce the new initiatives and improvements to existing programs that he says will cut transaction times and make it easier for drivers to access services.

The changes include:

  • To reduce demand at the end of the month, Christie called on the state Legislature to pass a bill that would change driver license and registration expiration dates to drivers’ birthdays instead of the last day of the month.
  • To encourage use of MVC’s online tools, the MVC will eliminate online transaction fees by Oct. 1.
  • The MVC will continue to post on its website updated wait times at each agency location and identify low-volume agencies, as well as offer online scheduling of driver tests and online suspension/restoration appointments.
  • Starting in early 2017, the MVC will launch two mobile agency units that will be able to perform all transactions that existing agencies can, with the exception of driver testing and titles. They will be deployed in the event of unforeseen agency outages and also will be utilized to service the needs of varying populations.
  • The MVC also is working with AAA to develop a system for customers to be able to renew their registration through certain AAA offices.

“Providing excellent customer service at MVC and throughout state government has been a key component of my administration,” said Christie. “MVC is continually looking for ways to enhance the customer experience and streamline the transaction process. With these new initiatives, customers will have more options to conduct their business either online or at a variety of locations with some express options.”

Declan O'Scanlon

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, unveiled legislation later Wednesday to curb wait times at motor vehicle offices.

O’Scanlon’s proposal would change driver’s license expiration dates to each driver’s birth date. Currently, licenses in New Jersey expire at the end of each driver’s birth month – leaving MVC offices with long wait times at the end of the month that deal with a large volume of license renewals, he said.

“I’ve been working with Governor Christie’s administration on legislation that would ease the long wait times that New Jersey drivers experience when renewing their license at their local MVC office,” he said. “I am pleased that the Governor has thrown his support behind this common sense solution to a serious problem facing New Jersey’s drivers. I urge legislative leadership in both houses to post the bill – which will be introduced during our next session day – so we can end unnecessarily long wait times for New Jersey residents and drivers.

Anthony M. Bucco

Deputy Republican Leader Anthony M. Bucco, R-Morris, offered support for Christie’s proposals and plans.

“The process should be more efficient. I proudly support the governor’s reasonable changes,” he said. “These reforms will increase satisfaction, reduce transaction times and help eliminate frustration levels for New Jersey drivers. I look forward to working with the administration and plan to sponsor the legislation implementing these reforms.”

To reduce the time of license renewal transactions, many agencies have implemented a driver’s license express process that allows customers to bypass the ID check stations.

MVC also has increased the number of “Enhanced Digital Driver’s License” cameras in 10 of its busiest agencies — Bakers Basin, Springfield, East Orange, Turnersville, Somerville, South Plainfield, Edison, Rahway, North Bergen and Wallington.

The MVC has started the process of converting to a central issuance system to issue IDs from a central location rather than through individual agencies, which will reduce transaction times and ensure maximum security throughout the process.

Earlier this year, Christie ordered enhanced customer service training for MVC employees which focused on fundamental customer service skills, such as active listening, effective communication and conflict resolution.

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Gove, Rumpf Vehemently Oppose Gas Tax Hike

Source: The SandPaper -

Brian Rumpf

DiAnne Gove

A proposed 23-cent per gallon gas tax increase had New Jersey motorists buzzing at the end of June.

Drivers got a reprieve when that legislation, which had been passed by the Assembly and had the support of Gov. Chris Christie, died when the Senate refused to vote on the bill.

The issue, however, isn’t going away. The New Jersey Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for road and bridge projects throughout the Garden State – exceptions include the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike, which rely on toll revenue, and federally funded projects such as the work on the causeway bridges that connect LBI to the mainland – as well as New Jersey Transit expenditures such as the planned purchase of 772 cruiser buses, is running on fumes. Christie ordered a halt to work on all projects that rely on TTF funding on July 1 and that order remains in effect.

So the battle over how to replenish the fund continues in Trenton. Democrats control both houses of the Legislature, and their leaders locked horns back in June, with Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto clashing over ways to reduce the sting of a gas tax increase by reducing other taxes in the state. Prieto, backed by Christie, proposed rolling back the state’s sales tax from 7 to 6 percent; Sweeney offered a lengthy package headed by a gradual elimination of the estate tax. They could not reach agreement at that time and the 23-cent gas tax hike died.

On July 23 Sweeney and Prieto reached a complicated compromise that does not include a reduction in the sales tax but instead would phase out the estate tax over the course of 3.5 years, increase the earned income credit for the working poor, give a $500 income tax deduction for all motorists with an income under $100,000 and a $3,000 income tax exemption to all veterans. But the 23-cent gas tax increase remained.

That’s something Southern Ocean County’s legislators – Sen. Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove – won’t stand for. They released a blistering joint statement on Monday that called the gas tax hike “regressive and unconscionable.”

“Simply stated, the majority of our constituents cannot afford an excessive gas tax increase and still pay their bills …

“Unquestionably, our constituents will be even more disparately impacted by the fact that there is no mass transportation in the general area. Our legislative district is largely composed of commuters living in bedroom communities who drive considerable distances to their jobs.

“More than 126,000 of our constituents are registered EZPass users, the most of any legislative district in the state. This is significant as suburban and rural area residents will be hardest hit by the gas tax increase just as they were with the (former Gov.) Corzine toll hikes.

“In the end, our constituents won’t get a good return on having to pay more at the pump as a substantial amount of the revenue from the gas tax increase will go to fund mass transportation projects primarily located in urban areas. It will be the same situation as State school aid. Suburban and rural residents will subsidize urban areas that will receive a windfall of funding, only in this case for mass transportation.

“Worse for our district is that recreational boaters and commercial fisherman also stand to be hit hard as well, which is sure to have a ripple effect on local economies in our area, including those still recovering from Superstorm Sandy. More broadly, the increase in fuel costs incurred by businesses will only be passed on to consumers via higher-priced goods and services.”

Connors, Rumpf and Gove have a plan for funding the Transportation Trust Fund that is simplicity itself.

“One proposal already considered by the Assembly included increasing the gas tax but then reducing the sales tax by a penny. Why not dedicate a penny of the existing sales tax to fund transportation projects without raising any tax?”

Christie is expected to veto the new Democratic plan should it come to a vote so the Democrats are trying to round up enough GOP votes to override that veto, something that has not happened in Christie’s time in office. It is obvious they’ll never get those votes from Connors, Rumpf and Gove.

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Phoebus, Space honor Water Gap NRA on 100th anniversary of National Park Service

 

Gail Phoebus

Gail Phoebus

Source: New Jersey Herald - Two area state Assembly members were co-sponsors of a joint Legislature resolution which honors the National Park Service on its 100th anniversary.

The resolution, approved unanimously by the state Senate and Assembly in late June was signed by Gov. Chris Christie on Saturday, said Assembly members Gail Phoebus and Parker Space, who represent the 24th Legislative District which includes the New Jersey portion of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area…

About 35,000 of the approximately 67,000 acres of the Water Gap park are in New Jersey. Just under a third of the park’s total area is in Sussex County.

The park — all units within the NPS are informally known as “parks” — also includes the Middle Delaware Scenic and Recreational River and 28 of the 72 miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail that runs through New Jersey. “The National Park Service helps New Jersey preserve its natural and cultural heritage and create close-to-home recreational and educational opportunities,” said Phoebus. “It does a tremendous job of preserving our historical parks, trails, monuments and scenic rivers.”

Space said, “Visiting any one of the 15 natural and historical sites in New Jersey is not only enjoyable, but the tourism generated helps strengthen our economy.”

Parker Space

Among the 15 units of the park service in New Jersey are the Delaware Water Gap and the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area; three national historical parks, Morristown, Paterson Great Falls and Thomas Edison; two national trails, Appalachian and Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route; the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island national monument; five designated wild and scenic rivers, Great Egg Harbor, Middle Delaware, Lower Delaware, Maurice and Musconetcong; a national heritage area, Crossroads of the American Revolution; and the nation’s only national reserve, New Jersey Pinelands.

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Dancer: NJ Shouldn’t Tax Olympic Medals, Earnings

Source: Observer Politics – Thirty five of the athletes competing in Rio at the Olympics hail from New Jersey. Because of that, Republican legislators have introduced identical bills in both the state Senate and Assembly in order to prevent athletes from returning to the Garden State only to be faced with a massive income tax bill.

Ron Dancer

As it now stands, athletes who medal earn $25,000 for gold medals, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze from the United States Olympic Committee. Those awards are subject to state and federal income tax. Medals themselves are also taxed at value ($564 for gold, $305 for silver).

State Senator Sam Thompson and Assemblyman Ron Dancer, both of New Jersey’s 12th district, take issue with the taxation of such earnings…

“When New Jersey athletes return from the Olympics, they should not be greeted with a tax bill,” said Dancer. “Winning an Olympic medal is a tremendous feat. These men and women have worked long and hard to represent our country and state on the world stage. We should celebrate their accomplishments, not punish their success. This is a measure we can all champion in the spirit of sportsmanship and civic pride.”

If enacted, the legislation would make all medals won on or after January 1, 2012 exempt from income tax payment.

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Boys who rescued scoutmaster after bear attack honored by Bucco at Statehouse

Source: NJ Advance Media -

 

The three Boonton Township Boy Scouts who rescued their scoutmaster after a bear attack were honored for their bravery during a ceremony on Tuesday at the Statehouse.

After the scoutmaster, Christopher Petronino, was mauled inside a cave at Splitrock Reservoir in Rockaway Township during a hike on Dec. 20, the three boys — Petronino’s son, Michael, along with brothers Frankie and Vincent Lepore — managed to get him to safety.

A resolution that passed both houses of the Legislature lauded the boys for calling 911 and also placing food at the mouth of the cave to lure the bear away from the scoutmaster. It cited the boys’ “remarkable courage and presence of mind under pressure.”

The boys later used a cellphone to help guide searchers to their location after the scoutmaster was injured. The incident attracted national attention.

Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco (R-Morris), a co-sponsor of the resolution, hosted the event at the Statehouse.

“When I read their story, I was amazed,” Bucco said. “Their calm approach during such a traumatic time saved a life.”

Bucco served as a personal tour guide for the boys and their families throughout the Statehouse. The group visited the governor’s office, Assembly and Senate chambers and finished with a pizza party in the Republican caucus room.

Bucco said the boys’ scouting experience proved invaluable and said he hopes “the young men continue to stick with the Boy Scouts and continue to use the kind of critical life skills they used on Dec. 20.”

Although Christopher Petronino did not make the trip to Trenton, his wife and many other members of both families were there, Bucco said.

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NJ Legislative Leaders Can’t Even Agree to a Sit-Down on Transportation Funding

Source: Excerpt from NJSpotlight -

For over a month, political leaders in Trenton have been unable to find consensus on a way to renew the state’s nearly broke Transportation Trust Fund, and now it appears they can’t even agree on whether their next move should be getting together to work out their differences.

Legislative leaders from both parties in the Assembly say they want to organize a transportation-funding summit to expedite an end to the transportation-funding stalemate, which has led to an ongoing shutdown of road, bridge, and rail projects throughout the state that industry experts say is hurting New Jersey’s economy.

The top Republican in the Senate is also willing to attend a meeting, but that’s where things start to get a little dicey. It’s unclear right now whether Gov. Chris Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney — who have had the deepest disagreements during the impasse — will agree to participate in the proposed TTF summit. And Sweeney (D-Gloucester) instead seems committed to convincing lawmakers to try and work around the Republican governor.

So with no summit scheduled and no vote on TTF legislation on the agenda, there’s not much hope at this point that a compromise can be reached before the start of the new school year, meaning buses could be forced back onto roadways bottlenecked with numerous detours thanks to the stalled construction work.

Jon Bramnick

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union) agreed with the idea of having a TTF summit.

“It is time to work together to find a solution,” said Bramnick, who had previously called for a special legislative session on the transportation-funding issue. A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union) confirmed yesterday that he would also be willing to participate in a TTF summit.

After [Assembly Speaker] Prieto called for the TTF summit last week, Sweeney held onto hope that he could muster up enough votes for an override.

 

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Dancer Bill Would Mandate Cursive Writing for NJ Elementary School Students [video]

Source: NJTV News [video] -

Ron Dancer

“We need to make a decision in the state of New Jersey whether we want our students in our public school systems to know how to to read and write cursive or not,” said Assemblyman Ron Dancer.

Dancer of Ocean County says a 2012 School Boards Association study showed slightly more than half of the state’s districts taught cursive writing and reading. Cursive as in the written word of the Declaration of Independence and other documents in the founding of the democracy, cursive as in letters connected to other letters and cursive as in an old style of writing that’s disappearing in the digital age.

Dancer reintroduced a bill with bipartisan support to mandate New Jersey’s public elementary schools teach cursive so students can write and read it by the end of third grade. He fears as more districts don’t teach cursive, the harder it will become to mandate it as a necessity.

“So I think that this is a critical time,” Dancer said.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea to insure that cursive writing does not go by the wayside as something unnecessary,” said teacher Kimberly Crane.

Crane has been teaching for 17 years. She says she supports the bill because it doesn’t require any cursive testing and because research has shown cursive has benefits.

“The studies have shown that students develop very advanced skills with cursive writing, even more so than with printing and it’s different than typing it’s a different and advance way to communicate that we shouldn’t lose,” she said.

A 2014 Princeton-UCLA study found when college students take notes by laptop instead of writing in cursive, “they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing.” And the study concludes, “laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and re-framing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.”

Keith Kline of Handwriting Without Tears is teaching these teachers and occupational therapists how to teach cursive writing in fun ways.

“You think about this. There are workbooks there are programs for science, social studies, reading and math but the one thing they all have in common is handwriting and what’s the one thing that nobody teaches? It’s handwriting,” he said.

While opponents of mandating cursive instruction in school seem to be few in New Jersey, a 2012 Star-Ledger editorial said, “New Jersey is right to no longer require cursive in public schools.” And since the decision to teach it is up to local districts, “schools should eliminate it entirely from their regular lessons. It may be good for brain development. But it’s still a waste of time.”

The editorial concludes, “Hieroglyphics were lovely, too. But we don’t use those any more. Instead, students should spend that time learning to type — or even text — more efficiently.”

The editorial states if students can’t read the Declaration of Independence because it’s in cursive, no problem, they can just download it from the internet.

“We’ve gotten away from a lot of things that may not be the right thing to do,” Kline said.

Assemblyman Dancer finds encouragement in the debate because he says at least five other states have mandated cursive instruction in schools.

“This trend is just beginning,” he said.

Lawmakers never acted on Dancer’s other cursive writing bill.

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O’Scanlon presses for cost-saving self-service option at the pumps

Source: Excerpt from Asbury Park Press -

Could letting New Jersey residents pump their own gasoline for a discounted price help them cope from sticker shock if the gas tax goes up?

New Jersey is the only state that bars self-serve.

Declan O'Scanlon

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, and others in the Legislature rallied around a measure last year to decriminalize the act of pumping your own gas while at the same time requiring gas stations to operate to operate at least one full service gas pump island for three years.

The legislation, which would have also allowed for gas retailers to charge a lower price at the self-service pumps, did not advance.

“We absolutely should consider a self-serve option for folks that want to blunt any tax increase,’’ O’Scanlon said. “And anyone for a gas tax increase should be for a self-serve option, crafted in a way that folks who want full-serve could always get it.’’

“To be against self-serve is to be for maximizing the pain of a tax increase,’’ O’Scanlon said.

New Jersey has about 10,000 gas station attendants, who make an average of $9.05 an hour, according to the state Department of Labor. Critics of changing the law say those jobs would be at risk and would push insurance costs higher for station owners.

Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline-C-Store-Automotive Association, said his group until now had long opposed bringing self-serve to New Jersey.

But retailers have changed their position in part because “it’s getting harder and harder to hire employees willing to pump gas,’’ said Risalvato, who predicted average self-serve discounts of a dime or more per gallon if the law is changed.

 

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Schepisi: Gov’s school funding plan would benefit more than schools

Source: NorthJersey.com – Speaking for more than an hour at Triangle Manufacturing off Rt. 17, Christie warned that the window is closing on property tax relief in New Jersey, and his plan for flat funding for all public school students is the only substantive way to cut tax bills.

In Upper Saddle River, where the average property tax bill is $17,100, Christie said the formula would boost state aid to the town by 824 percent, allowing it to reduce average property taxes to about $13,500.

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

Sixty-nine of the 70 towns in Bergen County would see an increase in state aid, he said, showing “how out of whack things are” under the current education formula. Garfield would not see any increase in aid, according to the governor’s office.

“Bergen County is one of those counties where literally there are no losers in this formula,” Christie said.

Most lawmakers in both parties agree that the current school funding formula should be fixed. But Democrats, as well as the state’s largest public teachers union, vehemently oppose Christie’s plan to amend the Constitution and throw out the current weighted formula in favor of the state paying $6,599 for each public school student regardless of where they live. Critics say it is unfair and would negatively affect low-income areas while benefiting suburban districts, and Democrats have vowed to block the plan from posting a resolution that would put the ultimate decision to voters.

Christie contends that the current formula, while well intentioned, has delivered an inordinate amount of money to districts without sufficient results in high school graduate rates. On Friday he cited Asbury Park’s 66 percent graduation rate, at a cost of more than $33,000 per student each year, as the chief example of the current formula’s failure. Asbury Park spends about a quarter of its taxes on education, while Upper Saddle River – where the graduate rate is 97 percent – spends about 70 percent of its taxes on schools…

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-River Vale, said the governor’s plan would have benefits beyond schools. Bergen County has in recent years lost some major corporations because of the state’s taxes and affordability, and cutting the property tax bill would go a long way to fostering a more business-friendly environment, she said.

“If we don’t start changing these sorts of things, it impacts the larger businesses, which are disproportionately paying huge amounts of corporate property taxes in our area, and also on the small business owners,” she said. “We’ve all got to work together to support some sort of solution because people are getting really priced out of this entire region. And Bergen County is so disproportionately impacted by this.”

Christie, whose term ends in 17 months, said his plan is the only way to substantially lower property taxes.

“I don’t know who’s coming in to replace me. If it’s not a Republican, your taxes are going up,” Christie said. “We’re at a key moment here.”

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