Category: Clips

O’Scanlon bill expanding teacher arbitration panel signed into law

Philadelphia Inquirer -

Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation Friday that doubles the size of a teacher arbitration panel.

The measure had passed unanimously in the Assembly and state Senate.

The new measure amends a 2012 law that established binding arbitration in contested cases over dismissal or reduced pay for tenured teachers.

The new law increases the panel of arbitrators from 25 to 50.

Declan O'Scanlon

Republican Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon sponsored the legislation and says it was needed to relieve a backlog of cases.

“There’s a lot of work to do. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done quicker. It’s a win-win,” he said.

He could not say specifically how

He could not say specifically how large the backlog was.

The arbitrators are chosen by the New Jersey Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the New Jersey School Boards Association, and the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association

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Carroll on State Supreme Court order for new hearings in immigration amnesty cases [video]

Source: NJTV News [video] -

Immigration rights attorney Brian O’Neil and frequent immigration critic and state Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll agree with the New Jersey Supreme Court decision that orders new hearings for three immigrants from El Salvador and India.

 

Michael Patrick Carroll

“I think they got the law right,” said Carroll.

“I think it will create a far greater level of certainty of a judication. One of the problems that we’ve seen statewide has been the adoption of widely different standards of the different county judges,” said O’Neil.

If the three immigrants can prove they were abused, neglected or abandoned in their home countries, they can avoid deportation and then ask the federal government if they may stay here and become citizens.

In a separate case, a year ago NJTV News told you about 15-year-old Jose who can now ask to stay. Jose’s father had left the family, but the father’s girlfriend kept coming and violently tearing up their house in Guatemala.

In the Supreme Court case of the boy from India who was working 75 hours a week in construction and stayed sickly — a state appellate court judge cast doubt he was fleeing abuse, pointing out the boy’s mother helped him get away — through Mexico and to the U.S. The judge wrote he was questioning the boy’s true motives.

“Let’s assume he was abused as a child in India, send him back on his 18th birthday. He’s 21 now. Why should he be in this country? Go help out India. India can use all the help it can get,” said Carroll.

But, Supreme Court Justice Mary Catherine Cuff said the motive’s decision belongs to the federal government. She says, “The determination of whether a child should be classified as a special immigrant juvenile rests squarely with the federal government.”

Cuff also wrote “permitting (the boy) to work long hours in a construction job and failing to provide basic care and medical attention constituted gross negligence.”

“It strikes me again that there’s no reason why this country has to be the refuge of first resort for two-thirds of the world’s population,” Carroll said.

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Ciattarelli: A reform plan to solve teachers’ pension problem once and for all

Source: The Star-Ledger [Op-Ed by Jack Ciattarelli] -

Jack Ciattarelli

For decades, Trenton politicians from both parties have shied away from providing real long-term solutions. We can’t afford to wait any longer.

Why are pension systems for municipal and county employees, as well as the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, all solvent? Because the employer pension contributions to these systems are funded by property taxes that, while too high, are a very stable funding source.

Employer pension contributions for teachers are funded by the state, making teachers the exception – they’re the only local public employee whose employer pension contributions are not funded by property taxes. There’s a fundamental problem with this. State taxes on income, sales, corporate profits and casino revenues – the state’s primary sources of revenue – are all highly volatile. Case in point, during the recession, state tax revenues plummeted $6 billion in 24 months.

When state revenues plummet or don’t grow, choices are made. For nearly 30 years, New Jersey chose repeatedly not to shut down government; not to stop funding schools, hospitals or health care for the poor; and not to stop supporting 26,000-plus disabled citizens. Administrations and legislatures past and present also chose not to make adequate pension payments. Worse yet, they chose not to address all the other things that increase the unfunded liability exponentially.

Many say “just make the pension payment,” but that’s not realistic, and the state Supreme Court agrees. Indeed, in its recent decision, the court said it has no constitutional power to order payment of state expenses. The court also said the state can’t pay with what it doesn’t have.

A comprehensive reform plan that we can honor and afford – one that solves the teachers’ pension problem once and for all – is desperately needed.

We need a plan that reduces the unfunded liability while adding $3-plus billion to the current annual pension payment. Here’s a plan:

  • No community is allowed to fund less than 25 percent of their school budget through the local tax levy (some communities fund less than 15 percent of their school budget, while others fund more than 90 percent)
  • No community can abate school property taxes on new development (to encourage development, communities can abate municipal and county taxes if they so choose)
  • For all current and future teacher retirees, no post-retirement Medicare Part B reimbursement if their pension plus social security equals or exceeds $30,000 per year
  • For all teachers with less than 10 years in system, pension account is switched over to defined contribution pension plan (e.g., 401(k))
  • • All newly hired teachers go immediately into defined contribution pension plan (e.g., 401(k)) and their pension and Social Security are paid for by the local school district, not the state
  • “Cadillac” health insurance plans are discontinued for all newly hired teachers and all others at end of current contract

The personnel-specific reforms would apply to all non-teacher school district employees, as well as all municipal, county and state workers too.

The timing is perfect for the “cost shift” aspects of this plan. First, baby boomers will generate a tsunami of retirements in the next 10 years – teachers in higher salary ranges will be replaced by new hires in lower salary ranges. Second, the Affordable Care Act’s 2018 40 percent excise tax on “Cadillac” plans provides strong incentive for significant health insurance savings for both employer and employee.

Without exacerbating the property tax crisis and making any one group bear the entire burden of the crisis, this plan fully funds teachers’ pensions in an equitable way. Just as importantly, this plan demonstrates a willingness to truly address and resolve the teachers’ pension system.

Tangentially, there is discussion taking place on casinos outside Atlantic City. If these casinos materialize in places like Newark, Jersey City or the Meadowlands, the usual tax on casino revenues should not be collected by the state, but by the host city to support the local school system. This would free up another $500 million to $1 billion of state revenues for teacher’s pensions.

John F. Kennedy once said, “What man has created, man can solve.” What we’ve created in New Jersey, we need to solve, and soon. All we need is a plan.

Jack Ciattarelli is a Republican representing Somerset County in the New Jersey Assembly.

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Wolfe-McGuckin bill targets traffic jughandles

Source: NJ 101.5 -

There is a push to not only ban the construction of any new jughandles in the Garden State, but to prohibit even the planning or designing of them.

Gregory P. McGuckin

Dave Wolfe

Legislation (S-493) sponsored by Holzapfel would bar additional jughandles. It would apply to roads or highways under the jurisdiction of the state, counties, municipalities, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the South Jersey Transportation Authority. An identical version (A-2330) is sponsored in the Assembly by Holzapfel’s district mates Dave Wolfe (R-Brick) and Greg McGuckin (R-Brick).

“Jughandles improve traffic flow and they cost less than a left hand turn signal because you don’t have to buy up as much land. To me it’s just wasted money that could be used to make more roads, better roads, repair the roads,” Holzapfel explained.

DOT communications director Steve Schapiro said the department does not comment on pending legislation, but he did say the costs of signals at an intersection with a left-hand turn signal would be comparable to the costs of an intersection with a jughandle.

Some advantages of jughandles according to Schapiro include:

  • Reducing the number of vehicle conflict points (areas of potential collisions) when left turns are removed from an intersection;
  • Slower turning movements are kept to the right lane rather than mixed into the right lane for right turns and the left lane for left turns, which allows faster moving through traffic to be less impeded in the left lane;
  • Pedestrians benefit from a jughandle designed intersection because on undivided roadways, introducing left turn lanes create additional crossing width and longer crossing times for a pedestrian. This increases the exposure to vehicles and causes more delays for the highway movement. In addition, the highway left turn movement is another possible conflict to the pedestrian crossing the side street;
  • Some highways do not have enough width to have a separate left turn lane or the area for a left turn lane may not provide enough room for vehicles to safely wait to make a turn without impeding through traffic; and
  • When jughandles are used, the amount of green signal time can be increased for all travelers because time is not required for exclusive left turn only movements.

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Fiocchi: Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants a Mistake

Source: PolitickerNJ -

Sam Fiocchi

Sam Fiocchi

Following the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders’ decision to officially urge the legislature to pass bills A4425 and S2925, which would make it easier for undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, incumbent Assemblymen Sam Fiocchi says the resolution is a mistake.

“We strongly disagree with the decision by Cumberland County to pass a resolution in support of giving drivers licenses to illegal immigrants,” said Fiocchi in a statement.

“We won’t fix the immigration mess in this country by rewarding illegal behavior. This will only incentivize more undocumented workers to pour over our borders in violation of our laws,” they continued, citing the bill and another measure to offer undocumented students in-state tuition.

The vote saw bipartisan support on the board, and comes after testimony from local undocumented families, who say that their livelihoods depend on being able to drive.

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Dancer proposes alternative to controversial pipeline route

Source: Burlington County Times -

Opponents of a proposed natural gas pipeline through northern Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean counties continued to make their case Wednesday during the third and final public hearing on the proposed project.

Held at the Enterprise Center at Rowan College at Burlington County in Mount Laurel, the hearing was dominated by opponents who urged state regulators to either reject the pipeline altogether or order the utility company proposing it to choose a different route farther away from homes and businesses.

Ron Dancer

During Wednesday’s hearing, Dancer testified that he met with the commander of the joint base this week and that he agreed to order a feasibility study of possibly routing the pipeline through a larger portion of the military base.

“We’re hoping to take this proposed route out of these communities and either onto the joint base, where it will have some use, or down an existing right of way,” he said.

At issue is New Jersey Natural Gas’ proposed Southern Reliability Link, a proposed 28-mile high-pressure transmission line that the utility company is seeking approval from the state Board of Public Utilities to build and operate.

The proposed pipeline route would run from Chesterfield through North Hanover, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and several towns in Monmouth and Ocean counties before connecting with New Jersey Natural Gas’ system in Manchester, Ocean County.

It would provide a second major transmission feed to the company’s service area, which is predominantly Ocean and Monmouth counties. It also includes parts of the joint base and small sections of Morris and Middlesex counties and Bass River in Burlington County.

While the company claims the line is needed to provide reliability and resiliency, particularly in the event of a major disaster like Superstorm Sandy, the project has generated plenty of opposition, mostly from environmental groups and from residents and elected officials concerned that the proposed route is too close to area homes and businesses.

At least 140 occupied homes and businesses are within 100 feet of the proposed pipeline route, and opponents say a gas explosion or leak could be devastating.

While New Jersey Natural Gas officials have stressed that the line would be built according to stringent state and federal standards with numerous safety controls in place, residents complained that there was no way to guarantee an accident would not occur.

Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, R-12th of Plumsted, as well as Chesterfield Mayor Jeremy Liedka and Committeeman Alex Robotin, called on the company and BPU to consider an alternative route that uses the median of Route 68 and existing utility easements used by Jersey Central Power & Light.

New Jersey Natural Gas officials have said the JCP&L route is not viable because it goes through preserved farmland. But Dancer said he has introduced legislation to permit natural gas pipelines on preserved farms, provided there are already utility easements on them and the line would serve a federal military installation.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Dancer testified that he met with the commander of the joint base this week and that he agreed to order a feasibility study of possibly routing the pipeline through a larger portion of the military base.

Doing so would avoid most of the homes and businesses in Chesterfield and North Hanover, Dancer said, adding that he also has discussed the alternative with representatives from Gov. Chris Christie’s office and the New Jersey Agriculture Development Board, which oversees rules for preserved farms.

“We’re hoping to take this proposed route out of these communities and either onto the joint base, where it will have some use, or down an existing right of way,” he said.

Other opponents cited the proposed route through a portion of the Pinelands Reserve, home of rare and endangered plants and animals and a major source of clean water.

 

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Ciattarelli seeks dialogue with NJEA on pension reform

Source: NJ 101.5 -

Jack Ciattarelli

Many New Jerseyans want the state to make full payments into the public employees pension system, but the Garden State simply does not have the money, according to a legislator who is working on new pension reforms.

The ideas include changes for the state’s teachers and that was not well-received by the New Jersey Education Association.

“It’s becoming more and more difficult to navigate our fiscal obstacle course and a lot of that has to do with us meeting these (pension payment) obligations,” said Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-Somerville). “In a state that already has one of the highest income tax rates, the highest property taxes, an estate tax, one of the highest sales taxes, we have all this tax revenue and we augment it with casino revenue taxes and lotteries, how is it that we can’t make these payments? The reason is because they’re becoming more and more expensive.”

Facets of Ciattarelli’s work in progress include:

  • For all current and future teacher retirees, no post-retirement Medicare Part B reimbursement if their pension plus Social Security equals or exceeds $30,000 per year;
  • For all teachers with less than 10 years in system, pension account is switched over to cash balance defined contribution pension plan (e.g., 401k);
  • All newly hired teachers go immediately into cash balance defined contribution pension plan (e.g., 401k) and their pension and Social Security are paid for by the local school district, not the state.

“Of all the proposals in my plan the one that would have the greatest impact in the near term and we need near term impact, is the recalibration of the current school funding formula. If every community was responsible for at least 25 percent of their school budgets through the local school tax levy (property taxes) it would free up billions to meet all of our unfunded liabilities for pensions,” Ciattarelli said.

The assemblyman has not put his ideas into bill form yet because he said he would like to first speak with as many of his legislative colleagues as possible. He also wants to consult with other stakeholders including school boards, teachers and the NJEA.

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Fiocchi op-ed: Higher taxes threaten job security

Courier-Post op-ed by Sam Fiocchi -

Sam Fiocchi

Sam Fiocchi

New Jersey’ economy continues to struggle as compared to our neighbors, and South Jersey continues to trail behind the state as a whole. Unfortunately, the Trenton Democrats’ recent push for higher taxes on businesses and individuals will only make things worse.

While Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the tax hikes, the message has already been sent by the Democrats who control the Legislature: New Jersey’s hostility toward job creation and entrepreneurs will continue for as long as they are in charge.

New Jersey Democrats in the state Legislature are obsessed with taxing business and jobs out of the state. Our business tax climate, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, is ranked dead last in the nation. The critical corporate business tax ranks 41 out of 50, making the new 15 percent surcharge on business the Democrats proposed this year seem all the more ridiculous. I voted against the CBT surcharge tax. We need to stop raising taxes on businesses.

New Jersey’s slower recovery can be attributed to a long history of oppressive tax policies passed by the Trenton Democrats, including a higher income tax, business tax and sales tax. Along with their $435 million business surcharge, this year the Dems passed a $700 million income tax increase.

Fortunately for working families, I have proposed legislation that would help entice businesses to relocate here and keep residents from moving out of the state. A157 would deliver real relief to working and middle-class families, responsibly stimulating New Jersey’s economy while improving the state’s tax climate. Bills A3110, A3111 and A3386) would provide various incentives, including tax credits and exemptions that will help lower costs for companies, making our area attractive to businesses. To match job seekers with employer demands, I also co-sponsored a package of vocational-technical career development program bills (A3334, A3335, A3337 and A3338 that were signed into law by the governor in December.

A Boston College study found that between the Democrat-controlled years of 2004 through 2008, New Jersey experienced a total decline in wealth of more than $160 million.

In recent years, the cumulative impact of New Jersey’s business taxes has triggered the exodus of major corporations and employers including Mercedes-Benz, the Hertz Corporation, Ocean Spray and Estee Lauder. Mercedes was lured by Georgia’s eighth-lowest corporate tax rate in the nation. Hertz moved to Florida, where the corporate tax is barely half the New Jersey rate.

New Jersey economy competes in a global marketplace. The tax structure of a state impacts a company’s cost of doing business. Increasing taxes does nothing to attract companies to operate in New Jersey. The reality is that when costs increase, a business examines its entire operation for opportunities to reduce expenses.

Today, employers give serious consideration to relocating to a more-business friendly state (or country) if it can lower its cost structure. Property, income and sales taxes all impact the success of an operation.

We dodged a bullet this time with the tax increases that were vetoed, but even that isn’t enough. An across-the-board cut to business tax will serve as a catalyst for job growth and economic opportunity for middle-class families.

Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi, R-Vineland, represents the 1st Legislative District.

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Ciattarelli seeks dialogue with NJEA on pension reform

NJ 101.5 -

Many New Jerseyans want the state to make full payments into the public employees pension system, but the Garden State simply does not have the money, according to a legislator who is working on new pension reforms.

The ideas include changes for the state’s teachers and that was not well-received by the New Jersey Education Association.

Jack Ciattarelli

“It’s becoming more and more difficult to navigate our fiscal obstacle course and a lot of that has to do with us meeting these (pension payment) obligations,” said Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-Somerville). “In a state that already has one of the highest income tax rates, the highest property taxes, an estate tax, one of the highest sales taxes, we have all this tax revenue and we augment it with casino revenue taxes and lotteries, how is it that we can’t make these payments? The reason is because they’re becoming more and more expensive.”

Facets of Ciattarelli’s work in progress include:

For all current and future teacher retirees, no post-retirement Medicare Part B reimbursement if their pension plus Social Security equals or exceeds $30,000 per year;

For all teachers with less than 10 years in system, pension account is switched over to cash balance defined contribution pension plan (e.g., 401k);

All newly hired teachers go immediately into cash balance defined contribution pension plan (e.g., 401k) and their pension and Social Security are paid for by the local school district, not the state.

“Of all the proposals in my plan the one that would have the greatest impact in the near term and we need near term impact, is the recalibration of the current school funding formula. If every community was responsible for at least 25 percent of their school budgets through the local school tax levy (property taxes) it would free up billions to meet all of our unfunded liabilities for pensions,” Ciattarelli said.

The assemblyman has not put his ideas into bill form yet because he said he would like to first speak with as many of his legislative colleagues as possible. He also wants to consult with other stakeholders including school boards, teachers and the NJEA.

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Ciattarelli wants to work with NJEA, despite no support

Courier News -

Jack Ciattarelli

Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, R-16th District, will meet with the president of the state teachers union to discuss the organization’s endorsement of the assemblyman’s opponents in the November election.

Ciattarelli requested the meeting with New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) president Wendell Steinhauer after the union decided earlier this month not to endorse him or his incumbent running mate Donna Simon, but to back their Democratic challengers, Maureen Veller and Andrew Zwicker.

In a statement released earlier this week, Ciattarelli expressed disappointment in the wording of the NJEA press release announcing the statewide endorsements of 54 candidates, all Democrats, in the Assembly race which will top the November ballot.

Steinhauer was quoted in the NJEA release that “now, more than ever, NJEA members understand the vital importance of electing pro-public education candidates.”

Ciattarelli said he was disappointed that the NJEA’s leadership “can seemingly place partisanship over problem-solving.”

The two-term assemblyman specifically challenged the NJEA statement that the candidates who did not receive the endorsement were not “pro-public education.”

He also said the wording in the NJEA endorsement could “possibly escalate tensions in the community between the union and elected leadership.”

“Is the NJEA saying only those who are in perfect agreement with the union are pro-public education?” Ciattarelli continued.

In the NJEA statement Steinhauer said, “we have seen the impact of short-sighted policies such as the increased emphasis on standardized testing and the failure to fully fund public employee pensions. Those are the wrong choices for New Jersey and they threaten to undermine our great public schools, which are among the best in the nation.”

Ciattarelli said he “fully supports public education” and that he has offered a “comprehensive and detailed plan” to reform teachers’ pensions, that also includes a new school funding formula and adds more than $3 billion to the teachers’ pension fund.

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