Category: Clips

Scammer goes after Asw. Handlin; she fights back

Source: Asbury Park Press -

Amy Handlin

Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, R-Monmouth, has seen many scam letters in her day, but this one got her attention.

It was from a scammer pretending to be someone by the name of “Bridget Anne Kelly,” presumably the former Christie administration official found guilty in the recent “Bridgegate” case. It didn’t mention anything about traffic problems or Fort Lee, but it did say “sup Assemblywoman” and contained a link to what Google has identified as a website that was probably hacked.

Handlin, who was a member of the joint legislative committee that investigated Bridgegate, didn’t click on the nasty link, but if she had, malware in the form of a rogue toolbar probably would have been installed on her computer. “This one got my attention because it was as though a thief was leaving bread crumbs back to the scene of the crime,” Handlin told Press on Your Side this week. “It was so brazen and so unmistakenly a scam that even I was shocked.”

Handlin has become an expert on scammers. For nearly a year, she’s been collecting examples of scams and posting them on her Facebook page on Fridays with the hashtag #FraudWatchFriday. She has worked with AARP New Jersey to combat senior fraud and the con artists who scam vulnerable residents. Con artists use the mail, email and phone calls to rip people off. “They utilize both old fashioned and new fashioned means of contact in the hopes of overwhelming older people and confusing them,” Handlin said.

“People have to recognize that scammers are very good at what they do. This is their full time job,” Handlin said. “They are going to be a step ahead of what they do unless we force them out of hiding.”

For instance, on Black Friday, Handlin sent out a warning on credit-card scams and financial cons, asking people to contact the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs if they need help. “Law enforcement can only take effective steps when patterns are established,” she said.

Another post alerted readers to a scam in which someone posing as a trooper with the State Police in Woodbine called and claimed they had to collect bail money for the homeowner’s relative who was arrested. (State police or law enforcement won’t ever call and ask for bail money for anyone.)

Handlin has received other email scams, including one that offered an “investment proposal” and another that was “regarding a Payment Reduction on your Student Loans.”

“I post examples and I tell people what they can do and what authorities they can contact and try to help raise awareness,” Handlin said.

That brings us back to that Bridget Kelly email. It’s obviously not from the real Bridget Kelly, who was convicted of conspiracy, wire fraud and civil rights violations in the Bridgegate case. According to the documents, she had a different email address. The scammer just used her name as part of the email address sent to Handlin.

Handlin surmised that maybe a scammer stole someone’s contact list and randomly selected names in the news that might get someone’s attention. Or maybe the fraudster tried to identify public officials and match it with names in the news, she said. “Obviously whatever the thinking process was, the goal was to get my attention and tempt me enough to click on that link.”

No deal, scammers. Handlin, and hopefully readers too, know not to click on links in emails.

“Our best defense is a good offense,” she said. “People need to be on the alert. They need to educate themselves.”

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Brown: Video lottery terminals another effort to expand gambling to North Jersey

Source: Press of Atlantic City -The resort’s seven remaining casinos may have dodged a bullet when voters rejected a plan to allow North Jersey casinos, but the fight to expand gambling in the state is set to continue.

Some state lawmakers are developing a plan that would allow video lottery terminals at the Monmouth Park and Meadowlands racetracks without a public vote as a way of increasing revenue to help the struggling horse-racing industry…

Chris A. Brown

Video lottery terminals, or VLTs, are machines that allow gamblers to bet on the outcome of a video game. The terminals are similar to slot machines in that each is a stand-alone device containing a random-number generator.

During the November election, voters overwhelming rejected a plan that would have cleared the way for two casinos to be built at least 72 miles from Atlantic City and in different counties.

Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, called the VLT idea a backdoor method to try to expand gambling.

“While I’m thrilled that by putting middle-class families first and standing up to political bosses and special interests we were able to defeat North Jersey casinos, it is frustrating these political bosses and special interests are ignoring the will of the people and now saying ‘voters be damned’ in trying to force North Jersey casinos on our families,” Brown said.

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Webber bill promotes equitable treatment for home-schooled students [video]

Source: NJTV News [video] -

Adam Cunard, age 14, has been playing football in a local youth league for a decade. Now that he’s a ninth grader, the league stops and he’d like to play for Seneca High School’s freshman team.

But Adam and his younger brother are home-schooled, and the Lenape Regional High School District won’t allow home-schoolers to participate in extracurricular activities.

Adam’s mother Marni says that’s not fair.

“It’s not just about football, and it’s not just about my sons. It’s about opening up all the opportunities that available in the local public school districts to all home-schoolers,” she said.

Twenty-four states have laws that allow home-schoolers to participate in outside activities like football. New Jersey is one of six states whose laws leave that up to the local district.

Adam addressed the Lenape school board last month and pleaded with board members to relax their policy and let him play.

The board declined.

Adam told the school board that night in October he felt like he was being ex-communicated from football. “I was good enough to play for our community team for ten years,” he said. “Why am I not good enough now?”

Jay Webber

Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber is aware of Adam’s story and has had a bill in for four years that would address it.

“I think this is an issue that calls for uniformity. You’ve got some schools playing with home-schoolers or independent school students and some schools who bar home-schoolers, and it doesn’t seem fair to the players on either side that some kids would be left out. Both out of fairness to the families who choose different routes to educate their kids and a sense of fairness to everybody a uniform policy seems to make sense,” said Webber.

The Lenape Regional School District is strict about its policy.

It says it’s “not authorized to review and approve the curriculum or program of students educated anywhere but at its schools” and that even enrolled students are not guaranteed a place on a team.

The federal Department of Education says 3.4 percent of American students are home-schooled.

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O’Scanlon: Courts should not be revenue generators

Source: APP.com – The chairman of the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee said Monday he wants state lawmakers to study municipal court reform after an Asbury Park Press investigation called the fairness of the system into question and showed how municipalities increasingly rely on court fines for revenue…

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Little Silver, said the Press report raised issues that should be a concern of every elected official.

Declan O'Scanlon

“We have to stop looking at motorists as ATM machines,” he said. “You want to remove any profit motivation from police enforcement of any kind. When tickets are written that don’t improve safety, it doesn’t help anybody. It’s not a reasonable way to raise revenue.”

The Press investigation found that municipalities often turn to the law for new revenue, especially in small Shore towns where municipal court revenues have nearly doubled in the last five years. Towns have the power to pass new ordinances or increase fines in old ones, enforce the fines through its police force and then send defendants to local courts headed by judges appointed by the town leaders.

Against this backdrop, municipal courts in Monmouth and Ocean counties raked in more than $26.2 million in 2015 — up $3.2 million, or 14 percent, from 2010. Municipal court revenue in 37 Monmouth and Ocean county towns increased from 2010 through 2015. The average increase was 39 percent.

“Our courts and police should not be seen as revenue generators,” said O’Scanlon, who added that his staff has been discussing the municipal money grab for a while and exploring legal remedies. “That’s not what they’re there for.”

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O’Scanlon’s Prescription Cost Savings Bill Becomes Law

Source: More Monmouth Musings -

Declan O'Scanlon

A bill sponsored by Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon that will save an estimated $200 million per year on government employees’ prescription drugs was passed by the State Assembly and signed into law by Governor Chris Christie today.

S2749/A4328 expedites the process in which the state selects contracts and controls costs for state worker prescription drugs.

“Gov. Christie has called on the legislature and unions to work together to save $250 million from the state budget, and this is a solid step in that direction,” said O’Scanlon (R—Monmouth), the Assembly Republican budget officer. “Increasing efficiencies and eliminating costly duplication will produce significant taxpayer savings without any effect on the care or benefits of workers and their families, a true win/win.”

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Schepisi: Quarterly pension payment bill protects taxpayers

Source: NJSpotlight - After failing to find any common ground for the past several years over the best way to address New Jersey’s grossly underfunded public-employee pension system, state lawmakers reached a rare, bipartisan agreement yesterday, voting in favor of legislation requiring quarterly instead of yearly state pension contributions.

The measure — which legislative leaders say they are confident Gov. Chris Christie will eventually sign — would help the $73 billion pension system by breaking up the annual state pension contribution into smaller installments that the sponsors hope will be easier for the state to afford than the lump sum that administrations typically try to make at the end of each fiscal year.

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

Depositing the payments on a quarterly basis would also protect more of the pension contribution from end-of-the-year budget cuts and allow the pension system, which is professionally managed, to generate bigger investment returns by getting more money into the system earlier in the fiscal year.

But even as legislative leaders praised their bipartisan agreement on pension funding — no lawmaker in either the Assembly or Senate voted against the measure yesterday — they also conceded that the change to the payment schedule will not have the constitutional protections long favored by public-employee unions. Instead, the quarterly payments will be required as a matter of law, just as a major public-employee benefit reform law that was enacted in 2011 called for the state to follow a strict schedule of annual pension contributions that Christie ultimately didn’t honor, citing his constitutional requirement to maintain a balanced budget…

Republicans, meanwhile, said they were willing to embrace the quarterly payment schedule as a matter of law and not as a constitutional amendment, to maintain the flexibility the state currently has to hold back spending authorized by law if it would plunge the budget into deficit. If the quarterly payments were given constitutional protections, Republicans feared the pension contributions would take precedence over other spending priorities, such as education.

“Although I was adamantly against a constitutional amendment that removed the financial flexibility lawmakers must have to manage the state’s finances, I have always supported a flexible solution that protects taxpayers,” said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen).

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Rible, Webber support quarterly pension payment legislation

 

Dave Rible

Source: NJTV – The vote today in the Senate was 35 to zero. Over in the Assembly, it was 72 to zero.

Instead of making one payment into the public worker pension funds at the end of the fiscal year, June 30, the bill would have the state make four payments, one each at the end of September, December, March and June…

The bill was to be a part of a constitutional amendment guaranteeing a full pension payment every year.

Sen. Sweeney halted that effort amid stalled talks over the funding of transportation…

The Democratic Legislature passed a similar bill in 2014 and 2015, only to see the governor veto it.

This time around Gov. Chris Christie is expected to sign it, and the bill has garnered a lot of Republican support.

“It’s a bill I sponsored in the past. I think it gives us an opportunity to try and catch up on our pension deficit and also gives us an ability if we don’t have the money to pay we do have escape laws where we come back to the Legislature to not make the payment,” said Assemblyman David Rible…

Jay Webber

“It’s good in concept because we have to make those pension payments. It does put a crimp in the budget so I think a lot of thoughtful legislators are wrestling with it this afternoon,” said Assemblyman Jay Webber…

New Jersey’s pension system recently ranked 50th out of 50 and last week the state’s credit rating was downgraded for a 10th time, largely because of pension liability. Today’s vote expresses the Legislature’s desire — both parties — to at least try to do something.

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O’Scanlon marriage ban for minors bill an effort to stop forced marriages

Source: 101.5 News – Proposed legislation that would prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from getting married was approved Monday by the Assembly.

Declan O'Scanlon

The bipartisan legislation seeks to end the current practice of allowing children, usually girls and some as young as 13, from getting married as long as they have parental consent or approval from a Family Court judge if they’re younger than 16.

An estimated 3,000 children were married in New Jersey between 1995 and 2012. Nine out of 10 were girls who were married to adult men.
Advocates and sponsors of the proposed law saw underage marriages are usually forced and sometimes lead to harmful abuse…

“In love or not, people should be old enough to understand the commitment and its ramifications,” said Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R—Monmouth. “Even more important, this legislation addresses the ‘forced marriages’ that continue to occur in current-day society.”

Fraidy Reiss, founder and executive director of Unchained At Last, a Westfield nonprofit that helps women escape forced marriages, says setting the limit at 18 years old protects underage girls who don’t have access to domestic violence shelters and attorneys.

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DeCroce: Fight for victims’ rights can never waver (Letter)

Source: Daily Record –  New Jersey recently commemorated the 25th anniversary of the passage of a state constitutional amendment to protect crime victims, sponsored by and named after my late husband and former Assembly Republican leader, Alex DeCroce.

BettyLou DeCroce

BettyLou DeCroce

For almost a quarter of a century Alex helped lead the charge in the state Assembly for victims’ rights. Unless you have been victimized, you don’t give the notion much thought. I know I didn’t until I saw a dear friend suffer a life-shattering experience when his son was killed. I took for granted that the criminal justice system would have compassion for my friend and his family, but soon realized that crime victims were treated horribly.

As a result of this tragic incident and on behalf of so many other helpless victims, Alex introduced the amendment to guarantee crime victims fair treatment and equal justice. I joined that grassroots movement and was amazed by the dedication of a few courageous survivors who had been victimized. They worked tirelessly to make the amendment a reality.

Much progress has been made during these past 25 years, but our work isn’t finished. On the same day we gathered at the Statehouse to commemorate this milestone, the state Senate passed four bills to further the cause.

One of those bills heads to the governor’s desk. The others head to the Assembly for consideration. As a legislator, I will advocate for swift action and assure you I will continue the ongoing fight for equal justice for these victims.

Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce

R-Morris, Essex, Passaic

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Schepisi voices opposition to tax on hedge fund manager fees

Source: NJSpotlight – While state lawmakers don’t have the power to rewrite the federal tax code, a bill now advancing in the New Jersey Legislature is seeking to change state tax policy to make up for what many consider to be a federal loophole that delivers a huge break to Wall Street fund managers.

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

The legislation would apply a hefty state tax on the performance fees earned by the managers of hedge funds and private-equity funds because, right now, those fees are taxed at the federal level as capital gains instead of as individual income. The savings for the fund managers comes from the higher tax rates that the federal government levies on personal income vs. capital gains.

But New Jersey could generate $100 million or more in new revenue according to some estimates by establishing a state tax on the performance fees, which are commonly referred to as “carried interest.” The legislation, however, would also need to be passed in several other neighboring states to go into effect in New Jersey…

The state Assembly Appropriations Committee voted last month along party lines in favor of the new surcharge. Eight Democrats voted for the bill, while three Republicans voted against it.

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen) cited her own experience as an investor in a partnership as the reason why she was one of the “no” votes. The partnership’s profits yielded a large tax liability for her under New Jersey laws, but no liability was assessed on the same profits for the partners who are based in Texas under that state’s laws, she said. She suggested under different circumstances she would have considered moving to escape New Jersey’s more aggressive tax policy.

“My concern in implementing something like this, we’re just incentivizing people once again to not do stuff within the state of New Jersey,” Schepisi said. “For that reason, I have to say no.”

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