Category: Clips

O’Scanlon fumes after 17,000 red light camera fines dismissed because drivers never got tickets

Source: The Star-Ledger -

Thousands of drivers in New Jersey were caught on camera allegedly running red lights but were never informed of the potential fines they faced because of a technical glitch.

And the state Judiciary has asked local courts to throw out all 17,000 alleged infractions.

Declan O'Scanlon

The state lawmaker who today brought the issue to the public’s attention — Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon —said it’s is just the latest example of why New Jersey’s red light camera should not be renewed when it reaches its December expiration date.

“This wasn’t 5 or 10 or even a couple of hundred instances – this total breakdown affected almost 17,000 motorists,” O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) said in a statement. “These companies incessantly tout the supposed accuracy and consistency of their systems – when the only thing consistent about the camera company representatives is their blatant misrepresentation of what the equipment does and how accurately it does it.”

Winnie Comfort, a spokeswoman for the state Judiciary, said that the issue was brought to its attention by the company — American Traffic Solutions (ATS) — on Aug. 10. Under New Jersey law, Comfort said, drivers must receive notices of the infractions within 90 days.

On Aug. 13, Comfort said, the Judiciary sent a letter to courts in the 17 towns affected to notify them, and provided them with a sample order so judges could dismiss all of the potential tickets.

American Traffic Solutions did not send out notices to drivers from May 28 to June 30, Comfort said, but the alleged infractions occurred before then and fell outside the law’s 90-day window.

Automated Traffic Solutions operates traffic cameras at about half of New Jersey’s 76 intersections that are equipped with them. The other company, Redflex, did not have the same problem.

“Recently a technical issue was discovered that impacted a small percentage of overall red-light safety camera violations,” said ATS spokesman Charles Territo in a statement.

Territo said the problem was brought about by a “server configuration change.”

“Despite the fact that all of the violations captured were reviewed and approved by law enforcement and the (Administrative Office of the Courts), out of an abundance of caution and fairness, many of violations were administratively dismissed,” Territo said. By working closely with the AOC, we have been able to resolve the issue. Each year thousands of potential violations are rejected for any number of reasons during the review process to ensure that the programs err on the side of the driver.”

But Comfort — the state court spokeswoman — said the AOC did not approve the violations because that is solely a law enforcement function. Further, she said the office asked the municipal courts to dismiss the fines because the statute requires it, not out an “abundance of caution and fairness.”

The news of the glitch comes just days after the former CEO of Redflex — New Jersey’s other red light camera operator — was indicted on federal corruption charges for allegedly bribing Chicago officials to help the company win contracts in the city. That came months after a fired executive from the Phoenix-based company claimed that the company paid bribes and gave gifts to government officials in 13 states – including New Jersey.

State Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Warren) on Wednesday called for the state Attorney General to investigate whether the company bribed any New Jersey officials.

“When a senior insider comes forward to say that red light camera companies are influencing local officials not with statistics proving safety benefits, but with gifts that are almost certainly illegal, we must take action,” Doherty said. “I call on the Attorney General to investigate the claims of Aaron Rosenberg that Redflex engaged in bribery in New Jersey to secure contracts for its red light camera systems.”

Redflex spokeswoman Jody Ryan said the company “has implemented industry leading compliance process and procedures to ensure this type of activity never happens again.”

“We are leading the industry in how public-private partnerships should be organized,” Ryan said.

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Ciattarelli to get head shaved for childhood cancer research

Source: Hillsborough Beacon -

Jack Ciattarelli

Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli will have his head shaved Sept. 28 for the annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation head-shaving fundraiser.

The event aims to raise $25,000 for childhood cancer research in honor of Rayanna Marrero.

Rayanna, a Sergeantsville girl who developed a cancer called MDS as a result of her treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and required a bone marrow transplant, lost her battle in 2012 at the age of 8.

“The St. Baldrick’s Foundation head-shaving fundraiser is a very unique and important annual event,” said Mr. Ciattarelli, who is on the Rays of Hope team. “In being one of many to have their heads shaved, the goal is to call attention to childhood cancers and the need for funding promising research.”

The assemblyman, who is a resident of Hillsborough, will have his head shaved during the event, starting at noon, at the Sergeantsville Volunteer Fire Company on Sept. 28. All are urged to turn out and cheer on all of the shavees.

There will be entertainment for the entire family, including a DJ, bake sale, food sales, children’s activities and both live and silent auctions.

Sergeantsville is part of Delaware Township, which is one of 14 municipalities in New Jersey’s 16th Legislative District, which Mr. Ciattarelli, a Republican, represents.

“I respectfully ask that fellow citizens please consider supporting my participation in this important event by making a donation through my Rays of Hope team page (www.stbaldricks.org/participants/mypage/733285/2014),” Mr. Ciattarelli said.

St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a volunteer-driven 501nonprofit that raises money for childhood cancer research. It organizes head-shaving events to bring the community together in support of parents and survivors.

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Dancer on the dangers of mandatory sentencing penalties [video]

Source: NRA News [video] -

Shaneen Allen is living a nightmare. The Pennsylvania resident and lawful gun owner of one week fell prey to New Jersey’s strict gun laws and was arrested for illegal possession of a firearm in the state. While the single mother of two young children is facing up to three and a half years in prison, one New Jersey lawmaker is trying to correct this miscarriage of justice.

Ron Dancer

Assemblyman Ron Dancer has introduced “Shaneen’s Law,” legislation that would give judges the option of not sending citizens like Shaneen Allen to prison.

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O’Scanlon blasts alleged red-light camera corruption

Star Ledger Opinion Editorial (by Paul Mulshine) -

In recent years the government has mounted what amounts to a shakedown racket of the driving public. One of the worst excesses is the red-light camera. Under the guise of promoting safety, local officials are picking motorists’ pockets.

Declan O'Scanlon

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon has been mounting a one-man campaign against these cameras. Here’s how the Monmouth County Republican reacted after news surfaced of allegations that officials from the camera companies were bribing local politicians to have them installed:

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon issued the following statement on the recent indictment of a former Redflex CEO on charges she and a top Chicago City Hall manager conspired to rig the camera business for a decade. Karen Finley, a Redflex executives who was let go amid the scandal, was indicted for her alleged involvement in a $2 million bribery scheme that ran from 2002 until 2012:

“Well this is a shocking turn of events,said no one! If cameras actually increased safety no one would have to bribe anyone for business – we’d all be lining up! How any public entity can continue to do business with Redflex in particular, but really any of these companies pitching these ineffective, thieving cameras is beyond me. Is the lure of fast cash so strong we have decided that morality doesn’t matter? We now have multiple pieces of evidence of corruption reaching the highest levels of one of the two companies operating these cameras in New Jersey. Both companies are guilty of blatantly lying about their products and misrepresenting data.”

In the winter a former top salesman for Redflex admitted to bestowing gifts and bribes on officials in dozens of municipalities within, but not limited to the following states: California, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia. He said Redflex bribed local officials with meals, golf outings and tickets to professional football and baseball games. The expenses were listed as categories such as “entertainment” and “celebratory tokens, according to a law suit filed in Arizona this February.

“This type of practice is apparently standard operating procedure for these guys. The fact that the indicted executive said he had first hand knowledge of bribes and/or gifts given to local officials in New Jersey municipalities can’t help but destroy the credibility of any local official trying to make the case that the program is effective.

“If cameras actually increased safety no one would have to bribe anyone for business – we’d all be lining up!” – Declan O’Scanlon

“The entire, tortured supposition of the red-light camera programs is that the cameras increase safety, we know that’s not true, so outright corruption isn’t that much of a stretch. This is exactly why we need to protect New Jersey drivers from these government-sponsored-scams in other jurisdictions! The cameras in New Jersey are bad, the cameras in Chicago are bad, they’re all bad, and there is no exception to that rule. December 16th – the day the camera program in New Jersey will come to a merciful end – can’t come soon enough.”

All I can say is, amen brother! Now perhaps someone could look into those companies that get towns to boot cars illegally and shake the drivers down for a multi-hundred-dollar credit-card to get the boot removed.

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Bramnick bill could prevent GPS tracking without consent

NJ 101.5 -

It is not illegal in New Jersey for someone, like an ex-husband or ex-wife to attach a GPS monitor to your car without your knowledge or consent. If you think that’s wrong you are not alone.

In an exclusive interview with Townsquare Media, Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) said he is in the process of drafting a bill to make the practice a crime.

Jon Bramnick

“I received a call from a person whose ex-wife attached a GPS device to his car and when he contacted the prosecutor’s office and the police they said there is no criminal law that indicates that’s a violation,” Bramnick said. “To me that’s an invasion of privacy.”

The proposed legislation would make it a fourth degree crime to use a GPS device to track someone’s movements without their knowledge or consent. Anyone found guilty of the crime could face up 18 months in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both. It is not likely that someone would go to jail, but it is possible Bramnick said.

“There are going to be some exceptions. For example, I think you should be able to monitor your own children. If there’s no family relationship whatsoever, that clearly should be a violation of the criminal law and there should be criminal penalties,” Bramnick said.

The bill will be officially introduced next month when the full legislature returns to Trenton, Bramnick said.

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Angelini-Dancer Bill targets suspended licenses in NJ

NJ 101.5 -

Two New Jersey lawmakers are drafting legislation to require mandatory jail time for those convicted more than once of driving with a suspended license.

The legislation is in response to an accident earlier this month when a man was struck and killed in Lacey Township. The driver of the van, Patrick Clayton, that hit the pedestrian reportedly had his license privileges taken away over two dozen times, and has not had a valid driver’s license since 2006.

Mary Pat Angelini

“The fact that people are not taking license suspensions seriously is in part why we need to really make the consequences as strong as they should be,” said Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R-Ocean).

Clayton had his license suspended 25 times for a variety of reasons, according to Angelini.

Under the bill, anyone convicted of driving with a suspended license would serve 30 days in jail for a second offense, 60 days for a third offense, 90 days for a fourth offense and a year in jail for any additional offense, if the second or higher offense occurs within a five-year period.

“Currently jail time is only ordered if a driver is driving with a suspended license and is involved in an accident that results in an injury,” Angelini said.

Angelini is set to introduce the measure in September along with Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Jackson).

Ron Dancer

“Driving while your license is suspended should entail greater penalties than a slap on the wrist,” said Dancer in an emailed press release on August 20. “By enacting a greater deterrent such as jail time, rather than just another license suspension, we can keep some of these habitual offenders off the road and hopefully prevent another tragedy.”

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Dancer: Prescribed burns in N.J. are important part of state forest management

Trenton Times op-ed by Ron Dancer -

Ron Dancer

Flames scorched 1,500 acres in Wharton State Forest April 6, with smoke reaching as far north as Somerset, Morris and Middlesex counties and beyond, to New York.

Fortunately, this particular fire in a remote portion of Burlington County was not a threat to citizens, homes or communities and was extinguished with the help of rain showers. However, such large fires, combined with unfavorable wind conditions, certainly affect air quality for residents near and far.

Prior to the forest fire, the Forest Fire Service warned of extreme fire danger, as a series of brush fires developed in Little Silver and Freehold in Monmouth County and Brick and Manchester in Ocean County. Other fires were reported in Middlesex and Salem counties, while the Pinelands saw yet another fire requiring intervention.

Passage and implementation of legislation I sponsor, A1275, known as the Prescribed Burn Act, would reduce occurrence and impact of such fires by improving our ability to conduct prescribed burning.

Fire is a natural and necessary part of our New Jersey landscape. In fact, our ecosystems and many species of wildlife have suffered as a result of reduced occurrence of fire. Routine fire suppression and a lack of planned, controlled burns result in the buildup of vegetation, pine needles and scrub trees (fuel load), allowing brush fires to develop into uncontrollable and dangerous situations.

Areas of the state such as the Pinelands historically burned more frequently and, thus, fuel loads were diminished naturally. While the Forest Service currently uses controlled burns to reduce hazardous fuel loads when possible, the scope and frequency of burns are limited by insufficient staffing and resources. My legislation addresses the lack of routine burning that results in fires that are more catastrophic to residents and our ecosystems.

Unplanned fires in close proximity to developed areas present a direct threat to homes and property, as well as to residents’ health and safety. Additionally, fires require intervention, ranging from dropping water by helicopter to on-the-ground firefighting, placing responder lives in danger and expending taxpayer dollars. The April 13 Salem City fire scorched and destroyed two fire response vehicles; fortunately, the responders escaped when the winds shifted and engulfed their trucks. Through the years, fires have destroyed homes and prompted resident evacuations, as well as the necessity of closing roads, schools and utilities.

I am a prime sponsor of A1275 because it will help prevent fires in undesirable locations and reduce the frequency and intensity of unintended wildfires by implementing prescribed burns. The legislation implements ecological burning to benefit a diversity of species and reduce the risk of uncontrollable wildfires. Ecological thinning by mechanical means will complement prescribed fire and will reduce wildfire hazards.

The measure will also increase the number of trained professionals that can burn during the safest window of time and shield from liability private property owners who conduct controlled burns, unless negligence is documented.

It’s time for New Jersey to update its approach to fire. Nine southern states and Pennsylvania have enacted legislation to authorize and promote continued use of prescribed burning of forests. A1275 will better protect public safety and improve the health of our ecosystems by creating younger forests that are valuable for many species of declining plants and animals. Pine Barrens tree frogs and red-headed woodpeckers are examples of species that benefit from fire, because it maintains the habitat they require.

The prescribed burn bill will benefit New Jersey residents and ensure that we are properly caring for our natural resources. The Legislature supported the measure unanimously in both houses during the last legislative session. In order to become law, A1275 must be passed by both houses again and signed by the governor. In June, the General Assembly unanimously approved the bill, which now awaits consideration by the Senate.

Ronald Dancer (R-Plumstead) represents the 12th District in the New Jersey General Assembly.

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Ciattarelli talks about increasing safety regulations for rail tankers

NJ 101.5 -

Protesters in Bergen County Tuesday urged county, local and state officials to ban rail tankers from carrying crude oil through New Jersey.

Meanwhile, a trio of state lawmakers is asking the state’s congressional delegation to support new safety regulations proposed by the National Transportation Safety Board. The legislators said a recent report revealed the vast majority of the tankers do not meet the industry’s latest safety standards.

Jack Ciattarelli

The amount of crude oil that’s transported via rail has increased 4,200 percent over the past six years (and) the cars that transport that oil are really of substandard quality,” said Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-Somerville). “The steel shells on these cars fall below the thickness required to prevent perforation during, for example a derailment.”

American Association of Railroads statistics state that only 15 percent of the 92,000 tanker cars on the rails today meet the latest industry standards. The NTSB’s proposed regulations would require the tankers to meet with thickness standards and to enhance their braking systems within two years, or run the risk of being taken out of service. Support from New Jersey’s congressional delegation would help promulgate the rules, Ciattarelli said.

“I don’t want to be an alarmist, but there was a situation in Canada last year where a derailment caused a terrible accident and 47 people died,” Ciattarelli said.

Ciattarelli and his two colleagues from the 16th Legislative District, State Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Somerville) and Assemblywoman Donna Simon (R-Flemington), sent a letter to the Garden State congressional delegation formally requesting support for the NTSB proposal.

On Tuesday, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada released a report that named 18 factors in the 2013 Lac-Megantic, Quebec train derailment, including the fact that one-third of the tanker cars that derailed released massive amounts of crude oil as a result of large breaches in the tanks.

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Brown calls for continued support of Israel

Source: Shorenewstoday.com - Assemblyman Chris Brown today announced a resolution to be considered by the Assembly supporting Israel’s right to defend itself against missiles and tunnels from Gaza by Hamas terrorists.

Chris A. Brown

“There can be no question that Israel has the right to defend itself from terrorist attacks,” Brown said. “The state of Israel needs our support now more than ever. Rocket strikes by Hamas are a continuing threat to peace in the region.”

AR-154, introduced by Brown, expresses the support of the state’s General Assembly to reaffirm its strong, longstanding support for Israel in its fight against Hamas terrorists.

“The Israelis turned over Gaza to the Palestinians in an offer to further the peace process. But, what Hamas gave them in return were thousands of rocket attacks and an underground tunnel system enabling terrorists into its borders,” Brown said. “We cannot abandon our best ally in the Middle East in her true time of need. We should continue to offer our full support to Israel in its fight against Hamas terrorists and its efforts to restore calm and safety on both sides of the Gaza border.”

Brown’s bipartisan resolution is also sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-Monmouth).

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Bramnick on George Washington Bridge scandal legal costs soaring

The law firm defending Gov. Chris Christie’s administration in the George Washington Bridge scandal has billed $6.5 million for its work, new public records show.

Along with other government legal costs related to the shutdown of bridge access lanes by Christie’s top aides, total expenditures now top $8.5 million. That money is being paid by taxpayers and by motorists who pay tolls on bridges and tunnels operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Invoices and summaries released Friday by the state Attorney General’s Office for 11 law firms included $3.26 million in new bills from the Gibson Dunn law firm for March and April. The firm previously submitted bills for $3.3 million for January and February.

The scandal costs are growing at a time when polls show substantial skepticism about Christie’s version of what happened as well as public fatigue from the legislative probe launched in January to examine the bridge lane closures.

A Rutgers-Eagleton poll found half of New Jersey voters don’t believe Christie’s explanation on the scandal. Still, a majority are willing to write off the entire episode as “politics as usual.”

Just 23 percent say they fully believe Christie’s version of what he knew and when he knew it. But 60 percent think the ongoing legislative investigation is a waste of time.

Christie’s fellow Republicans blame Democrats who control the investigating panel for prolonging the inquiry and driving up costs.

Jon Bramnick

“Stop the politicians investigating politicians,” Assembly GOP leader Jon Bramnick said, noting the U.S. Attorney’s Office is conducting its own probe.

Other scandal legal costs include:

• $850,000 due to 10 law firms representing two dozen Christie staffers or former staffers. The Attorney General’s Office has approved a $340-an-hour rate to the outside lawyers and $90-an-hour for paralegals representing individuals who have been subpoenaed.

• About $960,000 for legal counsel for the legislative committee controlled by Democrats. That figure is based on vouchers for $480,864 released by the Senate on Friday. The Assembly and the Senate each pay half of the legal costs associated with committee.

• The Port Authority has used revenue generated from bridge and tunnel tolls and other sources to pay a reported $300,000 to lawyers representing Executive Director Patrick Foye and 14 employees.

The grand total at this point: $8.61 million through May, but also including a handful of June invoices.

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