Category: Clips

Bramnick: Employers have right to know about applicant’s criminal history

Source: NJ.com - Faith leaders from across the state will convene Thursday as a show of support for a bill to aid New Jerseyans facing barriers to employment due to criminal records.

The Rev. Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr. will engage leaders from the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths in an dialogue titled “Fulfilling Our Moral Duty to Foster Redemption” and the Opportunity to Compete Act from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens at 771 Somerset Street in the Somerset section of Franklin Township.

Jon Bramnick

The bill would ban employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history until the final stages of the interview process. New Jersey Senate and Assembly votes are anticipated in late May and floor votes in June, so the event carries a particular moral urgency, according to Soaries…

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union) in December called the bill a “terrible idea.”

“Look, I hire a lot of people. I’m not allowed to know in my initial consideration whether a person is a convicted felon?” Bramnick said. “Come on, now. You pay a price for being a criminal, OK?”

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O’Scanlon, Bramnick, Rumana talk red lights, jobs on Chamber trip

Source: NJ.com - It was impossible to miss state Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon on Tuesday as he walked the crammed aisles of an Amtrak train during the state Chamber of Commerce’s annual trek to the nation’s capital for New Jersey movers and shakers.

The Monmouth County Republican, who has made it a mission to abolish those cameras that capture drivers running red lights, had a big white button pinned to his neatly pressed shirt that said: “Red Light Photo Enforced” — and a giant, red line crossing it out.

“I’ve given out half a dozen on the train today,” he boasted, noting he had heard executives from the companies that help run the red-light cameras were on board. “It’s the issue that people talk to me the most about. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

A few seats over, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-Union) smiled.

“He’s the anti-red light camera king,” Bramnick said…

Wall Street has noted that New Jersey’s economy has taken longer to emerge from the Great Recession than that of the national economy and neighboring states. On the train, Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-Passaic) said that’s what made Tuesday’s trip all the more important.

“You’re forced to have conversations because you’re standing in the aisles,” Rumana said. “You’re going to talk to somebody. And it gives you a chance to listen to different ideas. And what’s the most important thing in Trenton right now? Creating jobs. Getting people back to work.”

Years ago, the chamber train had a reputation for being a raucous, boozy ride. But Bramnick said the atmosphere has changed, with the proliferation of cameras prompting passengers to be on their best behavior. “In the last four, five or six years, it’s become a lot more tame,” the Assembly’s minority leader said.

 

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Bramnick: It’s not Bridgegate, it’s ‘Wizgate,’

Source: PolitickerNJ -

A week after announcing GOP legislators serving on the legislative committee investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closings are hitting a breaking point, a top Assembly Republican lawmaker now says the controversy dubbed Bridgegate is due for a name change.

Jon Bramnick

“It’s Wizgate,” said Assemblyman John Bramnick (R-21) aboard the chamber train to Washington D.C., a reference to the co-chairman of the legislative committee, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19).

“You don’t run an investigation on MSNBC,” Bramnick charged, sitting one train car apart from Wisniewski.

“It’s good for John Wisniewski for governor,” he said, adding, “It’s bad for the other Democratic candidates.”

Bramnick told PolitickerNJ GOP legislators are still in talks to decide whether they will continue to be a part of the joint legislative committee investigating Gov. Chris Christie’s administration over the bridge controversy.

“We’re placing him on notice that we expect to be part of the process,” he said.

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Handlin discusses first subpoenas for oral testimony issued by committee

Source: CNN -

A special New Jersey state legislative committee investigating the George Washington Bridge scandal that has upended Gov. Chris Christie’s administration has issued its first subpoenas for oral testimony.

The panel said it had served Pat Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, agency board member William Schuber, Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak and Christina Renna, who worked under Christie’s former deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly, a key figure in the scandal.

Renna and Schuber were asked to testify on May 6, and the other two on May 13.

The four Republican members of the committee believe they already have enough information to craft legislation aimed at preventing abuse of authority.

Amy Handlin

“We don’t understand the reason for waiting,” Assemblywoman Amy Handlin said. “It’s fine to continue to hunt for clues as to why Bridget Kelly and the others did what they did but we can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

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Schepisi reacts to bridge scandal panel to issue 4 subpoenas for testimony

Source: Star Ledger -

The co-chair of the state legislative committee investigating the George Washington Bridge scandal said the panel will issue subpoenas today to four witnesses to testify next month.

So far, the committee has subpoenaed and released a number of emails and other documents related to the matter. But Wisniewski said the testimony will hopefully flesh out a more detailed picture of what happened.

Meanwhile, Republicans on the committee said last week they might withdraw from the panel because its Democratic leaders have kept them in the dark about the investigation.

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen) said she plans to attend the committee’s next meeting — the first day of testimony on May 6 — but is being cautious.

Holly Schepisi

“I don’t think any of us want to walk away from the committee,” Schepisi said during today’s train ride. “But if this is going to be Wis-gate instead of Bridgegate, there is no purpose to be on it.”

Schepisi said Republicans have often learned information about the panel from news reports instead of the committee’s leaders.

“We want to do our jobs,” she said. “We are committed. But we need to be part of that process.”

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Christie and Taxes: Bridge traffic isn’t the Garden State governor’s biggest problem

Source: Wall Street Journal -

Long after people have forgotten or ceased to care which of Chris Christie’s fired aides caused a traffic jam, the New Jersey governor will still have a big political problem. After his two terms, citizens of the Garden State will likely suffer under essentially the same oppressive tax burden that existed on the day he took office. And Mr. Christie is now moving in the wrong direction.

New Jersey’s Star-Ledger reports: “Gov. Chris Christie’s $34.4 billion budget proposal includes several revenue-raising measures, like requiring the increasingly popular electronic cigarettes to be taxed at the same rate as traditional cigarettes, and making online retailers charge state sales tax.”

Mr. Christie’s staff won’t use the T-word to describe these proposals but has instead referred to revenue-raisers as “adjustments” to close “loopholes.” Along with tax hikes, a small part of the package is an increase in the penalty for those who try to pay their taxes with the electronic equivalent of a bad check.

Jay Webber

The governor’s opponents say that the new Christie levies are in a category that the governor has previously described as tax hikes when enacted by Democrats. And at least one prominent Republican in the state legislature agrees. “As a general matter, these look to me to be tax increases,” Assemblyman Jay Webber told the Star-Ledger.

Even more disappointing is that in Mr. Christie’s current budget the governor abandons his call for a cut in state income taxes.

State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff says that the budget’s, um, revenue raisers will bring in an additional $240 million in 2015. He also says that more than offsetting these increases are the business tax cuts Mr. Christie signed in 2011 which will amount to $616 million in the coming year.

Not that a reform budget would have much chance of being enacted. The central problem is that New Jersey legislative districts have been gerrymandered to ensure liberal governance. Even as Mr. Christie cruised to a landslide re-election last fall, Democratic majorities in both houses of the state legislature were never in danger. This means New Jersey residents will continue to bear one of the country’s heaviest tax burdens, which in turn will continue to restrain economic growth. And that in turn will make it difficult for Mr. Christie to tell a compelling story in 2016 about Garden State success.

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Bramnick: ‘My members are extremely frustrated’ with investigation

Source: Wall Street Journal -

Some of the George Washington Bridge scandal’s costs are coming into focus.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election campaign has $264,000 of debt after being billed at least $314,000 in legal fees related to defending itself from subpoenas issued by a federal grand jury and a special legislative committee, according to records released Monday.

The mounting legal bills represent another challenge for the Republican governor after disclosures that his aides and allies engineered a crippling traffic jam in Fort Lee, N.J., by closing local lanes to the George Washington Bridge. Democrats have said the affair was political payback for Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor declining to endorse the governor.

Mr. Christie has apologized, though he said he had no knowledge of the closures’ planning. The administration has cut ties with five advisers.

The governor’s supporters expect to begin fundraising to cover the bills soon, said Bill Palatucci, Mr. Christie’s campaign chairman and a close political adviser, though he didn’t say what form the fundraising would take or when it would start. The New Jersey Republican State Committee also listed $212,670 in debts from bridge-scandal legal fees, records show.

Meanwhile, the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation, which Democratic lawmakers have used to probe the bridge scandal, has spent at least $488,400 in state funds for a legal team led by Reid Schar, a former federal prosecutor, according to the firm’s invoices.

Jon Bramnick

Republicans have called for the committee to wrap up its work. “I would clearly allow prosecutors to do their job instead of spending another half a million dollars,” said Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, the Republican minority leader. “My members are extremely frustrated.”

Democrats have said the committee will begin taking testimony from those subpoenaed in May. Subpoenas to four individuals will be issued shortly, said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, one of the committee’s Democratic co-chairs.

A person familiar with the investigation said the subpoenas would go to Mr. Christie’s press secretary, Michael Drewniak; Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; Christina Renna, a former intergovernmental-affairs official; and William “Pat” Schuber, a Port Authority commissioner.

Some of the scandal’s costs remain unknown but are expected to be hefty, with the state picking up much of the tab as New Jersey prosecutors determine whether the bridge-lane closures were legal.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, the firm hired by the Christie administration to represent the governor’s office—not the campaign—has yet to submit bills, said Leland Moore, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office. The state has no cap for the firm’s legal costs. It is billing $650 an hour.

The state attorney general’s office also has retained five law firms to represent current or former administration employees, at a rate of $350 an hour. No invoices from the firms have been submitted yet, and their legal costs will be reviewed closely, Mr. Moore said.

The costs to Mr. Christie’s campaign account drew attention Monday because they could be a headache in a potential 2016 presidential bid.

“The Christie campaign certainly would rather not have to deal with it. It’s a pain to raise money for legal investigations rather than to promote a political agenda,” said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.

Mr. Palatucci played down the significance of raising funds for the legal expenses. Mr. Christie is a skilled fundraiser, raising more than $20 million for his re-election campaign in 2013, including money from state matching funds. He has helped bring in a record amount as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, with the organization raising over $23 million in the first three months of 2014.

“I don’t think that it will be all that difficult,” Mr. Palatucci said of raising enough to pay off the campaign’s legal debts. “It’s a relatively modest given the size of the campaign that we ran on behalf of the governor.”

The Chris Christie for Governor campaign retained Patton Boggs LLP in response to subpoenas from prosecutors and the legislative committee in January. The New Jersey GOP retained the same firm.

Patton Boggs billed the campaign a total of $160,000 for legal fees and documentation in March, according to campaign reports released Monday. Stroz Friedberg, an investigations and intelligence firm, billed $154,000 for legal fees that month, the report shows.

Mark Sheridan, a Patton Boggs lawyer representing the Christie campaign, confirmed that both payments were made for fees related to the bridge scandal. Mr. Sheridan didn’t say how many hours the firm had billed for or their rate pertaining to the lane-closure matter.

In January, Patton Boggs petitioned the state Election Law Enforcement Commission to allow the use of Mr. Christie’s campaign funds for legal expenses.

The firm couldn’t estimate its costs at the time, but said it would be “costly and time-consuming” and require an outside vendor to preserve data on computers, tablets and smartphones to respond to the subpoenas.

In February, the commission allowed the campaign expenses, so long as the Christie campaign wasn’t the target of a grand jury investigation.

It also allowed the campaign to continue to raise funds to cover the legal expenses, as long as it advised donors of the restrictions.

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Bramnick Objects to Bridgegate Panel Partisanship (audio)

Source: NJ 101.5 (with audio) -

Partisanship on the Democrat-controlled legislative committee investigating Bridgegate is getting worse, according to the top Republican in the Assembly. He said if things don’t improve, Republican members of the panel have options — one of which is to simply walk away.

Jon Bramnick

“There are three Assembly members and one Senate member on the Republican side, and I’m not going to come to a conclusion unless I have further discussions with my members,” said Assembly GOP Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield). “The decision as to whether to participate in what is a partisan investigation is one for all of the members and not one for me unilaterally.”

According to Bramnick, Republican members of the Select Committee on Investigation are getting their information from news reports and not from the Democratic co-chairs of the panel. Co-chairman and Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) has stressed bipartisanship, but Bramnick said actions speak louder than words.

Is it really possible that Republicans might just bail on the SCI?

“That’s one of the options,” Bramnick said. “We would prefer to be included, but we are not going to be potted plants, I can guarantee you that. As they say in international relations: All options are on the table.”

Sometime in May, the SCI is expected to begin taking oral testimony from witnesses who have responded to subpoenas.

CLICK HERE to listen to audio

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Dancer Targets Prescribed Burns

Source: NJ 101.5 -

With a goal of lessening the likelihood of massive forest fires in New Jersey, reintroduced legislation would set standards for state-run controlled burns, and allow private individuals to conduct such burns on their own property.

The measure from Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Ocean) would create a prescribed burn program that can certify individuals as “burn managers.” The program would include subjects such as safety, fire behavior, smoke management and environmental effects.

Ron Dancer

“Here in New Jersey, we have over two million acres of woodlands and Pinelands,” Dancer said. “While we may not be able to control superstorms like Sandy, we can control the likelihood of wildfires.”

While burns are conducted to reduce the amount of fuel that fires can feed on, Dancer pointed out that burns do not destroy trees.

“What we really want to do is reduce the natural fire loads that are within the forest,” he explained. “It’s the dead leaves. It’s the dead branches, and pine cones and needles.”

Prescribed burns are currently conducted by the state, but without any standards on how they’re performed or how people are notified. Under the bill, the New Jersey Bureau of Forest Fire Management would be authorized to prescribe burns “on any area of land within the state which is determined by the fire warden or designee to be in reasonable danger of wildfire.”

Dancer said his measure can help reduce significant property damage and/or loss of life.

An identical bill was passed by both legislative houses last session, but the governor did not decide on the bill in time.

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Bramnick: Let’s Keep Politicians from Destroying Reputations (video)

Source: MSNBC (video) -

Jon Bramnick

Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick: “When you have a prosecutor [issuing subpoenas], they understand the seriousness of serving a subpoena. Are you telling me that politicians in New Jersey are now going to control who gets subpoenas? …

“As you speculate, you damage people, you damage reputations. That is distressing, disconcerting, it is problematic for the future. …

“You throw these names out there and people think they’re guilty of something. Now John Wisniewski has taken that and gone to the point where I’m seriously concerned that he’s become a ‘prosecutor.’ Yes, there was some good work. Now you have to be measured, and you have to be reasonable, you have to be fair. And that’s what we’re really concerned about.”

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