Tag: Jay Webber

Webber Resolution Changes Assembly Rules After Members Were Marked Present Without Knowing It

Source: The Star-Ledger -

The state Assembly has changed its attendance rules, a few months after several lawmakers found out from The Star-Ledger that they were marked as present at the Statehouse on a Friday evening in July when they were nowhere near it.

Jay Webber

 

“When you have a citizen Legislature and need to do routine things like introduce bills so committees can hear them and debate them, it just seems like an anachronism to bring everybody down there and have a quorum. Let’s all just consent, either in person or by telephone, and they can go about their routine business.” – Assemblyman Jay Webber

 

A resolution (AR166) that was hastily introduced and immediately passed by a vote of 72-0 on Monday will allow members to use phones, email and possibly other devices to give their consent to be marked as present in order to form a quorum — or a majority of members — so they can conduct “routine business” like introducing bills or laying constitutional amendment resolutions on members’ desks.

“This resolution recognizes the current common use of communication equipment that did not exist in 1947 when the Constitution was adopted and provides clarity,” it reads. “It also maintains transparency in the legislative process and requires the direct consent of at least 41 members of the General Assembly, present within the State of New Jersey, for the conduct of routine business.”

Members who attend committee meetings at the Statehouse on quorum days will also be automatically considered present, without having to walk to their desks and press a button.

The resolution was sponsored by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) and Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris), and came about two weeks after Webber introduced a similar resolution.

Webber had been one of 70 Assembly members who were marked as present in order to form a quorum at 5pm on July 11. But only one member — Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) — actually showed up to the Assembly chamber that evening.

Webber and several other Assembly members called by The Star-Ledger that night said they had no idea they were marked present.

The quorum was necessary to get the clock ticking on a constitutionally-mandated 20-day waiting period for a proposed constitutional amendment to allow judges to deny bail to some defendants.

In a phone interview earlier this month, Webber said members should have to consent to be marked present, but requiring them to actually go to Trenton for the purpose is outdated.

“When you have a citizen Legislature and need to do routine things like introduce bills so committees can hear them and debate them, it just seems like an anachronism to bring everybody down there and have a quorum,” Webber said. “Let’s all just consent, either in person or by telephone, and they can go about their routine business.”

Assembly members will still have to be present to vote on legislation.

According to the resolution, the use of electronic equipment to attend a meeting is already permitted under the Open Public Meetings Act.

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Webber Resolution Offers Solution to Absentee Votes in Legislature

Source: Bergen Record -

New Jersey lawmakers who have staff and other elected officials cast votes for them in their absence are violating state Senate rules, according to a report from NBC New York.

The report shows several instances of votes being cast on behalf of senators who are not present in the room. The Senate’s rules state, “No Senator’s vote shall be recorded unless the Senator is present in the chamber,” according to NBC.

The full report can be found here.

The report is not the first time the issue of absentee voting has been raised.

Jay Webber

Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris, introduced a resolution this month that would allow members to call in for quorums when they can’t make it to the State House on non-voting days. The measure would change the Assembly rules to let members to check in through telephone and electronic communication methods, allowing for the introduction of legislation and other measures even when there aren’t enough members physically present.

Webber introduced the resolution after Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, was the lone lawmaker in the room for a Friday night quorum call in July that allowed the Legislature to put a constitutional amendment, which would let judges deny bail in some cases, on the November ballot. Although Gusciora was the only Assembly member present in the chambers, 70 lawmakers were marked present because their staff pushed the buttons for them.

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Bramnick, Webber, Carroll Comment on Override Attempt

Source: Bergen Record -

Six months ago, every Republican in the state Assembly voted for a bill that would have required more detailed reporting by the state about the long-term impact of its soaring debt. The bill passed unanimously.

But Governor Christie, a fellow Republican, vetoed the measure, calling any such debt analysis “highly speculative.”

“Once we do it, we jeopardize a whole host of issues. …These are very technical issues.” – Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick

On Monday, when the Democratic majority tried to override that veto — which would have been a first since Christie took office in 2010 — those same Republicans had a change of heart. Most abstained or didn’t vote at all — and the bill died.

Christie’s veto, and the GOP lawmakers’ decision not to challenge it, marks the second time this month that the administration has sought to minimize the public release of economic data while the state’s finances continue to be tenuous — with an unemployment rate that remains stubbornly higher than the national average and a series of downturns in the state’s credit rating.

It also comes at a time when Christie’s record is attracting wider attention on the national stage amid indications that he may seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016.

Christie has sought to make the case that his fiscal policies and reforms — such as requiring public employees to pay more for benefits and rebuffing Democrats’ attempts to raise taxes on the highest earners — have rescued the state from years of fiscal mismanagement under Democrats. But critics have said that the New Jersey economy could be an area of vulnerability if Christie does seek higher office.

The measure under consideration Monday would have required a series of 10-year forecasts from the Treasury Department to help make it easier to gauge the affordability of New Jersey’s borrowing, which totaled more than $40 billion as of the latest official report, ranking it fourth highest per capita among all states. Ten days ago, Treasury announced that it would no longer release as much detailed monthly information about how state tax collections are measuring up to budget projections.

And earlier this year, the administration delayed the release of the annual state debt report, which showed the largest increase in borrowing during Christie’s tenure.

On Monday, the Republicans said they were persuaded by a last-minute warning from the administration that the measure could lead to lawsuits from bondholders and potentially violate federal securities law. They declined to offer much in the way of specifics about that warning and Treasury did not respond to a request for details. A spokesman for the governor, who was attending political events in Wisconsin and Ohio on Monday, declined comment.

The Democrats, meanwhile, said they’re still in the dark.

Jon Bramnick

Moments before the bill was posted for a vote, Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union, urged sponsors to postpone the override vote.

“Once we do it, we jeopardize a whole host of issues,” Bramnick said. “These are very technical issues.”

Democrats, who control the Assembly by a 47-32 majority, needed only seven Republicans to stick with the bill for an override. But the final results were 45 in favor, 5 against, 23 abstentions and seven lawmakers recorded as “not voting.”

In his veto message Sept. 11, Christie had said the debt-reporting bill could result in the release of “highly speculative” information that could hurt the state’s bond rating, which has already been lowered by major ratings agencies this year. He said the current state debt reporting is sufficient, and added a promise that cutting borrowing and spending “will continue to be a primary focus of this administration.”

Jay Webber

Sponsor Jay Webber, R-Morris, was among the handful of Republicans who voted for the override. He said the information is important to get out, especially as lawmakers are expecting a new transportation spending plan from the administration that is likely to rely on more borrowing.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Webber said.

Michael Patrick Carroll

But Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, R-Morris, said the best course was to hold off from voting until the technical issues could be addressed.

“It seems to be the appropriate thing to do would be for the administration to sit down with the sponsors and see if there isn’t some possibility of figuring out a reasonable compromise,” Carroll said.

Previous efforts to override Christie’s vetoes on bills to increase the income tax on the wealthy, legalize same-sex marriage and boost funding for women’s health clinics all failed. Environmental activists are also trying to rally enough votes for an override of a bill Christie vetoed in August that would ban the dumping of fracking waste in New Jersey.

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Republicans on Dems’ attempt to override Christie’s veto

Source: Star-Ledger -

Democrats who lead the Legislature have tried dozens of times to override Gov. Chris Christie’s vetoes of their bills — not once with success.

Jon Bramnick

But on Monday, Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick has his work cut out for him to keep that perfect record going, when Assembly leaders attempt to cancel out Christie’s veto of a bill that almost every Republican voted for, and many even co-sponsored.

An override would be a political embarrassment for Christie, and a sign of weakening influence.

At issue is legislation (A961) that would have required the state to prepare an annual “affordability analysis” that would estimate state revenues and debt for the next decade. The purpose, according to the bill, was to “enable a more fully informed fiscal policy discussion on the State’s long-term debt portfolio to ensure sufficient financial capacity for essential capital projects.”

The measure was not controversial. It passed 77-0 in the Senate and 40-0 in the Assembly. The only people who didn’t vote for it — three Republican assemblymen – were absent that day.

To override the bill, Democrats need 54 votes in the Assembly and, if that’s successful, 27 votes in the state Senate. There are currently 47 Democrats, 32 Republicans and one vacant seat in the Assembly. It’s up to Bramnick (R-Union) and his leadership team to make sure Democrats don’t get the seven votes they need from his side of the aisle.

“Any issues between the Republicans can be worked out. I’m convinced. There’s no doubt in my mind,” said Bramnick.

Christie, in his Sept. 11 veto message, said the bill would force a state commission “to produce a speculative report that would be of little value in making future debt determinations, but may adversely and erroneously affect the State’s bond rating.”

Christie said the current method, in which the New Jersey Commission on Capital Budgeting and Planning prepares a State Capital Improvement Plan that includes an assessment of the state’s ability to increase its debt, can “reliably account for the affordability of its present debt.”

The conservative group Americans for Prosperity on Thursday came out in favor of the veto override. The group is tied to David and Charles Koch, who potential Republican presidential candidates like Christie court because of their huge campaign donations –

“Americans for Prosperity sees no reason for Gov. Christie to resist efforts to, in effect, open the books and allow for a robust, transparent assessment of the state’s debt problems” wrote the group’s state director, Daryn Iwicki.

A spokesman for Christie declined to comment on the override attempt.

Of the bill’s 22 sponsors in the Assembly and Senate, nine are Republicans.

Bramnick said Democrats are trying to gain political advantage from the vote.

“The Democrats, nationally and locally, are going to do everything they can to put wedges between Republican legislators and the governor. Bridgegate failed, and now they’re trying to find differences in Republicans so they can capitalize on that,” Bramnick said. “They’re not going to be successful in driving a wedge between Republican members of the Legislature and this governor.”

But it’s clear that Bramnick has work to do to convince some of his colleagues. Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris), who was a prime sponsor of the bill, declined to comment.

Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose (R-Sussex), a co-sponsor, said she was undecided.

“I think we will have a spirited discussion in caucus on Monday,” she said.

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth), who co-sponsored the bill but was absent the day it was voted on, said he also hadn’t made up his mind.

“There’s plenty of time to re-think if something’s a good idea when you vote on it, and the governor comes up with a good idea as to why it’s not,” he said.

Indeed, Democratic legislative leaders have attempted to override Christie’s vetoes dozens of times, but never with success – even on bills that had wide, bipartisan support. For instance, in January, 27 Republicans reversed their votes on a bill that would have created a task force to study full-day Kindergarten after Chrisite vetoed it.

Asked what wisdom the governor has that 120 lawmakers do not, O’Scanlon acknowledged that there are political elements to the refusal to override him as well.

“There certainly is a component. We’ve got a relationship with the governor. There are things that are more or less important to us,” O’Scanlon said. “A lot of times I think there’s a political component on the Democrats’ side as to what they put up that we should override. You want to put up something that we have real passion for? Let’s talk about that. But I think they purposefully put up things that they expect us to decide that it’s not important enough for us to override the governor.”

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Webber: For our Veterans, the ‘New Jersey Tuition Equality for America’s Military’ Act

Source: Bergen Record (Letter-to-the-editor by Asm. Jay Webber) -

Jay Webber

Dear Editor:

On Sept. 15, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee released S-849, known as the “New Jersey Tuition Equality for America’s Military” Act (NJTEAM). The bill allows a military veteran who attends a public college or university in New Jersey to pay an in-state tuition rate.

I am proud to be the sponsor of the identical bill, A-2622, which is currently working its way through the General Assembly.

Many of our returning service men and women are looking for opportunities to build a career once they leave the military.

One of the avenues to pursue in that quest is continuing their education at a college or university in New Jersey. Offering in-state tuition at a public college to all American veterans can help them acquire the knowledge and skills today’s employers are seeking at a reasonable price.

These patriots answered the call to serve our country, and helping them obtain a degree gives them a better chance at obtaining a job. We want these men and women to come home to New Jersey, and express our gratitude to those who have contributed to our country’s security and have asked nothing in return.

The legislation has strong bipartisan support and I am confident the NJTEAM Act will pass both houses of the Legislature.

Jay Webber, assemblyman, R – Parsippany

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70 N.J. Assembly members ‘present’ in an empty chamber? Webber says ‘that’s wrong,’ has a solution

Source: The Star-Ledger -

Assemblyman Jay Webber wants to let his colleagues phone it in — literally.

Here’s why:

On a Friday evening in July, just one Assembly member – Reid Gusciora (D-Mercer) — was in the chamber. But 70 members were recorded as present by staffers who walked around the room and pushed the buttons on their desks. The so-called quorum was constitutionally mandated to start the clock ticking on a mandatory 20-day waiting period for a proposed constitutional amendment to allow judges to deny bail to some defendants.

Jay Webber

“I had several constituents who called and emailed me and said it’s not right, and quite frankly I agree with them,” Webber (R-Morris) told The Auditor, who added that he understands that such maneuvers have been done before and he’s “not blaming anybody.”

But he wants to do something to change it. Under a resolution Webber introduced on Monday, Assembly rules would no longer require members to actually be in the Statehouse to ring in for a quorum on non-voting days. Instead, they could check in by phone, video or any another type of electronic communication device.

That would enable them to conduct “routine business” such as introducing bills and resolutions, and lay proposed constitutional amendments on members’ desks for 20 days as the constitution requires, without actually going to the Statehouse. But they would still need to give their consent to be recorded, and they’d have to actually show up to begin voting sessions.

To establish a quorum, 41 members must be present.

“When you have a citizen Legislature and need to do routine things like introduce bills so committees can hear them and debate them, it just seems like an anachronism to bring everybody down there and have a quorum,” Webber said. “Let’s all just consent, either in person or by telephone, and they can go about their routine business.”

A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), who will decide whether or not to put up Webber’s proposal for a vote, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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Webber Study of State’s Probation Programs Wins Committee Approval

Source: Assembly Republican Press Release -

Jay Webber

Measuring the success and failure of rehabilitating people on probation is the main focus of a bill (A-2417) Assemblyman Jay Webber sponsors that won approval from the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee today. Assemblyman Webber’s bill requires the Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts to establish a program to record and analyze recidivism rates for adults sentenced to a period of probation.

“Breaking the cycle of those on probation from committing another offense and reentering the correctional system has to be a priority in New Jersey,” said Assemblyman Webber, R-Morris, Essex and Passaic. “We should measure the effectiveness of the state’s training and reentry programs to understand what we do well, and what we need to do better.

“Recidivism data is not studied on a regular basis, and the records required by this bill will no doubt give us critical insights on our entire system,” explained Assemblyman Webber. “The goal is to have a first-rate correctional system that spends money wisely and helps certain individuals who have made poor choices lead productive lives and contribute to society instead of sitting in prison.”

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Webber: It Doesn’t Have to be This Way [video]

Source: Assembly Republican Video -

Jay Webber

Assemblyman Jay Webber speaks at an Americans for Prosperity event calling for the elimination of New Jersey’s death taxes.

New Jersey is only one of two states in the nation with both an estate tax and an inheritance tax. Tens of billions of dollars in income has been lost to low or no tax states as residents in the past have fled NJ’s death taxes.

Assemblyman Jay Webber: “Thank you Americans for Prosperity, for bringing us together on a bipartisan basis really, to talk about an issue that’s so important not just to people here in Trenton trying to balance the books but to people back home at their kitchen tables – trying to balance their budgets and make plans for the future. For all those folks, that’s why we’re here.

“I just wanted to mention a couple of things. When I’m legislating I like to look at other states and see what other states are doing. There are only two states in the nation, that tax both estates and inheritance and that is New Jersey and Maryland. And, as a matter of fact, Maryland is moving to increase its exemption on the estate tax. They are trying to get ahead of us – leave us in the dust.”

“The Wall Street Journal had a quip a couple of years and said, ‘here is some free estate planning advice: don’t die in New Jersey anytime soon.’ You can see, unfortunately we are leading the race to the bottom on this issue and it doesn’t have to be that way.

The trend across the country is to eliminate the estate tax. Four states in the last four years have taken measure to eliminate their estate tax. Everywhere from Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, to North Carolina, legislatures across the country realize that when you punish people for dying in their state you drive people out of the state. It’s not rocket science. If you are going to punish the successful, they will leave. They will go someplace where they are welcomed.

“For too long, New Jersey has punished the successful. We have turned that around. I am happy to say, we have both Democrats and Republicans in this legislature that are interested in making this state a more family friendly, more business friendly place. The coalition of legislators up here all supports that. And, I’m proud to associate myself with those efforts. So, thank you very much for all my colleagues for joining us.”

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Webber Pleased NJTEAM Act Cleared by Key Senate Panel

Source: PolitickerNJ -

The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee blew through a host of bills during its hearing in the Statehouse today.

Among the docket of bills, which included legislation aimed at raising awareness for Parkinson’s Disease (S1173) and a “Reader Privacy Act” (S967) that would extend reader privacy protections to book purchases, including the purchase of electronic books, was the New Jersey Tuition Equality for America’s Military (NJTEAM) Act (S3114), a bill which would allow military veterans who attend public colleges or universities in New Jersey to pay in-state tuition rates.

The bill’s release prompted a response from the sponsor of identical legislation in the Assembly.

Jay Webber

“Many of our returning service men and women are looking for opportunities to build a career once they leave the military,” said Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-27). “One of the avenues to pursue in that quest is continuing their education at a college or university in New Jersey. Offering in-state tuition at a public college to all American veterans can help them acquire the knowledge and skills today’s employers are seeking at a reasonable price.”

The NJTEAM Act amends current law to provide that a veteran, irrespective of where they live, will be regarded as a resident of the state for the purpose of determining tuition.

“These patriots answered the call to serve our country and helping them obtain a degree gives them a better chance at obtaining a job,” said Webber. “We want these men and women to come home to New Jersey, and express our gratitude to those who have contributed to our country’s security and have asked nothing in return.”

The senate committee released the bill with 11 votes in favor.

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Webber Pleased with Senate Committee Release of “NJTEAM Act”

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Legislation (S-849) that allows a military veteran who attends a public college or university in New Jersey to pay an in-state tuition rate was released by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today. Assemblyman Jay Webber sponsors the identical Assembly version (A-2622) which received approval by the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee and is under consideration in the Appropriations Committee.

Jay Webber

“Many of our returning service men and women are looking for opportunities to build a career once they leave the military,” said Webber, R-Morris, Essex and Passaic. “One of the avenues to pursue in that quest is continuing their education at a college or university in New Jersey. Offering in-state tuition at a public college to all American veterans can help them acquire the knowledge and skills today’s employers are seeking at a reasonable price.”

Webber’s bill, known as the “New Jersey Tuition Equality for America’s Military (NJTEAM) Act,” amends current law and provides that a veteran will be regarded as a resident of the state for the purpose of determining tuition, regardless of where they live.

“These patriots answered the call to serve our country and helping them obtain a degree gives them a better chance at obtaining a job,” commented Webber. “We want these men and women to come home to New Jersey, and express our gratitude to those who have contributed to our country’s security and have asked nothing in return.”

Currently, Richard Stockton College and Rowan University offer in-state tuition to all veterans.

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