Category: Clips

Rible talks about open space funding

NJ Spotlight -

Voters in New Jersey will get the chance this fall to approve a constitutional amendment that would establish a new, stable source of funding to provide at least $70 million annually for preservation of open space, farmland and historic structures.

In a rare August session, the Assembly yesterday, on the last possible day for a vote, passed a measure (SCR-84) with enough votes to ensure that the question will be on the ballot this November.

It was a huge victory for a wide coalition of environmental conservation groups, parkland advocates and other organizations that have lobbied for several years for legislation to replenish the state’s existing preservation program, which is virtually broke.

The measure, which needed 48 votes to make the ballot, passed easily in a 58-9-1 vote. There was no debate on the legislation, which didn’t surprise supporters of the initiative.

When Gov. Chris Christie called lawmakers into a special session to deal with bail reform, the Democratic leadership in the Assembly decided to post the open-space question as well.

Initially, the preservation program would get $70 million a year from the state’s corporate business tax revenues, which are already dedicated to other environmental programs. Beginning in 2019, the share taken out for open-space preservation would rise from 4 percent to 6 percent, increasing the amount to at least $117 million annually.

While advocates said it would be foolish to allow the open-space program to lapse, critics of the measure argued the state could ill afford to tap existing revenue to fund the preservation efforts, given New Jersey’s precarious fiscal condition.

“Although open space is an important initiative, our priorities should be putting our state on a firm fiscal footing,’’ said Assemblyman David Rible (R-Monmouth).

With the proposal assured of being on the ballot, the next issue is whether voters will back the measure in a state that seems to bounce from one fiscal crisis to another.

The question goes directly on the ballot without any review by Gov. Chris Christie, who had opposed previously efforts to divert state tax revenue to preserve open space.

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Bramnick: ‘You Keep Really Bad People Off the Street’

Source: Asbury Park Press -

New Jersey voters get to decide in November whether to let judges begin denying bail to defendants accused of violent crimes and whether to permanently devote some business tax revenues to open space and farmland purchases.

The Assembly waited until Monday’s deadline and debated at length — but only behind closed doors. In public, lawmakers didn’t talk about either proposal before voting to put both constitutional amendments on the Nov. 4 ballot, 60-0 for the bail plan and 58-9 for the open-space plan.

Gov. Chris Christie called a special session last week on the bail reforms, which in addition to the constitutional amendment that would eliminate bail in some cases also would change state law to allow people charged by summons with nonviolent offenses to be released without having to post bail.

Jon Bramnick

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union, said the deal was possible because Christie made it a priority and the compromise had elements favored by people on both sides of the political spectrum.

“I wasn’t doubtful because it had something in it for everyone. On the, I’ll call it the high end, you keep really bad people off the street. On the low end, you allow people who are not so bad to go to work,” Bramnick said. “So when you appeal to both sides of an issue and come to a compromise, you’re able to accomplish something.”

Christie has spoken against the concept behind the open-space proposal because he says it would hamper budget flexibility.

Currently, 4 percent of business tax collections — around $100 million a year — are dedicated toward various environmental programs. If the changes are approved by voters, the state would stop putting money toward diesel pollution programs and park improvements and reduce the amount going toward water projects, hazardous site cleanups and underground storage tank programs.

Instead, it would spend around $71 million a year, at first, on preserving open space, farmland, historic sites and flood-prone areas. After five years, an extra 2 percent of corporate taxes would be dedicated to the program, $50 million annually. The amount for land purchases would reach $117 million a year.

 

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Bramnick, Rodriguez-Gregg on Assembly approving bail reform

Source: Burlington County Times -

On the final day before a constitutional deadline, New Jersey lawmakers gave the OK on Monday to measures to reform the state’s bail system and dedicate a portion of business tax revenues for open space and farmland preservation.
The Assembly voted 60-0 with eight abstentions for a resolution seeking voter approval to amend the state constitution to allow judges to hold certain high-risk defendants who commit violent crimes without bail.

Maria Rodriguez-Gregg

Maria Rodriguez-Gregg

 

“Once the voters approve the constitutional amendment in November, judges will finally have the authority to prevent the release of violent defenders on bail.” – Maria Rodriguez-Gregg

 

Companion legislation to implement the proposed change and allow nonviolent suspects to be released on non-monetary bail alternatives also was approved by the Assembly in a 53-7 vote.

In addition, the Assembly voted 58-9 on a second resolution to ask voters to approve changing the constitution to dedicate a portion of corporate business tax revenues to open space.

Both resolutions were passed with the required super majorities on the final day that constitutional amendments could be submitted for referendums on the November ballot.
The approvals represented a victory for environmental and social justice advocates, as well as Gov. Chris Christie, who had pushed the Legislature to take action on bail reform before the deadline.

Supporters of the bail changes said they were needed to fix a broken system that has allowed many suspects deemed dangerous to commit additional crimes after being released on bail, while keeping many low-level defendants locked up simply because they are too poor to afford bail.

Opponents, including the bail bond industry, said the reforms would hurt their industry and cost taxpayers’ millions to implement.

The companion bill does authorize increased court fees to help pay for the changes of risk assessment and monitoring, but an estimate from the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services predicts the fee increases won’t be enough to cover the costs of implementing the reforms.

Christie backed both changes and ordered the Legislature to convene for a special session Thursday after it appeared lawmakers might delay action until after the deadline for the measures had passed.

The Senate passed the bills Thursday, but Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, D-32nd of Secaucus, delayed his chamber’s vote until Monday so that some lingering concerns among members of his caucus could be addressed.

There was no floor debate before the vote on either the constitutional amendment or companion bill. Both passed with bipartisan support.

“Today, we’ve demonstrated bipartisan cooperation to move bail reform, and I congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, and I congratulate this body for showing New Jersey that bipartisanship can work,” Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-21st of Westfield, said in the only floor statement before the vote.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Maria Rodriguez-Gregg, R-8th of Evesham, said the reforms were a “significant step” that would make communities safer.

“Once the voters approve the constitutional amendment in November, judges will finally have the authority to prevent the release of violent defenders on bail,” she said.

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O’Scanlon Bill to prevent other states’ traffic cameras from fining N.J. drivers could be in the fast lane

Source: The Star-Ledger -

Declan O'Scanlon

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon’s (R-Monmouth) bill to stop New Jersey drivers from getting traffic camera tickets in other states may have some juice.

When O’Scanlon introduced the bill last month, nobody introduced a companion bill in the state Senate. But that changed Thursday, when two senators with the first name Nick – Sacco (D-Hudson) and Scutari (D-Union) – practically tripped over each other to introduce it.

Sacco is the chairman of the Senate’s transportation committee, which significantly brightens the bill’s (A3527) prospects.

O’Scanlon — who said Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) is as a co-sponsor in the lower house — was happy to hear the news, saying it might provide a “shot in the arm” for the legislation.

“I am pleasantly enthusiastic,” he said.

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Rumana, Russo introduce bill to create ‘Christopher Goodell Memorial Highway’

Source: Bergen Record -

In a tribute to a fallen policeman, three state legislators introduced a bill Thursday to create the “Christopher Goodell Memorial Highway” along Route 17 in Waldwick.

Officer Christopher Goodell, 32, a former Marine and Waldwick High School graduate, died when a tractor trailer struck his unmarked police vehicle that was parked on the shoulder of Rt. 17 as he conducted a radar patrol on July 17. Blue and black ribbons line the streets of a town still in mourning.

Dave Russo

Senator Kevin O’Toole and Assemblymen David Russo and Scott Rumana, all Republicans who represent District 40, introduced the bill on Thursday morning. Rumana said they took advantage of Governor Christie calling a special legislative session for bail reform during summer recess to submit their memorial highway bill.

Scott Rumana

“You always struggle with what to say or what can be done to make life a little better [after tragedy],” said Rumana, who attended Goodell’s viewing. “Being state representatives for Waldwick, we have this ability – this is some way to say thank you to Officer Goodell.”

O’Toole, whose sister is a police sergeant, said he wants the memorial to commemorate Goodell as an individual and to remind the public “of the dangers law enforcement puts themselves in front of everyday.”

The bill specifies that the state will incur no cost in the creation of the memorial highway – signage will be paid for by donations. The bill must now make its way through the transportation committees of both houses when the legislature opens session again in the fall. “This is one of those bills you won’t find any controversy about,” Rumana said.

Russo, whose office is in Midland Park, said in a press release, “[Goodell] was the epitome of selfless public service Commemorating his name is one way no one will ever forget the honor with which he served.”

“I’m speechless,” Waldwick Police Chief Mark Messner said when he heard the news.

Goodell’s father Mark “thinks it is an incredible honor,” Messner said, speaking on behalf of the family, who have said they are not ready to speak with the media. “They are still pretty fragile,” Messner said.

Messner said he agreed that the creation of a memorial highway was appropriate.

“Chris was a dedicated professional. That’s where he did a lot of work,” Messner said. “For him, it was about keeping people safe. That’s what he was all about.”

 

 

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Chris A. Brown works on making A.C. destination resort

Shore News Today -

The economic effect of thousands of people out of work due to potential casino closings was the focus of a forum Thursday, July 24 that brought elected officials together from Atlantic and Cape May counties.

Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said the purpose of the meeting was to get everyone on the same page and give them the most up-to-date information on what state and county governments can do to mitigate the economic impact of up to 6,500 casino employees out of work by the fall. The discussion included community needs that could arise as well.

He called 6,500 layoffs a worst-case scenario and expressed optimism that plans to keep Revel open will bear fruit and that adaptive reuses for Trump Plaza and Showboat can be found.

Chris A. Brown

In separate action, Assemblyman Chris Brown was trying to spearhead a bipartisan agreement to focus on jobs and the economy.

He spoke Monday at the Steel Pier with Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, Levinson, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian and Steel Pier owner Anthony Catanoso.

Brown is working to gain bipartisan support from local elected officials throughout the county to pass resolutions in support of giving Atlantic City time to transition into a destination resort and for the state to honor the five-year window that was promised to turn the city into a destination resort.

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Webber Bill Prohibiting Payment by Victims for Obtaining Records on Crime Signed by Gov.

Assembly Republican Press Release

Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris, Essex and Passaic, that prohibits a government agency from charging the victim of a crime for copies of reports relating to the offense was signed into law today by Gov. Christie.

 

Jay Webber

“It is fair and reasonable that someone who is victimized by a criminal act should not be required to pay for documents related to the alleged crime,” said Webber. “Victims have legitimate reasons to obtain copies of police reports or other legal documents. This legislation rightly removes a financial burden that an injured party should not have to consider in order to access relevant information to their case.”

Under the bill, A-1676, a victim would not be charged for any law enforcement agency report, domestic violence offense report, or temporary or permanent restraining order. Currently, the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) does not contain an exemption from fees for victims of crime.

Webber’s bill is also sponsored by Assembly Republicans Jon Bramnick, Nancy Muñoz, Anthony M. Bucco and Caroline Casagrande, and Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson and Carmelo Garcia.

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Brown: Atlantic City 5-year plan is working

Source: Press of Atlantic City -

Mayor Don Guardian said Tuesday that he and Caesars management met last week with a group interested in buying Showboat.

The meeting, which happened at Caesars Atlantic City, was attended by a “very strong” potential buyer for the casino, which is set to close Aug. 31, the mayor said. He declined to name the possible buyer but said “their plan for Showboat, I think, is superb.”

Jon Bramnick

He made the disclosure Tuesday on the Steel Pier, where state Republican lawmakers, including Assembly Leader Jon Bramnick, vowed to fight a possible push to build casinos in North Jersey through a November 2015 referendum that could strip Atlantic City of the state monopoly it’s had on casinos since 1978.

Gov. Chris Christie and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney repeatedly promised to protect Atlantic City’s monopoly until at least 2016 so the city could recover under a five-year gambling and tourism overhaul signed by Christie in 2011.

But Sweeney, a Democrat, told The Press this month that a referendum on casino expansion could happen next year.

On Tuesday, state lawmakers and local politicians on the Steel Pier said they would fight any attempt to put the issue on the ballot before 2016.

Chris A. Brown

Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, who has led the charge to keep a lid on North Jersey casino construction, said some people “are choosing to walk away from their commitment to Atlantic City … (and to) begin discussing a ballot question to allow casinos in North Jersey.”

But “the five-year plan is working,” he said as carnival rides buzzed, whirred and dinged behind him.

The city’s hotel-room occupancy rate is beating the national average, and the city is cleaner and safer than it was before the plan began, he said. And nongambling casino revenue in Atlantic City increased by more than $160 million in the past two years, according to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.

“Atlantic City is moving in the right direction, and if the state keeps its promise, we will reach the finish line,” Brown said.

Guardian said after the conference that he will never support a plan to strip Atlantic City of its state casino monopoly.

“It makes no sense to have a casino outside Atlantic City,” he said. “It will hurt Atlantic City.”

Atlantic County Freeholder Ernest Coursey, a Democrat, agreed.

“We must send the message: Hell no to a referendum on the ballot for casinos in North Jersey,” he said Tuesday. “I made … clear to Sen. Sweeney that I adamantly oppose any referendum ballot for a North Jersey casino. Ever.”

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Brown, Bramnick plan to protect casino monopoly through 2016

Jon Bramnick

Source: Press of Atlantic City -

At a press conference held by Republican leaders at the Steel Pier Tuesday, Assemblyman Chris Brown and assembly leader Jon Bramnick said they were opposed to any referendum to expand casinos in the state before Gov. Chris Governor Christie’s five-year plan ends.

In 2011, Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney vowed to protect Atlantic City’s casino monopoly in the state for five years, but talk of a potential referendum to open a casino in North Jersey poses a dire threat to the struggling town.

Chris A. Brown

“All of us are choosing to honor our commitment to give Atlantic City the time it needs to transition to a destination resort,” Brown said. “If the state keeps its promise we will reach the finish line”

Atlantic County Freeholder Ernest Coursey thanked Bramnick for pledging support for South Jersey.

“You heard our cry,” said Coursey, a Democrat. “We can’t allow a North Jersey referendum question to be put on the ballot.”

“We must send the message ‘Hell no’ to a referendum on the ballot for casinos in North Jersey,” Coursey said.

Speaking at the press conference, Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson wondered why the state would create more competition in an industry that’s already struggling

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McGuckin moves to permit ‘marital communication’ to be used in court

Source: NJ 101.5 -

An amendment to a New Jersey law barring disclosure of confidential communication between married couples could have far-reaching ramifications in criminal cases involving spouses as defendants.

Gregory P. McGuckin

Assemblyman Greg McGuckin (R-Brick) has ordered the bill to be drafted, following a recommendation by the New Jersey Supreme Court to add a “crime fraud exception” to the marital communication privilege. The need for the amendment arose from a drug trafficking case involving an Ocean County couple. The High Court ruled spouses should not be privileged if the conversations take place as part of a criminal activity.

Given the proposal’s potential far-reaching ramifications, McGuckin said strong opposition is likely.

“I would imagine there will be a number of interest groups that will weigh in and oppose it, and/or suggest changes,” McGuckin said.

McGuckin expects the bill to be introduced in September and is hoping it can be passed quickly, so it can be applied before the Lakewood couple’s case reaches trial. However, he said he’s “not a big fan of legislation to address one particular case.”

“I think that legislation that stands the test of time is something that’s going to apply for cases for long into the future,” McGuckin said.

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