Category: Clips

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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Bramnick, Carroll on Failed Override Attempt in the Assembly [video]

Source: NJTV [video] -

In general, there is no upside — for Republicans — to override a Chris Christie veto. In fact, it’s never happened to a Christie bill, although it’s been tried, like today’s attempt to override the governor’s veto of Assembly bill 961.

The bill — which passed both houses unanimously — calls for the state to issue an annual “debt affordability analysis report,” which would estimate state revenues and debt over the next decade. The idea being that with $90 billion in debt for pensions and benefits and about $40 billion debt for other state funding outstanding, it would be good to know what the state’s debt situation is before issuing any more debt. But this morning, Republicans got word from the treasurer’s office that it would be inappropriate for the state — as the issuer of the debt — to also issue an affordability analysis.

Jon Bramnick

“It is just something that is not done,” said Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick. “Analysts do it. [Office of Legislative Services] does it. We could assign OLS to do it, but once we do it, we jeopardize a whole host of issues, including running afoul of the [Securities and Exchange Commission].”

But, even some Republicans looked at that rationale sideways.

Michael Patrick Carroll

“When you’re asked to cast a vote on a bill and it seems innocuous and it’s got a hidden landmine that perhaps only an expert would see,” said Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, “It would sort of behoove those experts to tell us about that in advance rather than make us look a bit indecisive later on.”

Democrats scoffed at the notion of holding off on the override vote. They contend the administration had plenty of time to raise concerns. The real concern, it was suggested, was the governor’s political reputation, which would have taken a hit from a successful override.

In the end, Democrats fell two votes short of an override, with 23 members abstaining. One member confided that, of course, the governor played a role in the vote. The governor may give you some wiggle room on an override if you’re having a crisis of conscience, said the member, but on this vote there was no room for conscientious objectors.

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Bramnick Bill Targets Use of GPS in High-Tech Spying

Source: Asbury Park Press -

Installing a tracking device on another person’s car without consent takes place with surprising regularity. Another surprise: It’s legal in New Jersey.

But there’s momentum to change the law. A new bill in the Legislature would make it a fourth-degree crime to install Global Positioning System tracking devices on a motor vehicle owned or leased by another person unless there’s a written OK.

There would be exceptions, such as for parents who want to monitor children behind the wheel of a car, but the use of GPS devices for spying purposes has grown to a frequency where it’s become “a common problem,” said Steve Kaplan, a Colts Neck divorce attorney. “To me, it’s no different from wiretapping.”

Currently GPS spying isn’t specifically prohibited, unless it can be proven it violated a reasonable expectation of privacy or stalking laws.

Jon Bramnick

New Jersey is among the majority of states (California and Texas ban many uses of GPS without consent) where there’s little on the books regulating the use of tracking devices, said Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, a Republican from Union County who authored bill A-3747.

Bramnick’s legislation doesn’t apply to tracking by a law enforcement agency, and it doesn’t specifically upset the widely held standard that putting a GPS device on a spouse’s car is legal if the couple shares ownership of the vehicle.

Sandy Clark, associate executive director the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women, said, “As an advocate for victims, we think it’s a very good measure. We need it. I’d like to see it clarified that people in a relationship can’t track each other no matter who owns a car.”

Bramnick called the bill an early draft and said changes are likely. The bill’s first public hearing hasn’t been scheduled.

“I’ve received a lot of interest from both Republicans and Democrats and I expect there will be some give and take,” Bramnick said.

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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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DeCroce Bill would establish drug prevention program for students

Source: NJ 101.5 -

For some kids the transition from middle school to high school is very stressful and unfortunately, many start abusing drugs and alcohol when they get to high school. Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce (R-Parsippany) is sponsoring a bill (A-413) to establish a statewide substance abuse prevention grant program for eighth-graders.

BettyLou DeCroce

“It’s imperative that we do it. In today’s world with technology and peer pressure the way it is we have to start way younger,” DeCroce said. “We have to change things and that means changing laws, assisting communities and schools in a way that we haven’t done before.”

The legislation is modeled after a successful drug and alcohol education prevention program at the Copeland Middle School in Rockaway Township in Morris County. Project Positive Choice started at the school in 1998.

“We all know New Jersey’s heroin and prescription drug problem has exploded during the past couple of years and it’s not just in the cities. It’s in our suburban and rural areas too,” DeCroce said.

At CMS, Students meet with teenagers who are recovering from addiction. They listen to their peers who have been impacted by substance abuse and they meet celebrity role models.

“It combines educators, parents and the children and that’s where we have to get,” DeCroce explained.

Under DeCroce’s legislation, the programs would be funded by private and corporate donations, federal money or school districts.

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Fiocchi tours wineries, breweries to promote tourism

Source: The Cape May Gazette -

Sam Fiocchi

Sam Fiocchi

Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi (R-Cumberland, Cape May and Atlantic) took a tour of six Cape May County wineries, two breweries and a distillery on Wednesday to promote tourism in Cape May County.

Fiocchi’s tour, labeled “The Cape May County Wine Trail and Brewery Tour,” started at the Willow Creek Winery, West Cape May, and went on to the Cape May Winery, North Cape May, the Hawk Haven Winery, Rio Grande, Cape May Brewing Company, Rio Grande, Natalie Vineyards, Cape May Court House, and the Tuckahoe Brewing Company, Ocean View.

“The tour is to promote the wine industry in Cape May County. I have a bill introduced that will make the last week of September ‘New Jersey Beer, Wine, and Spirits Week,’ and the last Wednesday of the last week, ‘New Jersey Dine Out Day,’” Fiocchi said.

Fiocchi said New Jersey is sixth or seventh in the nation in wine production, and he believes it should be highlighted as a tourist destination industry.

“We should do anything we can do to extend our tourism season and promote our products,” he said.

Fiocchi said he has been working closely with the chairman of the Tourism Committee, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D), and has bipartisan support for his legislation.

“It’s very important because this industry creates jobs and income, and it can extend the season,” Fiocchi said.

Fiocchi said when he got in office he said his focus was going to be on jobs and promoting a good business environment.

“This (beer/wine/spirits industry) is perfect when you talk about job creation, income, and the ancillary spending it creates for hotels, restaurants, etc.,” Fiocchi said.

Fiocchi was greeted at Willow Creek Winery by the general manager Kevin Celli, who gave the assemblyman a tour of the winery and a lecture on running a vineyard. The Willow Creek Winery grows 13 different types of grapes on its 15 acres.

Celli likened the 13 types of grapes to 13 children, who each need to be treated differently. He said those are used to make 26 kinds of wine.

Celli said the wine business is a growing industry on the East Coast. He said tobacco farms in Virginia, and potato fields on Long Island, are now growing grapes for wine production. He said the vineyards in New Jersey are doing very well.

He said he has been trying to get the six Cape May County vineyards to work together to promote their business, saying they would all benefit from increased tourism.

“All ships rise at high tide,” Celli said.

Celli said Cape May County is an ideal location for growing grapes. He said the sandy soil is good because it allows rain to be absorbed into the soil before the plants’ surface roots can absorb it. Too much water in the grapes dilutes the sugar.

He said the prevailing winds also help keep the fruit and leaves dry. He said dampness promotes disease. The peninsula also has the right number of grow degree days, when the plants are functioning, rather than hibernating. According to Celli, this area mirrors the climate and soil conditions in the Bordeaux region of France.

Celli explained some of the different types of grapes growing at Willow Creek, including the pinot grigio, which he called the “pampered prince” of the grapes. The vineyard has to limit the size of the clusters in order to produce good pinot grigio grapes, thus good wine. Celli called the merlot grapes the “honor student,” which excels at Willow Creek Winery.

From West Cape May, the tour went to Cape May Winery, which started out producing 2,400 gallons of wine per year, and is now making 32,000 gallons of wine annually. Betsy Sole of Cape May Winery said they get approximately four bottles of wine from every gallon.

The vineyard, she said, covers about 26 acres in various locations in Lower Township. Cape May Winery grows 15 varieties of grapes and produces 28 different wines. Their most popular varieties include their shiraz and Red Reserve.

The tour continued north visiting the other four vineyards in the county, as well as the breweries and distillery.

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Fiocchi Cape May Winery Tour Highlights Importance of Tourism Industry

Source: Cape May County Herald -

Sam Fiocchi

Sam Fiocchi

Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi, a strong advocate for economic growth in southern New Jersey, led local officials and the public on a tour of wineries and breweries in Cape May County, highlighting the important role the industries play in New Jersey’s economy. Fiocchi has introduced resolutions urging New Jersey residents to purchase beer, wine, and spirits made in New Jersey (AR-164) and designating the last week in September as “New Jersey Beer, Wine and Spirits Week” and the Wednesday of that week as “New Jersey Dine Out Day” (AJR-72).

“The resolutions highlight the importance of the wine, spirits and restaurant industries throughout the state, and especially in South Jersey,” said Fiocchi, R-Cumberland, Cape May and Atlantic. “Touring these facilities gives an up-close view of the quality products and services they provide.

“The change of seasons and the transition to cooler weather during the last week of September is the perfect time to encourage residents and tourists to visit these fine establishments,” commented Fiocchi. “I hope the leaders in the Assembly will agree to place these resolutions on the Tourism, Gaming and the Arts Committee agenda so we can further promote these highly valued industries.”

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Fiocchi proposed legislation aims to promote NJ wineries, craft breweries [video]

Source: NBC 40 -

Ryan Krill is one of the founders of the Cape May brewing Company, which opened in 2011 after he, his father and a friend from college saw the demand for a brewery at the Jersey Shore.

“We started with 1500 square feet of space and brewing 12 gallons at a time,” explained Krill. “Today we have about 20-thousand square feet of space, we have two buildings, we brew 500 gallons at a time and we just invested in a new system that will brew 1,000 gallons at a time.”

Cape May County’s Wine Industry is growing too.

To give an added boost to these growth industries, Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi is pushing a pair of resolutions aimed at extending New Jersey’s Summer tourism season.

Sam Fiocchi

Sam Fiocchi

“We’re looking to make the last week in September ‘New Jersey Wine, Spirits and Craft Beer Week,’ and the last Wednesday in September as ‘New Jersey Dine Out Day,’” said the 1st District Assemblyman.

As the wine and beer industry grows here in Cape May County, business owners say they aren’t worried about increased competition. Instead they say it all helps make the region a true destination for beer and wine lovers.

Which leaves Cape May County’s residents and visitors with plenty of reasons to raise a glass.

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Schepisi: No tolerance for violence

Bergen Record (letter to editor by Holly Schepisi) -

Dear Editor:

Holly Schepisi

On Sept. 15, the New Jersey General passed a series of domestic violence bills that are designed to protect and help victims of domestic abuse. As part of the discussion on these bills, my Assembly Republican women colleagues – Caroline Casagrande, Nancy F. Muñoz, Mary Pat Angelini, Amy Handlin, Alison McHose, DiAnne Gove, BettyLou DeCroce, Donna Simon, Maria Rodriguez-Gregg – and I called for the resignation of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell over his handling of the domestic violence issue.

When someone sucker punches an innocent woman or takes a switch to his son, something is terribly wrong. The league either delays disciplinary action or issues a slap on the wrist of the offender. The victims are vulnerable to the power of these men. Commissioner Goodell is unsuccessfully trying to appease the fans and advertisers that the league takes these actions seriously. If he were truly serious, he would apologize and submit his resignation over his failure to take immediate steps to prevent these kinds of assaults. The NFL should send a message to society that it will not tolerate these actions and implement a no-tolerance policy with severe repercussions.

Asemblywoman Holly Schepisi

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Rumana discusses TTF and how to fix N.J. roads and bridges

Star Ledger -

The state badly needs to improve its roads and bridges, and a hike in the state gasoline tax is likely to be at least part of how that gets done, lawmakers said today at a hearing on transportation funding.

But while it was clear that the money to fix New jersey’s crumbling infrastructure would have to come at least in part from an increase in the state gasoline tax, there were few specifics on how big a hike should be expected or where other revenues or cost savings might come from.

The hearing today at Montclair State University was the first in a special series on transportation funding being held by the Committee to address the rapidly depleting state Transportation Trust Fund, an account used to pay for big road and bridge projects that’s financed by the gasoline tax. Some witnesses said hiking the gas tax was the only way to raise the $1.6 billion needed to meet the state’s annual transportation spending obligations.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), who announced the hearings last month with Wisniewski, reiterated his support for a tax hike. But neither Prieto, Wisniewski, nor any other committee members would commit to a specific increase.

Scott Rumana

The committee’s ranking Republican, Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-Passaic), said it would require a 31-cent hike in the tax, putting the tax above 45 cents a gallon, to raise the $1.6 billion needed, an increase he doubted the public would support.

The gas tax, like any sales tax, is regressive, meaning it hits poor motorists harder than wealthy ones, and another committee member, Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-Essex), said she was concerned about a hike’s impact on constituents already paying up to $70 to fill their tank.

Rumana and Democrat John Wisniewski both suggested that a gas tax hike would likely have to be just one component of multi-part funding fix, possibly combined with other revenue sources or cost cuts.

“We need to put together a complete package that’s going to get us that number and still not crucify the average Joe,” Rumana said.



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