Category: Clips

Bramnick, Republicans plan campaign against proposed redistricting changes

Source: Politico New Jersey -

Jon Bramnick, the Assembly’s top Republican, knows he’s unlikely to stop Democrats from putting a question on the ballot in November that would overhaul how New Jersey redraws its state legislative boundaries.

So Bramnick and fellow Republicans plan a campaign to convince voters to reject it.

Jon Bramnick

“If you think the Democrats are doing a constitutional amendment to make redistricting more competitive, I hate to use the phrase, but I’ve got a bridge to sell you,” Bramnick said.

Last month, Democrats hastily introduced and began pushing an amendment that would write new standards into the state constitution on how New Jersey redraws its legislative districts. Before that, they had discussed redistricting only privately and rebuffed a reporter’s questions.

Democrats have touted the amendment as a way to ensure competitive districts in which either party has a shot at winning, noting that it would require at least 10 of the state’s 40 legislative districts to be “competitive,” and that neither party have more safe districts than the other.

But the formula would build an advantage for Democrats into the state constitution.

A competitive district would be one in which neither party enjoys more than a 5 percentage point advantage over the other based a hypothetical “average” district. The average district would be measured by partisan election results for governor, president and U.S. Senate over the previous decade.

Democrats enjoy a strong statewide advantage in New Jersey. If the average district were to be drawn today based on the last decade of election results — including votes for third party candidates — Democrats would have a 10-point advantage over Republicans, at 54 percent to 44 percent. The next redistricting process won’t take place until 2021, but there are no signs Democrats’ advantage in the state is waning.

The effort has drawn sharp criticism in the press, including from the left-leaning Star-Ledger editorial board. But it has not drawn much attention from the public, as few have showed up to testify on it during Senate and Assembly committee meetings.

Bramnick also questioned why the Legislature is basing districts on mostly federal, and not legislative election results.

“When the state Legislature starts to do gerrymandering at this level, it is a threat to democracy. When you threaten the basic institution, the response has to be very strong by the minority,” Bramnick said. “New Jersey has gone back and forth with Republican governors and Democratic governors and the people have an opportunity to respond to policies they don’t like. This would end the ability of the public, pretty much, to change the Legislature.”

Bramnick said that under the redistricting plan, the 1st Legislative District — which at the beginning of the new legislative session next week will be entirely held by Democrats — would be considered a safe Republican district.

The proposed amendment has already been approved in committee and is up for a constitutionally-mandated public hearing on Thursday before it’s voted on by the full Senate and Assembly. Bramnick said he will testify against it, but the GOP effort to derail it will intensify in the coming months.

Since no Republicans support the amendment, Democrats will have to pass it with simple majorities before and after the legislative year ends on Jan. 12 in order to get it on the ballot in November.

“There’s a lot of things we have planned, but I’m not going to tip my hand at this point,” Bramnick said.

Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald said it’s fair that the legislative map should reflect the partisan makeup of the state. And, he said, the reason Democrats are using statewide results is they are higher turnout years and best reflect the full makeup of the electorate.

Greenwald said the criteria is based on principles laid out by the late professor Donald Stokes, who served as a tiebreaking redistricting commissioner twice — most recently in 1991, when Republicans won the map. Democrats won the map in 2001 and 2011.

“In the 90s, that formula created a very strong Republican map because the state was leaning Republican,” Greenwald said. “The state started to change… that same formula created a map that went Democratic.”

U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, a Republican from Hunterdon County, has offered to help derail Democrats’ proposal. Lance’s father, the late state Sen. Wesley Lance, played a key role in the 1966 constitutional convention that created the current redistricting process.

Lance called it “one of the worst pieces of public policy legislation as a constitutional amendment over the course of my life.”

“I think it is an attempt by Democrats to have a power grab,” he said.

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Brown commnets on A.C. PILOT bills without Lavin’s amendments

Atlantic City Press -

The state Senate is scheduled to vote on three bills Thursday that call for sweeping changes to the way Atlantic City casinos pay property taxes. But those bills don’t include the suggested amendments made in a draft report by Atlantic City’s emergency manager, Kevin Lavin.

The draft, obtained Monday by The Press of Atlantic City, included suggested adjustments that would allow state officials to review and potentially increase the casinos’ annual collective payments in lieu of property taxes. In producing a five-year financial forecast for Atlantic City, Lavin’s draft report assumes the amendments to the bills.

The current versions of the legislation are on the Senate’s agenda for Thursday, and local Democratic state lawmakers said Tuesday that the Senate should still vote on them. After Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed the bills in November, the Assembly passed a version with Christie’s recommendations in December.

But Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, said it “makes no sense” to rush the PILOT through without waiting for Lavin’s final report.

The plan in its current form would eliminate costly tax appeals, which have wrecked the city’s finances, and create a 15-year payment in lieu of taxes program for the city’s eight casinos.

Bill Nowling, spokesman for Lavin, said the emergency manager will only comment on his report when it is completed. Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who determines whether bills in the Senate are voted on, declined to comment through a spokesman.

Asked who wrote the bills, the subject of about 13 months of political debate, Mazzeo said it was a collective agreement with the Casino Association of New Jersey, a strong supporter of the legislation.

One of Lavin’s recommendations would allow the state to decide every three years whether to increase the casinos’ obligations by up to $20 million, based on physical improvements to the properties, increases to nongambling revenue streams “and any other factors deemed appropriate.”

Another would set the “floor” of the annual collective payment at $120 million to shield city taxpayers from large tax increases.

Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian said Monday that the city collected about $123 million from casino property taxes in 2015. The PILOT in its current form is retroactive to 2015, possibly meaning the city would have to give back about $3 million if the current bills are passed.

Brown said the city has already waited 13 months and the state is paying for Lavin’s expertise.

In December, Christie’s advisers met at the governor’s mansion with Levinson, Whelan, Mazzeo, Brown, Atlantic County Freeholder Frank Formica and South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross to discuss the city’s financial crisis.

In a Dec. 30 letter from Brown to Mazzeo, circulated among the Atlantic County delegation and Levinson and obtained by The Press, Brown suggested the lawmakers work together to make changes to the PILOT based on Lavin’s amendments. The letter highlights nearly all of the potential amendments.

Chris A. Brown

It seems to me, since Atlantic County’s families paid $1.7 million for an expert analysis, the sponsors ought to damn well pay attention to that report,” Brown said Tuesday, referring to Lavin’s salary and fees billed by Ernst & Young, which has provided the city financial advice.

Atlantic City Council President Marty Small said that while an increase in the casinos’ payments would be a positive thing, the city is in a precarious situation and doesn’t “want this to linger.” He also took issue with the draft report not being shared with council members.“We definitely need better communication,” Small said. “We’re the decision makers for the city of Atlantic City.”

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Dancer bill studies electronic driver’s license application

NJ 101.5 -

There is a pilot program underway in Iowa to test a driver license smartphone app — and several New Jersey lawmakers want the Garden State to be the second state to offer it.

A bill (S-2695) that passed the full State Senate in March of 2015 and is scheduled for a vote in the Assembly Transportation Committee on Thursday would direct the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, in consultation with the New Jersey Office of Information Technology, to prepare and submit to the governor and to the Legislature a report concerning the feasibility of electronic driver licenses in New Jersey.

Ron Dancer

“I’m hopeful that New Jersey could become the second state having an electronic driver’s license,” said bill co-sponsor, Assemblyman Ron dancer (R-Jackson). “It’s very convenient. Today, we’re actually more likely to leave our wallet at home than we are our (cell) phone.”

Dancer admitted that he is among the many New Jersey resident to get a ticket after being pulled over by police only to discover he left his wallet at home, but he said he did have his phone.

The MDL app being tested in Iowa was produced by MorphoTrust, a company that already does business with the state of New Jersey. With the app, a person can change their address, update donor and veteran status and more. Dancer said the app would also cut down on trips to the MVC for New Jerseyans.

The test group in Iowa is using a downloadable iOS mobile app that requires identity verification before the MDL can be loaded into the phone. According to the company’s website, the app and verification process “meet the highest standards for security and protection of personal information.” The pilot program was designed to help test the app in a variety of identified use cases.

In order for the bill to land on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk in the very near future it would have to clear a committee Thursday and pass the full Assembly Monday because that’s the last day of the current legislative session. If that doesn’t happen, the measure would have to be re-introduced and go through the entire legislative process again.

 

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Angelini bill for proper disposal of prescription drugs becomes law on Jan. 1

Source: NJ 101.5 -

Beginning Jan. 1, 2016, pharmacies and prescribers will be required to give patients a Division of Consumer Affairs notice with available drug take-back programs and suggestions for the safe disposal of unused drugs.

Gov. Chris Christie signed the bill (A-709) into law in June and it officially takes effect on the first day of the New Year.

Mary Pat Angelini

“We’re at the epicenter of heroin addiction and many, many times we hear young adults have started on prescription medication so one of the areas that we’re really trying to educate people on is the fact that they need to dispose effectively their unused medications,” said bill co-sponsor, Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R-Ocean).

Prescription drugs can be very expensive Angelini explained, and often when someone gets hooked on them, but can’t afford them, they turn to heroin.

“Many times teenagers will go into someone’s medicine cabinet and take out a pill here, a pill there and the person who it was prescribed for unknowingly, unwittingly is a part of this,” Angelini said.

Under the law, pharmacies, doctors and advanced practice nurses must also make patients aware of the “Project Medicine Drop” program. The program provides for secure collection and safe disposal of unused and expired prescription drugs and household medications.

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O’Scanlon resolves to fight return of red light cameras to New Jersey

Jersey’s red light camera pilot program was halted 12 months ago, but some fear the cameras could make a comeback in 2016.

Source: NJ 101.5 -

In the coming months the NJ Department of Transportation will complete a detailed analysis of red light camera intersection data, and then issue a report to the Legislature that might possibly include a recommendation to allow the cameras back in some municipalities.

Declan O'Scanlon

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Red Bank) doesn’t believe that will happen, but he says “we can always count on some folks to be more concerned with revenue than justice and fairness to people.”

“Anybody with any integrity and any open mindedness who looks at the data objectively will have to conclude red light cameras are an awful, awful deal for New Jersey motorists,” he said.

O’Scanlon said the most recent data he’s reviewed shows there is absolutely no way to legitimately suggest that red light cameras provide any measure of safety.

“So right there that destroys the credibility of anybody trying to argue otherwise. We’ve seen data from around the world where these things have been tried, and over and over every single objective study has concluded there is no safety benefit to red light cameras,” O’Scanlon said.

He suggested the bottom line here is simple.

“We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and we’re not really improving safety one bit,” he said. “This is nothing but a money grab.”

O’Scanlon added this is not a Democrat or Republican issue.

“We have a bipartisan group of lawmakers opposed to red light cameras, the tide has really turned against automated enforcement,” he said. “Wherever it is tried it is shown that automated enforcement cannot survive without fining and ticketing reasonably behaving people just based on technical violations.”

He also said “a lot of people can’t afford to pay red light camera fines, it’s the difference between paying their rent and keeping their drivers licenses, which is an awful choice especially when 90 percent of them have done nothing to put anyone in harm’s way.”

Even if the DOT report recommends allowing red light cameras back in the Garden State, O’Scanlon doesn’t believe Gov. Chris Christie will allow such a thing to happen.

“He’ll see through it. He’s a smart enough guy to see through it and I think he’ll stand up for New Jersey motorists. I have real confidence that that’s the case,” he said. “But it is something we have to be vigilant on because there is so much money in this system it almost cannot help but be corrupting for a few people, and that is troubling. We’re going to have to continue to fight against it every step of the way, we have to stay on this, these companies are relentless.”

In 2008, red light cameras were allowed at 73 intersections in 25 different New Jersey towns as part of a pilot program to see if they helped to prevent accidents.

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Carroll & Schepisi: Dem redistricting plan attacks voter rights [op-ed]

Source: Daily Record [op-ed] -

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

Michael Patrick Carroll

Schemes hatched in lame-duck sessions of the Legislature should always give reason for pause, but changing voting rights without considerable public discussion is reckless. A proposed constitutional amendment with a significant but unknown impact on the voting rights of New Jersey’s citizens deserves more than the hasty, slapdash, non-transparent treatment the Democrats are giving this measure.

Ignoring the Legislature’s responsibility to hold fact-finding hearings, Judiciary Committee Chairman John McKeon dismissed concerns about fast-tracking the proposal changing the way the state redraws its legislative districts. “The law is clear an unambiguous and the people will decide,” he said at last week’s committee hearing.

We did not support this plan in part because the sponsors couldn’t answer basic questions. How can voters make an informed decision about a constitutional amendment when the Legislature itself does not fully understand it?

What’s the rush? Legislative districts won’t be reconfigured again until 2021. When the 1966 Constitutional Convention considered the standards used today, it met for three months and had 14 meetings full of expert testimony. Additionally, there were six meetings specifically on apportionment. In this process, the Democrats are advancing a plan after only two brief committee meetings with no expert testimony and only two members of the public commenting.

Their amendment relies on a decades-old report by Dr. Donald Stokes, who served on the Apportionment Commission in 1981 and 1991. Many of his assumptions are based on demographics from almost a generation ago. No one can deny that New Jersey has changed significantly in a quarter century. Does Stokes’ modeling still hold true?

The amendment deviates from the report on even more critical aspects. Stokes used legislative elections to create his models and proposal, but this amendment ignores them. Instead, it relies on federal and gubernatorial elections that have little to do with drawing up legislative districts. Why exclude legislative races to determine how those districts should be drawn? That’s like using baseball statistics to determine how football should be played.

Their plan requires only a quarter of districts to be competitive, but allows the remaining 75 percent to have no contest at all. Why not maximize the number of competitive districts? The Stokes test for determining whether a map is fair requires the popular vote across the state to be represented among the districts as a whole and be responsive to the shifts of public opinion. When electoral tides move strongly toward one party, that party should fairly quickly win an effective majority of seats. Using the 2013 legislative election returns, a fair map should have resulted with 20 Democrat and 20 Republican senators, rather than the 24-16 split that has remained since that election.

Further, the amendment intentionally excludes the equal representation requirement in the state Constitution. Every state respects equal population requirements, the bedrock of American democracy since “no taxation without representation.” Yet, the Democrats intentionally left it out in favor of gerrymandering districts, which almost always shift groups of voters to limit the voting rights of others. They may point to the compactness requirement in the constitution, but this amendment makes federal law pre-eminent.

Democrats have held a legislative majority since 2001 and hold their largest majority in 40 years. So why do the sponsors want to make this change?

The plan was conceived behind closed-doors by Democratic political operatives with essentially a super PAC in East Brunswick. They introduced it to the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17, even though it was not mentioned during a previous meeting just three days earlier. With little more information than a Politico article, it passed on a party-line vote the week before Christmas.

While parties may disagree on the result of the map every 10 years, New Jersey’s electoral process has been routinely praised by academics when compared to other states. Why weren’t those experts invited to the committee hearing? Shouldn’t we know what other states do before moving forward with a constitutional amendment? Surely if this plan were all the Democrats say, there would have been a line of academics ready to back them up.

In no other profession would you first enact a policy to know what is in it. The lack of information, transparency and candor is reason enough to be concerned with where the state is headed under a Democratic majority. This constitutional amendment blindly leads the public into forever changing the way New Jersey votes.

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll and Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi are Republican members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

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Carroll says unclaimed property advertisements are ‘not effective’

Source: NJTV News -

Until now, Sandesh Ranadive had never heard of missingmoney.com where you can find if New Jersey is holding your unclaimed property like money, stocks or more from banks or businesses.

“For now, I don’t see or remember if anybody owes me some money,” he said.

Michael Patrick Carroll

“Who reads newspapers at all, let alone the legal sections? Just because I’m a lawyer doesn’t mean I’m still using a quill and ink. We evolved.” – Assembly Republican Michael Patrick Carroll, sponsor of legislation to remove the requirements for governments to advertise in newspapers when they have something to tell people.

 

But, chances are you don’t know if you’ve never check. Then again, even if you had checked, a state audit has found New Jersey’s Unclaimed Property Administration – or the UPA – failed to put more than a quarter-billion dollars in properties on the site. It’s an amount that rivals the current Powerball jackpot.

“They’re not going to see that in the online system for whatever reason. When it was transferred over in the mid 2000s those items were improperly coded to only be part of the newsprint that was put out and not be part of the constant online system,” Stephen Eells, NJ state auditor, said.

The UPA says the information has been added to the website and owners and their heirs can search and find their claims and collect it.

$264 million dollars is the cash value of unclaimed property the UPA received in fiscal year 2015 and it paid out $123 million.

Some of that, about $25, went to Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll who says an older colleague saw an ad in a newspaper.

“The ads are not effective,” Carroll said.

By law, UPA must advertise in the legal section of the classifieds in local newspapers. But, the auditor found declining paid circulation weakens the return on the advertising budget.

“They spend over a million dollars in their newsprint and we’d like to see that maybe change so that there’s better outreach,” Eells said.

The state auditor says for New Jersey to do a better job of linking unclaimed property with owner will require some action from state lawmakers.

“Who reads newspapers at all, let alone the legal sections?” Carroll asked.

This year, Carroll, a lawyer, became another assemblymen to write and introduce a bill to remove the requirements for governments to advertise in newspapers when they have something to tell people.

“Just because I’m a lawyer doesn’t mean I’m still using a quill and ink. We evolved,” he said.

The audit made several other recommendations with which the UPA says it agrees. Among them, that the UPA match owners with tax debts after UPA paid $1.3 million to those who owe the state money in 2015.

Also, that UPA enforce the law requiring New Jersey business to report the unclaimed property they have. Of the state’s 160,000 businesses, 116,000 failed to file so-called holder reports in the last two fiscal years. An audit of 178 of those businesses discovered “$44.8 million in unclaimed property” was found.

“We felt there was a significant opportunity of other businesses out there with unclaimed property that is not being reported,” Eells said.

Meanwhile, Ranadive wonders what he’ll find at missingmoney.com.

“I’d be surprised, you know, if I find out,” he said. “I’ll go now and check.”

To find out if New Jersey owes you any money go to missingmoney.com.

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Carroll contends Rutgers Newark’s free tuition experiment is wrong for taxpayers [video]

Source: NJTV News [video] -

Rutgers University Newark looks at New Jersey’s most populated city the way scientists look to the laboratory to test a theory, solve a conundrum or create a cure. Newark – with all its socio-economic issues – has one of the lowest rates in the state of residents who’ve been to college at 17 percent, however it plans to grow it to 25 percent in ten years.

“Our fate is wrapped up, it’s intertwined, with that of Newark inextricably,” Peter Englot, Senior Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs at Rutgers University-Newark, said.

A solution for the ever-expanding Rutgers-Newark for undergraduates, after scholarships have been awarded:

  • Free tuition for Newark residents who’ve been admitted from households with an income of $60,000 or less.
  • Free tuition for New Jersey county college transfers with an Associate’s Degree with an income of $60,000 or less.
  • Free room and board to students admitted to the Honors Living-Learning Community.

The free tuition plan for Rutgers Newark’s Talent and Opportunity Pathways program – or RUN to the TOP – starts next fall. One critic says it shouldn’t start at all.

Michael Patrick Carroll

“That’s a state institution. Why in the world are we segregating one municipality and giving them free tuition? What’s wrong with the other 560 some odd?” Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll said.

Carroll, a Rutgers Newark alumnus says plenty of New Jersey cities deal with socio-economic challenges and Newark is not unique.

“When you talk about free, you’re saying the taxpayers are going to pay this. That’s a bad precedent to set. The simple fact of the matter is if you are an adult, and every college student is, nothing should be free. You should expect to pay for everything you want. I don’t have any objections to giving people wanting to go to college and take substantive courses some assistance, provided they agree to give something back,” he said.

Rutgers Newark says while this city has a lot of challenges, it also has a lot of potential and that’s what it’s trying to tap in to.

The university is targeting first-generation students, and it’s partnering with 60 public, private and nonprofit groups to expand student pathways to college and to identify talent.

Rutgers Newark has 12,000 enrolled students with roughly 600 who would qualify for the RUN to TOP free tuition and/or free housing if it had started this year.

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Republicans oppose Dems’ plan to change make-up of legislative districts

Source: Inquirer -

New Jersey Democrats are moving to change the process by which the state’s legislative districts are drawn, advancing a bill that would put the high-stakes political issue to voters through a constitutional amendment.

Their plan, opposed vociferously by Republicans, would change the composition of the Apportionment Commission and use data from all statewide general elections – for governor, U.S. Senate, and president – held in the previous decade to draw the political map.

Michael Patrick Carroll

 

“Politics is about winning; nobody knows that better than the other party. And[the Democrats have] been very good at it. If you’re the Democrats, and you’ve had two beautiful cycles which have delivered magnificent results, why change?” – Assembly Republican Michael Patrick Carroll

 

The wonky, math-intensive matter of redistricting helps shape the balance of power in Trenton and in statehouses across the country. Democrats in Trenton have won an advantage in each of the last two maps, drawn in 2011 and 2001. They control both houses of the Legislature.

Congressional redistricting is a separate process that wouldn’t be affected by the amendment.

The latest effort, which has unfolded in Trenton over the last two weeks, comes nearly five years before the next map will be drawn. The state constitution requires the Apportionment Commission to redraw the districts every decade to account for changes in the Census.

Voters elect one senator and two Assembly members to represent each of the state’s 40 districts.

Democrats say they want to put the issue on the ballot in 2016 because the presidential election will result in high voter turnout, and thus greater voter participation.

To get the question on next year’s ballot, the Legislature would need to pass the bill with majority votes both this session, which ends in mid-January, and next, or with one three-fifths majority vote.

Republicans have not minced words in their criticism.

“This is not our finest moment. It’s a terrible moment for democracy,” State Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R., Passaic) said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Monday, when Democrats advanced the measure on an 8-5 vote along party lines. O’Toole, instead, offered an amendment to impose term limits, which Democrats shot down.

“Historically anti-American,” offered Sen. Gerry Cardinale (R., Bergen).

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

“Doubling down on stupid,” said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R., Bergen), referring to the second legislative hearing she had attended on the matter in less than a week.

The principal target of their frustration: a provision in the bill that would require “at least” 25 percent of all districts, or 10 of the 40 total, to be competitive.

The legislation defines a competitive district as one that is more favorable to either party by no more than five percentage points of the “average district,” which would be calculated by using voting results in the statewide elections.

If the districts were to be redrawn today, the “average district” would lean 54 percent Democratic and 46 percent Republican, said Assembly Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald (D., Camden), a sponsor of the bill.

The commission would also be required to ensure that each party has an equal number of “favorable” districts, relative to the average.

Republicans object that the 25 percent requirement would constitutionally enshrine an anticompetitive map, thereby deterring voters from heading to the polls and undermining the democratic process.

Democrats are moving ahead with the bill even as the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing a case challenging the “one person, one vote” principle that undergirds federal law governing the political process.

The plaintiffs, from Texas, want each district to have the same number of eligible voters – not the same total population, which includes children, noncitizens, and others who can’t vote.

Opponents of the New Jersey legislation note that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs next year, lawmakers would have to change the state amendment, voiding any vote held this session.

Still others suggest that the plan, which is being rushed through the lame-duck session, is a plot by Democrats to ensure they maintain an outsize majority in perpetuity.

“Politics is about winning; nobody knows that better than the other party,” said Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R., Morris). “And they’ve been very good at it. If you’re the Democrats, and you’ve had two beautiful cycles which have delivered magnificent results, why change?”

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Schepisi serving as honorary co-chair of state legislators’ mission to Israel

Source: New Jersey Jewish News -

Members of the New Jersey State Assembly Holly Schepisi (R-Dist. 39) and Pamela Lampitt (D-Dist. 6) have been named honorary co-chairs of the “NJ Legislators’ Study Mission to Israel” organized by the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations.

The mission, scheduled for Feb. 25 to March 4, follows upon the 2014 State Association’s trip in which 12 legislators — including Lampitt and Schepisi — participated and which, said State Association president Mark Levenson, “was an informative and educational visit which deepened the ties between New Jersey and Israel and among the participants.”

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

“Traveling to Israel for the first time two years ago,” Schepisi said, “I finally understood the import of United States support for this country. Here is a country, roughly the size of New Jersey, but ranked second in the world for venture capital funds and hosting the largest percentage by population of startup companies in the world, while developing such innovative technologies as Amazon’s Kindle and the Iron Dome missile defense system.”

Schepisi also pointed to Israel’s security concerns. “One cannot fully perceive the scope and magnitude of the dangers faced by Israel and its citizens before understanding that its neighbors are as similar in size and distance as New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware are to New Jersey — but yet each of these neighbors have expressed a desire at some point to eliminate Israel.

“As NJ legislators it is important to learn firsthand how to look to Israel as a model for turning New Jersey back into a business leader while showing our support for Israel’s security concerns,” Schepisi said.

State Association executive director Jacob Toporek said the two legislators’ commitment to the mission “reflects the strong and reliable support in the Legislature from both sides of the aisle that the Jewish community counts on time and again on matters concerning Israel and the NJ-Israel relationship.”

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