Category: Clips

Dancer urging base preservation

Source: The Messenger-Press -

Assemblyman Ron Dancer has introduced a resolution in the Assembly that expresses support for the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and urges Congress and the Department of Defense to keep the facility open.

Recently, the Army’s assistant secretary for Installations, Energy and Environment testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Army needs another round of base realignments and closures in 2017.

Ron Dancer

“The Joint Base is an integral part of our country’s military and defense program,” said Assemblyman Dancer (R-12). “These facilities provide multiple benefits to each branch of the service and have shown their extraordinary value over the years. The Joint Base remains a viable operation and plays a vital role in New Jersey’s economy as the state’s second largest employer. Congress and the Base Realignment and Closure Commission will surely recognize the value of this military resource and its important role in New Jersey’s economy.”

In a press release announcing the resolution (AR-116), Mr. Dancer pointed out that nearly 35,000 people are employed full-time at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. It produces over 16,000 jobs in the state in addition to the full-time personnel at the Joint Base and contributes approximately $4.2 billion in statewide gross domestic product.

He also referenced the 2011 closing of Fort Monmouth Army Base, which was selected for closure by the BRAC in 2005. Most Army functions and personnel were required to be moved to other Army facilities.

“”We have already seen the impact a base closing has on our economy and the residents who work at the base and the businesses that rely on its operation,” he said. “The area surrounding Ft. Monmouth is still recovering, but there is no question of the adverse impact it had on people’s lives and the commerce it provided.”

According to the release, while there has been no official indication that the Joint Base is vulnerable to the BRAC, the potential harm to the state’s economy, jobs and national security of such a closure spurred Mr. Dancer to take the resolution to protect the base from potential consideration.

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Wolfe Bill: New Rights for New Jersey Adoptees

Source: Asbury Park Press -

Lawmakers on Thursday gave the final OK to reforming the rules on access to original birth certificates and family history for adoptees in New Jersey.

Dave Wolfe

Bill A-1259, sponsored by Assemblyman David Wolfe, R-Ocean, passed by a vote of 57-18-2 to concur with Gov. Chris Christie’s conditional approval. The Senate voted May 12 to go along with Christie’s change of the original legislation to allow a longer transitional period for enactment.

Under current law, the only way to obtain an adopted person’s original birth certificate is by court order. That will be changed to allow individuals 18 years or older access to an uncertified, long-form copy of an adopted person’s original birth certificate, upon request to the state registrar, if the request is made by the adopted person or a direct descendant, sibling, or spouse of the adopted person; or the adoptive parent, legal guardian, or other legal representative of the adopted person; or a state or federal agency.

The bill also provides an opportunity for birth parents to indicate a preference concerning contact with the adopted person, by filing a document with the state registrar indicating whether the parent prefers direct contact with the adopted person, contact through the use of an intermediary, or no contact at all. The birth parent may change this preference at any time.

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O’Scanlon: Dems opposition to more pension changes caused budget woes

Source: The Inquirer - Assembly Democrats on Wednesday slammed Gov. Christie’s move to cut New Jersey’s pension payments to shore up a $1 billion revenue shortfall, while the state treasurer defended the plan and repeated calls for further changes to the pension and health-benefits systems.

Treasurer Andrew P. Sidamon-Eristoff testified before the Budget Committee a day after the Republican governor issued an executive order to reduce the pension payment from $1.58 billion to $696 million for the fiscal year ending June 30.

Declan O'Scanlon

Sidamon-Eristoff said the administration also had identified $118 million in underspending and savings in other departments and agencies to close the shortfall, which he has attributed to lower-than-expected income-tax receipts in April…

To address this year’s shortfall, Democrats had floated the possibility of raising income taxes on New Jersey’s highest earners with a so-called millionaire’s tax. Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) said that such a tax hike would only increase the volatility in the state’s revenue stream. He also said the state’s budget woes lay not in Christie’s proposed cuts, but rather in Democrats’ opposition in 2011 to bigger pension changes.

“You can’t blame the governor for digging us into a ditch when it was you yourself who dug the ditch,” O’Scanlon said.

Earlier Wednesday, David Rosen, the Legislature’s budget and finance officer, told the committee that he now projected a two-year revenue shortfall of about $2.7 billion – an estimate similar to Christie’s.

The administration has said it missed revenue targets because it underestimated the fallout from the 2012 “fiscal cliff,” when federal income-tax cuts on the wealthy expired. Financial transactions made as a result caused income-tax payments to jump last year, but left 2014 payments trickier to project.

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Webber’s view on pension payment reduction

Source: Bergen Record -

New Jersey’s largest state government employees’ union said Wednesday that it intends to sue Gov. Chris Christie over his plan to slash the state’s pension contribution, saying the cut would be illegal.

The announcement from the Communication Workers of America came the day after the Republican governor announced his plan to bridge an unexpected $2.75 billion budget gap over the next 13 months. Christie proposed closing the gap mostly by scrapping about $2.5 billion in payments that he agreed to three years ago as part of an overhaul of a public workers pension system left underfunded by decades of skipped or skimped state contributions.

Christie issued an executive order Tuesday saying he would make a $696 million pension payment in June instead of the previously agreed-upon $1.6 billion.

He also said he plans to have the state contribute $681 million a year from now rather than the $2.25 billion called for under the budget he proposed earlier this year. He said those amounts are enough to cover the obligations to current employees, who are also paying into the system.

But the cuts do not cover what Christie called “the sins of the past,” or the liabilities.

Jay Webber

Assemblyman Jay Webber, a Republican from Morris Plains, said Wednesday that he wants the state to make the previously planned pension payment in June 2015, and pay for it with spending cuts elsewhere.

The pension payment for the fiscal year that starts July 1 requires the Democrat-controlled Legislature to agree with the proposal.

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Handlin: Time to turn off the Port Authority money spigot

Source: Press of Atlantic City Op-Ed by Amy Handlin -

Amy Handlin

The New Jersey Legislature’s Select Committee on Investigation took testimony for two full days last week. We learned nothing about the Bridgegate scandal that could possibly result in legislation. But during those 12 hours of provocation, innuendo and thinly veiled partisan attacks, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spent $12 million. That’s right. The PA burns through nearly $1 million per hour – $22 million every day – with no controls, transparency or accountability.

And we’ve taken not a single legislative action to turn off the spigot since the infamous events at the George Washington Bridge.

Every decision the Port Authority makes is still guided by the same rules and influenced by the same culture of arrogance that brought us Bridgegate. The agency brazenly maintains a $172 million slush fund. It engages in antics like paying $500,000 to an architect who was never hired, but was a longtime crony of one of the decision makers. The (supposedly) bipartisan committee was specifically charged with the responsibility of reform when it was created back in January. But in the ensuing months, we have allowed the PA to lavish another $2.5 billion on office parks, garbage incineration and other projects that have nothing to do with ports or even transportation. Our inaction makes us enablers, not reformers.

Numerous legislators on both sides of the aisle – and both sides of the Hudson – have called for reform. Govs. Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo have convened a special panel to overhaul the Port Authority. U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wants to take up the issue in Washington. Even the Port Authority itself has begun soliciting reform ideas from the public. The only laggards are the New Jersey Democrats with the power to post and expedite at least 16 bills that have been introduced but totally ignored. Among these legislative no-brainers are bills that would do the following:

  • End the Port Authority’s operational secrecy by publishing detailed information about contracting, debt, personnel, regulatory and other activities on its website.
  • Improve oversight by installing an independent monitor empowered to regularly review agency practices and publicly report the findings.
  • Create transparency by forcing the Port Authority to comply with the sunshine laws of New Jersey and New York.
  • Force Port Authority commissioners and prospective commissioners to disclose conflicts of interest.
  • Criminalize the act of using one’s official position to hurt commuters.
  • Strengthen protection for Port Authority whistleblowers.
  • Insulate decision makers from political interference by requiring both governors to sign off on all high-level employees.
  • Require the Port Authority to conform with its mission and stop competing with private-sector interests.

Over and over, I have tried to convince the Select Committee on Investigation to add Port Authority reform to our agenda. Each time, I have been rebuffed or accused of “showboating.” The co-chairman, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, insists that we can’t reform a dysfunctional, parasitic agency before the committee completes its investigation. That position – no culprits, no reform – is simply illogical. It’s like saying that if I pass a stabbing victim on the street, I should wait to staunch the bleeding until the police catch the attacker.

At the Port Authority, the bleeding – of taxpayer funds and confidence – is already profuse. I call on my colleagues to break the logjam, begin constructive debate and put a stop to this billion-dollar, ever-worsening hemorrhage.

Amy Handlin is a Republican assemblywoman representing Monmouth County.

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Handlin, GOP lawmakers seek Bridgegate testimony from additional Port Authority employees

Source: PolitickerNJ -

Republican lawmakers want the legislative committee investigating the Bridgegate controversy to hold public meetings at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to talk to lower level staff about the lane closures.

Assemblywoman Amy Handlin told lawmakers she invites upcoming testimony from Patrick Foye, executive director of the authority, slated for June 3 and argued lawmakers investigating the administration over the George Washington Bridge lane closures should extend interviews to other agency employees – similar to how the committee is questioning lower level Christie administration officials, she said.

Amy Handlin

“We’re scheduled to hear from Patrick Foye … and I’m optimistic that his testimony will inform new legislation,” Handlin said. “Why don’t we schedule a meeting of this committee on the premise of the Port Authority … that will put us right at the scene of the crime, if you will, and will enable us to hear from [other Port Authority employees].”

“It’s an interesting idea,” responded Sen. Loretta Weinberg, co-chairperson of the joint legislative committee investigating the administration over the lane closure controversy. “We will certainly take that under advice.”

The committee is about to hear testimony from Matt Mowers, a former Christie campaign staffer who approached Fort Lee’s mayor about endorsing the governor’s re-election bid.

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N.J. GOP leader: Stop investigating, start reforming

Source: Inquirer -

Assembly Republicans said Monday that the Legislature should suspend investigative hearings about lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, a day before a panel is set to hear new testimony on the matter.

Jon Bramnick

Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R., Union) said legislators should “without a doubt” suspend the hearings, as they relate to discovering why the lanes were closed in September, and instead focus on reforming the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

“Let’s see what happens with the U.S. Attorney,” he said, referring to a separate federal investigation into the lane closures.

The traffic jams were allegedly orchestrated by a former ally of Gov. Christie at the Port Authority, possibly with the help of a former aide to the governor.

The legislative committee is scheduled to take testimony on Tuesday from Matt Mowers, a former staffer in the governor’s office and later for Christie’s reelection campaign.

It has already heard from Christie’s press secretary, Michael Drewniak, and another former staffer in the governor’s office, Christina Renna.

Democrats say they can’t make meaningful change at the authority until they learn the full extent of the alleged abuse of government power.

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Bramnick spars with Dems over priorities

Source: NJ 101.5 -

Leaders of the Assembly Republican caucus held a Statehouse press conference Monday to call on Democrats to take action on various reform bills stalled in the legislature. A spokesman for the Assembly Democrats said Republicans are standing in the way of important legislation that is already advancing.

Jon Bramnick

“We believe that the Democrats are so focused on 2017 that you see inaction in Trenton and I’m calling on the Democrats to continue with the bi-partisan reform agenda,” said Assembly GOP Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield). “Let’s get back to work.”

Public employees’ pension and health benefits reform, ending huge end-of-career payouts to public workers for their unused sick days, bail reform and a bill to cap raises awarded to police and firefighters at 2 percent are just some of the reform items Bramnick mentioned.

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O’Scanlon: Seeking Sandy-aid Fairness for NJ

Source: NJ 101.5 -

Is New Jersey getting the short end of the stick when it comes to Superstorm Sandy aid doled out by the federal government?

One Garden State lawmaker believes the answer is yes, and he’s calling on Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald to reach out to the federal government to correct the inequities, and streamline the Sandy aid process.

Declan O'Scanlon

A huge problem with Sandy aid is the disproportionate treatment and unfair treatment of New Jersey versus New York,” said Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Red Bank). “They had about 15 percent, 14 or 15 percent more damage; they’re getting 125 percent more aid. What the hell is going on with that?”

O’Scanlon said New Jersey had $37 billion in losses, while New York had $42 billion.

“We’re getting $3.2 billion in aid, they’re getting over $7 billion in aid, they’re getting 125 percent more,” he said. “There’s definitely something wrong with that equation.”

O’Scanlon also wants the feds to cut bureaucratic red tape that’s slowing down Sandy aid from reaching those who need it the most.

“We’ve done a lot, we’ve gotten a lot done, but the people that are not yet back in their homes don’t really care, because they’re not back in their homes,” he said. “We want to prevent fraud, but if the rules we have in place so paralyze the system that you can’t even help the people that really need it, that’s one big problem.”

The bottom line, O’Scanlon said, is that the current situation is “unfair and outrageous to all people of New Jersey, and lawmakers should be banging on the doors at (Washington) D.C. saying, ‘Fix this.’ If someone has a logical explanation for it, I’m willing to listen to it. I don’t think there is one.”

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Republicans call on N.J. legislative panel to suspend GWB investigation

Source: Bergen Record -

Assembly Republicans on Monday said the legislative panel investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closures should put its inquiry on hold until the U.S. Attorney completes his own investigation.

Instead, said Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, lawmakers should focus on Port Authority reforms and — unrelated to the bridge scandal — job creation.

Jon Bramnick

“I would hope that legislators begin to legislate and not simply investigate,” said Bramnick, R-Union, at a State House news conference on Monday.

It was not the first time that Republicans called for a suspension of the investigation that has embroiled the Christie administration. In particular, Republican Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, who is a member of the bridge committee, presses at every opportunity for the committee to turn its attention to reform bills that she introduced earlier this year.

The committee will meet again tomorrow to hear testimony from Matt Mowers, who worked in the governor’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs before leaving last April to join Christie’s re-election campaign. Mowers’ testimony comes after the panel heard from Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak and from Christina Renna, who worked in the intergovernmental affairs office.

Bramnick criticized Democrats for paying too little attention to the state’s fiscal and unemployment problems.

“For the past six months, they’ve been searching for why the bridge was closed instead of searching for answers for how to keep the state of New Jersey open for two, three, four years down the road,” he said. Republicans plan to hold hearings of their own on job creation ideas, Bramnick said.

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