Category: Clips

Schepisi leads N.J. lawmakers on week-long trip to Israel

Bergen Record -

A group of 16 New Jersey lawmakers began leaving for Israel Wednesday on week-long trade and fact-finding trip that will include visits with Israeli legislators and a cabinet official as well as side trips to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

But unlike a visit by another group of lawmakers to Cuba last month, this trip has the full approval both of Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Senate President Steve Sweeney.

Also different is the fact that lawmakers are talking about the Israel trip in advance, which they didn’t do prior to the Cuban trip, which sparked criticism from opponents of that island nation’s Communist regime.

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

“There’s a tremendous amount of synergy between Israel and New Jersey,” Holly Schepisi, R-River Vale, said on her way to the airport in Newark. Schepisi, who was making her second trip to Israel.

“Israel is a country the size of New Jersey that’s a global leader in high tech,” Schepisi added. “This trip will enable us to bring additional business to New Jersey.”

The lawmakers are paying their own way, which comes to about $5,000 including air fare, Schepisi said.

The trip was organized by the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, which represents 10 different federations. The same group that organized a visit by 12 lawmakers two years ago.

Association President Mark Levenson said the group will meet with the speaker of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. They will also talk with a firm that has expressed an interest in locating an operation in New Jersey, he added without elaborating.

He said lawmakers will hear from Israeli officials involved in social services and anti-terrorism efforts and visit a biotech firm and a local university. There also will be some cultural stops involving history and religion, he said.

Other lawmakers on the trip are Senators James Beach, D-Camden; Nia Gill, Montclair; Christopher “Kip” Bateman, R- Somerset and Nilsa Cruz-Perez, D-Camden and Assembly members Christopher Brown, R-Atlantic, Herb Conaway Jr., D-Burlington; Nancy Pinkin, D-Middlesex; Raj Mukherji, D-Hudson, Gabriela Mosquera, D-Gloucester, Patricia Egan Jones, D-Camden.

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Carroll Wants New Jersey Drinking Age Changed To 18

WINS Radio 1010 -

If you can serve your country, you should be able to have a drink too, says one lawmaker in New Jersey.

Michael Patrick Carroll

Republican Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll wants to lower New Jersey’s drinking age from 21 to 18.

Carroll recently introduced the measure, saying it’s wrong that an 18-year-old can serve in the military but not be allowed to buy alcohol. The bill seems unlikely to pass, since lowering the drinking age would cost the state millions of dollars in federal highway funds.

“You’d think that our law enforcement officers would have better things to do with their time than police this type of thing. For example, you’re 17 years old, you sneak in a beer… That’s a problem for your parents, not a problem for the police,” Carroll told 1010 WINS.

Carroll concedes that the loss of federal money has stopped previous efforts to lower the drinking age. But he says “you have to have a line drawn somewhere.”

“If you’re mature enough to do lots of other things, like serve in the armed forces, buy a house, vote for president… you should be mature enough to make a determination whether or not to buy a six-pack,” he said.

At Tiff’s Grill And Ale House patrons expressed support.

“I would agree with that,” Dezso Benyo said, “The drinking age was 18 years for us, so if you can serve your country, absolutely.”

Some people say the law is reason enough to reject Carroll’s bill, including one liquor store owner.

“I think the maturity goes up when a person is 21,” Prabhakr Amin said.

Carroll said it might make sense to amend federal law as well.

“Perhaps petition our congressmen to take a position that changes the law federally so that states that wish to chart their own courses are not punished,” he said.

The next step for the bill will be a committee, but it could be years before the bill ever becomes law.

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Brown, Ciattarelli on Dem’s $15 Minimum Wage Proposal

Source: PolitickerNJ - Since announcing a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $15 as early as 2021 last week, the question remains whether Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) will pursue the issue with a ballot question to amend the state constitution rather than letting a veto from Governor Chris Christie quash the increases. With that ballot question expected to go to voters in 2017 when Sweeney will likely run for the Democratic nomination for governor, the minimum wage issue could be a way for Sweeney to drum up his labor support for the primary and for his caucus to fall back on a dependable populist message…

Chris A. Brown

Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray said that Sweeney’s confrontational approach will be a lure for labor support during the primary. With Sweeney facing potential political fallout from renegotiated or terminated collective bargaining agreements as the result of his state takeover effort in Atlantic City, that appeal to the rank and file could serve him well…

Krista Jenkins, a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University, said that while the numbers still aren’t in on popular support for Sweeney’s wage hike, the wide margin of victory for his 2013 ballot question raising the wage and constitutionally tying it to inflation suggests that Sweeney may have made the right choice for the times. She said that if underemployment in New Jersey proves to be consistent with national trends, that disparity between workers’ education and job prospects could compound Sweeney’s advantage…

But in competitive districts like the second, eleventh and sixteenth, Democrats have either kept their heads down or come out against the increase. Last year’s hard-fought Democratic victories in the eleventh and sixteenth depended on support from center-right independents…

Jack Ciattarelli

[Assemblyman Chris] Brown [R-2] supported the possibility of an increase but opposed the 2013 ballot question, writing in the Press of Atlantic City that Sweeney and his Democratic allies had “ignored a chance at a compromise and instead chose to move even further away from the common ground…”

Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16), who will face another close race against first-term assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-16), came out in firm opposition to a hike.

“With this kind of government-mandate, watch what happens to the price of food and gas, for example,” Ciattarelli said. “Are we now saying that my 15-years old son who bags groceries at the local produce shop should be paid the equivalent of $30,000 a year?”


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GOP lawmakers want prosecutors’ discretion in gun cases to be law

Burlington County Times -

A Pennsylvania grandmother who purchases a BB gun and transports it into New Jersey intending to give it to her grandson shouldn’t face the possibility of being sentenced to three years in state prison for breaking New Jersey’s strict gun possession laws.

So says Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, who cited that possible scenario Tuesday while touting legislation to give prosecutors more leeway when dealing with out-of-state residents accused of violating the law.

Jon Bramnick

“We want prosecutors to have discretion when it’s a good guy who makes a mistake rather than a bad guy with a gun,” said Bramnick, R-21st of Westfield, at a Statehouse news conference Tuesday with Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-13th of Little Silver.

Declan O'Scanlon

“This isn’t about relaxing New Jersey gun laws. It’s about getting rid of stupid laws that destroy reasonable people’s lives,” O’Scanlon said.

New Jersey prosecutors already have discretion when handling cases involving out-of-state residents who inadvertently violate gun possession laws, which mandates a minimum three-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors are already able to consent for such defendants to apply to enter a pretrial intervention program that allows them to avoid trial and conviction. They can also offer plea agreements in which charges can be amended in order to avoid a mandatory prison term or make a motion with the trial judge to reduce the sentence.

These options were clarified in a September 2014 directive from acting New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman to all 21 county prosecutors. However, Bramnick and

O’Scanlon wants the discretion written into New Jersey law as a safeguard against the possibility of an “unreasonable prosecutor.”

“Let’s memorialize it into statute so when someone makes a mistake, their life isn’t thrown down the drain,” Bramnick said, adding that it has some bipartisan support.

Among the Democratic supporters is influential North Jersey power broker Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-20th of Elizabeth.

In a statement, Lesniak’s office said the senator agrees that “certain ‘possession’ charges should not mandate state prison, and prosecutors should have discretion pursuant to the attorney general’s guidelines. Both legislators agreed to memorialize the guidelines in legislation.”

Legislation permitting discretion in certain gun possession cases was first penned by Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, R-12th of Plumsted, in August 2014 in response to the case of Shaneen Allen, a Philadelphia woman who was charged with unlawful possession of a weapon and hollow-point bullets after she told New Jersey State Police troopers she was carrying a handgun during a traffic stop in Atlantic County.

Allen was issued a concealed-carry permit in Pennsylvania, but the license is not recognized by New Jersey.

She was eventually permitted to enter into a pretrial intervention program.

Bramnick and O’Scanlon cited that case, as well as a 2015 incident in Woodbridge, Middlesex County, in which an actor was arrested on a possession charge after he was spotted brandishing a BB gun while filming a movie scene in the town without a permit.

A Burlington County case also garnered attention. Former Mount Laurel resident Brian Aitken was arrested in 2009 after township officers found three handguns and 39 hollow-point bullets in the trunk of his car.

Aitken claimed he bought the guns legally in Colorado and was in the process of moving back to New Jersey when he was arrested. As with Allen, the case received national attention from gun rights groups, and Gov. Chris Christie wound up commuting Aitken’s seven-year prison sentence.

Bramnick said he is undecided about legislation granting reciprocity to other states’ gun permits, but he is in favor of revising gun possession penalties so that people aren’t punished for innocent mistakes.

He said coming up with the appropriate language has proved difficult because lawmakers don’t want to give criminals a legal loophole to escape prison time.

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Bramnick-O’Scanlon push to cut those caught with guns a little slack

NJ 101.5 -

Over the past few months there have been several stories in the news of residents from other states who have gun permits being arrested and facing time behind bars for accidentally bringing their firearm into New Jersey.

The Garden State has a very strict gun possession law, which could result in at least three years in jail for anyone who violates the statute.

Now, however, some New Jersey legislators think the time has come to amend the law.

Jon Bramnick

During a press conference Tuesday at the Statehouse, Assembly Republican leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) said he’s pushing for a measure that recognizes “prosecutorial discretion when it comes to reducing the level of the crime and not imposing a mandatory jail term.”

He stressed a change is necessary “so when someone makes a mistake their entire life doesn’t go down the drain by going to state prison for three years.”

Declan O'Scanlon

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon agreed, saying this is not about weakening gun laws.

“It’s about getting rid of stupid laws that are destroying perfectly innocent reasonably behaving people,” O’Scanlon said,

O’Scanlon added when government passes laws “that help people and defend people from pain or suffering at the hands of someone else, it crosses the line of oppression, and we need to get away from that.”

Bramnick also said another reason why New Jersey’s gun law needs to be tweaked is because of situations that could result in the arrest of someone who has legally purchased a gun in another state, but brought it to New Jersey for a non-criminal purpose, such as giving a gift. If, for example, a grandmother from Pennsylvania legally buys a BB gun for her grandson, she could be arrested and placed behind bars if she brings the firearm to New Jersey, Bramnick said.

“It’s time for the Legislature to memorialize what I think most prosecutors would like us to do, give them discretion especially when we’re talking about out-of-state individuals,” he said.

The lawmaker also said we need to remember that “most prosecutors aren’t going to be willy-nillying — if that’s a word — dismissing gun charges.”
Bramnick said right now, a prosecutor can make a decision to not prosecute someone for gun possession, based on a directive from the Attorney General, rather than a state law, so they may be hesitant to make that call.

“The law is clear. There is no plea bargaining, it is minimum mandatory three years in prison for grandma, assuming she’s got a gun, right,” Bramnick said.

He also said someone could wind up going to jail for years for a stupid mistake if you have an unreasonable prosecutor who says “I’m going to follow what the Legislature says, I don’t care about some directive, Attorney Generals change.”

Bramnick said he is urging support for a measure already introduced by Assemblyman Ron Dancer that would make this change in the law, but he’s also open to other options as well, including drafting a new bill.

Democratic Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union) issued a statement on Bramnick’s Gun Possession Reform plan stating that the proposal would “give judges more discretion in gun cases where state prison is not appropriate.”

According to the statement, the lawmakers agree that “certain ‘possession’ charges should not mandate state prison and prosecutors should have discretion pursuant to the Attorney Generals guidelines.” Both legislators agreed to memorialize the guidelines in legislation, the statement indicates.

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GOP Lawmakers Call for Discretion in Gun Cases

NJTV (with video at :45 and 1:40) -

Last November, actor and stand up comic Carlo Bellario got a role he wasn’t anticipating — defendant in a gun possession case. Bellario was playing a gangster in an independent film being shot in Woodbridge.

“The gun they gave me, which I thought was a prop, turned out to be a pellet gun. When we shot the scene it was a car chasing scene so we were driving around the neighborhood. Apparently residents saw this and panicked and called the cops, and rightfully so. They arrested me for possession of a weapon,” he said.

Because that gun wasn’t registered with a permit in New Jersey, Bellario could face a minimum three-year prison sentence. It’s just one example of many throughout the state of people being swept into the court system due to New Jersey’s tough gun laws.

Jon Bramnick

“I just want to send a message, at least as one legislator and Republican leader, that we want prosecutors to have the discretion when they see it’s a good guy who made a mistake versus a bad guy with a gun,” said Assemblyman Jon Bramnick.

Republican lawmakers Bramnick and Declan O’Scanlon are working to draft new legislation. It piggybacks off an old bill by fellow Republican Ron Dancer, giving prosecutors discretion — through statute rather than directives from the attorney general’s office — to reduce the level of the crime and not impose mandatory jail time.

“Right now if you do reduce a gun charge, you must notify the attorney general’s office. I don’t even have a problem if it becomes subject to an attorney general’s review. As long as the Legislature gives clear guidelines,” Bramnick said.

Declan O'Scanlon

“In the clamor for one lawmaker after another to put their name on some new gun legislation, we have made the laws labrynthian and so easy to break,” O’Scanlon said.

Last year a commission appointed by Gov. Christie to examine New Jersey’s gun ownership and possession laws called for loosening the guidelines. The governor pardoned three people from out of state for gun possession charges because New Jersey doesn’t recognize their permits. But it seems the bill would have an uphill battle in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

Reached by email today, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto had a short and sweet response when asked if he’d consider the bill.

“I’ll keep this simple: I will not post any bills to weaken gun safety in New Jersey,” he said.

“It isn’t about weakening gun laws that are protecting people. It’s about getting rid of stupid laws that are destroying perfectly innocent reasonably behaving people,” O’Scanlon said.

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Bramnick, O’Scanlon push common sense gun possession charges legislation

Jon Bramnick

Source: – Two Republican lawmakers Tuesday called for legislation that would give prosecutors more discretion in cases where people who can legally carry guns in other states are caught accidently bringing a gun into New Jersey.

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramick, R-Union and Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, cited several recent cases where people were arrested on weapons possession charges, such as a corrections officer from Pennsylvania.

“I just want to send a message, at least as one legislator and a Republican leader, that we want prosecutors to have the discretion when they see a good guy who made a mistake versus a bad guy with a gun,” Bramnick said.

He said such a law would formalize advice that the state attorney general has traditionally given prosecutors.

Declan O'Scanlon

The two GOP legislators did not offer their own bill but said they are supporting another measure proposed by Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, R-Ocean, that would provide courts with discretion in cases involving certain firearms possession convictions. That law – first introduced in October 2014 – failed to make it out of committee in a previous legislative session.

Governor Christie – while he was running for the GOP presidential nomination last year – pardoned six people who faced gun possession charges, some of whom had legal permits to carry from their home states but not in New Jersey.

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Bramnick Calls for Reform of Mandatory Minimums for Gun Owners

Source: PolitickerNJ -

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21), with help from a Democrat Senator, is hoping to counteract gun laws that put licensed, out-of-state gun owners in prison for a minimum of three and a half years. At the state house Tuesday, Bramnick pointed to recent cases where licensed owners have faced the possibility of prison time while traveling in New Jersey due to a gray area between the recommended sentences and the limited discretion afforded to prosecutors.

Jon Bramnick

Saying that he hopes to prevent the usual partisan loggerheads that come with any mention of guns, Bramnick hopes Dancer’s bill will memorialize the legislature’s opinions on gun sentencing and teh need for enforcement to follow the Attorney General’s guidelines. Under the current letter of the law, out-of-state travelers with a licensed gun in their vehicle face state prison if they do not follow requirements such as keeping the gun in a place inaccessible from the driver’s seat.

Cases where there is compelling evidence of intent to shoot would be still treated with the appropriate severity, Bramnick said.

“We’re always afraid if you cross over a line and you start giving that defense to the bad guys, that’s bad. So I’m sure we can do that,” he continued. “Right now if you do so-called ‘reduce a gun charge’ you must notify the attorney general’s office. I don’t even have a problem if it becomes subject to an attorney general’s review as long as the legislature gives them clear guidelines.”

A statement from Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20) said that the notable progressive intends to advocate for Bramnick’s proposed changes to enforcement of mandatory minimum sentences. In the statement, he proposed changes to enforcement of mandatory minimum sentences. Those changes would recommend probation and potentially dismissal of the charges, in the form of a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-12).

“Senator Lesniak and Republican Leader Bramnick agree that certain ‘possession’ charges should not mandate state prison and prosecutors should have discretion,” a representative for the Senator wrote.


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Bucco’s ‘Patent troll’ bill advanced by Assembly panel

Source: NJBiz – The Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee approved a bipartisan measure Monday that aims to protect New Jersey companies from abusive, bad faith claims of patent infringement and the costly litigation that they warrant.

The bill would look to create guidelines for the courts to use in better identifying “patent trolls,” such as determining if a demand letter claiming infringement even contains the patent number in question and considering whether or not any analysis was performed by the accuser prior to issuing a demand letter…

Anthony M. Bucco

Requests for disclosure and written or electronic communication pertaining to a patent is excluded in the bill, as federal law currently authorizes both.

According to Assemblyman Anthony Bucco (R-Randolph), a cosponsor of the bill, the United States saw an all-time high of roughly 7,500 patent dispute cases last year.

“This corporate pirating is basically a 21st century shakedown that forces businesses to choose between costly litigation or ridiculous fees if they want the claim to go away,” said Bucco. “Businesses of all sizes can be targets, from a small local business up to a large high-tech firm. My legislation lists factors that a court may consider as evidence if a person has made a bad faith assertion of patent infringement.”

The bill, which will now head to the Assembly for full consideration, was first introduced in 2013.

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Bramnick and O’Scanlon will push to loosen N.J. gun possession laws

Star Ledger -

Top Republicans in the state Assembly plan to unveil legislation Tuesday they say would help people charged in minor gun possession cases in New Jersey avoid unfair jail time.

State Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union) told NJ Advance Media that one bill would make it easier for prosecutors to reduce or change charges against someone accused of breaking a state gun possession law.

Jon Bramnick

The prosecutor can take into account certain things,” Bramnick said of the measure, which is sponsored by Assemblyman Ronald Dancer (R-Ocean).

Under the other bill, Bramnick said, someone convicted of carrying a gun illegally in New Jersey would no longer face a mandatory three and a half year jail sentence.

“We want bad guys with guns to go to jail,” Bramnick said. “But we don’t want good guys who maybe made a stupid decision and forgot there’s a gun in the vehicle to go to jail for three years.”

Declan O'Scanlon

Bramnick and Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) will outline the legislation at a news conference at the Statehouse in Trenton Tuesday morning.

Critics have long spoken out against what they say are unreasonable possession laws in New Jersey, the state with the second-strictest gun laws in the U.S., after New York.

Bramnick said the measures were inspired by recent cases and news stories that highlighted the issue in New Jersey.

In November, Carlo Bellario, a 48-year-old actor from Toms River, was charged with second-degree weapons possession for using an air gun while filming a small, independent film in Woodbridge.

In New Jersey, being caught with an air gun without the proper permits can carry a three- to-five-year jail sentence.

Bramnick said it’s likely the proposed legislation would help a prosecutor lessen the charges against Bellario.

“Do you want someone who used an air gun in a movie to go to jail? Of course you don’t,” Bramnick said.

In October, Gov. Chris Christie — then a Republican presidential candidate — pardoned three people from out of state on possession charges:

Todd Doering of Pennsylvania, who was arrested in 2010 for carrying a legally owned handgun while in Logan Township;

Brian Lee Fletcher of North Carolina, who was arrested last year while performing emergency repairs after a storm in Hamilton Township, Mercer County. He voluntarily told a police offer that he had a legally owned handgun in his car;

And Elizabeth Jane Griffith of Florida, who was arrested last year when she tried to board a ferry from Jersey City to Ellis Island with a legally owned firearm.

New Jersey does not recognize other state’s gun licenses. People from out of state convicted of violating state gun laws get a minimum three and a half year jail sentence.

“People who forget there’s a handgun but you’re used to carrying it in 40 states and you make a mistake by bringing it into this state, you should go to jail for three years?” Bramnick asked.

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