Category: Clips

Bramnick pushes ‘fiscal sanity,’ bipartisanship at Livingston conference

Source: The Star-Ledger -

Assembly minority leader Jon Bramnick was in Essex County yesterday for the latest stop on what he says is a tour to “restore fiscal sanity” to the state.

Jon Bramnick

Bramnick (R-Union) held a press conference with local elected officials to tout his idea to set up a bi-partisan strategic long-term planning committee in the Assembly. Bramnick originally proposed the committees in July.

“These (committees) would be think tanks that would work together on the major issues,” Bramnick said in a phone interview after the conference yesterday. “A committee would have, say, four Republicans, four Democrats, and former governors on it.”

The committees, he said, would not address issues or bills as they come up, but would be meant to discuss ongoing issues across the state.

The conference in front of a Livingston shopping center Tuesday comes after several other public stops across the state discussing the idea, including events in Cape May, Atlantic, Middlesex, and Burlington Counties, he said. Bramnick said he is planning his next stop in Newark.

“Four years ago, our (town) council became bipartisan for the first time in 20 years when I was elected,” Republican Livingston Mayor Michael Rieber said yesterday.

“We’ve been able to do a lot of good things here in a bi-partisan way. There is just such pure partisanship in Trenton, that nothing gets done.”

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Schepisi on reforms to increase Port Authority transparency [video]

Source: NJTV Online -

“Every street, two square miles around here. It was impossible. The worst I’d ever seen,” said Fort Lee resident Ted Allen.

Libertarian Allen recalls the traffic nightmares of September 2013 when an aide to Gov. Chris Christie emailed the Port Authority to tie up traffic in Fort Lee leading to the most traveled bridge in America — the GWB — in an apparent act of political retaliation against this borough’s mayor.

Now, lawmakers in both states have approved bills to make the Port Authority more transparent, opening up its decision-making to the public, mandating a study of the Port Authority every two years and setting up protection for whistleblowing.

Holly Schepisi

“It really starts to implement some of the fundamental changes to the Port Authority that we really wanted to see,” [said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, one of the Republican sponsors of the bills. “Financial disclosure forms — we wanted to be able to know if people have monetary interests.”

There’s no question the Bridgegate scandal and the investigations have given lawmakers the momentum, the impetus to reform the Port Authority. Which raises the question would these reforms have prevented the Bridgegate scandal altogether?

“Nobody can say for sure because we don’t know as to exactly what occurred,” Schepisi said.

Seton Hall law professor Matt Hale says the reforms likely would have made carrying out Bridgegate more difficult. But real reform?

Schepisi appears on the video at 1:09 and 1:45

He said, “At the end of the day you still have to have people within the organization, within whatever agency it is, embrace a culture of openness and transparency.”

Lawmakers says their action is a good start.

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Bramnick and Local Officials Discuss Shared Services, Bipartisan Leadership

Source: The Alternative Press -

Jon Bramnick

Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick joined elected officials Mayor Michael Rieber, Mayor of North Caldwell Joe Alessi, Commissioner of Nutley Steven Rogers and Roseland Councilman Richard Leonard for a press conference entitled, “Essex County Real Talk to Restore Fiscal Sanity,” on Tuesday at the Livingston Town Center.

Topics discussed included the sharing of services between local townships and bipartisan leadership in the communities.

Bramnick said the bipartisan leadership of the local communities is a “model for the state.”

“It’s about public policy,” said Bramnick. “I hope we can do more consolidation, more shared services and more bipartisanship.”

Leonard, who has served on the Roseland Council for 36 years, thanked Rieber for his idea to work with local administrators to find areas to consolidate services in a cost effective way.

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Angelini receives leadership award

Source: Atlanticville -

State Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R-Monmouth) was selected by the board of trustees of Children’s Aid and Family Services to receive the 2014 Building Futures Government Leadership Award for her commitment and support of children and families in New Jersey.

Mary Pat Angelini

“The work that Children’s Aid and Family Services does to help protect children in our communities is invaluable. It is a great honor to receive this leadership award from a compassionate organization that helps meet the social, educational, and emotional needs of vulnerable children and their families.” — Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini

Each year through its Building Futures Awards, Children’s Aid and Family Services — one of northern New Jersey’s leading nonprofit providers of human services and child welfare programs — honors individuals, companies and organizations dedicated to improving the community through supporting children and families.

“Children’s Aid and Family Services is delighted to be honoring Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini at our Building Futures Awards,” said Bob Jones, president and CEO of Children’s Aid and Family Services, in a press release. “Her commitment to drug- and alcohol-abuse prevention and education in New Jersey has made a huge difference in the lives of young people across the state,” he added.

“The work that Children’s Aid and Family Services does to help protect children in our communities is invaluable,” Angelini said. “It is a great honor to receive this leadership award from a compassionate organization that helps meet the social, educational, and emotional needs of vulnerable children and their families.”

Angelini accepted her Government Leadership Award at the Building Futures Awards Presentation, which was held at the Woman’s Club of Ridgewood on Sept. 30.

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Assembly panel advances DiMaio/Ciattarelli Bill protecting farmers

Source: Hunterdon County Democrat -

Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman John DiMaio and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli that protect farmers from nuisance lawsuits was released today by the Assembly Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.

John DiMaio

“New Jersey commercial farms are unique. Since many are located near residential areas, neighboring residents often complain about noise and odors,” said DiMaio, R-Warren, Hunterdon and Somerset. “Years ago, these farms were virtually isolated. As more people moved into areas in and around the farms, residents not only began complaining, they also started filing nuisance lawsuits that are time consuming and costly to defend. Farmers today face many challenges. Having to contend with harassing lawsuits shouldn’t be one of them.”

The bill, A-552, allows farmers whose commercial farms are in compliance with the state’s “Right to Farm Act” to be reimbursed for reasonable costs and attorney fees if a complaint filed against them has been brought in bad faith.

Jack Ciattarelli

“Unfortunately, we are seeing more groundless lawsuits against farmers,” said Ciattarelli, R-Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer and Middlesex. “While people should never be dissuaded from exercising their legal right to file a lawsuit, this bill is about striking the right balance and ensuring fairness. If a lawsuit is truly frivolous, the farmer shouldn’t be required to pay all the fees associated with the case.”

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Carroll: Port Authority reform bills are a good start, more work still needed

Source: PolitickerNJ -

Sponsors from both sides of the Hudson of legislation aimed at reforming an embattled Port Authority defended their work against critics today, arguing that the bills they’ve proposed are “not incremental or half measures” but represent the first real steps toward increasing transparency at the agency.

Michael Patrick Carroll

“The simple fact of the matter is [the Port Authority] has been a pit for years. And if Bridgegate brought that to the fore, and gave us a chance to look at it, then god bless them for tying up traffic, because it gives us an opportunity to really go after this entity and make sure it stops spending money on museums, it stops buying property in Bayonne for whatever reason without telling us why.” — Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll

Testifying at an Assembly State and Local Government hearing this afternoon, where committee members unanimously released both bills, state Sen. Robert Gordon (D-38) and Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle (D-37) joined New York State Assembly people James Brennan and Amy Paulin in encouraging the passage of A3417 and A3350, two pieces of legislation meant to open up the historically-obscure organization to the public in the wake of ongoing controversy surrounding last year’s George Washington Bridge lane closings. But they were quick to clarify that this would involve serious changes to the organization — not the kind of cop-out reforms that some have accused them of proposing.

The bills, identical versions of which have already been passed by both the Senate in New Jersey and both houses in New York, cover an array of perceived problems at the Port Authority, a mutli-billion dollar agency whose responsibilities include overseeing operations at Newark Liberty, LaGuardia, Kennedy, Stewart, Atlantic City and Teterboro airports, the Port of New York and New Jersey, and the PATH mass transit system. One bill, sponsored by Huttle in the Assembly and Gordon in the Senate, contains provisions intended to enhance both transparency and accountability at the Port Authority, requiring mandatory annual reports by the agency to both states’ legislatures and whistleblower protections for employees who report what they believe to be impropriety.

The other bill, a similar version of which was sponsored by Paulin in New York’s legislature, would subject the agency freedom of information laws, requiring the agency to turn over any documents deemed public by either of the two states.

One member of the committee pointed out that the current version of the bills lack any real enforcement mechanisms, making them laws on paper only. Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25) argued the legislation does little to fundamentally change the structure of the Port Authority, which is the source of many of its current problems.

“The simple fact of the matter is this place has been a pit for years,” Carroll said. “And if Bridgegate brought that to the fore, and gave us a chance to look at it, then god bless them for tying up traffic, because it gives us an opportunity to really go after this entity and make sure it stops spending money on museums, it stops buying property in Bayonne for whatever reason without telling us why. It would be nice — and again these bills are nice, I don’t mean to be insulting in that way — but they’re really just process bills. What we really need is somebody out there who focuses like a laser beam on transportation.”

The Assembly State and Local Government Committee’s passage of the bills is one of the last hurdles the legislation faces — it still needs to pass the General Assembly — before arriving on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk. Brennan and Paulin said they are “confident” their own versions of the bills will be signed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the coming weeks.

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Handlin, Schepisi, McHose back Port Authority reform bills approved by panel

Source: The Star-Ledger -

A pair of bipartisan bills that would subject the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to more expansive open public records laws, protect whistle blowers, and require annual reports to lawmakers were approved today by the Assembly State and Local Government Committee.

Republican co-sponsors Amy Handlin, Alison McHose and Holly Schepisi applauded the committee’s passage of the two bills, which have already been approved by the state Senate, and could be scheduled by Prieto for a full vote of the Assembly as early as Nov. 13.

One of today’s bills, A3350, would subject the Port Authority to New York and New Jersey’s state freedom of information laws, requiring the agency to turn over any documents deemed public by either of the two states. People who believe their document request was wrongly denied would be able to sue the agency under either state law.

The other, A3417, contains provisions including mandatory annual reports by the agency to both states’ legislatures, and whistle blower protections for employees who report what they believe to be impropriety.

The bills were in response to the so-called Bridgegate scandal that grew out of the George Washington Bridge lane closures of September 2013, which exposed division within the bi-state agency.

The bills must be approved by both states’ legislatures and signed by both governors.

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Space: Latest government intrusion threatens private sector jobs

Source: NJBiz -

Just a few weeks after the Assembly Labor Committee delayed a vote on statewide paid sick leave legislation in favor of more testimony, the panel regrouped Monday and voted 6-3 in favor of advancing the bill.

Parker Space

“Every time the state imposes another mandate, companies react by raising prices, reducing benefits or cutting jobs. This bill is another intrusion by the government into private sector decision making. Mandates like annual minimum wage increases and Obamacare already make it expensive to run a business.” – Assembly Republican Parker Space, who voted ‘no’ on the bill

Under the legislation as currently proposed, full- and part-time employees would earn one hour of mandatory paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, with a 72-hour-per-year cap for those working at businesses with 10 or more workers and a 40-hour-per-year cap for those employed at businesses with nine or fewer employees. Unless an employer chooses to provide it earlier, paid sick time would begin accruing 90 days after an employee’s hiring.

The committee had taken up the bill Oct. 9 but held off on voting, instead opting to listen to testimony from both sides of the issue. On Monday, additional testimony was kept brief.

The statewide bill has long been in the works, taking a backseat in the past year to similar ordinances drafted and passed at the municipal level in cities like Jersey City, Newark, East Orange and others. Proponents have said that a statewide bill is necessary to have a uniform approach to paid sick leave across New Jersey, rather than have it vary from municipality to municipality.

With momentum mounting for the measure at the municipal level, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Secaucus) said during the summer that the bill would be a priority in the current legislative session.

While several major cities across the country have similar versions of the bill on their books, only Connecticut and California have statewide legislation currently in place.

The bill before the committee Monday did feature several amendments, including a definition of a “benefit year” to mean a period of 12 consecutive months set by an employer during which an employee will accrue sick time in compliance with the bill, as well as a revision of the term “domestic violence” to instead be “domestic or sexual violence,” providing further clarification as to what constitutes either. The legislation also exempts construction employees under a contract pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement from falling under the “employee” definition and notes that no provision of the bill will apply to employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement until after that agreement has expired.

Business groups remain largely opposed to the measure, warning that it will have unintended negative consequences on employers.

New Jersey Business & Industry Assistant Vice President Stefanie Riehl said Monday that she believes the bill offers little flexibility under its mandate to employers seeking to be in compliance and, in turn, will drive costs up and potentially cause businesses to cut resources elsewhere.

“Even with the amendments, those concerns still exist,” Riehl testified Monday.

In an expanded statement on Friday, Riehl said that she believes locally owned small businesses will “bear the brunt of this mandate.”

“Many small businesses are already struggling without being hit with another government mandate,” Riehl said last week. The state should focus on continuing to improve economic conditions so small businesses can stay open and provide jobs. Paid sick leave could unintentionally make it harder for businesses to grow and thrive.”

That sentiment was largely shared by Assemblyman Parker Space (R-Sparta), a committee member who voted “no” on releasing the measure Monday.

“Every time the state imposes another mandate, companies react by raising prices, reducing benefits or cutting jobs,” Space said in a statement. “This bill is another intrusion by the government into private sector decision making. Mandates like annual minimum wage increases and Obamacare already make it expensive to run a business.”

New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Government Relations Michael Egenton added that, while he has been appreciative of the “constructive dialogue” that has taken place between those on both sides of the issue, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done before the bill is palatable to the business community.

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Space: Mandatory sick leave is a “job-killing government mandate on businesses”

Source: The Star-Ledger -

A bill that would make New Jersey one of the first states in the nation to require all employers offer paid sick days to employees cleared its first legislative hurdle this morning.

After delaying action on the measure earlier this month, the Assembly Labor Committee returned to it and, by a vote of 6-3 along party lines, approved a slightly changed version.

Parker Space

Assemblyman Parker Space (R-Sussex), who voted against the bill in committee, issued a statement calling it a “job-killing government mandate on businesses.”

“We can’t keep piling on the already high cost of doing business in the state and wonder why nearly 300,000 people are out of work,” said Space. “Small businesses need flexibility in order to do what they do best – create jobs.”

Under the bill (A2354), businesses with 10 or more employees would be required to let workers earn at least 72 hours of paid time off that they could use either to stay home when sick or care for ill family members. Businesses with fewer than 10 employees would be required to let their employees earn 40 hours of sick time. A worker would earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.

Earned sick leave could be used for employees to recover from their own mental or physical illnesses, care for family members or deal with either being the victim or having a family member who is the victim of domestic violence.

Only two states — California and Connecticut — have laws on the books that require paid sick time for all workers. Massachusetts could become the third if its voters approve a ballot question on Nov. 4. And municipalities around the country have implemented the law locally.

Labor unions and liberal advocacy groups have banded together to push for the New Jersey law in a dual-pronged effort that includes pushing it in municipalities.

Already, Newark and Jersey City have enacted the a paid sick leave law, while similar ordinances have been approved in Paterson, Passaic, Irvington and East Orange. Montclair and Trenton voters are set to decide if their towns should do the same in next week’s election.

Business advocacy groups, on the other hand, said it would only further burden companies and small employers still struggling to recover from the recent recession.

And the statewide bill’s future is uncertain at best. While it has the support of the Legislature’s Democratic leaders, Gov. Chris Christie, who would have to approve it, has said he has “grave concerns” about it and that it would make New Jersey “less competitive for businesses.” Even some of the law’s supporters have acknowledged it’s not likely to make it past Christie’s desk.

The bill was delayed last week so that it could be amended, partly at the request of the building trades unions. Among the amendments is one that exempts construction employees who are already covered under a collective bargaining agreement. Another amendment clarifies the definition of domestic violence.

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Space one of three Republicans opposing paid sick leave bill

Source: PolitickerNJ -

Following a heated debate over the legislation — but no vote — during their last meeting at the statehouse, the Assembly Labor Committee today released a bill that would require employers in New Jersey to offer workers paid sick leave, bringing the legislature one step closer to enacting a law that six other cities have already adopted.

Predictably, the three Republicans and six Democrats on the committee today took opposite positions on the measure.

Parker Space

“Every time the state imposes another mandate, companies react by raising prices, reducing benefits or cutting jobs,” Assemblyman Parker Space (R-24) said in a statement. “This bill is another intrusion by the government into private sector decision making. Mandates like annual minimum wage increases and Obamacare already make it expensive to run a business.”

The bill (A2354), passed today along party lines by the 10 member committee, would require businesses with 10 or more employees to offer workers a minimum of 72 hours of paid sick leave, while businesses with fewer than 10 employees would be required to let their employees earn 40 hours of sick time — one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work (or five days for full-time employees). The bill has received considerable attention in recent weeks from private sector employers who see the legislation as an encroachment on business, but also from workers rights advocates who see it as a move toward fairer treatment of employees.

Six New Jersey cities — Jersey City, Paterson, Newark, Passaic, Irvington and East Orange — have already passed local ordinances that allow employees to earn paid time off when sick or to care for sick family members, and two other towns — Montclair and Trenton — will allow voters to decide on the issue with November ballot initiatives. Democrats, led by Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-32), have pegged the legislation as a top priority, while Gov. Chris Christie has expressed concerns.

Amendments to the bill, following concerns voiced during the committee’s last hearing, include:

  • Defines “benefit year” as the period of 12 consecutive months established by an employer in which an employee shall accrue and use earned sick leave as prescribed in the bill, provided that once the starting date of the benefit year is established by the employer it can not be changed unless the employer petitions the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development.
  • Revises the term “domestic violence” to be “domestic or sexual violence” and clarifies that “domestic or sexual violence” means stalking, any sexually violent offense, or domestic violence.
  • Exempts, from the definition of “employee,” construction employees that are under contract pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement.
  • Provides that with respect to employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement in effect at the time of the effective date of the bill, no provision of the bill will apply until the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.
  • If passed by the Senate and signed by the governor — unlikely, according to sources — New Jersey would become only the second state in the country to mandate paid sick leave for employees, following Connecticut, who passed similar legislation last year.

 

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