Category: Clips

Legislators Create Joint Committee to Investigate GWB Lane Closures (video)

Source: NJTV (video) -

Both houses were unanimous in creating the select committee. But Republicans complained about unequal representation, unequal access to documents and unequal access to the special counsel the Democrats hired.

“What I just heard is that the co-chairs are gonna get the documents first, they’re going to review them with OLS, and then decide when we will have the opportunity to see them,” said Assemblyman Gregory McGuckin.

The Democrats promised a fair process, but Republicans pressed on. One suggested that in addition to the two Democratic co-chairs, a third person — a Republican — be added.

Amy Handlin

“It wouldn’t add to the cost of the investigation in any way. But it would prove that this effort is more than a witch hunt. It would give everyone on both sides skin in the game,” Assemblywoman Amy Handlin said.

“This is not a witch hunt. We know one thing for certain, there’s been an abuse of power, we all know that. What we don’t know is where the abuse of power began and how deep it goes,” said Assemblyman Louis Greenwald.

For now the committee will be focused on the GWB lane closures.

Republicans wanted to know if it would extend into the Hoboken mayor’s allegation. And they wondered what would happen if the U.S. Attorney’s Office asks the legislature to hold off on certain
witnesses, since it too is investigating.

Committee co-chair Assemblyman John Wisniewski offered no assurances.

“When the Transportation committee started, we didn’t think we’d be looking at an email from Bridget Kelly, to close lanes, so for us to guarantee where the work of the committee will go is foolish,” Wisniewski said. “And what I’m hearing are suggestions after suggestions on how we ought to tie the hands of the committee for fear we might find something we don’t know.”

While the vote in the full houses was unanimous, the committee vote to approve organizational rules broke down 8 to 4, with all four Republicans voting no.

Michael Patrick Carroll

“We’re very concerned about the seemingly partisan nature of this undertaking. We were not involved in the drafting of this resoultuion, we were not involved in the drafting of the committee empowering resolution, our concerns were ignored, they voted down on party lines,” said Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll.

“We saw broad agreement on the concept of doing an investigation and then we see a lot of disagreement about the way this is implemented,” Wisniewski said.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or on Feb. 3 when we receive these documents, but you’ll have a fair voice and heard voice as any other member of this committee,” said Sen. Loretta Weinberg.

It was all about process today. Unspoken, but hanging in the air, the political standing of a governor.

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Assembly GOP: New merged SCI too partisan

Source: PolitickerNJ - Amid allegations of partisanship, the Democrat-led Assembly today OK’d the formation of the joint Legislative Committee on Investigations to pursue answers regarding last year’s George Washington Bridge lane closures.

Following the Senate’s vote, the lower chamber approved the resolution ACR10/SCR49 by a vote of 70-0 but not before wrangling again over issues of equal access to documents and the scope of the committee’s investigation…

But Republican Dave Rible raised questions about immediate equal access to  documents, an issue Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi raised when the Assembly SCI  was created on Jan. 15.

Republican Amy Handlin, one of the GOP committee members, said having co-chairs is a step in the right direction, but recommended a Republican person be named as a third leader of sorts. “It would prove that this effort is more than a witch hunt,’’ she said…

Republican BettyLou DeCroce then took issue with the resolution wording that would give the SCI broad power to look into areas other than just the Port Authority. “It appears that the committee is going to look into the Hoboken matter,’’ she said, a reference to Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s allegations that the administration tied Sandy recovery aid to a development approval…

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, another of the GOP committee members, said he was one of the prime sponsors of the resolution to investigate the Port Authority, but he too had reservations about partisanship, based on how the sole meeting of the now-defunct Assembly SCI was conducted…

Republican Gregory McGuckin said it is not fair that the committee co-chairs and the Office of Legislative Services will have access to documents first and then they will be given to the rest of the members.

Minority Leader Jon Bramnick said that “The Republicans in this chamber will support this continued investigation to get to the bottom of what appears to be very disturbing emails and text messages.”

But he said that the GOP would be abrogating its responsibilities as a minority party if it didn’t insist on fairness and bipartisanship

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Route 53 now officially DeCroce Memorial Highway’

Source: Morris Bee -

It’s official.

Gov. Chris Christie signed bipartisan legislation Thursday renaming Route 53 (Tabor Road) to the Alex DeCroce Memorial Highway after DeCroce, who served as Assembly Republican Leader when he died following a legislative session in January 2012.

DeCroce’s wife, District 26 Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, R-Morris, Essex and Passaic, issued the statement Jan. 6 following the General Assembly passage of the bill.

BettyLou DeCroce

“I extend my sincerest thanks to the bill’s bi-partisan sponsors for initiating this measure. Those who knew Alex know he never sought the limelight. In fact, he would be quite uncomfortable over this because he was not one to flaunt his accomplishments. His only goal was to get the job done for the people of his district and the state. Alex was a huge supporter of transportation issues. To have Rt. 53, which runs through his hometown and district, named for him is truly a great honor to his legacy.”

DeCroce was noted an avid proponent of transportation issues in New Jersey, and was a former chairman of the Transportation Committee. He was the prime sponsor of legislation that renewed the Transportation Trust Fund. He also was a strong advocate for crime victims’ rights.

Route 53 is a state highway that spans about  five miles from U.S. Route 202 in Morris Plains north to Bloomfield Avenue in Denville.

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Guide Dogs Focus of Newly Enacted ‘Dusty’s Law’

Source: Parsippany Patch -

Gov. Chris Christie signed into law Friday legislation that boosts criminal penalties for recklessly actions against guide dogs. The bill was sponsored by District 26 Asw. Betty Lou DeCroce and Assembly Republican Whip Scott Rumana.

The bill, called “Dusty’s Law,” is named after Dusty, a seeing-eye puppy in Bergen County who was still in training to assist a visually impaired person when he was attacked in July 2010. Though the dog survived his serious physical injuries, he was unable to continue in the training program due to the emotional trauma he suffered.

BettyLou DeCroce

“Guide dogs and guide-dogs-in-training are bred to have a docile, obedient nature,” said DeCroce, a Republican who represents parts of Morris, Essex and Passaic counties. “Unfortunately, this gentle demeanor often brings out the worst in aggressive dogs. Currently, even the most serious dog-on-guide-dog attack is not considered a criminal act.

“This legislation is needed to ensure that reckless dog owners are held responsible when such attacks occur.”

Rumana agreed.

Scott Rumana

“It’s important that we not only recognize the vital role these animals play in assisting those with an impairment, but that we afford them the protections they deserve,” he continued. “This measure sends a message that abusing or killing these dogs will have significant repercussions.”

Specifically, the legislation will make it a fourth-degree crime for a person to recklessly kill a guide dog, or to recklessly permit a dog that he or she owns or has immediate control over to kill a guide dog. A person who recklessly injures a guide dog, or recklessly permits a dog that he or she owns or has immediate control over to injure a guide dog will be a disorderly person under the bill.

In addition, a person who recklessly interferes with the use of a guide dog, or who recklessly permits a dog that he or she owns or over which he or she has immediate control to interfere with a guide dog by obstructing, intimidating, or otherwise jeopardizing the safety of that guide dog or its handler would be guilty of a petty disorderly persons offense.

Fourth-degree crimes are punishable by a prison term of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. Disorderly persons offenses are punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both; petty disorderly persons offenses are punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 30 days, a fine of up to $500, or both.

The bill also requires someone convicted under the law to pay restitution, which includes the value of the guide dog; replacement and training or retraining expenses for the guide dog and the handler; veterinary and other medical and boarding expenses for the guide dog; medical expenses for the handler; and lost wages or income incurred by the handler during any period that the handler is without the services of the guide dog.

Under the measure, a “guide dog” is defined as a dog, or dog in training, which has been or is being raised or trained by a volunteer puppy raiser or staff member of an organization generally recognized as being involved in the rehabilitation of the blind or deaf and reputable and competent to provide dogs with specialized training; or is fitted with a special harness so as to be suitable as an aid to the mobility of a blind person.

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Brown questions party makeup of special legislative committee

Source: Burlington County Times -

The New Jersey Senate and Assembly are scheduled to meet Monday to vote on a resolution to form a joint committee to investigate the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, but Republican Assemblyman Chris Brown is upset about the committee’s proposed makeup.

Chris J. Brown

Brown, R-8th of Evesham, previously raised questions about the legislative probe’s expense after the Assembly and Senate originally formed separate special committees — each with subpoena power and special counsel — to investigate the closures and any misuse of power related to them.

After Democratic leaders announced last week that the two committees would be merged into a single 12-member committee, Brown said he was pleased with the move and called it “a step in the right direction” that would increase efficiency and save taxpayer money.

“I have been calling for this all along, and I am grateful the Democratic leadership has finally made the right decision on behalf of taxpayers,” he said Thursday.

Brown was less enthusiastic about the proposed makeup of the new panel: eight Democrats and four Republicans.

Although Democrats hold a 24-16 majority in the Senate and a 48-32 majority in the Assembly, Brown said the special committee’s makeup appeared to be “Democratic-heavy,” given that Republicans have 40 percent of the seats in the Legislature but their makeup on the new committee is only 33 percent.

“The one-sided nature of the committee raises questions about the impartiality of the investigation. New Jerseyans deserve a balanced, bipartisan search for answers, but the makeup of the committee looks more like a stacked deck,” Brown said.

Democrats have responded that the breakdown is the same as the partisan makeup of other legislative committees.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-19th of Perth Amboy, will co-chair the committee along with Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-37th of Teaneck. Both lawmakers previously were assigned to chair the split committees.

Nine other legislators also have been picked to serve: Sens. Nia Gill, D-34th of Montclair, and Linda Greenstein, D-14th of Plainsboro, and Assembly members Michael Patrick Carroll, R-25th of Morris; Marlene Caride, D-36th of Ridgefield; Lou Greenwald, D-6th of Voorhees; Amy Handlin, R-13th of Middletown; Holly Schepiso, R-39th of River Vale; Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-37th of Englewood; and Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-15th of Ewing.

The committee’s final member, a Republican senator, has not been announced.

Democratic leaders have said the committee would retain Reid Schar to serve as its special counsel.

Schar, a former federal prosecutor who helped convict Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges, was hired to assist the Assembly panel at a fee of $350 an hour.

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Asm. Bramnick: GOP Doesn’t Want to Block GWB Investigation (video)

Source: NJTV (video) -

Assemblyman Jon Bramnick told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the Republicans do not want to block an investigation into Gov. Chris Christie and his administration for the GWB lane closures, they want to be a part of the process.

Jon Bramnick

“All of us want to get to the bottom of this. These emails and text messages were horrific. We all agree that we should investigate this and actually the Assembly members, all of us, the Republicans voted to authorize a committee to do its work,” Bramnick said.

Bramnick said that Republicans want to be a part of the discussions, have access to the same paperwork, help decide who the lawyers are going to be and help decide who will be subpoenaed.

He said that in the past, Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski would receive materials and documents and hold them for a week to 10 days before distributing them to the members. Also, an attorney was hired without any of the members knowing, so that is not being bipartisan, according to Bramnick.

“I said to Wisniewski today, we are willing to do some fact finding, just let us be part of the process. We don’t want to block an investigation, we want to get down to business,” Bramnick said.

There is going to be an authorization voted on Monday that would permit the Republicans to have some input, Bramnick said. He said that he suspects that it will be supported by the Republicans because they want an investigation to continue.

“We are just saying at the end of the day when this committee has these findings, myself, Wisniewski, Sen. Kean, Sen. Sweeney and Sen. Weinberg, we should say we did this together. That’s what New Jersey wants, they want a bipartisan, fair investigation. Let’s get to the facts,” Bramnick said.

Bramnick said he is happy about the U.S. Attorney doing a preliminary vote because it will move more quickly than a legislative panel would.

“I have incredible confidence in Christie and his leadership in the state has been terrific. I believe the governor,” Bramnick said. He said that he has no reason not to believe Christie.

“I have never seen anyone in my 11 years in Trenton come down and make substantial changes and get bipartisan support. I’ve been a big fan of the governor and what he has done and I hope it continues,” Bramnick said.

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WPHT’s Giordano Speaks With NJ Assemblyman About Drone Surveillance

Source: WPHT radio -

Dom Giordano spoke with New Jersey Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, a Republican from the state’s 13thlegislative district about Governor Chris Christie’s pocket veto of a bill that would regulate how law enforcement agencies operate drones.

In response to a question about why Governor Christie opposes forcing police to acquire a warrant to use drones for surveillance and other non-emergency situations, O’Scanlon said, “I haven’t pinned down exactly where the administrations problems are. We’re going to do that now, but ultimately we need to pass some restrictions on this.”

Declan O'Scanlon

O’Scanlon went on to express his worry about drones, saying, “they could conceivably see us and know where we are every minute of every day.”

He did also concede there are times when law enforcement’s access to drones may offer some advantages, like, “in certain emergent situations it might help. If you had an aerial view of a mob scene for instance it may be a big help, or in instances where you have a missing child, sometimes it’s those first few minutes where if you had an aerial view of the area you thought the child might be in, all of the sudden there he is.”

To Listen To Full Interview, Click Here

O’Scanlon said he’s already reached out to the Christie administration about re-visiting this bill and commended his staff for its willingness to work out their problems with the bill to find enough common ground to get something signed into law.

 

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Route 53 Officially Alex DeCroce Memorial Highway

BettyLou DeCroce

Source: Tri-Boro Patch - Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday signed bipartisan legislation to rename Route 53 in Morris County after the late Alex DeCroce, who served as Assembly Republican Leader when he died suddenly in January 2012.

DeCroce’s wife, District 26 Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, said her late spouse would not like the fuss, but that she felt gratitude.

“Alex served the people of his district and the state because he truly cared about people,” she said in a statement. “Those who knew Alex know he never pointed to his accomplishments, he never sought the limelight. He was a true public servant. In fact, he would be quite uncomfortable with this legislation. That being said, I would like to thank the bill’s bipartisan sponsors for initiating this measure and Gov. Christie for signing it.

“Alex was a huge supporter of transportation issues. To have Route 53, which runs through his hometown and district, named for him is truly a great honor to his legacy.”

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Bramnick reacts to news about U.S. Attorney’s Office subpoenas

Source: PolitickerNJ - Lawmakers this afternoon reacted to news that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has subpoenaed members of Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign and the New Jersey Republican State Committee in connection with the George Washington Bridge scandal…

Jon Bramnick

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) has been critical of the legislative arm of inquiry.

“If we could do a real bipartisan legislative inquiry, that would be fine,” Bramnick said. “I want to find out what happened as well but it doesn’t look like that system is in place in a bipartisan way.

“The federal system is such that things can be tracked down a lot faster than a legislative panel,” he added. “It’s fast, generally fair, protect records, look at other issues, and if there’s criminality they get down to it. I’m not going to talk about every part of what a U.S. Attorney does. They’re doing their work. I myself am not a criminal defense lawyer, my partners do that.

“I never had anything to do with the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” the GOP lawmaker said. “Everyone would like to get to the bottom of what happened so we can back to state business.”

 

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Capitol News and Content: Donna Simon on payout reform

Source: Register-News -

Donna Simon

Assemblywoman Donna Simon has lauded Gov. Christie’s call for eliminating the practice of payouts for public employees for unused sick time and for bail reform during his State of the State address, which he delivered to a joint session of the Legislature on Jan. 14.

”As a staunch advocate of both sick leave and bail reform, I am extremely pleased that Gov. Christie continues to make these two very important issues a top priority heading into a new legislative session,” said Assemblywoman Simon, R-Hunterdon, Somerset, Mercer and Middlesex. “Sick leave payouts cost property taxpayers outrageous amounts of money; our state is currently on the hook for nearly $1 billion dollars in unused sick and vacation days. As the governor said, it’s time to act.”

As for bail reform, she said the murder of a young attorney last month, who was shot in the head in front of his wife at the Short Hills mall by four men who each had prior criminal records, further confirms the need to change state law to mirror federal law.

Federal statute allows a violent criminal who is a danger to the community to be held without bail. New Jersey law does not.

”Bail reform is about more than criminal justice policy,” Assemblywoman Simon said. “It’s about keeping our neighborhoods, children and senior citizens safe from an unnecessary risk of violence. I hope the Legislature will heed the governor’s call and take quick action on keeping violent criminals behind bars.”

According to a study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in six offenders released on bail commit another crime before their trial.

Assemblywoman Simon sponsors both sick leave payout reform legislation and a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to give courts the authority to deny pretrial release of a defendant.

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