Tag: Holly Schepisi

Schepisi talks about irony that N.J. Demxs who criticized Christie over GWB give Menendez benefit of doubt

Holly Schepisi

Star Ledger -

In the aftermath of Sen. Robert Menendez’s 14-count indictment on Wednesday, Democrats seem to be giving him a lot more breathing room than they provided Gov. Chris Christie after he became entangled in the scandal over the lane closings at the George Washington Bridge.

No one picked up up on that quicker than Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen), a member of the legislative committee investigating the lane closings.

“The hypocrisy is stunning,” Schepisi said Thursday. “Regardless of whether or not you ultimately believe that Sen. Menendez did or do not do anything wrong is almost beside the point. Because the very same people who have en masse stood up and said ‘Don’t rush to judgment’… are the very same people who, without any indictments, without any information other than a couple of salacious emails that got leaked to the press, were calling for the governor’s head on a platter.”

But in the past, Gov. Christie has said that public officials who have been indicted should resign.

“I don’t call on public officials to resign until and unless they are charged by a grand jury,” Christie said in August 2012. “If that happens, you will find that I will call for his resignation.”

But so far, no major New Jersey elected officials — Democrat or Republican ‐ have called on Menendez to resign.

But when it came to Christie — who wasn’t even close to being indicted — Democrats were less circumspect.

In February 2014, when the bridge scandal was broiling and some controversial text messages were released between Christie aides who had orchestrated lane closures in an apparent act of political retribution, Watson Coleman had strong words.

“And this really is what they’re all about, transactional deals, dismissiveness, remarks that are totally, totally unacceptable in a civilized society,” said Bonnie Watson Coleman, an assemblywoman at the time, said during an appearance on MSNBC. “And you know what? The governor needs to think about resigning, and he needs to take all his friends with him because this is sickening.”

Backlash from the remarks caused Watson Coleman to step down from the legislative committee that was investigating the bridge scandal. But her staffers said the comments have to be put in context.

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Ciattarelli, Schepisi back tougher standards on rail transport

Source: Hillsborough Beacon -

Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli has seen the national news about deadly and spectacular fires from derailment of trains pulling oil tanker cars.

It worries him, knowing trains like those travel through New Jersey and his district every day.

Mr. Ciattarelli, a Republican from Hillsborough, has joined colleague Holly Schepisi in seeking support of the National Transportation Safety Board’s call for rail companies to limit the hazards of carrying flammable material on rails by selecting routes that reduce the amount of such materials traveling through populated areas.

Trains filled with Bakken crude oil make their way across the country and into New Jersey en route to a refinery in Linden.

One rail route goes past suburban subdivisions in Hillsborough and Montgomery, under the major state highway of Route 206 and into built-up Manville, where homes and businesses are a couple of hundred yards away.

In February in West Virginia, a train carrying more than 3 million gallons of crude derailed in a snowstorm. Fireballs erupted. Hundreds of families were evacuated, and water treatment plants were temporarily shut down after oil made its way into a river.

In 2013 in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, a train loaded with crude oil rolled into the business area of a town at a high speed, derailed, caught fire and exploded, killing 47 people.

Jack Ciattarelli

“The sight of the horrific derailment in West Virginia last month and the 2013 fatal accident in Canada is irrefutable evidence of the potential dangers of transporting immense proportions of Bakken crude oil,” said Mr. Ciattarelli. “We would be foolish to think such catastrophes couldn’t happen anywhere, including New Jersey.”

Over a 24-hour period, seven different companies may ship oil by rail through Somerset and New Jersey, he said.

New regulations were proposed by the NTSB last July would require tanker hulls to meet thicker standards and enhance a train’s braking system within two years or risk being phased out. According to the American Association of Railroads, only 15 percent of the 92,000 tankers cars on the rails today meet the latest industry standards.

Mr. Ciattarelli supported the federal recommendations.

“Increasing the thickness standards beyond the current proposal is a sensible suggestion,” he said. “I fully support the safety board’s additional call to select safer transportation routes through less populated areas.”

A press release from his office said a federal Department of Transportation report predicted that 10 trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail each year over the next two decades.

One of reasons for heightened concern is that more oil is being transported from North Dakota oil fields, and that Bakken oil is easily turned into gasoline or jet fuel. Its composition makes the oil more flammable in the event of a crash. Currently, there are no federal rules on what oil producers should do to stabilize the oil before shipping by rail, Mr. Ciattarelli said.

Mr. Ciattarelli said the possibility of an accident places a huge responsibility on local emergency responders. Rail companies have their own fire brigades, but they typically take longer to respond than local fire and rescue departments.

Holly Schepisi

“CSX, which owns the rail cars shipping the product, agrees that increasing safety standards is in order,” said Ms. Schepisi, a Republican Assemblywoman representing Bergen and Passaic counties.

Since 2005, crude oil shipments nationwide have grown from 6,107 carloads, to 435,560 in 2013 — a more than 70-fold increase, according to the Association of American Railroads.

Mr. Ciattarelli said the nation needs to “celebrate the energy independence of the golden age of discovery” but needs to discuss how best to transport energy sources. In comparison to trains, shipping oil by pipeline, for instance, is comparatively much safer, he said.

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Ciattarelli-Schepisi: How Many Crude Oil Derailments Before Safety Becomes a Top Priority?

Assembly Republican Press Release -

With the third crude oil derailment in less than a month, Assembly Republicans Jack Ciattarelli and Holly Schepisi said today they are in full support of the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) call for rail companies to limit the hazards of carrying flammable material on rails by selecting routes that reduce the amount of such materials traveling through populated areas.

Jack Ciattarelli

“The three crude oil derailments involved tankers that actually met the recommended thicker shielding upgrades called for by the NTSB,” stated Ciattarelli, R-Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer and Middlesex. “Increasing the thickness standards beyond the current proposal is a sensible suggestion. I fully support the safety board’s additional call to select safer transportation routes through less populated areas.

“These derailments make safety improvements a top priority,” commented Ciattarelli. “New regulations should be promulgated as quickly as possible. Protecting lives trumps transporting crude oil or ethanol under regulations that are outdated and leave people vulnerable to a derailment.”

A recent federal Department of Transportation (USDOT) report predicted that 10 trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail each year over the next two decades should provide the impetus for the department to act on the upgraded safety standards proposed last July. .

Holly Schepisi

“Bergen County is one of the most densely populated areas of New Jersey, and is on a route through which Bakken oil is transported,” commented Schepisi, R-Bergen and Passaic. “We will continue to raise legitimate concerns about shipping crude oil so close to homes.

“Telling the public there is a high level of urgency to impose new rules is not enough,” stated Schepisi. “At this rate, the USDOT’s derailment prediction will hit the target sooner than projected. Regulators need to step up and issue new rules, including alternate transportation routes. Explosions and fires from these tankers are frightening. The mere threat of the loss of life should push this issue to the top of the list before the next derailment. The NTSB identified the hazards of oil trains as one of its top 10 safety concerns. That should be more than enough encouragement to immediately improve standards.”

Bakken oil is easily turned into gasoline or jet fuel. Its composition makes the oil more flammable in the event of a crash. Currently, there are no federal rules on what oil producers should do to stabilize the oil before shipping by rail.

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Ciattarelli-Schepisi: Federal DOT Report Predicting More Crude Derailments is a Call for Action

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Assembly Republicans Jack Ciattarelli and Holly Schepisi said a recent federal Department of Transportation (USDOT) report predicting 10 trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail each year over the next two decades should provide the impetus for the department to act on the upgraded safety standards it proposed last July.

Jack Ciattarelli

“The sight of the horrific derailment in West Virginia last month and the 2013 fatal accident in Canada is irrefutable evidence of the potential dangers of transporting immense proportions of Bakken crude oil,” said Ciattarelli, R- Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer and Middlesex. “We would be foolish to think such catastrophes couldn’t happen anywhere, including New Jersey.

“New Jersey, being the most densely populated state in the country, shipping Bakken crude oil on rails so close to homes is a major concern,” continued Ciattarelli. “We shouldn’t have to wait for another derailment to have the USDOT approve the latest safety improvements.”

Holly Schepisi

“CSX, which owns the rail cars shipping the product, agrees that increasing safety standards is in order,” said Schepisi, R-Bergen and Passaic. “The extraction of Bakken crude oil in North Dakota is a positive development for our energy needs. However, each day we are rolling the dice that a major accident won’t take place in New Jersey which will have significant consequences. The new standards will save lives and protect our environment.

“The proximity of the rail lines to densely populated areas puts people and their property at risk. Instead of discounting this forecast, the railroad companies should be looking for ways to improve safety and minimize damage in the event of a derailment,” continued Schepisi. ”Enough time has lapsed since the recommendations were made. The next step is to take action.”

New regulations were proposed by the National Transportation Safety Board last July. They require tankers to meet current thickness standards and enhance a train’s braking system within two years or risk being phased out. According to the American Association of Railroads, only 15 percent of the 92,000 tankers cars on the rails today meet the latest industry standards.

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Schepisi, Bramnick Ready to Rumble With Insurers Over Healthcare Billing

Source: Star-Ledger -

Holly Schepisi

State Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen) says it wasn’t until her husband Paul’s recent skiing accident this winter — one that left him hospitalized with a broken collarbone and other internal injuries — that she realized just how opaque health insurance companies billing could be. It’s motivated her to seek comprehensive changes from her perch in the state Legislature.

Her husband’s recent injuries forced her to spend hours probing over which doctor was “in-network” at her health plan, and which was not. She says the process of dealing with insurance companies has motivated her to demand greater accountability and clarity over billing for procedures and for better, easier disclosure about which providers are part of a plan’s network, and which aren’t. Using an out-of-network doctor or lab can easily cost a policyholder thousands of dollars at a time when they are most overwhelmed and vulnerable, she said.

Jon Bramnick

“I am going to make this my mission in life!” said Schepisi, only half-jokingly to fellow Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R -Union) as they mingled with lobbyists and fellow lawmakers at a breakfast at the Hilton in downtown Newark before the state Chamber of Commerce’s 78th annual Walk to Washington train trip.

Bramnick added he, too, was spoiling for a fight with insurance companies over the issue, and pledged his support on the spot.

“Fight the insurance companies?” he laughed, “Let’s do it!”

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After West Virginia Tanker Derailment,Ciattarelli-Schepisi Urge USDOT to Take Action on Bakken Shale Oil Regs

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Assembly Republicans Jack Ciattarelli and Holly Schepisi said Monday’s horrific train derailment of Bakken Shale oil in West Virginia heightens the call for U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) regulators to evaluate upgraded standards for the transport of the crude oil. They said USDOT needs to take action as soon as possible. Because oil from the Bakken Shale formation is much more flammable than other types of crude oil, it is more prone to ignite during a train derailment.

Jack Ciattarelli

“The horrific tanker accident and fireball in West Virginia is a wake-up call,” said Ciattarelli, R-Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer and Middlesex. “We know that accidents happen, but when they involve a train pulling more than a hundred rail cars of volatile and potentially explosive Bakken crude oil, the results can be catastrophic. This time it happened in rural West Virginia, but every day dozens of trains just like this are rolling through heavily populated residential neighborhoods across the New Jersey. It is crucial that immediate action be taken to address these dangers.”

New regulations were proposed by the National Transportation Safety Board last July. They require tankers to meet current thickness standards and enhance a train’s braking system within two years or risk being phased out. According to the American Association of Railroads, only 15 percent of the 92,000 tankers cars on the rails today meet the latest industry standards.

Holly Schepisi

“We have seen the devastating effects of Bakken Shale derailments in Canada and West Virginia,” said Schepisi, R-Bergen and Passaic. “With seven million gallons of this crude traveling through populated areas of New Jersey on a daily basis, improved standards for oil tankers must be enacted through the proposed regulations as quickly as possible. Our air and water quality are at risk, not to mention the lives of people living within proximity of these train routes.”

Last October, Ciattarelli and Schepisi introduced legislation (AR-171), which urges USDOT to upgrade crude oil transport regulations.

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Schepisi Interview with PolitickerNJ

Source: PolitickerNJ -

Holly Schepisi

The star of State Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-39) is ascending in the ever-changing firmament of New Jersey politics. Schepisi, 43, an attorney who lives in River Vale, is reportedly being considered by New Jersey Republicans as a future Congressional or statewide candidate, including for governor. PolitickerNJ named Schepisi as one of its two Rising Stars in its 2014 Year in Review. Schepisi recently addressed a constellation of issues with PolitickerNJ, trying to make sense out of New Jersey’s chaotic political galaxy.

PolitickerNJ: Now that there is a new Democratic Bergen County Executive [Jim Tedesco] in office, what should the Bergen Republicans’ political stance be going forward?

Holly Schepisi: There are fundamental ideological differences between Republicans and Democrats, and we have to ensure that we differentiate ourselves. But we don’t have to be contentious or cantankerous just for the sake of being so. What we need to is to focus on party building, what our messaging is, and what we’re looking to do long-term. We have to be able to get Bergen County its fair share, and to focus on why Bergen County, disproportionately from the rest of the state, receives the least amount back from the tax dollars we send down to Trenton.

PNJ: The footage of Gov. Chris Christie cheering on the Dallas Cowboys with team owner Jerry Jones at a recent playoff game has received a lot of attention. Do you think the governor’s exuberant behavior in the Cowboys owner’s box was presidential?

HS: With respect to the football game itself, I think the entire thing is silly. Here is somebody who has always been an avowed Cowboys fan. Was the photo of him being excited a little bit goofy? Yeah. But taking him apart because he’s a Cowboys fan is silly. It’s almost akin to coming after me because I like Bono better than Bon Jovi.

PNJ: Reports that Christie accepted plane and game tickets from Jones after information emerged suggesting that Christie impelled the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to sign off on a contract for a company that was partially owned by Jones came out after the game. Do you think there is anything to this story?

HS: I don’t have enough information about that component to make any sort of judgment. In the past 24 hours, I’ve been more focused about [Mercedes-Benz USA leaving New Jersey], so I haven’t really followed that.

PNJ: In terms of other figures involved in presidential politics, do you think [Democrat] Hillary Clinton is a particular threat to get independent female votes in 2016? Would the GOP prefer to have another opponent, or do Republicans think Hillary is a perfect candidate to tee off on?

HS: I think that Hillary is more of a threat than, let’s say, [U.S. Sen.] Elizabeth Warren (D – Mass.) for example, because Hillary has potentially more appeal to independent voters than Warren, who is viewed to be much further to the left. Whoever the ticket is on the Republican side doesn’t want to be perceived as just the older-rich-white-men-running ticket. Our party has become more cognizant of trying to reach out [demographically], and I think that was seen in the last election with the Republican candidates that were elected into Congress.

PNJ: Later this month, you will be joining state Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) as part of the 2015 Republican Assembly campaign kickoff, focusing first on Bergen and Hudson counties. Do you plan on increasing your statewide appearances to support the 2015 GOP Assembly candidates?

HS: I will do everything I can to be supportive of our party. And if that includes a desire for me to attend events in other districts, I absolutely will show my support.

PNJ: Would that include supporting state Assemblyman Chris Brown (R-2), who is categorically opposed to any proposed casino being built in North Jersey, including a casino potentially being built in your home county of Bergen?

HS: I am a firm believer that you can still actively support somebody and disagree on certain issues. I don’t think that there is any candidate, or any person, that I agree with 100 percent. Chris and I have respectfully disagreed on some of these issues, but it doesn’t change my support in any fashion for him, or for what he’s attempting to do on behalf of the area that he represents.

PNJ: As a member of the state Legislative Special Committee on Investigation, what is your take on the progress of the committee’s Bridgegate investigation, following the recent release of the committee’s interim report?

HS: From a practical perspective, let’s assume that some sort of an indictment comes down stemming from the Bridgegate affair. There is no U.S. Attorney in the country that I am aware of that would permit a political legislative body, while there is an active criminal case pending, call before it witnesses with any sort of material knowledge of what occurred. If indictments do come down, there is no chance that we are at any time in the foreseeable future going to be able to call up before our committee anybody with relevant or pertinent knowledge.

There is also no criminal case that I’m aware of in New Jersey that from start to finish takes under a year, unless a plea deal is entered into. In general, you’re talking at least a year, which brings us into an entirely new legislative session. If we’re keeping this committee open with the hope that we’re going to be calling in David Wildstein or Bridget Kelly or anybody else to provide public testimony, the odds of that occurring are pretty small to non-existent. Plus, eight out of the twelve members of the committee are up for reelection this year. You could have a situation by the time we would be able to call anybody before us that you could possibly have a certain portion of the committee no longer being in office.

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Schepisi talks about Port Authority legislation

Holly Schepisi

Source: Bloomberg -

Governors Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo vetoed legislation passed unanimously in both of their state legislatures that would change the management structure at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.

Instead, Christie, New Jersey’s Republican governor, and Cuomo, a New York Democrat, said they accepted revisions recommended by a special panel to reorganize the agency, and urged their respective legislatures and the Port Authority to implement them, according to a joint statement released today.

The report’s recommendations include consolidating the agency under a single chief executive officer; the appointment of a chief ethics and compliance officer; making public-records rules consistent with state laws; divesting real-estate holdings that aren’t vital to the agency’s mission, including commercial properties at the World Trade Center; and building a new bus terminal in Manhattan, according to the governors’ statement.

New Jersey Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, a Republican from Westwood who served on the panel investigating the closings and sponsored the bill, said she was surprised by the governors’ moves.

“Am I disappointed that the bill was vetoed? Yes,” she said in a telephone interview after the announcement. “A lot of us worked very hard on it from both sides of the aisle. That being said, I’m going to reserve judgment on the overall rationale and the reason until I have a chance to review” the report.

The bills would have directed the Port Authority to file annual audits, protect whistle-blowers and require officials to appear before legislative committees. They also would have ordered the authority to hold at least six public hearings before raising tolls, required commissioners to file financial-disclosure statements and maintain records of all lobbying contacts, and made the authority subject to state open-records laws.

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Schepisi continues effort to keep Mercedes-Benz in NJ

Holly Schepisi

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer -

German luxury automobile maker Mercedes-Benz hasn’t even publicly said it’s considering moving its U.S. headquarters out of New Jersey, but some state officials are so concerned about the possibility they’re campaigning publicly to try to keep the company and its 1,000 jobs where they are.

The possibility of Mercedes-Benz USA, the U.S. marketing and distribution arm of Germany-based Daimler AG, moving from Montvale comes as the state is ramping up its tax incentives to bring companies in and keep those it already has.

A 2013 state law includes a tax break to keep car company headquarters in their current communities. That benefit could be worth about $15 million to Mercedes on top of millions of dollars in other incentives. It also could be used by several other car companies with U.S. headquarters in the state, including BMW, whose main North American office is about 2 miles from Mercedes’.

This year, the state has promised more than $2 billion in tax breaks to companies. Subaru of America agreed to stay, and the Philadelphia 76ers plan to move their offices and practice facility to Camden while continuing to play in Philadelphia, a short drive away.

At the same time, the state has lost some major businesses: Car rental giant The Hertz Corp. is moving to Estero, Florida, with the help of $85 million in tax breaks, and Bubble Wrap maker Sealed Air Corp. is moving to Charlotte, North Carolina, with the aid of $35 million in breaks.

The three state lawmakers who represent the district where Mercedes is located wrote a letter to the company asking it to stay.

One of them, Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, a Republican from River Vale, said she has been speaking with Mercedes executives about incentives to stay and expects the company to make an announcement about its plans in the coming weeks.

“It’s something where it goes well beyond just the loss of those jobs,” Schepisi said this week. “You’re talking about the impact it would have on the small businesses in the area – restaurants, dry cleaners, cleaning crews.”

A billboard company, at Schepisi’s behest, donated digital ad space on four signs proclaiming Bergen County loves Mercedes-Benz, among the largest employers in the state’s most populous county.

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Schepisi, officials move to save Mercedes Benz jobs

Source: The Star-Ledger -

Mercedes-Benz has hired commercial real estate juggernaut CBRE Group, Inc. to help it find a new home as it considers leaving New Jersey, according to sources with direct knowledge of the action.

The German luxury car manufacturer has been based in Montvale since 1972, and employs more than 1,000 people in the state. The sources spoke to NJ Advance Media on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of the negotiations.

The company’s potential move finds state lawmakers from Bergen County and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno scrambling to keep Mercedes-Benz from leaving. On Friday night, two digital billboards on Routes 80 and 17 began featuring a plea for the company to stay, par of a public relations effort by state Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen).

Holly Schepisi

Schepisi said that she “remains optimistic that we have the opportunities in the state that could counter any other offers from other states” such as Georgia, which has reportedly offered more than $30 million in corporate tax credits.

Schepisi said she and state Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen) had talks Friday afternoon with Mercedes-Benz general counsel Marco DeSanto about what could be done to keep the German luxury brand in the Garden State, where it’s been based since 1972.

A spokesman for Mercedes-Benz did not return a request for comment on Friday.

Schepisi declined to discuss specific dollar amounts offer to or sought by Benz, or any New Jersey financial packages being explored, citing the confidentiality of the talks. But she stressed that “all parties are committed to exploring every possible avenue to retain them here,” and that “the opportunity to retain Mercedes still exists.”

Robert Auth

Robert Auth

Assemblyman Robert Auth (R-Bergen) said Gov. Chris Christie had deployed Guadagno to meet with Mercedes executives as soon as possible. He said while talks between Mercedes and GOP leaders were “pretty nascent,” Guadagno was “not the type to throw in the towel so readily” and expected to wage a robust fight to keep Benz.

Guadagno, reached by NJ Advance Media, declined to comment, issuing only a statement that the state has “enjoyed a working relationship with Mercedes.”

Due to the looming Christmas holiday, little actual negotiation is expected to occur next week. But as the sun set on Friday, two massive digital billboards along on Routes 80 and 17 glowed with the message, “Bergen County ♥ Mercedes Benz-USA,” underscored by the Twitter hashtag, #pleasestay, appearing in 8 second bursts.

Schepisi enlisted New York and Waldwick-based Judge Outdoor to donate four digital billboards – two between exit 63 and 62B in Rochelle Park on Route 80, and two more south of Central Ave. on Route 17 — to help immediately convey the desire to engage with Mercedes-Benz.

Marty Judge, a principal in the outdoor advertising firm, said he was moved to deliver the billboards — which reach 300,000 people a day — without charge partly because “it’s the holidays” and partly due to enlightened self-interest.

“You gotta do something with so many jobs on the line,” Judge said. “Plus, if Bergen thrives, it’s better for me,”

The loss of Benz would be substantial to the state, but especially rough on Montvale: Mercedes is the city’s second-largest private employer, second only to accounting powerhouse KPMG. According to the county’s Economic Development Corp.’s own data, Benz paid almost $1 million in local taxes last year

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