Tag: Holly Schepisi

Schepisi applauds passage of quarterly pension payments

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi today applauded the final passage of legislation that would commit the state to a schedule of quarterly pension payments, rather than a one year-end lump contribution in June. Schepisi is a prime sponsor of the bill.

“Although I was adamantly against a constitutional amendment that removed the financial flexibility lawmakers must have to manage the state’s finances, I have always supported a flexible solution that protects taxpayers,” said Schepisi (R-Bergen). “This bipartisan legislation will provide fiscal stability to our underfunded pension system and save billions of dollars in future costs for state taxpayers. I am proud to sponsor this legislation providing that stability for public retirees.”

The bill (A-4) amends state law to require the quarterly pension payments by Sept. 30, Dec. 31, March 31 and June 31 of each year. It was previously proposed as a constitutional amendment to mandate payments.

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Schepisi: Absence of NJ Transit chief made legislators ‘look foolish’

Source: Excerpt from MyCentralJersey.com -

Leaders of NJ Transit skipped a legislative hearing Friday to investigate the beleaguered agency’s safety record, leadership problems and ongoing financial crisis. The decision by NJ Transit Executive Director Steve Santoro to miss the hearing, announced to legislators via text message at 9 p.m. Thursday, came three weeks after an NJ Transit train crashed into Hoboken Terminal, killing a young mother and injuring 110 people.

The text message, according to Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Madison), came just hours after the state Assembly voted unanimously to give itself subpoena power to investigate NJ Transit.NJ Transit officials, late Friday, disputed McKeon’s account that Santoro cancelled his appearance by text message.

No matter how the message was delivered, Santoro’s last-minute cancellation angered lawmakers of both parties, including some Republicans who had argued that subpoena power was unnecessary because NJ Transit officials could be trusted to produce information voluntarily.

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

“We argued against subpoena power, and it makes us look foolish … when people don’t show up,” said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R – Westwood. “This is not a partisan issue. This is about transparency.”

[In Santoro's absence, the state’s transportation commissioner, Richard Hammer, was left to do the talking. He said] Santoro did not attend the hearing because he was meeting instead with officials at the federal Railroad Administration, which is monitoring safety problems at NJ Transit, Hammer said. In an email sent to reporters Friday evening, Santoro said he will attend the legislature’s next hearing on NJ Transit, scheduled for Nov. 4.

Friday’s event, a joint hearing of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee and the Assembly Judiciary Committee, is the first step of an investigation by state legislators into NJ Transit, which has come under fire in recent months. Gordon led with questions about the safety record of the agency, which has experienced 157 train accidents since 2011, three times more than the Long Island Railroad, according to the data collected by the Federal Railroad Administration.

When Hammer finished his testimony, he stood and exited quickly out of the Statehouse Annex through a side door, as DOT staff attempted to block reporters from asking questions. Hammer climbed into a waiting SUV.

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Auth/Schepisi bill expanding the protections of ‘Joan’s Law’ to victims under age 18 approved by committee

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Robert Auth and Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi requiring life imprisonment without parole for molesting and killing a child under age 18 was advanced by the Appropriations Committee today.

Robert Auth

Robert Auth

“This bill cracks down on the most despicable predators in our society who prey on our children,” said Auth (R—Bergen). “In New Jersey, we don’t have the death penalty, and life without parole is the most severe sentence we can require for these reprehensible deviants. Permanent incarceration is more than warranted for horrific crimes against minors.”

The bill (A373) expands New Jersey’s “Joan’s Law,” which denies parole to anyone serving a life sentence for molesting and killing a child under age 14. The legislation protects all minors, increasing the age threshold to 18.

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

“The young are the most innocent and most susceptible targets in our society, and protecting them must always be the priority. We’re sending a message: For the worse of the worst criminals, if you prey on a minor, there is no second chance,” said Schepisi (R – Bergen). “On behalf of the D’Alessandro family and their multi-decade journey to tighten laws to protect our children, I am proud to be a sponsor of a bill which may represent a final step in ensuring these protections.”

Joan D’Alessandro was seven years old when she disappeared after delivering her last two boxes of Girl Scout cookies. He body was found three days later on Easter Sunday. A neighbor pled guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison, which at the time made him eligible for parole after 14 years.

Rosemarie D’Alessandro, Joan’s mother, dedicated her life to promoting harsh penalties for similar crimes. She has collected thousands of signatures on a petition in support of this bill, which also had been approved by the Judiciary Committee in March.

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Schepisi endorses Christie school funding plan as fair option for New Jersey students and taxpayers

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, in attendance as Gov. Chris Christie spoke with the public about his school funding plan in Fair Lawn today, released the following statement:

“There are two school funding proposals on the table. The governor’s plan will reduce property taxes and encourage efficiencies in the classroom and administration of our schools. Sweeney’s idea once again delays any meaningful reform until at least the next legislative session, and in the best case scenario, would take five years to fully implement.

“Our homeowners and seniors need property tax relief now, not another empty promise for tax relief five years from now. For decades, we have been pouring taxpayer money by the billions into a handful of chronically failing districts. How is it possible to be spending more than $33,000 per year for a child’s education with less than a 67 percent graduation rate? Difficult discussions need to take place. All children need to receive the proper education, but merely wasting upwards of $33,000 per year per student on a broken educational system is unsound. If we were actually educating students in these districts receiving billions, I would possibly consider it money well spent. Unfortunately, the money is not making it into the classroom.

“Under the fairness plan, districts will receive $6,599 of state aid per student, with additional funding for special needs children. State aid will be increased to approximately 580 districts in the state, and in particular to Bergen and Passaic counties by 500 percent, while reducing the average homeowner’s property taxes by more than $2,000. Working families and seniors are being forced out of our state by unaffordable property taxes. They need help now.”

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Schepisi: Proposed school funding formula is all about fairness [op-ed]

Source: Bergen Record [Op-Ed by Holly Schepisi] -

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

The Constitutional benchmark for New Jersey schools is a thorough and efficient education. That phrase has been thrown around conveniently in defense of a formula that is too expensive to fund, with results that scream failure. New Jersey needs a fair funding formula that fixes the problem, and Bergen County taxpayers need real property tax relief.

A few weeks ago, Governor Christie proposed a formula that would provide equal funding on a per-student basis. This proposal, called the Fairness Formula, is nearly identical to what I have introduced since 2012. The majority in the Legislature wants to continue with a failed system. What the governor and I have proposed would fix the problem.

Under the proposed formula, aid would be $6,599 per pupil. No student would be regarded as worth more than another because they have a statistically smaller chance to be provided a thorough and efficient education, and an even lesser chance to graduate. The state has thrown billions of dollars at underperforming districts for years, and the situation hasn’t improved. The time is now that we face reality and provide fair funding for every student in the state and stop strangling taxpayers to fund failure.

For example, the Pascack Valley Regional High School District is rated the eighth-best school district in New Jersey, with a graduation rate of 98 percent, while receiving only $550 per student. The average property tax in Bergen County is more than $11,000. On the flip side, Camden High School has a 46 percent graduation rate and receives more than $30,000 per student. The average property tax in Camden County is just over $6,000. Other than a couple of former Abbott districts, towns in Bergen and Passaic counties have carried the brunt of increasing property taxes, yet they have received the least amount of funding in the entire state.

One of those former Abbott districts is the city of Passaic. With only around 10,000 students, it receives more money than all 70 municipalities in Bergen, which has 250,000 students. Further, overfunded municipalities often use that money to pay for things other than students, such as Elizabeth, which spends more per student on legal fees than on textbooks and supplies.

Indefensible

This lopsided school funding formula is indefensible. Bergen and Passaic are paying sky-high property taxes to fund a school district on the opposite side of the state that can’t graduate half of its students. What makes the students in Camden worth 60 times more than a student who goes to Pascack Valley or any other school district in Bergen or Passaic? The answer: court mandates on how the state should spend its money.

The state Supreme Court ruled in the Abbott v. Burke decisions that most money should be distributed to districts that have demonstrated an inability to provide educational excellence. The consequence has been diverting money from districts that pay through the nose for education to districts that don’t, such as Bergen paying for Camden. Diverting these funds has resulted in higher property taxes for districts that want to maintain the educational excellence they have achieved. In some cases the towns with diverted funds have large retiree populations, robbing senior citizens of their savings and the value of their homes.

Gov. Jon Corzine’s school funding formula that the court approved has resulted in failure. The court ruled that nearly 60 percent of school funding to only 5 percent of school districts satisfies a constitutionally thorough and efficient education. This unfair formula has increased property taxes across the state and has failed to effectively educate the students in districts that cost the most taxpayer dollars. All the while, student enrollment in the former Abbott districts has decreased as funding has increased.

When schools are funded on a per-pupil basis, taxpayers benefit. School funding would increase nearly 500 percent in Bergen and Passaic counties with the Fairness Formula, while property taxes would be reduced by more than $2,000. When schools aren’t funded on a per-pupil basis, $5.1 billion goes to 31 districts and $4 billion goes to 546 districts. The Fairness Formula wouldequitably spend $9.1 billion across all 577 districts, without any property-tax discrimination based on educational excellence. Any legislator representing these counties who does not support this fair and balanced approach is failing to represent their own constituents.

Level the playing field

Providing funding equally on a per-pupil basis would level the playing field and decrease property taxes across the state. Extra aid would be provided only to make sure we take care of our special education students, who need the extra help to get by. Three out of four school districts would see an increase in aid. That means three out of four school districts would see a reduction in property taxes, providing much-needed relief to residents across the state.

The current school funding formula has been a disaster that drives up property taxes and does nothing to help failing school districts reverse course. The new formula would provide fair funding. Opponents of the idea will holler that it is unconstitutional. If that is their only concern, I have sponsored a resolution since 2012 (ACR-35) amending the state constitution to provide a thorough and efficient education on a per-pupil basis. The current formula is an indefensible failure. If the constitution is the only concern, then adopt my resolution and the Fairness Formula.

Holly Schepisi, R-Westwood, is an assemblywoman representing the 39th Legislative District. She is a member of the Joint Committee on Economic Justice and Equal Employment Opportunities.

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Schepisi says school funding plan values success over failure

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi today welcomed a fair school funding plan announced by Gov. Chris Christie.

“The lopsided and indefensible school funding formula is largely responsible for New Jersey’s infamous property taxes, but even more disturbing is the failure of the formula to effectively educate the students in districts that cost the most taxpayer dollars,” said Schepisi (R—Bergen).

“Other than a couple SDA districts, towns in Bergen and Passaic counties have carried the brunt of increasing property taxes, yet they have received the least amount of funding in the entire state. Any legislator representing these counties who does not support this fair and balanced approach is failing to represent their own constituents.”

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Auth-Schepisi-Brown-DeCroce bill providing assistance to servicemen approved in Assembly committee

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Members of the military will have an easier time balancing school and their military duties. The Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee approved a bill (A375) today that requires colleges and universities to accommodate students with military obligations that interfere with class work.

Robert Auth

Robert Auth

“Members of our military have responsibilities that often interfere with school work and due dates,” said Auth (R-Bergen). “They shouldn’t be penalized for serving our country. Education is vital to a career after the military, and we want to see our vets doing well.”

The bill directs colleges and universities to develop policies that will help a student who is an active member of the military, National Guard or reserve member to complete their coursework without worrying of losing credit. Professors and students will work together on a modified curriculum that allows for coursework to be completed and military obligations satisfied.

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

“Military members put their lives on the line day in and day out in order for us to enjoy the liberties we often times take for granted,” said Schepisi (R-Bergen). “The least we can do is provide them with the tools to receive a full education.”

The bill applies to students who cannot complete coursework because of monthly drills, annual training, or active duty whether it is voluntary or involuntary. It also allows a college or university to provide 30 credits for military experience to the student’s degree program, as suggested by the American Council on Education.

Chris A. Brown

Assemblyman Brown, who was activated for war on two occasions as an officer in the Army Reserve, left his third year of law school to serve in Operation Desert Shield/Storm.

“America is a great nation because we have young men and women who honor their oath to protect and defend our country by choosing to serve rather than to defer their military obligation because of school,” said Brown (R-Atlantic). “Just as we show our gratitude to them by protecting their civilian jobs while they’re on military duty, we should also safeguard their education opportunities for the very same reasons.”

BettyLou DeCroce

BettyLou DeCroce

“Participating in military training should not restrict a student from earning their degree,” concluded DeCroce (R-Morris). “Students work for college credits all the time and military service is just as valuable, if not more so, an experience as working in any other profession.”

In 2012, approximately 10,000 Students in military service will be notified by the school of their rights and benefits, as well as be provided five days to complete the work from missing one class. The New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs will enforce the policy.

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Schepisi, Handlin: Atlantic City may yet face bankruptcy

Source: Excerpted from Bergen Record -

Atlantic City breathed a sigh of relief last month when Governor Christie signed a badly needed and long-delayed financial rescue package for the resort town.

But that legislation goes only so far, according to financial analysts and state lawmakers.

Even with a new $60 million loan from state taxpayers, the threat of bankruptcy still looms over Atlantic City, where the $262 million municipal budget has a $100 million deficit, and where roughly $400 million is still owed to bondholders and local casinos that filed successful |tax appeals.

How the city could generate enough money to fill those yawning fiscal gaps remains an open question. Just weeks ago, before getting the $60 million loan, city officials were delaying paychecks to workers and taking other emergency steps to scrounge enough funds for schools and bond payments.

Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, a Republican, said after the rescue bills passed in the Legislature on May 26 that he expected to cut health care and prescription medication coverage for workers, and costs at the Police and Fire departments. The cash infusion from the state, Guardian added, would allow local officials to pay off $50 million to $60 million of their debt and “refinance” the rest “so that it’s nice and solid.”

Some doubt his math would work.

Amy Handlin

“The hole is too big,” said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-River Vale, who voted against the rescue legislation. “While I think all of this is well-intentioned, I’m of the mind-set that when you get into a hole of half-a-billion dollars — for a municipality of less than 40,000 people — you’re never going to make up the difference.”

Financial analysts say the rescue legislation Christie signed does not address the larger economic currents that hobbled the casino town over the past decade: A rapidly shrinking property tax base that is going from $20.5 billion in 2010 to an estimated $6.5 billion by the end of next year. The closure of four of 12 casinos in 2014, which wiped out more than 8,000 jobs. A sharp decline in gambling revenue over the past decade, from $5.2 billion in 2006 to $2.56 billion in 2015. And unrelenting competition from neighboring states, where more and more new casinos continue to siphon gamblers who used to be Atlantic City mainstays.

First, casinos began to crop up in Pennsylvania, clawing away nearly one-third of Atlantic City’s gamblers, MacInnes estimated. A chain reaction of declining real estate values, casino closures and job losses ensued, devastating the local economy, he added. Governors from Brendan Byrne to Chris Christie have made plans to revitalize the parts of the city that lie beyond the casino district, but none has made a dent, MacInnes said.

What Christie’s rescue package does is avert a bankruptcy filing in the near future; it gives city officials a five-month window to come up with a financial plan that balances their budget and then slashes costs over the next five years. If Christie’s administration rejects those plans, however, the governor would be empowered to take over the local government, sell off city assets and tear up contracts with unionized workers.

State officials also folded the $60 million loan into the rescue package and switched Atlantic City’s remaining casinos from the traditional system of paying property taxes to a system of fixed yearly payments in lieu of taxes. Because of the sputtering local economy, casinos often ended up overpaying property taxes and successfully appealing their bills. By itself, the city’s largest casino, the Borgata, is owed nearly $150 million in successful tax appeals. The fixed payments are seen as more predictable and therefore more likely to help stabilize the city’s finances.

On Wall Street, the analysts who have been tracking Atlantic City’s frail finances in recent years say the jury is still out on whether the resort town can mount a lasting recovery.

Even with the rescue plan, he added, a default remains in the cards if Atlantic City restructures its debt in a way that hurts creditors’ bottom lines.

A debt restructuring “would be considered a default if it includes any bondholder loss or impairment,” Goldmacher said. “We will also analyze how the city plans to return to long-term fiscal stability as the casino industry continues to consolidate,” he added.

Analysts at S&P Global Ratings issued a report on May 4 — before Christie signed the rescue package — warning that “while the city may receive extraordinary support from the state government, we are not confident that it will prevent a default or debt restructuring that would impair bondholders.”

Schepisi and other Republicans said Christie should have let Atlantic City file for bankruptcy now, because it appears to be inevitable down the line.

Amy Handlin

“The city needs to make cuts, there’s absolutely no question about that,” said Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, R-Monmouth, who was another no vote on the rescue package and supported a bankruptcy. “I hope, now that the deal’s been done, that they are able to step up to the plate, and don’t come back to the state and ask for additional bailouts, because the appetite for that is gone.”

 

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Auth & Schepisi Bill Expanding Scope of ‘Joan’s Law’ for Murdering a Minor Gets Panel Approval

Assembly Republican Press Release -

The Assembly Judiciary Committee today advanced legislation, sponsored by Republicans Assemblyman Robert Auth and Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, requiring life imprisonment without parole for molesting and killing a child under age 18.

Robert Auth

Robert Auth

“We don’t have the death penalty in New Jersey. Life without parole is the worst sentence we can require for these sexual predators, and it is more than warranted for horrific crimes against minors” said Auth (R – Bergen). “This is a crack-down on the most despicable creatures in our society.”

The bill (A373) expands the scope of Joan’s law, which denies parole to anyone serving a life sentence for molesting and killing a child under age 14. The legislation protects all minors, increasing the age threshold to 18.

Joan D’Alessandro was seven years old when she disappeared after delivering her last two boxes of Girl Scout cookies. He body was found three days later on Easter Sunday. A neighbor pled guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison, which at the time made him eligible for parole after 14 years.

“For me, this is personal. This horrific crime happened in the district I represent, and the grief and pain was felt throughout the entire community,” said Auth, who was a junior fireman when Joan D’Alessandro went missing. He recalls helping with the desperate search for the child. “Predators should never be allowed back on our neighborhood streets,” said Auth.

Rosemarie D’Alessandro, Joan’s mother, dedicated her life to promoting harsh penalties for similar crimes. She has lobbied for – and collected thousands of signatures on a petition in support of – this bill, which also had been approved by the Judiciary Committee in the previous legislative session.

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

“We’re sending a message: If you prey on a minor, there is no second chance. The young are the most innocent and most susceptible targets, and protecting must always be the priority,” said Schepisi (R – Bergen). “On behalf of the D’Alessandro family and their multi-decade journey to tighten laws to protect our children, I am proud to be a sponsor of a bill which may represent a final step in ensuring these protections.”

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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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