Tag: Holly Schepisi

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.


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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Assembly Approves Auth & Schepisi Bill Eliminating MVC Fee for New Licenses for Organ Donors

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Legislation encouraging life-saving organ donations, sponsored by Assembly Republicans Robert Auth and Holly Schepisi, cleared the General Assembly today. Currently, when drivers request to become a designated organ donor the Motor Vehicle Commission charges a fee for a replacement drivers’ license. The bill (A-374) removes the fee, eliminating an obstacle that could discourage drivers from becoming donors.

Robert Auth

Robert Auth

“The decision to donate organs is an incredibly selfless act. It just doesn’t sit right to turn around and hand them a bill,” said Auth, R – Bergen and Passaic. “Removing the financial obstacles for all organ donors will help encourage donations and promote awareness about donor programs that save lives.”

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

“We should encourage as many people as possible to become organ donors. I hope this small measure helps with that endeavor,” said Schepisi, R – Bergen and Passaic. “Eliminating the fee for a new license with ‘organ donor’ printed on it benefits society and encourages more participation.”

MVC, in collaboration with the NJ Sharing Network, offers its customers the opportunity to register as an organ and tissue donor when they apply for or renew their driver’s license or non-driver ID.

About NJ Sharing Network

Since it was founded in 1987, NJ Sharing Network has more than quadrupled the total number of organs recovered in New Jersey for transplantation. NJ Sharing Network also recovers tissue for life-enhancing transplants. NJ Sharing Network works closely with donor hospitals and transplant centers to steward the gifts of organs and tissue. NJ Sharing Network continues to reach New Jerseyans through educational tools and the media to inform them of the option to donate and of the benefits of transplantation.

For information, call the NJ Sharing Network at 1-800-742-7365, or e-mail info@njsharingnetwork.org.

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Bramnick Calls for New Regulations Following OMNIA Investigation

PolitickerNJ -

Jon Bramnick

With doctors, nurses and administrators by his side, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) said Thursday that opposition to Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield’s much-maligned tiered health insurance plans is as strong as ever in the legislature. Speakers at this afternoon’s press conference came from the group of New Jersey hospitals pursuing a new lawsuit against Horizon for introducing plans that interrupt patient care and leave patients paying higher premiums and deductibles for the same services.

“I don’t believe that insurance companies should pick and choose who gets the patients and who doesn’t get the patients,” Bramnick said of the new plans, which designate hospitals and physicians as either ‘tier one’ or ‘tier two.’ Areas of South and Central Jersey found themselves with too few first-tier providers once the new plans went into effect last September.

Horizon has not made its criteria public, which Democratic lawmakers sought to change with a series of committee hearings and attempts to block the plan. A suite of Democratic bills is already circulating in the Senate with one measure to halt the rollout of tiered networks, one to force disclosure of network standards, and one to guarantee coverage regardless of where a patient lives. Horizon Blue Cross is the state’s largest insurer with 3.8 million members.

“The state insurance department needs to look at the regulation regarding networks. Some of these regulatory schemes have been set up a long time ago,” Bramnick continued, calling on state Insurance Commissioner Richard Badolato to change existing regulations so that hospitals can opt into the networks of their choice.

“We simply can’t throw hospitals out of their major networks without a reason,” he said.

“When you set up a network, all you have to do now is touch certain bases. Maybe there should be just one. Two, no insurance company should ever designate anyone first or second tier, first or second class without a legitimate basis in fact. That should be legislation if regulation doesn’t change.”

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-39) said that she experienced the frustration and costliness of the new plans when she had to change specialists after a brain aneurysm.

“My neurosurgeon, who is one of the top neurosurgeons in the country, would not fall under the plan because he is affiliated with Valley Hospital, which is one of the hospitals that is within several miles of my home,” Schepisi said.

Democratic Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-7), himself a physician and the chair of the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee, joined Bramnick in calling for regulatory changes from the Department of Banking and Insurance, which approved the tiered plans before their rollout last September.

“As time goes on, we know that our regulations, the way we look at our marketplace, needs to change,” Conaway said. “We may end of with gaps in coverage and care that may very well work to the detriment of patients.”

Asked about the timing of his announcement, Bramnick said that his opposition to the tiered plans has been consistent and that his own reservations have paralleled those of the Democrat-lead hearings. On the possibility of new legislation blocking the tiered network, Bramnick gestured to Conaway.

“Ask the democrats, they’re in the majority,” he said to laughter, saying that he believes he would have the support of Speaker Vince Prieto (D-36). “You would have to ask the Democrats as to deadlines. I don’t give deadlines as the minority leader.”

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Schepisi on why mandatory pension payment would be worst idea ever for N.J.

Star Ledger -

Through a ballot question in November, voters are expected to decide whether New Jersey’s constitution should require the state to make regular payments to its $80 billion public pension debt.

Holly Schepisi

Holly Schepisi

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen) believes the proposal is “the worst idea” in the history of bad ideas in New Jersey.

“You have one class of payments that goes above all others,” said Schepisi, on the latest edition of The Backgrounder Podcast. “It goes above education. It goes above health care. It goes above every other thing in the state.”

The proposed amendment wouldn’t allow for money for pension payments to be used in emergencies like a natural disaster, Schepisi said. It doesn’t say what the state should do if it didn’t have the money or couldn’t borrow it, and the obligation would certainly mean budget cuts, particularly for schools in urban areas, she said.

But Schepisi sees a remedy to the pension crisis in another expected ballot question, one that will ask voters if casino gambling should be permitted outside of Atlantic City.

“(With) any additional revenue over what currently the state gets,” she said, “every single one of those dollars should be put toward the pensions until we stabilize.”

Schepisi further explains her position on the pension crisis on the latest edition of The Backgrounder Podcast. She also tells why she and other New Jersey lawmakers recently went to Cuba, and she talks about her experience of having suffered and survived a brain aneurysm nearly one year ago.

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