Tag: Holly Schepisi

Assembly Approves Schepisi Bill to Help Flood-Prone Neighborhoods

Source: Assembly Republican Press Release -

Assembly Republican Holly Schepisi co-prime sponsored legislation approved Monday by the General Assembly to help local officials remove debris and silt from streams to control flooding in low-lying areas across the state. The bill (A-3507), similar to bill (A-900) which was also co-primed by the Assemblywoman, increases the number of streams eligible for cleaning without obtaining a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), allowing municipalities and counties to quickly and effectively remove snags and other residue impeding water flow.

Holly Schepisi

“Residents in flood-prone areas live with the constant threat of streams spilling over the banks with every storm that hits our area. We have worked for many years to provide any form of flood relief for our residents,” said Schepisi, R- Bergen and Passaic. “To help control flooding, it is necessary to use all tools available, including allowing municipalities to properly clean out the natural and man-made debris and obstructions in the streams without having to go through costly and lengthy permitting processes. Vegetation, natural sediment, garbage, shopping carts and 55-gallon drums all contribute to costly flooding.”

Under current law, only stream beds 15 feet or less in width may be cleaned without DEP approval. The width is expanded to 30 feet by Schepisi’s legislation.

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Ciattarelli-Schepisi Pleased North Dakota and USDOT Addressing Safe Transport of Bakken Shale on Rails

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Assembly Republicans Jack Ciattarelli and Holly Schepisi, who have expressed concerns over the safe transport of Bakken shale by oil tanker through New Jersey, lauded a recent news report that North Dakota oil producers must begin removing flammable natural gas liquids from the product before shipping. Bakken crude has a low flashpoint.

The legislators also expressed their support of a bipartisan budget agreement reached by Congressional leaders that sets aside funds for upgrading safety standards of the oil tankers transporting the product. The bill requires the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to adopt regulations by Jan.15 to upgrade tanker car designs. Fifteen new hazardous materials and rail safety inspectors will be hired and $3 million allocated to expand the use of automated track inspections.

Jack Ciattarelli

“The encouraging news from North Dakota and the USDOT indicates that concerns expressed by states through which this oil travels are being taken seriously,” said Ciattarelli, R-Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer and Middlesex. “I commend the North Dakota state regulators for requiring Bakken oil producers to remove the most hazardous liquids common in the North Dakota crude. Upgrading product standards and improving the safe transport of this commodity are imperative, especially in New Jersey where rail lines run through numerous communities.”

Anywhere from 15-30 trains come into New Jersey every week and pass through Bergen, Somerset and Hunterdon counties on their way to a Philadelphia refinery.

Holly Schepisi

“Coincidental or not, both North Dakota and the federal government are taking positive steps to improve the standards of tanker cars and the refining process of the shale before it is shipped,” said Schepisi, R- Bergen and Passaic. “Increasing our energy independence is a worthy goal, but we cannot sacrifice the safety of residents. These oil tankers travel through heavily populated residential communities. Upgrading transport standards and increasing the number of safety inspections will help protect our residents.”

Ciattarelli and Schepisi said they are working to gain bipartisan support for legislation they sponsor (AR-171), which urges the USDOT to upgrade crude oil transport regulations.

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Schepisi talks about Newark Airport Pricing

Holly Schepisi

Bergen Record -

New Jersey travelers know that airfares for flights out of Newark Liberty International Airport, where United Airlines handles nearly three-fourths of all passengers, are generally higher than at either John F. Kennedy or La Guardia airports, where there is more competition.

This week, another seeming contributor to higher fares at Newark was brought to light when Chicago-based United Airlines filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration asking the regulator to investigate fees that the airport’s operator, the Port Authority, charges at New Jersey’s biggest airport.

But experts say fees are not a major cost to air carriers, despite the disparity in fees at airports operated by the Port Authority. The bigger cost driver for travelers, experts say, is the lack of competition at Newark, a situation repeated at other, mostly smaller, airports around the country where one airline dominates.

According to United, the flight fees it pays at Newark are much higher than at any other airport, and those fees put the airline at a competitive disadvantage to rivals Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, whose New York City-area hubs are at JFK.

Travelers who used Newark for flights within the United States paid the sixth-highest average round-trip fare in the country in the second quarter, according to the latest data from the Department of Transportation. The average fare at Newark, including taxes and passenger fees, was $491.42. JFK and La Guardia ranked 37th and 54th, respectively, with average fares of $416.11 and $398.17.

There is less competition between airlines at Newark as a result of the dominance of a single carrier, United, which handles 70 percent of the passengers. United became the dominant carrier at Newark when it bought Continental Airlines in 2010.

At Newark, which is a trans-Atlantic gateway airport where many passengers get off one plane and board another, United provides a mix of long, medium and short hauls.

Even though air travel experts say the disparity in fees is not a central pressure point for higher costs in Newark, legislators in Trenton were still tying the fees to long-standing claims that Port Authority management is making flights more expensive and driving up costs, with little public oversight.

“That special legislative committee should be looking at the cost of flights from Newark as well as other issues raised by United in its complaint,” said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-River Vale.

“The flights have become so ridiculously expensive,” Schepisi said. “Everybody out of Bergen County is seeking alternatives.”

“The rising flight costs also need to be seen as part of a larger problem with costs at the Port Authority,” she said. “And that includes recent toll increases and rising overtime payouts. “When you get all of these things together, it is desperately in need of looking at what is going on there,” Schepisi said.

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Schepisi: Republicans ‘no less’ harsh in Bridgegate report than Dems Read more at Schepisi: Republicans ‘no less’ harsh in Bridgegate report than Dems

Source: PolitickerNJ -

Holly Schepisi

A Republican Assemblywoman who sits on the Select Committee on Investigation, the joint legislative body tasked with investigating last year’s George Washington Bridge lane closures, defended a statement released by minority members this morning, just hours after a heated hearing had Democrats and Republicans at each others’ throats.

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-39) admitted her party’s 119-page Minority Statement, which was produced in response to the committee’s own interim report and sharply criticizes its Democratic members of partisanship, was “harsh” — though no less harsh than the committee’s co-chairs, Assemblyman John Wisniewski and state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, have been with their mostly Republican witnesses, she said.

Schepisi said Democrats on the committee — particularly Wisniewski, who Republicans have have described as an “opportunistic and power-hungry politician” who’s used his leadership position for political gain — went after witnesses “relentlessly,” mostly because they were connected-up with Gov. Chris Christie in some way.

Republicans accuse Democrats of using their yearlong investigation to conduct a drawn-out “witch hunt” after the Republican governor, who finds himself a potential 2016 presidential contender.

Those witnesses include Christie administration officials like his former chief of staff, Kevin O’Dowd, as well as former aide, Matt Mowers, who spent more than five hours testifying in front of the committee on the Office of the Governor’s connection to Bridgegate earlier this year.

Schepisi described Wisniewski as being bent on implicating the governor in the scandal somehow — which has turned the committee’s work into a “very bad waste of taxpayers dollars and of everybody’s time.”

“Was some of the stuff in our report harsh? Yes. But no more or less harsh than the chairman’s been with any person who has appeared before the committee,” she said.

At their hearing this morning, committee members voted along party lines to publicly release their interim report, which finds the committee currently unable to determine Christie’s connection to the lane closings, if any — though not before Republicans brought up their own report, excoriating Democrats and the investigation as “government gone wild.”

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Schepisi-Handlin say enough to N.J. Panel’s Inability to Link Christie

Source: Bloomberg -

Eleven months after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie apologized for deliberate traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge, no evidence has linked him to the plot. His Republican allies say it’s time to end the hunt.

A 136-page report scheduled to be released today by a legislative panel investigating any role Christie may have had in the scandal is inconclusive. Democrats leading the probe say their work isn’t done and plan to call more witnesses.

Members aren’t “in a position currently to conclude what Governor Christie himself knew about the lane closures, or when and how his knowledge of these events developed,” according to a copy of their findings obtained by Bloomberg News.

Holly Schepisi

“You still have the chairman backpedaling, saying it’s possible the governor was involved,” said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, a Republican panel member from River Vale. “There’s not one iota, not one shred, not one parcel of evidence that implicates him in any fashion whatsoever.”

The closing of some approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge, the busiest motor-vehicle bridge in the world, froze morning commutes in the New Jersey town of Fort Lee for four days in September 2013. Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich got no response from phone calls and e-mails to staff of the bridge’s operator, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, asking whether the gridlock was payback for not endorsing Christie.

Lawmakers suspended hearings in July, when U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman asked them to delay calling some witnesses to preserve the integrity of his own investigation.

Amy Handlin

Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, a Republican from Red Bank who is on the investigative panel, said Democratic members’ attempts to implicate Christie had taken precedence over Port Authority fact-gathering.

“We’ve spent $1 million, roughly, to end up exactly where we started,” Handlin said in a Dec. 5 interview. “We have zero proof of who did what. We have zero evidence that the governor was involved in any way.”

At least six federal indictments in connection with the scandal may be handed down as soon as January, NBC New York reported on Dec. 5, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the investigation. Those facing charges include former Christie staff and former Port Authority officials, according to the report.

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Bramnick-Schepisi discuss deleted texts

Star Ledger -

While there weren’t many revelations in the new report by the state legislative committee investigating the George Washington Bridge scandal, at least one new mystery drew attention:

A set of 12 text messages sent between Gov. Chris Christie and a top aide that appear to have been deleted.

The aide, Regina Egea, testified before the committee earlier this year about texting Christie last December, when top officials at the Port Authority appeared before a state Assembly panel to discuss the controversial lane closings at the center of the scandal as talk of the issue intensified.

Egea testified under oath that she recalled sending Christie only one text — about how the officials’ testimony was professional — and later deleting it. The message was “not at all substantive,” she told the legislative committee in July, during one of its many hearings on the bridge scandal this year. She said she did not remember Christie responding.

Christie told reporters in August that he has “no recollection” of Egea texting him. “It obviously was something of no moment or no import because I have no recollection of it at all,” the governor said at the time.

Christie has repeatedly said he was not personally involved in the lane closings and had little knowledge of the scandal until it erupted in January, when emails were leaked that linked his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, to the closings. A report conducted by a law firm hired by his office also cleared the governor of wrongdoing earlier this year.

The new report says it cannot determine if Christie was involved. But state Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), the committee’s co-chair, said the texts between Egea and the Republican governor “raise questions.”

“She said she sent a text to the governor,” Sen. Loretta Weinberg said. “One could guess what they were keeping track of that testimony because it was revealing.”

But Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen), one of only four Republicans on the 12-person committee, dismissed the questions as speculation by a partisan panel.

“I think that once again this is a desperate attempt to try to back into a conclusion,” Schepisi said. “Think about your daily text messages. You can have 50 back and forth text messages on just: ‘Are You there?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Has somebody spoke?’ ‘No.’ Saying there are a definite number of texts between two people means absolutely nothing to me.”

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union), a Christie ally, said he has “zero concern” about the texts.

“Knowing Egea and Christie, there is no doubt in my mind what they did was above board,” Bramnick said. “If this Bridgegate partisan panel wants to raise suspicion based on no evidence, in my judgment, it’s a waste of money. You can make anything look suspicious if you are a partisan investigator. What about the thousands of hours of testimony that show the governor knew nothing?”

Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for Christie’s office, declined to comment on the texts.

 

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Schepisi-Bramnick slam SCI report

Source: Star Ledger -

Republicans — including former Gov. Tom Kean — today dismissed a new report by the Democratic-controlled legislative committee investigating the George Washington Bridge scandal that has engulfed Gov. Chris Christie’s administration, calling the probe biased and questioning whether it should continue.

But Democrats on the panel defended the report, saying it’s a key step in an investigation into an abuse of government power and that more work is needed to clarify exactly who was involved in the controversial lane closings at the nation’s busiest bridge last September.

Republicans — who have long complained that the committee is made up of eight Democrats and four Republicans — dismissed the report as simply an expensive review of testimony that the panel heard from witnesses this year.

“It’s a very costly rehashing of portions of an incomplete picture,” said state Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen), one of the Republican members of the committee. “I really think it drives home the fact that we have wasted tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to learn absolutely nothing.”

The latest figures — released in May — showed the legislative probe has cost taxpayers at least $725,000 in legal fees. Other figures released in August show that Christie’s office has shelled out at least $6.25 million in legal fees related to the scandal.

Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-Union), a Christie ally, called the new documents an “expensive book report.”

“They’re trying to embarrass the governor,” Bramnick said.

Kean, whom Christie has called a mentor in the past, told CNN that the committee is acting in a “purely political” fashion.

“I know something about nonpartisan investigations, this isn’t one,” Kean, who co-chaired the commission that investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, told the news network. “I’m disappointed.”

Asked whether they should end the investigation, Kean said, “I think they should have stopped a long time ago.”

But Democrats on the committee stressed that the report was only a “summary” of the work so far and that the picture is incomplete in part because key figures were not allowed to testify due to a parallel criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), one of the panel’s two co-chairs, said today the report couldn’t be partisan because it was written by the committee’s attorneys.

He also stressed that the report does not clear Christie in any way.

Christie himself declined to answer questions about the report during a trip to Canada today.

Kean — who had a public falling out with the governor in recent months — told CNN that he believed the controversy needed to be investigated because there was a “tremendous number of questions” when the news broke.

But while he noted that the Mastro report commissioned by the governor’s office was not truly bipartisan, that “never pretended to be anything except for what it was,” and “when you’re accused of a criminal act as governor, you got to spend time on it. You don’t have much choice.”

Republicans on the legislative committee have said that they have been kept in the dark involving updates in the investigation. They also questioned the need for the probe at all why federal prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s office examines the issue.

The committee will meet again Monday at the Statehouse at 10 a.m. to publicly discuss the report and what happens next.

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Schepisi discusses women in government on NJTV [video]

Source: NJTV News [video] -

Holly Schepisi

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi was honored by the League of Municipalities with the Outstanding Woman in Government Award, presented by the Women in Municipal Government Committee. She sat down with NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams to discuss women’s involvement in government, including her own.

New Jersey is 10th in the nation for the number of women serving in elected office and the state legislature is 30 percent female. Schepisi believes it can be hard for women to break into politics. “I don’t think it’s as difficult for women to get elected as it is for maybe them to be brought into the process and selected to begin with,” she said.

Schepisi, and fellow honoree Nancy Pinkin, attended a breakfast where they discussed issues surrounding women’s involvement in government with other women.

To try to bridge the gap between Democrats and Republicans, Schepisi said she has started to get together more regularly with women from both parties to brainstorm ways to help New Jersey communities, “recognizing we’re not always going to agree on a lot of issues, but there are core issues that we can sit down and we can work through.”

The League of Municipalities created the Women in Municipal Government Committee, which Schepisi sees as positive. “You had a very large and strong turnout of women representatives from all over the state — mayors, council members, lobbyists, women who are involved in many different facets. And it’s a great start. And there are so many different programs that I think people don’t even realize are available and the more organizations like the League, the Rutgers institute, all of these different places are out there bringing women together and showing them how they can be leaders. It’s so important towards our future,” she said.

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Schepisi to Receive Outstanding Woman in Government Award from League of Municipalities

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Assembly Republican Holly Schepisi is being honored with the League of Municipalities 2014 Annual Outstanding Woman in Government Award for her support of towns and their issues at the annual League of Municipalities Conference next week.

Holly Schepisi

“Municipalities are the foundation of government,” said Schepisi, R-Bergen and Passaic. “Towns are usually the first place residents and businesses turn to when they have an issue. As someone who has worked in local and state government, I understand issues from different perspectives and am able to use that knowledge to better serve our constituents. I am truly honored to be recognized by the league which is an important advocate for towns and communities.”

As a legislator, Schepisi sponsored a bill that exempts property acquired by municipalities as part of a flood-prone property acquisition program from county, school, and fire district taxes. She also sponsored legislation which provides homeowners with a limited exemption from local land use restrictions when raising their house in order to meet new FEMA base flood elevation regulations. Both measures have been signed into law.

Schepisi and co-award recipient Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin, D-Middlesex, are the first members of the Assembly to receive the league’s award recognizing government officials for their contributions to towns throughout the state.

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Schepisi-Auth pleased to learn bill allocating $22.5 million for Passaic River dam repairs signed into law

Bergen Record -

Five Passaic County dams will receive loans to fund repairs under a bill Governor Christie signed into law Thursday.

Christie approved a bipartisan measure that appropriates $22.5 million from the existing bond money in the state’s Dam, Lake and Stream Project Revolving Loan Fund. The money will pay for 14 damn restoration projects across the state including two in West Milford and projects in Wayne, Ringwood and Passaic.

Holly Schepisi

“Making these dams more resilient to storms help control water levels, prevent flooding and avert the damage that is inevitable when a dam fails,” said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-River Vale, one of the bill’s sponsors. “These projects ensure safer communities.”

The money comes from a revolving fund, which is available to local government as well as private associations and dam owners who have local governments as co-applicants for loans. As loan recipients make principal and interest payments the fund is replenished.

Robert Auth

Robert Auth

“This is ready money that won’t cost taxpayers a dime,” said Assemblyman Robert Auth, R-Old Tappan, one of the bill’s sponsors. “These are necessary projects, but they are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to finance through private lenders.”

Of the Passaic County projects, the largest allocation is going to Vacamas Programs for Youth, a non-profit organization which runs a summer camp on 230 wooded acres in West Milford adjacent to Norvin Green State Park. Vacamas will receive a $1.165 million loan to make repairs to the Henion Pond Dam. The nearby High Crest Lake Lodge Inc., also in West Milford, was allotted $575,000 for its dam project.

The bill also allocates $743,000 to the City of Passaic for the Hughes Lake Dam; $668,000 to the Erskin Lakes Property Owners Association in Ringwood for the Lake Erskin Dam; and $650,000 to Preakness Hills Country Club in Wayne for Dam No. 1.

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