Monday, February 27, 2012

Clueless

Remember Rick Santorum's big bucks backer who got nostalgic saying women used to hold an aspirin between their knees for birth control?


Foster Friess isn’t just incredibly clueless or the owner of an awful sense of humor. He’s also taking out his checkbook to spend mounds of cash to paint the Senate red, and he’s not alone.

Karl Rove is spending $120 million. Friess plans to target 10 states. Flip four, and Republicans take charge. We wouldn't have a firewall to stop their dangerous agenda. Finding an aspirin would be the least of our worries.

I know what it’s like to fight a tide of outside cash, and that’s why I’m asking for your immediate help. The DSCC’s crucial FEC deadline is 48 hours away, and they still need $300,000. Fall short, and say hello to the Aspirin Agenda. Hit this goal, and we can hold accountable the extremes of the far-right fringe.


Thanks to the Citizens United ruling, Foster Friess, Karl Rove and other top Republicans can spend freely in support of candidates. American Crossroads and our Republican Senate counterparts are both running attack ads right now.

And we know what these Republicans want. A nation where it’s hard to get preventative care, but easy to lose your health coverage. Where we put the rights of big polluters above the rights of women.

The Republicans have Foster Friess. But we have something far more powerful – half a million passionate people who won’t rest until we move this nation forward. More than 90% of gifts to the DSCC come from grassroots donors.

The DSCC needs those grassroots donors now! We can keep the White House and Senate blue, but only if we raise $300,000 in the next 48 hours!

Giving to the DSCC just might be the single best way to put Foster Friess – and every other retrograde Republican – in their place. Please give now.

I know what it’s like to fight a tide of outside cash, and that’s why I’m asking for your immediate help. The DSCC’s crucial FEC deadline is 48 hours away, and they still need $300,000. Fall short, and say hello to the Aspirin Agenda. Hit this goal, and we can hold accountable the extremes of the far-right fringe.


Sen. John Kerry



Please click here to donate

Friday, February 24, 2012

Senator Menendez is Rebuilding the American Dream

ASSEMBLY DEMOCRATIC BILL TO BOOST N.J.’s MINIMUM WAGE RELEASED BY ASSEMBLY PANEL

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats to increase New Jersey's hourly minimum wage to $8.50 and require the rate to then be adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index was released Thursday by the Assembly Labor Committee by a vote of 6-2-1.
The bill, which would boost the minimum wage as of July 1, is sponsored by Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic), Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex), Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden), Speaker Pro Tem Jerry Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset), Majority Conference Leader Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), Budget Chairman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen) and Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex).
Oliver during the Assembly reorganization ceremony in January announced increasing the minimum wage – which is now $7.25 per hour - would be a Democratic priority this legislative session.
The bill (A-2162) specifically increases New Jersey's hourly minimum wage rate to $8.50 on July 1, 2012 and then requires that, starting in calendar year 2013, the minimum wage be adjusted annually based on any increase in the Consumer Price Index, with the adjustment taking effect on July 1 of each year.
“This is economic stimulus and a recognition that thousands of households in New Jersey are struggling to subsist on minimum wage jobs that do not allow them to support their families,” Oliver said. “This is about livable wages for the lowest-income earners. Quite simply, we should all support economic stimulus, increased consumer spending and livable wages.”
“Boosting the minimum wage has wide reaching positive economic benefits, acting as an economic stimulus,” Spencer said. “As five Nobel Laureates and six past presidents of the American Economic Association stated in joining hundreds of other economists in calling for raising the minimum wage, a higher minimum wage can significantly improve the lives of low-income workers and their families, without the adverse effects that critics have claimed. It’s the right thing to do.”
“Having a minimum wage that accurately reflects the state’s economic realities is common sense, but also an essential economic development tool that will have an immediate positive effect on our economy,” Greenwald said. “Traditionally, New Jersey has been a leader in providing economic security for its lower-income working families by ensuring that the state mandates a fair minimum wage. The time to raise the state’s minimum wage is now.”
“With the worst recession in a generation still being felt across the nation, Democrats are focused on getting New Jersey’s economy going again while helping working families make ends meet,” Green said. “Raising the minimum wage should be a key part of an economic recovery agenda. It’s also a must for many families struggling to get by in these difficult times.”
 “By boosting pay in the low-wage jobs on which more families are relying than ever, a stronger minimum wage will help restore the consumer spending that powers our economy and that local businesses need in order to grow,” Johnson said. “A robust minimum wage is a key building block of sustainable economic recovery. It’s long past time to provide this basic fairness.”
“The minimum wage is becoming more and more important for our economy, since more workers are spending more time in low-wage jobs,” Prieto said. “As a result, more families are relying on low-wage and minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. Raising the minimum wage promotes economic growth by putting money in the pockets of working families.”
“About 1.4 million low-income workers across the country started the new year with a minimum-wage increase, but not in New Jersey,” Wisniewski said. “Minimum wage increases stimulate the economy by increasing consumer spending, without adding to state and federal budget deficits. Consumer spending drives 70 percent of the economy, and increasing that ability to spend is key for jumpstarting production and re-hiring.”    
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have higher minimum wages than New Jersey.  Even much lower-cost-of-living states such as Florida, Arizona, Ohio, Illinois, and Montana have higher minimum wages.  In Washington State, the minimum wage is $9.04. Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington all increased their minimum wages this year.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Senator Menendez Stands for Women's Health

Senator Menendez thanks Assemblyman Green for his Testimony

Assembly Panel to Consider Minimum Wage Increase

(TRENTON) – Legislation to increase New Jersey's hourly minimum wage to $8.50 and then adjust it annually based on the Consumer Price Index will be heard Thursday by the Assembly Labor Committee.
The bill, which would boost the minimum wage as of July 1, is sponsored by Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic), Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden), Speaker Pro Tem Jerry Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset), Majority Conference Leader Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), Budget Chairman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen) and Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex).
The hearing will be held at 10 a.m. in Committee Room 11 on the 4th Floor of the State House Annex on
West State Street
in Trenton.
Audio of the hearing will be streamed live at:
Oliver during the Assembly reorganization ceremony in January announced increasing the minimum wage – which is now $7.25 per hour - would be a Democratic priority this legislative session.
 “This is economic stimulus and a recognition that thousands of households in New Jersey are struggling to subsist on minimum wage jobs that do not allow them to support their families,” Oliver said. “This is also about livable wages. Quite simply, we should all support economic stimulus, increased consumer spending and livable wages.”
“Having a minimum wage that accurately reflects the state’s economic reality is common sense, but also an essential tool that will have an immediate positive effect on our economy,” Greenwald said. “Traditionally, New Jersey has been a leader in providing economic security for its working families by ensuring a fair minimum wage. This is the time to do the right thing by increasing the minimum wage.”
The bill (A-2162) specifically increases New Jersey's hourly minimum wage rate to $8.50 on July 1, 2012 and then requires that, starting in calendar year 2013, the minimum wage rate be adjusted annually based on any increase in the Consumer Price Index with the adjustment taking effect on July 1 of each year.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

DSCC opposes Republican Efforts to Deny Women Coverage

Jerry,

 I can hardly believe this: Republican Senators are pushing legislation that will allow any employer to deny women coverage for birth control! Yes, you read that right. Birth control.

What is wrong with these people? More than 98% of American women use or have used contraception. It saves money, and it saves lives, which is why President Obama wants to make sure every woman has access to this critically important part of health care. The Republicans have proved yet again that they are only interested in defeating President Obama and waging war on women

 This ridiculous legislation will probably come up for a vote this week. I need your help. Will you fight back by joining the One Million Strong for Women campaign?

 Who could have imagined that in 2012 we’d be fighting over access to something as fundamental as birth control? It just shows how extreme these Republican are- and just how crucial it is that we defeat them.

Sen. Patty Murray


‘NEW JERSEY RESIDENTIAL FORECLOSURE TRANSFORMATION ACT’ Will Turn Foreclosed Properties into Affordable Housing

(TRENTON)– Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset) made the following statement today at a State House news conference on his plan to introduce the New Jersey Residential Foreclosure Transformation Act. The bill will promote the purchasing of foreclosed residential properties from institutional lenders and dedicating them for occupancy as affordable housing:

“We are all too well aware of the impact that the mortgage foreclosure crisis had on families around the country and here at home.
“While measures have been put in place over the last few years by the Legislature to help families struggling to pay their mortgages keep their homes, the current economic climate is making it almost impossible and is forcing many families to default on their mortgages.
“We reportedly have more than 100,000 homeowners currently dealing with foreclosures in New Jersey. These families, despite their financial struggles, still need a place to live.
“The crisis not only impacts families, but entire communities. As these homes are foreclosed, they become nuisances for residents, municipalities and law enforcement.
“Abandoned properties are a major problem, particularly in our urban communities. More than unsightly, they attract trespassers and squatters and serve as havens for drug use and sales, prostitution, and other criminal activity. Adding insult to injury, as they erode from neglect, they drag down the property values of other homes in the neighborhood.
“This bill provides a practical solution for residents who have limited financial means and are in need of affordable housing, and for communities that are dealing with the blight, reduced property values and illegal activity that is synonymous with vacant properties.
”Interestingly, the current economic climate, despite the hardships is has created, also presents our state with a unique opportunity to help.
“This bill will take advantage of the excess of vacant foreclosed residential properties and historically low interest rates in order to address one of the most pervasive problems New Jersey faces, the creation and preservation of housing for individuals and families of limited means.”

Thursday, February 9, 2012

WAGNER & EUSTACE IMPLORE ASSEMBLY PANEL TO HELP BRING MARRIAGE EQUALITY TO NEW JERSEY

(TRENTON) –Assembly members Connie Wagner and Tim Eustace, two of the sponsors of democratic legislation to protect the civil rights of same-sex couples and their families in New Jersey, last week implored the Assembly Judiciary Committee to help put an end to the “separate but equal” system that currently exists as the panel listens to lengthy testimony on marriage equality.
            “Denying rights and benefits to committed same-sex couples that are statutorily given to their heterosexual counterparts violates the equal protection guarantee of our state constitution,” said Wagner (D-Bergen). “Yet, through testimony and overwhelming evidence, the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission found that numerous employers in New Jersey have denied equal benefits to civil union partners because of the deprivation of marriage equality, and that numerous hospitals in New Jersey have denied visitation and medical decision rights to civil union partners because of the deprivation of marriage equality. This is wrong.”
            “It’s unfortunate that under the current civil union system, same sex couples are forced to have to explain and justify their relationships each and every day, and more unfortunate when it’s during a time of duress,” said Eustace (D-Bergen). “My partner and I have been together over three decades and have raised two sons.  By every traditional definition we are a family, except when it comes to our recognition under state law.  I hope the state will put an end to this discrimination once and for all and make New Jersey a true leader in equality,”
The bill (A-1) - the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act – which would eliminate the civil unions that have been in place since 2007, but have failed to provide equal treatment to New Jersey’s same-sex couples, and instead define marriage as the legally recognized union of two consenting people in a committed relationship.
            The legislation also expressly stipulates that no clergy of any religion authorized to solemnize marriage, nor any religious society, institution or organization in the state, would be required to conduct any marriage in violation of their free exercise of religion.
            The sponsors noted six states and the District of Columbia, together comprising 35 million Americans, allow same-sex couples to marry.
            The bill includes a religious exemption stating that no member of the clergy of any religion authorized to solemnize marriage and no religious society, institution or organization in this state shall be required to solemnize any marriage in violation of the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
            It also includes another religious exemption stating that no religious society, institution or organization in this state serving a particular faith or denomination shall be compelled to provide space, services, advantages, goods or privileges related to the solemnization, celebration or promotion of marriage if such solemnization, celebration or promotion of marriage is in violation of the beliefs of such religious society, institution or organization.
            Also, the bill states that no civil claim or cause of action against any religious society, institution or organization, or any employee thereof, shall arise out of any refusal to provide space, services, advantages, goods or privileges.
            Under the bill, partners who have previously established a civil union may apply for a marriage license and would receive the license immediately, without the usual 72-hour waiting period between application for, and issuance of, the license.  The usual fees for a marriage license would apply to same sex couples.
The bill is also sponsored by Assembly Democratic lawmakers Speaker Sheila Oliver, Reed Gusciora, Mila Jasey, John McKeon, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Jason O’Donnell, and John Wisniewski.
            It would take effect on the 60th day following enactment.

The Standing Strong for Women Project Combats the GOP's Anti-Woman Agenda

Jerry,

I was outraged and appalled when Planned Parenthood nearly lost funding last week because of a House Republican-led witch hunt.

We may have won this round, but radical House Republicans won’t back down an inch. We may have won this round, but radical House Republicans won’t back down an inch. We can’t either.  That’s why the DSCC has created the Standing Strong for Women Project- to combat the Republican war on women.

The Democratic Senate has already stopped nearly a dozen anti-women measures passed by House Republicans, including one that would have forced rape survivors seeking an abortion to prove to that IRS that hey had been raped. But if we didn’t win 30 of 33 senate races, there will be nothing to stop them.

A record 11 Democratic women are expected to be the Senate nominee in their respective states.

And we all know how hard the right wing will fight to restrict women’s rights- it appears to be their No. 1 goal! The very ability of women to participate equally in our society is at stake on Election Day.

That’s why we need the Standing Strong for Women Project- not only to push back against Republican attacks, but also to give our candidates the tools they need to come out of the gate ready to fight.

 You would think breast exams and well-women care would be issues we could all rally around. Apparently not, as the Komen has shown. That’s why we need to fight back twice as hard.

Sen. Patty Murray


Green to testify at Menendez hearing on foreclosures

(TRENTON) – Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green will testify Friday at a hearing chaired by U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on the effects of foreclosures on New Jersey neighborhoods and what steps can be taken to address the problem.
The hearing is set for 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 10 at the Black United Fund Health and Human Services building at
403 W. 7 th St.
in Plainfield.
Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset) chairs the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee and has been considering ways to better handle foreclosed residential properties and improve affordable housing. 
“The residential mortgage foreclosure crisis has caused numerous problems for families and communities,” Green said. “When numerous properties in a neighborhood remain vacant for a prolonged period, we have a heightened risk of the neighborhood becoming blighted and that in turn makes it difficult to reinvigorate our economy. We need to find creative ways to combine the glut of vacant foreclosed homes and historically low interest rates to address one of the most intractable New Jersey problems - the creation and preservation of affordable housing.”

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

DSCC on Threat to Planned Parenthood Funding

Jerry,

The Komen Foundation’s surprise funding reversal proves what we’ve long known: The investigation of Planned Parenthood by anti-choice Republican extremists is a partisan witch hunt. Period.

Planned Parenthood’s Komen grants will resume-for now. But as long as this scurrilous “investigation” continues, Planned Parenthood isn’t safe. Radical anti-choice Republicans won’t rest until every door to every Planned Parenthood in every community is locked and barred—even if it means more women getting sick.

The Komen foundation just proved that this “investigation” is motivated purely by extremist right-wing ideology, which has no place in women’s health.

This threat to Planned Parenthood’s funding was a potent reminder of the great work they do. From detecting breast cancer, to preventing unintended pregnancies, to keeping women- and men- healthy, Planned Parenthood is a vital piece of our nation’s health care infrastructure. That such a valuable resource would be politically targeted is deeply troubling.

Thank you for standing strong on this critical issue.

Sincerely,

Sen. Patty Murray

LAMPITT MEASURE AIMED AT ENDING GENDER WAGE GAP APPROVED BY ASSEMBLY PANEL

(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Monday approved a measure sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt aimed at putting an end to the long-standing wage discrimination experienced by women throughout the United States.
The resolution (AR-50) urges the United States Congress to pass the "Paycheck Fairness Act" in order to combat the persistent income gap that is attributable to systemic gender discrimination and provide women with more tools to achieve pay equity in the workplace.
“In 2012, women are still earning roughly 77 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington).  “That’s an archaic sounding statistic reminiscent of the struggles women faced toiling in factories in the early 20th century.  Letting this pay inequity stand essentially sanctions discrimination against women in the workplace.  Congress let the opportunity slip out of its hands last session.  We can’t let that happen again.”
The Paycheck Fairness Act, which passed the House of Representatives in January 2009 but never cleared the U.S. Senate, was reintroduced in 2010 and aims to strengthen current laws against wage discrimination and provides tools to enable the federal government to be more proactive in the fight. Among other things, the Paycheck Fairness Act would also close a significant loophole in the Equal Pay Act to allow for full compensation for sex-based wage discrimination.
Lampitt noted that 2009 U.S. Census Bureau data shows that full-time, year-round female workers earned 23 percent less than their male counterparts.  Furthermore, minority women fare significantly worse with median earnings for African American and Hispanic women working full-time, year-round far less compared to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts.
“Surprisingly, the gender income gap is largest in high paying occupations and women who graduate from college with a bachelor's degree earn far less than their male colleagues just one year out of college, with the pay gap widening 10 years after graduation,”  added Lampitt.  “This becomes an even bigger problem given the fact that two-thirds of American families rely on a woman's wages for financial security.  What kind of message does this send to young girls growing up today?  I would like to see my daughter enter the workforce knowing her work is valued equally through equitable compensation.”
            The measure cleared the Assembly Women and Children Committee, which Lampitt chairs, and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.
            Lampitt opened the newly constituted committee’s first hearing with the following statement:
“Good morning and thank you to everyone for being here for the first meeting of the newly reconstituted Assembly Women and Children Committee.
“I first would like to take a minute to express my thanks and appreciation to Speaker Oliver and Majority Leader Greenwald for creating this committee and appointing me to lead it.  As everyone here knows, there are a great many challenges facing the women and children of New Jersey.  These challenges cover a broad range of issues, and the Speaker and Majority Leader have shown great understanding of the policy concerns facing New Jersey’s families by making these issues a priority.
“I would also like to recognize the other members of this key committee:  Assemblyman Fuentes, our Vice-Chair, as well as Assemblyman Schaer, Assemblyman Wimberly, and Assemblywoman Casagrande.  I look forward to working with all of you as we address the issues that are critical to our state’s future.
“You know, I was struck when a little over a week ago, President Obama mentioned one of these important issues—pay equity—in his State of the Union.  The President said, ‘You see, an economy built to last is one where we encourage the talent and ingenuity of every person in this country.  That means women should earn equal pay for equal work.’
“It was so striking because his comments came around the three year anniversary of the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act being signed into law.  Lilly Ledbetter—a supervisor at a Goodyear Tire plant in Alabama—had been continually discriminated against during her career. 
“Over the course of nearly 20 years, Lily Ledbetter had been paid less than the male supervisors who performed the same job.  This discrimination was systematic and unconscionable.  When she went to file a lawsuit to correct this, the Supreme Court held her claim wasn’t timely because she hadn’t discovered the pay discrimination and sued within the statute of limitations. 
“The Lilly Ledbetter Act fixed that technical loophole.  And in a presidential term that has seen so many important pieces of legislation debated, this was the very first piece of legislation President Obama signed into law in his presidency.
“It’s such an important issue because pay equity and the wage gap are serious problems both nationally and here in New Jersey
“A 2010 report from the US Census Bureau reported that for every dollar a man earned, a woman only earned 77 cents—for equal work production.  And as women get older, this wage gap widens.  The National Women’s Law Center reports that when women start working—between ages 15 and 24—the wage gap is relatively small.  Yet by the time they start to reach the critical years leading to retirement, ages 45 to 64, women are earning only 71% of what men do.
“This disparity has had a staggering impact on New Jersey’s economy and on our families.  A 2009 Census Bureau report, coupled with statistics from the Department of Labor, estimates that full-time working women lose approximately $15.8 billion per year due to the wage gap.
“You heard me right.  $15.8 billion annually.
“This is a serious, serious problem.  There are so many families in our state that are being held together by single mothers—who work tirelessly as the sole breadwinners for their families while raising their kids alone.  There are so many families who, despite having two incomes, are struggling under the real pressures of this economy to make ends meet.
“Surprisingly, the gender gap is largest in high paying occupations and women who graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree earn far less than their male colleagues just one year out of college, with the pay gap widening 10 years after graduation.  We don’t charge women less tuition—why should they earn less in their first year out of college despite comparable qualifications?
“This becomes an even bigger disparity given the fact that two-thirds of American families rely on a woman’s wages for financial security.  What kind of message does this send to young girls growing up today?  I would like to see my daughter, and the daughters of countless New Jersey families, enter the workforce knowing her work is valued through equitable compensation.
“And so, one approach we can take toward helping all of our middle and working class families in New Jersey is addressing this $15.8 billion annual wage gap.  Because each dollar we reduce that gap is a dollar that goes to help our struggling families. 
“There are some people who have heard about this issue and said—that’s just the market.  We should just leave it alone.  If we start trying to address this true injustice, we’ll end up burdening the economy with red tape.  I disagree.  I say, a rising tide lifts all boats.
New Jersey’s women make up over 50% of students in higher education.  Women in our workforce are highly-educated, hard-working, and integral members of our communities.  When it comes to the wage gap, we can and must do better.
“Undoubtedly, this is a complex problem for which there is no silver bullet.  But I believe the significant negative impact of the wage gap on New Jersey’s economy demands that we attack this disparity head-on.
“There have been several federal and state actions that have sought to address pay equity, which is clearly one among the critical issues we will address in this committee throughout this legislative session. 
“One such measure is AR-50, a resolution I have sponsored urging Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and which we will consider in this committee today.   I look forward to working with my colleagues on this committee on this measure and as we move forward in an attempt to tackle this problem right here in New Jersey,” concluded Lampitt.

SINGLETON AND BENSON BILL TO FURTHER PROTECT VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC ABUSE RELEASED BY ASSEMBLY PANEL

(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Monday released legislation sponsored by Assembly members Troy Singleton and Daniel R. Benson that would help protect victims of domestic violence by allowing courts to order electronic monitoring of certain domestic violence offenders.
            The bill, designated as “Lisa’s Law,” would authorize the court to order electronic monitoring of certain domestic violence offenders and require notification to the victim when that offender is within a certain proximity. The bill (A-321) is named after Letizia Zindell of Toms River who was murdered in 2009 by her former fiancĂ©, Frank Frisco who later killed himself. The murder occurred a day after he was released from jail for violating a restraining order that Zindell had filed against him.
            “Letizia Zindell’s killer violated the restraining order she filed against him repeatedly up until the day he took her life. Her tragic death shows more must be done to protect victims of domestic abuse,” said Singleton (D-Burlington/Camden). “This bill helps protect victims by authorizing the courts to order electronic monitoring of domestic violence offenders when there is a perceived threat against a victim and notifying victims when their offenders are too close for comfort.”
            “Letizia Zindell tried to protect herself, but sadly, the restraining order she filed was not enough to stop her murderer,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Like Letizia, there are countless others who have perished at the hands of their abusers. We must do more. This bill gives victims who have filed restraining orders against their abusers an additional layer of protection by authorizing the electronic monitoring of offenders and the notification of victims when their safety is threatened.”
            Under the provisions of the bill, if a defendant is convicted on a second or subsequent occasion for contempt of a domestic violence restraining order, the court would be required to hold a hearing to determine whether the defendant should be placed under electronic monitoring utilizing a continuous, satellite-based, global positioning system for such a term as the court deems appropriate. In determining whether to order the monitoring, the court would consider the likelihood that the defendant's participation in electronic monitoring will deter the defendant from injuring the victim. A "global positioning system" is defined as a continuous, satellite-based, 24 hour monitoring system that provides for the capability of active and passive monitoring, or a combination of both.
            In addition, the bill authorizes the court to order the defendant to provide the victim with an electronic receptor device or cell phone capable of receiving the global positioning system information from the electronic monitoring device worn by the defendant. The device or cell phone would notify the victim if the defendant is located within a certain proximity to the victim as determined by the court. The costs and expenses related to electronic monitoring and the victim notification device would be paid by the defendant.
            Any person who tampers with, removes, or vandalizes a monitoring device worn or utilized by a defendant is guilty of a crime of the third degree. A crime of the third degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000 or both.
            The bill authorizes the Administrative Office of the Courts, in consultation with the Attorney General, to establish the electronic monitoring of such defendants. The system would provide for the capability of active and passive monitoring, or a combination of both. The monitoring system, at a minimum, would provide: (1) Time-correlated or continuous tracking of the geographic location of the defendant using a global positioning system based on satellite and other location technology; and      (2) An automated monitoring system that can be used to permit law enforcement agencies to compare the geographic positions of such defendants with reported crime incidents and whether the subject was in the proximity of such reported crime incidents.
            The Administrative Office of the Courts, in consultation with the Attorney General, would develop procedures to determine, investigate, and report on a 24 hour per day basis a defendant's noncompliance with the terms and conditions of the program. All reports of noncompliance would be investigated immediately by a law enforcement officer.
            The Administrative Office of the Courts, the Attorney General, the Superintendent of State Police, and county and municipal law enforcement agencies would be required to share information obtained pursuant to this bill.
            The bill was released by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

GREENWALD HAILS SUCCESS OF NOVEMBER SCHOOL ELECTION LAW

At last night's Council meeting the Board of Education falsely mentioned that 129 districts will be moving to the November elections (as can be proven below.) Plainfield is the only district that decided to challenge the Background Check Law in court.  The same attorneys that lied about how many districts have changed their election date to November charged Plainfield $50,000 to unsuccessfully challenge the Background Check Law.

The Council should investigate this firm on how much it billed the City of Plainfield last year and how much was received in legal fees.  In addition, their personal relation with Mrs. Campbell of the Plainfield Board of Education should be closely scrutinized. If these attorneys had the nerve to lie last night, it is evident that the City of Plainfield shouldn't trust what they do. It is obvious that Plainfield's Board of Education President is clueless. Maybe the State needs to step in to investigate why these schools are failing.

P.S. I wonder who signed off on the vouchers submitted to the Board.

Nearly 42 percent of Elected School Districts Have Already Made Move

(TRENTON) – Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald on Tuesday hailed the success of the new law he sponsored to allow school districts to move their elections from April to November, noting that 225 of the state’s 538 elected school boards have already made the move.

“This idea has been talked about for decades but was always killed by inertia or the special interests," said Greenwald (D-Camden). "By bringing all the stakeholders to the table and forging a compromise, we passed this major reform measure in a matter of weeks. Now, my solution is proving to be a quick and astounding success, with nearly 42 percent of the state’s elected school boards already making the move to November school elections. This truly remarkable momentum benefits both taxpayers and democracy and shows we can get things done when we work together for sensible reform.”

After years of talk but no successful action on moving school elections from April to November, Greenwald introduced the bill (A-4394 from the 2010-11 legislative session) on Dec. 1. It received final legislative approval on Jan. 9 and became law on Jan. 17.

The state has 538 elected school boards, and 225 have now opted for November elections, according to the New Jersey School Boards Association. A list of the school districts making the change is attached to this e-mail.

“April school votes are a costly charade, but because of this law school boards are giving voters better control while saving property taxpayers the costs of yet another election," said Greenwald. "The progress we have seen on this issue is a great example of what we can accomplish by bringing people together to find solutions, instead of relying on name-calling, divisiveness and 30-second sound bites."

The law establishes two procedures for allowing a school district to move its annual school election to the November general election. The first procedure would be via a question presented to the voters in a November election. The referendum would be prompted by a petition signed by not less than 15 percent of the voters who voted in the district during the last preceding presidential election.

The second procedure allows the election to be moved to November upon the adoption of a resolution by the board of education or governing body of a municipality.

If the district's annual school election is moved to November, then the district's board members will be elected in November and take office at the beginning of January.

Additionally, if a district moves its election to November voters would not be required to vote on the district's base budget, or a budget with a proposed tax levy that does not exceed the 2 percent levy cap. Any requests for spending above the district's tax levy cap would be presented to the voters in November.

“Everyone realizes this law is long overdue common sense,” Greenwald said. “I’m pleased to see it embraced by so many districts and look forward to seeing it embraced by even more. We’re controlling government spending and property taxes and increasing public participation in our democracy. These are all good things."
 
New Jersey School Boards Association  Districts Moving School Elections to November

Atlantic
1. Absecon (Atlantic)
2. Egg Harbor Township (Atlantic)
3. Estell Manor (Atlantic)
4. Galloway Township (Atlantic)
5. Mainland Regional (Atlantic)
6. Northfield (Atlantic)
7. Pleasantville (Atlantic)
8. Somers Point (Atlantic)
9. Weymouth Township (Atlantic)

Bergen
10. Bergenfield (Bergen)
11. Carlstadt (Bergen)
12. Cresskill (Bergen)
13. Elmwood Park (Bergen)
14. Glen Rock (Bergen)
15. Hasbrouck Heights (Bergen)
16. Mahwah (Bergen)
17. Moonachie (Bergen)
18. North Arlington Borough
19. Norwood (Bergen)
20. Oradell (Bergen)
21. Ridgefield Park (Bergen)
22. River Dell Regional (Bergen)
23. River Edge
24. Saddle River (Bergen)
25. Teaneck (Bergen)
26. Tenafly (Bergen)
27. Waldwick (Bergen)
28. Wallington (Bergen)

Burlington
29. Burlington Township (Burlington)
30. Beverly (Burlington)
31. Eastampton (Burlington)
32. Edgewater Park Township (Burlington)
33. Evesham Township (Burlington)
34. Lumberton Township (Burlington)
35. Maple Shade (Burlington)
36. Medford Township (Burlington)
37. Mount Laurel (Burlington)
38. North Hanover Township (Burlington)
39. Northern Burlington County Regional (Burlington)
40. Riverton (Burlington)
41. Shamong (Burlington)
42. Southampton Township (Burlington)

Camden
43. Bellmawr (Camden)
44. Berlin Borough (Camden)
45. Berlin Township (Camden)
46. Clementon (Camden)
47. Collingswood (Camden)
48. Eastern Regional (Camden)
49. Gloucester City (Camden)
50. Gloucester Township (Camden)
51. Merchantville (Camden)
52. Pennsauken (Camden)
53. Pine Hill (Camden)
54. Runnemede Borough (Camden)
55. Voorhees (Camden)
56. Waterford Township (Camden)

Cape May
57. Avalon (Cape May)
58. Cape May City (Cape May)
59. Cape May Point (Cape May)
60. Dennis Township (Cape May)
61. Lower Cape May Regional (Cape May)
62. Lower Township (Cape May)
63. Middle Township (Cape May)
64. Ocean City (Cape May)
65. Sea Isle City (Cape May)
66. Stone Harbor (Cape May)
67. Upper Township (Cape May)
68. West Cape May (Cape May)
69. Wildwood (Cape May)
70. Wildwood Crest (Cape May)
71. Woodbine (Cape May)

Cumberland
72. Deerfield Township
73. Cumberland Regional (Cumberland)
74. Upper Deerfield Township (Cumberland)
75. Vineland (Cumberland)

Essex
76. Cedar Grove (Essex)
77. Livingston (Essex)
78. North Caldwell (Essex)
79. Roseland (Essex)
80. West Orange (Essex)

Gloucester
81. Harrison Township (Gloucester)
82. Wenonah (Gloucester)
83. Woodbury (Gloucester)

Hudson
84. Kearny (Hudson)

Hunterdon
85. Alexandria Township (Hunterdon)
86. Bethlehem (Hunterdon)
87. Califon (Hunterdon)
88. Clinton Town-Glen Gardner (Hunterdon)
89. Delaware Township (Hunterdon)
90. Delaware Valley Regional (Hunterdon)
91. East Amwell (Hunterdon)
92. Flemington-Raritan Regional
93. Franklin Township (Hunterdon)
94. Frenchtown (Hunterdon)
95. Hampton (Hunterdon)
96. Holland Township (Hunterdon)
97. Hunterdon Central Regional (Hunterdon)
98. Holland (Hunterdon)
99. Kingwood Township (Hunterdon)
100. Lambertville (Hunterdon)
101. Milford (Hunterdon)
102. North Hunterdon-Voorhees Regional (Hunterdon)
103. South Hunterdon Regional (Hunterdon)
104. Stockton (Hunterdon)
105. Tewksbury Township (Hunterdon)
106. Union Township (Hunterdon)
107. West Amwell (Hunterdon)

Mercer
108. East Windsor Regional (Mercer)
109. Ewing Township
110. Hamilton (Mercer)
111. Robbinsville(Mercer)

Middlesex
112. Carteret (Middlesex)
113. East Brunswick (Middlesex)
114. Highland Park (Middlesex)
115. Jamesburg (Middlesex)
116. Monroe Township (Middlesex)
117. North Brunswick (Middlesex)
118. Piscataway (Middlesex)
119. South Amboy (Middlesex)
120. South Brunswick
121. South Plainfield (Middlesex)
122. South River (Middlesex)

Monmouth
123. Allenhurst (Monmouth)
124. Asbury Park (Monmouth)
125. Belmar Borough
126. Brielle Borough
127. Deal Borough
128. Eatontown (Monmouth)
129. Fair Haven (Monmouth)
130. Farmingdale (Monmouth)
131. Freehold Borough (Monmouth)
132. Freehold Township (Monmouth)
133. Highlands
134. Howell (Monmouth)
135. Keansburg (Monmouth)
136. Keyport Borough
137. Lake Como
138. Little Silver
139. Long Branch (Monmouth)
140. Manalapan-Englishtown (Monmouth)
141. Manasquan (Monmouth)
142. Middletown (Monmouth)
143. Monmouth Beach Borough
144. Monmouth Regional (Monmouth)
145. Ocean Township
146. Roosevelt Borough (Monmouth)
147. Rumson Borough (Monmouth)
148. Sea Girt
149. Shore Regional
150. Spring Lake Heights (Monmouth)
151. Union Beach (Monmouth)
152. Upper Freehold (Monmouth)
153. Wall (Monmouth)

Morris
154. Boonton Town (Morris)
155. Boonton Township (Morris)
156. Butler (Morris)
157. Florham Park (Morris)
158. Jefferson Township (Morris)
159. Kinnelon
160. Lincoln Park (Morris)
161. Mine Hill (Morris)
162. Morris Hills Regional (Morris)
163. Mount Arlington (Morris)
164. Mount Olive (Morris)
165. Parsippany-Troy Hills (Morris)
166. Randolph Township (Morris)
167. Rockaway Township (Morris)
168. West Morris Regional (Morris)
169. Wharton Borough (Morris)

Ocean
170. Barnegat (Ocean)
171. Brick Township (Ocean)
172. Central Regional (Ocean)
173. Eagleswood Township (Ocean)
174. Jackson Township (Ocean)
175. Lacey Township
176. Manchester Township (Ocean)
177. Point Pleasant Beach (Ocean)
178. Point Pleasant Borough (Ocean)
179. Seaside Heights (Ocean)
180. Seaside Park (Ocean)
181. Stafford Township (Ocean)

Passaic
182. Bloomingdale
183. Passaic Valley Regional (Passaic)
184. Prospect Park (Passaic)
185. Wayne (Passaic)

Salem
186. Alloway
187. Elmer Borough (Salem)
188. Elsinboro
189. Lower Alloways
190. Mannington
191. Penns Grove-Carneys Point
192. Pennsville
193. Pittsgrove (Salem)
194. Quinton Township (Salem)
195. Upper Pittsgrove (Salem)
196. Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional

Somerset
197. Bedminster Township (Somerset)
198. Green Brook (Somerset)
199. Somerset Hills (Somerset)
200. Watchung (Somerset)

Sussex
201. Byram
202. Franklin Borough
203. Green Township (Sussex)
204. Hamburg (Sussex)
205. Hopatcong Borough (Sussex)
206. Lafayette Township (Sussex)
207. Lenape Valley Regional (Sussex)
208. Montague (Sussex)
209. Newton (Sussex)
210. Sparta (Sussex)
211. Sussex-Wantage Regional (Sussex)

Union
212. Cranford (Union)
213. Elizabeth (Union)
214. Linden (Union)
215. New Providence (Union)
216. Rahway (Union)
217. Roselle Park (Union)
218. Winfield (Union)

Warren
219. Alpha
220. Blairstown Township (Warren)
221. Franklin Township (Warren)
222. Great Meadows Regional (Warren)
223. Knowlton Township (Warren)
224. Oxford
225. Pohatcong

BURZICHELLI, SINGLETON, WISNIEWSKI BILL TO MAKE NEW JERSEY MORE ATTRACTIVE FOR JOBS AND BUSINESSES ADVANCES

 (TRENTON) – A measure sponsored by Assemblymen John J. Burzichelli, Troy Singleton and John S. Wisniewski that would make New Jersey more attractive for businesses and more competitive for good-paying jobs was approved by an Assembly panel last week.
            The bill (A-1543) would modernize the rules governing the formation of Limited Liability Companies in New Jersey.
            Burzichelli is a member of the Red Tape Review Commission that was formed to find ways to eliminate unnecessary regulation and help stimulate economic development.
            “Streamlining the ways companies can form in New Jersey is a smart step toward increased job creation and economic growth,” said Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Salem/ Cumberland). “Common sense bills like this to make it easier for businesses to grow and prosper in our state are necessary to help navigate through this difficult economy. After all, stronger businesses mean better jobs for New Jersey residents.”
            The bill would modernize regulations for creating and operating LLCs – a form of unincorporated business organization that provides corporate-style limited liability to its owners with partnership-like capacity.
            “The first step in boosting job creation is to signal to businesses that we’re committed to creating a business-friendly climate, free of unnecessary regulatory hurdles,” said Singleton (D-Burlington).  “This is a pro-business bill, that’s ultimately pro-worker.”
            “Business organization rules ought to reflect what the business community needs.  If a business organizes in another state because of our outmoded New Jersey rules, that is a lost opportunity and lost jobs for our State” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex).   “This is a common sense approach that will help us gain a competitive edge with neighboring states.”
            Significant changes would include:
·        Eliminating the default and overlooked rule that LLCs have a limited duration;
·        Allowing LLC operating agreements to be oral, written or implied;
·        Allocating profits and losses on a per capita basis; and
·        Providing remedies when members of a company act in an oppressive or harmful way to other members.
The bill cleared the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.

WATSON COLEMAN BILL TO RAISE HIGH SCHOOL AGE TO 18 RELEASED BY ASSEMBLY PANEL

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman to raise New Jersey’s compulsory school attendance to 18 years of age was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.
            The bill (A-1411) would raise the age requirement for compulsory school attendance from 16 to 18 years of age. Students who graduate high school before their 18th birthday would be exempt.
            “Societal changes and the increasing demands of the labor market continue to place a premium on education,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).  “A person who stops attending school at age 16 will always lack the skills and preparation to successfully compete in the workforce and function in society. Requiring students to attend school until they’re 18 will help ensure that students receive an adequate education and are sufficiently prepared to compete in the labor market.”
            High school drop outs are more likely to live in poverty, receive government assistance, become involved in crime and suffer from poor health.
            “Quite simply – and quite tragically - too many of our students are being allowed to walk away before they’ve completed their education and built a foundation for their future,” Watson Coleman said. “Futures are being lost under our current law.”
            According to reports, high school dropouts cost between $320 billion and $350 billion annually in lost wages, taxable income, health, welfare and incarceration costs. About a quarter of those who entered high school this year won't earn a diploma, and according to the National Center for Education Statistics, someone who did not complete high school will earn about $630,000 less over their lifetime than someone who has at least a GED.
            The bill was released by the Assembly Education Committee.

MORIARTY ANNOUNCES MEASURE TO PROTECT RESIDENTS, ENACT TOUGHER PENALTIES FOR RECKLESS DRIVERS

(TRENTON) – Assemblyman Paul Moriarty on Thursday announced he is introducing legislation to crack down on individuals who endanger others by driving while illegally using a hand-held cell phone.
The bill (A-2199), named “Kulesh, Kubert, and Bolis' Law” after four New Jersey residents who were either killed or seriously injured by drivers allegedly distracted by their cell phones, adds violation of the hands-free cell phone law to actions considered reckless under the vehicular homicide and assault by auto statues.
A person is guilty of death by auto or assault by auto when it is proven that he or she drove a motor vehicle recklessly. The bill specifically provides that the illegal use of a cell phone while driving would give rise to an inference that the defendant was driving recklessly. The bill would make it easier for prosecutors to obtain convictions for vehicular homicide or assault by auto against a person who illegally uses a cell phone while driving and, as a result, kills or injures someone.
 “Too many people have lost their lives at the hands of drivers who were distracted while talking on, texting or checking their cell phones,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Taking your eyes off the road even for a few seconds to check your cell phone could make the difference between life and death, and for some of these families, it did in the most tragic way. Enough is enough.”
Washington Township resident Toni Bolis was just days away from delivering her second child, when she and her unborn son, Ryan, were killed in a head-on crash by a distracted driver in June. The driver allegedly crashed after looking at his cell phone. Elizabeth resident Helen Kulesh was crossing the street when she was hit and killed by a driver talking on her cell phone in February, and Morris County couple David and Linda Kubert each lost a leg when a teen driver, who they say was texting on his cell phone, drove his pickup truck into their Harley-Davidson motorcycle in 2009.
“Wireless phones have become more advanced and carry features that can be entertaining, but also deadly when used behind the wheel,” said Moriarty. “By toughening the penalties for using a cell phone while driving, this bill will help deter people from operating their phones while on the road and spare families from tragedies like the ones experienced by the Bolis, Kulesh and Kubert families.”
Vehicular homicide is generally a crime of the second degree, punishable by imprisonment of five to ten years, a fine of up to $150,000, or both. Assault by auto is a crime of the fourth degree if serious bodily injury occurs and a disorderly persons offense if bodily injury occurs. A fourth degree crime is punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. The penalty for a disorderly persons offense is imprisonment for up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
In addition, this bill imposes increased fines for multiple offenses of talking on a hand-held wireless telephone or texting a message with a hand held wireless electronic communication device while driving. Under current law, the fine for this motor vehicle violation is $100. This bill would increase that fine to $200 for a first offense, $400 for a second offense, and $600 for third or subsequent offenses. The bill also permits the court at its discretion to impose a 90-day driver’s license suspension for persons convicted of the offense for a third or subsequent time. In addition, third and subsequent offenders would receive three motor vehicle penalty points.
Under the bill, a person convicted of a second offense of driving while talking or texting on a hand-held device would be treated as a first time offender for sentencing purposes if the second offense occurs more than 10 years after the first offense. Similarly, a person convicted of a third offense would be treated as a second time offender for sentencing purposes if the third offense occurs more than ten years after the second offense.

ASSEMBLY DEMOCRATIC BILL TO BRING MARRIAGE EQUALITY TO NEW JERSEY CLEARS ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE

(TRENTON) – Assembly Democratic legislation to create true marriage equality and protect the civil rights of same-sex couples and their families who have suffered at the hands of a “separate but equal” system in New Jersey was released 5-2 Thursday by an Assembly committee.
            The bill (A-1) - titled the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act - would eliminate the civil unions that have been in place since 2007, but have failed to provide equal treatment to New Jersey’s same-sex couples, and instead define marriage as the legally recognized union of two consenting people in a committed relationship.
            The bill is sponsored by Assembly Democratic lawmakers Reed Gusciora, Speaker Sheila Oliver, Connie Wagner, Mila Jasey, John McKeon, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Jason O’Donnell, Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski and Timothy Eustace.
            The legislation also expressly stipulates that no clergy of any religion authorized to solemnize marriage, nor any religious society, institution or organization in the state, would be required to conduct any marriage in violation of their free exercise of religion.
            “The creation of civil unions has produced a separate-but-equal system, and as we know from our history classes, separate-but-equal is as unconstitutional as it is inherently unequal,” said bill sponsor Assembly Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “This law would make a significant difference in providing equality to same-sex New Jersey couples and their children.”
            “New Jersey has a civil union law, but all of the evidence has shown us that it falls far short in providing true equality,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “Civil unions send a message to the public that same-sex couples and their families are not equal to married couples in the eyes of the law. It sends a message that same-sex couples are not good enough to warrant equality. This is the same message we heard from Jim Crow segregation laws. Separate treatment was wrong then. Separate treatment is wrong now.”
            The sponsors noted six states and the District of Columbia, together comprising 35 million Americans, allow same-sex couples to marry.
            “Denying rights and benefits to committed same-sex couples that are statutorily given to their heterosexual counterparts violates the equal protection guarantee of our state constitution,” said Wagner (D-Bergen). “Yet, through testimony and overwhelming evidence, the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission found that numerous employers in New Jersey have denied equal benefits to civil union partners because of the deprivation of marriage equality, and that numerous hospitals in New Jersey have denied visitation and medical decision rights to civil union partners because of the deprivation of marriage equality. This is wrong.”
            “Giving same-sex couples the same choice other couples currently enjoy is a civil rights issue, whether the governor likes it or not,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “All couples should have the peace of mind that if ever faced with a tragedy, they would not be turned away at a hospital or denied medical decision rights because their governor didn’t think they were worthy of being married.”
            “There is no denying that marriage equality is a civil rights issue,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “To allow heterosexual couples to marry and enjoy the legal benefits, privileges and rights that come with marriage, but deny the same opportunity and rights to same-sex couples simply because of their sexual orientation is cruel and unjust. This inequity must be amended now. Gov. Christie, do what's right and sign this bill.”
 “If we have learned anything from our past, it’s that government-sanctioned discrimination will inevitably become a shameful chapter in our history,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).  “With countless couples still being subjected to discrimination, civil unions have proven to be a failed experiment in New Jersey.  We were elected to represent everyone in this state, not just certain constituents.  It’s time we right this course and provide true equality for all of our citizens.”
“We cannot single out a group of people and deem them undeserving of the same legal and economic protections others enjoy,” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). “We were reminded Monday of what true courage means when Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights hero, came to our capital city and talked of standing up for what’s right and ending all forms of discrimination. As elected officials, we must all follow his brave example and do the right thing when it comes to ensuring civil rights.”
            “It’s unfortunate that under the current civil union system, same sex couples are forced to have to explain and justify their relationships each and every day, and more unfortunate when it’s during a time of duress,” said Eustace (D-Bergen). “My partner and I have been together over three decades and have raised two sons.  By every traditional definition we are a family, except when it comes to our recognition under state law.  I hope the state will put an end to this discrimination once and for all and make New Jersey a true leader in equality,”
            The bill includes a religious exemption stating that no member of the clergy of any religion authorized to solemnize marriage and no religious society, institution or organization in this state shall be required to solemnize any marriage in violation of the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
            It also includes another religious exemption stating that no religious society, institution or organization in this state serving a particular faith or denomination shall be compelled to provide space, services, advantages, goods or privileges related to the solemnization, celebration or promotion of marriage if such solemnization, celebration or promotion of marriage is in violation of the beliefs of such religious society, institution or organization.
            Also, the bill states that no civil claim or cause of action against any religious society, institution or organization, or any employee thereof, shall arise out of any refusal to provide space, services, advantages, goods or privileges.
            Under the bill, partners who have previously established a civil union may apply for a marriage license and would receive the license immediately, without the usual 72-hour waiting period between application for, and issuance of, the license.  The usual fees for a marriage license would apply to same sex couples.
            The bill would take effect on the 60th day following enactment.

GREEN TO TESTIFY AT MENENDEZ HEARING ON FORECLOSURES

(TRENTON) – Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green will testify Friday at a hearing chaired by U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on the effects of foreclosures on New Jersey neighborhoods and what steps can be taken to address the problem.

The hearing is set for 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 10 at the Black United Fund Health and Human Services building at 403 W. 7 th St. in Plainfield.

Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset) chairs the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee and has been considering ways to better handle foreclosed residential properties and improve affordable housing.

“The residential mortgage foreclosure crisis has caused numerous problems for families and communities,” Green said. “When numerous properties in a neighborhood remain vacant for a prolonged period, we have a heightened risk of the neighborhood becoming blighted and that in turn makes it difficult to reinvigorate our economy. We need to find creative ways to combine the glut of vacant foreclosed homes and historically low interest rates to address one of the most intractable New Jersey problems - the creation and preservation of affordable housing.”

DEPUTY SPEAKER WISNIEWSKI STATEMENT ON GOV. CHRISTIE’S COMMENT REGARDING LAME DUCK SESSION

(TRENTON) – Assembly Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) on Thursday released the following statement in response to comments made by Governor Christie regarding lame-duck legislation during his Denville Town Hall meeting:
            You can imagine what great precision was used in passing those bills. It was a pile of crap, I vetoed most of it.” – Governor Chris Christie
"Governor Christie is, once again, resorting to indecorous and inflammatory language, this time to justify his veto actions in lieu of any serious discussion with legislators and voters about the bills he rejected. In my own case, a Teen Driving Safety bill he vetoed reflected proposals developed by a panel of recognized experts created by legislation sponsored by former Assemblyman Joseph Malone, and were vetted by the legislature for over a year. If there are specific problems or concerns that he had with the bill, all of us who worked on the proposal would like to know what those concerns were. I'm sure the same is true for colleagues of mine in both houses and both parties.
“To smugly dismiss bills that could have improved the lives of veterans, students, the unemployed, people with health conditions and child victims of sex abuse by simply characterizing them all as "a pile of crap" is behavior unworthy of a man who holds the office of Governor."

Monday, February 6, 2012

ASSEMBLY PANEL ADVANCES CHARTER SCHOOL REFORM PACKAGE SPONSORED BY COUTINHO, JASEY, DIEGANA, BARNES, WISNIEWSKI, CAPUTO & GUSCIORA

(TRENTON) – Assembly Democratic charter school reform legislation designed to increase transparency and accountability and establish voter input into the charter school process was approved Thursday by an Assembly panel. The bills are sponsored by Assembly Democrats Albert Coutinho, Mila Jasey, Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., Peter J. Barnes III, John Wisniewski, Ralph Caputo and Reed Gusciora.
The measures, approved by the Assembly Education Committee, would:
·        Creates greater accountability and transparency of charter schools and their operations. (A-2147). Sponsored by Coutinho (D-Essex) and Jasey (D-Essex).
·        Require final voter approval at the annual school election or by the board of school estimate before the establishment of a charter school (A-1877). Sponsored by Assembly Education Chairman Diegnan (D-Middlesex), Barnes III (D-Middlesex), Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), Caputo (D-Essex), Gusciora (D-Mercer) and Jasey.
“Charter schools can play important roles, but only if we know for sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing when it comes to educating our children,” Coutinho said. “A failing charter school is no different than a failing public school. Both are unacceptable and both need proper accountability and oversight.  Any school entrusted with our children’s future and receiving public funding should be held to the same standards.”
The first bill (A-2147) implements measures to improve the oversight and accountability of charter schools, including, among other things:
§         Requiring students to be selected for enrollment in a charter school through a lottery. 
§         Requires a charter school to maintain a waiting list for admission to the school and to annually submit the number and demographics of students on the waiting list to the commissioner. 
§         Requires the adjustment of the per pupil tax levy amount that a district of residence must send to a charter school if the district’s budget is defeated by the voters or disapproved by the board of school estimate and the district’s tax levy is reduced. 
§         Requires a charter school to file with the Commissioner of Education and the district of residence a report on the student enrollment demographics of the charter school by October 15 of each year. 
§         Establishes grounds for which the commissioner may revoke a school’s charter, including:
·        the charter school has not fulfilled any condition imposed by the commissioner in connection with the granting of the charter;
·        the charter school fails to achieve the core curriculum content standards or fails to meet any performance standard set forth in the school’s charter;
·        the charter school engages in a practice and pattern of discrimination in violation of federal or State law or violates any federal or State law; or
·        the charter school violates any provision of its charter, including provisions concerning fiscal responsibility;
§         Permits a board of education and a charter school to enter into a written agreement to conduct collaborative education programs or implement shared services;
§         Requires that a charter school, upon the revocation of its charter, provide parents or guardians with information on how to transfer their student to the school district of residence; and
§         Requires charter schools to be subject to review and evaluation under the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJ QSAC).
“Charter schools have a role to play as we undertake significant education reform measures,” said Jasey.  “The intention was never to replace regular public schools but rather to provide schools where new approaches and strategies could be tested and then, where successful, shared with their counterparts.  This bill will help increase transparency and oversight, elevate standards and foster collaboration that will hopefully benefit our entire educational system.”
The second bill (A-1877) would require that after the Commissioner of Education grants initial approval of a charter application, final approval must be granted by voters at the annual school election or by the board of school estimate prior to designation as a charter school district of residence or expansion of a charter school.
            “Community support is crucial in strengthening the establishment of charter schools,” said Diegnan, Chair of the Education Committee. “Local input will help ensure that the charter schools that are created fit the needs of the community thereby strengthening the entire public education system.”
            “The public deserves the right to decide whether public dollars should be devoted to a charter school,” Barnes said. “Our democracy relies on giving the community a voice, and charter schools that are worthy will surely get the support they need.”
            “Improving our educational opportunities is important, but so is public input,” Wisniewski said. “Charter schools, if designed properly, can help meet the educational needs of a particular community, but voter input is crucial in deciding whether it is in their best interest to divert public funds to a given school.”
            “Every community’s needs are unique and what works for one might not work for another,” said Caputo.  “When it comes to an issue as critical as education, and the valuable tax dollars that go along with it, the voters deserve to have their input weighed.”
            “Any proliferation of charter schools needs to be accompanied by sufficient input from the community,” said Gusciora.  “Charter schools, by nature, are designed to fill important gaps in local educational opportunities.  Taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be siphoned from public schools if a community doesn’t feel the need exists.”
The bills now await consideration by the full Assembly.