Wednesday, August 29, 2012


August 28, 2012

How the Republicans Built It

It was a day late, but the Republicans’ parade of truth-twisting, distortions and plain falsehoods arrived on the podium of their national convention on Tuesday. Following in the footsteps of Mitt Romney’s campaign, rarely have so many convention speeches been based on such shaky foundations.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, in the keynote speech, angrily demanded that the American people learn the hard truths about the two parties, but like most of those at the microphone, he failed to supply any. He said his state needed his austere discipline of slashed budgets, canceled public projects and broken public unions, but did not mention that New Jersey now has a higher unemployment rate than when he took over, and never had the revenue boom he promised from tax cuts.
“We believe in telling our seniors the truth about our overburdened entitlements,” he said, but his party has consistently refused to come clean about its real plans to undo Medicare and Medicaid. “Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to put us back on a path to growth,” he said, but Mr. Romney has consistently refused to tell the truth about his tax plan, his budget plan, and his health care plan.
It was appropriate that “We built it,” the needling slogan of the evening, was painted on the side of the convention hall. Speaker after speaker alluded to the phrase in an entire day based on the thinnest of reeds — a poorly phrased remark by the president, deliberately taken out of context. President Obama was making the obvious point that all businesses rely to some extent on the work and services of government. But Mr. Romney has twisted it to suggest that Mr. Obama believes all businesses are creatures of the government, and so the convention had to parrot the line.
“We need a president who will say to a small businesswoman: Congratulations, we applaud your success, you did make that happen, you did build that,” said Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia. “Big government didn’t build America; you built America!”
That was far from the only piece of nonsense on the menu, only the most frequently repeated one. Conventions are always full of cheap applause lines and over-the-top attacks, but it was startling to hear how many speakers in Tampa considered it acceptable to make points that had no basis in reality.
Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, for example, boasted of the booming economy in his state, never mentioning that he and Mr. Romney opposed the auto bailout that has played an outsized role in the state’s recovery. (Apparently Mr. Obama’s destructive economic policies do not apply everywhere.)
Andy Barr, a Congressional candidate in Kentucky, made the particularly egregious charge that the president was conducting “a war on coal,” ruthlessly attacking an industry and thousands of struggling miners.
He was apparently referring to the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions and prevent power-plant pollution from drifting through the East Coast states. The country desperately needs to reduce its reliance on coal, which is far more polluting than natural gas, but that goal gets harder to achieve every time someone like Mr. Barr makes it out to be an attack on a way of life.
Considering how Mr. Romney has conducted his campaign so far, most recently his blatantly false advertising accusing Mr. Obama of gutting the work requirement on welfare, it is probably not surprising that the convention he leads would follow a similar path.
Voters looking for a few nuggets of truth would not have found them in Tampa on Tuesday.


Christie keynote: By the numbers
By Darryl R. Isherwood | August 29th, 2012 - 12:37am
Total words: 2,630
Number of times Christie said I: 37
Number of times he said truth: 20
Number of times he said American:18
Number of times he said America: 13
Number of times Christie said Mitt Romney: 7
Number of times he said New Jersey: 5
Number of times he said bipartisan: 3
Number of times he said jobs: 3
Number of times he said president: 3
Number of time he said compromise: 2
Number of Bruce Springsteen references: 1
Number of times he said Obama: 0
Number of times he said unemployment: 0
Number of references to the "Jersey Comeback": 0


Chairman Wisniewski Called It

(Trenton)- Earlier today, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, held a press conference with Congressman Rush Holt and a press conference call with Senator Frank Lautenberg to preview Governor Christie's RNC keynote and tell the real New Jersey story.  Chairman Wisniewski's remarks during the end of each proved that he knows Governor Christie well.  Below are the remarks, given by Chairman Wisniewski, predicting that Christie would selfishly make this keynote about Chris Christie:
"Christie will take the stage in Tampa to speak about his very favorite topic: himself. 
We all know that's what his months of travel out of state for Republican candidates have been about- promoting himself on a national stage.
Doesn’t this make you wonder- Why did they pick this guy to give the keynote?
We’ve heard for months now that Mitt Romney needed to select his Vice Presidential candidate carefully, because Mitt is so uncharismatic that he couldn’t choose someone who would overshadow him. 
With these concerns, you’d think the campaign might have taken a pass on a keynote speaker who has made it clear that this speech isn’t about Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, or the Republican Party, but about Chris Christie.
Just as we said when this was first announced, Christie was clearly the wrong choice for the RNC keynote address, just as Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are the wrong choice for America."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wagner, Chivukula, Fuentes, Giblin & Gusciora “Good Samaritan Emergency Response Act” Gets Final Legislative OK

Measure Aimed at Increasing Medical Attention for Drug Overdose Victims Heads to Governor’s Desk

(TRENTON) – The “Good Samaritan Emergency Response Act” sponsored by Assembly Democrats Connie Wagner, Upendra Chivukula, Angel Fuentes, Thomas Giblin and Reed Gusciora received final legislative approval by the Senate on Monday and now heads to the governor’s desk.

The legislation (A-578/S-851) is aimed at saving lives in New Jersey by providing timely medical attention to the victims of drug overdoses.

“Deaths from drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in New Jersey, but many of these deaths could be prevented if medical assistance were sought immediately,” said Wagner (D-Bergen). “Many times, the fear of arrest and prosecution prevents people from seeking appropriate assistance in the face of a medical emergency involving drug use.”

The bill would protect witnesses and victims of a drug overdose from being subject to:

 an arrest, charge, prosecution, or conviction for: (1) obtaining, possessing, using, or being under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance; (2) inhaling the fumes of or possessing any toxic chemical (3) using, obtaining, attempting to obtain, or possessing any prescription drugs (4) acquiring or obtaining possession of a controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analog by fraud (5) unlawfully possessing a controlled dangerous substance that was lawfully prescribed or dispensed (6) using or possessing with the intent to use drug paraphernalia, or having under his control or possessing a hypodermic syringe, needle, or other instrument;

 any penalty prescribed for a violation of a restraining order;

 any sanction for a violation of a condition of parole;

 the revocation or modification of the conditions of probation; or

 the forfeiture of any personal property other than drugs or drug paraphernalia involved.

“This measure is intended to encourage individuals witnessing a potential drug overdose to seek medical attention for the victim by insulating them from criminal prosecution,” said Chivukula (D-Middlesex/Somerset).

“This is not about turning a blind eye to drug use, but hopefully saving lives during a potentially fatal overdose,” said Fuentes (D-Camden). “And once they are in the hands of medical professionals, hopefully they will receive the additional help they need to overcome any addictions.”

“In the case of an overdose, fear and panic often cloud a person’s judgment,” said Giblin (D-Essex/Passaic). “If we eliminate the possibility of prosecution, hopefully witnesses will be more inclined to seek medical help if someone is overdosing.”

In addition, the bill specifies that the act of seeking medical assistance for someone experiencing a drug overdose is to be considered by the court as a mitigating factor in a prosecution for other drug offenses and that the act of seeking medical assistance is an affirmative defense against a prosecution for strict liability for a drug-induced death.

“A drug overdose can sometimes be the clarion call an addict needs to seek help to overcome their addiction, but only if they survive, that is,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Hopefully this measure will help save lives and turn them around.”

The measure, which was approved by the Assembly in May, was approved 21-10 by the full Senate on Monday.

Friday, August 17, 2012

News from Majority Leader Greenwald

Greenwald: Christie's "Jersey Setback" Reaches 9.8% Unemployment

(VOORHEES)--Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington) released the following statement Thursday on reports that New Jersey's unemployment rate increased to 9.8% in July, up from 9.6% in June and 9.2% in May:
"With unemployment reaching 9.8 percent in July, it's clear that Chris Christie's 'Jersey Comeback' is as elusive as Mitt Romney's tax returns. Then again, since he's spent so much time out of state campaigning for Governor Romney lately, perhaps he hasn't noticed that the only people feeling a ‘Comeback’ under Christie are the millionaires and billionaires enjoying massive tax breaks."
"In addition to vetoing job-creation bills with bipartisan support, Governor Christie has stubbornly rejected proposals for middle-class property tax relief that will grow New Jersey's economy. It's time for Governor Christie to realize that slogans don't create jobs. We've had nearly three years of Christie's slogans, and the results are in: net property taxes are up 20 percent, unemployment is at a sky-high 9.8 percent and middle-class families continue to struggle."

News from Assemblywoman Spencer

Spencer Animal Restraint Bill Designed to Protect Motorists and Pets

(NEWARK) – Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D-Newark) weighed in Thursday on the intent of her legislation that would require pets to be restrained when traveling in automobiles, a measure she crafted to help protect both motorists and pets, alike.
“Unrestrained pets in the car can be more of a distraction than a cell phone, especially if the animal is hopping from seat to seat, trying to sit on your lap, or worse, if they jump down by your feet.  It’s in the best interest of motorists and the pets themselves to have them restrained. 
“There may be different ways we can go about achieving this goal, but at the very least, I think this is a discussion worth having.
“I want to commend the young student who first proposed this idea to me for being concerned and engaged.  I have a small dog and I know how distracting they can be when driving. I’ve also spoken with my vet who has treated pets that were injured from being thrown around in a car that was forced to stop short.  Pets can be hurt or killed just as easily as a person and I think that’s something we all want to avoid,” said Spencer.
Spencer’s legislation (A-3221) would require the driver of a passenger automobile to secure any non-crated domestic cat or dog that is being transported in a vehicle with an appropriately sized, properly adjusted, and fastened seat belt restraint system. 
A “seat belt restraint system” is defined under the bill as a device, including an animal safety harness, modified seat belt, tether, or other similar type of control apparatus, which humanely restricts the movement of a domestic dog or cat and keeps the animal secured and confined to a seat in a passenger automobile or within a passenger automobile’s cargo area during motor vehicle transport.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


*** An earlier version of this release claimed that New Jersey ranked 47 out of 50 in job creation.  It should have read in terms of economic growth.  That has been fixed below.
For Immediate Release
August 14, 2012
Contact: Alicia D'Alessandro,, 732-232-4130

 Revised Release: Romney Makes the Wrong Choice

(Trenton)- The Republican National Committee confirmed that Governor Chris Christie will give the keynote address at the Republican National Convention in Tampa later this summer.  Chairman John Wisniewski responded to the news of Christie’s convention role:

“Just as he has at Romney fundraisers and public appearances around the country, Governor Christie will go down to Tampa and tout a ‘Jersey Comeback.’  He’ll tell a national audience a fairy tale about New Jersey, giving himself credit for things he didn't do and things that haven't happened yet.  Don’t be fooled.  His ‘Jersey Comeback’ is a myth.   His three years in New Jersey have been a disaster.  If Mitt Romney thinks Governor Christie's record should be highlighted as a model for this country, Americans should be very worried.  Here are the facts:
 New Jersey Ranks Near the Bottom Across Important Economic Metrics
  • New Jersey has an unemployment rate at 9.6%, 1.4% higher than the national average.  The last time New Jersey’s unemployment numbers diverged so much from national numbers was 1978.   (Star-Ledger, 7/19/12)
  • When Christie took office, New Jersey had the 19th highest unemployment rate.  New Jersey currently has the 5th highest unemployment rate.  (New Jersey Policy Perspective, 7/17/12)
  • New Jersey has been at or above 9% unemployment for Christie’s entire term in office.
  • New Jersey ranked 47th out of 50 in terms of economic growth in 2011. (Star-Ledger, 6/7/12)
  • New Jersey ranked 41st out of 50 in terms of business friendliness in CNBC’s annual rankings. (CNBC, 7/10/12)
  • New Jersey ranks third from last in terms of state credit ratings.  (New Jersey Policy Perspective, 7/17/12)

New Jersey’s Infrastructure is Crumbling

  • 55% of New Jersey’s highways are in poor or mediocre condition, according to the State Budget Crisis Task Force report.
  • That same report found that 35% of New Jersey’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete- the second highest percentage of bridge deficiencies in the country.
  • Christie cancelled a vital transportation infrastructure project, the ARC tunnel, which would have reduced round-trip commuting time substantially for the many New Jersey residents who work in New York City, as well as provided thousands of construction jobs for New Jersey workers.   By canceling the project, Christie wasted $600 million that had already been invested to start the tunnel. (Star-Ledger, 10/27/10)
 New Jersey’s Middle and Working Classes Are Overburdened
  • New Jersey property taxes (the heaviest tax burden for New Jersey families) have gone up an average of 20% since Christie took office, as a result of his elimination of the property tax rebate, reductions of state aid for education, and reductions in municipal aid. (NJ Spotlight, 1/30/12)
  • In his first state budget, Christie raised taxes on poor working families by reducing the Earned Income Tax Credit while income taxes for millionaires were being cut. (Bergen Record, 6/29/10)
  • Christie line-item vetoed the legislature’s attempts to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit in this year’s budget, telling the working poor that they wouldn’t receive a tax cut unless the wealthiest New Jersey residents did too. (Star-Ledger, 7/3/12)
  • Under Governor Christie's leadership, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey passed a plan that will raise tolls and fares by 50% on New Jersey's commuters. (PA NYNJ Press Release, 8/19/11)
Christie Supports Cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, Restricts Health Care Access for Women and the Poor
  • Christie told an exclusive Koch Brothers crowd that he supports reducing Medicaid and Medicare benefits and increasing the Social Security retirement age, calling Paul Ryan’s budget courageous. (Mother Jones, 9/7/11)
  • Christie eliminated more than $7 million in women’s health funding during his first year in office and has repeatedly vetoed attempts to restore that funding, including his most recent line-item veto in the 2013 budget. (ThinkProgress, 7/2/12)
  • Christie refuses to implement the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, effectively denying coverage to as many as 245,000 New Jerseyans living below the poverty line. (AP 7/18/12)
 New Jersey Voters Most Frequently Call Christie A Bully When Asked To Describe Him
The story Governor Christie will tell in Tampa is a fairy tale.  The real New Jersey story is that the working and middle class families in New Jersey work too hard every day for too little, too many people in our state are still struggling to even find steady employment.  Governor Christie’s ‘Jersey Comeback’ is a fiction and just one more insult from the governor to the people of this state.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Wagner, Eustace, DeAngelo & Ramos Bill to Allow for Emailed Sample Ballots Advanced by Senate Panel

(TRENTON) – A cost-saving measure Assembly Democrats Connie Wagner, Timothy Eustace, Wayne DeAngelo and Ruben J. Ramos, Jr. sponsored that would allow sample election ballots to be emailed to registered voters was advanced Thursday by a Senate committee.
 “In 2012, this is a cost-saving measure that is long overdue,” said Wagner (D-Bergen/Passaic). “With the proliferation of e-mail, there is no reason to be wasting paper, postage and time in general on mailing hard-copy ballots to every registered voter.”
Under the bill (A-2929), a district board of election or the commissioner of registration may provide a copy of the primary election and school election sample ballots by email to any registered voter eligible to participate in that election and who requests to receive the sample ballot by email. 
“This is a simple way to save tax dollars at the local level,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic).  “If a voter still wishes to receive a printed copy in the mail that will remain their right, but I expect many more voters will choose the more conserving and efficient method of e-mailed ballots.”
“Many people today rely heavily on email to communicate and receive information,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This bill gives voters the option to receive their sample election ballots via email, which saves time and money. It’s efficient, smart and reduces waste.”
“Anyone who has spent time sifting through mail knows it can be a time consuming and irritating process” said Ramos (D-Hudson) “That is why many opt to manage bank and credit cards accounts online, rather than get paper statements. This bill essentially gives voters the same option.”
Under current law, sample ballots must be printed and mailed to each eligible registered voter. 
The bill directs the Secretary of State, in collaboration with statewide election officials, to develop standard procedures to carry out the bill.
The measure was approved by the Senate State Government, Wagering, and Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee, and now awaits further consideration by the full Senate.


Senate Panel Advances Albano, Milam & Wilson Bill Upgrading Penalties for Harming, Threatening Law Enforcement Animals

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Nelson Albano, Matthew Milam and Gilbert “Whip” Wilson upgrading penalties for anyone that threatens or harms a law enforcement animal was advanced by a Senate Panel on Thursday.
“Often times, law enforcement animals are on the front lines, putting themselves in harm’s way right along with their human counterparts,” said Albano (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland).  “They are highly trained and a tremendous asset to police operations.  Any intentional harm inflicted on these animals is not only cruel, but it impedes law enforcement operations and negates the enormous time and effort put into training these highly specialized animals.”
The bill (A-495), known as “Dano’s Law,” would upgrade the penalties for killing, maiming, inflicting harm, or interfering with an animal owned or used by a law enforcement agency or a search and rescue dog or for threatening to do so.
The bill is named for the canine partner of Somerset County Sheriff’s Officer Capt. Tim Pino, who was threatened during an incident in Hillsboro several years when local police had stopped a suspected drug dealer and asked for assistance from the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office. The suspected dealer’s boyfriend then appeared on the scene and tried to distract police by threatening to kill Dano.  Afterwards, Capt. Pino found that, under current law, the boyfriend could only be charged with a disorderly person’s offense for threatening Dano.
 As a retired Camden Police Lieutenant this bill has special meaning to me,” said Wilson (D-Camden).  “Dano, like many law enforcement animals, is invaluable to the community and the officers he serves alongside.  The full weight of the law should be behind them to provide protection against any unscrupulous offenders who might try to inflict harm while breaking the law.”
Current law provides that any person who: (1) purposely kills an animal owned or used by the police is guilty of a crime of the third degree; (2) purposely maims or otherwise inflicts harm upon an animal owned or used by the police is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree; (3) interferes with any law enforcement officer using an animal in the performance of his official duties is guilty of a disorderly persons offense.
“Dano, like many K-9 partners, is more than just a dog to his community,” said Milam (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). “He is a vital asset to law enforcement officers and all law-abiding citizens.  This law will ensure that all K-9 counterparts have strong protections against criminal threats.”
The bill would also upgrade the offense from a fourth degree crime to a third degree crime for purposely maiming or otherwise inflicting harm upon a dog, horse, or other animal owned or used by a law enforcement agency or a search and rescue dog.  While a fourth degree crime is punishable by up to 18 months in jail, a fine of up to $10,000, or both, a third degree crime is punishable by three to five years in jail, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.
Furthermore, the bill also adds a provision to the current law that a person who purposely threatens to kill, maim or otherwise inflict harm upon a dog, horse or other animal owned or used by a law enforcement agency or a search and rescue dog, under circumstances reasonably causing the person to whom the threat is made to believe that it is likely that it will be carried out, is guilty of a crime of the third degree.
The measure was approved 5 to 0 by the Senate Economic Growth Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

News from Assemblyman Singleton

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) allowing municipalities or fire districts to hire civilian federal firefighters who lost their jobs through no fault of their own has been signed into law.
“The work of a firefighter is grueling and dangerous. Not everyone can do the job, so we should make the process of hiring firefighters who are qualified and experienced as effortless as possible,” said Singleton. “This law does that by giving firefighters who lost their jobs due to circumstances beyond their control the opportunity to work. This not only helps the firefighters, but municipalities which benefit from having able firefighters in charge of the safety of their residents.”
The law (A-2375) permits a municipality or fire district to appoint a civilian federal firefighter who lost his position as the result of a reduction in force or the termination of their position at a federal military installation, even if the municipality has adopted the Civil Service rules. Previously, a municipality could only hire a civilian federal firefighter, while ignoring Civil Service rules, if the military installation had been closed. This law extends this hiring preference to firefighters who are unemployed as a result a reduction in force or elimination of firefighter’s position.
Current law requires the Civil Service Commission to prepare and circulate to municipalities and fire districts a list of the civilian federal firefighters eligible for appointment to a local fire department.

Monday, August 13, 2012

News from Assemblyman Gusciora

 Gusciora Applauds Opening of Patient Registry to Carry Out Medical Marijuana Law

(TRENTON) – Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) on Wednesday applauded the New Jersey Department of Health for taking a crucial step in the long-awaited implementation of the state’s medical marijuana law, of which Gusciora was a prime sponsor.
“The opening of a patient registry is a crucial and welcome step. For patients that have been kept in the dark for quite some time, this represents the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I’m encouraged that the program is moving along and hopefully this will be a good sign of things to come as we await the opening of our dispensaries,” said Gusciora. 


Speaker Oliver, Riley, Singleton & Coutinho Bill Authorizing $750 Million in Bonds to Help Fund Overdue Improvement Projects for NJ’s Colleges & Universities Now Law

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver, Assemblywoman Celeste Riley, Assemblyman Troy Singleton and Assemblyman Albert Coutinho authorizing $750 million in general obligation bonds to finance higher education capital projects to increase the academic competitiveness of New Jersey’s public and private colleges and universities has been signed into law.
New Jersey’s economic competitiveness and prosperity are directly related to the quality and capacity of its colleges and universities,” said Oliver (D-Essex). “Higher education is the foundation of this state’s economic well-being and is critical in the realization of individual success. The state has deferred investment in its system of higher education long enough. This is an investment not just of buildings, but on the students who will be attending and graduating from these institutions.”
The law (A-3139) – entitled the “Building Our Future Bond Act” –  will authorize the state to issue $750 million in state general obligation bonds to provide grants to New Jersey’s public independent institutions of higher education to construct and equip higher education facilities.
The bond issue will be put before New Jersey voters for approval in the next general election. There has not been a voter-approved higher education bond issue in New Jersey since 1988.
According to The Report of the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education issued in December 2010, New Jersey’s workforce will require more baccalaureate degrees than the workforce of any other state except Massachusetts. According to the report, New Jersey leads the nation in the net outmigration of college-bound students, losing about 30,000 first-year students a year while admitting only about 4,000 students from other states; and the task force highlighted the urgent need to stem the tide of the brightest high school graduates leaving the state to attend college.
Demographic projections indicate that New Jersey will experience significant growth in its 18-24 year-old population, and the lack of adequate facilities has left institutions of higher education in the state entirely unprepared to accommodate the anticipated growth in student population.
“The convergence of economic competitiveness, increased workforce demands and demographic trends makes increasing the facilities capacity of institutions of higher education an issue that deserves immediate attention,” said Riley (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “To stay ahead of the competition, we must dedicate the state resources necessary to ensure and advance the state’s economic growth and prosperity in this knowledge-based global economy.”
“The last time we invested in the infrastructure of our colleges and universities was 24 years ago. Meanwhile the student population in New Jersey is expected to grow,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “It’s time that we make the necessary investments to equip our colleges and universities with the academic facilities needed to educate this expected increase in student body and ensure the educated workforce necessary to retain and attract business and industry to our state.”
“According to the Task Force, New Jersey’s colleges and universities identified significant facilities needs in 2005, a need that has grown over the past five years,” said Coutinho (D-Essex). “With little financial support from the state, many of our colleges and universities have had to rely on their own debt to finance facilities. If we want our colleges and universities to remain competitive, we need to invest. Investment in infrastructure is an investment in New Jersey’s future.”
The grants will be allocated in the following manner:
·       $300 million for public research universities;
·       $247.5 million for state colleges and universities;
·       $150 million for county colleges; and
·       $52.5 million for private institutions of higher education, except for private institutions with total endowments of more than $1 billion.
Under the law, public research universities, state college and universities, county colleges and private institutions that receive these grants will be required to fund 25 percent of the project.
The Secretary of Higher Education will establish eligibility criteria for the grants. Under the law, an institution of higher education must submit a long-range facilities plan that details the institution’s facilities needs and its plans to address those needs. The institution is required to demonstrate how the project advances the goals of the long-range facilities plan, increases the academic capacity of the institution, and provides a direct benefit to students. Projects that increase the academic capacity of the institutions, such as classrooms, laboratories, libraries, computer facilities, and other academic buildings are eligible. Projects involving dormitories, administrative buildings, athletic facilities or other revenue-producing facilities will not be eligible.
The secretary will prepare a list of eligible projects. Projects deemed construction-ready will receive priority. The secretary must submit a copy of the list of eligible projects along with the grant amount for each project to the presiding officers of each House of the Legislature. The list will be deemed approved unless the Legislature adopts a concurrent resolution stating otherwise.

News from Assemblyman Green

Green: Court Decision Backs What We Have Been Saying All Along; Gov. Christie Has No Right To Take Affordable Housing Funds

(TRENTON) – Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset) issued the following statement concerning today’s New Jersey Appellate Court ruling blocking the Christie administration from taking municipal housing trust funds. The appellate court ruled that the administration does not have the authority to take $161 million in affordable housing money from municipalities without convening the independent board of the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH).

“I’m glad today’s appellate court decision has confirmed what I and others who have worked on this issue have been saying since Gov. Christie announced his intentions to raid COAH funds.
“The governor did not have the right to usurp the COAH board and take those funds.
“It was painfully obvious from our discussion Wednesday that DCA had no plan in place to address affordable housing needs in New Jersey, once that money was taken from municipalities.
“My colleagues and I should not have to publicly ask that the funds be left alone until we have a plan in place that meets our affordable housing obligations, before we hear a practical plan from the administration. The administration and the Legislature, with input from pertinent organizations, must come up with a structure that will afford New Jerseyans of lower means reasonably priced housing”.

Friday, August 10, 2012

N.J. lawmaker wants to delay Gov. Christie's plan to transfer affordable housing funds

TRENTON -The head of a legislative panel examining Gov. Chris Christie’s demand that municipalities surrender unused affordable housing funds wants to delay the transfers, at least until lawmakers know how the $161 million will be allocated.

At a special hearing of the Housing and Local Government Committee today, Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Union), chairman of the panel, said towns that have made a good-faith attempt build their share of affordable housing units shouldn’t be penalized by being stripped of the funds.

A law enacted in 2008 requires municipalities to relinquish to the state all money that was not committed by July 17 to low- and moderate-income housing projects.

Many towns have complained the panel overseeing the projects, the Council on Affordable Housing, has not given them clear decisions on whether projects are approved and the funds are considered committed.

The towns have until Monday to tell the Department of Community Affairs, which oversees COAH, why their funds should not be taken. At the same time, the appellate division is considering a request by a housing advocacy group to block the transfer of the funds until COAH addresses the towns’ complaints.

Christie last year abolished COAH and transferred its duties to the Community Affairs Department, but an appellate court ordered it reinstated this year, saying Christie lacked the authority to disband the panel.

Local officials said that even with the council reinstated, they haven’t received answers to their questions, noting the panel hasn’t met in more than 18 months and may not even has enough members to meet.

"We heard a lot, but we can’t even start to correct anything because we don’t know who’s in control," Green said. "We need to rethink this. That was the purpose of me asking for two more years."

Green sponsored a bill extending the July 17 deadline to transfer the money by two years but Christie, a Republican, vetoed the measure, saying the towns had more than enough time to comply with the law signed by his Democratic predecessor.

Kevin Roberts, a Christie spokesman, said Green "has been one of the biggest impediments of real, bipartisan affordable housing reform passing in the Assembly."

"So it’s beyond hypocritical for him to stand in the way of bipartisan solutions that would have fixed the system for the last two years, then cast his own vote in favor of a budget bill this year that spends these funds, and now decide to criticize how they are being used," Roberts said.

Deputy Community Affairs Commissioner Chuck Richmond said the money would be doled out by the state for other affordable housing initiatives, including for residents with developmental disabilities. He said towns like Marlboro and Monroe have been sitting for decades on millions of dollars that should have been spent for affordable housing units.

"We shouldn’t talk about extending in the future what ought to have been built in the past," he told the committee. "Four years is generally more than enough time to build anything — even in the state of New Jersey."

By MaryAnn Spoto/The Star-Ledger

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Watson Coleman: DCA’s Lack of Answers Means Gov Should Return Affordable Housing Funds to Towns

(TRENTON) – Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) on Wednesday questioned the Department of Community Affair’s (DCA) decision making process during an Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee hearing on Governor Christie’s decision to confiscate affordable housing funds from municipalities.
“If DCA is unable to explain itself by hiding behind the convenient excuse of pending litigation, the governor should leave affordable housing funds where they belong - with the towns.
“It’s clear that the department is completely ignoring the intent of our affordable housing laws by their inability to explain their decision making.
“This lawsuit has arisen as a result of the administration’s decision to confiscate these funds.  The administration should be more than prepared to justify their actions.
“Instead of providing us with answers as to how New Jersey intends to meet its need for affordable housing for working-class families, we are being met with nothing but obfuscation,” said Watson Coleman.

Green: Too Much Doubt about Fate of Affordable Housing in NJ to Raid Funds

(TRENTON) – Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset) issued the following statement after hearing testimony on the Christie administration’s effort to raid $161 million in affordable housing money from municipalities to plug in holes in its budget at today’s Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee hearing:
“Today’s testimony was constructive, but too many questions remain.
“Like many of my colleagues, I’m still waiting to hear how the administration plans to address the need for affordable housing if these funds are taken away from municipalities.
“These funds were intended to create affordable housing opportunities for residents of lower means, not to plug holes in the governor’s budget. I understand there was a deadline attached to these funds, but at the end of the day, we still have a responsibility to ensure there is reasonable housing for residents. So the question remains, what plan does the Christie administration have to provide affordable housing, other than taking funds away from municipalities to build such housing?”
“This is too big a concern in New Jersey for there to be so much uncertainty about what happens next. These are not just buildings we’re talking about; this is about families, so I would ask the administration to consider leaving these funds untouched until a clear plan is in place.”

Johnson Bill to Help Unemployed Civilian Federal Firefighters Secure Work Signed into Law

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) allowing municipalities or fire districts to hire certain civilian federal firefighters who lost their jobs through no fault of their own has been signed into law.
 “These are able and experienced firefighters who lost their jobs, not because they were incompetent, but because of workforce reductions or cuts,” said Johnson. “They should not be disadvantaged because of economic realities that were beyond their control. If these firefighters are qualified, then they should have the opportunity to work without these rules holding them back.”
The law (A-2375) permits a municipality or fire district to appoint a civilian federal firefighter who lost his position as the result of a reduction in force or the termination of their position at a federal military installation, even if the municipality has adopted the Civil Service rules. Previously, a municipality could only hire a civilian federal firefighter, while ignoring Civil Service rules, if the military installation had been closed. This law extends this hiring preference to firefighters who are unemployed as a result a reduction in force or elimination of firefighter’s position.
Current law requires the Civil Service Commission to prepare and circulate to municipalities and fire districts a list of the civilian federal firefighters eligible for appointment to a local fire department.

Coughlin & Conaway Bill to Protect Privacy of Accident Victims Signed Into Law

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Craig Coughlin and Herb Conaway, Jr, M.D. that would prohibit first responders from photographing or disclosing pictures of accident victims and patients to the public without their consent has been signed into law.
“This is not an injunction on our first responders, who act bravely and save lives, but the callous few who violate the privacy of the people they are charged with protecting,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “In an era where photos and videos can live in perpetuity online, no family should ever have to worry about distressing images of their loved ones being displayed without their consent.”
The new law (S-199/A-789) prohibits a first responder who is dispatched to or present at the scene of a motor vehicle accident or other emergency situation, for the purpose of providing medical care or other assistance, from photographing, filming, videotaping, recording, or otherwise reproducing in any manner, the image of a person being provided medical care or other assistance, except in accordance with applicable rules, regulations or operating procedures of the agency employing the first responder.
“Situations that require emergency medical attention are distressing enough without a victim or their family members having to worry about their privacy being invaded,” said Conaway (D-Burlington).  “This is a matter of respect and dignity, especially given the fact that victims or patients are usually in no position to grant authorization to these images.”
The law defines “first responder” as a law enforcement officer, paid or volunteer firefighter, paid or volunteer member of a duly incorporated first aid, emergency, ambulance or rescue squad association, or any other individual who, in the course of his employment, is dispatched to the scene of a motor vehicle accident or other emergency situation for the purpose of providing medical care or other assistance.
The law also prohibits a first responder from disclosing any photograph, film, videotape, record or other reproduction of the image of a person being provided medical care or other assistance at the scene of a motor vehicle accident or other emergency situation without the prior written consent of the person, or the person’s next-of-kin if the person cannot provide consent, unless that disclosure was for a legitimate law enforcement, public safety, health care, or insurance purpose of pursuant to a court order. A person who knowingly violates this prohibition on disclosure is guilty of a disorderly persons offense, which is punishable by imprisonment for up to six months, or a fine of up to $1,000 or both.
In addition to any other right of action or recovery otherwise available under the laws of the state, a first responder who knowingly violates this prohibition, is liable to the person whose image was taken or disclosed, who may bring a civil action in the Superior Court.
The court may award (1) actual damages, but not less than liquidated damages computed at the rate of $1,000 for each violation of the bill; (2) punitive damages upon proof of willful or reckless disregard of the law; (3) reasonable attorney’s fees and other litigation costs reasonably incurred; and (4) such other preliminary and equitable relief as the court deems appropriate.

Burzichelli & Ramos Bill to Allow Mobile Gaming & Modernize Gaming in Atlantic City Signed Into Law

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Burzichelli and Ruben Ramos, Jr. to modernize gaming in Atlantic City by incorporating 21st century technology – including mobile gaming – has been signed into law.
            “In order to remain attractive to visitors and competitive with neighboring states, it’s important that Atlantic City keep up with the latest innovations and trends,” said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem).  “This new law will allow visitors to enjoy gaming while they’re taking advantage of other attractions that the casino hotels have to offer.  It’s a smart 21st century adaptation on the part of the casinos.”
The measure (A-2575) make various changes to the laws governing casino gaming in New Jersey, chief among them is allowing casinos to offer electronic versions of authorized games to be played on mobile gaming devices in any area located within the property boundaries of the casino hotel facility, including the swimming pool area and any outdoor recreation area, provided that the mobile gaming must not extend outside of the property boundaries of the casino hotel facility.
“With all of the increasing attractions in Atlantic City, this is a great way to appease everyone,” said Ramos (D-Hudson).  “If a couple or a group of friends go down and somebody wants to lounge by the pool, or take in a show or dinner, those who want to take advantage of gaming attractions can now have it at their fingertips so they don’t have to miss out on any of the action.  In order to position Atlantic City to remain competitive with neighboring states, we need to embrace the future.”
The law also amends the definition of “gross revenue” under regulation to allow casinos to offer items such as cars, iPads or other popular items to entice people to New Jersey casinos.  The law also restores language that allows casinos to compensate a junket enterprise based upon the actual casino gaming or simulcast wagering activities of a patron procured or referred by the junket enterprise.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Diegnan, Caputo, Coutinho, Jasey, Watson Coleman & Coughlin Tenure Reform Bill Now Law

(MIDDLESEX) – Tenure reform legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., Ralph Caputo, Albert Coutinho, Mila Jasey, Bonnie Watson Coleman and Craig Coughlin was signed into law on Monday.
“This is meaningful tenure reform that does what’s best for our children while balancing the protection of due process for our principals and teachers” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “This is real change that will ensure new teachers are properly trained and evaluated and that tenure charges are handled in a timely and professional manner. We will no longer endure endless tenure squabbles that consume taxpayer dollars meant for education. Instead, this legislation gives school districts cost and time certainty when it comes to removing ineffective teaching staff members. Our focus will be where it should be - making sure we have the best teachers in the classroom.”
“This is a significant step toward creating a sustained process to expeditiously remove ineffective teachers from our schools,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “In those cases where questions arise about a teacher’s effectiveness, school boards will be able to get a timely review and safeguard the quality of education that exists in our schools.”
“The winners today are students and taxpayers,” said Coutinho (D-Essex).  “These reforms will ensure that our students have the best and most effective teachers in the classroom and that taxpayer money isn’t wasted on a long and arduous process of removing the ineffective ones.”
“These historic reforms balance the needs of our students while ensuring that teachers are treated fairly,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris).  “This will help us remove any ‘bad apples’ swiftly while, at the same time, making sure good teachers aren’t unfairly targeted for political reasons or otherwise.  In the end, it’s the students who will win out.”
“This is sensible tenure reform that ensures only the best teachers will be in our classrooms,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer). “We’re streamlining the process but also ensuring fairness, and in the end our children win.”
“This reform emphasizes quality teaching and ensures only the best for our students,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “We’re moving obstacles but ensuring due process with timely decisions, and protecting our children’s future all at the same time.”
            Under former state law, teachers, principals, school business administrators and other school staffers became tenured after completing three years employment in a school district.
Under the new law (A-3060):
·       Tenure for new employees will be provided after four years employment in a school district;
·       A new teacher will spend their first year in a mentorship program during which the new teacher will be partnered with an experienced and effective teacher for assistance, support and guidance;
·       Each school district will have to annually submit to the education commissioner the evaluation plan it will use to test the effectiveness of teachers and administrators;
·       Evaluations of teachers will only be conducted by supervisors in the district, not outside personnel;
·       Test scores, alone, will not be a predominant factor in a teacher’s evaluation, but one of several;
·       Any teacher or administrator who receives two “ineffective” ratings, which is the lowest of four tiers, on two consecutive annual evaluations will face tenure charges;
·       Any teacher or administrator who receives “partially effective” rating, followed by an  “ineffective” rating, on two consecutive annual evaluations will face tenure charges;
·       Binding arbitration will be required for any contested tenure cases.  This process will be run by the Department of Education with the commissioner controlling the arbitrators.  The arbitrator’s decision will be binding;
·       Contested cases will no longer be referred to Administrative Law Judges, and the final determination will no longer be made by the education commissioner;
·       The hearing before the arbitrator must be held within 45 days of the case being assigned.
The measure was signed by Gov. Chris Christie.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Johnson & Ramos “Alex DeCroce Law” Bill Expanding Victims’ Rights in NJ Now Law

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gordon M. Johnson (D-Bergen) and Ruben J. Ramos (D-Hudson) that expands the rights currently provided to victims of crimes and their families under the state constitution has been signed into law.
            “The criminal justice system can be downright scary for a person who has been a victim of a crime. As if the crime committed was not enough, having to navigate the system to bring an attacker to justice can be an equally traumatic experience,” said Johnson. “This law builds on the rights already afforded to individuals victimized by crime, and sends a clear message that they are not powerless.”
            “The prospect of facing an attacker can be intimidating, and in some cases even discourage a victim from bringing his or her attacker to justice. No person who has been the target of a criminal act should feel like they have to forfeit justice because of fear,” said Ramos. “This law will empower victims as they seek justice against their assailants, and hopefully make the road to recovery easier.”
The law (A-2380), named Alex DeCroce’s Law, enhances victims’ rights under The Victim’s Rights Amendment to the New Jersey Constitution enacted by the voters in 1991. It is named after the late Assembly Republican leader who was a driving force in the fight to protect the rights of crime victims and played a pivotal role in the enactment of the victim’s rights amendment to the New Jersey Constitution and the “Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights” in the state.
The law amends and supplements the existing rights to:
·       provide that victims are to be free from harassment or abuse;
·       increase victims’ access to medical assistance reasonably related to the incident in accordance with the “Criminal Injuries Compensation Act of 1971;
·       increase victims’ access to the information concerning the progress of the case and the scheduling of court proceedings;
·       expand the consideration of victims’ impact statements with regard to plea agreements and pretrial intervention programs, provided that those statements are submitted within a reasonable amount of time;
·       provide victims the right to be present at any related judicial proceedings;
·       provide that victims are to be notified of the release or escape of the accused; and
·       provide victims with standing to enforce the rights afforded in this section.

Green: It’s Time to Work Together to Fix Affordable Housing Crisis in NJ. Taking Funds Away is not the Answer

(TRENTON) – In anticipation of Wednesday’s Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee hearing on affordable housing, Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset) today said he is looking forward to hearing what plans Gov. Christie has to tackle this pressing issue, which makes finding decent, reasonable housing a hard task for many in New Jersey.
“Both houses supported legislation (A-2950 and A-2168) that I sponsored to create more affordable housing in the state, but both bills were vetoed by the governor. If these bills were not sufficient for the governor, I’m interested in hearing how he proposes to mend this problem.
“I have yet to receive any information about what the administration or the Department of Community Affairs plans to do on this issue. It’s no secret that New Jersey is one of the most expensive states in the nation to live in. It’s time to do what the governor has been proclaiming across the state and work together to ensure there is reasonable housing for all New Jerseyans. It’s too important of an issue in New Jersey for us not to.
“People should not be concerned about not being able to afford a roof over their heads, so I eagerly await to hear from the administration on how we can put politics aside and work on a real viable solution. Taking money away from municipalities that is meant to help create affordable housing for low-income families, in order to plug holes in their budget, is not it.”
The committee will take testimony on the Christie administration’s effort to raid $161 million in affordable housing money from municipalities to plug in holes in its budget. The Legislature tried to stop Gov. Christie’s plan with legislation (A-2950) and budget language, but Christie vetoed both.
The Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee will meet on Wednesday, August 8, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. in Committee Room 16, on the 4th Floor of the State House Annex in Trenton.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Assembly Panel to Consider Christie Plan to Raid Affordable Housing Funding

(TRENTON) – The Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee will meet Wednesday to take testimony on the Christie administration’s effort to raid $161 million in affordable housing money from New Jersey municipalities.
The Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee will meet on Wednesday, August 8, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. in Committee Room 16, on the 4th Floor of the State House Annex in Trenton.
Audio of the hearing will be streamed at,
            The money is meant to help low-income families, but the Christie administration wants to take it from 372 municipalities to instead plug holes in its budget. The Legislature tried to stop Gov. Christie’s plan with legislation (A-2950) and budget language, but Christie vetoed both.
“New Jersey is one of the most expensive states in the nation to live in,” said Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset), the chairman of the housing panel. “If these vetoes are any indication, the governor wants to keep it that way. Unlike the million dollar earners he so vehemently protects, not everyone can afford a decent place to live. We sought to tackle this imbalance, but like other legislation aimed at helping working class families, the governor nixed it.”