Friday, May 23, 2014
Watson Coleman on Governor’s Proposed Pension Payment Delay to Balance Budget; “Here We Go Again” (HOMETOWN) – Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer, Hunterdon) issued the following statement on Gov. Christie’s plan to slash pension funding to solve his budget crisis: “Here we go again. The saga continues with the story line we have all heard countless times before. ‘It’s not my fault.’ “The Governor continues to blame others for the mistakes made solely by this administration’s irresponsible policies over the last four years. “Four years of inflated budget projections has finally caught up to the Governor. The solution is not to continue to lay the burden on the shoulders of struggling taxpayers, public workers and middle-class families. “This administration’s misaligned principles and focus on 2016 has placed New Jersey’s future in a pit of quicksand. Recent credit downgrades, sky-high property taxes, unsteady unemployment and no practical solutions offered by Gov. Christie are all compounding problems that will affect every working man and woman, every household and business across the state in future years. “It’s time to stop focusing on what simply sounds good in sound bites and town hall meetings. It’s time to get to work and focus on doing what is right by the people of New Jersey.” On The Net:
Assembly Budget Committee to Receive Updates from Treasurer & Office of Legislative Services on Revenue Shortfall Problems (TRENTON) – The Assembly Budget Committee will meet Wednesday to receive revenue updates from the State Treasurer and the Office of Legislative Services. The update comes amid concerns about an $807 million revenue shortfall for the fiscal year ending June 30. The committee will meet in Committee Room 11 on the 4th Floor of the State House Annex in Trenton: § 10 a.m. – Office of Legislative Services § 1 p.m. – State budget overview from State Treasurer The hearings will be streamed live at: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/media/live_audio.asp. On The Net:
Ammunition Magazine Restrictions, Adoptee Access to Birth Certificates, College Affordability, Patient Caregivers & Police Cameras Top Thursday Assembly Session Community Notification when Sex Offender is Placed in Halfway House, Flood Control, Annual Tourism Promotion Plans, Voter Protections & Social Media Responsibility Also on Tap (TRENTON) – Final legislative approval for bills to reduce the maximum capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds and permits adoptees to obtain birth certificate information and bills to establish requirements for hospitals regarding patient-designated caregivers, combat flood hazards, study ways to make higher education more affordable and require new police cars be equipped with cameras top Thursday’s Assembly session. The session is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. and will be streamed live at: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/media/live_audio.asp. Highlights include: · A2006 (Greenwald/Quijano/Eustace/Johnson/Jasey) - Reduces maximum capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds. · A1259 (Prieto/Jimenez/Vainieri Huttle) - Permits adoptees and certain others to obtain adoptee's original birth certificate and other related information. · A2236 (Riley/Wisniewski/Benson/Lampitt) - Establishes “College Affordability Study Commission” to examine issues and develop recommendations to increase the affordability of higher education in New Jersey. · A2955 (Prieto/Lagana/Andrzejczak/Benson) - Establishes certain requirements for hospitals regarding patient-designated caregivers. · A1025 (Benson/Mazzeo/Eustace/Wimberly) - Requires appropriate community notification when sex offender is placed in halfway house; prohibits certain county inmates in halfway house. 2 p.m. Appropriations. · A2280 (Moriarty/Mainor/Fuentes/Mosquera/Lampitt) - Requires certain police vehicles to be equipped with cameras. · A-2234 (Riley) - Requires Division of Travel and Tourism to prepare and implement annual advertising and promotion plan. · A683 (Cryan/Quijano/Lagana) - Requires mail-in ballot applications be available at polling places on election day for voting in future elections; requires poll workers to discuss application instructions with applicant upon request. · A939 (Singleton/Schaer/Benson/Eustace/Mosquera) - Enhances the reporting and disclosure requirements concerning State tax expenditures and limits the duration of new State tax expenditure enactments. · A1676 (Johnson) - Provides that crime victims do not have to pay fees to obtain records relating to the crime and that requests for such records are not public information. · A1726 (Eustace/Lagana/Mosquera/Vainieri Huttle) - Amends "Flood Hazard Area Control Act" to require DEP to take certain actions concerning delineations of flood hazard areas and floodplains. · A1947 (Conaway/Sumter/Wilson/Wimberly) - Requires county elections board give notice by Internet posting, mail or electronic means when polling place location changes unexpectedly before election; requires board develop plan for polling place change notification. · A2303 (DeAngelo) - Requires certain State departments, divisions, commissions, and authorities to consider use of green or blue roof in construction of certain new State buildings, facilities, and structures. · A-2409 (Riley/Quijano) - Directs Department of Law and Public Safety to engage in Internet privacy and social media responsibility campaign. · A1348 (Stender/McKeon/Quijano) - Requires boil water notices to be provided by certain public water systems via telephone, email or text message. · A2641 (Andrzejczak/Wilson) - Provides for voluntary contributions by taxpayers on gross income tax returns to support farm to school and school gardens programs. · A304 (Caride) - Requires schools to maintain supply of epinephrine and permit administration of epinephrine to any student having anaphylactic reaction. · A2025 (Greenwald/Moriarty/Chivukula) - Grants immunity from liability for certain professional services rendered during emergencies under certain circumstances. · A945 (Singleton/Watson Coleman/Lampitt/Schaer/Wimberly) - Establishes New Jersey Council on Responsible Fatherhood and Responsible Fatherhood Fund. · A1101 (Vainieri Huttle) - "Let Them Be Little Act,” provides for screening newborn infants for Hunter syndrome. · A1396 (Wimberly/Jasey/Benson) - Enacts the "Reader Privacy Act." On The Net:
Wisniewski Statement on Christie’s Budget Shortfall Plan (TRENTON) – Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) released the following statement Tuesday on Gov. Christie’s plans to close the state’s $800 million budget gap: “In stating that he won't ‘pay for the sins of the past’ in dealing with a budget shortfall resulting from his own fiscal mismanagement, the Governor, once again, is seeking to avoid responsibility for his own decisions by casting blame on others. “The truth is that under his watch New Jersey's credit rating has been downgraded repeatedly, his own revenue estimates have consistently come up short and our state's economy has underperformed both our neighboring states and the nation. “The Governor can point fingers all he wants but in any honest assessment of the reasons for our current fiscal crisis, he is at the top of the list.” On The Net:
Monday, May 12, 2014
Christie Administration's Latest Attempt to Exclude Lower-Income Families, Seniors, and People with Special Needs Last week, the Council on Affordable Housing proposed new rules with the number of homes needed in each town to implement the Mount Laurel decision and Fair Housing Act. To say the rules are unlawful and would create bad policy is an understatement. To the extent the rules can be understood - COAH's method of calculating needed homes is a black box that make little sense, with hidden and unexplained data, formulae, and calculations- the rules reflect the Christie Administration's hostility to the needs of lower-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities. They also reflect the administration's hostility to the rule of law because they fail to comply with three court orders from the Supreme Court and Appellate Division that directed the agency to propose and adopt rules that are similar to the approach that successfully created 60,000 affordable homes. The process by which the rules were proposed, also unsurprisingly, undermines the independence of COAH and aggregates power in the Governor's office. The members of the board were never consulted regarding the rules prior to them being drafted and had less than 24 hours to review hundreds of pages before being asked to vote on the rules. And all indications are that this effort is being run with high level members of the Attorney General's office working closely, and secretly, with Rutgers professor Robert Burchell, whose work in this area has previously been found inexplicable and unsupportable by the courts. The identity of Professor Burchell was kept secret, with the governor's office and COAH staff illegally denying Open Public Records Act requests that sought to unearth who had been hired by the state to work on the rules. Even today we have no idea how much money was spent on this process or how the State selected the very same individual whose work in this area has previously been rejected as illegal and incomprehensible. One board member, Timothy Doherty, with great integrity opposed the process, saying, "This certainly waters down the requirements and the need... [the rules] really don't accomplish anything." Yet the COAH Board, over Doherty's dissent, voted to propose rules they knew next to nothing about. Making any sense of the rules is difficult, but we have given it a try and here share our understanding of what has been proposed: The rules were required to be based on the Prior Round methodology that allocated fair share obligations for 1987-1999, but are not. The Appellate Division and Supreme Court ordered the agency to propose rules using that approach because, after 14 years of trying different approaches, the courts recognized that it was time to use what had worked in the past to avoid further delays. Instead, they have proposed yet another unworkable system that departs drastically from what the Court required. No one can credibly claim that COAH complied with that order. The proposed rules retroactively reduce obligations from 1987-1999 by over 18,000 homes in an inexplicable pattern - Woodbridge's obligation goes down by 40.5%, Livingston's by 29.4%, and Paramus' by 16.5%, while obligations actually increase in towns such as Princeton, Wall, and Linden. This pattern is based at least in part on giving towns such as Moorestown and Mount Laurel credit for poor families living in Camden and the Chathams and Summit credit for poor families in Newark - amazingly denying lower-income people homes today based on deteriorating homes built decades ago in New Jersey's inner cities, a convoluted system that recalls the now-illegal Regional Contribution Agreements where wealthy towns could pay poor towns to take their fair share. A prior court decision rejected such chicanery, agreeing that "COAH's explanation for recalculating prior round obligations defies comprehension." Despite that, and the fact that such manipulations violate the Supreme Court's most recent order to only use proven and accepted methodologies, COAH has included this gimmick again. Despite tremendous need for homes that are affordable, especially after Hurricane Sandy, the rules claim that just 40,000 additional homes are needed through 2024. As recently as 2008, the state recognized that New Jersey needed 116,000 additional homes - through only 2018 - but when more families are struggling than ever, the Christie Administration has manipulated numbers to reduce fair housing obligations by two-thirds. The proposed rules for the period 1999-2024 are based entirely on undeveloped land, despite the fact that a third of all development in New Jersey in the 2000s took place in "built out" communities and through redevelopment, according to a New Jersey Future analysis. A more recent New Jersey Future analysis actually suggests that the majority of population growth since 2008 has been in these communities. Any municipality with empty office parks and shuttered strip malls, exactly the places where we should encourage reuse, sees their fair share number reduced - and as such the rules actually doing less to encourage development near transit and job centers than previous rules from the 1980s and 1990s. This arcane process, for which COAH has failed to provide the data or maps, also violates the Court's order since it was not previously part of COAH's methodology. Also in violation of the Court's order, municipalities are permitted to impose housing obligations on developers at nearly any density, thus leading to greater sprawl instead of encouraging compact development that wisely uses land. In order to better understand the basis for the rules, we have filed Open Public Records Act requests with COAH and Rutgers. We anticipate a response by Wednesday and will share further information on this and other future developments related to the administration's attempt to again ignore the needs of working families, seniors, and people with disabilities. Fair Share Housing Center, founded in 1975 is based in Cherry Hill. It is the only public interest organization devoted entirely to defending the housing rights of New Jersey's poor through implementing the Mount Laurel doctrine, which requires that each municipality provides its fair share of housing affordable to low- and moderate-income people. Visit us on the web at www.fairsharehousing.org. To support our work with an online donation, please click here.