Author Archive: Scott Weingart

Senate Judiciary undercard features fight over patronage and pension padding

While most of today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing will focus on the marriage equality bill, the most rancorous debate of the day may be over the renomination of Nicholas Fargo to the Hudson County Board of Taxation. Today, the committee is expected to vote on Fargo for the second time in the last week. Committee Chairman Sarlo tried unsuccessfully to sneak Fargo through the Judiciary Committee last Monday, but Republican Senators Bill Baroni and Jen Beck objected to the nominee. Fargo, who is a Republican, pulls in almost $200,000 per year from four taxpayer-funded jobs—two part-time gigs with Wood-Ridge Boro (of which Sarlo is mayor), and two full-time jobs. When brought up for a vote, Fargo won the support of just five members of the thirteen-member judiciary, with Brian Stack and Nia Gill abstaining and Loretta Weinberg joining the five Republicans to vote no. Sarlo then threw a childish tantrum, cussing, “bullshit, bullshit, bullshit,” into a live microphone.

Apparently unwilling to let the Democratic process get in the way of his friend’s pension-padding, the stubborn Senator has put Fargo’s nomination on the agenda for today’s Senate Judiciary Committee meeting. While it certainly isn’t the biggest item on the agenda, it will no doubt be the subject of a heated debate, and perhaps it will attract more widespread scrutiny from the media as well. Thus far, PolitickerNJ’s Wally Edge and Charles Stile of The Record have each covered the story extensively, but few others have taken notice. Today, that may change. Members of the press from all corners of the state will be watching the Judiciary hearing this afternoon for the debate on marriage equality. The Judiciary Committee usually considers nominations first, so Sarlo will have to do his dirty laundry before a large audience. We can only hope that the increased media attention will convince the senators, who with the decline of the statehouse press in recent years have become used to being ignored, to take another stand against pension-padding and political patronage.

Keep your eyes peeled on Blue Jersey for live coverage of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing starting at 1:00 PM today.

Sarlo proves himself a worthy object of ridicule

On Tuesday morning, PolitickerNJ’s Wally Edge reported that a Democratic Legislator from Bergen County was worried that Paul Sarlo lacked the intellect and temperament to handle the job of Chariman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. Sarlo responded by sending Wally Edge an arrogant, sarcastic email. In it, he boasted about his “masters degree” and professional licenses, and moaned about Baroni “breaking protocol” by stopping Sarlo’s buddy Nicholas Fargo from getting a fifth taxpayer-funded job. Sarlo, who was caught uttering, “bullshit, bullshit, bullshit,” into an open committee mic after Fargo’s nomination was stalled, then turned up the sarcasm. “In the future I pledge to only use words that contain at least three syllables and which constitute proper King’s English befitting a scholar and a gentleman,” he wrote. Apparently, Sarlo’s idea of sophistication includes misplacing his modifiers.

If there was any doubt before that Sarlo lacks the tact and intelligence to run the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee effectively, there surely isn’t any now.

A “busy” day in the Senate Budget Committee

“If we learned anything in this last election it’s that the main issue right now is the economy”

Thus incoming Senate President Steve Sweeney, a little more than two weeks ago at the New Jersey League of Municipalities Convention. According to Sweeney, the legislature doesn’t have time to vote on a marriage equality bill during the lame duck session because they’ll be too busy saving the economy.

The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, of which Sweeney is a member, is meeting at 1:00 PM today, so I perused their calendar for the day to see what economy-saving plans are keeping Sweeney and his fellow Senators so busy. To my utter surprise, only six bills have been placed on the agenda for today’s meeting.

First, we have A2640/S2297, which would enact the “Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.” The bill, which costs an estimated $5,000 per year, will not create any jobs in New Jersey, but it will make it easier for children of military families who move between states to meet requirements for high school graduation.

Then there’s S530, which would give New Jersey taxpayers the chance to donate money to a fund which helps National Guard families when the federal government sends a breadwinner off to fight in a foreign country. It’s a safe bet this won’t create very many jobs.

S1066 allows green developers to qualify for certain low-interest loans. Perhaps this will help create a few dozen green jobs several months from now, but I’m not holding my breath.

S1875 extends an appraisal process required by the Greeen Acres and farmland preservation programs for another two years, at an estimated cost of $51,000 per year. It’s a safe bet this won’t net the state more than one or two jobs during that time period.

Steve Sweeney’s own S2755 makes it easier to use Transportation Trust Fund money for filling potholes. This bill seems to have the best job-creating potential of the lot, but it’s hardly acceptable given the high expectations Sweeney set last week.

Finally, S3060 gives Chris Christie an extra few weeks to write his first budget address. It will not create any jobs.

While Steve Sweeney may think he can save the economy and wipe the unemployment rolls clean with this slate of bills, I’m not at all convinced. If Sweeney wants to use “we’re too busy” as an excuse, he’s going to have to come with a lot more and a lot better than what’s on offer here. And if there isn’t enough time to consider marriage equality, there certainly isn’t enough time to put next year’s budget address off for three weeks.

Monmouth poll: New Jerseyans tune out Trenton

On Tuesday morning, Monmouth University released a poll for Gannett newspapers on media consumption habits in New Jersey.

Selected toplines follow, with analysis below the fold.

Where do you get most of your information about politics and public affairs in New Jersey – from newspapers, television, radio, the Internet, or somewhere else?

Newspapers: 28%
Television: 41%
Radio: 6%
Internet: 19%

Percent of respondents using different media

Activity 4+ days
per week
1+ days
per week
Read newspaper 42% 71%
Visit website for national/international news 29% 44%
Visit website for state/local news 12% 28%
Watch local NY/Philly TV news 43% 62%
Listen to talk radio 22% 34%

Other than sports and features, what type of news coverage do you most look for in newspapers – national, state, or local community news?

National news 30%
State news 15%
Local community news 42%

Percentage of respondents correctly naming…

Cory Booker as Mayor of Newark 30%
Michael Nutter as Mayor of Philadelphia 13%
Michael Bloomberg as Mayor of New York 69%

What happened to the old John Adler?

While every one of the state’s five Republicans marched in lockstep with John Boehner and Eric Cantor by opposing health care reform, seven of eight New Jersey Democrats voted for the historic health care reform bill. Among Democrats, only 3rd District Congressman John Adler voted no.

Of the 39 Democrats who voted against H.R.3962, only four come from more Democratic districts than NJ-03. Some 30 Democrats who represent redder districts than Adler’s voted yes. Adler’s vote was nothing but cowardly.

Adler’s vote may not have been a surprise, given the series of negative statements he has about the bill since the summer, but it certainly is a disappointment. Adler has moved hard to the right ever since being elected to represent NJ-03 last November. Where is the John Adler New Jersey progressives fought to elect?

What happened to the John Adler who pushed the death penalty repeal through the State Senate Judiciary Committee in 2007? What happened to the John Adler who expressed support for marriage equality in the Senate civil union hearings in 2006? The courageous progressive who served in the state Senate for more than a decade has exited the political stage to make way for a cowardly freshman Representative who caves in to the teabaggers on the big votes.

What happened to the John Adler who knows from personal experience what a lack of health insurance can do to a family? What happened to the “outspoken advocate for providing health insurance to all families”? The Congressman seems to have forgotten about the uninsured, for all he talks about these days is cutting costs.

It seems Adler has forgotten what got him elected to Congress in the first place. He won the support of rank-and-file Democrats and thus an easy path to the nomination by maintaining a progressive voting record in the State Senate. He rode Barack Obama’s coattails into office in the general election (remember that Obama outperformed him in the district in 2008). But for his first Congressional re-election campaign, Congressman Adler is casting his lot with the big-money donors looking to influence his votes on the Financial Services Committee, and with teabaggers like William Green.

Tell John Adler to vote yes on Health Care Reform

This evening, the US House of Representatives may finally vote on a health care reform bill. None of the 177 House Republicans is expected to vote for the bill, so Democrats must find the 218 votes required to pass the bill from within their own caucus. At the moment, it is not at all clear whether or not the bill is going to pass, as several dozen Democrats are on record opposing the bill and a number of others are on the fence.

One of the Democrats refusing to support the bill is New Jersey Congressman John Adler. Adler concedes that the house bill is “a step in the right direction,” but plans to vote against it because it doesn’t control costs enough.

Late last month, Adler had a chance to support a bill with a public option that would reimburse health care providers at Medicare rates plus 5 percent. This plan would have saved a substantial amount of money over the current version, which will force the government to negotiate rates with providers just as private plans do. Had Adler and other Democratic opponents of the current bill had supported that plan, it may well have passed the House.

If today’s vote fails, or doesn’t happen at all, it is likely that the bill will be further weakened. There will be almost no chance of either house passing a public option that can credibly compete with private insurers, and health care costs will continute to rise at alarming rates.

Americans have been waiting for generations for universal healthcare, and tonight, the House of Representatives has a chance to make history. AFSCME is asking progressive voters around the country to call their Representative to express support for health care reform. Call John Adler today and tell him to support the Affordable Health Care for America Act.

In Maine, it looks like it could be a long night

It’s way too early to draw any conclusions about the fate of Maine’s Marriage equality law. From the New York Times:

Question 1

37% Reporting

Yes (bad) 108,799

No (good) 108,762

Update: And the forces of justice take the lead!

Question 1

41% Reporting

No (good) 123,756

Yes (bad) 120,916

I have no clue where these numbers are coming from and what parts of the state still have to report, so I can’t really make an educated guess about where this race really stands. It’s simply too early to call.

Update: not… again…

Question 1

65% Reporting

Yes (bad) 199,969

No (good) 186,733

Things are looking bad for Corzine

Updated by Jason:  The AP calls it for Christie at 10:08.

Gloucester County is almost 100% in, and we’re losing 47-44. Corzine won 53-43 in ’05.

Christie is winning Ocean County by 37 with 91% in. Corzine lost by 13 in 2005.

Christie wins Hunterdon by 40/ points; Forrester won by 28 in 2005.

We’re doing better in Cape May. Corzine trails by 15 with 88% in; he lost the county by 6 in ’05.

Update

Sussex 100% in.

Christie 63.9 – Corzine 25.7 (Christie +38.2)

2005: Forrester 59.7 – Corzine 35.1 (Forrester +24.6)


Something is fishy in Sussex County, where Corzine is supposedly leading by 18,000.

As a point of reference, Corzine won by 10.45 percentage points in 2005. So all other things being equal, he can afford to lose about 10 points from the margin of victory in each county. Right now he’s holding his own in Cape May.

Caveat: I don’t know whether absentee ballots have been counted yet or not, but I suspect not. Absentees helped Obama last year and will help Corzine this year, but how many of them are out there?

Update #2

Monmouth is 97% in and we’re losing by 31 points. Forrester won by 8 points in 2005.

Sussex County Update

Politico now has Christie leading 64-26 in Sussex County. That’s more like it. Daggett is at better than 9% here, making Sussex one of his strongest counties. He seems to be doing strongest in the exurban northeast and weakest by the shore.

Assembly Races

I feel very good about LD-01, where Albano & Milam lead by over 1,000 with Cape May county basically 100% in. I’d go as far as calling the race for Albano (but not yet for Milam) Republicans have almost zero chance of winning the Assembly without taking both seats in the First.

Update: Essex County

With 84% in, Corzine leads 68-27 in Essex County. In 2005 he won by 47.5 points, so he’s only losing about 6 points here. If the other urban counties follow the same trend, Corzine may be able to stay close enough for the absentees to make a difference.

He who tries to please everyone, pleases no one

Congressman John Adler isn’t making many friends among progressives these days with his weak words on health care. Adler told constituents in a teleconference “town hall” yesterday that he would vote against the current health care bill in the house, which happens to be written by fellow New Jersey Congressmen Frank Pallone and Rob Andrews.

Perhaps Adler seeks the support of people like Ruth Sosa, who trashed an uninsured 22-year-old Pittsburgh woman who was shot at a gym, or the wealthy Dr. Jeffrey Kramer, tort reform crusader. Congressman, the anti-reform folks that show up at these town hall meetings didn’t vote for you last November, and they sure as hell won’t vote for you next November, either.

Maybe Adler is trying to appease the conservative editorial board of the Asbury Park Press, which endorsed his opponent last year. But it appears he has failed spectacularly with them, too:

Adler wants reform that’s “affordable, that contains costs, that improves outcomes.” Who doesn’t want those things? It’s his job to help develop or improve legislation that actually accomplishes them. That requires knowing exactly what you want. If Adler does, he did a poor job communicating it to his tele-conferees.

If and when he decides what he would like health care reform to look like, he should get back to the people he was sworn to represent, pronto – this time in person.

He who tries to please everyone, pleases no one. The one thing all Americans (well, almost all Americans) agree on is that the system needs to be changed, and Adler seems determined to be nothing but an obstacle in the path to change.