Author Archive: Senator Loretta Weinberg

Happy New Year, and Thank You.

I wish our BJ community a wonderful 2015, and the continuation of the stamina to keep those voices strong for our shared progressive values.

I also want to thank Rosi and our wonderful staff writers for making us think and learn. This week it was the “radium girls”, aboout which I am embarrassed to say I did not know anything. Another chapter in women’s history.

I am looking forward to some exciting “new beginnings” with lots of celebrations of new office holders in Bergen County this coming week. We have very high hopes for our new County Executive James Tedesco. His first appointments have been great. Congratulations to Michele DiIorgio, Chief of Staff.  

Am privileged to participate in several swearings-in this coming week in Palisades Park, Leonia, Bogota. Tenafly, and the County as well as celebrating new councilmembers in Alpine.

It’s also going to be a new year of some personally exciting experiences for me. Celebrating one of those “big decade” birthdays by keynoting a Seattle, Washington CeaseFire conference and then flying to Los Angeles to talk to the west coast version of “Ready to Run” women’s gathering. In between, I will get to share the actual day with family and a few close friends in Calif. Not a bad way to begin the new year at a new age. Yes, life continues to be interesting, challenging, passionate, and productive even in the later years.

So thank you BJ for helping to make it so. Hope to do a few more columns than I’ve done this past year.

And lest we forget, the first order of legislative business is to try to override the very cynical veto by Christie of the PA Transparency & Accountability bill cosponsored by my Bergen collegues, Senator Bob Gordon and Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle. I have very few words left to describe how I feel about that other Governor across the river….you know, the one from my party.

So happy new year. We have lots of work to do.

Thank You Debbie Wasserman Schultz

I think she’s been a terrific DNC chair! Congresswoman Schultz led the DNC out of debt, she’s been accessible to those of us on a local level, and has visited New Jersey (and Bergen County) to help local candidates many times. I like her style

Who are these “guys” who are now critical of her for various reasons, including that she’s “ambitious”? How unlady-like of her. That’s certainly a charge that could not be leveled against any other politician. particularly those of the male gender.

Here’s a little anecdote that took place just a couple of weeks ago: Ms. Wasserman Schultz came to Bergen to campaign for Bergen County Executive candidate Jim Tedesco. I passed along to her aide a constituent email I received requesting some help from our DNC chair. The constituent not only received a prompt reply, but I received a copy.  Can’t say I have ever found national folks quite so responsive.

So Mme. Chair: if you need some sisters in the battle, please call me!

Congratulations to all our Primary Winners

But a special word to my colleague Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. You are the right woman at the right moment to become the first African American woman to represent New Jersey in the United States Congress. You have a strong and very clear Progressive voice, and it will echo loudly in those halls. Thank you for  standing up for all of us. We are proud of you, my sister birthday twin! We will be there to support you and to continue encouraging you on the road ahead.

A TV Production or an Investigative Committee?

The following is my personal observation on our Committee meetings thus far and does not represent any other Committee member or any joint agreements.

Just a word to many news writers and columnists who have raised questions about our Select Committe on Investigations. I know that there is a suggestion you (and maybe even the public) are all getting bored with the investigation. My apologies to those who feel that way, but that is not the goal of this committee.

Though every Committee meeting will not produce fireworks or a made for TV moment, each interview has given the Legislature and the public an important glimpse into the atmosphere which allowed this bizarre incident to be carried out. We’ve seen lines crossed between government and politics; we’ve seen an atomosphere where this kind of behavior was not only allowed, but perhaps was encouraged; we’ve seen how disengaged the PA leadership was. We know we need reform. And we still have some very important witnesses to “welcome” before the Committee

The Republicans (thank you particularly Assemblywoman Amy Handlin and Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll) joined in robust questioning of Commissioner Schuber on how engaged the Commissioners were (and perhaps are) in reigning in the Port Authority excesses. His answers speak for themselves. Assemblywoman Huttle questioned the PA culture, and Senator Gill questioned the undermining of the messengers rather than the issues being raised.

We are also aware of the need to control mounting legal bills, and are working to do that.

So be patient. Tune out if you choose. Tune in if you continue to be interested. But this Committee will continue to interview the various witnesses who might have played a role, or who just shirked their common responsibility to raise questions about alleged use of the busiest bridge in the world to carry out political retribution. Thank you to all the Committee members for their hard work and to our outstanding staff for their many hours of research and guidance.

 

More Anti-woman Things from the Christie Folks

I was floored when the Senator told me this yesterday. I’m pulling the post up top again because it went up late-night. I don’t understand moving the Division on Women into the Dept. of Children & Families. Are women only relevant as somebody’s mother or wife? And the devolution of the Conference from a high-level, hotly-attended gathering to a series of regional symposia to talk about “issues”? What, like the way we see women now is only in terms of “issues” to be dealt with? Why would Gov. Christie let fall apart a gathering where masses of women get together to talk? (I ask as though I don’t already know the answer). – Rosi

The Division on Women used to be in the Dept. of Community Affairs. In the current budget year it was transferred  to the Department of Children & Families, led by Commissioner Allison Blake!

The Division used to run a fabulous Governor’s Conference for Women which I believe was mostly self supporting. Literally thousands attended over the years with national keynote speakers  like Maya Angelou, Peggy Noonan, and Donna Brazile!  It was a great opportunity for women to network for their businesses and for themselves. There were interesting panel discussions, and a chance for women all across the state from all walks of life to meet! The conference was continued through the first two years of the Christie administration.

This past year, the Department to which it had been transferred managed to undermine it with late planning, few sponsors and very little public notice. I just learned from the Commissioner that this year there will be NO conference at all. Instead she is organizing some kind of yet unannounced  “regional symposia” to talk about “issues” .

Just another gesture of how this administration  feels about  things which might bring women together! Will anyone else miss the Governors Conference for Women?

Turnpike Authority meeting

Appeared at the Board of Commissioners of the New Jersey Highway Authority this morning along with Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assemblyman Tom Giblen, Essex County Democrattic leader LeRoy Jones and various labor leaders as well as other interested folks to ask the Authority NOT to privatize the toll taker jobs. These employees already had their salaries reduced significantly to protect their jobs two years ago. To privatize these jobs at this juncture is inefficient, cruel and immoral!

The Commissioners were courteous and seemed to take note of the testimony. I was the prime sponsor of a privatiziation bill which set standards before a public program could be privatized so there is a cost benefit analysis to protect the workers and the tax paying public.  Of course the Governor vetoed it. This session we are bringing it back and Senate President Sweeney will be joining as the co-prime sponsor!

There are plenty of NJ examples where private business didn’t do such a great or efficient job (I.e. Sandy – read HGI) or halfway houses, or motor vehicle services – and remember Parsons and the car inspection fiasco? So let’s stand up and speak out to protect these hard working New Jerseyans and their families!  They deserve our support!

Have Been A Little Preoccupied Lately

So I have been very remiss in congratulating Jeff Gardner on being selected to run for County Clerk in Passaic.  He will make us all very proud. Another thank you to Rosi for going to Governor Christie’sTownhall and raising questions. We need more of that from the general public.

On Monday our Judiciary committee in the Senate will be dealing with the important issue of bail reform and raising extra dollars for Legal Services. An Important step forward.  We will also be taking up my bill concerning a collaborative family law bill to  find better ways to deal with family issues that end in court.

See there are other things going on in our world!

Republicans Believe They Don’t Have Time

Assemblyman Scott Rmana complains they haven’t been given the time to examine the subpoenaed documents in the George Wasington Bridge-Gate, What a late blossoming interest! Are these the same folks who said not a word during the last four months of GWB scandal? Are these the same folks who didn’t even stay at the Transportation Committee meeting to hear the under oath statements of Port Authority senior managers? I must have them confused with other legislators!

Some Thoughts About the Past Weeks

Port Authority: BJ has kept up to date on the shenanigans  at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. After attending a sub-committee meeting of the PA in September and full Commission meetings in October, in November and in December, I am really rather astounded at the lack of collective voices of the New Jersey Commissioners. These are all men I voted for as a member of the Judiciary Committee and as a Senator. And before each vote, I took the time to explain to each of these gentlemen that the George Washington Bridge is IN Ft. Lee and is often the reason we have traffic and other problems in many of the communities I represent. And those public conversations all pre-date this latest incident.

Even when I addressed each personally, none of them spoke at any of these meetings. Do they not have a responsibility to ask questions? Should they not be trying to get to the bottom of what took place in Ft. Lee the week of September 9th? Their silence is an embarrassment to New Jersey. The Governor needs to be reminded that most of them are his appointees. Come on guys, you owe us all an explanation! You owe us all your voices to provide some accountability here.  

P.S. to our Governor: Please note that there are NO traffic lanes dedicated to the Borough of Ft. Lee nor to the residents of Ft. Lee. There are lanes which can be accessed from Ft. Lee streets and are open to us all. They are well marked and most folks in the area know just how to access them. Did you really believe the story Bill Baroni tried to spin? Didn’t anyone in your office or on the Commission check it out.

And now it’s time for An Open Note to Mayor Fulop:

I was a little suprised about your public comments reported here concerning too much bipartisanship on the part of the Legislature. You’ve done some great things on earned sick leave (I’m the prime sponsor in the Senate) and on gun safety. I’ve publicly congratulated you on these issues. But I think you need a little reminder about what Democrats in the Legislature have actually accomplished in spite of any perceived differences.

1. Marriage Equality. Democrats passed it in both houses of the Legislature. The Governor vetoed it. We were working toward an override when the courts spoke.

2. Gun Safety: We still have one or two more bills to pass in the Senate, and we have the time to get that done. Democrats did pass an excellent bill requiring broad and extensive background checks sponsored by the Senate President Steve Sweeney. And the Governor vetoed it.

3.  Democrats passed some great health care bills requiring financial transparency in for-profit hospitals, health care access for women at family planning centers, and a Health Exchange to help New Jerseyans navigate the ACA, to name a few. And the Governor vetoed each of them

4. Democrats passed a bill requiring more transparency at the Port Authority. Wouldn’t that have been nice to have now? But the Governor vetoed it.

5.  We in the Senate held off the Governor’s attempted partisan remake of the Supreme Court. What do you think might have happened to that affordable housing case or to school funding or to Marriage Equality,  if those early appointments had gone through?

6. And what about that increase in the Minimum Wage? Now there’s an important progressive value. Democrats passed it. And the Governor Vetoed it. And Democrats put it on the ballot with a built in COLA, and it passed.

7. The Buono/Silva gubernatorial campaign.  I am a Democrat and I worked for and helped raise funds for our Democratic gubernatorial campaign. I, along with all our leadership in both the Senate and the Assembly, endorsed Senator Buono as our candidate. Every woman democratic Senator joined to raise money and speak publicly on her behalf. Did some Democratic Mayors defect? Did others just sit by and neither endorse nor get involved? I think you know the answers to those questions.

So have we been nearly perfect? No. Should we have done more? Abolutely.  But on many of the really important progressive issues – starting with the most important – the attempted partisan re=make of the Supreme Court – Democrats have stood up with vigor. As the Majority Leader of the Senate these past two years, I’m proud of what we Democrats have accomplished. We certainly have more to do the next two years, and I’m privileged to be a part of the leadership team with Senate President Sweeney. We welcome your voice and your enthusiasm to the continued building of a unified, strong and progressive Democratic party! That effort needs all our voices.

To All BJ Readers: Merry Christmas. I hope you enjoy the holidays with family, friends and all your loved ones. May we together enjoy a peaceful and healthy new year with the strength and will to continue working for a better nation and a better State of New Jersey for all our residents