Tag Archive: Senate Judiciary Committee

Kevin O’Dowd and More: “Twisting Slowly in the Wind”

Gov. Chris Christie on December 2, 2013, said he was nominating his chief of staff, Kevin O’Dowd to be New Jersey’s attorney general. As recently as June 29, Matt Arco in the Star Ledger referred to Regina Egea as “currently director of Christie’s Authorities Unit and his incoming chief of staff.” Nonetheless, the Office of Legislative services confirmed today that seven months after Christie’s “nomination,” he has yet to submit a Nomination Letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Although the Legislature has a light working schedule now in the summer, the Judiciary Committee does plan a meeting on July 10 and could arrange a meeting later, but it needs a Nomination Letter first. O’Dowd, has been left twisting.

O’Dowd was Christie’s Chief of Staff before, during and after Bridgegate (as well as Bridget Kelly’s boss), and he remains Chief of Staff, but only possibly a nominee for the AG’s position. O’Dowd testified before the Bridgegate investigative committee as one who saw no evil, heard no evil and investigated no evil. If such is the case he did a poor job as the “eyes and ears” of the governor and may not be in Christie’s good graces. It is also possible that O’Dowd did see and hear more than he revealed at the hearing. Either way O’Dowd remains suspect of being incompetent or not forthcoming, so the hold on nominating him is not surprising.

Regardless of the reason, O’Dowd is just one example of the after-effects of Bridgegate and the problems besetting Christie’s administration. It does not seem to bother Christie who travels extensively for the RGA, stops by to dance with Jimmy Fallon, and is spending time today at the beach extolling his efforts at Sandy recovery – an effort more marred than marvelous. Even Christie’s budget is an attempt to put off to tomorrow what could be done today. In the meantime O’Dowd and serious state business are left twisting in the wind. And we are all the worse for it.

The united votes of independent thinkers

promoted by Rosi

I love reading letters to the editor, both ones that I agree with and those I can’t come to grips with as well.  But I enjoyed this one from a resident of Chatham in the Star Ledger:

Without regard to the merits of the case or how our state senators voted on Gov. Chris Christie’s state Supreme Court nominee Phillip Kwon, I was taken by the governor’s comment, “They all followed the political line like lemmings,” in reference to seven of the eight Democrats on the Judiciary Committee voting “no.”What does the governor call the straight party-line votes Republicans have made on the initiatives and bills endorsed by the governor since he was inaugurated? The united votes of independent thinkers?

That seems to sum things up nicely for the Governor’s case. But how is it everyone following like lemmings, if everyone didn’t actually follow? It seems like the lemmings were the ones who followed the Governor, no? I guess it’s ok if you’re a Christie Republican, just more of that independent thinking.

Senate Judiciary Votes Down Christie Supreme Court nominee Phillip Kwon

“… side show



freak show

..  Korean witch hunt …”

Attendees at today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Supreme Court nominee Phillip Kwon – and those who watched NJTV’s coverage live – got an earful today as Republican members of the committee ratcheted up the rhetoric into the stratosphere unable to sit still as Democrats put questions to Christie’s nominee. Kwon would have been the first Asian American to serve on New Jersey’s high court.

In the end, after a full day of questioning and testimony, the panel voted 7-6 against Kwon, with Senator Brian Stack voting alongside the Republicans.

Blue Jersey maintained a nearly 8-hour Live-Tweet account of the proceedings @bluejersey. We will have video coverage and interviews posted tomorrow, with a first interview with Blue Jersey’s own Senator Loretta Weinberg later tonight.  

O’Toole, whose mother is Korean-born, has been vocal in his support of Kwon in the run-up to this hearing, speaking publicly alongside the something called the Korean American Voters Council, and former Edison Mayor Jun Choi. But today, O’Toole plunged deep into angry vitriol:

“We didn’t have a hearing. We had a lynching. I don’t think this nominee was given a fair chance.”

                        –  Sen. Kevin O’Toole, Republican Whip

Sen. Weinberg, Senate Majority Leader and a member of the Committee, suggested Christie tried to pass Kwon off as an independent, blaming the Governor’s drive to remake the Court in his own image.

She was also apparently unsatisfied with the committee’s findings of his family’s finances, including his wife’s income, which was investigated by federal authorities for suspicious deposits. “I don’t think we got all the real answers, and for that reason I am voting no.”

More, plus the vote count, below the fold.

This Morning: Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Christie Supreme Court Nominees Kwon & Harris

UPDATE: Legislature’s video streaming has begun, with NJTV’s Michael Aron providing an introduction. Excellent to see NJTV step into live coverage of the legislature. Hearing begins with a statement by Phillip Kwon.

Phillip Kwon and Bruce Harris
Kwon (hand on chin) & Harris (far right)

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Gov. Chris Christie’s high court nominees Phillip Kwon and Bruce Harris is scheduled to start at 10:30 this morning (note: committee hearings often begin late).

Two ways you can follow along:

1. Listen live at the NJ Legislature’s media page.

You will need Windows Media Player, which you can download free from a link at the page. Refresh the media page frequently until the hearing status goes from Pending to Available.

2. @bluejersey Follow Blue Jersey’s live-Tweet account of the proceedings.

Senator Loretta Weinberg, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee tells Blue Jersey that she expects this hearing will run late into the day.

Senate Judiciary Committee member list

An Unsettling Update!

No money in Christie’s budget for family planning centers! According to what we were told in today’s Democratic caucus, the Governor said that whatever and however we reinstate dollars for women’s health care, (HIV testing, family planning, cervical cancer screening, etc..) he will VETO that appropriation. How infuriating and disrespectful to the women of New Jersey! I immediately dropped in a bill today to reinstate these important dollars which I hope to get before the Senate budget committee on Thursday and then get passed by the Senate on Monday. When the Governor vetos this expenditure, we in the legislature will have another chance to stand up for women’s health care services! Let’s hope that this time, some of our sister legislators across the aisle will stand with us, along with a few of those “good guys” who I know sit along side them. Don’t make us still fight for our rights in the year 2010. But if need be, this is a women’s equality march I’m ready to organize.

Caps and craziness:  I was really taken by surprise (and disappointed) at Mayor Cory Booker’s embrace of the Governor’s “hard” 2.5% cap.  I know Mayor Booker must understand the impossibility of functioning under the Christie cap. Why would anyone want to govern any complex community with such restraints? Growing up in California, I know about those property tax caps and what it has done to schools, libraries and the magnificent California University system. Senator Sweeney’s proposal allows for certain important cost exemptions to the cap.  We will be discussing these alternatives during the next weeks.

Judiciary Committee members approved several judicial reappointments
. Among others, we also approved the reappointment of Dr. Kevin Barry to the UMDNJ board. He at least recognized the importance of training physicians in appropriate abortion procedures. The fastest way for women to lose their right to chose is not having access to trained health care providers. By the way, Dr Barry is also from Mendham!

The legislature also moved along a “government transparency” bill
sponsored by Assemblyman Joe Cryan and me to regulate costs to the public of copying public documents. We removed any charges for the electronic transfer of documents, and set fixed costs of 7 cents and 5 cents for other public document requests. This will comply with a recent court decision.  I am looking at a complete updating of the Open Public Records Act and the Open Public Meetings Act which we hope to have finished by the end of the summer for a Fall introduction.

Schedule as of this moment calls for Budget Committee meetings on Wednesday and Thursday and a vote on the budget on Monday, June 28th.  It’s certainly not a great time in Trenton, and things are still “fluid”. Will try to keep you all updated.


The Press Was Elsewhere!

This past Thursday was a busy day for many of us, but if one just read the mainstream press, you might not have realized it.

It was Women’s Healthcare Week, and many of our women legislators decided to mark the occasion by protesting Governor Christie’s wiping out all the dollars ($7.5million) in the Family Planning budget.  As has been noted before, this money is earmarked for uninsured or underinsured men and women who get HIV testing, cervical cancer screening, family planning information and general reproductive health care through these centers. Joined by Assemblywomen Valerie Huttle, Linda Stender, Linda Greenstein, Elise Evans, Cleopatra Tucker, Pam Lampitt, Annette Quijano, Mila Jasey, Joan Voss, and Connie Wagner, we held a well attended press conference, that is except the press! Though, NJN did stop in for a brief moment or two. Apporximately 50 pink shirt supporters joined us bringing along hundreds of signed post cards protesting these cuts!  The cards were delivered to the Governor’s office. Do you think he’ll read them? In my remarks, I suggested some cuts to other programs within the budget to transfer much needed funds to this program.  Let’s see if the Governor will look at these re-ordering of priorities, and we’ll know if this budget cut is a matter of dollars or a matter of philosophy!

My next stop was the Senate State Government Committee meeting to speak for my bill giving the Governor veto power over the minutes of the Passaic Valley Sewer Authority and the North District Water Commission.  These were the only two commissions we could find which were State appointments with no governor veto power.  I reminded the committee, that I started on this road several years ago and first coined the description “shadow governments” to describe these authorities. In 2007 when Assembly colleagues Gordon Johnson, Valerie Huttle and I first  took a look at the PVSA, we found that over a six year period, they spent more than $13 million on legal fees, and more than $3 million on consultants. Included in the consultant fees was $100,00 for a well connected flak to produce a children’s coloring book called, “Messy Marvin”.  Makes Brian Christiansen look like one of the pikers of the hangers on at the PVSA. It’s all so outrageous!

And as outrageous, is it took several years to get this bill posted in committee. Since Governor Christie has rightly made an issue of these “shadow governments” which spend millions of our tax dollars and user fees with very little accountability, this bill should pass both houses before the summer break.

Next was the Judiciary Committee meeting
where we approved the nominations of Lori Grifa as the Commissioner of Community Affairs and Harold Wirths as the Commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development.  Acting Commissioner Wirths was closely questioned about his lack of experience (he has been a Republican county Freeholder) in the area of labor relations.  I was concerned with his continuing in his Freeholder position while serving as an “acting commissioner”.  Asked OLS for an opinion on the subject, and they said it was important to get an Ethics Board ruling.  It was claimed that such a ruling had been forthcoming last February which gave him permission as long he turned down his Freeholder salary.  I still believe this could be a court challenge, but since he was resigning both his elected position and his service on a bank board with his confirmation, it became moot.  Both nominees now move to the full Senate for a vote.

We all know we have a reduced statehouse press corps., and they were covering the Millionaire’s Tax hearing and the Lesniak theater action for the voucher bill held on the statehouse lawn. Curious juxtaposition! Several hundred religious and private school students were brought to Trenton to support the Lesniak/Kean bill. I didn’t hear anyone from the Governor’s office refer to them as “Drug Mules” or denounce them as youngsters who had no idea why they were there.  Don’t get me wrong – I think it was great that these young people got to see their government in action! They probably learned more that day than they would in classrooms. I do, however, think the Governor’s “double standard” is quite evident! Students who support Christie’s initiatives can get the day off from school, but those students who disagree with his cuts to public schools deserve to be derided and insulted.  

The prior Monday, I had the great pleasure of joining Senator Ray Lesniak for our book signing at Kean College for “What’s Love Got to Do With it“, about the fight for Marriage Equality in the New Jersey State Senate. It’s a beautiful book with wonderful pictures and contains many of the words which were shared on January 7, 2010.  There were more than 100 people who turned out for this event at the new Kean Human Rights Institute. My thanks to Ray for including me in this adventure. Yes I know: Lesniak & Weinberg – definitely an odd couple – but fun nevertheless!

So all this while the very much smaller group of print media folks were elsewhere. And how about Channel 12? Do they ever really cover New Jersey News live? Seems every time I turn them on they are doing the “Weather on the Ones” or the “Pet Doctor”. We need to keep NJN. They are the only statewide New Jersey television news. I’ve written to the administration  to try and find out if anyone has actually worked on a plan to transition NJN into a private company. And what happens to their state owned assets? Lots of unanswered questions here, but we must work to preserve this NJ television news.

Keep your voices heard!