Tag Archive: Sen. Barbara Buono

What’s Happening Today Mon. 08/19/2013

Gay Conversion therapy: Governor Christie signs A3371, the conversion therapy ban, and New Jersey becomes the second state in the union to stop this abusive practice. He signed the bill, according to Garden State Equality, at the last possible moment, just hours before it would have become law with or without his signature. GSE “commends both houses of the legislature for passing this ban.” For more information on this good deed by Christie, see Rosi Efthim’s diary below.

Employment Data First the State gets an advance preview from the U. S. Bureau of Labor regarding regional and state employment and unemployment data. The State puts its spin on the matter. Shortly thereafter BLS posts more complete data for all states. We have already heard from the Christie administration on the July data. Today at 10:00am we will hear from BLS here, and here, and be able to compare our standing against other states.

Hurricane Sandy Recovery Task Force Report: 10:00am, release of President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force Strategy Report. New Jersey Future will have a statement on the report at about 11:00AM here.    

Environmental and conservation groups: 11:00am, press conference and lobby day to urge legislators to vote against a gruesome beaver-trapping bill (S2665). also urging legislators  to vote against Deer Baiting (S1848) and Bear poaching (S2369), Statehouse, Room 109, Trenton.

Red light Camera Program: 11:00am, Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-13), who wants the program shut down, holds a news conference, the Doubletree Hotel, Tinton Falls.

Bruce Springsteen: NJ Spotlight presents today an excerpt from “BRUCE,” a comprehensive new biography by Peter Ames Carlin of the man known to rock fans worldwide simply by his first name — or by the honorific, “The Boss.”

Public Schedules:

Governor Christie: 10:00am, a re-election campaign announcement, Sweets & Cortaditos, Belleville.

Buono/Silva gubernatorial campaign: 9:00am, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono: 2013 UAW Region 9 Leadership Conference, The Grand Hotel, 1045 Beach Ave., Cape May. 

U. S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan: 7:15am, interview on Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends.

State Senate: 11:00am, Judiciary Committee, Statehouse Annex, to consider nominees, including three Superior court judges, and two bills; 2:00pm, Senate in session, Senate Chamber, 23 bills for consideration, including a shared-services bill and a plan to revamp the state’s economic development incentives.

If you have an item for this column email it to me the evening before at Billorr563@gmail.com

Sen. Barbara Buono: Direct and On Point

“Governor Christie’s week can be summed up as a ‘profile in cowardice.’ He chose Friday night to deny women health services, pander to gun lobbyists, veto legislation to keep jobs in New Jersey and thwart a full expansion of Obamacare. All this after he bashed the Supreme Court’s decision to end DOMA and refuses to comment on its decision to gut the Voting Rights Act. He would rather please Republican primary voters in Iowa than stand up for the Garden State and its working and middle class families.”

For brief information on each of the eight bills the Governor vetoed Friday night go beyond the fold.

SCOTUS Rules On Marriage Equality…Q.E.D.

 Note: This a corrected version.

As a child studying geometry, after proving a theorem, you entered the initials Q.E.D. – a Latin affirmation that you have made your case. In 1903 the artist Gertrude Stein wrote a novel called Q.E.D. affirming a romantic lesbian relationship. 110 years later the U. S. Supreme Court added its own favorable Q.E.D.

Today’s excellent news is that the Court has struck down (5 to 4) Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which banned federal benefits for same-sex couples. This ruling places increased pressure on us in New Jersey to enact Marriage Equality (M. E.)

As the N. Y. Times points out, “Whether gay couples actually get those benefits would depend on where they live – and how vigorously President Obama seeks to change the legal language that determines whether a couple is married in the eyes of the federal government.”

  •   Obstacle # 1: We live in a state which does not permit same-sex marriage.

  •   Obstacle #2: Agencies like the  I.R.S. and the Social Security Administration make their determination by looking to the state where a couple lives. Even with DOMA overturned, those agencies might, until their language is changed, deny benefits to gay couples who live in one of the 38 states that do not allow same-sex marriage.

    As the N. Y. Times explains, In a second decision, the court declined to say whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Instead, the justices said that a case concerning California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8, was not properly before them. The ruling leaves in place laws banning same-sex marriage around the nation. Such should clear the way for same-sex marriages in California.

    So with DOMA defeated we have incentive, justification and support to pursue our own Marriage Equality. How long will it take?

    Probably the quickest way to enact M. E. is for both houses of our legislature to over-ride our governor’s M. E. veto. So far it appears that the Legislature lacks the two-thirds votes needed. With today’s ruling, however, pro-active leaders have an opportunity to renew their efforts for the additional necessary votes. Individual legislators now have new cover to proclaim their support. The Legislature has until January 2014 to over-ride the veto.

    Alternately there is still time to include a ballot measure in the November General Election. To do so would require a three-fifths vote by both the Senate and House and would have to be submitted to the Division of Elections by August 4. When vetoing the M. E. bill Christie urged the legislature to allow citizens to vote on the question. As a result Republican legislators would be more likely to join their Democratic counterparts and support putting the measure on the ballot. Two recent polls from Rutgers/Eagleton and Monmouth both indicate 59% of New Jerseyans support M. E. Another from Quinnipiac has 64%.

    How sweet it would be to have Sen. Barbara Buono elected as our next Governor and sign M. E. into law in early 2014.

    It would probably take the longest to gain M. E. through our court system. A suit is currently before the Superior Court.

    So like many Americans, New Jerseyans can pop the cork and celebrate the DOMA and California decisions.  It took a long time for our Supreme Court to make the case, but it has affixed its Q.E.D. Somewhere Gertrude Stein is smiling.  

    SCOTUS rulings: DOMA and Prop 8.  

  • Technically, Possibly Accurate, But …

    The current Republican Governors Association TV attack ad against Sen. Barbara Buono, Taking New Jersey Backwards, ends with a small-print note: “Paid for by the RGA. Not made with cooperation, consent, or consultation or at the request or suggestion of a candidate or his agent.”

    Our Governor served until recently as Vice Chair of the RGA, and is scheduled next year to be its Chairman. The note strains credulity.

    Buono for Governor spokesman David Turner said in a statement, “Governor Christie and his national Republican sponsors’ false attacks on Senator Buono’s record are attempts to distract from the truth: they have made careers off defending millionaires over working and middle class families. Senator Buono has consistently fought to make millionaires pay their fair share to provide property tax relief to New Jersey’s middle class.”

    We are in the midst of both a Special Federal Election and State gubernatorial/legislative/local elections. The tsunami of ads from outside big spenders with deep pockets pouring onto our airwaves will soon border on the painful. It will also be a hindrance to rational discussion and our democratic process. In a country where the individual voter is so much outweighed by outside, big-money interests, we need a way to reduce this dangerous tidal wave  

    It’s All About The Governor

     

    By appointing a friend as placeholder to occupy the vacant U. S. Senate seat until October and decreeing that there would be a senatorial primary in August and an election in October, our governor did a masterful job of undermining potential Republican candidates and giving a boost to Democrats. Although the Senate seat has been in the hands of Democrats since 1979 and never was very winnable for Republicans, Christie was all too happy to sacrifice the seat in order to increase his election results in November. He could have appointed someone to hold the seat until late 2014 which would have given the person he chose time to learn the job and launch a campaign. Such an approach would probably have led to a court battle, but if successful it would also have given other Republican candidates time to raise money, increase name recognition and launch a campaign. He could also have saved the state money by holding the election in November, but ultimately he showed us it was all about the governor and the benefits he sought.

    He proceeded to order a senatorial primary in August and to require candidates to produce 1,000 petitions and file by this coming Monday. Republican candidates who did not anticipate an election until next year have been caught flat-footed. The last two Republican candidates for the U. S. Senate were State Senators running in an off year. Potential Republican candidates like Sen. John Bramnick (who will not run) and others have their own November campaign to manage. Running two campaigns simultaneously is a nightmare. In last year’s senatorial race incumbent U. S.Senator Robert Menendez raised $12 million and State Senator Joe Kyrillos raised $4.6 million. Unless a Republican candidate with millions to self-finance were to pop out of the woodwork (businessman Joe Plumeri?), there is no candidate who has anywhere near that size war chest now nor the likelihood of raising big bucks in just a few months.

    So far the only announced Republican candidate is conservative Steve Lonegan. Until he resigned a few days ago he was State Director of Americans for Prosperity – a supporter of the Tea Party and financed by the Koch brothers. When he ran in the 2009 primary he did not do badly – tallying 140,946 votes versus Chris Christie who got 184,085 votes. In that primary Democrat Jon Corzine received 154,448 votes. Lonegan will be appealing to the far right, but also far from the mainstream New Jersey voter.

    Fortunately there are a number of Democrats are who are strong candidates for the Senate. Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who polls the best, but has not yet formally announced his candidacy, has made no secret of his interest in the job and is well financed.  Rep. Frank Pallone (CD 6), also with a large war chest, has long been interested in the position but has not yet announced his candidacy. The highly respected Rep. Rush Holt (CD 12) has formally entered the ring. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, who is weighing her options, would bring a strong, competent woman into the mix.

    So in the end it’s all about Christie. He chose to use his gubernatorial power to help himself against his opponent Sen. Barbara Buono. In the process he sacrificed any chance for a Republican Senatorial win and left potential Republican colleagues out to dry and twist slowly in the wind, with plenty of opportunities for Democrats. The final roster of candidates will be known by Monday so stay tuned.  

    The Making of Sausages And Gun Laws

    Bismark said “Laws are like sausages. It is better not to see them being made.” Someone else might have said, “Too many cooks spoil the sausage.” In the case of New Jersey gun law reform the process has started off messy with over 30 bills introduced in the legislature – some moving forward, some being altered, and others unlikely to see the light of day. Then we have the cooks: the Governor, Sen. Barbara Buono, the Assembly, the Senate, NRA, NJ 2nd Amendment Society, Heeding God’s Call, and others. Part of making the sausages we can’t see as behind closed doors legislators, lobbyists and advocates across the spectrum have their own recipes. What we can see is often confusing and changes from day to day.

    The governor’s violence task force recommended weak measures, such as limiting the sale of violent video games and changing rules on treating the mentally ill. The Governor’s personal response was tepid and failed to address key issues such as magazine size. Like others, he accepts contributions from the NRA and its advocates.

    Sen. Buono called the governor’s plan “a shallow one that does nothing.”  Her proposals are more robust, and include smaller magazine capacity and face-to-face sale of ammunition.

    Unlike the federal government and many other states, it does appear that our legislature will pass gun bills shortly. Our governor may even sign off on some of them. A few of the more innocuous bills are actually supported by the NRA, and some have received bipartisan support.

    It appears that the rift between the Assembly and Senate is healing now that Senate President Sweeney has acquiesced to advocates who in recent weeks said the package was too weak. So far the Senate has passed 10 bills and the Assembly 22 bills. Further bill reconcilation between the two houses will be needed.

    The final outputput remains unclear. The sausage recipes are undergoing development in this sloppy, sometimes secretive process. I happen to like robust sausages, but I suspect only a very few will be robust, some watered down, and many will never exit the factory. We will, however, have made progress and be able to continue the fight another day for saner gun policies.

    Latinos and Latinas for Barbara Buono

    At a restaurant in Newark’s Ironboud the Latino Action Network bestowed a fullsome endorsement upon Senator Barbara Buono for governor. It was an appropriate city as Newark’s population is 30% Hispanic and an appropriately named restaurant, Sabor Latino (Latin Flavor), bringing out the Latina in the candidate whose brother-in-law was Hispanic.

    In making the endorsement, LAN Chair Frank Argote-Freyre noted Sen. Buono’s support of in-state higher education tuition for children of immigrants brought illegally into the country, her oppostion to school vouchers, and her opposition to severe cuts in social services championed by the governor. He went on to add, “The governor has never met a rich man he can’t support.”

    During her brief speech she stuck to the main themes of her campaign: support for the working and middle class, an increase in the minimum wage, reversing the governor’s cut in EITC, reduction in gun violence, and increased funding for education. Such general issues are of concern to Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike.

    When she was asked to address issues more specific to the Hispanic community, such as restoring legal aid funding, more oversight of the ICE detention centers in New Jersey, and Community I.D. cards for immigrants, she demurred. She said, “It would take hours to  discuss such matters.”  

    Sen. Buono can count on support from Hispanics but she does not have a lock on this segment of the population. The Latino Leadership Alliance in February endorsed the Governor saying, “His accomplishments on education reform and small business growth made him worthy of a second term.” A strong ground game run by Hispanic Democrats is essential to assure turnout, and further  articulation of her Hispanic/immigration platform might be helpful. For more information on the press conference go here or here.

    AshBritt: The Unfinished Story

    “On its face, it appears to me that the administration went out of its way to give a lucrative no-bid contract to a connected out-of-state firm at double the price.”  – Senator Barbara Buono at Sandy hearing

    The Senate and Assembly Oversight Sandy hearing on Friday yielded some new information. Only AshBritt employees testified – primarily its CEO Randy Perkins. He often was so evasive that a question had to be repeated three or four times and even then a full response was not always forthcoming. One important statement from Mr. Perkins was later contradicted by FEMA. The hearing was a good beginning, but often inconclusive, and calls out for testimony from other parties.

    Lack of Christie Administration’s preparation leads to a last minute scramble

    Legislators justifiably criticized the Administration for not being better prepared. Following Irene and the Halloween storm, the State could have bid out a contract (or multiple contracts) which would have been in place and ready to activate when Sandy arrived. Instead the state scrambled and improvised. It grabbed an off-the-shelf AshBritt Connecticut contract on which to piggy-back.

    A suspect contract drawn in darkness

    CEO Perkins was evasive and vague about the timeline and activities that led to the State’s signing of the umbrella AshBritt agreement which allowed municipalities to contract debris removal at a set price without any further bidding process. The State hastily signed the agreement two days after Sandy landed, with only minimal modifications from the 2008 Connecticut version. Not much is known about discussions – or any negotiations – before the contract signing. Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a partner in the BGR Group which lobbies for Ash-Britt, recommended the firm to Christie. AshBritt  has a history of extensive political contributions to elected officials. Most recently BGR Group Chair Ed Rogers held a $3,800 per-person fundraiser for Christie.

    Sandy, Christie & More “Business as Usual”

    I ended a Jan 14 diary, After Sandy: The State’s Contract With AshBritt Reeks of “Business as Usual,” indicating, “Only time will tell whether the arrangement was beneficial and cost effective for Belmar and the 42 other NJ municipalities that have contracted with this firm. Nonetheless, the State’s haste, execution of a no-bid contract, failure to allow competition, and use of a firm with a questionable past raise troubling questions.”

    The diary documented how AshBritt’s past includes artificially driving up prices, taking advantage of municipalities, passing up local contractors, being enmeshed in law suits, contributing huge sums to the coffers of elected officials and state parties, and undergoing a congressional investigation.

    In the past week more news articles have questioned the arrangement between the State and AshBritt. Sen. Barbara Buono, Assemblyman Vincent Prieto, and Senate President Steve Sweeney have raised concerns.

    Although Governor Christie frequently ignores criticism, in this case he has risen to his own defense. He called recent articles on the subject “shoddy journalism,” in spite of the fact that there is plenty of documentation in the news articles and my diary.

    He insists his contract with AshBritt is not a “no-bid” contract because he “piggy-backed” on a Connecticut contract. Since when does NJ rely on using existing contracts from other states and just assume that the bidding process, prices, and policies included are fair and correct for NJ? As the Star-Ledger points out, FEMA regulations, which are described in a published guidebook, say “piggyback contracting” is “non-competitive and may have an inappropriate price structure.”

    On NJTV last night Christie disingenuously said “All the municipalities’ decisions [to contract with AshBritt] were voluntary.” True in theory, but… When Belmar’s Mayor Matt Doherty announced in early November his town hired AshBritt to lead cleanup efforts in his borough, he indicated, “They are the contractor chosen by the state of New Jersey … I am following Gov. Christie’s lead on this.” Indeed, Chritie left municipalities little choice: undertake this complex task on their own or hire AshBritt, the only firm authorized by the State to provide exclusive advantages including no necessity for further sub-bidding.  

    Excerpts from Barbara Buono’s Gubernatorial Campaign Kick-off Speech

    New Brunswick, NJ  February 2nd, 2013

    “We’re here today to put an end to a philosophy as tired as it is disproven – the notion that our economic problems can all be solved if only we ask the middle class and the working poor to sacrifice more so that the wealthy can become even richer.

    After more than three years of this governor’s policies, millions of New Jersey families are suffering – struggling under an unemployment rate that hovers near ten percent…higher than it was a year ago… and nearly two points higher than the nation’s.   

    Educational opportunity is sliding, with so many of our public schools falling short and tuition costs spiraling out of control. 

    And while the Governor continues to pray at the altar of his Republican Party’s bedrock principle of tax cuts for millionaires, everyday homeowners in our state have seen their property taxes soar.

    From Cape May to High Point…everyday New Jerseyeans are wondering the same thing: for all of this Governor’s “Youtube moments” and choreographed town halls, for all his national press appearances and magazine covers . . . what has he actually done to help my family lift itself from this economic morass?

    That’s why I’m announcing today my candidacy for Governor of the State of New Jersey.