Tag Archive: Holly Schepisi

Too Big to Sue?

After the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection proposed an eight-billion dollar lawsuit based on Exxon’s despoiling of numerous sites in New Jersey, the Christie administration is pushing through a $225 million settlement – less than three cents on the dollar – ending any future remediation or consideration for Exxon’s pollution.

Today, Assemblyman John McKeon, chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, held a hearing to gather facts to try to determine if this settlement is in the best interests of the public.

While such a low cash settlement without much public discussion may seem odd, it makes sense if you look at it through the lens of Governor Christie’s political aspirations. Settling for the low number now, and channeling most of that money into the general fund,  provides Christie with another one-shot gimmick to enable him to boast of a balanced budget, even though that goal is constitutionally required. Waiting for prolonged litigation to force Exxon to pay its fair share would not help Christie, who will be long out of office by the time the lawsuits are settled.

What Will Christie Do?

Republican NJ Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi just introduced a bill that would remove an elected official from office immediately upon conviction of a crime. I wonder if Chris Christie would sign such a bill if it passes the legislature.

Is LD39 winnable?

Good article in PolitickerNj leaves me with the impression this district might flip to Democrats. Republicans are at each other’s throats, Bob Schroeder is a major embarrasment to the GOP, Gerry Cardinale is ten years younger than Frank Lautenberg but appears ten years older. There’s also a good chance Rob Hermansen won’t go away quietly and may primary Schepisi and Auth for Assembly. He’s a strong candidate and could do considerable damage to the GOP ticket.

It seems to me that with a strong ticket and some serious money this district could change from red to blue and retire Gerry Cardinale, who looks like he needs a bib along with his bowl of Farina for breakfast.

Human Trafficking Bill Passes Assembly Committee

As a legislator, what do you do after you spearhead the nation’s most comprehensive anti-bullying legislation into law? If you’re Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, you don’t rest on your laurels. Instead, you tackle another human rights challenge.

Today, the Assembly Judiciary Committee took testimony on a bipartisan bill that is being shepherded through the legislature by Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle – a bill to combat a scourge that is often under the radar but ruins countless lives. The bill was heard (and passed) through the Assembly Judiciary Committee today.

Human trafficking is an insidious problem that is pervasive across the country. It enslaves children into the dark world of prostitution and forced labor. History shows that high profile events like the Super Bowl, which comes to New Jersey in 2014, attract these human traffickers and their clients.

While there are already laws on the books and there have been arrests made, testimony at today’s hearing revealed that there have been no convictions for human trafficking in New Jersey in the past six years. Vainieri Huttle’s bill adds fines and additional regulations.

While the two Republicans on the panel expressed support for the concept, they also voiced concerns about the constitutionality of some of the provisions and contended that the requirement to train law enforcement officials was an unfunded mandate. Both (Michael Patrick Carroll and Holly Schepisi) abstained from supporting the bill as written. All the Democrats on the panel voted in favor.

In an interview with Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle after the hearing (below), she addressed the concerns that were brought up and stressed that this bill has bipartisan support. She said she will proactively work with her colleagues in the Assembly and in the Senate, where the bill is yet to be introduced, to amend the language to meet the concerns of all parties. No doubt she will work tirelessly to help abate this human rights problem.

Decriminalize Pot: “The Punishment Doesn’t Fit the Crime”

My object all sublime

I shall achieve in time

To let the punishment fit the crime

– Gilbert & Sullivan: The Mikado

15 Democrats and three Republicans in the Assembly have joined to sponsor a bill to decriminalize possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana. There will be a Judiciary Committee hearing for the bill (A-1465) on Monday at 10:00 AM in the State House Annex. The effort, led by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15), already has an impressive number of initial bipartisan sponsors. However, 23 additional assemblypersons are needed to assure passage. The complete list of sponsors so far appears below the fold.

As the Star Ledger points out, “Currently, those caught with small amounts of marijuana for personal use face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, in addition to a possible driver’s license suspension and hundreds of dollars in court fees. While possession of more than 15 grams and less than 50 grams constitutes a disorderly charge, possession of 15 grams or less under this bill will only call for a fine and possible drug treatment.

Three members of the Judiciary Committee are already sponsors: Chair Peter Barnes (D-18), Ralph Caputo (D-28), and Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25). You can call or email the other members: Vice Chair Annette Quijano (D-20), Gordon Johnson (D-37), John McKeon (D-27) and Holly Schepisi (R-39).

As Assemblyman Gusciora says, “The punishment really doesn’t fit the crime.”

NJTV – Not as Crappy as I Thought

I was a big fan of NJN, the state-funded television and news network that Governor Christie gave to his cronies last June. So, like others, I held the station’s new incarnation, NJTV, to the same high standards that its predecessor followed.

What I liked about NJN, and what I expected from NJTV was:

1. Balanced reporting

2. In depth (live) coverage of important legislative proceedings

3. Professional-quality television

I was disappointed on all three fronts.  

Marriage Equality – For the Record

Following almost seven hours of testimony on Thursday, the members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee went on record with their votes to move the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption bill to the full chamber.  As in the Senate committee, the vote was along party lines, with some Democrats expressing reservations but ultimately voting for equality while other Democrats were solidly in favor.

The two Republicans on the committee had interesting views and their remarks are worth listening to. It still surprises me how a libertarian like Michael Patrick Carroll can be for discrimination and government intervention in a civil rights issue. His argument comes right out of the Santorum playbook – since there is no societal benefit to equal rights, it’s fine to vote against them.

Freshman GOP Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi appeared torn and indecisive. Her rambling remarks argued both sides of the issue but she ultimately voted for discrimination. I don’t know if she can be flipped, but it would certainly be worthwhile if she could hear from pro-equality constituents. In the arc of the history of the New Jersey Assembly, she’ll go down as having cast her first vote in favor of discrimination. I wonder if she wants this to be the legacy of her political career.

The video is 29 minutes long. If you want to jump ahead, here are the starting times for each speaker:

Gordon Johnson (D) 00:00

Reed Gusciora (D) 02:03

Ralph Caputo (D) 05:58

Annette Quijano (D) 07:40

Holly Schepisi (R) 13:20

Michael Patrick Carroll (R) 21:35

Peter Barnes (D) 22:33

Voting 28:01

Assembly Judiciary Committee Marriage Equality – Post-Hearing Comments

Only Blue Jersey has gavel-to-gavel video coverage of yesterday’s marriage equality hearings at the Assembly Judiciary Committee. I’ll be editing and uploading the more relevant material over the next few days. Some will be frontpaged, some will appear on the sidebar, so be sure to check there, too.

I felt like a witness to history, and someday I’ll be able to tell my grandson that Grampa was there when New Jersey worked to end yet another chapter in institutional discrimination.

Below are post-hearing comments from Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, and Garden State Equality’s Steven Goldstein.

Gusciora is a gentleman. His comments about freshman Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi are generous and conciliatory. I would have been less kind. Schepisi’s first vote in her political career was one to perpetuate discrimination. I’ll post Schepisi’s remarks later, but suffice it to say that although she appeared torn in her decision, she based it partly on the fact that the e-mails she received were 50-3 in favor of marriage discrimination. She touted the all-to-familiar themes of “separate but equal” arrangements for marriage and the old “some of my best friends are gay” line.

Weinberg and Goldstein were in maximum kvell mode after the vote – deservedly so. Unlike the recent Senate hearings, at yesterday’s session everyone who desired to testify was given that opportunity.

Videos are below the fold.

Technical note: One legislator I spoke with had trouble viewing prior videos on his iPad, probably because iPads do not support Flash. I’ve uploaded these videos in QuickTime format. The files are larger and take more time to upload. If anyone has problems with videos, please send direct email to deciminyan@gmail.com