It’s been a long-standing tradition for the past 3 hours to announce the Deciminyan Awards (“Decis”) to the year’s most deserving New Jersey elected officials and political activists in several categories. So here they are: The Energizer Bunny Hardest Worker… Read more
Among the judicial appointees who were confirmed in the State Senate today was my friend Aimee Belgard. From an experience point of view, Governor Christie could not have made a better choice. Aimee has the legal background, many years of… Read more
At the end of her testimony on a bill she is sponsoring, Senator Diane Allen noted that neither side on this contentious issue likes the bill, so it must be a good one.
Senator Allen, one of a rare breed of sensible Republicans, introduced a bill, S2534, that would set standards for the levels of toxins allowed in dumped wastewater from hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
In his quest for the GOP (Gruesome Oil Panderer) presidential nomination, Governor Christie twice vetoed bills that would have completely banned toxic fracking waste in New Jersey.
Senator Allen, along with environmentalists, and fracking lobbyists, discussed her bill at a meeting of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee today. The chairman, Senator Bob Smith, announced that no vote would be taken today, as there’s still much work to do in crafting the language of the bill.
Naturally, this bill is opposed by environmentalists – and with good reason. Since Governor Christie has eviscerated the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), even if this bill were to be enacted, what kind of weak regulations would the DEP consider or enforce?
The bill is also opposed by the dirty fuel industry. Their lobbyists testified that current regulations are generally sufficient to ensure safety to the state’s drinking water supply.
I spoke with Jim Walsh of Food and Water Watch before the hearing.
As Amy Hansen of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation put it, natural gas extracted from the fracking process is a “fuel of procrastination.” I agree. There’s no reason not to devote the bulk of our resources to renewable energy now, as the costs are dropping and the technology for these safe, non-polluting fuels is maturing.
If you believe the poll numbers, Chris Christie’s chances to win the Republican presidential nomination are small. Whichever poll you read, he’s rarely in the upper tier of GOP wannabes.
But what the voters think doesn’t matter much. Candidates who show the ability to raise more money than their opponents have a leg up on their rivals. Here at home, an unknown outsider, Tom MacArthur, received the GOP nomination in the Third Congressional District simply because he had the means to fund his own campaign. There were several local Republicans like Joe Donnelly, Randy Brown, and Diane Allen whose popularity in the district could have propelled them to the congressional ballot. But to the party mafia, money trumps popularity.
Christie has shown the same penchant for fundraising.
On the surface, last night’s debate among the candidates in the 7th Legislative District looked like an exercise in kumbaya. Each of the six candidates stressed their bipartisanship, their desire to control taxes, and their support for marriage equality. The Republicans noted areas where they differ from the Governor while the Democrats stressed areas where they have cooperated with him.
While registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in the District, party affiliation is not an overriding factor among those voters. Incumbents Senator Diane Allen (Republican) and Assemblyman Herb Conaway (Democrat) are both very popular among voters of both parties. The other incumbent, first term Assemblyman Troy Singleton, is not as well known but is no stranger to the machinations of State House politics, having been Chief of Staff to former Speaker Joe Roberts. Singleton has worked hard during his term to gain the name recognition that Allen and Conaway have garnered over the years.
The challengers in the debate were all well prepared. Democrat Gary Catrambone, a small businessman is facing an uphill battle to unseat Allen, a former television reporter. The Republican Assembly challengers are Anthony Ogazalek, a lawyer, and Jeff Banasz, an Iraq combat veteran who now is an insurance broker.
Conaway and Singleton leveraged their Trenton experience by answering questions with specific initiatives in which they were involved. While Conaway’s tenure offered him a longer history of accomplishments (including chairmanship of the Health Committee), Singleton’s one term (actually a bit longer, as he was appointed to complete the last few months of Jack Conners’ term when Conners resigned from the Assembly) reflects his rapid rise in the Democratic hierarchy. The freshman assemblyman leveraged his membership on the powerful Budget Committee, and advanced dozens of bills, several of which have been signed by the Governor.
Post Labor Day, election efforts now pick up for our State legislators: All 120 seats will be on the ballot in November. It’s time to get involved in donating and helping our candidates. Incumbents (generally) rule, but some seats are more tenuous than others and call out for help.
Below is a list of incumbents in the primaries who received less votes than their challengers – preceded by their legislative district and an asterisk to denote the incumbent. The fact that an incumbent got less votes than a challenger is not an indication that the person will lose (primaries are peculiar animals), but it can raise a flag and suggests that the Democrats in the race merit more assistance. Likewise, the fact that Democratic Assembly challengers like Marie Corfield (16th) and Ed Zipprich (11th ) received less votes than the incumbents serves as an incentive for Democrats to provide additional help.
Senate: 1st, Jeff Van Drew* (D), Susan Schmidt (R); 2nd, Jim Whelan* (D), Frank Balles (R); 7th, Diane Allen* (R), Gary Catrambone (D); 27th, Richard Codey* (D), Lee Holtzman (R); 38th, Bob Gordon* (D), Fernando Alonzo (R). 8th, no incumbent: Peter Barnes (D), David Stahl (R). 14th very close race with incumbent ahead by 61 votes: Linda Greenstein* (D), Peter Inverso (R).
Assembly: 1st, Nelson Albano* (D) & Bob Andrzejczak* (D), Sam Fiocchi (R) & Kristine Gabor (R); 27th, John McKeon* (D) & Mila Jasey* (D), Angelo Tedesco (R) & Laura Ali (R); 38th, Timothy Eustace* (D) & Connie Wagner* (D) who dropped out from the race and was replaced by Joseph Lagana, Joan Fragala (R) & Joseph Scarpa (R). 14th, close race: Wayne DeAngelo* (D) & Daniel Benson* (D), Steve Cook (R) & Ronald Haas (R).
Senator Robert Menendez: 2:30pm, presides over the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Syria Hearing with testimony from Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey, Washington, D. C. Live webcast here or probably CSPAN.
Buono, Silva to Unveil Plan to Improve Higher Education in New Jersey: With thousands of students opting to leave the Garden State every year, the Buono/Silva campaign today presents a plan to lower tuition costs at public colleges and universities, reinvest in county colleges and improve vocational skills. (See Public Schedule below.)
Public Schedules (your opportunity to cheer or jeer):
Buono/Silva Campaign: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono and Lt. gubernatorial candidate Milly Silva: 11:30am, Higher Education Press Conference, Rutgers University, Brower Commons, New Brunswick; Barbara Buono: 6:00pm, Hawthorne Democrats Cocktail Party, Brownstone House, 351 W. Broadway, Paterson.
Governor and gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie: 11:00am, makes an announcement about New Jersey Institute of Technolog, Summit St., outside NJIT’s Central King Building, Newark; 2:00pm, Gotham Burger Co., 1383 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck.
Email items for this column the evening before to BillOrr563@gmail.com.
Barbara Buono is not the only candidate who is facing an uphill battle against a popular GOP opponent this November. In the Seventh Legislative District (which covers the western part of Burlington County), Republican Senator Diane Allen has been a fixture in local politics. The former television broadcaster has been in the State Senate since 1998 and is one of the very few Republicans who can be categorized as “moderate” in a day when most of her colleagues span the range between “extreme” and “crazy.”
Allen has voted in favor of marriage equality and has been a leader in anti-bullying efforts. But her moderate stands on social issues are offset by her penchant to toe the party line on fiscal issues. She voted to retain tax breaks for millionaires and supported the pollution lobby by voting against the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
This year, Allen faces a challenger who is well-known in his community, but a newcomer to state-wide politics, Gary Catrambone. He is a local elected official in Delran and a marketing executive.
While Allen is a decent Republican, it’s important to do what we can to elect Catrambone. Why? Because even if the two candidates are not that far apart on the issues, the race for control of the State Senate is second in importance only to the governor’s race. If Governor Christie is re-elected, a Senate President Kean would be a rubber stamp for Christie’s anti-middle class, anti-union agenda leading up to the 2016 presidential elections. And if Barbara Buono pulls off the upset we all hope she can, a Senate President Kean would make her challenges even more difficult given the shameful lack of support from many in her own party.
I spoke with Catrambone at his home in Delran last night. We talked about his background, why he is running for Senate, some of the hot issues in Trenton, and the most dangerous road in New Jersey.
Today, the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee heard three hours of testimony concerning a bill sponsored by Senators Lesniak, Sweeney, and Weinberg (and co-sponsored by Senator Buono) that would protect minors by prohibiting counseling attempts to change sexual orientation – so-called “gay conversion therapy.”
The panel heard compelling stories from gay individuals who have been traumatized as children when forced to undergo these conversion attempts. Some of these “therapy” sessions included electric shock therapy (with their parents’ permission!) and forced masturbation with images of women.
Of course, the opponents were there, too, claiming that this legislation is unconstitutional. But as was pointed out by one witness, this bill does not prohibit therapy, it just prohibits advocacy therapy.
In the end, the bill passed with the following senators voting yes: Rice, Whelan, Gordon, Buono, Vitale, and Madden – all Democrats; and a yes vote from Republican Senator Allen. Among the other Republicans, Senator Thompson voted no, and Senators Singer and Addiego abstained.
Before the hearings, I spoke with one of the sponsors, Senator Raymond Lesniak, and the Executive Director of Garden State Equality, Troy Stevenson.
Correction: The original version of this article stated that Rudolph underwent conversion therapy. He did not. I regret the error.
Today, the New Jersey Senate passed a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour and would include a cost of living adjustment. The bill, which has already passed in the General Assembly, goes back to the Assembly on Monday to match the language of the Senate bill. It will then go to Governor Christie’s desk for signature.
I have no doubt that the Governor will veto the bill – not necessarily because he doesn’t think New Jerseyans deserve a decent wage, but because he is loath to alienate his big business corporate contributors to his presidential campaign.
While there was two hours of repetitive debate on the bill, a companion resolution, to amend the state Constitution, was passed without debate. With an anticipated veto by the governor of the original bill, the amendment will require passage in two consecutive years, and would then be put on the ballot in the November 2013 election. So relief to people earning poverty-level wages would not come until early 2014.
During the debate on the original bill, the Democrats argued that given New Jersey’s high cost of living, keeping the minimum wage at its current level only sustains poverty. Without an automatic cost of living adjustment the extreme difficulty, a large number of our fellow citizens will continue to struggle. The incremental dollars that go to minimum wage workers would be spent in New Jersey on essentials, and would stimulate small business.
The Republicans disingenuously harped on the impact of Hurricane Sandy. Rebuilding will require huge sums of money, and now is not the time to raise the minimum wage, they contend. Yet, Senator Paul Sarlo and others pointed out that the GOP would vote against a Cost of Living adjustment even if there had been no storm.
So who were the winners and losers in today’s debate?