Tag Archive: Valerie Vainieri Huttle

NJ Gaming: Moving the dinosaurs up north

North Jersey gambling fever is growing with Bergen, Hudson and Essex Counties eager to get in the game. Both Gov. Christie and Senate President Sweeney are now open to supporting a ballot issue in this year’s or next year’s general election. But does it make sense?

Promises…promises. Feverish adherents are coyly suggesting that it would bring many new jobs, lots of tax revenue, allocate plenty of financial support to Atlantic City, and draw players from across the Hudson. Maybe, but these are just aspirational goals that might never materialize. Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson), are proposing resolution ACR300 that would allow a constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to add up to three casinos in the north. It is not yet available for reading and may not mention the “devil in the details.”

What we do know is that the gaming market in our area is already saturated and declining. In this zero sum game a huge loser would be the already struggling Atlantic City which depends on northern and central Jersey for clients.

Ton-loads of money would be spent on promoting/lobbying gambling in the north, particularly by wealthy would-be owners of such properties, but there would be much less money to spend to oppose the measure. You might think that AC casinos would fight back, but most are owned by much larger conglomerates that might want a piece of the action up north. Certainly the city of AC has no money to oppose it.

One can hardly wait until developers demand grants, loans, tax incentives, etc. Why should our government invest in this game when tax revenues for casinos, internet gambling and the lottery are so disappointing? How about more worthwhile investments in our roads, environment and education?

Assemblyman Caputo said, “If you don’t adapt, you become extinct and you become a dinosaur.” Of course, with casinos already becoming dinosaurs, moving them up north is no solution.  

Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Yesterday was Human Trafficking Awareness Day across the country. In Trenton, a rally was held on the State House steps and was followed by presentations by the Attorney General and others working to combat this crime.

Below, are links to the remarks by the speakers at the rally – lawmakers from across the political spectrum as well as representatives from the Polaris Project, an international NGO devoted to combat human trafficking.

Patricia Devine Harms – Junior Leagues

Congressman Chris Smith

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle

Senator Nellie Pou

Senator Tom Kean Jr

Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose

Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter

Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula

Justin Zimmerman for Senator Nia Gill

Kate Keisel and Ingrid Johnson of The Polaris Project

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Trenton

It’s probably not on your calendar, but today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. In Trenton, the day was observed with a rally in front of the State House, and a program which featured officials from several different agencies working to combat this scourge.

Crime is not a partisan event, and supporters of stronger measures come from all sides of the political spectrum. At the rally speakers ranged from Progressives like Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle to Tea Party sympathizers like Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose. Congressman Chris Smith’s appearance reminded us that it’s not just a state, but a federal issue. And big events like the 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey tend to attract the perpetrators of these crimes.

Human trafficking, while it has a negative connotation, does not adequately describe the problem. In reality, it’s slavery. Slavery that is just as disgusting as the slavery that was supposed to have ended 150 years ago with the Emancipation Proclamation. There are estimates that over 10,000 boys and girls in New Jersey are trapped in this horrendous activity.

After the rally, I spoke with two sponsors of legislation to help address the problem – Senator Nellie Pou and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (below). Below the fold are comments from Attorney General Jeff Chiesa. Some additional video from the rally will be posted on the sidebar over the weekend.

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.

Our 2014 Super Bowl Highlights an Important Civil Rights Issue

According to its web site, the 2014 NFL Super Bowl, to be played in New Jersey, will bring the region’s tourism industry over a half billion dollars. There will be parties; restaurants and bars will be packed, and the state’s economy will receive a much-needed shot in the arm.

But the festivities bring a down side, also. Under the radar of all the game hoopla and news stories about the community festivities, past Super Bowls have seen an increase in human trafficking in the host cities.

According to Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle,

Slavery still exists in the United States. Until recently, human trafficking has remained in the shadows of society. Victims, often children and vulnerable women, are too afraid and dependent on traffickers to break their silence and seek help. Exploited for years, they are coerced into prostitution, labor, and drug activity. When they finally have a chance to regain their freedom, they are prosecuted for the crimes they were forced to commit while enslaved, while the real perpetrators remain untouched by the law

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri HuttleTo help combat this scourge, Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle has introduced a bill, the Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection, and Treatment Act (A3352) which promotes awareness, provides training to law enforcement, and will focus not only on prosecution, but help for survivors of these crimes.

Last month, President Obama proclaimed that fighting human trafficking is one of the great civil rights battles of the 21st Century. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center handled almost 20,000 calls for assistance, but clearly this is the tip of the iceberg. Initiatives like those of the President and of Assemblywoman Vainieri-Huttle will encourage more victims to self-identify and help eradicate this plague. And lest you think this is a problem that is exclusive to the economically distressed areas of the state, according to the Polaris Project, human trafficking calls were originated in places like Voorhees and Cherry Hill, as well as other locales around the state.

So as you’re watching football this fall, whether you’re thinking about this year’s Super Bowl in New Orleans, or next year’s in New Jersey, write to your federal and state legislators to support the fight against human trafficking. Not just on Super Bowl Sunday, but year round.

Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-3737-888

The Anti-Bully

Governor Chris Christie’s claim to fame is not his radical right-wing agenda but rather his reputation as a bully. And while Christie’s name calling, whining, and using taxpayer funds to advance his political agenda are not as egregious as Mitt Romney’s collegiate physical bullying, Christie’s actions nevertheless set a poor example for the children and adults of New Jersey.

Fortunately, within the New Jersey political sphere there’s a counterpoint to Christie’s false bravado – someone who has worked tirelessly to address the real problem of bullying in our schools and society.

NJ Political Leaders Call for Suspension of Planned NY/NJ PA Toll Hikes

At a press conference this morning in Fort Lee Historic Park, overlooking the George Washington Bridge, five key Democratic leaders joined Senator Lautenberg, who said, “We stand here today with a simple message for Governor Christie and the Port Authority: suspend the next round of toll hikes, and stop punishing NJ commuters. They shouldn’t continue to pay the price for PA’s dysfunction. Local commuters can’t afford to be footing the bill for years of mismanagement and cost overruns by the Port Authority.” Representative Steve Rothman said, “The PA is challenged and dysfuntional and should get its own house in order before increasing tolls further.”

Before the press conference got underway there was an opportunity for me to ask for comments from attendees on various matters:

  • U. S. Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ)) – After thanking him for going after the “powers that be,” he said, “Maybe they are the powers that were.”

  • U. S. Representative Steve Rothman(D 9th) – Said he knew of no public poll coming out on the CD 9 primary race between him and Representative Bill Pascrell.  He went on to add, “I imagine we are ahead, but I’m taking nothing for granted and am working seven days week. Bill (Pascrell) also has a strong work ethic.”

  • State Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) – On today’s news that she has had her name on top of more bills signed into law than any other lawmaker since Christie took office, said, “It’s not how many you introduce, but how many get signed.” She was pleased with developments regarding her anti-bullying law which now has a fund of $1 million just for this year’s implementation. More important she thought was the new task force which was set up to to provide further clarity and help guide schools through the process.

  • State Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-38) – When asked if she has endorsed a candidate for CD 5, she said she had not. She added, “My gut reaction would be to support Teaneck Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen because of his local political experience.” As a side note, her colleague, also in attendance, State Senator Robert Gordon (D-38) has endorsed Marine veteran Jason Castle. (It was State Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-37) who has endorsed Jason Castle.)

    During the speeches Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37), feisty as ever, quoted an on-line toll group which referred to the PA as “A huge conglomerate, and you never know where the money is going.” During the Q&A period Senator Lautenberg charged, “Governor Christie receives the PA minutes and knew what was going on, but he conspired with the PA to put the toll increases into place so he could receive more PA money for his transportation projects.” When asked about Governor Christie saying that Lautenberg was an “embarrassment,” Lautenberg responded, “The Governor should look in the mirror.”  

  • Anti-Bullying Funding Passes Assembly Appropriations Committee

    It was surreal last week, seeing Governor Christie on the podium surrounded by moderate Republican Diane Allen, Democratic Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Garden State Equality’s Steven Goldstein. Not exactly a group one would envision in being in agreement on an issue, but they were.

    They were there to announce an allocation of $1 million to support anti-bullying legislation.

    After a complaint from a small school district, the original law was found by the little-known Council on Mandates to be an unfunded mandate. That finding gave the legislature 60 days to provide the funds or else the law would be nullified.

    Today, the Assembly Appropriations Committee released a bill allocating the funds provided that all other sources of funding were exhausted.

    After she testified about the bill to the committee, I asked the sponsor, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle if the one million dollars was enough to cover the state’s 600+ school districts:

    Governor Christie: No Compassion For Kids After 3

             “Life begins after school

that’s when bend all the rules”

                                               – 6 Teen Theme Song

    According to statistics from the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the peak time when juvenile violent crime happens on weekdays is 3 p.m., when kids are being let out of school.

    The non-profit agency known as After 3, which at one time kept as many as 15,000 mostly low-income children busy after school, announced it will close tomorrow. Governor Christie eliminated funding for the program in his budget effective July 1. The legislature in its revised budget added back the funding but Christie used his line item veto to totally defund the group.

    Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) in a press release has pointed to “the demonstrated success of the program in boosting student achievement levels and using state funds to leverage private dollars.” With zero State funding, After 3 has been unable raise private funds.

    District 37 Democrats Campaign Kickoff

    Senator Loretta Weinberg, Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle invite Blue Jersey bloggers and readers to their Campaign Kickoff on Wednesday, September 14th in Teaneck!

    Attending is a great way to hear what Loretta, Gordon, and Valerie are up to in the Legislature, but also to get involved in their re-election efforts before November. Their race is far from the most competitive in the state, but there is still work to be done, and there are always more voters to speak to.

    Information about the Kickoff is available on the Facebook event page. It will be on Wednesday, September 14th from 7 PM to 9 PM at 549 Cedar Lane, Teaneck, NJ 07666. Please RSVP on the event page if possible.

    Besides coming to the event you can always “Like” our Facebook page.

    Hope to see you there!