Tag Archive: bob smith

There’s a New Sign in Trenton

No, despite the Governor’s assertion of bipartisanship, that’s not what the new sign is. Rather, it’s a billboard just outside of the Department of Environmental Protection featuring images of two of the state’s prominent environmental legislators, Senator Bob Smith and Assemblyman John F. McKeon. It’s sponsored by the New Jersey Highlands Coalition and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance through an organization SaveH2ONJ.org

While Governor Christie has kowtowed to his anti-environmental benefactors and the anti-science right wing of his party, legislators like Smith and McKeon have been undeterred and continue to work on bills to preserve our land, air, and water for the next generations.

I spoke with Smith and McKeon about the environment this afternoon as they unveiled the new billboard.

State Democratic Officials at Barbara Buono Campaign Kickoff

Before Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Barbara Buono spoke at yesterday’s rally in New Brunswick, several Democratic elected officials took to the microphone. Here are the highlights of the remarks by Senator Bob Smith, Congressman Frank Pallone, Assemblyman and State Democratic Chair John Wisniewski, Senate President Steve Sweeney, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.

Senator Bob Smith, Trenton’s Trigger-Happy Democrat

“Whenever the Democrats compromise, it seems to involve appeasing hunters, in this case at the expense of homeowners.”

-Sue Russell, Wildlife Policy Expert

The Animal Protection League is an organization dedicated to the well-being of companion animals, wildlife and farmed animals in New Jersey. We’re also committed to preserving New Jersey’s landscape to accommodate an abundance of species here in our state. Above all, we’re non-partisan and have a history of working with Democrats, Republicans and third party candidates. But you guys at BlueJersey are partisan and you do a great jobs keeping politicians on their toes, particularly when they wander off the ideological reservation and abandon party principle.


Democratic Senator Bob Smith (Middlesex Co.) has a voting record on issues such as gay rights and reproductive choice that largely squares with public opinion and his party’s platform. It seems to work for him and his district, where voters have returned him to Trenton by comfortable margins. A cursory glance at Smith’s voting record on environmental and wildlife management doesn’t suggest anything sinister. As per Sen. Smith’s Wikidepia Page:

“Smith sponsored and passed laws dealing with such critical matters as increasing penalties for violations of environmental laws, repairing outmoded combined sewer systems, and reforming the state’s oil spill prevention efforts. Senator Smith’s legislative accomplishments include authoring the Ocean Pollution Bounty Act, Sludge Management Act, Oil Spill Prevention Act, the Worker and Community Right to Know Act and the Clean Water Enforcement Act.”

Just the sort of thing you’d want to see the chairman of the NJ Senate Environmental Committee to boast about, right?

But a closer look at Senator Smith — particularly with regards to wildlife management — reveals a curious relationship with the Hunting and Gun Lobby as well as the recently infamous American Legislative Affairs Council (ALEC), a right-wing organization “composed of conservative legislators, businesses and foundations which produces model legislation for state legislatures and promotes free-market and conservative ideas.”

Let’s go beneath the fold for the gory details.

Who Gets the Gavel?

promoted by Rosi

The new Senate committee lineups are taking shape and I just got my hands on the list of committee chairmen/women. Some seem like a natural fit (Vitale, Scutari for ex.) while other appear wildly out of place given their backgrounds and leadership skills. But that’s just my take.

Anyway, follow me below the fold to learn who the Senate’s gavel-bearers will be for the next 2 years.

The Fork in the (Solar) Road

“When you come to a fork in the road….Take it.”

– Montclair NJ native Yogi Berra

“We are the victim of our own success.”

– New Jersey Senator Bob Smith (D-Piscataway) testifying today before the Assembly Telecom & Utilities Committee supporting legislation on solar power

“[Today’s proposed legislation] would have a devastating impact on the economy of the state.”

– Stephanie Brand – Director of the NJ Division of Rate Counsel

We have come to a fork in the road with regard to the deployment of solar energy in New Jersey. Today, Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-Somerset) and his Telecom & Utilities Committee took a big step in deciding which path to take.

More, including an interview with Assemblyman Chivukula, after the fold…

My Day in Trenton

I went to Trenton this morning to observe a couple of Senate committee hearings and to tweet what was going on. First was the Senate Education Committee which addressed a number of issues, none of which were the front-page items like tenure, vouchers, and charter schools. Senator Ruiz chaired the short meeting which addressed things like including cheerleaders in school injury safety programs, school disaster preparedness plans, and pension contributions for instructors in institutions of higher learning. All important, and there was not much contention in the meeting. The highlight was hearing the chants of the Catholic school students outside expressing their support for taxpayer-funded vouchers.

Lowering the Bar – Bad for New Jersey

In a densely populated state with few indigenous traditional sources of energy, the cost, safety, and reliability of New Jersey’s energy supply present significant challenges. Energy prices are rising, the capacity for energy distribution is becoming strained, and environmental impact is a major concern. Some of those challenges were addressed today at a joint Senate/Assembly hearing in Toms River co-chaired by Senator Bob Smith and Assemblyman John McKeon.

By law, the state must issue an Energy Master Plan (EMP) that documents the administration’s “strategic vision for the use, management, and development of energy in New Jersey over the next decade.” The plan must be revised every three years.

Governor Christie’s draft EMP was the topic of today’s hearings.  Prior to these discussions, hearings were conducted by the governor’s Board of Public Utilities (BPU). I did not attend those, but from the information I have, those hearings were biased toward the traditional electrical power generation and distribution industries. By contrast, today’s hearings gave environmentalists and activists an opportunity to be heard.

$600 million Open Space Ballot question

Senator Bob Smith yesterday amended previous legislation that would have put a ballot question to the voters in November to provide for $300 million in bonding. The amended bill will now total $600 million to be split over 3 years.  His Senate Environment committee took up the bill yesterday and passed it by a 4-1 vote:

“We’re broke. And you have a historic opportunity. Land prices in New Jersey are at historic lows,” Smith said. “Of course, at the same time you have an economic tsunami that is very difficult for our citizens in this state.”

Smith said the borrowing would permit the state to spend $200 million a year for three years buying open space and preserving farms and historic sites. There isn’t a dedicated stream of revenue identified to repay the bonds.

Governor Corzine has said there will be an open space ballot quesiton, but has not committed to a funding amount as of yet. The original version of the bill was bi-partisan with two members of each party sponsoring.  Senator Bateman tried to reduce the amount back to $300 million, but still supported the amended version.  Senator Phil Haines pulled his support:

Sen. Phil Haines, R-Burlington, withdrew as a prime sponsor of the bill, which he said ignores taxpayers’ unease and would be the second-largest borrowing plan ever put before New Jersey voters.

“A bond issuance of this size, in these perilous economic times, will almost certainly fail at the ballot box. Failure will cause irreparable harm to the cause of preserving open space and farmland,” Haines said.

And there were many others voicing concern and opposition as well:

That prospect of rejection in November was cited by the advocacy groups – Environment New Jersey, New Jersey Environmental Federation, New Jersey Environmental Lobby and the Sierra Club – now opposing the bill.

“Given the economic climate and state’s reckless borrow-and-spend history, we’re not confident a majority will support this question despite the popularity of open space, and a failed question would do more damage to the state’s open space program than no question,” said Mike Pisauro of the Environmental Lobby.

The last question on the ballot regarding open space funding passed in 2007, but by a smaller margin than past questions.  Some environmental supporters would prefer to see a dedicated revenue source rather than a ballot question because they worry the public won’t continue to the funding at necessary levels. This concern is enhanced when you look at our long term devt issues. But many of the programs with dedicated funding are now worried about facing the budget ax however. Assemblyman McKeon says the Assembly environmental committee will consider the legislation this monday. How would you prefer to see us fund Open Space and do you think the voters can stomach the $600 million number?

Op-Ed: Earth Day Offers Opportunity to Refocus Environmental Priorities

As we celebrate the 37th annual Earth Day this Sunday, April 22, we’re given a great opportunity to consider the state of the world’s environment, and what we can do to make a difference.

This year’s Earth Day celebration offers a unique chance to engage even more people in thinking green, as well as provide a rallying point for those environmentalists who’ve been at the front lines of every war on pollution since the holiday was instituted in 1970.

With Al Gore’s Oscar win for his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, to the Live Earth concerts scheduled for this summer to raise awareness on global warming, green has become the new black.  With the celebrity community providing vocal support for efforts to sustain our Earth for ourselves and future generations, environmental causes are benefiting from an unprecedented level of visibility.

As a long-time environmental advocate, I would hope that we can capitalize on that visibility to push for a green agenda, at least on the State level, to improve the immediate quality of life for all New Jerseyans and preserve the Earth for our children and grandchildren.

Serving as chair of the Senate Environment Committee, I know that some environmental battles are easier fought than others.  Sometimes, environmental conscience overcomes lobbying from groups who would prefer status-quo pollution standards and business-as-usual environmental regulations.  Often, when we have the support of the people, we can surmount even the greatest odds to promote a cleaner, greener Garden State.

Such was the case when New Jersey adopted the Garden State Preservation Trust in the 1990’s.  With voter approval, we were able to amend the State Constitution to provide dedicated funding for open space acquisition and preservation which was necessary to halt suburban sprawl and development build-out in New Jersey.

This year, we face a difficult challenge, as the Garden State Preservation Trust is drying up, and funds are not available to continue our efforts to conserve open space.  I have sponsored a bipartisan bill, along with Minority Leader, Senator Leonard Lance, to supplement the State’s open space funding through a $150 million annual dedication from the New Jersey’s sales tax.

Development pressure continues in New Jersey, affecting our drinking water supply, air quality and land quality.  Unless we take the steps to ensure a healthy open space funding mechanism, New Jersey will not have the resources to fight encroaching sprawl and provide parks and recreation areas for all of the State’s residents to enjoy.

Another major challenge facing the Committee this year is the impact of global warming.  According to some projections, global warming is the number one threat to the Earth’s ecosystem, and if trends continue, much of the Jersey Shore could be under water in the very near future.  Global warming also contributes to changes in weather patterns, with the possibility of storms on the horizon that would put Hurricane Katrina to shame, and would cause untold devastation around the world.  New Jersey has to take an aggressive tack to reducing emissions which contribute to global warming, and we need to convince our neighbors to act as good global citizens and follow suit.

In the New Jersey Senate, we’ve been pushing a number of legislative measures focused on alleviating global warming.  We’re providing State incentives and support for “green buildings,” which use clean forms of renewable energy, including solar and wind power, to offset the energy needs from polluting sources, such as coal-burning power plants.  We’re working to cap greenhouse gas emissions from power resources and manufacturing plants.  And we’re trying to cut emissions from automobiles, by promoting tax credits for cleaner cars, tax penalties for gas guzzlers and more car / van pooling.

These measures must be adopted sooner rather than later, to change the course of climate change in the world.  While the federal government drags its heels on meaningful environmental reform designed to halt the progress of global warming, States need to take a stand, and show that their citizens want real environmental protections, not lip service to polluters.

Earth Day gives us a chance to reassess our priorities and educate our friends and family about the importance of good environmental choices.  Ultimately, State or federal environmental regulations will not make a difference without the support of everyday citizens, pitching in to promote a greener tomorrow.

So how will you spend your Earth Day?  Will you allow the day to slip by without taking time to consider your personal impact on the environment?  Or will you devote yourself to working towards a better future for yourself and your family?  Your decision could have lasting ramifications for the fate of the Earth and humanity in the years to come.

Senator Bob Smith represents the 17th Legislative District in the State Senate, which includes parts of Middlesex and Somerset Counties.  He serves as Chair of the Senate Environment Committee.

Keeping the ‘garden’ in Garden State

There are few things I am more manic about than recycling.  In fact, I have been known to go through my friends’ broom closets and sort their trash into managable, recyclable bits.  That’s why I am thrilled to hear that state legislators like Reed Gusciora are attempting to enhance the states preexisting programs to recycle a wider range of stuff. 

  The crux of the plan is to include household appliances into the mix of recyclables along with the usual stuff like cans, bottles, cardboard and mulchable kitchen scraps.

Said Assemblyman Gusciora (D-Mercer), “Many people don’t realize their televisions, computers and even their cell phones are veritable compendiums of the periodic table.”

Philadelpha Inquirer:

The EPA considers electronic waste the fastest-growing piece of the nation’s trash stream. Specifically, it defines electronic waste as televisions and computer monitors, computers, audio equipment, VCRs and DVD players, video cameras, telephones, cellular phones, fax and copy machines, and video-game consoles.

Naturally the electronics industry is crying foul claiming that taking initiative puts them at a “competitive disadvantage.”  Or so says David Thompson, Panasonic’s corporate environmental director.

(read about the recycling plans after the flip)