Tag Archive: Peter Barnes

Our Ethics Eschewing Governor

Yesterday, I wrote about the misuse of state resources by the Christie for President campaign when it contracted to use the gymnasium at a public high school for the governor’s formal presidential declaration announcement. From the documents supplied by the school, it appears that taxpayers footed the bill for the rental and that state employees were involved in executing the contract.

As the expression goes, “timing is everything”, and today, the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee held a hearing on S-2949, a bill sponsored by Senator Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg that would require “expenses incurred by Governor during out-of-state travel for political activities not be paid with or out of state funds.”

Because my post was also related to misuse of state funds, after reading it Senator Weinberg asked me to come to Trenton to testify in support of S-2949, which I was glad to do.

Koch Conspirators

There’s an old Middle Eastern saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” I don’t buy into this philosophy, but it does provide a starting point for evaluating that enemy of my enemy.

Today, the Koch Brothers’ organization, Americans for Prosperity, released a 2014 scorecard of New Jersey legislators. AFP has a simplistic philosophy – government and taxes are bad. However, the real world is more nuanced than that, but it’s interesting to see how AFP rated some of our New Jersey legislators.

What’s Happening Today Wed. 10/30/2013

Our over-achiever governor: Dedicated to obtaining a record-breaking win in Tuesday’s election, Gov. Christie has embarked on a week-long bus tour of retail politics throughout New Jersey. LG Kim Guadagno has her own bus. Christie is not expected to provide much coattails assistance to legislators, but he has begun investing time and money to support Republican legislative candidates in LD 38 (against Sen. Bob Gordon), 18 (against Assemblyman Peter Barnes who is running for Sen. Buono’s seat), and 14 (against Sen. Linda Greenstein.) His tour includes stops in these districts. Christie’s main effort has been to help himself.

Did Sen. Buono miss an opportunity? Gov. Christie yesterday gobbled up all the news attention with his multiple Sandy-related visits throughout the State while Sen. Buono was silent on the topic. Perhaps, she thought any comments she made would be viewed as sour grapes against a governor who claims Sandy super-achievements. Nonetheless, there are plenty of New Jerseyans who are frustrated over Sandy and would have welcomed constructive comments from her.

Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund: with Mary Pat Christie as Board Chair, HSNJRF announced it awarded yesterday another $3.1 million in grants for a total of $19.3 million. It is believed to have raised $38 million in donations, so after a year it has awarded only 50% of its monies. Such is a small per cent for a non-profit which bills itself as a “relief fund.” The most recent award and HSNJRF’s stated plan to issue further grants on October 31 are both taking place conveniently just before Governor Christie’s election.

In both July and October Mrs. Christie said the agency had raised $38 million. It seems odd that this amount did not change at all between July and October. (Possibly some past commitments are delinquent reducing their take while new commitments have been made, but none of this explained.) Neither on its website nor in filings with the IRS nor NJ Charitable Division has HSNJRF indicated how much it has raised, disbursed in grants, or paid out in operating expenses. The lack of transparency and slowness in awarding grants can not be what individual donors expected. It was slow in hiring staff and replete with politically-connected board members and contributors. It has been a disappointment.

PUBLIC SCHEDULES

Buono/Silva gubernatorial campaign: Barbara Buono: 7:05am, The Mark Riley Show, WWRL 1600AM;  Barbara Buono: 8:10am, WNYW Fox 5;  Milly Silva: 6:30pm, 34th Annual Installation & Swearing-In Ceremony of the HBA-NJ Incoming President Anna Maria Tejada, Westmount Country Club, 728 Rifle Camp Rd., Woodland Park;  Barbara Buono: 7:00pm, Reception Honoring Newark Councilwoman Mildred Crump, The Newark Club, 1085 Raymond Blvd., Newark.

Christie/Guadagno gubernatorial campaign: Chris Christie: 10:00am, Ritz Diner, Livingston; 11:10am, Beyond the C Restaurant, Linden;  12:30pm,   Fair Lawn Senior Center, Fair Lawn;  1:30pm, Nevada Diner, Bloomfield;  2:45pm, Chowpatty Restaurant, Iselin; 4:00pm, Hunterdon County Republican headquarters, Flemington;  8:00pm, JoJo’s Tavern and Restaurant, Hamilton.

The Working Families United for New Jersey, Inc.: 11:30am will urge NJ voters not to be “tricked” by opposition deception and to vote “Yes” on Ballot Question #2 to raise NJ’s minimum wage, Liberty Bell City Hall, Circle
260 High Street,
Perth Amboy.

The White House usher and head groundskeeper: 9:00am, visit Wyckoff’s Christmas Tree Farm to select the White House Christmas tree for this season.  

What’s Happening Today Tue. 09/03/2013

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.

  • Keeping the Best of the Best on the Judiciary

    Whether we like it or not, a fact of life is that the best lawyers are very well paid. Certainly, we would like our state justices to be among the best lawyers in the state. But today’s near-unanimous decision to amend the constitution to reverse a Supreme Court decision regarding judges benefits flies in the face of attracting the best of the best.

    Another fact of life is that judges’ salaries are limited by law. The best lawyers on the state’s courts could all do better financially at a private firm or as lobbyists. Moreover, judges are also restricted from engaging in supplemental employment.

    Now, Assembly members John McKeon, Peter Barnes, and Grace Spencer are working to rectify this situation. They have introduced a proposed constitutional amendment, modeled after the Federal court system, which will allow judges to receive additional income up to 15% of their salaries through outside ventures. These ventures must not pose a conflict or be directly related to their judicial duties. Teaching is one such example.

    As with the Federal system, rules would be established which would ensure that this supplemental employment be unrelated to their judicial duties, and honoraria would not be permitted.

    The compensation received by the State University’s football coach is competitive with that of his peers. By law, we can’t make judges’ salaries competitive with those of other top lawyers. But this proposal helps close that gap and should be given positive consideration.


    Salaries:

    Governor Chris Christie: $175,000

    Chief Justice Stuart Rabner: $192,795

    Rutgers Head Football Coach Kyle Flood: $750,000

    County Assignment Judge (typical): $171,000

    Rejected Supreme Court Nominee Phillip Kwon at Port Authority: $216,000

    Sources: APP.com Data Universe, NJ.com


    Correction (10:03 PM). The original article’s third paragraph implied that the bill had not yet been introduced. It was introduced in January and has been referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee

    Democratic Assembly Members Urge Christie to Open His Mouth

    No, that’s not a typo in the headline. Today, Assembly members L. Grace Spencer and Peter Barnes III urged Governor Christie to speak out against offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.

    Along with Jeff Tittel, the Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, Spencer and Barnes urged Governor Christie to fulfill the promises he made during his election campaign and protect New Jersey’s multi-billion dollar tourist industry from an Exxon-Valdez disaster.

    Republicans such as Congressman Jon Runyan are trying to placate their constituents by opposing drilling off the Jersey Shore while at the same time kowtowing to their Koch Brothers sponsors by promoting drilling off of other states. Christie’s current position is similar. Of course, this position is untenable because an oil spill off of Virginia would have a devastating impact on our shores and on our tourist industry. Tillel contends that it would take true leadership from Governor Christie to urge his fellow Republicans to support a complete ban on offshore exploitation.

    Barnes and Spencer joined Tittel at a press conference on this topic today, and Tittel unveiled a new radio advertisement from the Sierra Club that urges the Governor to speak out.





    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.”

    Legislation advances to fund Legal Services, modernize courts

    Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Peter Barnes that would provide a new sources of funding for Legal Services throughout New Jersey and help modernize our antiquated courts has passed two Assembly committees with bipartisan support in the last week.

    The bill increases user fees in the court system for three main objectives: providing funding to set up an electronic filing system in the New Jersey courts (for which New Jersey is only 15 years behind the federal courts, which started implementing e-filing back in 1996); providing funding for court-related services such as the Victims of Crime Compensation Office; and most importantly, funding Legal Services throughout the state, which has taken a huge funding cut in Gov. Christie’s budgets, through line item veto of significantly greater appropriations by the Legislature.

    Indeed, Legal Services of New Jersey head Melville D. “De” Miller, Jr., testified on Monday before the Assembly Appropriations Committee alongside former Chief Justice Deborah Poritz (in a rare appearance of a former Supreme Court justice before the Legislature, remarked upon by committee chair John Burzichelli) about the impact of Christie’s budget cuts as you can watch below (thanks to deciminyan’s unparalleled State House coverage):

    Miller’s testimony was striking: they’ve had to lay off nearly half of their staff, and only 1 in 6 lower income New Jerseyans who would qualify for legal representation actually can get it through Legal Services. It’s scary to think, in tough economic times, of how many people risk losing their homes or going through other important legal proceedings without any legal help because of these cuts. Lots more on that subject here.

    More after the jump.

    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