Tag Archive: Reed Gusciora

Trenton School Board Sues the State!

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As my colleague Sen. Shirley Turner told the Trentonian, the Trenton Board of Education will now be suing the State. They’re taking this step after almost a decade of community activists, parents, Trenton Central High School teachers and legislators trying to get the State funding to fix or to rebuild TCHS’s decaying structure.

This law suit is long overdue. Trenton has been on the waiting list for SDA (School Development Authority) funding for too long.  Sure, Trenton folks would like to pay for school construction projects on its own, but it gets little state funding now. Remember, suburban schools were offered 40% for their school construction costs while formerly-Abbott districts (30 urban schools) were promised 100%. Notwithstanding, if the State paid its fair share of property taxes on all its State buildings in the capital city it is estimated that it would be $40 million.  It used to do so in the form of PILOT (Payments-In-Lieu-Of-Property-Taxes), but it has eroded over time and under the current Administration there is no PILOT.  

Health Care Professionals and Patients Call for Governor Christie to Obey the Law

The compassionate use of marijuana for palliative purposes was legalized in New Jersey even before Chris Christie occupied the State House. But as Governor, he does not have the power to choose which laws to obey – he is obligated to execute the laws that he agrees with and those with which he disagrees.

Today, the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey held a press conference urging the governor and lawmakers to carry out the law which the Governor has stonewalled ever since he took office. Every day that the Governor delays is another day of suffering and inconvenience for some very sick people.

The videos below are interviews and comments with Ken Wolski, Executive Director, and Jay Lassiter, Media Director of the Coalition. Also, below the fold, some brief comments from Democratic Assemblyman Reed Gusciora are presented.

Compassionate medication should not know political boundaries, and indeed, one of the proponents of the use of medical marijuana is Republican Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll. He was unable to attend today’s press conference, but he issued the following statement:

My philosophy on New Jersey’s medical marijuana law is that we should be empowering doctors to treat their patients as they see fit, and not have lawyers or bureaucrats standing in the way. That’s why I’m frustrated at the State’s implementation of this law, which smacks of big government overreach.

They give in a shadow afraid to be known

Who are these people and organizations? What are their names? How much do they contribute? Assembly Bill 3863 would require disclosure of contributions received and expenditures made by committees or organizations not affiliated or coordinated with any candidate.

The bill passed the Assembly State Government Committee with the three Democrats, Linda Stender, John McKeon, and Herb Conaway in support. The two Republicans, Donna Simon and Chris Brown, abstained and issued a Minority Report. It pays lip service to transparency but serves as a preamble for likely opposition from other Republicans and from the governor who expects significant contributions to go to “independent” groups which support him.

Following the Citizens United court ruling at least 27 states have strengthened their campaign finance laws. It is important that New Jersey do so as well. The Assembly and Senate Democrats should be willing to make some accommodations to avert a veto or gain enough Republican support to override a veto. We need more sunshine and less shadow.  

Ending Campaign Finance Secrecy: Our Last Best Chance During the Gubernatorial Campaign

Following Citizens United at least 27 states have made changes to their election laws regarding expenditures, disclosure or both. NJ has not. Do you remember Reform Jersey Now and the Committee for Our Children’s future which operated under a veil of secrecy to support Governor Christie? Because of Citizens United and the rise of super PACS we can not prevent the onslaught of big money into the gubernatorial campaign. We can, however, enforce more disclosure.

When a person at an event last month complained about campaign finance laws, Governor Christie responded, “It’s all permitted under the laws … If you don’t like it, then change the laws.”

That is exactly what Assemblyman Reed Gusciora is proposing. Tomorrow an Assembly Committee will take up his bill A3863. It requires disclosure of the contributions received and the expenditures made by committees or organizations that are not affiliated or coordinated with a candidate, the candidates committee or joint candidates committee. It also requires similar disclosure for a committee organized to support or oppose a public question.

This bill will poke a light into the dark caverns where individuals, corporations, and interest groups can pour in sums of money that they are not allowed to contribute directly to campaigns. And by all reports the caverns will be overflowing with funds.  

Cleaning Up From the Cleanup

“AshBritt [in Louisiana and Mississippi] had no-bid contracts. Here they have no-bid contracts. There, they moved debris piles around, here they move debris piles around. There they opened landfills that were closed, here landfills that were closed were opened. There, there was no governmental oversight or transparency in the process, here there’s been no governmental oversight or transparency.”

       – Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Director of the Sierra Club

Today, along with the Sierra Club, three members of the New Jersey General Assembly raised some serious questions about the selection and performance of the company that received a no-bid contract to remove debris from Hurricane Sandy.

Tomorrow, a joint Senate and Assembly committee will hear testimony about the Superstorm Sandy cleanup. Today’s press conference by the Sierra Club focused not on the dubious way that the contract was awarded, but rather on AshBritt’s dismal environmental performance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Sierra Club’s goal is to not leave New Jersey with a similar legacy of polluted sites. In fact, in New Orleans, the result of some of the “cleanup” was the creation of one, and possibly two, Superfund sites. The last thing we need in New Jersey is for AshBritt to give us more Superfund sites.

In addition to Tittel, Assemblymen Peter Barnes, Ruben Ramos, and Reed Gusciora each talked about the challenges of a robust and cost-effective Sandy cleanup. Barnes also announced the creation of a Coastal Commission Regional Planning Board to provide oversight on zoning, planning, and environmental protection.

The press conference is presented in its entirety, below. You can jump to Ruben Ramos at the 8:00 mark, Peter Barnes at 10:00, Reed Gusciora at 13:45, and the Q&A from the press at 17:37.

Making Marriage Equality a reality in NJ

It has been one year since Governor Christie vetoed the marriage equality legislation.  Since then, we have watched as families in Maine, Maryland and Washington rightfully receive equality as New Jersey has continued to treat our families as second class citizens.  We have come a long way since the first attempt to pass marriage equality in 2010.  Our legislative leaders fought for and delivered an affirmative vote for marriage equality in both houses of the legislature.  These leaders include Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Majority Leaders Loretta Weinberg and Lou Greenwald, four people to whom we are grateful to for fighting for LGBT families across our state.  There are many others for our cause: Democratic prime sponsors Senator Ray Lesniak and Assemblymembers Connie Wagner, John McKeon, and Ruben Ramos; Republican co-sponsor Senator Jennifer Beck and Republican “yes” vote Senator Diane Allen; and the many legislators who balanced religious concerns with ensuring equal protection for the LGBT community.  Also, former Senate President Dick Codey and Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts deserve special recognition for their determination and leadership to get us to this point.  

Reed Gusciora on Marriage Equality

Back in 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution affords equal protection to same-sex couples. As a result, the state legislature created civil unions, but was not willing to pass same-sex marriage. This “separate but equal” arrangement was tried, but was rife with unequal treatment, even though the law put civil unions and opposite-sex marriage on the same plane. (See the testimony at this site by scrolling to “Testimony from Citizens” for some compelling and poignant stories of why civil unions don’t work.)

As a result, in February of this year, both houses of the New Jersey legislature passed a historic bill that would end marriage discrimination in the state and allow same-sex marriage. Governor Christie, never one to pass up an opportunity to please his right-wing base, vetoed the bill within 24 hours of its appearing on his desk. He politicized the issue, calling for a referendum on this fundamental civil rights issue.

At the time of the veto, the legislature did not have enough votes to override, but one thing it did have is time. It has until the end of the current legislative session in January, 2014 to get 12 assemblypersons and 3 senators to switch and vote to override.

The other thing the legislature had is momentum. Attitudes toward marriage equality are changing for the better, and are changing quickly. The prime sponsors of the bill – S1 and A1 – continue to work behind the scenes to convince those who voted against equality (mostly Republicans) to vote their conscience instead of going lock step with the governor.

But now things have changed.

More – including the complete interview with Assemblyman Gusciora and Garden State Equality’s Steven Goldstein’s reaction – below the fold.

Still a Big NO on Marriage Referendum

In February of this year, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora testified in support of New Jersey’s marriage equality bill, and passionately against the idea of conducting a referendum instead. He noted our nation’s proud history of “safeguarding against popular will over the rights of minorities,” and pointing to the acrimony, name-calling and divisive tone that permeated Trenton that week in the debate over the issue, Gusciora put it to his colleagues this way:

“imagine what will happen during a ballot question of this type. There will be more divisiveness in this state, more acrimony, and it will be a race to see who could shout the loudest.”

This month, Gusciora switched gears, and is now championing Gov. Christie’s marriage referendum proposal. Others have joined him. The sole reason anyone seems to be able to point to for reconsidering is the outcomes on ballot questions around the country in November. But, those outcomes are neither instructive nor predictive of what would happen in NJ in 2013. More importantly, unless the opposition to a referendum back in February was nothing more than a bunch of excuses for fear of losing, none of the real reasons for opposing a referendum in NJ has actually changed.

For me (and thankfully, for the Democratic leadership in the Senate and Assembly), it’s still a non-starter.