Tag Archive: Jay Webber

Labor Day – It’s All About Me

Assemblyman Jay Webber just doesn’t understand (or doesn’t acknowledge) the true meaning of Labor Day. In his Facebook message, he acknowledges his staff, forgetting the fact that organized labor is the honoree of the day. His vaunted staff gets weekends off because of organized labor. They probably get sick pay – because of organized labor. It’s odd that an elected official from a party that constantly harps about government is praising those aides whose salaries come from taxpayers. I don’t know Tom and Sue, but I’ll bet they are hard workers. Working for the public is a thankless task. But today’s the day to thank organized labor.

The Budget Ritual

As part of the annual state budget ritual, the Assembly Budget Committee takes testimony from the public (i.e. lobbyists and other special interests). They hold three sessions – one each in North, Central, and South Jersey.

Today’s session in Trenton was the first of the three. Groups scheduled to testify represented interests as varied as mental health, families, the environment, and the OU. Everyone realizes the strain on the budgets, and most groups lobby for token increases in state aid.

Among those testifying was Janice Mironov. She’s the mayor of East Windsor and President of the New Jersey League of Municipalities. Those municipalities are caught in the crosshairs of budget cuts. They are restricted in how much they may raise taxes by the 2% cap while at the same time being asked to assume the burden of services that are being cut back by the state. Property assessments have gone down due to the recession and many communities lost a significant portion of their ratables in Hurricane Sandy.

Part of the problem that these municipalities face is the fact that Governor Christie has taken funds earmarked for municipalities and used those funds to balance the state budget. One such fund is the Energy Tax Credit. This is money paid by the utility companies for property they occupy within towns (such as substations). The state collects this money and is supposed to pass it through to the municipalities – but doesn’t. Last year, Governor Christie vetoed a bill that would require the money to go directly to the municipalities. In response, a revised bill (A3571), co-sponsored by an unlikely bipartisan alliance between Assemblymen Troy Singleton and Jay Webber has been introduced that addresses the governor’s concerns and if passed and signed, will provide local governments with those funds.

I spoke with Mayor Mironov about this and other topics after she testified to the Committee:

The remaining two Assembly Budget Committee public hearings will be on March 19 in Camden and on April 9 in Newark.

Questions for the Acting Education Commissioner

Yesterday, I posted the opening remarks delivered by Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf at the Assembly Budget Committee.

Following his remarks, there were several hours of questions and answers. The videos posted here are in two parts – the morning session below, and the afternoon session below the fold.

I don’t expect anyone except the most fervent edunerds (thanks for the term, Rosi) to watch the whole thing, but below the fold is an index of the initial appearance of your favorite assemblycritters.

The discussion falls into three categories:

  • Political posturing

  • Kowtowing to special interests

  • Dealing with local constituent issues

There was no real discussion on the merits (or otherwise) of charter schools, funding religious schools, or the education-industrial complex. To be fair, this was a budget hearing, not a hearing of the Education Committee. But things like sending taxpayer dollars to unaccountable for-profit entities and religious institutions do have an impact on the budget, especially when the outcomes are so nebulous.

6 degrees of Christie ALEC Separation

promoted by Rosi

For someone who has never heard of an organization, Governor Christie sure has a lot of close friends that are connected to it. Lets recap the ties of Christie associates to ALEC, the right wing corporate funded legislation writing group out of Washington:

Click to Enlarge

Those are just the people we know of, but you have to wonder who else in the Administration knows of ALEC that has been pushing these bills to GOP legislators, as they themselves say is being done.

With all these connections being exposed in New Jersey, we aren’t the only state where there are issues with ALEC. In Wisconsin, an ethics complaint was filed against 43 Republican legislators alleging inappropriate gifts. Let’s not forget, reports say ALEC behind they were also behind the Stand Your Ground law that has made so much news recently in Florida. And on top of that, Coca-Cola pulled its support from ALEC over voter restriction efforts they have been pushing around the country.

Well when you look at that, if I were Christie I might try to get away with saying I don’t know who they are either. The question is, will the New Jersey media?

Christie’s shifting ALEC explanations

Examining the believability of Gov. Christie’s ALEC statement.  – promoted by Rosi

Chris Christie isn’t even in the country, yet his story about his knowledge (or lack there of as he’d have you believe) about ALEC, a conservative organization that writes legislation for Republicans continues to shift. First we got this response from his press secretary in the initial Sunday story:

“The governor said to me, ‘Who’s ALEC?’

Sure, I believe that and so did everyone else who was looking to buy bridges. But that story didn’t even last a day after reporters started questioning Christie’s stunning lack of knowledge of the group. In typical Christie style, the next day the Governor lashed out over the story calling it “completely ridiculous:”

“I don’t even know these people, and I’ve never had any interaction with them,”

Ok, so it’s not that he doesn’t know who the group is anymore, it’s just that he doesn’t know the people and hasn’t any interactions with them. Except for the fact that his former Chief of Staff Rich Bagger occasionally consulted for ALEC and was on their board, while Assemblyman (and former state GOP chair) Jay Webber and Senator Steve Oroho are their State Chairs.  Maybe the Governor never speaks to any of those people? But Christie also added a note which undermines his lack of knowledge of who they are:

He noted that he’s been invited to speak at the group’s conferences twice but has declined.

So he’s knows he’s been invited to a group twice that he doesn’t know exists or anyone with it?  And lets not forget this additional information thats some of Christie’s closest confidants helped with a Seminar just down the street from the State House only months ago:

E-mails and other records obtained by The Star-Ledger show that Christie’s then-chief of staff and former health commissioner were involved in an ALEC policy seminar in Trenton in December. Legislative liaisons inside the governor’s office have mined ALEC for advice on budgetary matters, Medicaid changes and privatizing government services, according to e-mail records, beginning in the earliest days of Christie’s governorship and as recently as December.

I wonder if that’s one of the invitiations he declined to the group he knows nothing of. Well which is it Governor? Do you not have a clue who they are, have never talked to any of their people or are some of your closets advisors consulting with and participating in activities for ALEC, while you’re turning down invitations yourself?

Once Again: Balancing the Budget on the Backs of the Poor

Once again, the less fortunate among us are being asked by the Christie administration to do more than their fair share in the governor’s “shared sacrifice” approach to the budget crisis. This time it is lower income Medicaid recipients who are the victims of Christie’s draconian axe.

On the day when the New Jersey Supreme Court rebuked Governor Christie’s refusal to carry out the legislature’s education mandates, the Assembly Budget Committee heard testimony from the governor’s health leadership team – Mary O’Dowd, Commissioner of Health, and Jennifer Velez, Commissioner of Human Services.

The primary purpose of the hearing, chaired by Assemblyman Louis Greenwald (D-Camden), was to discuss the administration’s proposal for a waiver to certain federal Medicaid requirements. The impetus for the waiver is a savings of $300 million.

Lawsuit would be a waste of money for NJ Republicans

Update: And just as I post this rumors of a lawsuit surface. But the purported plaintiffs here are not Republicans, and they’re not racing to the courthouse to file their complaint. Anyone who is interested in the redistricting process and minority participation in politics should read the minority coalition’s letter to the state party chairmen, and not just the headline and three paragraph summary on PNJ. The political gatekeepers and party bosses in the state should read it as well. I’ll discuss the letter in a diary I post in the coming days on how the Voting Rights Act can regulate the election process even after the lines have been drawn.

When it comes to redistricting, the losers often sue. I’m surprised that we’ve heard relatively little so far from Republicans about a possible lawsuit. On Sunday, after the map was adopted, Jay Webber suggested that Republicans might sue to get the new legislative district map thrown out, but wasn’t very definitive about it. As of Monday, Governor Christie said that he had not yet heard of any Republicans planning to sue over the map. Perhaps Republicans are pessimistic about their prospects in litigation. Indeed, they should be, for even in the unlikely event that they win in court, they’re still likely to lose in November.

The weakness of potential Republican legal challenges to the new legislative map was highlighted on Sunday in the redistricting commissioners’ statements before the vote took place. Jay Webber claimed the map was unconstitutional because the 7th district was not contiguous. The crux of Webber’s argument? An uninhabited island, which everyone seems to think falls within the Township of Bordentown, but which Webber suggests might fall partly within Mansfield township. I have not seen any evidence supporting Webber’s assertion. Perhaps some exists somewhere. But, as I said before, everyone seems to think the island is in Bordentown Township. The Census Bureau, which released the maps that were used to do redistricting, thinks so. Bordentown Township, which collects over a quarter million dollars a year in property taxes on the island, thinks so. PSE&G, which pays most of those taxes, thinks so. Mansfield township apparently thinks so, too. Now, I know absolutely nothing about the law of municipal boundaries, and I haven’t seen any documents from the 19th century when these townships were created, but I’ve seen little to convince me that Webber’s argument was anything but a pathetically desperate last-ditch effort to sway Alan Rosenthal.

Last redistricting cycle, Republicans recruited a few black and Latino voters to serve as co-plaintiffs in a challenge under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which I’ve discussed before here. Republicans argued that the Democratic plan, with its emphasis on “coalition” districts, spread black and Latino voters “‘into districts in which they constitute an ineffective minority of voters.'” A three-judge panel of the Federal District Court for New Jersey rejected the Republicans arguments and upheld the map. more…..

(Cadbury) Egg on my Face?

No one was more critical of this process (or of Dem Chairman John Wizniewski’s role in the process) than many readers of this blog, self-included. So imagine my delight when the map was revealed. The biggest victims of the day were Governor Christie and Assemblyman Jay Webber who invested heaps of political capital only to emerge vanquished at the hands of Chairman Wisniewski.

Those are Cadbury eggs in the picture. It’s a metaphor for the egg on my face. Wiz accepted it with grace and humor because he knows he needs his base (ie: us) excited and united in November. I know I will be.

jay lassiter and Chairman Wiz

That said, I like to think all the agitating here at BlueJersey in some way contributed to the calculus that resulted in today’s (mostly) good outcome.