Tag Archive: Legislation

Remember when Chris Christie was sensible on gun legislation?

Chris Christie assault weapons lit

Until now, Chris Christie has had the benefit of a New Jersey political press that – with a few clear exceptions – responded to his forceful personality by writing about him mainly as a political celebrity. As phenomenon. Reporting on his latest brash moment is a lot cheaper for struggling news organizations than asking hard questions or doing investigative work. And if Jersey voters were dazzled by his cocksure attitude – buffeted by propagandistic public appearances, Stronger than the Storm ads and YouTube moments produced at taxpayer expense – the state press is at least partially responsible for the legend he made himself here.  

Hotshot Reporting 2012: Best Reporting by Traditional News Media

In 2012, there were a lot of things we might never have known if good journalists, good editors and their news outlets had not devoted resources to uncovering them. Sometimes this was simply a matter of going through mountains of paper or on line communication that is public record as a matter of law. But somebody had to do it, which usually means somebody else would rather it stay hidden.

Here for 2012, are some that really impressed us here at Blue Jersey, with thanks to the news organizations, and their editors & reporters for what we now know because of their work:  

Associated Press on Surveillance of NJ Muslims AP’s 24-part 2-year probe of NYPD’s secret surveillance (by the questionably-named ‘Demographics Unit’) of Muslim students, neighborhoods and places of worship in New Jersey.

UNLOCKED: Sam Dolnick’s New York Times exposé  of the consequences of New Jersey’s privatized halfway house system run by Christie pal Bill Palatucci, which led to hearings in both houses of the NJ legislature, Palatucci’s exit out CEC’s back door, and at least one lawsuit, by the sister of murder victim Viviana Tulli, killed at the hands of a CEC escapee.  (Note: Bill Orr tracked the aftermath of questionable policies by CEC for Blue Jersey).

Dolnick was looking at CEC and how Christie and Essex party boss Joe D were connected to it almost 18 months ago.

Star-Ledger brought to light the video of a mentally disabled man getting a beat down by state police as well (as well as the fact that authorities initially cleared the trooper of wrongdoing before Star-Ledger began to make inquiries.

Sal Rizzo at Star-Ledger was responsible for the Ledger’s in-depth examination  of how closely legislation from Christie & NJ Republicans matched bills written by fake-charity American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Trenton Times recently pored over 500 pages of emails and documents after TCNJ employees fall sick during chemical use in roof reconstruction on the campus. And that includes shedding light on internal emails about how TCNJ school officials, concerned staff members might require inconvenient building transfers to somewhere on campus where they wouldn’t feel ill at work, encouraged “hand holding” by administrators and the school’s environmental health officers to get workers to “live with” the odor that was making them feel sick.

Fissures & Disagreements on Strategy in NJ’s Gay Rights Movement

Is there a fissure growing in New Jersey’s gay rights movement?

Last month’s marriage equality victories in Maryland, Massachusetts and Maine (and Minnesota’s asterisk victory) sent shock waves into the movement. Seeing new possibilities, rethinking old strategies. It was the voters that opened those states. Garden State Equality (GSE), the well-oiled machine of change not yet realized, solidly rejects the giving this choice to the voters, pursuing the court and legislative routes. But since Election Day, there are new calls for referendum, coming now from people who always opposed it. What’s going on here?

In the past two days, since GSE put out a strongly-worded joint statement with Freedom to Marry and Human Rights Campaign (HRC) rejecting referendum, I’ve had a number of conversations with players at various levels and in various roles in the push for ME in New Jersey. Most of them were off-the-record, at their insistence. While GSE and its media-savvy Chair Steven Goldstein maintain a high-profile, some of the counter-moves of others are only in the formative stage, newly hatched since Nov. 6, but possibly percolating a broader strategy than GSE, to include referendum.

Disclosure: I am a Garden State Equality board member. That doesn’t necessarily give me an inside track on GSE’s moves. And I took it on with the understanding I’d always be free not only to advocate but also to write about this issue. I share the same revulsion for marriage equality referenda that I believe Goldstein does; I joined this movement when I realized my straightness gave me the unearned right to pass judgement on the lives of other people, and isn’t that at the heart of any referendum? But I see my role as only adding my labor to the core work of gay people advocating for their own rights and lives. It’s easy to understand the urgency and imperative that would lead people to consider anything that would let gay couples and families to move ahead as they deserve to.

There’s no question now that New Jersey is ripe for change and ready to support the marriage rights of gay couples in love. We’re a blue state, albeit not always a progressive one. But we watch neighbor states move ahead … New York, Connecticut, D.C., Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts … without the world blowing up, ‘traditional marriages’ busting up, or anybody growing horns. In short, this is normalizing. As it should.

Even among NJ Republicans there’s a readiness – PPP Polling found more Republicans (21%) supporting same-sex marriage than Dems (19%) opposing it. Independents support 54/36%. Same poll found 72% of respondents think they should be allowed to vote on the matter.

And yet. There are many of us who do not believe we should not subject the rights of the minority to the will of the majority. You hear that from civil rights advocates, like former ACLU-NJ Director Deborah Jacobs, Majority Leader Sen. Loretta Weinberg, and ME’s newest champion, Senate President Sweeney.

Garden State Equality

And the anti-equality crowd is clearly losing the hearts and minds. They’re getting nastier, more desperate.  Their dark-cloud, end-of-days ads, which used to scare the bejeezus out of some people, just lay there. And new tactics (Save the notaries … really?) are laughable. People are ready for marriage equality. It’s going to happen.

Reed Gusciora’s turnaround on referendum surprised some, not others. On Monday, I asked Goldstein if Gusciora’s shift was a recognition that there weren’t going to be enough votes for an override of Christie’s veto on ME legislation passed in the Assembly (co-sponsored by Gusciora and NJ’s other gay assemblyman Tim Eustace) and Senate (guided by Weinberg and prioritized by Sweeney). He was brief and direct: “No it does not at all mean that.”

Here is what Gusciora told Blue Jersey:

I think it is ironic that we were given talking points by the same advocates that the majority of the public is in favor of this. Now they want us to duck and cover for a better day. Maybe because I hung out with football players that I’m ready for this fight. This is really about the next generation of gays and lesbians who want us to stand up for their rights today. It’s a poor example to tell them to wait.

Gusciora is not the only person talking this way this week. Star-Ledger editorial headline, yesterday:

To defeat Christie on gay marriage, a popular vote is New Jersey’s safest bet

I’ve heard from several people active for ME that they’re more willing to consider referendum, even if they still believe the majority shouldn’t have the right to decide for others. They’re willing to get past their ethical revulsion at putting their rights up for vote – and the political implications that this is a vote ME-opponent Christie called for – in the face of the practical possibility that it just might win them the rights they deserve: If it worked in these other places, and NJ support for us is strong, then put referendum on the table, they say.

Jon Galluccio, who was briefly named Executive Director of GSE  earlier this year will be spearheading a new organization launching after the new year called New Jersey United for Marriage Equality, which he describes as a “union of NJ forces working for marriage equality,” with all routes considered.

Another practical consideration? Money. Winning an ME referendum in NJ (expensive media market) would cost a lot. But just yesterday, HRC (which signed Goldstein’s joint statement against referendum) posted their study showing donors supporting marriage equality in 2012 dwarfed those who opposed it by a factor of 13 to 1. And their data was collected from Nov. 6 referendum states ME, MD, and MN (and WA, a bill state).

I have not worked out my own feelings about the direction marriage

Force Christie to talk about it

New Jersey United for Marriage Equality  

Fissures & Disagreements on Strategy in NJ’s Gay Rights Movement

Is there a fissure growing in New Jersey’s gay rights movement?

Last month’s marriage equality victories in Maryland, Washington and Maine (and Minnesota’s asterisk victory) sent shock waves into the movement. Seeing new possibilities, rethinking old strategies. It was the voters that opened those states. Garden State Equality (GSE), the well-oiled machine of change not yet realized, solidly rejects the giving this choice to the voters, pursuing the court and legislative routes. But since Election Day, there are new calls for referendum, coming now from people who always opposed it. What’s going on here?

In the past two days, since GSE put out a strongly-worded joint statement with Freedom to Marry and Human Rights Campaign (HRC) rejecting referendum, I’ve had a number of conversations with players at various levels and in various roles in the push for ME in New Jersey. Most of them were off-the-record, at their insistence. While GSE and its media-savvy Chair Steven Goldstein maintain a high-profile, some of the counter-moves of others are only in the formative stage, newly hatched since Nov. 6, but possibly percolating a broader strategy than GSE, to include referendum.

Disclosure: I am a Garden State Equality board member. That doesn’t necessarily give me an inside track on GSE’s moves. And I took it on with the understanding I’d always be free not only to advocate but also to write about this issue. I share the same revulsion for marriage equality referenda that I believe Goldstein does; I joined this movement when I realized my straightness gave me the unearned right to pass judgement on the lives of other people, and isn’t that at the heart of any referendum? But I see my role as only adding my labor to the core work of gay people advocating for their own rights and lives. It’s easy to understand the urgency and imperative that would lead people to consider anything that would let gay couples and families to move ahead as they deserve to.

There’s no question now that New Jersey is ripe for change and ready to support the marriage rights of gay couples in love. We’re a blue state, albeit not always a progressive one. But we watch neighbor states move ahead … New York, Connecticut, D.C., Maine, Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts … without the world blowing up, ‘traditional marriages’ busting up, or anybody growing horns. In short, this is normalizing. As it should.

Even among NJ Republicans there’s a readiness – PPP Polling found more Republicans (21%) supporting same-sex marriage than Dems (19%) opposing it. Independents support 54/36%. Same poll found 72% of respondents think they should be allowed to vote on the matter.

And yet. There are many of us who do not believe we should not subject the rights of the minority to the will of the majority. You hear that from civil rights advocates, like former ACLU-NJ Director Deborah Jacobs, and from Majority Leader Sen. Loretta Weinberg, and ME’s newest champion, Senate President Sweeney.

The anti-equality crowd is getting nastier, more desperate. They’re losing the hearts and minds, and they know it. Their dark-cloud, end-of-days ads, which once scared the bejeezus out of people, now just lay there. And new tactics (Save the notaries … really?) are laughable. ME is going to happen.  

Reed Gusciora’s turnaround on referendum surprised some, not others. On Monday, I asked Goldstein if Gusciora’s shift was a recognition that there weren’t going to be enough votes for an override of Christie’s veto on ME legislation passed in the Assembly (co-sponsored by Gusciora and NJ’s other gay assemblyman Tim Eustace) and Senate (guided by Weinberg and prioritized by Sweeney). He was brief and direct: “No it does not at all mean that.”

Here is what Gusciora told Blue Jersey:

I think it is ironic that we were given talking points by the same advocates that the majority of the public is in favor of this. Now they want us to duck and cover for a better day. Maybe because I hung out with football players that I’m ready for this fight. This is really about the next generation of gays and lesbians who want us to stand up for their rights today. It’s a poor example to tell them to wait.

Gusciora is not the only person talking this way this week. Star-Ledger editorial headline, yesterday:

To defeat Christie on gay marriage, a popular vote is New Jersey’s safest bet

Some activists are now more willing to consider referendum, even if they still believe the majority shouldn’t have the right to decide for others. They’re willing to get past their ethical revulsion at putting their rights up for vote – and the political implications that this is a vote ME-opponent Christie called for – in the face of the practical possibility that it just might win them the rights they deserve: If it worked in these other places, and NJ support for us is strong, then put referendum on the table, they say.

Jon Galluccio, who was briefly named GSE Managing Director  earlier this year (but is no longer) is spearheading a new organization launching in January called New Jersey United for Marriage Equality, which he describes as a “union of NJ forces working for marriage equality,” with all routes considered.

Another practical consideration? Money. Winning an ME referendum in NJ (expensive media market) would cost a lot. But just yesterday, HRC (which signed Goldstein’s joint statement against referendum) posted their study showing donors supporting marriage equality in 2012 dwarfed those who opposed it by a factor of 13 to 1. And their data was collected from Nov. 6 referendum states ME, MD, and MN (and WA, a bill state).

I have not worked out my own feelings about the direction marriage this should take. Ideologically, I’m opposed to referendum. But I imagine loving couples in Maine, Washington  and Maryland will feel no less married because their fmilies, neighbors and co-workers voted to make it happen. I do think the referendum push forces this issue onto Gov. Christie’s radar. And I wonder if Nov. 6 makes him regret he asked for it.

 

ALEC Wants You To Believe They Are Just A Charity, Nothing More Than A Library Service

promoted by Rosi

Apparently I was wrong.  I’ve been writing for these past few weeks about ALEC and the access they have to influence legislation.  But apparently, I’m just making a mountain out of a mole hill, or so they would have you believe according to their director of telecommunications and IT task force:

“If you don’t mind me, if I can address this from a broader issue, you’ve touched on another great example. We have clearly over 800 pieces of model legislation, and they’re all there. John, me, my other, the rest of the ALEC staff, even the ALEC board, we don’t know who’s reaching in and grabbing what. It’s a library service to members, should they choose to want to use it. … And they use it, and they don’t even tell us, and they may not go on the floor and say this is ALEC legislation, they have to go through, you know, what, the bill becomes theirs, so we have no idea.”

I don’t know how many people copy the book they check out from the library and submit as their own work to a book store, but that seems to be what they’re trying to sell here. That because someone takes their work and doesn’t tell them they did it, it’s ok. But according to Bloomberg, ALEC has much more knowledge of what is done with their work than they’d like to let on and it looks like they lied to Bloomberg to cover it up. Follow me below the fold for more.

Community Water Fluoridation in NJ

promoted by Rosi

So the word in the public health dental community is that the NJ legislature tabled January’s fluoridation bill (sponsored in part by Blue Jersey’s Senator Loretta Weinberg) because Gov Christie threatened to veto it, saying that fluoridating NJ’s water is “too expensive” a proposition.

I’m not sure how many of you know, but last year the Pew Foundation issued a report that gave New Jersey an F in dental health – for the 2nd consecutive year!!  And fluoridating our water is one of the easiest things we can do to dramatically decrease the rate of dental decay in our communities.  And, ironically enough for “I don’t look at downstream effects” Christie, reducing rates of dental decay could actually save the state a large amount of money in terms of Medicaid dental payments.  Many studies on community water fluoridation have attested to its cost-saving effects.  

Some of you may be lucky enough that your community already fluoridates your water on a local level (Atlantic city, some other municipalities), and you’ve had fewer cavities and not even realized it.  Others of you may have had parents who forced you to take fluoride rinses when you were little, or continue to use fluoridated toothpaste now, and so you have benefited from fluoride while paying out of pocket for its minor expense.

The fact that something as mundane as fluoridating our water is at all controversial means that as concerned progressive citizens, we need to speak out in favor of community water fluoridation.  If you’re so inspired, you can start by signing this petition and telling your friends and colleagues to sign it also.  

Stay tuned for more on fluoride, and other dental health topics 🙂

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?

“Who’s ALEC?”

Star-Ledger’s well-researched revelations about possible NJ use of ALEC initiatives and bills lit up plenty of questions. Promoted by Rosi.

Caught up in all the April Fool’s fake stories yesterday was an extensive Star Ledger Piece about how many of the Governor’s biggest bills match model Legislation pushed by a group called ALEC.  And according to the Governor’s office, they’d like you to believe he has no clue about it:

“Our reforms have no basis in anyone’s model legislation,” Drewniak said. “The governor said to me, ‘Who’s ALEC?’

Ok then, lets humor the Governor and look at who ALEC is:

It’s called the American Legislative Exchange Council, a little-known conservative group headquartered in Washington, D.C., and funded by some of the biggest corporations in the United States – most with a business interest in state legislation. ALEC has quietly made its mark on the political landscape by providing state governments with mock-up bills that academic and political experts say are, for the most part, tailored to fit a conservative agenda. In recent years, states – particularly those with new Republican governors and legislatures – have been flooded with ALEC’s model bills. Nearly 1,000 of them are introduced every year, and roughly one-fifth of those become law, according to ALEC’s own count. ALEC’s bills are especially attractive because they are written so they can virtually be copied and pasted onto legislative proposals across the land.

Hmmm, so according to the Governor’s office there is this great service that writes all your conservative legislation for you and he knows nothing about it? That’s like my friend growing up who used to try to buy papers online and said he was just being creative to make sure he had more time to learn about other things. Basically that’s what is going on here by New Jersey Republicans: