Tag Archive: Sam Thompson

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.

Republicans Can Do No Wrong

And the award for this week’s best Christie Apologist goes to…

…State Senator Sam Thompson (R – Old Bridge)

This week, Senator Thompson declared that now is the time for Christie to prove himself if the governor wants to pursue the White House. Everything up to now, apparently does not count. Not the bungling of Hurricane Sandy. Not the lucrative contracts that have gone to Christie’s cronies. Not the fact that Christie surrounds himself with advisors who think it’s OK to close down the George Washington Bridge. Not the fact that poverty has increased in New Jersey, and the business climate has gotten worse under Christie’s watch.

Senator, the time for Christie to prove himself is long past. It started in January, 2010, and Christie’s performance has gone downhill since then.

Christie’s popularity is based on his bravado and persona. Any critical examination of his “accomplishments” concludes that the emperor has no clothes.

“I am not broken. I am not confused. I don’t need to be fixed.”

That was the testimony of Jacob Rudolph, a bisexual young man who struggled to come out and eventually did so in a speech to about 300 of his peers.

Today, the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee heard three hours of testimony concerning a bill sponsored by Senators Lesniak, Sweeney, and Weinberg (and co-sponsored by Senator Buono) that would protect minors by prohibiting counseling attempts to change sexual orientation – so-called “gay conversion therapy.”

The panel heard compelling stories from gay individuals who have been traumatized as children when forced to undergo these conversion attempts. Some of these “therapy” sessions included electric shock therapy (with their parents’ permission!) and forced masturbation with images of women.

Of course, the opponents were there, too, claiming that this legislation is unconstitutional. But as was pointed out by one witness, this bill does not prohibit therapy, it just prohibits advocacy therapy.

In the end, the bill passed with the following senators voting yes: Rice, Whelan, Gordon, Buono, Vitale, and Madden – all Democrats; and a yes vote from Republican Senator Allen. Among the other Republicans, Senator Thompson voted no, and Senators Singer and Addiego abstained.

Before the hearings, I spoke with one of the sponsors, Senator Raymond Lesniak, and the Executive Director of Garden State Equality, Troy Stevenson.

Correction: The original version of this article stated that Rudolph underwent conversion therapy. He did not. I regret the error.

Winners and Losers in Today’s Minimum Wage Vote

Today, the New Jersey Senate passed a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour and would include a cost of living adjustment. The bill, which has already passed in the General Assembly, goes back to the Assembly on Monday to match the language of the Senate bill. It will then go to Governor Christie’s desk for signature.

I have no doubt that the Governor will veto the bill – not necessarily because he doesn’t think New Jerseyans deserve a decent wage, but because he is loath to alienate his big business corporate contributors to his presidential campaign.

While there was two hours of repetitive debate on the bill, a companion resolution, to amend the state Constitution, was passed without debate. With an anticipated veto by the governor of the original bill, the amendment will require passage in two consecutive years, and would then be put on the ballot in the November 2013 election. So relief to people earning poverty-level wages would not come until early 2014.

During the debate on the original bill, the Democrats argued that given New Jersey’s high cost of living, keeping the minimum wage at its current level only sustains poverty. Without an automatic cost of living adjustment the extreme difficulty, a large number of our fellow citizens will continue to struggle. The incremental dollars that go to minimum wage workers would be spent in New Jersey on essentials, and would stimulate small business.

The Republicans disingenuously harped on the impact of Hurricane Sandy. Rebuilding will require huge sums of money, and now is not the time to raise the minimum wage, they contend. Yet, Senator Paul Sarlo and others pointed out that the GOP would vote against a Cost of Living adjustment even if there had been no storm.

So who were the winners and losers in today’s debate?

Dems within Striking Distance of Kyrillos?

Sources cite Democratic polling which has challenger Lenny Inzerillo within striking distance – just 4 points – of 13th district Senator Joe Kyrillos. The same polling is said to show Assembly incumbents Sam Thompson and Amy Handlin leading Democratic challengers Patricia Walsh and Robert Brown by 7 and 12 points, respectively.

Kyrillos hasn’t done much in terms of campaigning, though it’s possible his own internal polling motivated him to make a nearly $25,000 radio ad purchase less than two weeks ago.