It seems that the marriage equality marathon in New Jersey has entered the stadium, and is in the process of taking its final lap around the field before victory is at hand. At an organized labor breakfast this morning, I asked Senate President Sweeney for an update.
As I reported yesterday, a group of elected officials, activists, and ordinary citizens converged on Trenton to heighten awareness of the plight of minimum wage workers and urge passage of a state-wide referendum in November to raise that wage from $7.25 to $8.25. There were about 25 speakers over the course of the hour and a quarter news conference. Here’s the highlight reel, with comments from most of the speakers, edited for time.
Before Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Barbara Buono spoke at yesterday’s rally in New Brunswick, several Democratic elected officials took to the microphone. Here are the highlights of the remarks by Senator Bob Smith, Congressman Frank Pallone, Assemblyman and State Democratic Chair John Wisniewski, Senate President Steve Sweeney, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.
Today was a historic day in Burlington County, when two Democrats were sworn in as freeholders, breaking the Republican lock on that body. This, despite a 9 to 1 spending disadvantage and the injection of Sheldon Adelson into this local race.
Aimee Belgard and Joanne Schwartz were sworn in by Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who spent a better part of his afternoon at the ceremony and the reception afterwards.
The last time the county elected two Democrats, those individuals switched over to the Republican party. That won’t happen with Aimee and Joanne. They have integrity.
Congratulations Aimee and Joanne, and Burlington County Democratic Chair Joe Andl for helping us start the new year on a very positive note. And thank you to Assembly members Troy Singleton, Herb Conaway, and Pam Lampitt, and Senate President Steve Sweeney for joining us in the celebration.
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.
In Part 2, below, the senators discuss the issues with New Jersey’s halfway houses, Governor Christie’s intransigence on providing low cost insurance through health exchanges, the vacancies on the state Supreme Court, the so-called Jersey Comeback, and Senator Weinberg’s Jersey Girls Caucus.
Take a break from the Tampa Christiepalooza, and read about an issue that will affect our economy and our overall health…
There’s a chance that Chris Christie may face Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley in the race for President in 2016. That’s a race I’d work hard for an O’Malley win. But there’s another race – today – between these two men, and that’s one that I’d like Chris Christie to win, even though he’s not acting like he’s even in the game.
The race I’m referring to is to become the predominant state for the offshore wind manufacturing and support industry. The Atlantic Ocean is a ripe territory to harness this energy, both in terms of favorable wind patterns and proximity to millions of consumers. In this race, O’Malley is preparing his state to reap these economic benefits while Christie has hitched his energy wagon to the Koch Brothers and the “drill, baby, drill” GOP platform.
Two years ago, Christie signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act (OWEDA), but his administration has been stagnant on providing regulations and support to make any progress. Today, at the site of the Paulsboro Marine Terminal, elected officials and the Director of the Sierra Club held a press conference to urge the governor to take action.
The site, across the river from Philadelphia International Airport, is 193 acres, formerly an oil tank storage facility. It’s been remediated and is ready for economic development.
Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club opened the press conference, and Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Assemblyman John Burzichelli, and Assemblywoman Celeste Riley spoke. Sweeney indicated that there are developers interested in the site, adjacent to the Delaware River and major overland highways, but nothing can happen until the governor directs his bureaucracy to issue the required permits and regulations. Once this happens, several thousand jobs will be created. These are manufacturing jobs to build the turbines, blades, and other portions of the offshore wind farms, and support jobs for transportation and distribution. But if we wait too long, other states like Maryland may beat us in becoming the center of wind energy on the east coast.
I spoke with Senator Sweeney right after the press conference – his remarks are below. The entire press conference may be found below the fold. I’ll also be posting my interview with Jeff Tittel on a number of other environmental issues later this week.
That’s an attribute Assemblyman Joe Cryan says he admires. But he’s also the epitome of this philosophy – often paying the political price. Once part of the Democratic leadership in Trenton, he’s now somewhat of a pariah within his own party because he insists on adhering to Democratic principles rather than political expediency.
I spoke with Cryan earlier today at a law office in Union. We talked about his joining with Michael Patrick Carroll to vote against the Constitutional amendment to limit judges’ benefits, his political philosophy, the travails of Assemblyman Schroeder, and Cryan’s favorites to challenge Chris Christie in 2013. Cryan excoriates both the Governor and, when deserved, his fellow Democrats.
I’ve interviewed lots of legislators, mostly Democrats, and I like and would support most of them. But Cryan is a more refreshing breed. He doesn’t dance around questions, and is as blunt and to the point as his counterpoint, Chris Christie, but without being obnoxious about it. If you don’t know Joe, watch this video and be pleasantly surprised.
A Blue Jersey commenter has repeatedly written what I consider insulting remarks about residents of South Jersey and Mississippi. I want to believe that his comments were not meant to be insulting, but nevertheless, that’s how I interpret them. There are many fine and decent people both in South Jersey and in the Magnolia State who don’t deserve such disparaging remarks, regardless of their political affiliation.
I love New Jersey. I live in South Jersey, used to live in Central Jersey, and have close relatives whom I frequently visit in North Jersey. The state offers a tremendous amount of diversity – not only in its residents, but in what it has to offer. Most people I know from out of state envision the Garden State the way it is portrayed in the opening scenes of The Sopranos – a series of dirty highways littered by oil refineries and crumbling infrastructure and nice homes occupied by crooks and thieves. But anyone who has lived here knows we’re more than that.
So I decided to have some fun with our commenter’s proposition. What would happen if he had his way?