Just now, the Senate Budget Committee advanced S2851, a bill that would allow the Governor to profit from book deals while in office, as well as providing salary increases for legislative staffers and judges. Instead of de-bundling these initiatives (as… Read more
Hours after each primary and general election, Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics hosts a great “Morning After” discussion in the beautiful white mansion on the New Brunswick campus that serves as Eagleton’s HQ. If you’ve never been to one, those seats get filled fast by reservation, and the discussion is always meaty for political nerds. This morning’s talk, hosted by Eagleton’s John Weingart, is, I believe, only the second one Eagleton’s ever streamed. Great that they do that, and great that they make embeddable video available just seconds after. Thank you, Eagleton.
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?
I don’t think that a civil rights matter like marriage equality should be a ballot issue. However if there were an ideal time to put the matter to popular vote it would have been during the just concluded elections when in NJ President Obama beat Mitt Romney by 16.9 points,U. S. Sen. Robert Menendez beat State Sen. Joe Kyrillos by 18.5 points, and when M. E. opponent Christie spent so much time out of state. For the matter to be on the ballot next year without a presidential or senatorial election would be less than ideal. Presumably Christie will then be in high-gear campaign mode, speak out against M. E., and not want the embarrassment of having M. E. approved under his watch.
It is up to legislative leadership and advocates to convince a few Republican Senators and Assemblypersons, as well as recalcitrant Democrat nay-sayers, to join the effort. The Senate may already have the needed votes, but there is less certainty in the Assembly. The legislature has until early January 2014 to gain needed support and to schedule a veto override vote. It is also possible that by then or shortly thereafter the New Jersey Supreme Court may rule favorably on the matter. Efforts now at both a legislative override and a favorable NJ Supreme Court ruling are being pursued. It’s not the time now to call for a public ballot vote.
I was having dinner with several friends last night. They are all politically astute, generally left of center, and open-minded. At one point in the discussion, we talked about where the Republican Party is today. My friends contend that there are both moderates and Tea Party extremists in the party. They’re probably right, but I pointed out that when the rubber meets the road, most Republicans – moderate or not – vote to the extreme right. The bottom line, it’s the votes that count, not the rhetoric.
No vote is as indicative of where a politician stands as one on civil rights. In the New Jersey legislature, the ultimate civil rights issue was voted on earlier this year – marriage equality. Civil rights should not be a partisan issue, and two Senate Republicans did vote in favor of equality – Diane Allen and Jennifer Beck. They can arguably be labeled as moderate Republicans – a rare breed, indeed.
One Republican who is often characterized as “moderate” is Senator Joe Kyrillos. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Kyrillos voted against equality this past January, and confirmed his position when the full Senate voted the following month. I’ll let Kyrillos speak for himself – his floor remarks in the Judiciary Committee are in the 3½ minute unedited video below.
Kyrillos starts off by admitting he can’t multi-task and wants to talk about taxes before this civil rights issue is taken up. He supports a “separate but equal” scheme that didn’t work for racial equality and isn’t working for marriage equality. And despite his platitudes, his vote of NO on equality is just that.
Now, Kyrillos wants to be a United States Senator. It’s bad enough that we have Senators from other regions of the nation who covertly or overtly want to diminish citizens’ rights. We don’t need one from New Jersey. The mainstream media may tout Kyrillos as a moderate, but his voting record proves otherwise.
Whether he wins or loses the US Senate race, Kyrillos will still have a third chance to go down on the right side of history. When the marriage equality advocates introduce a resolution to override the veto of Governor Christie (himself no moderate), Kyrillos can demonstrate his independence by supporting the override. If he does, he will deserve credit and recognition for doing so. But I’m not holding my breath.
This past weekend, I got a form letter from Senator Beck and Assembly women Angelini and Casagrande. They explained that this state is soooo overtaxed and I should help them fight Democratic plans to stop Governor Christie’s 10% tax break. They even sent a reply card that they will show as proof of people’s anger.
This is one more example of how bad the representatives of this area of Monmouth County are. The governor could pay into the state pension fund to improve our credit rating. He could build up our Transportation Fund so businesses can send their trucks out on smooth roads. He could add more state troopers so business won’t be afraid of their stuff stolen from parking lots.
Those investments are too difficult for the three from Monmouth so instead we’re stuck with three slackers looking for re-election headlines. I would send their response card with this blog post, but they would only throw it out. They only listen to what they want to hear.
I would love a tax break, but I want to live and work in safety. There’s a cost for doing that.
So were stuck with these representatives with no real plan for the future and no way out of the state’s financial mess.
The minimum acreage requirement remains at 5 acres which is a plus for new farmers in the state as well as for farmers who lease multiple plots of land from property owners in order to make a go of their farming operations.
My thoughts after a day of live-blogging the Harris confirmation hearing:
In the end, it was the clumsy handling of Bruce Harris’ preemptive recusal on marriage equality that sank the nomination of what was to be the first openly gay member of the New Jersey Supreme Court. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the governor’s staff are feeling the Wrath of Christie right about now for their bungling of the nomination. I’d like to be a fly on the wall the next time Governor Christie has a conversation with Assemblyman Jay Webber, who was central to the leak leading to Harris’ recusal.
Six months ago, who woulda thunk that the Democrats would vote against a black, openly gay nominee and the Republicans would be gung-ho for his nomination? But even Senator Jennifer Beck, who has occasionally exhibited an independent streak from the Christie dogma, fell in line and was blind to the political shenanigans that the Christie is imposing on the Court. It was odd to see an über-conservative like Senator Gerald Cardinale uncomfortably promote the elevation of a minimally-qualified gay attorney to the state’s highest court.
Not being a lawyer, I can’t comment on Harris’ qualifications. But putting the political games aside, it seems to me that Harris was chosen not for his lawyerly skills, but for other reasons. Harris was touted as an expert in one narrow field of law – certainly not a disqualification – but it seems that there are many attorneys out there with stronger résumés.
The person whose opinion I trust the most is Senator Loretta Weinberg. Here are some of her comments to reporters after the hearing:
Yesterday’s Senate session was historic – the passage of S1, the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption bill.
Due to some technical glitches, the audio feed from the Senate was not of high quality, so it’s best to listen to this video using headphones. My apologies for the sub-par audio, but you’ll be watching one of the most significant events in the history of the New Jersey legislature.
Even if you don’t view the entire 35 minutes, fast forward to 34:07 to see the vote and especially the jubilant reaction of Garden State Equality’s Steven Goldstein.
I went to Trenton this morning to observe a couple of Senate committee hearings and to tweet what was going on. First was the Senate Education Committee which addressed a number of issues, none of which were the front-page items like tenure, vouchers, and charter schools. Senator Ruiz chaired the short meeting which addressed things like including cheerleaders in school injury safety programs, school disaster preparedness plans, and pension contributions for instructors in institutions of higher learning. All important, and there was not much contention in the meeting. The highlight was hearing the chants of the Catholic school students outside expressing their support for taxpayer-funded vouchers.