Tag Archive: Judiciary Committee

Marriage Equality – For the Record

Following almost seven hours of testimony on Thursday, the members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee went on record with their votes to move the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption bill to the full chamber.  As in the Senate committee, the vote was along party lines, with some Democrats expressing reservations but ultimately voting for equality while other Democrats were solidly in favor.

The two Republicans on the committee had interesting views and their remarks are worth listening to. It still surprises me how a libertarian like Michael Patrick Carroll can be for discrimination and government intervention in a civil rights issue. His argument comes right out of the Santorum playbook – since there is no societal benefit to equal rights, it’s fine to vote against them.

Freshman GOP Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi appeared torn and indecisive. Her rambling remarks argued both sides of the issue but she ultimately voted for discrimination. I don’t know if she can be flipped, but it would certainly be worthwhile if she could hear from pro-equality constituents. In the arc of the history of the New Jersey Assembly, she’ll go down as having cast her first vote in favor of discrimination. I wonder if she wants this to be the legacy of her political career.

The video is 29 minutes long. If you want to jump ahead, here are the starting times for each speaker:

Gordon Johnson (D) 00:00

Reed Gusciora (D) 02:03

Ralph Caputo (D) 05:58

Annette Quijano (D) 07:40

Holly Schepisi (R) 13:20

Michael Patrick Carroll (R) 21:35

Peter Barnes (D) 22:33

Voting 28:01



Dud

I observed the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today and expected fireworks in the hearing to confirm Bob Hanna to be President of the Board of Public Utilities, but instead of fireworks, we got a dud.

Hanna’s confirmation was a love fest, and the committee unanimously advanced it to the full Senate for final approval. From what I can tell, although Hanna has had limited experience in the world of utilities and telecommunications, he’s a well-respected lawyer and public servant, and there’s no reason to deny the Governor’s appointment of Mr. Hanna to the BPU.

But our state senators are not shrinking violets (more on this later), and this hearing was a golden opportunity to raise some concerns and get Hanna’s response. No doubt he agrees with the Governor on the important issues facing the board, but he should have been asked about the state’s withdrawal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (right after the Governor had a secret meeting with the Koch Brothers), the impact of the Governor’s de-emphasis of renewable energy in the state’s Energy Master Plan, and the Governor’s hidden tax increase when Mr. Christie took the money from the Societal Benefit Fund (a surcharge on your utility bill) to help balance the budget instead of investing those dollars in clean energy.

Musical Chairs continue for Dems in the Senate

Most of the attention has been on the battle for power between Steve Sweeney and Dick Codey, but with a new Senate President comes many new committee chairs and PolitickerNJ had some information yesterday:

State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) will become the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a position that will take on increased clout for a Democratic-controlled Senate confirming appointments made by a Republican governor.  Scutari was no pushover for Gov. Jon Corzine’s appointees – he takes his advise and consent responsibilities seriously, and does not view Judiciary as a rubber stamp.  That’s something Gov.-elect Christopher Christie’s front office will need to take into consideration  And Scutari is intellectually superior to the current chairman, State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge).

Sarlo is expected to become Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee when State Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) becomes Majority Leader.

And it looks like could be someone new leading the Education committee as well:

And in the Senate, it looks like Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark), a protégé of Newark political leader Stephen Adubato, might replace Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence) as chairman of the Education Committee.  A fair assumption is that Ruiz will share Adubato’s fervent support for charter schools.

Turner could wind up a casualty of the contest for Senate President; she backed incumbent Richard Codey (D-Roseland), while Ruiz supported the likely winner, Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford).

We’ll have to see who is left without a seat when the music stops. And we still get to play more games before the music stops on the Assembly side. The leadership vote is scheduled for November 23.

Judiciary to hold Fox nomination pending trial outcome

The Judiciary Committee won’t hold confirmation hearings on BPU President Jeanne Fox until the conclusion of a pending suit…

Fox, the BPU, and two other top officials are named in the suit brought by BPU fiscal chief Joe Potena, who claims retaliation for alerting state officials to an $80- to $100-million ratepayer-funded Clean Energy account set up outside state Treasury purview.

Fox for her part continues to deny the claims…

Fox’s lawyer, Angelo Genova, in Trenton on Friday for another pre-trial motion in the case, said, “Jeanne Fox continues to look forward to her day in court. We’re hoping that will be soon.”

Despite these accusations, Governor Corzine renominated Fox to the position, but committee Chair Adler isn’t in any rush to pass judgement on the case or the nomination…

“Well, we wouldn’t call it before the trial is over, some sort of whistle-blower case,” Judiciary Chairman Sen. John Adler, D-Camden, said. “I don’t want to predict what might happen. We have to go slow on nominations of this importance.”

Adler also said he’s waiting for the State Police to conclude their background check on Fox. Republicans for their part have questioned everything involving this situation so I guess we’ll have to see how it all plays out.