Tag Archive: Coutinho

Questions for the Acting Education Commissioner

Yesterday, I posted the opening remarks delivered by Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf at the Assembly Budget Committee.

Following his remarks, there were several hours of questions and answers. The videos posted here are in two parts – the morning session below, and the afternoon session below the fold.

I don’t expect anyone except the most fervent edunerds (thanks for the term, Rosi) to watch the whole thing, but below the fold is an index of the initial appearance of your favorite assemblycritters.

The discussion falls into three categories:

  • Political posturing

  • Kowtowing to special interests

  • Dealing with local constituent issues

There was no real discussion on the merits (or otherwise) of charter schools, funding religious schools, or the education-industrial complex. To be fair, this was a budget hearing, not a hearing of the Education Committee. But things like sending taxpayer dollars to unaccountable for-profit entities and religious institutions do have an impact on the budget, especially when the outcomes are so nebulous.



Assembly refuses to rush S-1; plans to work on comprehensive housing policy for the fall

Thanks for the shout-out. Promoted by Rosi Efthim

June 30 has come and gone – the day that Gov. Christie and Sen. Lesniak had set as their deadline for passing S1, the deeply flawed and unconstitutional proposal to overhaul New Jersey’s housing policy. Thanks to an upswell of opposition to S1 and to the leadership of Speaker Sheila Oliver, Majority Leader Joe Cryan, Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee Chair and Vice-Chair Jerry Green and Mila Jasey, and Assembly Economic Growth Committee Chair Al Coutinho, S1 did not pass. Instead, the Legislature will work on alternative approaches to changing New Jersey’s housing policy over the summer.

Looking back, June was quite a busy month for those who opposed S1:

June 3 – S1 voted out of Senate Economic Growth committee. Although there was a strong showing of opposition from a wide range of groups, Sen. Lesniak did not allow any testimony at the hearing.  

June 3 – Statement released by every Catholic Bishop in New Jersey in opposition to S1 and support of Mount Laurel doctrine.

June 7 – Star-Ledger editorial opposing S1 process; further editorials throughout June from Asbury Park Press, Courier-News, Home News Tribune, New Jersey Law Journal also oppose the bill.

June 9 – Over 100 civil rights, environmental, special needs and supportive housing, religious, and labor groups release statement in opposition to S1.

June 10 – S1 was passed by the Senate. Senator Rice, Turner and Weinberg voted no.  The following Senators abstained or did not vote:  Allen, Madden Jr., Ruiz, Ciesla, Norcross, Vitale, Doherty and Smith. Sen. Norcross shortly after criticizes the bill as unfair to South Jersey, and Sen. Weinberg releases a statement explaining her no vote.

June 15 – A coalition of over 15 groups propose an alternative approach instead of S1 in a Trenton press conference, including the NAACP, Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, New Jersey Regional Coalition, Sierra Club, Corporation for Supportive Housing, Supportive Housing Association, and Coalition on Affordable Housing and Environment.

June 17 – The Assembly Housing and Local Government committee held a hearing on S1.  Everyone who signed up was able to testify, providing the first open public hearing on the bill.  The hearing took almost four hours, and large flaws with the bill were vocalized with overwhelming opposition to the bill. At the end of the hearing, the committee decided not to take a vote.

June 24 – The Assembly Budget committee voted out A3055, extending suspension of statewide non-residential development fee to October 30, 2010, to the full Assembly. After Assembly votes to pass the bill with overwhelming support, Senate refuses to hear it.

June 26 – Despite vocal statements by the Christie administration and Sen. Lesniak alluding to having the bill on Christie’s desk by the end of the month, Speaker Oliver quoted by the Star-Ledger stating, “[S1] will not get a vote in committee this summer but we hope to get it to a point where we can vote on it in the fall.”

As we celebrate an interim victory, we look forward to working with the wide range of groups opposed to S1 and legislative leadership this summer to come up with a better approach to New Jersey’s housing policy, expanding on the joint proposal presented at the June 15 press conference.

We would like to thank Assembly Speaker Oliver, Majority Leader Cryan, Committee Chairs Green and Coutinho, and Vice-Chair Jasey, along with Sens. Norcross, Rice, Turner, and Weinberg, for their efforts to slow the rapid movement of the bill. We now hope that they will work to see that the best possible bill presented to the Legislature in the fall.

Most of all, we thank those 100-plus groups, and all of you on BlueJersey who worked hard to stop what seemed like, in the words of the Asbury Park Press, a “runaway train” and had faith in the democratic process. There were so many people who we would have never met except through BlueJersey that played a critical role in stopping S1 – thanks so much to all of you! As I said at the Bloggers Breakfast at the DfA training this Sunday, nobody should understimate the power of the BlueJersey community to help push important public policy in NJ.

Special thanks also go to the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, which partnered with us in leading the opposition to S1.  

We know we have a long road still ahead of us, and we look forward to walking it with you together.

S-1 Standoff: Assembly Leadership Holds Strong

The process of how New Jersey should handle the need for affordable housing changed when there was an organized uprising of people calling for a more open process than what Sen. Ray Lesniak wanted to allow. We owe a lot to activists who flooded key legislators’ offices with calls demanding more transparency. And we owe a lot to those legislators who listened. But it’s not over. – promoted by Rosi Efthim

With the clock ticking towards Gov. Christie’s artificial June 30 deadline for passing the much-reviled S-1, the Assembly Budget Committee yesterday called the Governor’s bluff. Gov. Christie had come up with the June 30 deadline because that is when a moratorium on commercial developers paying a 2.5 percent fee on new development for housing trust funds is due to sunset. But everyone in Trenton knew that it was possible to extend the moratorium without simultaneously passing S-1. And yesterday the Assembly Budget Committee unanimously voted out a bill that would do just that.

The reaction: instant fury from Sen. Lesniak and Senate President Sweeney, who vowed not to allow the bill, A3055, see the Senate floor even though it is likely to pass the Assembly Monday with near-unanimous support. Lesniak and Sweeney supported the Governor’s fake deadline, with Lesniak calling the four month extension of the moratorium “an absolute waste of time.” Never mind that Lesniak himself authored the original bill imposing the year-long moratorium last year, and has been railing against its end for the past six months. (The fee comes from the landmark 2008 housing legislation A-500, and ironically was pushed by the non-residential developers themselves as a way to standardize such fees, which have been around for over two decades, across the state).

What is going on here? More after the jump.