Matt Friedman's must-read briefing on the Garden State's important news of the day
Matt Friedman's must-read briefing on the Garden State's important news of the day
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By MATT FRIEDMAN
Presented by AARP New Jersey
Good Friday morning!
Let me know if you get tired of me bringing to your attention the little ways we’re seeing transparency limited, but I consider it one of the most important aspects of my job. So, on with it.
On Monday, the Assembly State and Local Government Committee will consider three bills that would:
The first of those three bills effectively applies “Daniel’s Law,” which is for judges, prosecutors and cops, to politicians.
I understand the impetus for these bills and I have no reason to believe they’re being advanced with ill intent. However, there’s lots of potential pitfalls.
Some New Jersey positions have residency requirements, for instance. How can a member of the public challenge someone’s candidacy if their home address is protected? Are the thousands of people who run for Democratic and Republican committee seats considered candidates for office? The legislation isn’t clear on that. And Daniel’s Law created a lot of bureaucratic headaches. This has the potential to be worse. And who’s going to pay for all those redactions? Also, judges are appointed — they don’t need to answer directly to voters. Politicians do.
And as The Record’s Scott Fallon pointed out, if this law had been in place 20 years ago, reporters would have had a harder time figuring out that then-Paterson Mayor Marty Barnes had city contractors build a swimming pool in his backyard, which they could see from the street.
UNRELATED FOLLOW: That item I wrote yesterday about chatter that Assemblymember Beth Sawyer (R-Gloucester) could primary state Sen. Ed Durr (R-Gloucester)? It’s over. Sawyer, who declined to comment on it yesterday, called me to tell me that she would seek reelection to the Assembly.
“I just want to be really clear: I am not planning on running a primary against Durr,” Sawyer told me. “I plan on running reelection for the Assembly and I will continue to fight for South Jersey. That’s been my plan.” Sawyer told me the reason she initially declined to comment was because she wouldn’t talk politics while in her district office.
DAYS SINCE MURPHY REFUSED TO SAY WHETHER HIS WIFE’S NON-PROFIT SHOULD DISCLOSE DONORS: 306
TIPS? FEEDBACK? HATE MAIL? Email me at [email protected]
WHERE’S MURPHY? — Nothing public
HAPPY BIRTHDAY – Marilyn Piperno, Micah Rasmussen, John Carroll, Tricia Enright. Saturday for Adam Beder, Tyler Honschke, Idida Rodriguez, Maryann Spoto, Christine Stearns. Sunday for Maya Krishna-Rogers, Benjamin Brickner, Truscha Quatrone
A message from AARP New Jersey:
Caring for a parent, spouse or other older loved one can be financially and emotionally draining. Every day, family caregivers struggle to assist older loved ones often using money out of their own pockets. The average family caregiver spends about a quarter of their income on caregiving activities. That’s a huge burden. But NJ lawmakers can give family caregivers the relief they need by supporting the Caregiver’s Assistance Act (A1802/S2021). Tell lawmakers: support (A1802/S2021).
THIS SHBP IS EXPENSIVE — Groups request $350M from state to offset health insurance premium increases for public workers, by POLITICO’s Daniel Han: A coalition of local government organizations and public sector unions are requesting a $350 million deal to offset premium increases for local governments that participate in New Jersey’s public workers health insurance program. In a proposal sent to Gov. Phil Murphy, Senate President Nick Scutari and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin earlier this month, the groups requested the one-time appropriation to offset double-digit increases in premiums for the State Health Benefits Program for 2023. As part of the proposal, the State Health Benefits Program’s Plan Design Committee would be required to come up with $100 million in savings for plan year 2024 for the local government side of the program.
NEEDS MORE PATRONAGE — SDA overhaul bill faces pushback over inclusion of funding for charter schools, by POLITICO’s Carly Sitrin: Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin’s effort to overhaul the beleaguered Schools Development Authority is meeting pushback from some education advocates “concerned” about a provision that would allow charter schools to get state funding to build and renovate their buildings. Lawmakers in the lower house’s Education Committee said the bill, NJ A4496 (22R) is still a work-in-progress and voted unanimously on Thursday to approve a raft of amendments. … The amendments loosen the initially proposed strict oversight the Legislature would have over the SDA, giving more responsibility to the state education commissioner instead.
I AM DEGROOT — “The Best Route for Paul DeGroot,” by InsiderNj’s Fred Snowflack: “When last seen publicly precisely a month ago, Republican Paul DeGroot was ending a spirited, although unsuccessful, campaign in CD-11. The results had to be a bit jarring. DeGroot lost by 19 points to Mikie Sherrill. It’s a funny thing about politics, though, election losses can become springboards to future campaigns. Like what? Rumors reverberating in Morris County Republican politics have DeGroot possibly seeking state or county office. He lives in Montville, which puts him in LD-26.”
TIKTOK AND YOU MIGHT STOP — “States move to ban TikTok – could New Jersey join them?” by NJ 101.5’s Michael Symons: “While a handful of states have moved to ban TikTok from their employees’ computers and phones, New Jersey officials haven’t made a similar move but have had discussions about apps that pose potential security risks. Policies for the security of mobile devices for the state’s executive branch are set by the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness and its Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell Division. Communications director Maria Prato said any outright ban of hardware or software products would first be discussed with the agencies that would be affected.”
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I WAS TOLD IT HAD OUTLIVED ITS USEFULNESS — ”Waterfront Commission, which N.J. Gov. Murphy hopes to kill, blocks alleged mob associates from working at ports,” by Gothamist’s Clayton Guse: “An embattled mob watchdog overseeing New York Harbor’s seaports held its first meeting in seven months Wednesday — and promptly barred a rogues gallery of alleged La Cosa Nostra associates from working at the docks.”
IMPORTANT NEWS: Former Senate President Steve Sweeney, who’s running around the state in preparation for a 2025 gubernatorial run, is now sporting a beard. This is an interesting development, as it follows the sudden appearances of a significant amount of hair on Gov. Murphy’s head. Although both men’s hair is the same color, sources tell me that the the two men have grown the hair independent of each other.
—“With more than 14,300 vehicles stolen in N.J. so far this year, officials push for tougher penalties”
—“Report says criminal justice reform weathered pandemic”
—“New Jersey political dynasties: Built on stone or sand?”
—Assembly committees advance flood readiness and recovery package
—“Will NJ impose ‘salary transparency’ on employers? State could follow NYC’s lead”
—“Attorney General outlines abortion protections for doctors, women in N.J.”
—“NJ overdose deaths expected to hit mark not seen since 2017”
—“Gov. Murphy names members to his Task Force on Public School Staff Shortages”
—“Two N.J. congressmen voted against bill to protect same-sex and interracial marriages”
—“For Rep. Donald Norcross, today’s marriage equality vote was personal”
—Lassiter: “Notable milestones on the road to gay marriage equality in New Jersey”
A message from AARP New Jersey:
DINKY COULD GET MORE ROBUST — “Ditch NJ Transit’s Dinky trains, build $145 M light rail and bus system, report says,” by NJ Advance Media’s Larry Higgs: “The ‘Dinky’ — the two-car train that shuttles passengers on the 2.7 mile line between Princeton and the Northeast Corridor rail line — should be replaced with a $145 million dual purpose light rail line and a bus rapid transit system that can be extended into other areas, a consultant’s report recommended. The 44-page report by Stantec recommended alternative one, replacement of the existing commuter rail line with a “Transitway” line that is paved for bus operations and has embedded rails for light rail trains that would run between the Northeast Corridor line and Princeton. The bus rapid transit component could run on local streets beyond Princeton and Princeton Junction stations on future extensions to serve surrounding areas. The concept got a thumbs up from the ‘Friends of the Dinky Corridor’”
DOUGOUT — “Palmer won’t run for Mercer County executive, will back Benson,” by New jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “Former Trenton Mayor Douglas Palmer has decided not to run for Mercer County Executive and instead will endorse Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Hamilton) for the Democratic nomination. Benson is expected to announce his primary challenge to five-term incumbent Brian Hughes next week. This sets up a fight for the organization line at the Mercer County Democratic convention early next year — and possibly in the June primary. Palmer, who spent 20 years as mayor of the state’s capital city, said last month that he was considering a run against Hughes. He will announce his support for Benson on Monday. ‘I strongly believe Dan Benson can bring us the type of new leadership, economic revitalization, equity and inclusion this county needs,’ Palmer told the New Jersey Globe.”
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CUMBERLAND COUNTY — “N.J. municipal court allowing virtual hearings for everyone — except Latinos, judge alleges,” by Matt Gray for NJ.com: “A New Jersey municipal court judge said he was threatened with removal from the bench this week after alleging Latino defendants in his Cumberland County courtroom were being required to come to court for hearings while others were given the option of virtual appearances. Millville municipal court Judge Jason Witcher said he began seeing the alleged discrimination in October and, after trying to resolve the issue with court administrators behind the scenes, called it out in open court on Monday morning. Witcher questioned defendants in court for motor vehicle and other relatively minor offenses whether they were given the option of attending their hearings remotely by video or by phone. After most Latino defendants said no, the judge said the court session was ‘the most discriminatory event I have ever been a part of in my entire career.’”
THE BOOR WAR — “Unprofessional, ‘boorish behavior’ in workplace not illegal under N.J. laws, town says in court filings,” by NJ Advance Media’s Anthony G. Atrino: “A township in Essex County has fired back at its chief financial officer’s lawsuit, claiming unprofessional, ‘boorish behavior’ in the workplace is not a violation of state whistleblower laws meant to protect employees from retaliatory acts. Padmaja Rao, chief financial officer for Montclair, alleges in court papers that Township Administrator Timothy Stafford verbally abused her, bullied her, and engaged repeatedly in ‘demeaning and derogatory behaviors’ toward her and other female department heads … a motion to dismiss the suit filed on Nov. 23, Montclair’s attorneys say the instances of unprofessional behavior cited in Rao’s lawsuit are not protected under New Jersey’s whistleblower laws, known as CEPA. “‘hile plaintiff makes allegations of workplace disagreements that may even constitute unprofessional conduct or boorish behavior, it simply is not actionable as a matter of law under CEPA or LAD,’ the motion states.”
COOL: SPECIAL LEGISLATION SO SELECT POLITICIANS QUINTUPLE THEIR PENSIONS. NOT COOL: ALLOWING A REGULAR PERSON TO COLLECT THE PENSION SHE ACTUALLY EARNED — “‘Destroyed and discarded’: These missing records cut Paterson school retiree’s pension,” by The Record’s Joe Malinconico: “Haifa Zahroon recalled working for the Paterson Board of Education in late 1995, sitting at a folding table in a school hallway converting hard-copy student records into electronic spreadsheets. For Zahroon, there’s bitter irony in the nature of the first job she performed for a school district where she ended up working for almost 27 years. That’s because the school district has been unable to find Zahroon’s own paper payroll documents from that time, and it doesn’t have any electronic personnel records from that long ago. As a result, Zahroon may be losing several thousand dollars per year in reduced pension payments … the school district told the state it didn’t have the requisite records to confirm Zahroon’s part-time employment. ‘Unfortunately, we cannot provide documentation of work hours for the period in question because we believe Ms. Zahroon’s payroll records were inadvertently destroyed and discarded after a flood event at our old administrative offices,’ the Paterson school district’s director of employee services, Lynette Gonzalez, said in a Sept. 14 letter to the state pension division.”
ROSENELLO WILL RIDE SANDWORM TO TRENTON — “State goes to court to stop North Wildwood dune work,” by The Press of Atlantic City’s Bill Barlow: “A fight simmering between the state and the city over sand dunes appears to have heated up, with New Jersey seeking an injunction in Superior Court to stop the city’s work. Mayor Patrick Rosenello is asking Gov. Phil Murphy to intervene. Sand dunes in the city were hit hard in October as the remnants of Hurricane Ian passed the region, cutting steep cliffs in some areas … At the time, Rosenello said the city would act quickly to address the situation and protect the city from future storms. The state Department of Environmental Protection gave emergency authorization for some of the work, but told North Wildwood not to touch the dunes and declined emergency authorization for a permanent bulkhead. Rosenello said at the time that work would proceed anyway. He said the city didn’t have a choice.”
—“Asbury Park residents call public housing conditions ’embarrassing,’ ‘hazardous’”
—“[Trenton] employee says she was fired after reporting boss’ constant sexual comments”
—“Hoboken Asst. Corporation Counsel John Allen leaving City Hall, Assembly run appears likely”
—“Seton Hall plan to build practice gym amplifies flood concerns in neighboring Newark”
—“Figueroa Kettenburg bashes rival for personal attacks on her parents and other ‘blended families’”
—”It’s official: Watson joins Millville commission, special election term good for 3 years”
—“West Milford school board approves controversial school shakeup for 2023”
—“Horn Antenna was crucial to Big Bang theory. Should Holmdel let developer build on site?”
—“Mendham recount set for Friday, likely followed by a lawsuit”
—“Raritan, Hillsborough candidates ask judge for recount in close races”
—”‘Dangerous’ anti-Muslim messaging remains a mystery”
TEEN SUICIDE — “The life & death of a ‘perfect human’,” by NJ Advance Media’s Adam Clark: “With every breath, Shiv Kulkarni felt the pressure of who he was supposed to be. The 14-year-old boy with wavy black hair was always the smart one. The mature one. The one Indian mothers in well-to-do Livingston pointed to and said, “Why can’t you be more like him?” But behind his veneer of academic perfection, Shiv was wrestling with the inner turmoil of hidden secrets. He was gay. He was depressed. And he was thinking about killing himself … Six months later, everyone found out what he was hiding when he leapt off the top of the Vessel in Manhattan, his horrified mother screaming as she watched him die before her eyes … No one will ever know exactly why Shiv killed himself. But family and friends say he was terrified of being viewed as different as he grappled with his sexuality, cultural identity, major depressive disorder and the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic. His death is part of an unprecedented mental health crisis that continues to escalate among adolescents, especially vulnerable LGBTQ kids who often feel rejected.”
—“Opposition to NJ offshore wind projects dominate DEP hearing”
—“COVID cases climbed in Pa. and N.J. in the wake of Thanksgiving”
A message from AARP New Jersey:
Caring for a parent, spouse or other older loved one can be financially and emotionally draining. Every day, family caregivers struggle to assist loved ones often using money out of their own pockets. The average family caregiver spends about a quarter of their income on caregiving activities. Many take on debt or tap into savings to make sure their loved ones get the care they need. That’s a huge burden. And their sacrifices save the state and taxpayers money by keeping their loved ones out of costly nursing home facilities. New Jersey family caregivers provide more than $13 billion a year in unpaid care. It’s past time to give them some financial relief. NJ lawmakers can take action by supporting the Caregiver’s Assistance Act (A1802/S2021). This bill would provide a modest tax credit for family caregivers who pay for expensive care out of their own pockets. Tell lawmakers: support (A1802/S2021).
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