Author: Chase Brush

Chivukula on BPU appointment: I'm ready

Chivukula on BPU appointment: I'm ready

TRENTON - Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-17) was riding high in spirits following this morning's news that Gov. Chris Christie has nominated him to serve as the state's next Board of Public Utilities Commissioner.

He beamed into a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier to confirm with members his interview for Monday, when he'll return for a formal vetting.

"I take it as a great opportunity, honor and privilege, especially because I am probably one of the first South Asians to be appointed to the Board of Public Utilities," Chivukula, Chairman of the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee, told PolitickerNJ on his way out. Chivukula was the first Indian American elected to the Assembly and the fourth Indian-American in the country to be elected to state office.

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Echoing Christie, O'Toole says SCI should end its 'legislative meddling'

Echoing Christie, O'Toole says SCI should end its 'legislative meddling'

TRENTON - State Senator Kevin O'Toole (R-40) is firmly behind Gov. Chris Christie in ending the "legislative meddling"  into the circumstances surrounding last year's George Washington Bridge lane closings, colloquially called 'Bridgegate,' by members of the Select Committee on Investigations.

Just a few hours after Christie brought the hammer down on members of SCI, telling them to "wrap up" their work and "do their job," O'Toole expressed a similar sentiment to PolitickerNJ.

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Lawmakers, agency reps spar over bill to dissolve Waterfront Commission

Lawmakers, agency reps spar over bill to dissolve Waterfront Commission

TRENTON - Lawmakers, legal counsellors and business owners traded fiery words at a Senate Economic Growth Committee hearing today as they debated -- and ultimately released -- a bill that would dissolve The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, a bi-state regulatory agency created in 1953 to combat criminal activity at the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The Commission -- the primary purpose of which is to license businesses and vet potential employees at shipping companies at the port to ensure hiring practices are in accordance with state and federal law -- has become the subject of criticism among lawmakers and labor leaders who see its involvement in the industry as crippling to the state's economic growth. The port's leading labor organizations have held protests over the that involvement.

More recently, the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) union joined with the region's main employer group, the New York Shipping Association (NYSA), in suing the agency over those hires, mostly vacant longshoremen positions they're not able to fill and which they insist are hurting business.

Frustration over the commission was on high exhibit again today, with legislators like state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-20) and shipping labor leaders like John Nardy, president of the New York Shipping Association, slamming the commission for playing an overly bureaucracy -- and, they argue, unnecessary -- role in the industry's affairs.    

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Watson Coleman on CD3 race: Belgard's message 'resonating' with voters

Watson Coleman on CD3 race: Belgard's message 'resonating' with voters

TRENTON - Reacting to recent polling numbers that show Democratic hopeful Aimee Belgard neck-and-neck with her Republican opponent in CD3, fellow Democrat and congressional candidate Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15) said she's not surprised that the Burlington County freeholder is holding her own in a race that many assume is the Republican's to lose.

During a press conference yesterday where she accepted an endorsement from the Sierra Club of her own campaign against Somerset County doctor Alieta Eck in CD12, Watson Coleman said Belgard's message is "resonating" with voters in CD3.

"She's right on the issues, she's standing up for people in her district, and I think that message is resonating," Watson Coleman said of Belgard, the Democratic contender in a historically red-leaning CD3. "I also think that people are very weary in the state of New Jersey about who they're sending back to Congress. They want things to get done. They want to walk away from this sort of no-ism that is taking over the Congress and they want people who are willing to work with one another so that they can come to solutions on some of these problems."

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Menendez in Washington: 'We have to think about what is necessary to defeat ISIS'

Menendez in Washington: 'We have to think about what is necessary to defeat ISIS'

WASHINTON, D.C. - Speaking as chairman at a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on Capitol Hill today, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said the United States and the Obama Administration "would be fools" not to take the terrorist threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, a growing militant group in the Middle East, seriously.

Menendez addressed other members of the committee as well as Secretary of State John Kerry, who testified there on behalf of the administration and its strategy for dealing with the crisis.

“This is what we know about ISIL: It has brutally, mercilessly, barbarically followed through on its threats to kill American hostages James Foley and Steve Sotloff," Menendez said during his opening remarks. "It beheaded British aide-worker, David Haines on Saturday and threatens to execute another British citizen, Alan Hening. It promotes genocide against anyone who does not share its warped version of Islam: moderate Sunnis, Shias, Christians, Yazidis, minorities. It enslaves women and children. It has seized U.S. and Iraqi military equipment and has built a formidable fighting force.

“It’s pumping oil and selling it to the tune of one million dollars a day to fund its brutal tactics, along with kidnappings, theft, extortion, and external support. It is recruiting disciples for its unholy war at a frightening pace from Europe, the U.S., and anywhere they can find disaffected people. These foreign fighters are crossing from Turkey which – because of fear or maybe ideology – has declined to participate in the effort to counter ISIL. It has declared the territory it occupies a caliphate with intent to seize more territory from U.S. partners and allies – from Jordan to Saudi Arabia to Lebanon. The risk to Jordanian and Lebanese stability is real, it’s urgent, and it’s grave.

“We would be fools to not take this threat seriously," he added. "ISIL is an enemy of the United States and the civilized world."

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Democratic and Republican lawmakers announce package to fight drug abuse 'epidemic'

Democratic and Republican lawmakers announce package to fight drug abuse 'epidemic'

TRENTON - Lawmakers in both the Assembly and the Senate announced this afternoon their intent to introduce a 21-bill legislative package to wipe from the streets what they see as one of the largest health crises facing New Jersey residents today: heroin and prescription drug abuse.

"It's being traffic in our state through our ports, in our airports, over our highways, and it's getting into the hands of young people who are purchasing it roughly at the price of a package of cigarettes," state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37)said during a press conference in the Statehouse today where lawmakers and health experts gathered to introduce the package. "It's taking the lives of residents in cities and in suburbs, it crosses socio-economic lines and racial boundaries. It is devastating to families … loved ones and its ruining countless lives. We have to end this cycle of addiction overdose and death in our communities."

The newly-minted package, a "bipartisan" effort on the part of Republican and Democratic lawmakers, as well as health experts and advocates, will focus on improving paths to evidence-based prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts for opiate addiction in the state, according to Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Chairmen Joseph Vitale (D-19). Vitale announced the legislation today alongside fellows Republican and Democratic lawmakers like  Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee Chairman Herb Conaway (D-7), Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R-11), and state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-20).

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Sierra Club backs Watson Coleman in CD12

Sierra Club backs Watson Coleman in CD12

TRENTON - The Sierra Club, the oldest and largest environmental group in the country, announced its endorsement of Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15) in the Twelfth Congressional District on the steps of the of the Statehouse here today.

"Very rarely do you have the opportunity to endorse a candidate who you know going into office is going to be a champion, who will fight for the environment, who will fight for the people not only in New Jersey but nationally," Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said. "If there's an issue that has been important to the people of New Jersey, Bonnie Watson Coleman has been at the forefront for her entire career."

Tittel lauded Watson Coleman, a Democrat and former Assembly Majority Leader, for being a "fighter" and for a "long record of championing clean air and water in New Jersey."

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ForwardNJ coalition announces membership and mission on TTF issue; Prieto welcomes support

ForwardNJ coalition announces membership and mission on TTF issue; Prieto welcomes support

TRENTON - At a press conference in the Statehouse today, ForwardNJ – a recently announced advocacy coalition for New Jersey's transportation infrastructure -- announced its members and mission, taking aim at the state's depleted Transportation Trust Fund and calling on lawmakers to come up with solutions for financing it.

“Put quite simply, New Jersey’s transportation system has run out of gas," Chair of ForwardNJ, President and CEO of the NJ Chamber of Commerce, Tom Bracken said in a statement released shortly after the presser. "We must replenish the fund to protect the safety of our families and the health of our economy. There is no greater priority for the business community right now than replenishing the trust fund in a smart, robust, sustainable way. In addition, we believe the revenue should be constitutionally dedicated to prevent any potential diversion of funds down the road from these critically important transportation projects.”

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Bramnick urges Atlantic County prosecutors to use discretion in Shaneen Allen case

Bramnick urges Atlantic County prosecutors to use discretion in Shaneen Allen case

TRENTON - Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) today urged prosecutors in Atlantic County to reconsider the case of Shaneen Allen, a Pennsylvania woman who was arrested for possessing a legal firearm in Atlantic County earlier this year, and called on lawmakers across the state to revisit the issue of prosecutorial discretion to better deal with similar circumstances. 

Bramnick held an impromptu press conference in the Statehouse where he passionately explained why he thinks Allen ought to receive a lesser punishment -- either a disorderly persons offense or the opportunity for pretrial intervention, he said -- for her crime.

"There comes a time as a legislator, as a human being, that something happens that mandates you to make a public statement," Bramnick said. "Now the reason I became a public legislator, a public official, is because when I see something that goes against my grain, that to me defies common sense, I need to speak out."

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The 10 best - and worst - Republican presidential primary matchups for Chris Christie in 2016

The 10 best - and worst - Republican presidential primary matchups for Chris Christie in 2016

New Jersey's Gov. Chris Christie is back on the Republican Governors Association campaign (read: presidential campaign) trail this week with a trip to the Carolinas today to stump for incumbent GOP South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and North Carolina Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Thom Tillis. Tomorrow, he returns to New Hampshire -- a first-in-the-nation presidential primary battleground -- for his third visit to the state in recent months.

That these trips are part of an early trial run for Christie ahead of mounting an actual bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination is all but obvious. He's publicly mulled the move, telling a crowd of beachgoers this summer that he's "thinking" about it, but his political movements behind the scenes are more telling: he's spent almost as much time out of state as he has in state this year, stumping for fellow gubernatorial candidates as head of RGA; when he has been home, it's been to undertake milestone bi-partisan legislation, reinforcing his image as a "different kind" of politician; he even traveled to Mexico earlier this month on a "trade mission" to strengthen economic and cultural ties between New Jersey and the Latin American country. If Christie is testing the waters of a presidential campaign, he seems to be finding the temperature to his liking.

But that's not to say Christie's bid for the nomination, if (read: when) he finally declares, will be easy. Though he has had the advantage of his RGA chairmanship during this trial run, giving him the exposure and networking opportunities that other GOP hopefuls being touted as presidential candidates lacked over these past few months, it's near impossible to predict how things will play out once he's actually put beside the competition, in front of voters, on the national stage. National polling puts Christie among a handful of frontrunners in this race-before-the-race, but, as Ben Dworkin, Director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, points out: "No one has declared, no one knows how much money each will be able to generate, and no one knows how these guys are going to resonate with voters. Let me put it this way: Everybody is in first place on the opening day of a season and that's where we are in this race."

Still, a number of candidates have already emerged as likely Republican contenders in 2016. Here's 10 that might pose the greastest challenge to Christie's own bid.

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The Back Room

Sources: Why Fox?

With the support of Gov. Chris Christie, Jamie Fox is on the fast track to get back to the Department of Transportation (DOT). The question is why?

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Wake-Up Call

Morning Digest: September 18th

Guv prospects Fulop and Sweeney add voices to Silva, Stack and striking 1199 SEIU workers UNION CITY – They tried out their blue collar tough guy tonsils today in front of a purple-shirted crowd of striking healthcare workers – two of three as-yet-undeclared Democratic candidates for governor: Jersey City...

Op-Ed

Legislation needed for publicly financed gubernatorial elections

By JEFF BRINDLE It is critical that the Legislature soon enact a pending bill that would ensure the state’s Gubernatorial Public Financing Program is available in the event of a special election for governor.  Not only is there no current legal... Read More >

Contributors

(9-17-14) Viral Video Prompts Questionable NJ Municipal Ordinance -  Socrates said, “While I might disagree with what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say... more »
The Correct Foreign Policy – Neither Fortress America Nor Pax Americana      Last week marked the 75th anniversary of the beginning of World War 2.  It started with the... more »
(Asbury Park, NJ) -- There's a word for someone who says one thing and does another: hypocrite.  There's no shortage of 'em in Trenton -- from ... more »
 The following letter was sent today to Republican state legislators, county chairs, state committee members, and New Hampshire... more »

Quote of the Day

quote of the day

“We’re going to hold the line until hell freezes over, and when hell freezes over, we’re going to hold the line on ice skates." - Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-31), at yesterday's SEIU 1199 rally.

- PolitickerNJ

Poll

Who would make the best running mate for Chris Christie if he lands the GOP nomination for president?:

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