We’ve seen lots of public opposition to the bill known as the “Elections Transparency Act.” At committee hearings, many activists and groups indicated opposition to the measure, and — at least recently — nobody has testified in favor of it. The opposition has come from the left and right.
But the Senate yesterday still passed this bill, a baby of Senate President Nicholas Scutari, who despite 24-12 vote was the only senator to speak in favor of it. And if the Assembly follows through at its next voting session without changes, state campaign finance law will be deeply altered and in many ways more permissive, while the Election Law Enforcement Commission’s (ELEC) powers will be more restricted.
The bill is also designed to force out longtime ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle. If you read me regularly you know that already. And this isn’t just about one man. The retroactive two-year statute of limitations the bill imposes on ELEC’s against against campaign finance violations would wipe out an estimated 80 percent of its current cases, including one against the Senate Democratic Majority PAC, which Scutari is in charge of.
Scutari yesterday said this bill will force ELEC to prioritize its cases, noting last week it fined 2016 Paterson council candidate Wendy Guzman $31,000 for a violation from 2016. “How would you like it if you got a traffic ticket two years after you went through a red light?” Scutari said.
What Scutari didn’t mention — and, to be fair, may not have realized — is that ELEC filed the case against Guzman in September 2017 — less than a year and a half after the Paterson election — and that during most of 2016, ELEC couldn’t make any real decisions because the then-governor and Senate left it without a quorum due to vacancies.
Let’s see if the bill makes it through the Assembly.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Mark believed that he didn’t do anything wrong and he was a trooper, albeit a suspended one, doing what other troopers do when they get pulled over.” — Eric Kanefsky, attorney for former State Police Sergeant Marc W. Dennis, arguing for leniency after Dennis was convicted of using a stolen police identification card when he was suspended to get out of tickets during nine traffic stops over a period of about a year and a half.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — John Mooney, Charles Burton, Awilda Pomales-Diaz, Dominick Pandolfo, Rob Tornoe, Shannon Warner. Missed yesterday: Petra Gaskins
WHERE’S MURPHY? On the phone for an 11:15 a.m. AARP telephone town hall to talk about his budget
11.3 MASTROS — Senate unanimously passes $102M in school aid for districts facing state cuts, by POLITICO’s Daniel Han: The state Senate unanimously approved $102 million in fast-tracked school aid on Monday, a move that stands to mitigate cuts that over 150 school districts were poised to see under Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget. The bill, S3732, is poised to win full support from the Legislature after Murphy announced a deal on school aid Friday with Democratic lawmakers. The legislation sets aside the $102 million for school districts that would have seen cuts in state aid under Murphy’s FY2024 budget, eliminating two-thirds of the cuts districts were anticipating. While cuts were anticipated, many were larger-than-expected with school districts warning of layoffs.
REPUBLICANS VOICE THEIR OPPOSITION TO CLEANING A HOUSE — Republicans delay vote on Murphy’s BPU nominees, by POLITICO’s Ry Rivard: Republicans Monday held up Gov. Phil Murphy’s two nominations to the state Board of Public Utilities because of concerns that both nominees would rapidly move to ban the use of natural gas in the state. The nominees are long-time Murphy administration official Christine Guhl Sadovy and Marian Abdou, an attorney for the energy company NRG. Both cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday but didn’t have enough support from Republicans to get a same-day floor vote. … Republicans were concerned about the political cipher, who few people in Trenton seem to know. Abdou has little record of political involvement or donations to political causes or candidates. … [Sen. Kristin] Corrado, in particular, is worried that Murphy is bringing Abdou as part of house cleaning at BPU. She noted that Abdou was nominated the same day earlier this month that current BPU Commissioner Dianne Solomon raised questions about the Murphy administration’s energy policy on several fronts. “There does seem to be a purge going on at the BPU and we should all be concerned about that,” Corrado said.
GOLDEN OPINION — “In Brindle v. Murphy, independence is on trial,” by Carl Golden for insiderNJ: “Lacking any detailed explanation from the Administration for its effort to remove Brindle, the governor shouldn’t be surprised that it appears to be a personal vendetta, a political payback for Brindle’s advocacy for removing the anonymity of donors to “dark money” groups. Murphy, as chair of both the National Governors Association and the Democratic Governors Association, is a leading national voice of a party that has made protecting the integrity of the electoral process a major point of emphasis. His Administration’s heavy-handed action to undercut the state agency responsible for ensuring that integrity is curiously at odds with his national party.”
THE ANTI-BULLYING BILL OF WRONGS — “After another teen suicide, should NJ revisit how its schools handle bullying?” by The Record’s Maryann Koruth: “Bullying remains a rampant and widely underreported problem in New Jersey schools, advocates say, and they argue that the recent death of an Ocean County 14-year-old after a bullying incident illustrates how public schools skirt anti-bullying laws by failing to report such incidents to the state. They also say schools often withhold information from families by using privacy laws as their defense. Suspensions and detentions don’t deter bullies, experts say, but some New Jersey schools do not even have processes in place that ensure children will be safe or that bullying behavior will be addressed, despite existing requirements to do so.”
STILL EASIER THAN TO GET THROUGH TO A HUMAN AT NJ E-ZPASS CUSTOMER SERVICE — “N.J. gun owners criticize ‘egregious delays’ in concealed carry permit process,” by New Jersey Monitor’s Sophie Nieto-Munoz: “Gun owners rejoiced after the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down restrictive concealed carry laws, allowing them to apply for carry permits that for decades had been nearly impossible for most New Jerseyans to get. But nearly nine months after the ruling upended the gun landscape in the Garden State, Second Amendment advocates and gun owners say it’s still too difficult to carry their guns in public. They blame a backlog of thousands of applications, including from people who have waited years to apply for a permit; a statewide judicial vacancy crisis that has added delays to the application process; a convoluted permitting system that relies on the state’s hundreds of autonomous police departments to issue permits; and Democratic lawmakers uninterested in helping gun owners. … Sen. Ed Durr said he was a victim of the backlog himself when his permit to carry application took months to approve. He applied in early October, and it wasn’t approved until late January.”
LINDEN/LAKEWOOD PORTMANTEAU SHOULD BE LINWOOD, BUT THAT PLACE ALREADY EXISTS — Orthodox Jewish PAC with former top Giuliani aide forms in Senate president’s hometown, by POLITICO’s Matt Friedman: A small and growing Hasidic Jewish community in Linden is seeking to increase its political influence with a new PAC directed by Rudy Giuliani’s former right-hand man. The Union County United Jewish Coalition registered with the Election Law Enforcement Commission earlier this month, estimating that it will initially spend about $100,000 to “support candidates who reflects the values and interests of the communities we represent in Union County. Bruce Teitelbaum, a New York City developer who worked as a longtime Giuliani mayoral aide and eventually as his chief of staff, is one of the PAC’s directors. … Despite his long association with Giuliani — Teitelbaum said he worked with him for about 15 years — he said has not worked with the former mayor on anything related to the 2020 election, after which Giuliani promoted lies about vote fraud in an effort to keep defeated President Donald Trump in office.”
—Press release: “Assembly Dems name Rhonda Schaffler communications director”
WHEN MENENDEZ IS THROUGH WITH HIM HE’LL BE AVOCADO TOAST — “Inside the Signorello challenge of Menendez,” by InsiderNJ’s John Van Vilet: “A look over Signorello’s social media shows a man who is unquestionably Millennial, with concerns and frustrations that his generation feels are not being adequately addressed or understood by the ever-aging occupants of the congress: big tech regulation, climate change, student loan debt, FEC regulations with respect to online content. … ‘I think it actually started six years ago, [Sen. Menendez] was under federal investigation. I was a little disappointed by how held-back and restrained the party was in the face of pretty serious allegations, and it’s not like he was absolved. It was a mistrial and he was still admonished in the Senate for wrongdoing, so, it’s not like there was a clean slate.’ With the incumbent senator now facing another federal investigation, Signorello said he made up his mind. ‘I kind of had a gut-full and said somebody needs to do something about this.’”
THOMAS WILL EVENTUALLY BECOME A JIM MCGREEVEY REENTRY CLIENT — “Ex-Jersey City BOE Pres. Thomas could take plea deal in federal embezzlement case,” by Hudson County View’s John Heinis: “Former Jersey City Board of Education President Sudhan Thomas, also the ex-chief of the local employment agency, could take a plea deal in a case that accuses him of abusing both of his roles to embezzle money. ‘… An order granting a continuance of the proceedings in the above-captioned matter from March 15, 2023, through and including May 15, 2023, to permit defense counsel the reasonable time necessary for effective preparation in this matter and to allow the parties to continue plea negotiations,’ U.S. District Judge William J. Martini wrote on March 10th. ‘ … An order granting a continuance of the proceedings in the above-captioned matter from March 15, 2023, through and including May 15, 2023, to permit defense counsel the reasonable time necessary for effective preparation in this matter and to allow the parties to continue plea negotiations,’ U.S. District Judge William J. Martini wrote on March 10th.”
A SMALL OUTBURST — “Atlantic City, NJ mayor – Profane verbal attack vs. man suing him,” by WPG’s Harry Hurley: “The Atlantic County Democratic Convention had no drama whatsoever – that is – until Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small started throwing a lengthy, profanity-laced verbal attack towards John Devlin. … ‘It should be known that I paid for myself and a guest to support my political party. While exiting the convention, Mayor Marty Small completely ambushed me in front of the following people as follows,’ said Devlin. … ‘Mayor Small was yelling something to the effect of ‘you let any piece of sh** in this place?’, said Devlin. ‘As I was greeting other elected officials, Marty Small continued to verbally attack me. … ‘Marty Small continued acting out until I walked out the door. At no point did anyone in the crowd step in, except at one point Mike Suleiman said, ‘Enough Marty.’”
DE-DECAMPED — “DeCamp to end commuter bus service to New York City from New Jersey,” by The New York Times’ Hurubie Meko: “DeCamp Bus Lines, which serves riders in Passaic and Essex Counties in northern New Jersey, announced on Monday that it would end its commuter service to and from New York City on April 7. The company, which has operated in the region for over 150 years, originally using canvas-topped stagecoaches, has struggled to retain commuters since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with ridership now averaging 20 percent of prepandemic levels, according to a news release from DeCamp on Monday. Daily charter, shuttle and casino services will continue, the release said.”
MENTAL HEALTH — “Are guns, tasers and shields the best response to a mental health crisis?” by NJ Spotlight News’ Lilo H. Stainton and Bobby Brier: “When Paterson police arrived at a Mill Street apartment in response to a mental health emergency earlier this month, body-camera recordings show their interactions with Najee Seabrooks — who had locked himself in the bathroom with several weapons — were cordial and calm. “Let’s just give him some space and try and handle it the best way we can,” a patrol officer said. But by the time a trained police negotiator arrived, nearly two hours later, the apartment was filled with officers with helmets, shields and other protective gear, the video shows … [Bre] Azanedo, who worked with Seabrooks, said it has been hard for her to watch the video recordings. She noticed while the initial officers to respond treated Seabrooks with kindness — calling him ‘love’ and offering him water — the tone changed when the SWAT team showed up hours later. ‘The hostility, they created that,’ she said. The shooting death is also raising question about “use-of-force” training among police, as well as initiatives to involve mental health professionals in the response”
R.I.P. — “Clarence ‘Fuzzy’ Haskins, original member of Parliament Funkadelic, has died,” by The Asbury Park Press’ Chris Jordan: “Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins, who was part of the foundation of the Parliament Funkadelic musical movement, died March 17, the group has announced. He was 81. … He had prominent vocals and creative input on landmark albums of the early ‘70s: ‘Funkadelic,’ ‘Maggot Brain’ and ‘America Eats Its Young.’ His bodysuits and out-sized glasses added to the outlandish stage appeal of the group.”
DUCK AND RECOVER — “Vineland veteran shares therapy ducks in nursing homes,” by News 12: “Jeremy Piatt is disabled and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He and his fiancée started buying ducks to raise as emotional support animals. Now, Jeremy has about 30 ducks and he travels around the Garden State to share his beloved birds with older adults.”