Weekly Advance: Week of April 2

TRENTON – Budget hearings will continue the first week of April, at least for members of the lower chamber.

Assembly lawmakers are slated to host four budget hearings ahead of the Easter holiday weekend. The Senate does not have budget hearings on its calendar until the following week.

The acting commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, Richard Constable, will kick things off Monday with testimony before the Assembly Budget Committee at 10 a.m.

Property taxes are expected to be a focal point of discussion among Assembly Democrats, who say New Jersey residents pay about 20 percent more in property taxes under the Gov. Chris Christie administration. The Democratic majority has asserted the governor’s cuts to Homestead rebates have ultimately forced homeowners to dig deeper into their wallets.

In the afternoon, Commissioner James Simpson, of the state’s Department of Transportation, will testify before the Budget Committee.

Simpson can expect to hear from Assembly Democrats that the state’s recent toll hikes have ultimately amounted to a tax increase on residents.

On Wednesday, the lower chamber will hear testimony from the commissioner of the Department of Human Services in the morning. The afternoon hearing will focus on the realignment of social services departments, including Human Services, Health, Children and Families, and Community Affairs.

Drug Court

Members of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee will take up two pieces of legislation Tuesday.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Ray Lesniak, (D-20), of Union, would allow more people to be eligible for the drug court by giving judges additional discretion in choosing who can be admitted into the program. The bill, S881, also establishes a two-year pilot program for mandatory admission to drug court for certain offenders.

“Drug court has been a big success in terms of providing addiction treatment for people who would go to jail and not get an opportunity to recover from their addiction,” said Lesniak, adding that people who fail to get the proper treatment for their addiction often “just go back out and commit more crimes.”

Drug court is as much a benefit for the people of the state as for those who successfully complete the program, the lawmaker said, explaining that treating addictions can curb crime.

In 2009, Lesniak was the victim of a home invasion. He recalled being awoken at about 2 a.m. and seeing two men near his bed.

“The first guy said ‘shoot him,’ that’s all I heard,” Lesniak said.

The men ultimately fled the home with some cash, leaving Lesniak unharmed. The men both had drug addictions and were robbing him to feed their habit, Lesniak said.

The senator’s bill has already been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The mandatory admission pilot program is expected to cost between $5 million and $10 million, Lesniak said.

Earlier this year, Gov. Christie called for a new, expanded drug court program as an alternative to imprisonment. He said that making it mandatory for certain offenders would help prevent recidivism, reduce overcrowding in prisons, and help turn offenders into productive citizens. 

The other bill slated to be discussed is S1565, which authorizes Internet wagering at Atlantic City casinos under certain circumstances.

Week of April 2

Monday, April 2

Gov. Chris Christie

Visiting Israel

Acting Gov. Kim Guadagno

Not yet scheduled

Legislature

Senate

Nothing scheduled

Assembly

10 a.m., Assembly Budget Committee (Budget Hearings Only), Room 11, Statehouse Annex, Trenton

2 p.m., Assembly Budget Committee (Budget Hearings Only), Room 11, Statehouse Annex, Trenton

Boards and Commissions

Daily Events

6 p.m., An Evening with Karl Rove, Rebovich Institute for N.J. Politics, Bart Luedeke Center, 2083 Lawrenceville Road, Rider University, Lawrence

7 p.m., Town Hall, Senate President Steve Sweeney, property tax relief, CIM Auditorium, 200 College Drive, Camden County College, Blackwood

Tuesday, April 3

Gov. Chris Christie

Visiting Israel

Acting Gov. Kim Guadagno

Not yet scheduled

Legislature

Senate

11 a.m., Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, Room 4, Statehouse Annex, Trenton

Assembly

Nothing scheduled

Boards and Commissions

Daily Events

7:45 a.m., New Jersey Business and Industry Association’s Meet the Decision Makers: BPU President Robert Hanna, Forsgate Country Club, 375 Forsgate Drive, Monroe

Wednesday, April 4

Gov. Chris Christie

Visiting Israel

Acting Gov. Kim Guadagno

Not yet scheduled

Legislature

Senate

Nothing scheduled

Assembly

10 a.m., Assembly Budget Committee (Budget Hearings Only), Room 11, Statehouse Annex, Trenton

3 p.m., Assembly Budget Committee (Budget Hearings Only), Room 11, Statehouse Annex, Trenton

Boards and Commissions

Daily Events

Thursday, April 5

Gov. Chris Christie

Visiting Israel

Acting Gov. Kim Guadagno

Not yet scheduled

Legislature

Senate

Nothing scheduled

Assembly

Nothing scheduled

Boards and Commissions

3 p.m., Health Information Technology Commission Meeting, Health and Agriculture Building Auditorium, 369 S. Warren St., Trenton

Daily Events

1 p.m., NJDEP Presents – Creating Sustainable Businesses in New Jersey, NJDEP Headquarters, Public Hearing Room, 401 E. State St., Trenton

7:15 p.m., Cook Political Report editor Charles E. Cook Jr. discussing 2012 political scene, Hickman Hall, Room 101, 89 George St., Rutgers University Eagleton Institute of Politics

Friday, March 30

Gov. Chris Christie

Visiting Israel

Acting Gov. Kim Guadagno

Not yet scheduled

Legislature

Senate

Nothing scheduled

Assembly

Nothing scheduled

Boards and Commissions

Daily Events

Weekly Advance: Week of April 2