Weekly Roundup: Week of April 22

TRENTON – The Lottery will remain under state control and will be bigger and better than ever.

That was the vow by Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, appearing before the Assembly Budget Committee “without being subpoenaed,” a reference to Chairman Vincent Prieto’s comment some time back about the difficulty of getting the treasurer to appear.

Sidamon-Eristoff made clear this past week that the state is not privatizing the state Lottery.

Rather, it’s just contracting with a company that has long done business with the state, GTECH, to run its sales and marketing department to beef up participation from current levels, which Sidamon-Eristoff said are not bad but could be better.

Republicans like Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon praised the move, saying it was a sign of innovation, likening it to Harry Ford coming out with other vehicles besides the Model T to help grow the auto company.

But Democrats, and the CWA union, disputed the treasurer’s characterization, saying it is privatization, a risky deal, and their workers will lose their jobs.

While the treasurer said some 60 employees will be affected by the contract, he said they are welcome to reapply for their jobs and went further in saying that he doubts anyone will lose their job. Though, he said, he couldn’t make any iron-clad guarantees.

Sandy bills

Still focusing on post-Sandy rebuilding, and finding ways to make the process easier, the Senate Environment and Energy Committee released seven bills on Thursday

They include bills allowing certain counties to maintain beaches on their borders, even if it means going above the 2 percent property tax cap (S2601), and S2602, a bill repealing the law providing exceptions to permit requirements regarding dune work.

One of the more controversial proposals would allow developments on piers in high-hazard river areas outside Atlantic City. Essentially the bill targets the Hudson County waterfront.

Touted as an economic engine by supporters, including state Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, it was derided as reckless and dangerous by opponents.

Christie-Oliver tiff

In his ongoing portrayal of Assembly leaders as roadblocks to tax relief, Gov. Chris Christie, at a town hall in Bergenfield, singled out Speaker Sheila Oliver, (D-34), of East Orange, as the person responsible for holding up a shared services bill (S2) sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), of West Deptford.  

It’s not clear if the bill will be voted on anytime soon in the lower house.

In another example of the tiff, Christie, in one of his last moves before leaving for Texas this week, vetoed a Sandy oversight bill (A61) that would have established a Web site detailing spending for post-Sandy rebuilding. He called the bill redundant in his veto message, adding that it would “waste government resources.”

But Oliver quickly blasted the move, saying it deprives residents of the transparent and efficient administration of Hurricane Sandy recovery funding.

“The purpose of this measure was to ensure that the money earmarked for Hurricane Sandy recovery in the state would be spent wisely, and that the public would be well informed about the process throughout.

“I understand the governor has made certain directives to make sure this goal is met, but this measure would have made it a statutory requirement.”

Waiver rule

 A whopping 28 environmental groups have petitioned state Supreme Court to block the Christie administration rule allowing developers to apply for waivers from regulations that might be considered burdensome.

One of those groups is the Sierra Club, whose executive director, Jeff Tittel, said in a statement, “Waiving and rolling back environmental standards only make flood and storm damage worse.  We are taking on the waiver rule so we can have a more resilient and sustainable future.”

But Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese said the waiver rule “provides benefits to New Jersey and to the environment to help reduce red tape and to make government kind of fit with common sense.’’

Gun Control

A series of gun control bills were introduced by Democrats on Thursday, but it’s unclear how far they will go up the legislative ladder.

Republican Assemblyman Jon Bramnick has said Democrats are mostly using such legislation as a way to create a “wedge issue” against a popular governor.

We shall see what happens, but Christie, for his part, has framed the issue as one of “violence control” and not solely about restricting firearms. Asked whether such legislation would prevent horrendous acts of violence, Christie summed it up as “bad people will do bad things.”

And there is a rift between Senate and Assembly Democrats over the package of bills senators introduced.

Assembly Democrats criticized the omission of legislation to ban high-capacity ammunition clips and indicated there may be no point in bringing bills up for Assembly votes if such a ban is not included.

 

 

Weekly Roundup: Week of April 22