NJ Politics Digest: Weed Bill Moves Forward

Newark's Mayor Ras Baraka.

Newark’s Mayor Ras Baraka. Max Pizarro for Observer

It’s one of the most contentious issues the New Jersey legislature has taken up in recent years.

On Monday, a Senate Committee refused to take public comment on a package of marijuana legalization bills before voting on them, despite a room packed with people who waited more than six hours to have their say, according to NJ101.5. The Assembly Appropriations Committee limited members of the public to three minutes of comment apiece, and then only on amendments to the bill. The catch was that the public had never seen the amendments, and only been briefly told what they contain, according to the report. Nonetheless, the Assembly committee also voted to move the bill forward for a full legislative vote.

“It’s no way to run government,” Republican Sen. Kip Bateman said, before abstaining from voting, according to the report.

Even without allowing meaningful public comment on the plan, Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Gov. Phil Murphy are having difficulty rounding up enough members of their own party to support their legalization efforts, the New Jersey Globe reports. The measure will require 21 votes in the Senate and 41 votes in the Assembly to pass.

Reports indicate Gov. Phil Murphy is on the phone and actively twisting arms to find support, but, as the Globe points out, it will be a near thing. Many of the senators who are holding out have already voiced the strong opposition to the plan and are unlikely to respond to Murphy’s efforts. This includes Sen. Ronald Rice, a longtime legalization foe who has nonetheless said he’d support putting the proposal to a public referendum. Sweeney and Coughlin have also shot down that attempt at getting public input.

Quote of the Day: “We came to testify on a bill, and now we’re asked to testify on amendments we haven’t seen, we haven’t read. How can I testify about amendments I haven’t seen?”  — Gregory Quinlan, founder and president of the Center for Garden State Families, on the state legislature limiting public comment on the plan to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

Newark’s Mayor Mulls Universal Basic Income
Newark could become the first major American city to roll out a guaranteed income in a bid to slash the city’s sky-high poverty rates. The city’s mayor, Ras Baraka, is setting up a task force to study if such a program would be possible as one way to tackle the city’s entrenched poverty.
New York Post Read more

Another ‘Summer of Hell’? NJ Transit Train Engineer Shortage Set to Continue
The eight locomotive engineers who will graduate from training in May will not be enough to fix the shortage that has plagued the agency for the past couple of years, Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday after a tour of NJ Transit’s Emergency Operations Center in Maplewood.
The Record Read more

People Wrongly Convicted of Crimes Beg NJ to Fix Broken System
What does New Jersey owe somebody for the years they spent in prison, on parole or probation or registered as a sex offender for a crime they did not commit?
NJ.com Read more

NJ Marijuana Legalization: Let Public Be Heard on Weed
Here’s another box to check on the list of reasons the state Legislature should hold off on legalizing recreational weed: The public hearing process has been a sham.
Asbury Park Press Read more

Marijuana Bills Advance Amid Opponents’ Doomsday Rhetoric
After six hours of delays and hand-wringing, committees in both houses of the state Legislature on Monday advanced bills to legalize recreational cannabis and clear the records of those with marijuana-related convictions, setting up possible floor votes for next week.
Politico Read more

Dark Money Bill Forges Ahead in Assembly, Sans Retroactive Reporting Requirement
The requirement to disclose significant contributions and spending by politically active nonprofits—known as “dark money”—is moving ahead in the Legislature, despite the elimination of what seemed to be one of the bill’s goals—to embarrass Gov. Phil Murphy after a group that supports Murphy went back on its word to reveal its donors.
NJSpotlight Read more

Pentagon Says NJ Military Project Could Be at Risk If Money Is Diverted for Trump’s Border Wall
A $41 million construction project at Picatinny Arsenal could be at risk as the Pentagon moves to fund President Donald Trump’s southern border wall.
NJ.com Read more

Rep. Mikie Sherrill Says She’ll Vote to Give Dreamers Permanent Protection
Joining her Democratic colleagues in Congress, U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill announced Tuesday she would vote for a bill that would grant permanent legal protection to more than 2 million undocumented immigrants, including those brought to the country as children and referred to as “Dreamers.”
The Record Read more

NJ Rules Limiting Police From Helping ICE Are Now in Effect. Here’s What It Means for Cops
A state directive that strongly limits the assistance that state, county and local law enforcement can provide in federal immigration operations has gone into effect.
The Record Read more

NJ Data Broker Tried to Sell Personal Info on a Million Kids but Didn’t Tell State Officials
A New Jersey company that collects and sells personal information about consumers told regulators that it did not knowingly possess data on minors, even as it advertised a mailing list of more than a million high school students for sale on its website.
Inquirer Read more

Rutgers Faculty Members Vote to Authorize Their Union Leaders to Call for a Strike
An overwhelming majority of Rutgers University faculty members voted to authorize their union leaders to use a strike as a bargaining tool in contract negotiations as they fight for gender pay equity, more full-time faculty hires and a higher salary for teaching assistants, among other proposals.
The Record Read more

NJ Politics Digest: Weed Bill Moves Forward