Opening back up the pension system

It doesn’t seem that long ago that in a series of new laws, the state…

It doesn’t seem that long ago that in a series of new laws, the state excised new hires for many public jobs — usually elected or appointed ones — from the pension system.

Now, there’s a movement to bring some of those back.

So far this year, bills have advanced in either the Assembly or Senate to restore administrative law judges, county prosecutors and workers comp judges into the pension system. (Assistant state and county prosecutors hired after 2010 would also get to be in the more generous Prosecutors Part of the pension system.)

Judges and prosecutors say this is necessary to attract and retain top tier people in the jobs.

None of this is comparable to writing a well-connected former state senator and mayor back into the pension system right as she accepted a $275,000 pensionable job. But Assemblymember Ned Thomson (R-Monmouth), who was a PERS trustee, says this is just a gradual chipping away at the reforms made over the years. There was a reason, of course: The massive underfunding of the pension system.

Read more about it here.

WHERE’S MURPHY?: In Trenton for a 1 p.m. coronavirus press conference

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I can’t compete with the power of the Democratic Party. I’m about to smoke some weed.” — NJ Weedman Ed Forchion to an administrative law judge on state Democrats’ petition challenge to his independent gubernatorial bid

TWEET OF THE DAY: @NewJerseyOAG: “Have you heard about businesses that “gift” marijuana w/ the purchase of snacks or other items? This isn’t the kind of cannabis business allowed by NJ’s new law. We’re warning these businesses to stop unlawful practices that could undercut the legal market

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Archer’s Rick Mroz, former Assemblymember Al Coutinho

WEINBURNED — “N.J. senator says colleague is blocking domestic violence bills because he says many claims are ‘made up’,” by NJ Advance Media’s Susan K. Livio: “Senate Majority Leader and Bergen County Democrat Loretta Weinberg lobbed the verbal grenade during a virtual public hearing Monday night against Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, the chairman of the influential Senate Judiciary Committee and a municipal prosecutor. ‘He said he feels most of the cases in his wide legal career have been made up,’ Weinberg told members of the Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey Politics … The stalled bills would be a topic for discussion at a future workgroup meeting, she said. Contacted by phone after the meeting he did not attend, Scutari flatly denied Weinberg’s claim. ‘That’s a little shocking. I’ve never said anything like that,’ Scutari told NJ Advance Media. ‘I don’t know what she is talking about.’ Scutari said he had no recollection of talking to Weinberg about the legislation, and that Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester had asked him to consider posting them for a future hearing. ‘They are being analyzed by our counsel. If they are appropriate, they will get a hearing,’ Scutari said. He said the attorney review is a common procedure for all bills that go through his committee.”

GUNS — “Mayors of New Jersey’s cities want gun crimes exempted from 2017 bail reform laws,” by The Paterson Press’ Joe Malinconico: “Facing a surge in gun violence, the mayors of Newark, Trenton, Paterson and three other cities on Tuesday called for state officials to modify New Jersey’s bail reform law. During a press conference outside Paterson City Hall, the mayors said the state should disqualify defendants accused of gun crimes from the jail release provisions of state bail reform. ‘We can’t let the people who are perpetuating the gun violence remain free after they are arrested,’ said Reed Gusciora, mayor of Trenton, where shooting incidents increased by 48% in 2020. Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said he and his counterparts in the New Jersey Urban Mayors Association were lobbying key legislators and the state Attorney General’s Office to get a gun crime exemption added to the state’s bail reform law. Also present at Tuesday’s event were the mayors of Hillside, Plainfield and Roselle … When asked during the press conference for statistics about the impact bail reform had on gun violence, Sayegh acknowledged that the group had not collected any data. He said the group has only anecdotal evidence of the problem.”

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PORTUGAL WEST — “Democrats in Congress introduce decriminalization bill for all drugs, not just weed,” by The Verge’s Kim Lyons: “US Reps. Cori Bush (D-MO) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) are introducing a bill today that would decriminalize not just cannabis but all drug possession, in favor of what they’re calling a ‘health-centered approach.’ The Drug Policy Reform Act (DRPA) would end criminal penalties for ‘personal use’ drug possession at the federal level, expunge criminal records, and shift the regulatory authority from the attorney general to the secretary of Health and Human Services, ‘to emphasize that substance use is a health issue and not a criminal issue.’ Under the act, people could still face fines for drug possession, but a court could waive the fine if the person is unable to pay. The act would require HHS to establish a commission on substance abuse, health, and safety to determine the ‘benchmark’ amount for personal use drug possession. It would also limit state and local governments from being able to receive funds under the Byrne and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant programs — both of which help fund state and local police departments — if they don’t adopt decriminalization policies.”

FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS: RENAMING ITSELF THE ‘SCREW MALINOWSKI COMMISSION’ — New Jersey’s congressional redistricting commission set, by POLITICO’s Matt Friedman: New Jersey’s 13-member congressional redistricting commission is just about set after the Democratic State Committee on Tuesday announced its six picks for the panel. Republicans last month named their six members. The only person yet to be appointed is the 13th tie-breaking member. That person is selected by a majority vote of the commission by July 15. Failing that, the state Supreme Court would select one of the two highest vote-getters on Aug. 10. “These are highly-skilled individuals who will work as a team of Democrats to draw the congressional districts for the pivotal 2022 election and the following election cycles,” Senate President Steve Sweeney said of the Democratic picks. “I have confidence in their ability to ensure strong and fair representation for New Jersey in the halls of Congress.”

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TRENTON MAKES POLITICIANS THE WORLD SAYS ‘NO THANKS’ — “Trenton councilman Blakeley torches Ramos’ olive branch, feud reaches new heights,” by The Trentonian’s Isaac Avilucea: “Kentucky-based ‘hacks’ need not apply, but the Kentucky Fried Chicken man is on the short list. At-large councilman Jerell Blakeley slayed Rolando Ramos over social media, making it clear the retired Trenton Police lieutenant has a better chance of winning the lottery than becoming police director. ‘My vote would not just be no but HELL NO,’ Blakeley wrote in a vicious Facebook post that people urged him to remove. He dismissed Ramos’ credentials as ‘wack’ and suggested his internal affairs file was thicker than the ‘Gutenberg Bible.’ ‘On second thought, release your internal affairs file and maybe I’ll consider it,’ Blakeley wrote. The councilman was incensed that no-shame Ramos — who has laid into the councilman in thinly veiled pro-police prose that appeared in these pages — recently emailed him ‘jockeying’ for ex-director Sheilah Coley’s position.”

BIAS CRIME — “Off-duty Jersey City police officer assaulted by group of men shouting racial slurs,” by The Jersey Journal’s Ron Zeitlinger: “An off-duty Jersey City police officer was beaten unconscious by a group of men hurling racial epithets at him early Sunday morning, authorities said. Jersey City police were flagged down at 3:27 a.m. in the area of Grove Street and Newark Avenue and found a 42-year-old off-duty police officer bleeding from his head and face, city spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said. The victim, who is white, told police he was assaulted by a group of 10 men and that he identified himself as a police officer multiple times before losing consciousness. The group of men then fled. The 42-year-old was taken to a local hospital with severe head trauma, and he was treated and released.”

OWNERS CHARED UNDER GODWIN’S LAW — “Paterson shop’s swastika banner, aimed at Israel, provokes outrage at home” by The Record’s Hannan Adely and Deena Yellin: “For three months, the banner hung outside a Paterson tobacco shop, with a message designed to provoke. ‘Stop the New Nazis,’ it proclaimed, with a blue swastika emblazoned over an Israeli flag and a picture of longtime Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defaced with a Hitler-like mustache. The sign finally detonated over the weekend after pictures were posted online, stirring anger among local residents who condemned it as antisemitic and insensitive. By Monday, the owners of Clifton Hookah had taken the banner down. It was meant as a critique of Israeli government policy toward Palestinians, but the argument was getting lost amid the controversy, said Layla Samara, an employee whose family owns the store. ‘When we put it up, we knew it would spark controversy,’ she said in an interview. ‘It was supposed to make people uncomfortable. Talks like this need to be happening.’”

CHONG’S RIVER —“Toms River forms committee to discuss marijuana businesses,” by The Asbury Park Press’ Jean Mikle: “Council members Laurie Huryk and Daniel Rodrick will join local residents on a committee that will discuss whether marijuana businesses should be allowed in the township. Members of the committee are expected to be appointed Tuesday. The council last week again tabled an ordinance that would bar companies that sell, manufacture or distribute weed from operating in town. The measure is expected to be discussed again — and possibly voted on — at the July 13 council meeting. Huryk supported legalizing marijuana and has urged the council not to ban weed businesses from town, while Rodrick has said he does not think businesses that sell weed should be allowed in Toms River.”

CDB OIL? — “He backed up fellow cop’s sex claim. Then Matawan fired him for using CBD oil: lawsuit,” by The Asbury Park Press’ Kathleen Hopkins: “Christopher Stark, a 21-year veteran of the borough police force, claims in a lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Monmouth County that he was labeled a ‘rat’ and targeted for random drug testing that led to his firing after he filed a certification and provided deposition testimony in support of a sexual discrimination lawsuit brought by a fellow officer. Stark was suspended and eventually fired after his use of CBD oil was discovered, even though he claims the CBD oil was prescribed to him by his doctor, is legal to purchase in New Jersey and is not listed as a prohibited substance on the state attorney general’s or Matawan Police Department’s guidelines regarding drug testing of police officers. Stark, in his suit, claims the suspension was punishment for his certification and testimony in support of fellow officer Jennifer Paglia’s lawsuit.”

TURN TO THE LEFT — “Jersey City Ward D council hopeful Freire to host drag brunch fundraiser ‘Drag Me to the Polls’,” by Hudson County View’s John Heinis: “Jersey City Ward D council hopeful Danielle Freire will be hosting a drag brunch fundraiser later this month, aptly titled ‘Drag Me to the Polls.’ ‘Powered by people ready to see authentic representation in the Heights, our event is an ode to the historic efforts made by the fierce LGBTQIA+ community who have fought to be seen and heard. The LGBTQIA+ community is near and dear to me — I’m a proud ally and friend to amazing humans who’ve” brightened my life with love, joy, and wisdom,’ Freire said in a statement.”

NEWARK — “N.J. city to unveil 700-pound statue of George Floyd,” by NJ Advance Media’s Noah Cohen: “Newark Mayor Ras Baraka on Wednesday is set to unveil a statue of George Floyd that officials say will be displayed outside City Hall for at least a year.”

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SO-SO-VAXXERS — “N.J.’s COVID anti-vaxxers aren’t all conspiracy theorists. That’s still a problem,” by NJ Advance Media’s Katie Kausch: “The last time he got a vaccine, a new one developed to stave off the swine flu, John W. landed in a hospital bed. It wasn’t the first time. He also had a bad reaction to his childhood immunizations that left doctors scratching their heads for weeks. John, 25, has a litany of allergies, including fructose and sterling silver — and something that was in those vaccines. So when the COVID-19 vaccine became widely available in New Jersey this spring, John said no thanks. He said he already knows what could happen … Joe and John, who NJ Advance Media is identifying only by their first name and last initial over their concerns about putting their careers in jeopardy, aren’t conspiracy theorists. They don’t think the government is trying to microchip them or that the vaccine will make them magnetic. ‘We’re not all nutjobs who don’t want the vaccine’ Joe said. They’ve made their decision based on health concerns, gut feelings and a general mistrust of the government and other institutions. Those feelings are hard to shake … Joe and John fall into a tricky category that health officials are going to have to address if the vaccine is truly going to be a way out of the pandemic.”

HORSESCREW CRABS — “Giant horseshoe crab orgy on this N.J. beach is wild to see and science behind it is amazing,” by NJ Advance Media’s Tim Hawk: “The continuous squawking of shorebirds drowned out the peaceful sounds of waves coming ashore along Sunray Beach as the sun began to set Tuesday evening. The birds, like the people walking along this Delaware Bay shore in Cape May County, were there for one reason, to visit the horseshoe crabs. To be exact the shorebirds were there to eat the eggs of the spawning crabs, a midway point during their long distance journey. The people were there to catch a glimpse of this ritual that is more than 400 million years old. “

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