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Archive for the ‘Ray Lesniak’ Category

As the pace at the State House slows to a trickle, there is an interesting side story about Ray Lesniak’s COAH bill, S-1.

S-1 abolishes COAH. But it also does a lot more including a requirement that 10% of new development be set aside for low and moderate income housing. Of course that has modifications and loopholes that housing advocates say render the 10% figure useless…but that’s a whole other debate which is way too complicated for me to tackle in this post.

Here is what S-1 also does: eliminates a 2.5% fee on commercial development. Right now, there is a moratorium on that fee but it’s set to expire July 1. Well, The Senate with Lesniak’s prodding, already passed S-1. The assembly has not. And from what I am told they will not before the end of the fiscal year. Housing and Local Government Committee Chairman Assemblyman Jerry Green told me last week that their offices got flooded with calls protesting S-1…especially since critics were not allowed to testify during the Senate Committee hearings. Green has promised a slower more deliberative process in the lower house…in other words he is in no hurry to pass the bill to meet Lesniak and Governor Christie’s timeline ( yes, btw – the Governor also wants S-1 passed ASAP ).

Green and others say the votes simply are not yet there in the Assembly. And they are proposing a separate piece of legislation to extend the moratorium on the fee. But Senator Sweeney told me Thursday that is a non-starter. He says the Assembly needs to pass S-1. There will be no extension.

Reached by telephone Democratic State Committee Chairman John Wisniewski ( who is hoping a development project in Sayreville goes forward this Summer without the fee ) said about trying to force a vote on S-1 in the Assembly, “This is the philosophy of Governor Christie, and I am not sure we should be embracing that. It doesn’t make for good government.”

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It’s that time of the year again. The New Jersey Press Association presents the Legislative Correspondent’s Club annual show.

Basically, the state’s  ( now dwindling ) press corps performs a series of skits and songs that mock the political and media elite of the Garden State. It is often quite funny replete with costumes, wigs and other flamboyant accessories that would make even Elton John blush.

As for my role…well, I am El Presidente this year. That means I don’t actually have to sing ( which is not my strong suit ). I have to deliver the introductory speech which is supposed to be funny and slightly mean spirited. Well, I don’t know how funny it shall be, although I’m working on it. It will most certainly be biting, and of course familiar.

Then of course, after the show is over, people get to stand around and hang out in a cocktail party-type atmosphere which is even more fun. And the whole evening is off the record. So, if you are remotely interested, I urge you to purchase tickets. Proceeds go to charity.

Contact Peg Stephan 609-406-0600 ext. 14. or pastephan@njpa.org

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It was refreshing to hear a legislative Democrat recently remark that when they need to bounce ideas off the Christie Admin, they get called back “immediately.” Often by the Deputy Chief of Staff. The comment was revealing in terms of what the implication was: under the previous ( Democratic! ) Governor…that was not always the case.

It was also uplifting to see Both Democrats and Republicans taking the lead on the four bills intended to reform the pension system. Steve Sweeney had Minority Leader Tom Kean’s name pretty closely following his own in the first sentence of the press release. Christie was sorta non-committal in a Tuesday press conference about where he is on those bills. He certainly seems to support the concept, even if he hasn’t given direct input just yet.

But there are other areas where the inevitable push and pull of a Democratic legislature and a Republican Governor could soon lead to a fracture.

One of those is S-1, the COAH bill. The fact that it is the very first bill on the new legislature’s agenda is an indication of what a top priority its been for one of the Senate’s most potent operator’s: Ray Lesniak. He has been working on a bill to end COAH as we know it for six months. So, when Christie suddenly announces that he will be working outside of that process by immediately suspending COAH and appointing his own advisory panel to come up with a plan, I cannot imagine Lesniak is thrilled.

In fact, I hear that he feels Christie is trying to “steal his thunder” on this issue. Christie did not rule out working with Lesniak, but did say he “made it clear” to the Union County Dem that he is approaching this his own way.

Lesniak is outta town but issued a statement saying he expects to have S-1 pass both houses “well in advance of the the 90-day timeline for recommendations from the Governor’s advisory penal.”  Zing.

Anyway, a committee vote is expected on the bill March 8 ( which just happens to be my birthday ).  I am told that Sweeney has promised Lesniak to push S-1…so we’ll see if the Guv can convince him not to.

The flip side of course is that Christie was forced to take ownership of this issue after being slammed by Paul Mulshine and others on the right who consider gutting COAH one of the state’s top priorities. The thinking is that Christie can’t very well sit passively by and let a Democrat take the lead on this.


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