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Action Alert

Contact Assembly Leadership Today

The New Jersey Senate passed a measure (SCR160) on Monday, July 29th to fund open space, farmland, and historic preservation well into New Jersey's future. While the Senate has approved two bills this summer to continue these vital programs, the Assembly has failed to act.

Once again, your voice is needed to ensure success and avoid decades of preservation efforts from grinding to a halt!

The Assembly must act in order to give voters the opportunity to ultimately decide the fate of this measure on a future ballot. Without passage by the Assembly, decades of preservation efforts will grind to a halt as funds from the 2009 Bond Act for Green Acres, Water Supply and Floodplain Protection, and Farmland and Historic Preservation are fully allocated.

Please call and email Assembly leadership (numbers below) and your representatives today and urge them to bring SCR160 to the floor for a vote without further delay!

This legislation would dedicate $200 million annually in existing sales-tax revenues for the next thirty years to protect New Jersey's natural areas, parks, water supplies, farmland and historic sites through the dedication of a small portion of future sales tax revenues. SCR160 would provide continued funding for the incredibly successful Green Acres program, as well as Blue Acres projects to buy-out flood-impacted properties in both inland and coastal areas and to protect undeveloped coastal watershed and riparian lands to help prevent future flood damage. The legislation would also provide sustainable funding for vital Farmland and Historic preservation.

With bipartisan leadership, New Jersey has dedicated an average of $200 million a year for open space funding since the creation of the Garden State Preservation Trust in 1998. Most recently, voters approved the Green Acres, Water Supply and Floodplain Protection, and Farmland and Historic Preservation Bond Act of 2009, authorizing $400 million for open space, farmland, and historic preservation. The current bill also contains provisions for improved stewardship in order for us to better maintain and protect the parks, natural areas and farmlands we've invested in.

Please call and email Assembly leadership and your representatives today to prevent these programs from fading away!

The following members of Assembly leadership are especially important to contact. Please take a moment to contact them by phone and/or email (emails generated through this action alert will be delivered to the following Assembly leaders, as well as the Assembly representatives in your District).

Please urge Assembly Action on the open space, farmland and historic preservation bill!
Assemblyman Greenwald, Majority Leader, 856-435-1247
Assemblywoman Oliver, Assembly Speaker, 973-395-1166
Assemblyman Bramnick, Assembly Republican Leader, 908-232-2073

Thank you for your hard work and support!!!

Last night brought good news to those of us working to defend Rutgers' independence when Speaker Oliver announced she would not post the bill that would abolish the Rutgers Board of Trustees. Proponents of the measure, however, have vowed to continue their effort and I encourage you to communicate your support to Speaker Oliver for her decision. The debate on the legislative proposal to abolish the Rutgers Board Of Trustees has been mired in misinformation and obfuscation. The simple truth is that there is no need to rush any decision on a reorganization of Rutgers' governance, a case I laid out in the following piece that appeared in the Home News Tribune earlier this week. This issue will affect the future of Rutgers, our state university and deserves a broad-based public discussion, not a rush to judgement. This fight is not over and we must all remain vigilant in its defense.

Op-Ed: No need to rush change in Rutgers' Governance Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski

For nearly 300 years, from its founding as Queens College in 1766, until it became the State University in 1956, Rutgers was governed by a Board of Trustees. With the University’s evolution from a private institution to the State University of New Jersey, the Board of Trustees’ responsibilities shifted from governance to that of an advisory body and guardian of the university’s assets from its days as a private institution. The Trustees were also given responsibility for appointing some of the members of the Board of Governors.

Late this past June, legislation was introduced that would again restructure governance at Rutgers. The legislation, Senate bill S2902 and its Assembly companion A4215, would abolish the Rutgers’ University Board of Trustees, turning over its fiduciary responsibilities to the Board of Governors and its appointments to the Governor of the State of New Jersey.

The proposal to reorganize Rutgers governance has also been designated for fast track consideration. As a result, members of the New Jersey General Assembly and Senate have been asked to vote on these bills without the committee hearings and the opportunity for public comment that is the normal course for proposed legislation.

With the recent merger of Rutgers University with most of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), it may well be an appropriate time to reassess the governing structure of Rutgers. But the fast track legislative proposal that awaits final action has not undergone the scrutiny the public expects from the legislature and that an institution with nearly 350 years of history, deserves. Among the concerns I have with the proposal are the simple question of why and why the rush. Proponents have cited recent decisions regarding personnel and the allocation of resources among Rutgers’ programs and campuses as a fault with the existing governance structure. Yet these decisions were decisions of the Board of Governors, not the trustees.

Another criticism has been that the two boards create a bureaucratic logjam, but without the Board of Trustees, Rutgers would have been forced to surrender its Camden Campus in last year’s higher education reorganization. It is also ironic that the sponsoring legislators, as members of a bicameral legislature, would fault a similar system for Rutgers.

In addition, I’m concerned that the proposal strips the University of its ability to exercise any independence from the Governor’s office. Recent history with UMDNJ has shown how a heavy-handed administration in Trenton can ruin the reputation of a once well-regarded organization.

Curiously, the fast-track proposal also has not been developed in consultation with any representatives of Rutgers. Both the Office of Legislative Services and University Law School professors maintain that any such proposal would, by law, require concurrence from both the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees. Some respected attorneys also maintain that the proposal would violate both the state and federal constitution without their approval.

For the legislature to impose a reorganization of Rutgers governance would likely result in protracted litigation that would divert time and resources from the task the university faces with the integration of UMDNJ. The uncertainty of a court challenge would also likely raise interest rates for bonds the university must issue as a result of the merger.

There is no justifiable reason for any rush to judgment on what, if any, changes make sense for the future governance of Rutgers. Instead, I have proposed legislation that would create the “Rutgers, the State University Study Commission” made up of representatives from state government, the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees.

My bill, A4341, would require the commission to study the question of Rutgers’ governance and report back to the legislature and the Governor within 6 months with any recommendations for changes as well as on any other issue or matter the commission deems appropriate. The bill would allow for a careful study of the question of governance, the consultation with Rutgers that the University deserves and the possibility of developing a consensus on any changes to the University’s governance.

Rutgers University and its Board of Trustees have a history longer than that of our country. It has built a reputation for excellence around the world and is about to embark on a new journey with the merger with elements of UMDNJ that offers great opportunities. There may very well be improvements that would help it along that journey and there are many whose opinions on the subject deserve to be heard and considered. Let us give all ideas a chance to be heard and considered by creating the study commission.

Passaic County

Opponents of fracking worry about compromised water- Some local residents and environmental activists in Passaic County have recently mobilized against what they feel is the disposal, treatment and discharge of toxic waste created through the process of "fracking." A slew of petitions were signed by residents, who fear their water supply would eventually be compromised by the process.

Passaic Junior Police Academy deadline is July 12- The deadline to apply for the Junior Police Academy — a free program for children ages 11 to 14 — with the Passaic County Sheriff's Office is Friday. The weeklong sessions — running Aug. 12-16 or Aug. 19-24 — are geared toward teaching youth about law enforcement and the sheriff's department's day-to-day duties.

Paterson

Golden Broom Award presented in Pompton Lakes- The Pompton Lakes Woman's Club has announced the winner of the Golden Broom Award for June. The Golden Broom Award is given to a business owner who keeps their storefront attractive, neat, and clean. This month's winner is the Cardinal Café. Pompton Lakes Woman's Club members Jo-Ann Sisco and Roben Roon presented the Golden Broom to Gladys Ibarra, Patricia Castillo, and Chelsea Canger.

National

GOP reaching out to Dems on immigration- The House Republican leadership is reaching out to top House Democrats to assess their support for a piecemeal approach to immigration reform, according to sources involved in the discussions.

Farm bill 2013: House leadership redoubles its efforts- Rolling the dice, House Republicans are calling for floor votes early Thursday on a pared-back farm bill that strips out nutrition programs to appease conservatives and reduces the net 10-year costs to about $195.6 billion.

HOUSE LIKELY TO DELAY IMMIGRATION UNTIL END-OF-YEAR RUSH- “Moving legislation before the August recess is now almost completely out of the question — lawmakers are going to have to spend the month at home, with immigration lingering. … [During yesterday’s closed-door House GOP immigration meeting in the Capitol basement,] Boehner called the immigration debate ‘important,’ and said Republicans need a plan.