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Murphy seeking sweeping ethics reforms in Trenton


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Murphy seeking sweeping ethics reforms in Trenton

Good Thursday morning! Gov. Phil Murphy teased that he wants substantial ethics reform in Trenton during last month’s State of the State address. Yesterday, we finally got all of the details. Murphy is seeking five pieces of legislation that will reshape requirements for lobbyists, public officials and staffers. There are a lot to these bills,…

Murphy seeking sweeping ethics reforms in Trenton

Good Thursday morning!

Gov. Phil Murphy teased that he wants substantial ethics reform in Trenton during last month’s State of the State address. Yesterday, we finally got all of the details.

Murphy is seeking five pieces of legislation that will reshape requirements for lobbyists, public officials and staffers. There are a lot to these bills, but some interesting pieces include: eliminating the broad legislative carve-out from the state’s Open Public Records Act and requiring senior staffers in the Legislature to get approval if they want to take on work outside of government. Murphy also wants to require that a bill be publicly available for 72 hours preceding a vote.

I’m sure Murphy is fully aware that many of these ideas will face an uphill battle in the Legislature, and he basically said as much yesterday.

“Make no mistake, these are big proposals that will upset some people. But we must attack the understandable cynicism that discourages so many people by opening up our democracy,” he said.

But lawmakers will be faced with some tough questions, like why should they have a broad public records carve-out that protects a lot of their communication, when the executive branch does not have the same privilege? What’s the public policy reason for that?

While Matt is out, please send tips (and puns) to klandergan@politico.com and ssutton@politico.com.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We propose the elimination of the broad exemption of the Legislature from so-called Open Public Records Act, known as OPRA. Not Oprah Winfrey.” — Gov. Phil Murphy

DAYS MURPHY HAS SPENT OUT OF STATE SINCE BECOMING DGA CHAIR: 16

WHERE’S MURPHY?: Holding a town hall in North Brunswick at 7 p.m.

I’M ON A BOAT — SCI: ‘Boat checks’ force cities to bond, forgo public services, by POLITICO’s Ryan Hutchins: Payouts for unused sick and vacation leave continue to tax many municipal governments throughout New Jersey, forcing some cities to bond millions of dollars while forgoing public investments, a report from the State Commission of Investigation concludes. While the state has enacted a law capping such payouts to $15,000 for local government workers hired after 2010, many retiring workers are still able to collect so-called boat checks when they retire, cashing out tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in unused leave. The SCI, which also looked at other costly public employee perks, recommends changes to end disparities in local government employment practices. It also calls for uniform, across-the-board limits on employee leave and suggests public employees at all levels of government receive no more than 15 paid sick days and no more than $15,000 in retirement payouts.

GOING UP IN SMOKE — “Vape shops face a choice: close or rebrand?,” by the NYT’s Tracey Tully: “Faced with growing fear about the risks of vaping, New Jersey last month became the second state to adopt legislation outlawing all nicotine vaping liquids other than those flavored to taste like tobacco. It has banned all fruit- and menthol-flavored e-cigarettes and cartridges, which are popular with teenagers, as well as most nicotine-infused liquids that are used in larger, hand-held vaping devices and are commonly sold in vape shops. Under New Jersey’s new law, Darth Vapor’s rows of disposable e-cigarettes, menthol Juul pods and flavors with names like ‘God Nectar,’ ‘Joy on the Off Ramp’ and ‘Apple Cinnamon Donut’ must be gone by April 20. Only a handful of tobacco-flavored products can remain. ‘How does a whole store that pays employees and rent survive on five flavors of tobacco?’ Mr. Mitrani said. ‘The answer is it can’t.’ Many shop owners say they are selling off as much inventory as possible, operating on month-to-month leases and preparing to close. Others are making plans to sell pipes, tobacco products, CBD oil and kratom, an herbal supplement that the Food and Drug Administration has said can be dangerous, to try and stay afloat.”

CLIMATE CHANGE — Groups want New Jersey to adopt more aggressive goal for reducing emission, by POLITICO’s Samantha Maldonado: A coalition of nearly 100 environmental, labor and progressive organizations are calling on New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection to adopt a more aggressive, shorter-term target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In a letter to Gov. Phil Murphy, Board of Public Utilities President Joseph Fiordaliso and DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe, the groups urge New Jersey to commit to cutting carbon emissions by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, as part of the implementation of the Global Warming Response Act, under which New Jersey must cut its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and slash emissions 80 percent below 2006 levels by 2050. “Unless the world achieves substantial emissions reductions by 2030, it will overshoot the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement,” the coalition’s letter states.

JUST DON’T LET THE ROBOTS LEARN HOW TO REPORT ON NJ TAX POLICY —Camden police’s newest partner in proactive policing? Artificial intelligence,” by NJ Advance Media’s Rebecca Everett: “Now when you walk in the department’s command center all but the watch commander are civilians, contracted through a third-party to work as crime analysts and ‘virtual patrolers.’ Each person sits before six computer monitors displaying video feeds from surveillance cameras, maps, real time police call data, and the intelligence they’ve collected to make sense of it all. Wysocki, who succeeded J. Scott Thomson as chief in September, radiated pride as he discussed the evolving work of the analysts. But for him, there’s no reason to leave well enough alone. That means trying something new: artificial intelligence. ‘Our goal is to reduce crime. We’re at a 50-year low but if you look at 2019 numbers to 2018 numbers it’s single digit reductions,’ Wysocki, 49, of Voorhees, said in an interview last week. ‘I don’t want to say we’re at a plateau, but what could we do to get them lower?’”

DEAR GOD, EVEN THE METERS ARE GETTING SMARTER — “BPU moves ahead with plans for statewide implementation of smart meters,” by POLITICO’s Samantha Maldonado: The state Board of Public Utilities on Wednesday advanced plans for statewide implementation of smart meters, which record electric energy consumption and send the information to the supplier. The board voted to lift a moratorium on preapproval for the smart meters, otherwise known as advanced metering infrastructure, and ordered Public Service Electric and Gas Company, Atlantic City Electric and Jersey Central Power & Light to file, or update previously filed petitions for implementing smart metering programs within 180 days.

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER LAWSUIT — “New Jersey sues Trump’s EPA again to curb air pollution entering from other states,” by The Record’s Scott Fallon: “New Jersey, four other states and New York City are suing the Trump administration again to try to force it to clamp down on upwind states that contribute significantly to poor air quality in the Garden State. The lawsuit, filed by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on behalf of the states, said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has failed to address the issue even after an appeals court ruled last year that it must do so. ‘We already beat EPA in court and won an order demanding the federal government tackle out-of-state pollution, and yet EPA still did not act,’ Grewal said in a statement. ‘Enough is enough: this is a serious environmental and public health problem, and it demands a serious response from Washington.’”

ICE — Man was handed to ICE after traffic stop, advocates question if cops violated NJ policy, by The Record’s Monsy Alvarado: Melvin Herrera-Interiano was driving to work one morning in November when he was pulled over by police in Plainfield for making an illegal turn at a traffic light. A few hours later, Herrera-Interiano, 50, of North Brunswick, was in the custody of federal immigration officials, and he now is at risk for deportation to his native Honduras. Herrera-Interiano has no criminal history but was issued a final order of removal in 2005 after he failed to show up for an immigration court hearing, according to information provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. His family and some immigration activists are questioning whether Plainfield police, when they turned Herrera-Interiano over to ICE, violated a directive by New Jersey’s attorney general that limits the type of voluntary assistance local law enforcement officers can provide to federal immigration authorities.

WALK THE LINE — Sanders questions N.J. primary organization lines,” by the New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “Lawyers for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign have asked local election officials to clarify how ballots are will be designed for the June 2 Democratic presidential primary as they consider the option of bracketing with other candidates to combat organization lines. The Sanders campaign is questioning whether county clerks will draw presidential candidates for ballot positions ahead of U.S. Senate, something that could force them to bracket with Cory Booker’s primary opponent to avoid being placed in a sort of ballot Siberia. ‘While we assume that the absence of rigid rules makes the ballot design process easier and more fluid for those responsible, it also introduces an element of unfairness and uncertainty for candidates, who may be avoidably injured by their failure to affiliate with down-ballot candidates, without fair warning or opportunity to compete on equal footing,’ wrote Malcolm Seymour, an attorney for the Sanders campaign. ‘This is antithetical to the spirit of the election laws.’”

THAT’S A LOT OF HAMILTONS — “Hamilton Council passes salary ordinance raising biz administrator’s annual pay,” by The Trentonian’s Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman: “When Mayor Jeff Martin appoints a permanent business administrator, that individual will be nicely compensated. Hamilton Council Tuesday night passed an ordinance raising the salary range for the high-profile position by nearly 20 percent at the maximum. The last permanent business administrator, Dave Kenny, earned approximately $147,000 per year. The next management chief will earn anywhere from $160,000 to $175,000 under the new ordinance. The boosted salary is intended to help Martin recruit and retain a highly qualified business administrator, according to Council President Rick Tighe, who said interim business administrator T. Missy Balmir has only agreed to serve for the short haul.”

PATERSON SETTLEMENT — “Police brutality lawsuit could cost Paterson taxpayers over $300K,” by The Paterson Press’ Joe Malinconico: “In a case that will end up costing Paterson taxpayers more than $300,000, the City Council on Tuesday night decided to settle a lawsuit filed by a man who suffered a broken nose when Paterson police arrested him in a low-level drug bust in 2010. The council voted 5-4 to pay the man, Juan Simmons, a $175,000 in a settlement, a figure that also would cover his lawyer’s fees. On top of that, the city must pay its own attorneys, an expense that exceeded $120,000 as of Feb. 2019, according to public records. Officials said that number will grow substantially because of the work the attorneys have done over the past 12 months.”

OH THAT’S WHY KEAN’S SLOGAN IS ‘SUN’S OUT, GUNS OUT’— “Kean advances in NRCC’s Young Guns program,” by the New Jersey Globe’s Nikita Biryukov: “Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean made it to the next round of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns program Wednesday. ‘Our campaign to send New Jersey values to Washington is picking up momentum every day,’ Kean said. ‘I thank the NRCC for their support and recognition of this campaign’s hard work.’ Kean was one of 35 ‘contender’ candidates the NRCC announced Wednesday. He was the only New Jersey Republican to make the list in the first round. ‘These hardworking candidates have proven their ability to run strong, competitive campaign operations,’ said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. ‘We’re going to ensure these contenders are victorious in November by forcing their Democratic opponents to own their party’s radical socialist agenda.’”

HEALTH CARE — New Jersey medical specialists sue Cigna, claiming racketeering, ERISA violations, by POLITICO’s Sam Sutton: Nearly two dozen specialist medical providers in New Jersey are suing Cigna, claiming the health insurance company violated federal and state laws by underpaying them for out-of-network services. The 21 providers also allege Cigna extracted even larger amounts from its health plan trust funds to process those claims, holding that money in interest-bearing bank accounts as they appealed for larger reimbursements. According to the 150-page complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey late last year, Cigna would reimburse out-of-network specialists at “a fraction of their incurred charges” while simultaneously drawing down amounts from trust funds belonging to self-insured plans that roughly equaled what the providers would normally charge for their services.

HOUSING — Murphy announces plan for $60M in affordable housing funds, by Ryan: Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration on Wednesday announced a plan to spend $60 million from the Affordable Housing Trust fund after years of diversions, with the money going toward smaller rental and homeownership projects with 25 or fewer units. The allocation plan released by the Department of Community Affairs is based on “core principles” that call for trying to create equity in housing, leveraging other public and private resources and ensuring flexibility in how the money can be spent. The state says the focus on projects will ‘fill the gaps within the existing affordable housing ecosystem’ by spurring development that improves neighborhoods and can be led by community-based organization.

— “Teaneck man gets 2½ years in prison for embezzling from pension plan



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