Thursday, December 10, 2015

Officials And Donors Celebrate Opening Of "Alex DeCroce Media Center"

The County College of Morris (CCM) Board of Trustees and Foundation Board of Directors hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, December 8, to celebrate the renovation of the Media Center and its naming in honor of late New Jersey Assemblyman Alex DeCroce.
Attending the celebration were members of the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders and other contributors to the foundation’s Visioning the Future campaign that helped to fund the center’s renovation. The Freeholders contributed $1 million from the county’s capital budget for the project. Another $900,000 was raised by the foundation in individual, corporate, private foundation and public support. Also in attendance to mark the opening of the Alex DeCroce Media Center were students, faculty and other members of the CCM community.
Prior to serving as an assemblyman, DeCroce served as a Morris County freeholder, as a CCM trustee and as Board of Trustee chair.
“As a result of the generosity of those who contributed to the campaign, we were able to create a state-of-the-art facility for the benefit of our students and local businesses,” said Dr. Edward J. Yaw, CCM president. “It is especially appropriate that this new center now is named in memory of Alex DeCroce who was such a strong proponent of education and a long-time supporter of the college through his many years of service as a Freeholder, on our Board of Trustees and as an Assemblyman.”
“‘An investment in knowledge pays the best interest’ said Benjamin Franklin,” noted Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce. “My husband, Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, knew that to be true and it served him well as a trustee and board chair at CCM. Our family greatly appreciates this recognition. We are so pleased that the investment into this state-of-the-art media center will serve not only the students but the community at large…”
The Alex DeCroce Media Center functions as a TV studio and classroom for students majoring in Broadcasting Arts and Technology or Communication. It also is a vital resource for faculty, staff and the community, providing multimedia support for a range of activities including classroom presentations, audio and video productions, sound and video for computer programs, and on-campus conferences. It also will be available to the area’s corporate and business community for the production of training, promotional and other videos.

Monday, December 7, 2015

DeCroce, Lawmakers Renew Push To Explore Full-Day Kindergarten

Several lawmakers are hoping to convince Gov. Chris Christie to reconsider previously vetoed legislation that would have created a task force to explore the pros and cons of all-day kindergarten.
In January of 2014, Christie vetoed the bill that would have created the task force. In his veto message Christie explained that almost three-quarters of New Jersey’s school districts already offered all-day kindergarten. He also said it should be a local choice, not a state mandate. Several Assembly members want to pass the legislation again in hopes that the governor would reconsider.

“Efficient and productive full-day kindergarten programs can be critical in launching our students to higher achievement, making them competitive with high-performing students from around the world and making New Jersey more competitive in the global marketplace,” said bill co-sponsor, Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce (R-Parsippany) in a press release.
The full Assembly approved a new bill (A-447) last Thursday. The measure would establish a 21-member task force to study and evaluate issues regarding the establishment and implementation of full-day kindergarten. The NJ education commissioner would be a member. Others would be appointed by the governor and legislative leaders in both houses.
The panel would be charged with studying issue which include:
  • Staffing needs, facility space, and class size;
  • The long-term academic, social and emotional impact of full-day kindergarten;
  • Funding needs and sources of funding;
  • Recommendations and opinions of parents and elementary school teachers; and
  • The feasibility of offering full-day kindergarten in school districts statewide.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Carroll Stumps Dems As Christie Override Attempt Fails In Assembly [Video]

Assembly Democrats failed to aid their Senate colleagues by overriding Governor Chris Christie‘s veto of S2360 on Thursday afternoon, Save Jerseyans, with only 51 voting in favor of the override while 17 registered against and 11 abstained.
54 was the magic number. Speaker Vincent Prieto pulled the override vote at the last second when it was clear that the necessary voters weren’t present.
Four Republicans bucked the Governor and supported the Democrats’ failed override attempt: Assemblyman Chris Brown (R-2), Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16), Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26), and Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-13).
Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25) spoke for the majority of GOP members by asking why the Democrats have no interest in passing a better bill in the form of the Governor’s conditional veto. The response (or non-response?) he received was extremely telling and confirmed that all of this has been 100% politically-motivated since day one:

“The majority party failed to consider any of suggestions by the governor regarding this bill and that’s unfortunate. In order to create meaningful and effective legislation it should be done in bipartisan manner.
If there is a demonstrable need for stricter gun control laws in New Jersey – which already has some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation, then let’s do it in a sober, well-reasoned manner. Attaching gun control measures, including those dealing with the ability of people with mental health issues to buy gun — to a bill dealing with domestic violence is not the way to create effective gun safety regulations.
Likewise if there is a need to address holes in our domestic violence laws, let’s address that need comprehensively and in the proper context.”
“I voted against the override,” added Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-26) “because the opportunity to strengthen the bill was bypassed in order to make this a political showdown on gun control…”

Republicans Offer Condolences To Victims In San Bernadio

On Thursday, one day after the mass shootings in Southern California that killed 14 people, New Jersey Assembly members from both sides of the political aisle invoked or at least referenced the tragedy as they debated an override attempt of Gov. Christie’s veto of a gun control bill that would make it more difficult for mentally ill people to buy a gun.
In the end, the override was postponed until mid-December because there weren’t enough Republicans votes for it to be successful.
Here are some of the comments made by lawmakers in the wake of the San Bernardino massacre:
“I thought very hard about what I wanted to do considering what is going on across the country and throughout the world.” Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce (R-Parsippany) who voted against the override.
“Let me begin by acknowledging what Assemblyman Gusciora spoke about. He raised the tragedy from San Bernardino yesterday and the fact is we don’t know yet if the two individuals involved in it had any mental health issues.” – Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-Wayne) who voted against the override.
“I do think and I’d ask the Speaker if he could do a moment of silence for everybody that was killed yesterday.” – Assemblywoman Holly Shepisi (R-Westwood) who voted against the override. Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto (D-Secaucus) honored the request and asked for a moment of silence.
“When I heard the comments of my colleague Assemblyman Gusciora referencing how this bill demonstrates our action in the face of such a hard incident that took place in California, I said to myself, ‘This bill has nothing to do with that situation.’” – Assemblyman Chris Brown (R-Medford) who voted against the override.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Assembly Democrats Fail to Override Governor Christie On Gun Bill

On the same day national security presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie jumped into fourth place in the New Hampshire Republican Primary, Assembly Democrats failed to override Christie’s veto of public safety gun bill S-2360 (A-3593).
What ended up as a much-debated, politically thorny bill originally passed at the urging of the courts in the assembly with unanimous Republican support by a vote of 74-0. Then Christie crushed the bill, forcing members of his party in the legislature into the awkward position of having to try to reverse their initial support.
Missing by three votes, the (late, wavering) tally was 51 in favor of the override, 17 against, and 11 abstaining. Perhaps a sign of the coming inability of Democratic leadership to twist the arms of three Republicans came as the assembly started an hour late today.
Four Republicans crossed the aisle to vote in favor of the override: Assemblyman Chris Brown (R-2), Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16), Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-26), and Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-13).
Technically speaking, Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) yanked the bill immediately prior to suffering the indignity of an official failure as the vote board flickered, failing to get the speaker to the required 54.
A prodigious debate occurred in the lead-up to the vote.
The rural-state-vote-seeking Christie vetoed the legislation that Democratic – and originally Republican – lawmakers say would help keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous people by requiring those seeking to have their mental health records expunged in order to purchase a firearm notify law enforcement. The information would be used by the courts when deciding to approve the application, giving law enforcement a voice in the process and providing the courts with more information before approving an expungement to allow gun purchases.
Subdued because of yesterday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California that resulted in the killing of 14 people and prompted a moment of silence on the floor, but buoyed by the Senate’s successful override of the governor on this bill, Prieto put the same bill before his colleagues this afternoon.
But in a sign of the unwieldy, more challenging terrain of lower house politics (the assembly has never been able to override the GOP governor), the bill failed to pass as Republicans refused to give Democrats the necessary votes.
Pointing to the reasoning in Christie’s conditional veto and making the case that the bill doesn’t successfully keep guns out of the hands of people with mental issues, Republicans throughout the long debate tried to argue that they weren’t informed the first time when they unanimously backed the bill.
They implied that Democrats want to embarrass Christie with the bill, or at least have politics as their motivation. “Are we really rying to protect public safety with this particular bill?” said Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-40). “The reality is there is a loophole as big as a Mack Truck.”
That so-called loophole in an alternative bill put forward by Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-21) would require people with a psychiatric profile who apply for expungement of their record to additionally alert police for other reasons, not just the purchase of a gun.
But the bulk of Republicans led by Christie ally Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) saw it differently, and liked the CV offered by Christie.
“What’s wrong with making this bill stronger?” Assemblyman Tony Bucco (R-25) wanted to know, while Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) accused Democrats, by resisting the Kean bill and doubling down on their initial legislation, of “poking the governor in the eye.” 

Early in the debate, Republicans tried to introduce the compromise bill put forward by Kean.
“I’m not going to play politics because politics is not going to protect them,” said Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce (R-26), who attempted to offer Kean’s bill on the floor.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Route 53 Renamed "Assemblyman DeCroce Memorial Highway"

Parsippany Focus -
It’s official. Route 53 has been renamed “Assemblyman DeCroce Memorial Highway” at a ceremony held, on Tuesday, November 10 in front of Verde Restaurant.
Sheriff Edward Rochford said “This is a fitting Tribute for a person who dedicated his life to public service especially transportation issues.”
“I extend my sincerest thanks to the bill’s bi-partisan sponsors for initiating this measure. Those who knew Alex know he never sought the limelight. In fact, he would be quite uncomfortable over this because he was not one to flaunt his accomplishments. His only goal was to get the job done for the people of his district and the state. Alex was a huge supporter of transportation issues. To have Route 53, which runs through his hometown and district, named for him is truly a great honor to his legacy,” said Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce.
Alex, who devoted his life to public service, was an avid proponent of transportation issues in New Jersey, and was a former chairman of the committee. He was the prime sponsor of legislation that renewed the Transportation Trust Fund. He also was a strong advocate for crime victims’ rights.
Route 53 is a state highway that spans nearly five miles from U.S. Route 202 in Morris Plains, continues throught Parsippany north to Bloomfield Avenue in Denville. The route runs east of New Jersey Transit’s Morristown Line and passes under the New Jersey Transit’s Montclair-Boonton Line near the Denville Station.
The full Senate unanimously approved the legislation, S-2580/A-3789 on September 12, 2013. Governor Chris Christie signed the bill approving the legislation on January 21, 2014.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Ciattarelli-DeCroce Bill Supporting Voluntary Food Labeling Released By Committee

Assembly Republican Press Release -
A bipartisan resolution sponsored by Assembly Republicans Jack Ciattarelli and BettyLou DeCroce urging Congress to pass a bill allowing food manufacturers to voluntarily label their products as GMO-free was released by the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee today. A product is genetically modified if its contents include more than one percent of materials that are produced or enhanced by genetic engineering or bioengineering.
Ciattarelli and DeCroce’s bill, AR-239, supports passage of the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015” (H.R. 1599). Under the federal bill, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would create a federal standard for the voluntary labeling of products containing GMO ingredients. It also stipulates that states would not be allowed to require mandatory labeling on products which include GMOs.
“A state-by-state patchwork of labeling requirements is not in the best interest of consumers and more costly to food producers,” said Ciattarelli, R-Somerset, Hunterdon, Mercer and Middlesex. “The FDA should be responsible for developing consistent criteria. Without a uniform standard, added cost will be passed on to the consumer due to manufacturers having to comply with different state regulations. Centralizing GMO labeling is better for the consumer and less complicated for manufacturers.”
The House of Representatives passed H.R. 1599 in July by a vote of 275-150. The bill awaits action in the U.S. Senate.
“The science in food product development is constantly evolving,”’ said DeCroce, R-Morris, Essex and Passaic. “Consumer safety is best achieved when consistent and transparent guidelines are established and apply uniformly in all states. The FDA is the optimal place that oversees and ensures compliance with food safety standards. Allowing a hodge-podge approach by each state complicates this issue and may result in consumers misunderstanding what they read.”

Thursday, October 1, 2015

DeCroce Bill Ensuring More Fuel In Emergencies Signed Into Law As Hurricane Joaquin Threatens Coastal New Jersey

Assembly Republican Press Release -
Less than three years after Superstorm Sandy slammed the coast and as another hurricane churns its way toward New Jersey, legislation sponsored by Assembly Republican BettyLou DeCroce to ensure gasoline supplies during a state of emergency was signed into law by Governor Christie today.

“In a crisis, we want to protect people from being stranded and left in the cold,” said DeCroce, R-Morris, Essex and Passaic. ”After Sandy hit, gasoline became scarce in some hard-hit parts of the state. Desperate for fuel for their cars or generators, people waited in line for hours. Many filling stations simply ran out of gas. We can protect the public by making more fuel available during an emergency by allowing fuel dealers to sell higher grade fuel at the lower grade price. It’s a lesson we learned in Sandy.”
Previously, dealers were mandated to sell fuel at its posted price, which cannot be changed more than once during a 24 hour period. The new law allows a retailer to sell higher grade fuel at a lower price during an energy emergency when the dealer runs out of lower grade fuel.
DeCroce’s bill, A-1733 was unanimously approved by both the General Assembly and the Senate.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

African American Chamber of Commerce Presents DeCroce with "Women Who Empower" Award

Assembly Republican Press Release -
Assembly Republican BettyLou DeCroce was honored at the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) luncheon Wednesday, Aug. 26. DeCroce was presented with the “Women Who Empower” award during the luncheon, part of the organization’s 2015 Speaker Series.

“I am honored to be recognized by this outstanding organization that does so much great work promoting self-sufficiency, the entrepreneurial spirit, and the best aspects of capitalism in our communities,” said DeCroce, R-Morris, Essex and Passaic. “This award symbolizes the economic empowerment of men and women to believe in themselves and achieve personal and business success. Our country was built on that same independent spirit.”
John E. Harmon Sr., President / CEO of the AACCNJ and Regional Vice President of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, said DeCroce, “Has been an outstanding partner who, as a small business owner herself, understands the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and others to be successful in New Jersey. We cannot thank her enough for all she has done through the years to help our organization, first as a Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs and now as a Legislator.”
The AACCNJ is dedicated to economically empowering and sustaining African American communities through entrepreneurship and capitalistic activities within the State of New Jersey and via interaction with the National Black Chamber of Commerce, Inc.
For more information, visit the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey web site at

Monday, July 27, 2015

DeCroce Bill to Prevent Gas Shortages During Emergencies Headed to Governor's Desk

Source: Assembly Republican Press Release -
The Senate approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Republican BettyLou DeCroce to prevent gas shortages during declared states of emergency. The bill, a response to a lesson learned from Super Storm Sandy, cleared the Assembly in June and is now moves to Gov. Christie’s desk to await action.

“This measure will help make more fuel available to motorists during an emergency by allowing fuel dealers to sell higher grade fuel at the lower grade price,” said DeCroce, R-Morris, Essex and Passaic. “Gasoline became scarce in some parts of the state after Super Storm Sandy. People waited for hours in line to buy gas for their vehicles and generators, and many stations ran out. In an emergency, we don’t want people stranded and left in the cold.”
Under current law, fuel must be sold at its posted price which cannot be changed more than once during a 24 hour period. DeCroce’s bill, A-1733, allows a retailer to sell higher grade fuel at a lower price during an energy emergency when the dealer runs out of lower grade fuel.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Assembly Approves DeCroce Bill on Gasoline Availability During Emergencies

Press Release – Super Storm Sandy forced a gasoline supply interruption in New Jersey that inflicted pain on many people’s lives and disrupted business activities for a week. Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, R-Morris, Essex, Passaic, sponsored legislation to help change the way fuel is sold in the state and to make more gasoline available. The General Assembly has acted on one of her bills and is waiting to act on another.
DeCroce’s bill, A-1733, allows a retailer to sell higher grade fuel at a lower price anytime during a declared emergency when the dealer runs out of lower grade fuel. Under current law, fuel must be sold at its posted price which cannot be changed more than once during a 24 hour period.
DeCroce said her legislation will allow consumers to save money. “It’s an important step to ensuring that we don’t have a repeat of the chaos we saw at gas stations during Sandy.”
DeCroce said she hopes the Assembly leadership will consider a companion bill, A-1732, that would remove regulatory barriers to importing gasoline from nearby states during times of natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy. The legislation automatically suspends — during a declared state of emergency — the distributor’s license requirement to import or deliver motor fuel from another state into New Jersey for 10 days or a time period determined by the governor via executive order. Under the bill, non-licensed distributors must document their New Jersey sales and pay all applicable state taxes state residents.
In the aftermath of Sandy in late October 2012 fuel supplies for New Jersey refineries were interrupted, but plenty of gasoline was available from suppliers in nearby states. That gasoline, however, could not be delivered under current law.
“My objective with these two bills is to strip away some the bureaucratic rigidity we have in this state so we can better respond to people’s needs in an emergency,” said DeCroce.
DeCroce said people who waited in long lines to get gasoline in 2012 were incensed when they learned that tanker trucks were waiting at the state border to deliver gasoline, but could not because of state regulations.
“There are some regulations that simply don’t make sense; and rules that hamper gas supplies or make it difficult to sell gasoline that is available during an emergency have to be addressed,” she said.
“I’m glad my colleagues in the Assembly approved A-1733 and now I hope the Assembly leadership will move quickly on A-1732. We are in the midst of hurricane season and I am sure no one wants to live through the fuel disruptions that we did three years ago if we are hit with another major storm,” said DeCroce.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Rumana- DeCroce-Clifton on Port Authority Legislation- Let's Get It Done

Press Release – Assembly Republicans Scott Rumana, BettyLou DeCroce and Rob Clifton, all members of the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee, today issued the joint statement below following testimony by Port Authority Chairman John Degnan on the proposal by Governors Christie and Cuomo to reform the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey:
“Rhetoric won’t reform the Port Authority. The legislation proposed by Governors Christie and Cuomo is a comprehensive and substantive plan that meets our goals for reforming the Port Authority. The Port Authority chairman assured us today that any joint projects already planned won’t be adversely affected by this bill. Let’s work together and get the job done now.”
The New York Legislative website reports that the New York Assembly has heard the companion bill before two of its committees. A vote is possible tomorrow.

Friday, June 5, 2015

DeCroce Named to Vital Education Subcommittee

Source: Assembly Republican Press Release -
A member of the Joint Committee on the Public Schools, Assembly Republican BettyLou DeCroce has been designated to serve on the newly formed Subcommittee on Student and Field Services.

“Educating our children is one of state government’s most important roles. I am committed to finding the tools to deliver the best opportunity to every New Jersey student at a cost that is affordable,” said DeCroce, R-Morris, Essex and Passaic. “Our energy should be dedicated to finding innovative ways to teach our kids. We must provide pathways to success for our children as they prepare for the future. The challenges facing them are unlike any we have experienced in the past. It is critically important for us to review, enhance and improve our educational systems to help our young minds succeed.”
This subcommittee deals with issues pertaining to special education, after school programs, and career and technical education.

Monday, May 11, 2015

DeCroce Bill Establishing "Out-of-School Time" to Improve Programs Wins Committee Approval

Legislation (A-4119/S-300) sponsored by Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce establishing a 20-member commission to evaluate the effectiveness of before-school, after-school and summer school programs won unanimous support from the Assembly Education Committee today.
“Urban, suburban and rural settings provide different challenges to operating out-of-school programs. One size does not fit all,” said DeCroce, R-Morris, Passaic and Essex. “The committee’s wide diversity of stakeholders will provide objective and best practice recommendations that can be applied to programs across the state. The commission’s goal is to ensure our children are protected, learning and participating in physical activities.”
The commission will issue an interim report of its recommendations, including any legislation, to the governor, the Senate Education Committee, and the Assembly Education Committee, no later than one year after its first meeting.

Friday, May 8, 2015

DeCroce Bill Requiring Police at Educational Facilities to Adopt AG Guidelines Signed into Law

Legislation (A-3493) sponsored by Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce. R, Morris, Passaic and Essex, that requires police departments at higher education institutions to adopt the Attorney General Guidelines on internal affairs policies was signed into law by Gov. Christie on Thursday.
“This legislation extends the same standards that guide law enforcement across the state regarding internal affairs investigations to police and security departments at colleges and universities. All law enforcement officers are obligated to cooperate and assist the attorney general and prosecutors carry out their duties. The new law requires the same standards be implemented at places of higher education and ensures investigators receive the same support.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

DeCroce Bill to Restrict Standardized Tests in New Jersey Passes Assembly

Students in the Garden State should not be given standardized tests until they reach the third grade, according to several New Jersey lawmakers including the chairman of the Assembly Education Committee.
There is a push to prohibit, by law, administering standardized exams from kindergarten through second grade.
Bi-partisan legislation co-sponsored by Assembly members, Pat Diegnan (D-South Plainfield), Charles Mainor (D-Jersey City), Benjie Wimberly (D-Paterson), Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) and Betty Lou DeCroce (R-Parsippany) would codify in law that the exams can’t be administered until a child enters third grade. The bill does not ban all testing in grades K-2. Evaluations can be given and scored by a teacher or school board.
“Children in the early grades should spend as much class time as possible learning the fundamentals of reading, math and social skills,” DeCroce said. “These years are crucial for forming the foundation for future education. Instead of testing them to collect data, we should allow kids to be kids.”
According to the measure, schools would have to provide information — no later than Oct. 1 of each year — that would include:
The reason for the test;
How much preparation time is needed;
The length of the tests;
The rules and costs associated with each test.

Monday, March 9, 2015

DeCroce Bill Preventing Standardized Testing in Grades K to 2 Earns Assembly Approval

Source: Assembly Republican Press Release -

The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Republican BettyLou DeCroce to exempt young school children from standardized testing. The bill, A-3079, prohibits schools from administering standardized assessments from Kindergarten to 2nd Grade.
“Children in the early grades should spend as much class time as possible learning the fundamentals of reading, math and social skills,” said DeCroce, R-Morris, Essex and Passaic. “These years are crucial for forming the foundation for future education. Instead of testing them to collect data, we should allow kids to be kids.”
The bill prohibits commercially developed standardized tests, but DeCroce noted that the bill does not ban all testing in grades K to 2. Evaluations can be administered and scored by a teacher or school board.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

DeCroce on N.J.'s Federal Highway Aid

Source: Asbury Park Press
Billions of dollars are spent each year building and maintaining a New Jersey road system that, nevertheless, is riddled by congestion, crumbling surfaces and outdated designs. Now policymakers in both Trenton and Washington are at a “Y” in the road, with big implications for our pocketbooks.
At both the state and federal level, such infrastructure investments face uncertainty, with major spending programs expiring by early summer. A possible change in federal direction — the White House in recent days has been touting a new spending scheme — comes at a delicate juncture for New Jersey.
New Jersey, which is considering hiking its gasoline tax, has traditionally fared poorer than most states in securing money through the Federal Highway Trust Fund. In recent years, however, only a handful of states have done better than New Jersey in retaining or even boosting such Washington support.
But Washington already spends more on road and transportation projects than it collects from the 18.4 -cents-a-gallon federal gasoline tax, which is unchanged in 20 years. How the White House and the GOP-controlled Congress, which agree on little, would pay for increased funding — or even sustain existing funding — is uncertain.
Overall, New Jersey receives 61 cents in return for each dollar in taxes it sends to the federal government, says a resolution advanced this month by the Senate Transportation Committee. The balance is better than that on highway funds, in part because Congress has added money into the highway fund that doesn’t come from taxes, meaning nearly all states get more than $1 for each $1.
“We are a corridor state. We are an import-export state. Everybody travels through our state, and we get about the least amount of money back on every dollar we send,” said Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, R-Morris, the lead sponsor of a resolution that also has 25 other Assembly sponsors urging Congress to give New Jersey more highway funds. “So we should receive more.”
TRIP, a Washington-based transportation research group funded by insurance companies, labor unions and construction-related businesses, says 35 percent of roads in the state are in poor condition and that 36 percent of bridges need replacement, repair or improvement, including 10 percent with structural deficiencies. Funding such a backlog is a major worry. The federal trust fund has been surviving on temporary extensions and is due to expire at the end of May.
In 2013, aid from the Federal Highway Trust Fund amounted to nearly $131 for every resident of New Jersey, which ranked 30th among the states.
That showing reflected a marked improvement. Ten years earlier, New Jersey ranked 40th in per capita highway funds, at $93 per person. Between 2008 and 2013, only three states – New York, Kentucky and Vermont – registered bigger percentage increases in per-capita highway funding than New Jersey.
Overall aid to New Jersey from the Federal Highway Trust Fund climbed from $803 million in 2003, to $1.16 billion in 2013. That increase, 45 percent, was the 11th highest nationally. Adjusted for inflation, the increase would be nearly 15 percent, equal to $148 million.
Much of that increase happened between 2003 and 2008. Since 2008, annual federal highway funding to New Jersey is up by 7 percent. Adjusted for inflation, it has been down 1.2 percent – but only New York and Alaska have seen increases over the last five years, accounting for inflation. New Jersey’s growth in highway funds ranks sixth nationally over the last five years.
In more recent years, the rankings look even better. Only two states in the country increased their federal highway aid in both 2012 and 2013 – Florida and New Jersey. Percentage-wise, the only state to increase its funding more between 2011 and 2013 was New York.
Going back to the establishment of the Federal Highway Trust Fund in 1956, only 10 states have seen a smaller return on the taxes, fines and penalties paid into the fund than New Jersey. New Jersey generally gets shortchanged in its return on federal funding because as a wealthy state its residents pay more in taxes than the state gets back for programs.
It’s not clear how the state would fund its portion. If it was done entirely through higher gax taxes, that could amount to as much as 25 cents a gallon. If you drive a car that averages 25 miles a gallon and drive 350 miles a week, the equivalent of 18,000 miles a year, that would amount to about $180 a year.
The latest signal from the state Department of Transportation connected to the state’s trust fund troubles came last week, when the state froze $25 million in bridge funding for pending and future local projects. Every county receives at least $1 million a year from the frozen fund.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Panel Approves DeCroce Bill Preventing Standardized Testing in Grades K to 2

Assembly Republican Press Release -

Assembly Republican BettyLou DeCroce sponsors legislation, approved today by the Assembly Education Committee, to exempt young school children from the rigors of standardized testing. The bill, A-3079, prohibits schools from administering standardized assessments from Kindergarten to 2nd Grade.
“The early grades are crucial for forming the foundation of future education,” said DeCroce, R-Morris, Essex and Passaic. “Children should spend class time learning the basics of math, reading and social skills.”
The bill prohibits commercially developed standardized tests, but DeCroce noted that the bill does not ban all testing in grades K to 2. Evaluations can be administered and scored by a teacher or school board.
“I think it is important to allow kids to be kids and not data collection tools,” DeCroce continued.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Bramnick, DeCroce Debate Dems on Funding Options for TTF

Source: Asbury Park Press -
Participants in the gas-tax debate insist they’ll reach a deal before the transportation fund goes broke, but as mayors got to witness Wednesday it won’t happen without some partisan battling.
Democrats say taxes, most likely for gasoline, will have to go up to pay for future road and rail improvements. Some Republicans at a State League of Municipalities meeting said that’s not acceptable and that other options are available, such as cutting aid to some city schools. Democrats, in turn, said it’s not realistic to fund as much as $2 billion a year in transportation work without finding a way to pay for it.
Even though Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox says Transportation Trust Fund talks are “on the 10-yard line,” with Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto close to a plan to bring to Gov. Chris Christie, the gas-tax debate still could get contentious.
[Democrats] said the final agreement is going to require bipartisan support, [and stated that] an increase of the state’s 14.5-cent per gallon gas taxes is part of the solution but not the full answer.
Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, said she opposes a higher gas tax and that residents feel the same way, as reflected in public-opinion polls.
“I am not a genius that has a million different solutions, but I do think there are some that we should be certainly pushing and exploring,” Beck said, pointing to funding from the federal government or Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. “I don’t think we can just wave our hands in the air and say it has to be a gas tax. I don’t think it’s acceptable to the people of this state that we implement higher taxes.”

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, R-Union, suggested that $1 billion could be diverted from school funding if the state changed the court-mandated funding formula. 
Starting in July, all of the $1.2 billion in yearly revenues committed to the state’s Transportation Trust Fund will have to be used to pay down $15.6 billion in debt that has accumulated. A new plan for funding future work will have to be approved. Sweeney and others are calling for spending to be increased to $2 billion a year, including a doubling of aid to towns and counties.
“I think that discussion is on the table to talk about,” said Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, R-Morris. 
One of the last speakers at the event was Lake Como Mayor Brian Wilton, who asked for advice about how mayors can best press for a solution.
“If something is done, you have to stand behind the legislators to support them because it’s not going to be perfect for either side,” Bramnick said. “If they know you’re with them, regardless of the compromise, they’re more likely to get behind legislation.”

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

DeCroce Bill Targets Ceremonial Procedure

While one state Assembly Republican is seeking strip away Lt. Gov.Kim Guadagno’s role as acting governor during Gov. Chris Christie’s frequent trips out of state, there are at least some Republicans seeking to give Guadgano more responsibility.
Well, sort of.

Last week, Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce (R-Morris) introduced a bill (A4140) that would give the lieutenant governor — who in her dual role as secretary of state oversees the state’s tourism division — the authority to designate special commemorative days, weeks, months or years for New Jersey.
That’s something the Legislature has gotten particularly good at. For instance, on Thursday — the same day DeCroce introduced her measure — lawmakers introduced bills to designate Sept. 21 each year as “Evans Syndrome Awareness Day” and the last day of March each year as “Polycystic Kidney Disease Awareness Day.” Other proposals have included a “Paella Day” (it happened in October), a “Food Allergy Awareness Week” in May and a “Rip Current Awareness Week” in June.
“It’s to get us out of the business of wasting time on ceremonials,” said Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-Morris), who signed onto the bill as a co-sponsor after being asked by DeCroce. DeCroce did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Carroll noted that the governor himself has the authority to declare state days through proclamation (while visiting Canada on Dec. 5, Christie proclaims it ‘Canadian Utility Workers Appreciation Day’ in honor of the Canadians who came down in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy).
Carroll would prefer the business of designating days rest in just one branch of government. But Carroll wondered if the Legislature would be able to resist temptation.
“I understand where Betty Lou is going with it,” he said. “I’m not entirely persuaded it would be effective if adopted.”