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ADVOCACY UPDATE

 

Keeping You Informed From Trenton
 


January 2011
In This Issue
School Vouchers
Women's Health Funding
Open Government Bills
Coal Plant in Linden
Water Infrastructure Improvement Charge

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey is currently monitoring a number of bills and proposed public policies. The following is a brief summary of the broad impact we are having in Trenton. 

School Vouchers S.1872/A.2810

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey opposes the "Opportunity Scholarship Act", which establishes a school voucher system by allowing corporations to give money to a "scholarship fund" and receive a 100% tax incentive in return. The League of Women Voters stands in opposition because this bill is bad fiscal policy costing the state over a billion dollars, further straining every state budget for the next five years and uses public money for private schools. This bill is also bad educational policy, removing further funding from public education at a time when school budgets have already been drastically cut.

In June 2010, LWVNJ came out against the first version of the voucher bill and wrote an op-ed in opposition. Since then the bill has been "tweaked" and on Thursday, January 20 the new version of the bill was released from the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. LWVNJ testified in opposition at that committee hearing. On Thursday the voucher bill is scheduled to be heard in the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee, and again the League will testify in opposition. If the bill makes it to the floor, LWVNJ will issue action alerts asking that you contact your state representatives in opposition.

Women's Health Funding S.2393/A.3273

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey opposed state budget cuts to family planning and supported a bill that would restore some funding for family planning services. While the bill passed the Senate and Assembly, Governor Christie vetoed the bill. The League of Women Voters of New Jersey supported overriding this veto. However, the attempt to override the veto failed.

In order to provide some funding for family planning services, a new bill (S.2393/A.3273) was introduced requiring the state to file an application for expansion of Medicaid coverage for family planning services. On December 20 this bill passed both Houses, and is currently awaiting the governor's signature. If Governor Christie does not sign or veto the bill by February 3, it will automatically become law.

Open Public Records Act S.1352/A.2321

Open Public Meetings Act S.1351/A.2322


Yesterday, revisions to the current Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) were introduced in the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee. The League of Women Voters of New Jersey testified in support of both bills.

Testimony in support of revisions to OPRA
Testimony in support of revisions to OPMA

Some changes to the current Open Public Records Act: allow requests and responses to be done more easily by email, require record custodians to notify requestors why information is redacted and to indicate the number of records redacted, adds members to the Government Records Council, and tighten the rules for special charges for records.

Changes to the current Open Public Meetings Act include expanding the definition of public bodies, increasing required notice of public meetings, improving the public comment portion of meetings, and preventing private communication during meetings.

Both bills passed out of committee.


PurGen: A Coal Plant in Linden 

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey, along with thirty five environmental, civic, religious and other organizations, have joined a Stop PurGen Coal Plant Coalition, www.stoppurgencoalplant.org.

What is PurGen? SCS Energy, a Massachusetts based company, wants to build a plant called PurGen One in Linden, NJ. It would function as an electricity generating plant when electric power prices are high and switch to manufacturing urea, which is used in fertilizers, and sulfuric acid when electricity prices are low. 

SCS plans to process coal for energy in Linden and then send a trillion pounds of pressurized, liquid carbon dioxide waste via a 100-mile pipeline through the Raritan Bay and out into the seabed off Atlantic City.

SCS says the carbon dioxide will stay in the ocean floor forever, but they have no proof or scientific evidence to back up their claims.

The LWVNJ board voted to oppose PurGen on the recommendation of its Natural Resources Committee, which cited the following reasons (among others):

-  LWVUS called for a 10-year moratorium on new coal-fired generating plants to allow time to study carbon capture and sequestration.
- The proposed site is surrounded by densely populated areas in NJ and Staten Island which would be endangered by an accident.
- Lateral leakage remains a concern.
- Underground mining is hazardous and uses huge amounts of energy; strip mining leaves the ground stripped of vegetation.
- Reducing demand by conservation has always been a major goal for the League.

The Natural Resources Committee is currently working on a full report for membership and it will soon be available on LWVNJ's website, www.lwvnj.org. 



Distribution System Improvement Charge for Water and Wastewater Utilities
 
In December, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey sent a letter to the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) expressing concern regarding their support of certain water and wastewater utilities imposing a Distribution System Improvement Charge (DSIC) on its rate payers. LWVNJ is concerned that BPU's support of the proposed DSIC severely compromises and undermines consumer trust and protection, and LWVNJ opposes enacting the DSIC in its current form.

While the League of Women Voters of New Jersey agrees that aging water infrastructure is an issue, LWVNJ also maintains that the best public policy to achieve improvement is through an open process whereby residents are directly informed about the costs and benefits of proposed changes to this infrastructure. The proposed DSIC does not allow for public comment, nor does it afford the public the opportunity to evaluate such factors as alternate technologies, projected recovery costs, ratepayer return on investment, and environmental benefits. Instead, the proposed DSIC appears to do away with direct accountability to the public, essentially silences and removes the owners of the state's waters resources from any debate over their stewardship and investment, and frees utilities of any direct commitment to their investors to perform infrastructure work as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible.
 

Together we can make an even bigger impact in our state. Please consider giving a gift in appreciation of these advocacy efforts. 

 

 

Thank You!  

 

Or mail a check payable to LWVNJ, 204 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08608.