N.J. bill seeks to regulate Airbnb-type rentals

John C. Ensslin, The Record

New Jersey vacation rentals booked through online services such as Airbnb would be subject to the same state and local occupancy taxes as hotel and motel rooms under a bill introduced in state Assembly.

Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood, and Annette Quijano, D-Union, have co-sponsored the measure, which would impose on these rentals a 7 percent sales tax, a 5 percent occupancy fee and up to a 6 percent municipal occupancy tax — the same as motels and hotel pay.

“This is all about fairness,” Quijano said in a prepared statement. “We are trying to stay on top of technological advances in business, and how they impact brick-and-mortar companies and our economy.”

“There is nothing fair about one company having to pay certain fees while another one that provides essentially the same service is exempt,” Quijano said.

Read more

Reflections from the Democratic National Convention

By Valerie Vainieri Huttle, posted on Politicker NJ

Last week was quite an emotional one for me as I attended the 2016 Democratic National Convention (DNC) as a delegate for Hillary Clinton. Each day invoked a powerful theme of our collective values as Americans and how we all deserve a chance to live up to our God-given potential. A simple but powerful overarching message was conveyed – bridges are better than walls and we are stronger together when we all share in the opportunity of the American Dream.

 Day 1 – Putting Families First – Michelle Obama delivered one of the best speeches of the convention by reflecting on what it was like raising two African American girls in the White House and what it would mean to see a woman become the next president. Our own Cory Booker then declared that our best days are yet to come.

Day 2 – Roll Call Vote – I was honored to be part of the New Jersey delegation and cast my vote for Hillary Clinton. I listened to the Mothers of the Movement hold back their tears as they spoke about the tragic deaths of their children while chants of “black lives matter’ erupted in the hall. President Bill Clinton mesmerized us all with “herstory” as he gave us an intimate glimpse of Hillary as a proven change maker in a way that only he can deliver.

Read more


Lilo H. Stainton, NJ Spotlight

Last week, New Jersey was one step away from adopting what could have been the most comprehensive anti-smoking law nationwide and it’s likely to be at least 18 months before that opportunity arises again.

Advocates of a proposal to ban smoking at all public beaches, parks, and outdoor sites statewide said that while they are pleased Gov. Chris Christie agreed to block cigarette use on state-owned lands, a more comprehensive prohibition would have done much more to protect human health and the environment. But a full ban at county- and community-owned outdoor sites will have to wait for a new governor, they conceded. (Christie’s second term ends in January 2018.) 

The proposal – the latest attempt to expand a state law that now prohibits smoking in all public buildings – had bipartisan support in the Legislature and backing from a wide array of health advocates and environmental groups concerned about the impact cigarettes have on the environment and the fire hazard they cause. At least half-dozen states have laws or executive orders that restrict tobacco use in certain outdoor sites, but New Jersey’s proposal may have been alone in extending the ban to all state, county, and local properties, according to the American Lung Association, which tracks anti-smoking laws nationwide.

Read more

Christie vetoes smoking ban for all beaches, endorses one for state parks

Michael Symons, NJ101.5

It’s likely that smoking will be banned at state forests and parks, including Island Beach, starting next year, though a veto by Gov. Chris Christie has again blocked a blanket prohibition that would cover all local beaches and parks in New Jersey.

Christie announced Friday night that he had conditionally vetoed a proposed statewide smoking ban at public beaches and parks. But this veto was different than his 2014 veto on the same topic: He said he’d support a smoking ban at state-owned beaches and parks.

“I abhor smoking. But I continue to believe that the state should not impose its will upon our local governments, and instead continue to leave it up to towns and counties whether to ban smoking in their parks and beaches,” Christie said in his veto message.

“State parks and beaches are another matter,” he said. “… In light of the Legislature’s continued interest in this area, I am willing to endorse a measure that bans smoking at state-run parks and beaches, but that does not interfere with parks and beaches within the jurisdiction of local governments.”

New Jersey has 11 state forests and 28 state parks, including one beach, Island Beach State Park, in Ocean County.

Read more

Christie agrees to smoking ban in state parks, beaches

Susan K. Livio, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie agreed Friday night to prohibit smoking at state-owned parks and beaches, but he stopped short of signing into law a broader ban extending to county and local recreational sites.

Christie offered the Democratic-controlled Legislature a compromise rather than vetoing the bill outright as he did two years ago.

Both houses of the Legislature would have to agree to Christie's changes and vote on an amended version for the limited ban to take effect.

"I abhor smoking," Christie said in his conditional veto message. "But I continue to believe that the state should not impose its will upon our local governments."

Some 300 of New Jersey's 565 municipalities and a dozen of its 21 counties have banned smoking in their parks and beaches, the governor noted.

Christie said he didn't agree with the legislation's approach to the issue because it required towns to post no smoking signs at the entrances to all parks and beaches, "and enforce the ban under threat of fines for failing to do so."

"In light of the Legislature's continue interest in this area, I am willing to endorse a measure than bans smoking at state-run parks and beaches, but doesn't interfere with parks and beaches within the jurisdiction of local governments," according to his veto message.

Read more

Christie signs bill to save turtle population, vetoes beach smoking ban

John C. Ensslin, The Record

Governor Christie signed a bill late Friday to save the state’s Diamond Terrapins but vetoed a statewide ban on smoking on New Jersey beaches.

The bill signed designates the colorful terrapins as an endangered non-game species that cannot be legally harvested.

He also issued a conditional veto of a bill that would have banned smoking on New Jersey’s municipal beaches, saying that decision should be left up to individual communities. He had vetoed a similar measure in 2014. But this time as a concession to lawmakers, he agreed to let stand a ban on smoking in state-run parks and beaches.

On the terrapin, Christie signed a measure that had won unanimous approval in both the Assembly and the Senate.

“Today we join other Atlantic coastal states that have taken an important step to prevent this unique species from any further decline toward extinction,” Christie wrote.

Read more

Huttle: Christie playbook: Target the less fortunate

By Valerie Vainieri Huttle, The Record

WITH MUCH of the conversation in Trenton over the last month revolving around the impending bankruptcy of the Transportation Trust Fund, relatively overlooked was Governor Christie's late-night maneuvering in the waning hours of June.

Just before midnight on June 30, Christie issued an executive order freezing $250 million in funding for critical programs – the likes of which aid abused children, domestic violence and rape victims and cancer research – until an unelected, unaccountable committee can find a way to save that much money on employee health benefit costs. 

These programs run the gamut when it comes to serving the most vulnerable. 

Project S.A.R.A.H. (Stop Abusive Relationships At Home) and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) serve victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, and abused and neglected children, respectively. Women's Services supports non-profits that provide domestic violence and rape-prevention services. Boys and Girls Clubs serve at-risk youth, and the Educational Opportunity Fund provides financial assistance and support services to college students from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey are on a mission for life-saving cures.

Read more

New Jersey legislature takes stance against BDS

By Larry Yudelson, New Jersey Jewish Standard

Bill to divest from companies boycotting Israel awaits Christie’s signature

New Jersey pension and annuity funds will divest from companies that boycott Israel, if Governor Chris Christie signs the bill the New Jersey legislature passed on Monday.

The bill, which was strongly supported by the Jewish community, passed 69 to 3 with 2 abstentions in the state Assembly, and 37 to 0 in the Senate.

“We are sending a statement that we do not want to delegitimize our partner in freedom,” explained Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle of Englewood, one of the bill’s sponsors.

“We are grateful that once again members of the Senate and Assembly have made a strong statement in recognition of the historic cultural and economic ties between New Jersey and Israel,” Mark S. Levenson, president of the N.J. State Association of Jewish Federations, said.

Nine states already have passed similar laws targeting BDS, the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement Palestinian activists launched against Israel in 2005. The first anti-BDS bill to be signed into law was in Illinois; it was implemented in 2015. In Rhode Island, a bill has been passed by the legislature and is awaiting the governor’s signature.

While the BDS movement has claimed a handful of high-profile victories, including a 2014 decision by the Presbyterian Church USA to sell its holdings in Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola because of those companies’ activities in Israel, there has been little actual financial impact on the Israeli economy.

Israeli leaders have made fighting BDS a major priority in recent years. They have compared the BDS campaign to terrorism. “It is just like suicide bombings,” said Knesset member Anat Berko, who has written two books on suicide bombers.

Read more

Bill banning suspensions for young kids heads to Christie

Diane D'Amico, Press of Atlantic City 

A bill that would prohibit public schools from expelling students through second grade has passed the state Senate and Assembly and now goes to the governor for final approval.

“Suspensions and expulsions of young students for minor misbehavior is not only a misguided concept, it raises serious concerns about bias” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, a sponsor of the bill. Research has indicated that suspensions can lead to poor school performance and that minority students are suspended at a higher rate.

The bill requires school districts and charter schools to implement an early detection and prevention program to identify students who are experiencing behavioral or disciplinary problems and provide behavioral supports.

Read more


Carly Sitrin, NJ Spotlight 

Assemblywoman says it would curtail 'misguided' responses to 'minor misbehavior'

New Jersey law already prevents schools from suspending or expelling preschool-aged children, but a new bill that received final legislative approval Monday would extend those restrictions to second graders as well. Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) is headed to the governor’s desk to try and keep young kids in school.

Vainieri Huttle said she was inspired to draft the legislation when she heard the story of an Atlantic City kindergartener who was suspended for more than a month when he brought a box cutter to class. 

“Suspensions and expulsions of young students for minor misbehavior is not only a misguided concept, it raises serious concerns about bias,” Vainieri Huttle said in a statement following the assembly vote. “The curtailing of unnecessary suspensions and expulsions for minor misbehavior will provide a benefit to students who are not a threat to others as well as diminish school dropout and crime rate that often follow disciplinary removal from school,” she said.

Read more