2012: The Year in Review, January and February


Freeholder Serena DiMaso was elected to replace Rob Clifton. Photo credit: Rhoda Chodosh


Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce died on January 9 shortly after the final voting session of the 214th legislature.

Mitt Romney was declare the winner of the Iowa Caucuses by 8 votes.  Weeks later after all the votes were counted, Rick Santorum was declared the winner.

Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina GOP Presidential Primary.

Holmdel Deputy Mayor Serena DiMaso was elected a Monmouth County Freeholder by the Monmouth County Republican Committee.

State Senator Joe Kyrillos announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate.

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez blocked Federal Magistrate Patty Shwartz’s nomination to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.  Menendez denied he was blocking the appointment because Shwartz’s boyfriend was the Assistant U.S. Attorney who investigated him in 2006.  Menendez reversed himself after the news of his opposition to Shwartz become pulbic.  Shwartz’s nomination has yet to be confirmed.

Governor Christie nominated Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre to be the Director of the Division of Alcohol Beverage Control.

Governor Christie nominated First Assistant Attorney General Philip Kwon and Chatham Mayor Bruce Harris to be State Supreme Court Associate Justices.  Kwon was the first Asian-American ever nominated.  Harris was the first openingly homosexual nominee.

New Jersey’s newspaper industry fought back efforts to allow “Legal Notices” to be posted online instead of in newspapers.

Mitt Romney won the Florida GOP presidential primary.

Middletown Mayor Tony Fiore asked for Library Board President Randall Gabrielan’s resignation.  Gabrielan had been selling books to the library as a vendor and signing the purchase orders as president of the library.


Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: December 22nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: 2012 Year in Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 2012: The Year in Review, January and February

State of the State

Governor Chris Christie will deliver his State of the State address this afternoon, 3PM, before a joint session of the legislature.

The address, orginally schedule for last Tuesday, was postponed due to the untimely death of Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce.

The address will be livestreamed here:

Watch live streaming video from governorchrischristie at livestream.com
Posted: January 17th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: New Jersey | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Remarks of Governor Chris Christie as Prepared for Delivery

Ceremony in Honor of Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce

The State House

Trenton, New Jersey

January 10, 2012

Speaker Oliver, President Sweeney, Leader Kean, Betty Lou and your family, friends gathered here today:


As you know, I had intended to come before you today to give a report on the State of our State.


And I will fulfill that constitutional obligation by addressing you and our citizens more fully next week.  For today, it is enough to say that the State of our State is getting better, but today our hearts are filled with sadness.


Unfortunately, tragedy struck late last night.  Our colleague, our friend, Alex DeCroce passed suddenly.  Our State House flag is at half mast today in his honor.


He passed doing what he loved – serving the people of New Jersey.


But it does not lessen the pain.


To Betty Lou, to PJ and Christopher, to Jessica and Erin, and to Alex’s grandchildren Connor, Kayla and Noah, we offer the most sincere condolences possible.  We join you in deep sadness.  And we express to you thanks for supporting Alex in a life well lived.


For me, Alex was a close family friend and a mentor for almost two decades.  He helped me get my start in elective office as a freeholder in Morris County back in 1994.  And ever since, he was a valued advisor, an unshakable ally, and a source of all that is good in politics and in public service.  I had no more loyal friend in Trenton than Alex DeCroce. Mary Pat and I will miss him greatly.


Alex devoted much of his life to the public – to making Morris County and New Jersey a better place.  He did it through business, as a partner with the late Congressman Dean Gallo.  He did it through his service to many charitable boards and foundations.  And he did it through government service.  He was a Morris County Freeholder.  And, since 1989, he was a member of this legislature.


He was loved by his constituents enough that he was re-elected eleven times.  And he was respected by the members of his caucus enough that he was elected Republican Leader.


In government service, just as he was in business and in the community, Alex was incredibly hard-working.


He was a leader in this body on transportation issues – a former Chairman of the Transportation Committee, a sponsor of the laws to renew the Transportation Trust Fund and to dedicate the gas tax to transportation projects.


He fought hard for the rights of victims of crime and their families.  He was, in many ways, the pioneer in this chamber of the modern victims’ rights movement.  His commitment was born out of his sense of fairness and his huge heart for those who had suffered a great personal loss.  The victims of crime and their families have lost their greatest advocate.


He was a fierce competitor in the political arena.  While Alex always had a smile and a kind word for everyone in this business, behind that genuine friendliness was the ferociousness of someone who had deeply held convictions.  Alex was a fighter.  He knew how to win and lose in this arena gracefully.  He knew how to wage a good battle.  But unlike many in this business today, waging that good battle did not prevent Alex from inviting you out after the battle was waged for a steak and a drink.  He was a representative of an era that is slipping away and that his passing I hope motivates us to revive—that we are all in this together, disagreements and all, and none of it should make us forget our essential humanity or who we were sent here to fight for every day.


Frankly, in all that we have accomplished together in these last two years—we owe a major debt to Alex DeCroce.  None of it would have been possible without his help.


Perhaps his greatest accomplishments were personal.  In a business that is sometimes rough and tumble and replete with broken commitments, he was one of the kindest, most gentle and most trustworthy people I have ever known.  Due to all of these extraordinary traits, you couldn’t find anyone, on either side of the aisle, that didn’t like Alex DeCroce.


He was a friend to all of us – regardless of our position, regardless of our party, regardless of our station in life, regardless of whether the political winds were at our back or squarely in our face. Alex was a man who understood loyalty.  When you were his friend, you were his friend—regardless of whether he thought it helped him or hurt him politically.  Having caused him both over the years, believe me, I speak from experience.


He was dedicated, honest and down to earth.  A source of advice.  A source of insight.  A source of consolation for friends, and the object of admiration even from political adversaries.


Somehow, standing here, it seems fitting that we should honor Alex in the chamber where he spent so much of his life, the chamber to which he was so dedicated, and in which he accomplished so much.


He loved this chamber.  He loved all of you.  He loved the people of New Jersey.  And we loved him back.


Alex had intended to speak here today.  I was given his planned remarks this morning when I arrived at the State House by his former colleague Rich Bagger.  Here was his message:  “We will solve more problems by working together than apart.”


Alex had planned to tell us to “reach across the aisle to work cooperatively toward solving our biggest problems.”  His closing words were to be:  “We owe our constituents nothing less.”


God has a way of taking the best away from us before we are ready to see them go.


The Prophet Isaiah says, “Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest even as they lie in death.”


Alex walked uprightly to the end.  Last night, he fought the good fight on this floor right to the very end of his life.  That is often said metaphorically about some in our business.  For those of you who were here last night, you know it was literally true about Alex.


He fought for his beloved colleagues, for his steadfast principles, for his belief in this chamber and for the people he was elected to serve until the very last moments of his life.


When his work was done last night, the Lord took Alex, still hard at work on behalf of the State, still giving his all to the people of New Jersey.  And we know that He took him in peace, and will care for him gently in the palm of His hand.


To Betty Lou, and to Alex’s family, we send our condolences.  And to Alex, no doubt watching down on us as we sit here now, we send our love, our respect, and our eternal gratitude.  We will do our best to make you proud.


Thank you.  God bless you.  And God bless the good and kind soul of Alex DeCroce.


Posted: January 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Alex DeCroce | Tags: , | Comments Off on Remarks of Governor Chris Christie as Prepared for Delivery

A profound loss….a true friend

I am truly saddened by the passing late last night of my friend and mentor Alex DeCroce.  He was a great man.  A true statesman.  His spirit, enthusiasm, intellect and, most importantly, warm smile will be missed.  Alex always made time for me to give counsel and advice.  He always made time for Monmouth County. I will miss his friendship, wisdom and guidance.  A profound loss…a true friend.  My life is better for having known him.


Joseph W Oxley
Monmouth County Republican Chairman

Posted: January 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Alex DeCroce | Tags: , | Comments Off on A profound loss….a true friend

Alex DeCroce Dies While Doing The Job He Loved

Cap 2Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce died last night shortly after the final voting session of the 214th legislature.  He was 75 years old.

DeCroce collapsed after 11PM in the legislative wing of the statehouse.

Governor Chris Christie said, “Tonight I lost a dear friend, colleague and mentor -– Assembly Republican Leader Alex De Croce.

“I have known Alex for nearly 20 years,” the governor said. “He helped to give me my start in elective politics in Morris County in 1993. He was one of the most kind, considerate and trustworthy people I have ever had the pleasure to know. He was an enormously accomplished legislator and a tremendous servant to the people of New Jersey.

“Mary Pat and I offer our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Department of Community Affairs Deputy Commissioner Betty Lou De Croce, and to Alex’s entire family,” Christie said. “This is an enormous loss for our state and for me personally.”

The ceremonial swearing in of the 215th legislature and the Governor’s State of the State address scheduled for today have been canceled.   There will be an informal swearing in and the Governor will briefly address both houses of the legislature in order to fulfill the constitution requirement that he address them today.

Posted: January 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Alex DeCroce, New Jersey, NJ State Legislature | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Alex DeCroce Dies While Doing The Job He Loved

Assembly Urges USDA To Curb Stink Bugs

The New Jersey State Assembly passed a resolution yesterday, 76-3, urging the United States Department of Agriculture and any other relevant federal agencies to fund efforts to reduce or eliminate the brown marmoated stink bug population.

Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce, Assemblyman Jay Webber, the former NJ GOP chairman, and newly sworn in Assemblyman Jack Ciatrelli, all Republicans, were the three legislators voting no.

Tom Weisert, Webber’s spokesman, said that the Assemblyman usually votes against these non-binding resolutions that tell other jurisdictions how they should spend taxpayers’ money.  “It’s not that Jay favors stink bugs,” said Weisert, “besides, there are a lot more important issues that the Assembly should be addressing.”

Posted: December 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: NJ State Legislature | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Christie and Oliver at odds over leaked tape of secret speech

All the New Jersey media is abuzz over the leaked audio and transcript of a talk that Governor Chris Christie delivered to a secret meeting of GOP mega-donors organized by the Koch brothers in Colorado on June 26.  The meeting was so secret that Christie did not disclose to the press, as is customary, that he was leaving the state and transferring power to the Lt. Governor.

What has everyone in a tizzy is a story that Christie told the group about how he saved Sheila Oliver’s speakership during the landmark pension and benefit bill negotiations:

And Thursday night it came time for the Assembly. And they started to caucus at 11:00 in the morning. They were supposed to start voting at 1:00. It got to be 5:30 and they were still in the caucus room. And the reports I was getting out of there were not positive about what was going on to my friend the Speaker. She was takin’ a beating at the hands of her own party. At 5:30 she called me and she said to me, “Governor, I don’t know how this is going to play out, but I’m going to, I want to post the bill but I think when I go on the floor, my own party’s going to take a run at me to remove me as Speaker. So I can’t post the bill.” She said, “I think the only way I survive is if the 33 Republicans in the chamber will agree to vote for me for Speaker. Can you work it out?” [scattered laughter] So I said, “Give me five minutes.” [laughter]

So I went down to the Republican Assembly caucus room. I stood at the front of the room and I said, “Ladies and gentleman, it’s a historic day today. You’re going to get an opportunity to cast two historic votes.” [laughter] “The first one, of course, is about pension and benefit reform and I know that everybody in this room supports it. The second one is a little more unusual.” [laughter] I said, “Probably for the only time in my governorship I’m going to actually ask you to vote for a Democrat. I said Sheila Oliver is under siege. And she wants to do the right thing. And we cannot be slaves to party or partisanship. She is right on this issue and she is with us on this issue. So if they take a run at her on the floor, I need all of you to vote for her for Speaker.” I had these men and women look back at me like, “What?” [scattered laughter] And I said to ’em, “We were sent here to lead. Not to preen and posture, posture and pose. To lead. A public office to lead. We need to do this. So raise your hands. Are you with me or aren’t you?” All 33 of them raised their hands and said they were with me.

And so I went back to my office, I got on the phone and I called the Speaker, and I said, “You just got 33 new votes.” And she said, “Well, you just got yourself a bill.” And she went on the floor, she led the debate, another two and a half hours of debate. They never took a run at her. It was the Minority Leader who suddenly went over to the Majority Leader of the Assembly, it was the guy who was gonna take a run at her, and said, “By the way, we’ve got her back, so don’t try it.” [very scattered chuckles] They didn’t. They opened up the board, they cast the votes, by then 46 to 32, with 33 Republicans and 13 Democrats, we passed health and pension reform that will save the taxpayers of New Jersey over the next 30 years at least 132 billion dollars. [audience: “wows”, whistles, applause]

When I get back to New Jersey tomorrow morning, we will sign the bill on Tuesday and make it law and it will become effective July 1st. And that’s what we were sent to do to govern.

At a press conference in Atlantic City today, Christie confirmed he delivered the speech and he issued a correction.  He said there were 32 in Assembly members in the Republican caucus room, not 33 as he said in Colorado.  The Star Ledger quotes Christie today saying he was “proud” that he helped protect Oliver’s speakership.  He said that the story shows that “Republicans put policy over politics,” according to the Ledger.

Oliver said Christie “is deranged” :

“The assertions that Gov. Christie has made, they are outright lies. Outright lies. I am beginning to wonder if Gov. Christie is mentally deranged,” Oliver said. “At no time did I ever, ever pick up the telephone, call Gov. Christie and ask him to quote ‘save my leadership.’ ” The governor was engaged in a chest-thumping vaudeville entertainment session in front of the Republican donors, she said. “I don’t expect to call him at all,” she said. “I think it’s disgraceful.”

Now the Democratic leaders of both houses of the New Jersey legislature have called Christie a liar. In January Senate President Stephen Sweeney refuted Christie’s claim that he was in direct contact with Sweeney during the December blizzard while Sweeney was Acting Governor.

Sweeney famously called Christie a “rotten prick” in July after Christie used the line item veto to balance the budget.  Today Oliver called Christie “mentally deranged.”    Christie calls these people his friends.

Multiple people who were in the Republican caucus room spoke to MMM on the condition of anonymity.  They confirmed Christie’s version of the story, sort of.  Let’s just say that while 32 hands went up, not all of them had five fingers raised.

The caucus knew that Oliver was under siege.  They expected Majority Leader Joe Cryan to try to replace her in order to prevent the pension and benefits reform bill from being posted.

No one could confirm Christie’s account of Minority Leader Alex DeCroce going over to Cryan and telling him, “By the way, we’ve got her back, so don’t try it.”   If it happened, it may have been a bluff.

Several of the more conservative members of the caucus were very concerned about casting a vote for Oliver as speaker.  “Such a vote will follow me for the rest of my career, if I have a career,” one Assembly member said, according to a source who was in the room.

“There are two factions if the Republican caucus,” said the source, “those who are concerned about primary challenges from Tea Partiers and those from the more moderate districts who are concerned about winning the general election.  The conservatives were worried about having to vote for Oliver.”

There is some truth to Oliver’s carefully worded response to the leaked tapes.  Christie’s speech was entertainment.  As Assemlbyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) told the Ledger, this was “a red meat speech.”

As those who have followed Christie on the stump know, the Governor is a great story teller, in the tradition of great Irish story tellers.  

Great stories and tales get better every time they are told by a master. While the underlying truth remains, the details get embellished and the story gets “better.”  It makes a point better, is more moving or entertaining.  Anyone who has attended three or more of Christie’s town hall meetings knows Christie is a great story teller.

Posted: September 8th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Alex DeCroce, Chris Christie, Joe Cryan, NJ Media, NJ State Legislature, Sheila Oliver | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Gifts For Trenton Dems, Rivera-Soto and The NJEA

By Art Gallagher

Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce simultaneously played the roles of Scrooge and Santa Claus this week.

With his inartful comments about people receiving unemployment benefits, and his equally ignoble apology wherein he tried to deflect the attention to the dual office holding of the Legislature’s Democratic leadership and accused Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver of playing the race card in her criticism of his remarks, DeCroce appeared as Scrooge to “these people” on the unemployment dole and Santa to the Trenton Democrats, Supreme Court Justice Rivera-Soto and the NJEA.

While the Legislature should be focused on reforming civil service and COAH before the 2 % property tax increase cap takes effect on January 1, the leadership was engaged in what Governor Christie called a “food fight” over DeCroce’s gaffes.

Rather than drawing attention to dual office holding and Oliver’s willingness to play the race card, DeCroce deflected media attention away from the controversy over Rivera-Soto’s unwillingness to participate in State Supreme Court decisions so long as a temporary justice is sitting on the court.  The NJEA was really let off the hook by DeCroce’s remarks as the main stream media apparently completely missed the explosive videosreleased by citizen journalist James O’Keefe that expose union leaders promising to protect teachers who engage in sexual behavior with students.

The gift that DeCroce gave the Democrats may well keep giving throughout 2011 when the entire legislature will be on the November ballot.  

If the Legislative Redistricting Commission draws an equitable map New Jersey should have the first competitive legislative elections in 12 years. For most of the last decade New Jersey cast more Republican votes than Democratic votes for legislators, yet Democrats have dominated the Senate and the Assembly due to gerrymandering of the districts.  A new district map is due this coming winter.

If the coming election appears to be competitive and if DeCroce is effectively running for Assembly Speaker, count on the New Jersey Democratic machine running against DeCroce in much the same way the GOP ran against Nancy Pelosi in the recent national election.

Posted: December 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Alex DeCroce, James O'Keefe, Legislature, NJ State Legislature, NJEA | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Gifts For Trenton Dems, Rivera-Soto and The NJEA

Unemployment “Insurance” Needs To Be Reformed

By Art Gallagher

Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce raised an important issue this week—the insolvency of the Unemployment Trust Fund which is in debt to the federal government for almost $2 billion–and then promptly torpedoed his message with a poor choice of words when he called those collecting “those people.”

Now the story in the media has become DeCroce’s insensitivity, his apology, the six figures he and his wife are collecting from their state jobs and their pensions.   My friend Bob Ingle points out that DeCroce is taking the heat from his Democratic colleagues by attempting to change the subject to dual office holding.

My experience as beneficiary of unemployment insurance is very limited.  In the late 80’s, the last time the economy was this bad, I lost a high paying job “through no fault of my own.”  I went to the unemployment office, was interviewed and filled out forms.  This was my first, and only to date, experience seeking any government assistance.  I didn’t like it.  Fortunately I was young and single with responsibilities for no one but myself.

Rather than take the handout, even though I had paid into it, I downsized my lifestyle by moving into a smaller apartment and took a low paying job that I was over qualified for.  

I didn’t consider that a major decision at the time, but in retrospect it was a pivotal decision in my life.  I never went back to “the corporate world.”  I was happy and thriving in the “small business world.”  It took a long time to get my income back to the level I enjoyed in “the corporate world.”   When I realized I was tapped out and wasn’t so happy any longer working at the small business I was employed by I found that I couldn’t go back to the corporate world.  I was a “stray cat.” Even if I could have gotten such a job, I would have hated it.  So I started my own small business.

As an employer I became acquainted with the unemployment fund again.  I was paying into it.  For the first 8-10 years of I didn’t even notice it.  Business was great and growing.  I was hiring, rarely firing.  Contributions to the unemployment fund were an insignificant portion of my quarterly payments to the State.

Toward the end of the boom, my most valuable employee informed me she was pregnant.  The news was not as life changing to me as it was to her, yet it was a significant and unexpected development.  She had not had a child in 20 years and was not planning another.  I relied heavily on her.   She knew the administrative aspects of my business better than I did.  I didn’t know them at all!  This major personal development in my trusted employee’s life exposed a major weakness in my business that would require an expensive adjustment.

Assuming the economy would continue to boom and that business would continue to thrive, my plan was for my most valuable employee to spend her pregnancy training her replacement while herself training for the new job that I invented for her to come back to after her pregnancy leave.  It was an expensive plan, but it worked.  The administrative aspects of my business became documented with a manual that my new hire referred to often as she mastered her job. My long term employee spent months answering questions, documenting answers and taking business courses from Brookdale online, preparing for her return.

Given that I was expecting her back, and given that business remained strong, I carried the cost of my long term employee’s health care during her pregnancy leave.  It was a good thing I did, as there were major complications, the baby (who is now a brilliant and delightful 4 year old who is terribly disruptive when she comes to visit the business) needed surgery and a long quarantine period.  The maternity costs and the baby’s early care cost almost $400,000.  The care they received probably wouldn’t have been as good and the taxpayers would have picked up the tab had I not carried the heath care premiums.

But the downside for me was that a 3 month maternity leave turned into an 8 month maternity leave.  When my employee came back to work, she said she could only handle part time.  The truth was she probably wasn’t ready to work, but the pregnancy disability benefits had run out. 

After a couple of months on part time, I told my employee I needed her full time.  She quit.  This gets me back to the Unemployment Trust Fund and its management. 

Unbelievably to me, and over my objections, she was granted unemployment benefits.  Why did I object?  Because I had offered her a full time job, the offer was still on the table, but the folks managing the Unemployment Trust Fund gave her benefits instead.

A quarter, two or three later I noticed that my payment to the State had increased substantially.  Figuring it was a mistake, I asked my bookkeeper for an explanation.  No mistake, my unemployment insurance premiums had skyrocketed due to claims history.  A large portion of the cost was the premium on my own salary.  As the owner of a corporation I couldn’t collect on “insurance” I was paying for.  This would be illegal in the private market.

Now, a few years later with an even higher claims history, my contribution to the Unemployment Trust Fund is 3-4 X higher than the quarterly payroll taxes I pay to the State, though the actual number is a great deal lower.   This cost is a major impediment to me hiring new employees, as it is for hundreds, if not thousands of other small business owners.

There are legal and illegal ways around having to pay high unemployment premiums. The legal way, starting a new company with no history to pay employees is probably the option I’ll follow, if I decide to grow the business again. Employee leasing is also an option.  Both options are unproductive and costly, but probably not as costly as paying 5+% of payroll into the insolvent Unemployment Trust Fund. Closing the existing corporation is not an easy option for me, and many other businesses, as the existing corporation owns assets that could not be transferred without costly legal, accounting and tax consequences.  Small businesses owners are confronted with a choice of having to create complicated and costly corporate structures in order to grow, not to grow, or to cheat.  Many will choose to cheat, which is an impediment to growth in the long run, and costly to the State treasury in the short and long run.

Cheating is a major issue on the beneficiary side of the unemployment equation that no one wants to talk about.  There is no accountability for those receiving unemployment benefits.  There may be no way of knowing how many people are gaming the system, working “off the books” while collecting.  We all know it is happening.

As indelicate as DeCroce’s words were, he point was accurate. We need to give the unemployed more incentives to make the difficult but inevitable lifestyle choice decisions and find ways to survive economically either by accepting jobs they once never would have considered or starting businesses.  We also need to remove the disincentives from businesses who want to employ people but won’t because the risks are too high for the potential returns.

Most importantly and not yet addressed in a major way, we need to bring management and accountability to the administration of the Unemployment Trust Fund.

Posted: December 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Economy, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 5 Comments »