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Christie Vetoes S2250 – Lesniak Hopes to Override

According to the governor’s most recent press release, Governor Christie has vetoed S2250, a bill that would have lifted New Jersey’s state bans on sports betting in casinos throughout the state.  The bill did not have directly challenge the federal government’s 1992 ban on sports betting in states that did not gain approval before the ban went into effect.  Instead, it would have removed state and local law enforcement in New Jersey from assisting the federal government in enforcing its so-called laws.

Christie called the federal law “sacrosanct,” while Senator Raymond Lesniak said Christie “stuck a dagger in the heart of Atlantic City and our ailing horse racing industry.” (h/t Matt Friedman, Star-Ledger)  Christie has further wounded not only a single industry, but our ailing freedoms.  This is about more than a single industry or about how many jobs are gained or lost.  It is about the autonomy of our state and the will of the people of our state.  The people of New Jersey voted 64-36% to approve sports betting in our state.  The legislature, with party lines blurred, approved bills that would have taken away the federal government’s power to push us around, but the governor decided to fold.

Senator Lesniak hopes to push through an override of the governor’s veto, the first successful override of a Christie veto if he can get enough votes for a two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the legislature.  The New Jersey Tenth Amendment Center applauds Senator Lesniak’s efforts, and wishes him all success.  We urge all New Jerseyans to contact their state legislators and urge them not to change their votes in the override process.

Governor Christie and the National Republican Machine

Earlier this week, former Colorado Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo, also a former gubernatorial candidate, had some harsh criticisms of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  Tancredo accused the governor and head of the Republican Governors Association of “hijacking” Colorado’s primary election, calling on Christie to “come clean” about donations used to attack him in the primaries.  Governor Christie, a former Bush administration prosecutor, has been as recognizable a name on the national level as on the state level.  Some urged him to run for president in 2012, before even finishing his first term as governor, and many still speculate on the possibility of a 2016 presidential run.  Therein lies the problem, both for New Jersey and by extension other states.

A state elects a governor as chief executive to represent his or her state.  The RGA and its counterpart, the Democratic Governors Association, while composed of state officials, are really mere extensions of their national parties.  They are not intended to defend the sovereignty and autonomy of the states, but to advance their parties’ national agendas.  The DGA campaigns call on Republican governors to expand Medicaid and for Congress to raise the minimum wage.  The RGA’s position on health care seems to be one of confusion, on the one hand praising the market, on the other calling for state/federal partnerships.  The former is blatantly obvious in its endorsement of federal intervention.  If the latter truly supported state-based solutions, their message would have been for the federal government to get out of the health care debate.  With that said, it should be no surprise when one points the finger at the head of a governors association.

Before jumping to any conclusions, one should look at all the facts as they come in regarding the issue of governors associations playing favorites in their party’s primaries.  Regardless, however, governors should look to the needs, desires and genius of their people when making policy, rather than national organizations whose main interest is to get their party and the person most in line with their platform.  If the evidence turns up foul play by Governor Christie in the Colorado election, consider that further proof of the problem with these groups, rather than an initial cause for concern.  If the RGA and our governor are innocent of any wrongdoing, do not assume these organizations are anything more than a mouthpiece to promote a national agenda through the states.  As for the governors, feel free to share ideas with other governors, but be sure those ideas are ones that will keep your people free and push back against federal usurpation.

War of Words over Weapons of War

This week’s campaigning for local offices featured Republican candidates in Bergen County firing off accusations at the Democratic members of the Board of Freeholders.  The charge, “militarizing” the county through the acquisition of two mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs).  The Democrats shot back, referring to Republican claims as “smear tactics.”

Under a program run by the Department of Defense, counties and municipalities are essentially receiving the vehicles for free.  Sheriff Michael Saudino, a Republican, says the county SWAT team could use the vehicles, which would be maintained by asset forfeiture funds, placing him at odds with fellow Republican, County Executive Kathleen Donovan.  The controversy over the use of civilian agencies having access to MRAPs and other military hardware has divided people across the country, not necessarily along party lines either.

Regardless of party affiliation or lack thereof, the idea of vehicles intended for use in war zones should cause concern to all.  The national trend in law enforcement has been one of increasing militarization, leading to police in many jurisdictions viewing themselves as warriors on the war on…whatever the next threat is, and seeing all others as potential enemies.  The fact that asset forfeiture funds would maintain this weaponry should also be a cause for major concern, as it presents an incentive for further abuses of a program loaded with corruption.  Libertarian groups such as DownsizeDC have often cited asset forfeiture as one of the major evils perpetuated by DC, and this massive arming of our law enforcement agencies with funds confiscated from our citizens brings that evil right to our own neighborhoods.  All of these neat little toys our local governments receive can also become addictive, giving the feds a bargaining chip to dangle over the heads of our state and local governments.  Comply and help us enforce our acts of pretended legislation, or we’ll take away your toys.

Sheriff Saudino is obviously not part of what Governor Christie termed “this strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties.”  As for the Democrats, what if this happened under George W. Bush?  Where would you stand then?  Law enforcement is a civilian office, not military.  They should consider the words of President Barack Obama, “Weapons of war have no place on our streets.”  Our state legislature passed the requirement for “urgent need” to be shown when issuing carry permits for firearms outside the home.  In addition to demanding answers from Bergen County officials, we should be demanding our state officials expect the same, if not a more stringent, standard for our state government agencies.  Where is the urgent need for our state, county and municipal police to be turned into a standing army?  Are criminals setting mines in the streets of Hackensack, Paramus or Mahwah?  Certainly not.

This is an issue that affects us all.  Over the years, we have allowed our so-called protectors to become little more than extensions of DC’s oppressive grasp, with no one to protect us from them.  Stopping and reversing this trend and restoring the spirit of “to protect and serve” will require that we keep accountable those we have elected to serve.  Find out if your county and/or town participates in this program.  If they do, tell them to put a stop to it.  If they do not, tell them to keep it that way.

Action Alert – S2250/A3476 (and an Explanation)

As mentioned last week, S2250/A3476 passed both houses of the legislature with overwhelming support three days after Senator Lesniak introduced it.  The bill awaits Governor Christie’s signature.  While many groups across the political spectrum may be aware of the issue, many individuals may be unaware of the importance of this legislation.  In the grand scheme of things, compared to drones, firearms freedom or NSA snooping, sports betting is not among one of the Tenth Amendment Center’s top priorities, and yet the thought process behind the bill is the essence of nullification.

S2250/A3476 partially repeals state level bans against sports betting in New Jersey casinos.  Federal lawmakers and agencies depend heavily on state and local assistance for enforcement.  The federal government knows this; Senator Lesniak appears to know this.  As our founder Michael Boldin has pointed out time and time again, if one looks up almost any article on any federal raid, the words “assisted by state/local law enforcement” will almost always be there.  Take away state and local assistance, and the federal ban on sports betting falls apart.  On an issue  that by itself may seem minor, the approach is

Some people may misconstrue opposition to the federal sports betting ban or support of S2250/A3476 as support for gambling.  It needn’t be.  It simply means fidelity to the Constitution, as the federal government has no constitutional authority whatsoever to regulate, limit or otherwise involve itself in the issue.  The most obvious support would come from those who participate in sports betting, as it affects them most, but the support should be more widespread than that.  Even if sports betting doesn’t affect you, federal overreach inevitably will.  Even if you vehemently oppose gambling, but believe in limiting the federal government, then support this bill, but feel free to rejoice that the market is already deciding the fate of the industry.

Contact Governor Christie and tell him if the federal government expects to enforce its unconstitutional ban on sports betting, or any other such laws and regulations, it can do so alone.  This is not the time to “move on,” as the governor has said.  It is time to tell these bureaucrats that if they want to regulate every little aspect of our lives, they can do so without our help.

Sports Betting – Christie Caves; Lesniak Plans

In predictable fashion, the black robed oligarchs known as the United States Supreme Court will not hear New Jersey’s appeal of the federal ban on sports betting.  The decision by the Supreme Court not to hear the case essentially lets past appeals court decisions stand.

Governor Chris Christie expressed disappointment with the decision, but said in regards to the attempt to legalize sports betting in the Garden State, that it was “time to move on.”  Christie, who admittedly showed a lot of guts in the hot corner (third base for any baseball laymen) at a charity softball game in Yankee Stadium, will apparently not pick up the bat for sports betting here, but perhaps what we need is not so much a batter’s mentality as that of a pitcher.  A win in the courts is somewhat like Bucky Dent hitting one over the Green Monster; we cannot rely on that if we want to win.  As a matter of fact, without an RBI double from Thurman Munson and a solo home run from Reggie Jackson that same game, Dent’s home run would have been insufficient to win.

While the governor does not plan to pursue the issue further, Senator Ray Lesniak believes “it ain’t over until it’s over,” as Yogi Berra once said.  The senator has introduced a bill that would “sidestep” the federal ban by repealing state bans, and according to an NJ101.5 poll, nearly two thirds of participants agree New Jersey should not give up.  Though the bill’s text is not yet available on the legislature’s website, Lesniak believes the Justic Department will not intervene if his bill passes, citing Colorado and Washington’s recreational marijuana laws as his reasoning.  The language the senator uses sounds a lot less like the hard fastball to the courts, for which the federal bench of lawyers would be well prepared, and a lot more like the eephus pitch of noncompliance, which DC simply cannot hit.  The non-commandeering doctrine, which even the courts have upheld time and again, would leave the federal government powerless to enforce their laws without state and local cooperation.

 

UPDATE: S2250 over the course of four days, June 23-26, was introduced and has passed both the Senate (38-1) and Assembly (63-6-2).  The bill awaits Governor Christie’s signature or veto.

The New Jersey Tenth Amendment Center supports any efforts to nullify the federal government’s sports betting ban, and urges all in New Jersey to contact their officials in Trenton and ask them to do the same.  Not succeeding in the courts doesn’t mean the game is lost.  This one’s just gone into extra innings.

New Jersey National Guard off to Qatar – Trenton Does Nothing

“The operation of measures thus unconstitutional and illegal ought to be prevented by a resort to other measures which are both constitutional and legal. It will be the solemn duty of the State governments to protect their own authority over their own militia, and to interpose between their citizens and arbitrary power. These are among the objects for which the State governments exist.” – Daniel Webster, 1814 speech to Congress

Over 450 troops from the New Jersey National Guard will deploy to Qatar, according to a report from NJ.com and the Associated Press earlier this week, a move that nearly three fourths of participants in an NJ101.5 poll oppose.  General opinion points to the Qatar deployment as a move toward eventual deployment to Iraq.  Apparently the “Peace President,” Barack Obama, was against the war in Iraq before he was for it.

In addition to National Guard units being deployed in neighboring countries, the Obama administration also has plans to send 275 troops for “non-combat” action to Baghdad to help secure the US embassy and train Iraqi security against the insurgency.  Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed the possibility of using manned and unmanned drones to support the Iraqi government, and in addition to the USS George W. Bush (because it’s his fault), the USS Costa Verde has entered the Gulf carrying 550 Marines.  The president has insisted the US government will not be sending ground troops into combat, but the absence of ground troops in combat has not led to an end of the interventionism that has defined US foreign policy for nearly three quarters of a century.

Meanwhile, our legislature and governor in Trenton have stood by and done nothing to prevent this.  While much of the nullification movement’s attention in the past few years has focused on nullifying ObamaCare, cannabis, the NSA and gun laws, just because George W. Bush has not occupied the White House for over five years does not mean our troops are not still being subject to unconstitutional deployments worldwide.  During the Bush years, the Tenth Amendment Center introduced Defend the Guard model legislation.  The act would require the governor of the state to withhold or withdraw approval of the state’s National Guard to federal control “in the absence of an explicit  authorization adopted by the Federal Government in pursuance of the powers delegated to the Federal Government in Article I, Section 8, Clause 15 of the U.S. Constitution.”  Recent events have shown New Jersey certainly has a vested interest in passing this legislation.

To the people who participated in the NJ101.5 poll, to people who have read about these pending deployments and oppose it, to the people forward thinking enough to think several presidents and congresses in advance and wanting to limit their powers ahead of time, now would be a good time to contact your state legislators.  Tell your officials in the Assembly and Senate to introduce Defend the Guard legislation.  If, by the time you do, another legislator has beaten them to it, tell yours to sign on as a cosponsor.  There is a lot of talk about supporting the troops.  If you truly do so, then support legislation that will support their oath to defend the Constitution of the United States.

NJ Gun Rights Activists: Still Trust the Courts?

Gun rights advocates should have reason to rejoice last month’s Supreme Court decision not to hear a challenge to New Jersey’s carry law.  The law states that one must show and urgent need to obtain a permit to carry a gun outside one’s home.  Both a police official and judge must approve the permits.  Why should gun rights advocates rejoice at this?  Because the crutch of depending on the federal government to “fix” the massive flaws in our state government has finally broken.

It’s no secret that New Jersey has one of the most hostile climates of any state toward gun owners and gun rights in general.  Whenever our Assembly or Senate holds a hearing regarding its latest gun control bill, and there are a lot, the hearings are generally a sham.  If a supporter of gun rights speaks, and the speaker reaches the allotted time to present an argument, he or she often does not have the opportunity to finish the last sentence.  Meanwhile, gun controllers generally have the opportunity to finish making their point.  If you doubt that, one can find plenty of videos of hearings. Anybody who believes in gun rights and has any awareness whatsoever of the New Jersey Legislature’s disdain for firearms freedom can easily fall into the temptation to give up hope of bringing about any change in our state’s policies for the better.  It can also be appealing to look at cases where federal court decisions have offered a majority opinion against state and local gun control laws and believe suing your state in federal court is the best option.  It can appear just, since the government history books often tell us the 14th Amendment incorporates the Bill of Rights.  Tenth Amendment Center Communications Director Mike Maharrey does an excellent job shooting down both the incorporation doctrine and the idea of the Second Amendment applying to the states, so I think there is little I can do to add to that.

Still, many New Jerseyans failed to look to their state constitution for answers to restraining the tyranny in Trenton.  Sure, the New Jersey Constitution does not spell out the right to keep and bear arms.  So what?  It doesn’t forbid it either.  To reiterate from what we at the NJ TAC have been saying for years, we need to spread the message that state problems need a state and local solution, and we have those in the state constitution.  For example: Article I, Section 1.  All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain natural and unalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness. Article I, Section 21.  The enumeration of rights and privileges shall not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the people. While the words “arms,” “guns” or “firearms” do not appear, one would think the right to keep and bear arms would easily fall under the categories of use for defending life and liberty, protecting (and even being) property and pursuing and obtaining safety as stated in Article I, Section 1.  Article I, Section 21 is New Jersey’s internal version of the Ninth Amendment, clarifying that listing one or several rights does not mean that other rights not listed do not exist.

If our state government wants to play games and split hairs with terms like “urgent need,” then gun owners and would be owners need to be as clever with the language as they are.  Get as many applications on the books as possible.  If they ask for an urgent need, self defense need be the only urgent need listed, given the condition of cities like Newark, Camden and Paterson.  It may seem a dirty tactic, but have lawyers at the ready, and if one person whose carry permit the state denied is injured or killed in a criminal attack, people need to be ready to sue the state for negligence in denying its residents the right to defend themselves.  It needs to be in the media every time someone suffers a break in, and did not have the opportunity to defend his/her personal safety, family and property.  If it happens in an anti-gun legislator’s district, the people need to show that legislator’s face along with the perpetrator and the victim, to show those who deny decent people their unalienable right to defend life, liberty and property are not just passive bystanders, but guilty of the blood of the innocent.  Most of all, we need to spread the message from the bottom up.  Gun owners and advocates, invite those who disagree with you to come to a range.  Dispel the stereotypes by disproving them in person.

There was certain to come a time when the strategy of depending on the federal government to protect our freedoms against state mischief was doomed to backfire.  Perhaps it has not arrived in some states, while it arrived sooner in others, but that time is definitely here in New Jersey.  Forget the rhetoric of “taking back America,” and start taking back your communities, changing one mind at a time if need be.

New Jersey Budget Hearings – Get Your House in Order

For those desiring bills along the lines of much of our model legislation, that period of time on the state legislative calendar dedicated to budgets, budgets and more budgets can become a waiting game.  While good bills on hemp, drones and other issues sit largely ignored in committee, the legislature and governor go back and forth over taxes and spending, each convinced of moral and intellectual supremacy over the other.  Still, a state’s fiscal policy does much to determine its ability to resist the constant encroachment upon our individual rights and reserved state and local powers.  While the New Jersey Tenth Amendment Center chapter does not have the manpower necessary to go through a line by line, item by item breakdown of what belongs or does not belong in our state budget, it would be a mistake to be silent on the issue.

The most important thing our state government can do regarding fiscal policy is to present a budget that is fully paid for without a dime of federal aid.  This may mean a complete revamping of state and local government as we know it in New Jersey, but it also means not being dependent on federal dollars and all of the strings attached.  More financial autonomy helps to protect our political autonomy, leaving us in a better position to enforce the Tenth Amendment.  While we’re on the subject of federal aid to the states, if our legislature and governor want to talk about that, maybe they can apply a little bit of pressure on DC to stop giving our tax dollars away to other states.

New Jersey needs to repudiate all unconstitutional debt.  There may be some whom such a move will upset, mostly those who purchased bonds not backed by the full faith and credit of the State of New Jersey, but according to the limits of our own state constitution, Trenton never should have taken on this debt.  Our state can never hope to enforce the limits of the US Constitution against DC if the legislature and governor cannot be faithful to our their state constitution.

Our state and local governments must strip away, to the greatest extent possible, any and all funding from any activities that assist the federal government in violating our rights.  This should be a no-brainer, as enforcement of even constitutionally delegated federal powers should be mostly up to the federal government.  Our state, county and municipal police and other agencies are not administrative subdivisions of the federal government, but servants of the people of this state.  Their responsibilities are to us, not any outside entity, and last I checked, the District of Columbia is outside of New Jersey.

In the short term, we cannot reasonably expect the governor and legislature to put aside partisan bickering in our budget hearings, or for any compromises to result in any major changes in how our state government operates.  That is where you come in.  You have a voice in this too.  In addition to any specific changes you believe need to be a part of our state budget, our legislators need to know there needs to be shift in our mindset regarding the purpose of government, both inside and outside our state.

New Jersey Senate Joins Push for Marijuana Legalization

On the heels of a bipartisan bill in the Assembly, and as many following the issue have expected, Senator Nicholas Scutari has introduced a bill in the New Jersey Senate that would legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.  Although the text of the bill is not available on the New Jersey Legislature’s site yet, according to Heather Haddon at the Wall Street Journal, S1896 would allow for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for individuals 21 years of age and older.

Unlike the Assembly version of the bill, S1896 provides for the taxation of recreational marijuana at a rate of 7%, with 70% of the revenue going toward transportation projects.  The remainder would go to, according to Ms. Haddon, drug education and women’s health, the latter being an often deliberately vague term.

Senate President Steve Sweeney is “open to debate” on the issue, while Governor Christie has promised to veto any legislation that legalizes marijuana.  In the event of a veto, the bill would need a two thirds majority in both houses to override.

New Jersey May Legalize Marijuana

Following successful efforts in Colorado and Washington to legalize marijuana for non-medicinal purposes, efforts have now made their way to New Jersey.  State Senator Nicholas Scutari stated in January that he was planning to draft legislation to legalize marijuana.  According to The Daily Chronic, a bipartisan bill has been introduced in the Assembly.

Republican Michael Patrick Carroll and Democrat Reed Gusciora have introduced a bill, A2842, which would allow the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, subject to voter approval.  If the Assembly and Senate were to approve the bill, it would need Governor Christie’s signature before going on the ballot for the voters to make the final decision on the law.  The governor has promised to veto any bill that legalizes or decriminalizes marijuana.  Both houses of the legislature would both need a two thirds vote to override a veto.

While Governor Christie says the federal government still considers marijuana illegal, it should be noted that during the Prohibition era, the federal government was at least honest enough to admit it needed to amend the Constitution to do so with alcohol.  Absent an amendment to the United States Constitution, the federal government has been claiming an authority on this issue it does not possess.  Like many other issues, this is one that is reserved to the state and the people.  Whatever the outcome, it should be the decision of the people of our state.