National Roundup 06-27: NJ Assembly Passes Anti-BDS Bill; Lopez-Cantera Ends Senate Bid with Call to Supporters
The following is a round-up of national news from several major states across the country that will be featured on our site on a daily basis:
Unfazed by Christie Plan, Sweeney Pushes His Education Proposal: When Senate President Steve Sweeney earlier this month proposed a new state commission to help solve New Jersey’s school-funding woes, it was the only viable plan on the table to address one of the state’s more complex and vexing issues. But that all changed with a thump last week when Gov. Chris Christie came back with his “Fairness Formula,” a proposal to amend the state constitution to provide all school districts — rich or poor — the same state funding per pupil.
By most accounts, Christie’s plan is going nowhere under a Democrat-led Legislature — at least for the foreseeable future. But that doesn’t mean he’ll stop making headlines with public pronouncements and well-placed town halls, including one coming Tuesday in Wall Township.
And it has clearly changed the political dynamics, in some ways putting new pressure on Sweeney’s proposal — and possibly giving it new momentum. More could play out this coming week, when Christie and the Legislature have a few big topics on their schedules, namely the state’s budget for the next fiscal year and the ongoing back-and-force over raising the gas tax to pay for transportation needs. Whatever happens, neither Sweeney’s nor Christie’s school plans would affect next year’s budget for schools: Nominal aid increases are proposed across the board.
But with the Legislature in session and Christie on the “Fairness Formula” campaign, Sweeney said last week that he will press ahead with his proposal and consider whatever options he has to win its passage — with or without Christie’s support. “I put a plan forward that meets constitutional muster and fixes the formula in a fair way,” Sweeney said Thursday. “We don’t want to divide people. In my formula, there will be winners and losers in the suburbs, winners and losers in the urbans. But it gets us back to the formula the courts passed, and it’s fair.” When asked its political prospects to be passed, and then the chance of Christie signing it, Sweeney said without further elaboration: “I am exploring options to get around him.” [NJ Spotlight]
Legislature Passes Anti-BDS Bill: New Jersey is about to boycott a boycott movement against Israel. Lawmakers on Monday passed legislation that would prohibit the state Treasury Department from investing public employee pension funds in companies that boycott Israel as part of the so-called “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” movement.
It would join about a dozen other states that have taken similar action, most recently New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo this month signed an executive order requiring divestment of public funds from companies that have engaged in the BDS campaign against Israel. There appears to be near-universal support for the legislation in Trenton, despite scathing criticism from groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which argue that it would violate the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.
One of the bill’s chief sponsors, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D., Bergen), said she wasn’t responding to a surge in BDS activity in New Jersey, though she did note some anecdotal anti-Semitic episodes. Rather, she said, the legislation aims to maintain and strengthen New Jersey’s existing relationship with Israel, “without doing harm to the right to express one’s opinion.” More than $1.3 billion in goods are traded annually between the two, according to the bill. “It’s about [Israel’s] economic viability,” said Vainieri Huttle, who visited the country in February with 18 other lawmakers on a legislative mission.
The bill passed the Senate on a 39-0 vote last month, and the Assembly version lists more than three dozen sponsors, including members of both parties. The General Assembly passed the bill by a vote of 69 to 3 on Monday. Governor Chris Christie is expected to sign the bill into law.[Philly]
Congregation Beth Israel Holds Moving Up Ceremony for Students: Congregation Beth Israel’s Religious School in Scotch Plains held a Moving Up ceremony for its second- and seventh-grade students on Sunday, June 5, to celebrate their advancing to the next level of Jewish education. For the second-graders, the ceremony marked the conclusion of their weekly Sunday School program and the start of their formal two-day-a-week Religious School education.
For the seventh-graders, the ceremony marked the conclusion of their Religious School studies and the continuation of their Jewish education in Congregation Beth Israel’s Hebrew High School, the Machon Institute. In front of their families, teachers and fellow classmates, the second-graders sang and spoke about their favorite Jewish “things”, and the seventh-graders gave the second-graders “words of wisdom” and insights into the great activities in Religious School.
Congregation Beth Israel’s Religious School was one of the first three congregations in North America to be designated as a Framework for Excellence School by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, educating students from pre-school through 10th grade through experiential grade-specific programs that encompass the family in its curriculum. Students in pre-K through second grade meet on Sunday; synagogue membership is not required for students to attend this program.
Religious School for grades 3-7 meets two days per week, on Sunday morning and Wednesday afternoon. The Machon Institute Hebrew High School meets once a week on Wednesday evening. Congregation Beth Israel has been recognized as an ABLE Awarded Congregation by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest for its commitment to inclusion and accommodation for all its members. Contact Gail Beckman Buchbinder, Education Director, at (908) 889-1830 to discuss how the Religious School can help your children achieve their Jewish potential. [NJ.com]
More Than 300 CPD Officers Receive Mental Health Training: Chicago police say they have made significant progress in mental health training.
More than 300 police officers have been trained this year alone where they learned about the signs and symptoms of mental illness and skills for de-escalating conflict.
More than 2,000 officers are now crisis intervention team certified. New classes of more than 30 officers are being trained every week. Mayor Rahm Emanuel called for a review of CPD’s crisis intervention team after police shot and killed college student Quintonio Legrier and a 55-year-old bystander after Legrier became combative. [WLS]
Duckworth Settles Workplace Retaliation Lawsuit: A lawsuit filed against Rep. Tammy Duckworth was settled Friday, just over a month before the case, stemming from her time as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, was set to go to trial in mid-August.
“Today’s resolution is appropriate for what was always a frivolous workplace case that dragged on over eight years and was dismissed in whole or in part multiple times,” deputy campaign manager Matt McGrath said in a statement. “Tammy has and always will put protecting our Veterans first, and she has never hesitated to hold others accountable. Meanwhile, the Kirk campaign — which has lied about this case as frequently and as colorfully as Senator Kirk lied about his military record — needs to come clean. Senator Kirk himself falsely suggested it involved patronage hiring and ‘goombahs’ — whatever that means,” McGrath continued.
“His campaign also lied when they said the case was about Tammy endangering Veterans’ care, and when they suggested taxpayers were on the hook for a six figure settlement. Kirk had clearly pinned his desperate campaign hopes on what a federal judge deemed a ‘garden variety workplace case,’ and now it’s clear he’s got nothing left to offer Illinois families.”
Incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk had been using the case as a component of his strategy against the congresswoman, even sending “save the date” postcards to remind voters of the trial. His campaign responded with an equally vitriolic statement, having spent several months deploying a strategy of tying Duckworth to incarcerated former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who appointed her Director of the IDVA in 2006. [NBC5]
Lopez-Cantera Ends Senate Bid with Call to Supporters: Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera said good-bye to his U.S. Senate campaign Friday with a call to supporters in which he thanked them and promised to be “fully behind” Marco Rubio’s re-election bid.
“I’m going to do what I can to help Marco,” Lopez-Cantera told the Miami Herald after the call.
That’s in contrast to Gov. Rick Scott, who is sitting out the Republican primary between Rubio and Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff. Lopez-Cantera, who stepped aside after urging Rubio to run, got in a jab at Beruff, noting he didn’t show up to the last grassroots event Lopez-Cantera attended recently in Venice, near Sarasota.
This will be the first election since 2006 in which Lopez-Cantera, a former state representative and Miami-Dade County property appraiser, isn’t on a ballot. He also attended Rubio’s first fundraiser, Sunday in Miami. [Miami Herald]
Democrats Face Challenges to Narrow GOP Majority in State Senate: Court-ordered redrawing of Florida Senate districts was expected to give Democrats a chance to narrow the Republican majority in the 40-member chamber.
But as the qualifying period for Senate races ended at noon Friday, a quick analysis shows the Democrats will be lucky to pick up two or perhaps three seats in a Senate where the GOP now holds a 26-14 edge.
A plausible scenario could have the Republicans holding their current majority. And a nightmare scenario for the Democrats would be a loss of one or two seats.
To make things interesting, one of the Democrats’ top Senate leaders, Jeff Clemens, is facing a last-minute intra-party challenge from state Rep. Irv Slosberg in a Palm Beach County district. It is a serious challenge with Slosberg having the ability to self-fund a challenge from his multi-million net worth. Sen. Oscar Braynon, the Miami senator who will lead the Democrats through this cycle, did win re-election without opposition.
Meanwhile, the Senate Republican leaders breezed to re-election with little opposition, although incoming Senate President Joe Negron drew a challenge. But it’s the same Democrat he beat with 67 percent of the vote in 2014. The lack of opposition will allow the Republican leadership to fully concentrate on maintaining their party’s majority. [Herald Tribune]