Lou in the News

‘HOUSING FIRST’ ADVOCATES LOOK TO EXPAND, TAKE PROGRAM STATEWIDE

NJSpotlight
October 1, 2014
Andrew Kitchenman
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An effort to improve the health of the homeless in New Jersey is gaining the attention of legislative and insurance-industry leaders, laying the groundwork for the statewide expansion of a program that concentrates on finding housing for the homeless before focusing on healthcare services.

Housing First, which has seen success in the Trenton area, is scheduled to expand to Camden next year. And advocates point to a growing body of evidence that it would be a cost effective way to reduce homelessness and improve healthcare quality and costs across the state. They say existing sources like Medicaid and money used to fund shelters could instead be put to provide permanent housing.

The program provides housing to homeless people, as a first step to addressing their healthcare and other social-service needs. Traditionally, public assistance for housing the homeless has been used as a potential reward for residents, but these approaches -- unlike Housing First -- have been ineffective for those with addictions and other behavioral-health needs that lead to a cycle of expensive treatments.

Greenwald organizing property tax summit

Burlington County Times
August 13, 2014
David Levinsky
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Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald believes New Jersey’s slow economic recovery and budget woes can be traced to a single source: the state’s high property taxes.

If lawmakers can solve the property tax dilemma, Greenwald predicts other pressing issues such as the state’s underfunded pension system and replenishing transportation project funding will become substantially more manageable by extension.

“Property tax is the tumor to the cancer. The others are the symptoms to the disease,” Greenwald, D-6th of Voorhees, said Wednesday. “We need to cut out the cancer.”

With that in mind, he is assembling a bipartisan group of current and past lawmakers as well as civic and business leaders to meet this fall to devise a long-sought-after solution to reducing New Jersey’s property tax burden.

“Our goal is to bring together these business leaders, civic leaders, political leaders, and bring together their resources,” said Greenwald, who announced the endeavor this week in an opinion piece published by the Newark Star-Ledger.

Greenwald said he’s been recruiting possible participants for several months. He did not release any names, but said he hoped the final group would be assembled soon and begin meeting next month.

Assembly OKs direct Tesla sales in N.J.

Inquirer
June 18, 2014
Andrew Seidman
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The Assembly passed a bill Monday that would let manufacturers of zero-emissions vehicles such as Tesla Motors bypass auto dealerships and sell cars directly to consumers.
Lawmakers introduced the bill after the state Motor Vehicle Commission ruled in March against Tesla's direct-sales model and the company's chief executive, Elon Musk, accused Gov. Christie of cutting a "backroom deal" with the auto-dealer lobby.

Following the ruling, Tesla converted its two New Jersey stores to galleries, where the company cannot discuss price, take orders, or offer test drives.

Diarmuid O'Connell, Tesla's vice president for business development, praised Monday's 77-0 vote, with one abstention, as "an overwhelming message of support for consumer freedom of choice."

The bill has made for strange bedfellows: Before the vote, environmentalists, consumer advocates, and business groups held a news conference outside the Statehouse to support the measure.

"We're truly at a crossroads in history here when we have commerce and industry lining up with the environmentalists," said Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D., Bergen), a bill sponsor who owns an electric car.

NJ bill to renew key property tax law is on fast track to Christie's desk

Star Ledger
June 16, 2014
Matt Friedman
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An expired law that was credited with helping stem the growth of property taxes is on the fast track back into the books.

Over the objections of police and firefighter unions, the state Assembly today voted 78-0 to approve a measure that restores a 2 percent annual limit on the amount third-party arbitrators can award police and firefighters in raises and other forms of compensation.

“This is a bill that was deeply necessary in order to move forward with controlling the ever-increasing burden of property taxes in the State of New Jersey, and make sure we treat with respect the people who put themselves in harm's way,” said Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden), a sponsor.

The state Senate plans to vote on the measure on Thursday.

Arbitrators step in to make decisions when police and firefighter unions are deadlocked with municipalities or counties on their contracts. Beginning in 2011, the arbitrators were limited to awarding 2 percent annual raises.

But the law expired on April 1 after Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) and Gov. Chris Christie failed to reach an agreement on extending it.

Mayors said the law was an important tool to help them meet the state’s 2 percent cap on local spending. Police and firefighter unions said it unfairly hobbled them in negotiations.

Bill to allow direct Tesla sales in NJ makes progress

Star Ledger
June 16, 2014
Matt Friedman
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The state Assembly today easily passed a bill that would allow electric car manufacturer Tesla to once again sell its cars at its New Jersey showrooms, and even open two more.

But the bill’s fate in the state Senate is unknown.

Without any debate, the Assembly approved the measure (A3216) by a vote of 77-0 with 1 abstention. It would allow Tesla, or any company that sells zero-emission vehicles directly to consumers, to open up to four stores in the Garden State — up from Tesla's current two showrooms. The company would also be required to have at least one facility that services the vehicles.

Although the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission had previously allowed Tesla to sell cars at its showrooms in Paramus and Short Hills, it halted the sales in April. The commission justified the decision on a state law from the 1970s that requires cars to be sold through dealerships.

The New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers supported the MVC's rule change.

Tesla officials said the old sales model does not work for their product because dealerships make much of their money from maintenance, and Teslas — which currently start at around $70,000 — require far less maintenance than traditional cars.