Lou's Latest Op-Eds

Democracy Act makes necessary updates to N.J. election laws | Opinion

NJ.com
July 6, 2015
Louis Greenwald
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By Louis Greenwald

American democracy has always been built on the power of the vote. As President Lyndon Johnson once said, "The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice."

Despite that power, New Jersey has seen voter participation decline to historic levels in nearly every election over the past decade. We must ask ourselves why this has happened. Many factors are involved, but chief among them is our own election laws.

They are outdated relics from a different era – and a major part of the problem.

In June, our primary election achieved the dubious honor of breaking a 90-year-old record for low turnout, with just 5.1 percent of eligible voters exercising their fundamental right to vote. But this is not merely a problem that afflicts primary elections – in 2013 we experienced our lowest turnout in state history for a gubernatorial election, 39 percent.

And in 2011, we set a new all-time low for mid-term election turnout at a paltry 27 percent of registered voters.

New Jersey is ranks 39 in the United States in the percentage of eligible voters who are registered at 64.3 percent, compared to 82.8 percent for the top state. And, New Jersey is also ranked 39 in the country on average voter turnout at 54.5 percent, compared to the top state at 73.3 percent.

Greenwald: It's time to modernize New Jersey's outdated liquor licensing laws

March 18, 2015

It was a very different time in 1962. John F. Kennedy had been president only since the year before. "Lawrence of Arabia" was the top-grossing movie. Future football and baseball all-star Bo Jackson was born. America hadn't yet gone to the moon or explored the deep reaches of the solar system. Computers took up the entire size of massive rooms, rather than fitting in the palm of a hand. Certainly, there was no internet economy or social media bringing the entire world to our fingertips from the comfort of a living room.

As a nation, we've changed a lot since then. Over that time, we've had to adapt to emerging realities to make sure our laws address issues ushered in by technological revolutions and better position an evolving society for continued success.

Unfortunately, when it comes to New Jersey's liquor laws, we continue to be mired in the past. Since 1962, New Jersey law has prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages in the vast majority of supermarkets by imposing an overly strict cap on supermarket liquor licensing. These laws are holdovers from a bygone era, when only "mom and pop" corner stores dotted the landscape. More critically, the outdated cap was created more than 50 years ago to combat price fixing and to fight organized crime -- concerns that are clearly outdated now.

Greenwald: A roadmap for property tax reform

Star Ledger
August 12, 2014
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For too long, the promise of property tax reform has been stymied by political calculation and partisan gridlock, which is why it’s time for an innovative approach — one that applies lessons from elsewhere and prioritizes fairness to middle-class families and seniors.

I propose convening a series of bipartisan high-level meetings to find a way to finally tame property taxes.

We can have no sacred cows in our discussions, with no topic off-limits. We should consider all ideas to reduce the property tax burden, regardless of the political affiliation of whoever proposed it. Throughout it all, our priority would be cuts in property taxes, but nothing would be off-limits. If needed, this can become all-encompassing, as long as it involves fixing New Jersey’s economic problems.

The bipartisan talks I’m proposing would be composed of respected business, civic and community leaders, and would tackle needed reforms in a way that promotes responsible funding for our communities and fairness to our residents. Freed from political pressures, this group should be able to design a comprehensive and fundamental restructuring of the way we fund local services, providing the legislative and executive branches a roadmap for reform.

We know this won’t be easy.

Greenwald Op-Ed: Gov. Christie hits 'new low' in 'cold-hearted' veto of gun magazine limit bill

Times of Trenton
July 9, 2014
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Leadership includes effectiveness, honesty and the ability to do the right thing, no matter the consequences.

It does not include pandering to far-off voters instead of those you are sworn to protect, nor does it include putting rabid personal ambition above public safety.

In other words, leadership is not Chris Christie.

Gov. Christie’s recent veto of legislation I sponsored to reduce the maximum capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds was among the more faint-hearted acts one will ever see from an elected official. It was also among the most cold-hearted.

Soon after the parents of children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., dropped off petitions asking Christie to sign the bill, the governor rejected it and released a statement that stated supporting the bill amounted to “grandstanding” and employing “empty rhetoric.”

Only someone with craven cowardice could make such a statement.

This legislation to reduce magazine capacity was in response to the horrific tragedy in Arizona, where an assailant used a large-capacity ammunition magazine to kill six people and injure 13 others, including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Among those murdered was 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who was shot that day by the 13th bullet.

Greenwald Op-Ed: On Tesla, driving solutions for New Jersey

Burlington County Times
June 8, 2014
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In New Jersey, we pride ourselves on supporting innovation and entrepreneurship—two values that have been fundamental building blocks in the history of our state. Leading minds like Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein have made the Garden State their home, contributing significant advances to our society from within our own state’s borders. That tradition continues today, as New Jersey is home to top-flight institutions of higher education, a thriving pharmaceutical and biotechnology research sector, health care institutions doing cutting-edge research and trials in cancer treatments, and one of the most highly educated workforces in the country. That is why I was alarmed several months ago when I learned that the Motor Vehicle Commission had issued a decision that undermined this competitive, innovative, and entrepreneurial spirit.

Tesla Automotive, Inc., is an innovative company that produces purely electric, plug-in vehicles—representing the cutting edge of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in automobiles. The engineering, style, and safety ratings of Tesla’s Model S have drawn rave reviews from consumers and industry-watchers alike. Indeed, when Consumer Reports turned its scrutiny on this vehicle, it won 99 points out of a possible 100, ranking as the top car for 2014.