Apr 19, 2015

Locally Speaking

N.J. Voters Want Menendez To Resign

A majority of New Jersey voters think U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez should resign after being indicted on 14 federal corruption charges, according to a poll released Thursday morning.

And that isn't the only bad news for Menendez (D-N.J.) in the Quinnipiac University poll of 1,428 state voters. The survey also finds that his approval rating is plummeting and that even voters who believe he did not do anything illegal still think he acted unethically.

"The accusation is enough, voters say," said Maurice Carroll, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. "Robert Menendez should quit."

Fifty-two percent of voters — including 61 percent of Republicans, 51 percent of independents and 46 percent of Democrats — say Menendez should go.

Fifty-four percent say he's not "honest and trustworthy," versus 23 percent who think he is.

Menendez is accused of accepting free flights, lavish vacations and hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen. In exchange, it's alleged that Menendez intervened with Department of Health officials so Melgen wouldn't have to pay millions he owed in Medicare overbillings, pushed for the enforcement of a Dominican Republic port security contract for a company that Melgen owned, and arranged visas for three of the married doctor's foreign girlfriends.

A plurality of voters — 45 percent — think Menendez committed a crime. Another 38 percent say Menendez acted unethically but did not violate the law.

Only 8 percent of voters think Menendez did not do anything "seriously wrong."

"More than 80 percent of New Jerseyans think what the senator did was illegal or at least unethical, but hardly anyone believes he's blameless," Carroll said.

And with that, Menendez's job approval rating — which was 46 percent approve to 33 percent disapprove in January — has droped. Now, 35 percent approve and 46 percent disapprove.

By contrast, New Jersey's other U.S. Senator, Cory Booker (D-N.J.), fares better, with 52 percent of voters approving of his job performance and 20 percent disapproving.

While Menendez has called the charges politically motivated &mdahs; and even several Republicans have shown support for him — a plurality of voters don't buy it. Forty-six percent say the case against the senator is based on facts, while 39 percent say it's political.

The Quinnipiac poll results come a week after a Rutgers-Eagleton poll found 58 percent of New Jersey residents said Menendez should stay in office unless he's proven guilty. That poll relied on a smaller sample size and was being conducted on the day Menendez was indicted.

Quinnipiac's poll was conducted from April 9-14 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

Michael Soliman, a former Menendez state director who is spearheading a PR campaign on his behalf, said Menendez "has been the victim of a coordinated, anonymous smear campaign for nearly three years."

"Unfortunately, this poll did not provide responders with the benefit of Senator Menendez's side of the story — but only a one-sided reiteration of allegations," he said. "We believe that once New Jerseyans have the opportunity to hear Bob's side, and have the benefit of all the facts we have yet to present, they will form a very different conclusion." -Source: Nj

Christie To Propose Big Changes To Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will call for major reform to Social Security Tuesday, including eliminating the benefit for seniors making $200,000 or more, reducing the benefit for seniors making more than $80,000 and raising the retirement age to 69.

Christie is expected to talk about the need to overhaul Medicaid, Medicare and disability insurance, in addition to Social Security in a speech in New Hampshire ahead of a likely 2016 run, reported The Wall Street Journal. He’ll argue he’s the right person to take on the sure political challenge.

“Washington is afraid to have an honest conversation about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid with the people of our country,” Christie will say, according to prepared remarks obtained by the WSJ. “I am not.”

In Medicare, Christie will call for increasing the age when seniors qualify to 67 by 2040, and require seniors with higher incomes to pay more into the system. He’ll also call for Medicaid funding to be turned over to the states.

“This fairness must cover our hard-working taxpayers footing the bills today and must include reforming these programs to ensure their existence today and for future generations,” Christie will say.

The speech is part of three days of political events in the important primary state of New Hampshire, before he plans to return to New Jersey for a town hall meeting Thursday.

Christie’s approval ratings in New Jersey have suffered dramatically, in part because of concerns he is spending too much time out of the state preparing for a likely presidential run. –Source: Daily Caller

Court Wisely Rejects Challenge To N.J. Ban On Gay Conversion Therapy

A federal appeals court in Philadelphia has dismissed a challenge to New Jersey's ban on gay conversion therapy for minors. It was a wise and compassionate move, recognizing that homosexuality is neither an illness nor an aberration.

Flying in the face of scientific and medical wisdom, conversion therapy seeks to convert gay and lesbian young people to heterosexuality. It's a practice nearly every well-respected medical health association in the country has dismissed as junk science at best - and as a form of child abuse at worst.

Gov. Chris Christie signed the measure in 2013, outlawing the therapy in the Garden State. California enacted a similar law the year before, and the District of Columbia also has the ban in place.

New Jersey's law prevents any licensed therapist, psychologist, counselor or social worker from using sexual-orientation change efforts with children under 18.

During the signing ceremony, the governor said the potential health risks of the therapy outweighed concerns over the government's setting limits on parental choice.

Year after year, in paper after paper, the American Association of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and the National Association of Social Workers have condemned this justifiably reviled "reparative therapy," terming the practice emotionally demoralizing and damaging.

The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that U.S. District Court Judge Freda Wolfson, who presides in Trenton, was correct to reject the claims of a couple who complained that their constitutional rights were being violated because the law bars them from seeking treatment for their 15-year-old son.

It was the second time the appeals court has upheld New Jersey's law.

The most recent decision came less than a week after President Obama announced support for a nationwide ban on conversion therapy. More than 120,000 people signed a petition asking the White House to take action following the highly publicized death of Leelah Alcorn in December.

The transgender teen from Ohio took her own life by walking into heavy traffic, reportedly after her parents forced her to undergo Christian-based conversation therapy. Her suicide note, posted on social media, touched millions of hearts, driving home the very real peril of this discredited approach.

We hope that with this week's decision we've seen the last of attempts to overturn the ban, but there are indications that the plaintiffs in the case intend to bring their fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That would be a shame. Ending the ban would only compound the tragedy of Leelah Alcorn, making life a waking nightmare for countless teens already struggling to find their place in this world. –Source: Nj

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