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District 26 Assembly Candidates Address “Deluge” of Issues

Matthew Kassel | October 31, 2012

Both tout flood-control bills; incumbent also cites health care and civil-service reform; challenger targets waste and taxes.

When Hurricane Irene hit New Jersey last year, Joseph Raich’s house was inundated. "I don't have a basement, and I got 27 inches of water on my first floor," said the Democrat from Parsippany, who is running for Assembly in District 26, an area hit hard by flooding last year.

Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce

Raich, who is seeking to oust GOP incumbent Betty Lou DeCroce, supports a bipartisan-sponsored bill (A267) that would require certain flood-control measures to be put in place by the Department of Environmental Protection and owners of reservoirs, and, says its synopsis, would authorize the "Office of Emergency Management to order lowering of reservoirs in response to severe weather events."

"They knew at least a week before that Hurricane Irene was coming," Raich said, "and according to United Water, they did not lower anything. They didn't lower the water level at all."

Joseph Raich, Democratic challenger in Assembly District 26.
Joseph Raich, Democratic challenger in Assembly District 26.

The bill has been in committee since January, Raich said, and he is "shocked" that "those in the Assembly and the Senate can't seem to get it moving. My opponent hasn't spoken out about this at all.”

Perhaps that is because DeCroce, lso of Parsipanny, who took over her husband Alex DeCroce’s seat when he died in early January, has sponsored a similar bill (A1069) that would, as its synopsis reads, authorize the "Office of Emergency Management to order lowering of reservoir levels prior to certain severe weather events." Neither candidate seemed aware of the other bill’s existence.

"He can talk to his Democratic colleagues," DeCroce said, "because they're not posting the bills," adding that "coming up with permanent fixes is key."

"Every time a house comes off the tax roll or a business shuts down, a municipality is going to have financial problems," DeCroce added.

While dealing with the flooding problems is a centerpiece of both campaigns, both candidates have a laundry list of issues and problems they want to address.

"One thing that will help municipalities is civil service reform," DeCroce said. "There's too many rules and regulations. If somebody's well-trained in a position and there's a layoff, there's bumping rights."

Switching subjects, DeCroce added: "We just passed a transportation trust fund which will help the roadways and bridges in my district. There's a lot of roadways and bridges that are in desperate need of help."

Regarding health care, DeCroce said she believes that "we should be able to shop across state lines to purchase medical coverage that will help us become more competitive here in the state."

DeCroce is co-sponsor of a bill (A2495) that would, as she put it, reform policies on unused sick leave. The bill would, among other things, prohibit "payment to public employees at retirement for certain unused sick leave," according to a synopsis of the legislation. "I'm a believer of use or lose," DeCroce said, although, she added, "In order to get the bill approved, there's got to be negotiations."

Raich spoke to different issues.

“I'm very much concerned about saving the middle class and getting jobs created and making sure taxes are as low as possible," he said. "I want to see for myself just how the money is spent and eliminate as much waste as possible, thereby lowering the taxes for everyone."

"Consolidation seems to be the best solution to our tax load in New Jersey," Raich added. "We've got 21 counties in the state and over 600 school district

Matthew Kassel is a freelance writer. His work has been published by The Wall Street Journal, NPR, and The Forward, among other publications.

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