LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Murphy bans smoking at public beaches, parks

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Gov. Phil Murphy, lawmakers and advocates gathered in Long Branch Friday morning to get rid of smoking on the beaches and in the parks.

“Today we’re finishing a job, and particularly Steve [Sweeney] knows, that began a decade ago with the signing of the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act in 2006. Today New Jersey is taking action to get the butts off the beach — cigarette butts, that is,” Murphy said.

The 2006 law banned smoking in bars and restaurants. This new law takes effect in six months and subjects a violator to a $250 fine for lighting up on the beach, $500 for a second offense, $1,000 for a third.

“It’s funny. We sat around a table one day. I said, ‘what do you think about smoke-free beaches?’ And he [Murphy] said ‘haven’t thought about it, let me think about it.’ And we’re here today,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.

The beach is not an ashtray, both Sweeney and Murphy reiterated.

Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar bill at least twice, arguing individual shore towns should make the decision. This new law does allow a town to set aside 15 percent of its beach for smoking.

The focus Friday was on cleaner air, cleaner beaches and a cleaner ocean.

“When you see other people smoking on the beaches, in the parks, you really don’t want your kids to even see that,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle.

Murphy took press questions and had a couple of things to answer for.

On NJ Transit, Murphy for months had been railing against the Christie administration for using capital funds for operating expenses.

“They took money from the capital budget and plugged up operating holes. They diverted enormous amounts of money out of the Turnpike Authority. This was a house of cards and there’s no more of that,” Murphy previously said.

Turns out NJ Transit’s new budget of $2.3 billion relies on $511 million in capital funds, $50 million more than in Christie’s final budget.

“We can’t undo eight years of malfeasance in the state support of NJ Transit, either in the operating or on the capital side. So, we’re trying to get things like that, I’ve been asked about environmental settlements similarly over the past several months, we’re trying as fast as we can to turn the page, to not cross the wires between operating and capital budgets. We can’t get there overnight,” Murphy said Friday.

It was also reported this week that the women’s professional soccer club Murphy has co-owned for a decade, Sky Blue FC, stands accused by former players and a former coach of poor housing, subpar facilities and mismanagement.

Murphy says he has lost money on the team but still believes in women’s professional soccer.

“The stories that have come out are completely unacceptable. And at the end of the day the buck stops with me and my fellow owner. We take this very seriously. It’s not tolerable. It will not go on. In some cases, it’s from the past and it’s already been corrected. In other cases, it’s in the process of being corrected and was already. And in some cases we still have wood to chop. But it’s intolerable. It’s unacceptable. The buck stops with ownership,” Murphy said.

When asked what his top agenda items are for the next couple of months, Murphy said hiking the minimum wage, getting a legalized marijuana bill passed and promoting the state economy.