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Monmouth Republicans: ‘Not Surprised’ Orsted Killed Offshore Wind Plan

November 1, 2023

MIDDLETOWN, NJ — Immediately after Danish company Orsted made the surprise 3 a.m. announcement Tuesday they are canceling all plans to build offshore wind turbines off the Jersey Shore, the three Republican lawmakers who represent Middletown had just four words:

“We told you so.”

“Tonight’s announcement by Orsted is not a surprise to those who have been relentless in questioning the Governor’s overzealous ‘green’ energy mandates,” said state Senator Declan O’Scanlon, Assemblywoman Victoria Flynn and Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger, who represent the Middletown area in Trenton (Scharfenberger is the former Middletown mayor). “For those of us who simply asked reasonable questions about the long-term, practicable and financial viability of the proposed offshore projects, this is an ‘I told you so’ moment.”

As Patch was one of the first media outlets to report two years ago, Orsted was planning to build two massive wind farms off Atlantic City; the turbines would have started at about 15 miles out and they would have been visible from Atlantic City beaches on clear days. In 2021, the company released these renderings of how the turbines would look from the beach.

However, in a 3 a.m. Europe time earnings phone call Orsted led from its Copenhagen headquarters Tuesday, Orsted CEO Mads Nipper announced his company is completely abandoning Ocean Wind One and Ocean Wind Two, citing supply chain problems.

Minutes later, Gov. Phil Murphy released a furious statement, saying: “Today’s decision by Orsted to abandon its commitments to New Jersey is outrageous and calls into question the company’s credibility and competence. As recently as several weeks ago, the company made public statements regarding the viability and progress of the Ocean Wind 1 project.”

This summer, Orsted asked for millions of dollars in tax breaks to build the wind farms, which Murphy gave them.

Gov. Murphy is now even pursuing litigation against Orsted:

“My administration insisted upon important protections that ensure New Jersey will receive $300 million to support the offshore wind sector should Orsted’s New Jersey projects fail to proceed,” said Murphy Tuesday night. “I have directed my administration to review all legal rights and remedies and to take all necessary steps to ensure that Orsted fully and immediately honors its obligations.”

Republican Congressman Chris Smith, who represents the southern portion of Middletown, said he “welcomed” the news that Orsted is backing out.

“Turns out that despite huge taxpayer subsidies and credible predictions of big increases to ratepayers, Orsted has concluded they will still lose money,” said Rep. Smith Wednesday morning. “Orsted’s decision was a first step in exposing the economic unsustainability and environmental dangerousness of ocean wind turbines — each the size of the Chrysler building in New York City — and Orsted’s pulling out of the deal may help slow and eventually halt similar projects off New Jersey’s coast.”

“The wind projects backed by the Governor and Trenton Democrats never seemed to add up – financially or environmentally,” said the Middletown lawmakers. “What is a surprise is the feigned outrage by the Governor in response to Orsted’s announcement that it is abandoning these projects. It was quite obvious in June that these projects were unsustainable without substantial financial backing by taxpayer dollars. The Governor and the Democratic-led legislature knew this, and yet rammed a billion-dollar bailout bill through Trenton for Orsted without any regard for N.J. taxpayers.”

“We strongly disagree with the Governor’s position to use litigation to resurrect what is ultimately a horrific deal for our state,” they continued. “Rather than spend more N.J. taxpayer funds to make Orsted ‘honor their commitment,’ as the Governor suggested in his statement, New Jersey should instead take legislative action to prevent any further ill-conceived corporate bailouts for foreign companies immediately.”

The three Republican lawmakers are continuing to call for a moratorium for all offshore wind projects off the Jersey Shore.

Orsted’s wind farm would have been New Jersey’s first offshore wind project. However, plans are still moving forward on other wind farms off the Jersey Shore: Another Norwegian company called StatOil is working with British Petroleum (BP) to build Empire Wind 1 and 2 off Long Branch. Empire Wind 1 and 2 will be the largest wind farms to date, with 174 monopiles. 

Orsted is also still moving forward to build Revolution Wind, and another wind farm called South Fork Wind off Long Island.

Legislators Call for Emergency Session & Hearings on Horrific Veterans’ Home Death Investigation Report

September 8, 2023

Holmdel, N.J. –Senator Declan O’Scanlon, Assemblywoman Victoria Flynn and Assemblyman Gerry
(Monmouth – R’s) are calling for an emergency session and subsequent independent committee hearings to discuss the horrific treatment of Veterans in care homes by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s Administration during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report released yesterday by the United States Department of Justice and the United States District Attorney’s Office of New Jersey outlined in graphic detail how the Murphy Administration’s failures led to devastation, subjecting over 7,900 Veterans to cruelty and ultimately culminated in our heroes losing their lives in vain.

O’Scanlon, Flynn, and Scharfenberger release the following statement:

“The conclusions offered by the District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice are, at a bare minimum, horrific. In all our years, we have never seen such a scathing report, detailing complete failures and lock of compassion for human life by State officials. It is almost inconceivable that this occurred – we owe it to those Veterans as well as their families to find recourse and impose consequences on all those involved. There must be accountability for those who failed to protect our must vulnerable residents.

It is a sad day in New Jersey history to have an administration placed on notice for neglecting to protect our Veterans, heroes who sacrificed so much to protect and preserve liberty of our Country. It is disgraceful that our Veterans could be treated with complete disdain by officials and bureaucrats. Making matters worse is the cavalier attitude by those responsible for this, essentially expressing feigned shock by the findings as if they were not already aware of the havoc they imposed.

As members of the New Jersey Legislature, we will not stand idly by after having been made aware of the findings. We call on our leaders and colleagues in the Legislature to come back into session immediately so that we can hold hearings to review this report and attempt to bring justice for those who lost their lives as well as for their families who were rendered helpless as they were banned from visiting and robbed of sharing final moments with their loved ones.

We must also seek justice for those Veterans who today continue to live in substandard conditions due to the State’s neglect. We can ill afford to wait any longer for reports and a determination from our own State Attorney General, we must act now.

In the same vein, we must ensure this never happens again. We must enact stronger laws to prevent one person and unelected administrators from ever being able to impart unilateral control over the lives of citizens. Never again should the authority of the New Jersey Legislature be usurped by one individual lest we suffer the same failures in the future.”

Legislators Introduce New Bill Mandating Heavy Oversight of Sonar Testing to Prevent Further Whale Deaths

June 1, 2023


Union Beach, N.J. – Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger and Assemblywoman Victoria Flynn (Monmouth – R’s) have introduced new legislation (A5566) which seeks to regulate the use of acoustic sonar surveying and subsequently pause current testing while a new permitting structure is developed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) which would offer greater protection of marine life off the Jersey Shore.

The bill by the 13th District Legislators comes as reports of another deceased humpback whale in the Raritan Bay have been confirmed, adding to the unprecedented and growing death toll of marine mammals along New Jersey’s coast since December of 2022:

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the photos and carcasses of marine mammals all along the Jersey Coastline would be enough to fill an encyclopedia,” said Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger. “We already have been calling for an immediate halt of sonar testing, but since that has fallen on deaf ears, we are moving to the next step and seeking to make NJDEP more accountable in the process that they’ve fumbled since the onset of this “green” initiative by the President and Governor.”

“It is unmistakably clear; the controversy surrounding these whale and dolphin deaths would have been avoided if the State had initially done its due diligence in researching the impact of sonar technology on marine mammals and not haphazardly ceding the future of New Jersey’s ecosystems to the whims of the federal government,” stated Assemblywoman Victoria Flynn. “Since the State and NJDEP have failed in their obligation to ensure our environment is protected, we are going back to the drawing board and strictly mandating their regulatory processes to implement a change of course. When our legislation is passed, it will offer peace of mind to residents who want to know that the beaches and oceans they love and rely on for tourism dollars are being safeguarded from unwarranted harm.”

Within the legislation, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection would need to create a new, in-depth permitting process and monitoring system before any sonar or seismic surveying is allowed to take place. Further, NJDEP would have the authority to immediately suspend a sonar testing permit if a marine mammal is found injured or deceased, and the cause of injury or death is potentially related to the use of sonar testing.

NJDEP would also be compelled to investigate the cause of any marine mammal injury or death and determine if the use of sonar testing by the permittee contributed.  Any sonar testing would remain suspended until an investigation is conducted, and conclusions published:

“The power should be restored to the NJDEP as well as return oversight to municipalities which was egregiously taken in 2021 while everyone was concerned with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Scharfenberger continued. “In a ‘Home-Rule’ state, where residents pay the highest property taxes in the nation, the right for municipalities to decide their own development destiny is paramount.  Local planning boards should be the arbiters of any permits having to do with development or infrastructure in a given municipality.”

“Listen, I am a proponent of exploring alternative and green energy sources, but not at the risk of our oceans and marine life. Every time a whale or dolphin is located deceased off our shorelines, we receive countless demands by concerned residents for legislative actions. This is not a partisan issue. This is an environmental issue that I think all who love our Jersey Shore can support,” commented Assemblywoman Victoria Flynn. “I think it is reasonable to temporarily pause acoustic sonar testing occurring off our shorelines for wind turbine projects until an independent investigation is undertaken to prove there is no direct or indirect correlation between testing and marine mammal deaths. I also think it is reasonable to give the State greater control over what occurs off our shorelines. The bills Gerry and I proposed are responsive to the concerns of our residents. I do not think it is wise for government leaders to continue to ignore the calls by our residents to protect our shores, our environment, and marine life. We are not going to relent until their voices are heard and concerns eased.”

Scharfenberger & Flynn: NJDOE’s School Funding Numbers Spells Disaster for a Generation of Students

March 2, 2023


Scharfenberger & Flynn: NJDOE’s School Funding Numbers Spells Disaster for a Generation of Students

Middletown, N.J. – Assemblymembers Victoria Flynn and Gerry Scharfenberger (Monmouth – R’s) offer the following statement regarding the New Jersey Department of Education’s (NJDOE) “State Aid Summaries” which will cause massive cuts for school within the 13th Legislative District (-$6.5 million) as well as across Monmouth County (-$19.9 million) for the upcoming 2023-24 school year:

“It is appalling to see that school districts in Monmouth County will continue to suffer cuts in State Aid for next school year. This flies in the face of all the promises made by Governor Murphy during his budget proposal that residents will see property tax relief – they absolutely will not according to the information just shared by the NJDOE.

Some schools will receive up to 20% less in state aid to fund their budgets.  Even if some of our schools receive more in this year, it will disappear due to the skyrocketing increase in health benefits costs issued by the State.

This is not a plan for success. The State is sitting on historic surpluses which are not being utilized to provide the support needed in our educational system to allow students to recover from the years of interrupted learning. Learning losses due to COVID-19 forced closures have been ignored by the NJDOE. School Districts are already struggling to compensate especially with a lack of actionable plan from Trenton. If these funding amounts go unchanged, an entire generation of students will face life altering effects, damaging their futures.

We are going to fight this and do everything within our power to see that our students and school districts receive the funding and education they deserve.”

Information on the individual schools within the 13th Legislative District can be seen below.

Scharfenberger & Flynn: Governor Should Focus on the “Current” New Jersey & Not the “Next”

March 1, 2023


Trenton, N.J. – Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger and Assemblywoman Victoria Flynn (Monmouth – R’s) offer the following joint statement in response to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s FY’24 State Budget Address:

“We agree wholeheartedly with the spirit of today’s budget address – we must be guided by principles of fiscal responsibility as leaders of this great State. However, the proposals included in the Governor’s speech will only exacerbate the financial nightmares facing New Jersey residents because of the property tax burden here at home as well as high inflation rates due to the reckless economic policies of the federal government. 

Today’s budget address ignores the pleas of our local leaders who are scrambling to address the astronomical increase with health care costs in their upcoming budgets. The Governor’s failure to assist local government entities with the unanticipated increase in health care costs leave local school boards and municipalities to pass those costs onto residents by way of increases in taxes and reducing budgets to the bare minimum for services for their residents. That’s not a fairer New Jersey. 

To address the flight from New Jersey by residents who seek to reside in States that have a more friendly tax code, the Governor proposed a tax credit for senior citizens that will help them stay in their homes. Despite dedicating $2.5 billion in new costs for this proposal, it does not address the fact that it will still be cheaper for residents to seek refuge in other States from New Jersey’s crushing taxes. 

We are pleased the Governor included references in this budget to address learning loss among our students; yet, we are disheartened because the funding will not be available until next school year. We remained saddened that this State’s budgetary priorities are not laser focused on addressing learning loss, thus relegating an entire generation of kids to academic purgatory.

We therefore call on Governor Murphy to revisit his budget, removing needless spending and to work with us across the aisle to hear our plans. For instance, Minority Leader DiMaio has announced feasible a plan to address school funding, bringing with it substantial and sustainable relief.

Governor Murphy needs to stop worrying about the ‘Next New Jersey’ and concentrate on helping the current New Jersey before it is too late. Taxpayers are struggling, barely keeping their heads above water yet now must face a new $53+ billion spending spree weighing them down. 

We agree on one thing, a stronger economy builds a stronger New Jersey, but this budget falls short.” 

According to the information proposed by the Murphy Administration, his FY’24 Budget includes over $2.5 billion in new spending for a grand total of over $53 billion – a 53% increase since Governor Chris Christie’s last budget.

N.J. may stiffen penalties for assaulting youth sports officials after explosion of bad behavior

January 20, 2023

By: Brent Johnson | NJ Advance Media for

In the wake of a string of sometimes violent arguments and altercations at youth sporting events across New Jersey in recent years, lawmakers have begun advancing a proposed state law that would increase penalties for those convicted in those incidents.

The bipartisan bill, which a state Assembly committee approved Thursday, would increase penalties on those who assault or harass an official, player, or participants at school or other youth sports events in New Jersey. It also would upgrade certain types of assault against sports officials in the state to aggravated assault.

In one of the most notable incidents, a coach punched a 72-year-old umpire during a youth baseball game in Branchburg last June after arguing a call and being ejected from the game. The umpire suffered a broken jaw that required extensive dental surgery.

NJ Advance Media reported in March of last year that there has been an explosion of bad behavior on sports fields across the state, including verbal and physical assaults of coaches and officials.

That includes another incident last year in which adult fan stormed the floor and shoved a coach during a high school basketball game in Jersey City.

“We know the psychological long-term effects that parents fighting in a home has on children,” Assemblywoman Vicki Flynn, R-Monmouth, a main sponsor, said during a hearing on the legislation Thursday. “I don’t know why it’s any different when it’s at a soccer field, a basketball court, or a hockey rink.”

“The long-term damage these toxic and sometimes violent incidents cause to children is what this legislation is trying to avoid,” she added. “Parents, spectators, staff, coaches and anyone else behaving badly during sporting events involving children must be stopped and held accountable.”

Under the proposal, someone who commits a simple assault against a sports official, coach, player, or participant at a school of community sponsored youth event in New Jersey would now face up to 18 months in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

Currently, anyone who commits simple assault in the state faces up to six months in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

The bill also would upgrade those who commit aggravated assault against a sports official to a third-degree crime if the official suffers bodily injury. They would face a prison sentence of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.

If the assault is against someone under the age of 18, it would be a third-degree crime punishable by up to five to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.

The measure was previously addressed by two different bills (A4471 and A444) but has been combined into one.

Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, D-Hudson, the committee’s chairman and a co-sponsor of the legislation, said his kids play sports not to become pros but to “learn values and morals and develop character with their peer class.”

“When you are assaulting someone at a youth sports event, we’re going to be putting them in category as public officials and law enforcement official and school personal, where it’s already upgraded to aggravated assault,” Mukherji said. “It’s gonna be indictable now.”

The Assembly Judiciary committee voted 5-0 to approve the bill Thursday at the Statehouse in Trenton. It must be passed by the full state Senate and Assembly before the governor can decide whether to sign it into law.

Randy Nathan, a coach and West Orange resident, told the committee he’s been pushing for such a law for 10 years. He said the problem has been around for decades, but there has been an increase since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Safeguards must be put in place to protect officials from parents who damage the integrity of the sport with a confrontational behavior,” Nathan said.

Assemblyman Robert Auth, R-Bergen, a committee member, said he was once an umpire who endured “some berating from some parents.”

“It was really terrible,” Auth said during the hearing. “It has been escalating over the years.”

NJ Advance Media staff writer Matthew Stanmyre contributed to this report.

Scharfenberger & Flynn: Governor Should Punish Criminals, Not School Districts That Don’t Want To Teach Sex Ed

September 27, 2022

NJ Education Report

Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger and Assemblywoman Victoria Flynn (Monmouth – R’s) are demanding that Governor Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Education end the recent intimidation tactics forced on parents and school districts over the implementation of sex education curriculums and focus instead on the very real dangers threatening New Jersey communities across the State:

“The unmitigated gall that this administration has to threaten school districts with retaliation because they have reservations about sex curriculums while at the same time ignoring crime waves impacting neighborhoods, even the Governor’s own, is lunacy. The Governor should be focusing on combating real criminals instead of labeling parents as enemies of the state,” said Assemblyman Scharfenberger. “The fact that his administration is more concerned about children being taught over-sexualized, explicit materials than with changing bail reform or protecting residents and families speaks volumes. This void in priorities has very real-world implications on the residents of New Jersey.”

“I was appalled by the announcement by the Department of Education that it intends to pursue punishment against schools while it actively ignores the critical needs of NJ students following the pandemic,” Assemblywoman Flynn commented. “This is just another example of the State igniting the real issues impacting NJ residents. Even the car theft crime wave ravishing communities all over the State continues to be ignored by the Governor. We have drafted legislation in response to the pleas of law enforcement and our constituents to implement common sense solutions to curb rising crime, yet those requests have been egregiously ignored. While the Governor seeks to raise his national profile, he is ignoring the problems here at home by being soft on crime, even when that crime wave hits close to home (just next door to the Governor’s home).” 

The strong backlash comes as reports show that the New Jersey Department of Education has released harsh warnings to school districts that suggest any attempts to circumvent new sex education curriculums could be faced with serious repercussions and possible loss of funding. Making matters worse, New Jersey parents are also coming under the thumb of the NJDOE as they could also have their children penalized should they fail to adhere to strict excusal protocols:

“The fact that the NJDOE has the time and resources apparently available to make threats, but neglects to effectually create programs and proposals to deal with learning losses stemming from COVID-19 closures illustrates how ineffective and uninventive the department really is at focusing on the real needs of students right now. Every day at the NJDOE should be spent working toward helping students academically recover so that they have every tool needed to be successful; however, it appears that the NJDOE’s lesson plans are geared toward acting as a de facto enforcement agency for administration’s agenda items,” concluded Assemblywoman Flynn.

“We are not going to stand by while our schools and parents are pressured with strong-armed threats from any administration, especially one that would rather target law-abiding citizens instead of criminals. Let’s cut it with the soundbites for the Governor’s future D.C. ambitions and get to work solving the problems here before someone is injured or worse, loses their life,” Assemblyman Scharfenberger continued.

Country Welcomes 50 New Citizens at Sandy Hook Lighthouse

September 16, 2022

The Two Rivers Times

By Sunayana Prabhu

SANDY HOOK – There were no fireworks, but the euphoria of freedom was enough to brighten the cloudy day as 50 immigrants took their U.S. citizenship oath during a naturalization ceremony held Sept. 7 at the Sandy Hook Lighthouse.

The Monmouth County residents represented 29 countries – from Argentina to Uzbekistan – but became “citizens of the greatest country that civilization has ever seen” when they rose to take the Oath of Allegiance, said John Thompson, district director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), who led the ceremony.

The naturalization ceremony was organized by officials from Gateway National Recreation Area and USCIS at the lighthouse, a National Historic Landmark, to celebrate the conclusion of an immigrant’s journey to citizenship and honor the commitment they’ve shown along the way.

The day also marked another milestone as Gateway National Recreation Area celebrated 50 years since its own creation by an act of Congress Oct. 27, 1972.

Thompson, along with Jennifer Nersesian, superintendent of Gateway National Recreation Area, state Assembly members Victoria Flynn (R-13) and Gerry Scharfenberger (R-13), and Highlands Mayor Carolyn Broullon, presented naturalization certificates to each of the new U.S. citizens, calling out their distinctive names, steeped in diverse cultural identities.

The Ceremony

The gathering blended tears and smiles as the newest Americans held their certificates of citizenship close and their loved ones closer. Families and friends hugged, mothers clutched their babies in joy, while some stood alone, having made the journey to U.S. citizenship by themselves. Proud and free, together they stood up, raised their right hands and repeated two oaths that completed their naturalization and allegiance to the United States of America.

“The Oath of Allegiance to the United States has always been special because you’re not pledging allegiance to any person. You’re pledging allegiance to protect the constitution and laws of the United States,” said Thompson.

With the first oath, candidates renounced allegiance to their homelands, permanently departing from the 29 different countries as they pledged to “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.”

During the second oath – one every U.S. citizen learns as a child in school – they pledged allegiance to the United States of America, a country they were not born into but instead chose for life: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

“All the work, the drive, the anxiety, the hope that has led you to this point takes determination and courage,” Nersesian said amidst thunderous applause. “I know how hard it is to leave your homeland behind, maybe members of your family or pieces of your own history.”

The Newest Citizens

Two children sported T-shirts with the words “My Dad Is a US Citizen,” announcing to the world that their father, Daniel DaSilva, originally from Brazil, is now an American. DaSilva had been in the immigration process since his children were born in 2015. “I feel like I’m part of their future now,” he said.

Many of the new citizens came to America to escape war, including Anastasia Gousha from Ukraine. Gousha said she applied for her citizenship this year in February because in her country, “people are dying. War is not worth it.” She said she went through the immigration process that took almost a year, but she is very grateful that she is alive.

“You know, I have freedom,” she said proudly.

Priya Yarm was born in South Africa, lived in Canada and moved to the United States to “be part of America. We wanted to be part of the foundation and live out the rest of our lives here in this great country,” Yarm said.

Some people chose to come to America just to be part of moving society forward. “I think at this stage, you’re a little bit more knowledgeable about what’s going on, and you want to have a little bit more impact in the community, be able to contribute in different ways,” said new citizen Andrew Paulson, who migrated to America as a teenager 25 years ago from the United Kingdom.

Griselda Merino, from Mexico, has been working in a nail salon and said she was “very happy” to take her oath. She giggled in excitement when asked what her next dream was: “I want to open my own place,” Merino said.

Drawing inspiration from the historic lighthouse, which will be etched in the personal history of 50 families forever, Nersesian reminded the gathering that “we are a nation of immigrants, whether recent or generations back. Our forefathers fought for the freedoms we enjoy today. How appropriate that today the Sandy Hook Lighthouse should serve as the site for welcoming people seeking refuge and opportunity in our country as new citizens.”

Each speaker at the ceremony acknowledged the immigrants’ struggle. Their journey reminds “people who were born here, like us, how unique this country is,” Scharfenberger said, “that people would leave their homelands and come here just to become Americans.”

“May each of you be a beacon of light to others around you, the prime example of what it means to be free,” said Broullon, who is a first-generation American. “I know my father had to go through this back in the ’50s,” she said. “And it’s just very heartwarming to see the look of hope on everyone’s face.”

The Path To Citizenship

Sept. 17 is Citizenship Day to recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become U.S. citizens. The USCIS has been hosting naturalization ceremonies this month at landmark sites around the country, not only to make these events meaningful for those who have voluntarily chosen to participate in American democracy, but also to reflect the strength and spirit of the United States.

The average waiting period for the citizenship process is 11 months, according to USCIS, but depending on every individual’s journey and financial stability, it could be decades until they hold a legal citizenship certificate. In addition to the application process – which may run into thousands of dollars if one opts for assistance from a private attorney – the citizenship candidates have to pay and prepare for an English as a second language test and a civics test at a cost of roughly $800. The fees are nonrefundable, regardless of whether the U.S. government approves or rejects an application.

While the expense can be a deterrent for some, Thompson defended the agency’s fee structure, explaining that the funds pay for USCIS to process each application.

The USCIS has a Citizenship Resource Center that provides helpful resources and free study materials to prepare immigrants for the application process and citizenship tests and also with assimilating once they become citizens. For some that starts with learning English; for many others it is a lifelong pursuit to find a home in strangers.

Freedom and Risks

Concerns over undocumented immigrants are not ignored by the Justice Department and only serve to amplify the struggles of those who did commit to being legal citizens. “The oath that they take is extraordinary,” said Flynn, reflecting upon the founding fathers and the U.S. Constitution while noting the endurance of immigrants. “I think they should not diminish that fact that they took a step forward that is probably really difficult,” she said. “We appreciate it.” During his speech, Scharfenberger hinted at the recent spike in hate crimes throughout the country as bias incidents in New Jersey continue to rise at an alarming rate. “The country goes through rough patches here and there,” he said.

Earlier this year in April New Jersey acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced that 2021 was a record-high year for reported bias incidents in the state, with Monmouth County alone reporting 3.2 incidents per 10,000 residents, the third highest rate in the state.

But Scharfenberger told the new citizens that “this country protects free will, and that’s the most important thing to me.” He said true freedom is “the freedom to run for office, the freedom to vote for who I want to represent us. The freedom to speak out when I see something wrong or something I don’t like and the freedom to speak out and say, ‘This is the way I think it should be.’ And by ‘I,’ I mean Americans.”

Law enforcement agencies have bolstered their efforts to engage, educate and provide citizens with resources to report bias crimes. Both, state and federal justice departments encourage victims to report bias to their local police departments, or via the NJBIAS online portal at bias. or by calling 800-277-BIAS.

Regardless of prevalent racial injustices, none of that fear stopped these 50 immigrants from celebrating their new American citizenship.

The article originally appeared in the September 15 – 21, 2022 print edition of The Two River Times.

Legislators Introduce Bill to Stop School Policies that Block Military Members from Meeting with Students

August 10, 2022


Holmdel, N.J. – Assemblywoman Victoria Flynn and Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger (Monmouth R’s) are introducing legislation to end the disgraceful, unpatriotic practices by some New Jersey School Districts in which members of the United States Military and Army Reserve Officer’s Corps (ROTC) are being barred by school personnel from speaking with students.

The pushback comes after it was revealed that a Monmouth County high school administrator denied a request by a dad, who is also a Marine who serves out of U.S. Naval Base Earle (Monmouth County), to come and provide an inspirational talk with students about his experience with the Military. This Major was told that military personnel are not allowed to come and speak to students because such communications could be “dangerous” and “would only wrongfully encourage enlistment” – a stance which Assemblywoman Flynn and Assemblyman Scharfenberger vehemently disagree with:

“We are proud to have Naval Base Earle right here in Monmouth County, and we actually encourage our younger constituents to learn more from our military about what they do to keep our country safe. I was shocked to hear that school districts throughout this State would treat the members of armed forces in such an inhospitable manner, especially since schools should be creating partnerships with military personnel in our area to expose students to those in the military who are extremely qualified to discuss concepts of leadership, bravery, grit, and perseverance with these students from a position of authority,” Assemblywoman Flynn stated“This does not mean every time a student engages with a member of our armed forces, they are going to choose to enter the armed forces; however, the military creates opportunities for rewarding careers while serving the country. We call upon the Commissioner of the Department of Education to issue a notice to the schools that attempts to block members of our military from providing presentations to students will not be permitted and have schools affirm that this prior practice will discontinue immediately in those schools where military personnel have been banned.”

“The barring of military personnel from any school in Monmouth County is outrageous and an affront to the honorable act of serving one’s country in the armed services. This is reminiscent of the repulsive practice on some colleges to bar military recruiters from interacting with students on campus,” said Assemblyman Scharfenberger“Our military should have the same access and respect as any other person or group to exercise their First Amendment Rights as well as educate students on the virtues and traditions of serving in the greatest military on Earth!”

Under the package of bills drafted by the Assemblymembers, school administrations would no longer be allowed to continue these practices nor insinuate that something is wrong with military service; if school districts do adhere to such unpatriotic practices, they would be subject to penalties by the State DOE. Further, the legislation would mandate that schools highlight the benefits of joining programs like the Army Reserve Officer’s Corps (ROTC) or enlisting in the U.S. Military including receiving unmatched leadership training as well as student loan forgiveness and financial aid assistance – highly needed information given the costs associated with higher education:

“The leadership, courage, and values associated with the members of the United States Armed Forces is nothing short of extraordinary. These men and women put their lives on the line in defense of our nation, such acts of valor should be celebrated and recognized – not shunned and dismissed by anyone, let alone a school,” commented Scharfenberger“We will not stand by and let these atrocious and irreprehensible actions continue, it is the least we can do. Young adults should have every opportunity to learn from these heroes as well as what the future could have instore for them should they choose to serve our nation.”

“The cost of a college education is astronomical and frankly, unaffordable – the average college tuition in the United States is $35,331 and New Jersey shares the ‘honor’ of having the third most expensive in-state public school tuition rate in the nation at $28,734 per year,” Flynn remarked. “It is unconscionable for schools to preclude students from learning of the scholarships and other monetary support available when you join the ROTC. These programs place graduates on a secure career path, without the debt that they would otherwise assume by attending college.” 

Flynn & Scharfenberger Call for a Special Tax Relief Session to Fight Out of Control Inflation

July 13, 2022


Middletown, N.J.  Assemblymembers Vicky Flynn and Gerry Scharfenberger call on the New Jersey State Legislature to convene for a Special Tax Relief Session as soon as possible to consider legislation in response to today’s announcement that the inflation rate has increased to 9.1%.

Assemblywoman Flynn remarked that, “This time last year, President Biden declared that inflation, which was then only at 5.4%, was ‘temporary.’ Not only was the President’s economic forecast dead wrong, but the President’s reaction to today’s historical inflation rate of 9.1% — that it is not as bad as it looks — underscores he is out of touch of the needs of working Americans. Since the federal government cannot figure out a way to stabilize our nation’s economy, it is incumbent upon the leaders here in New Jersey to take action to help New Jersey residents who are struggling with the skyrocketing costs of basic necessities. In light of today’s inflation announcement, Gerry and I call upon our colleagues in the Legislature to return to Trenton to find ways we can provide immediate financial relief now because the crushing inflation rates are simply another hidden tax imposed upon all residents here in New Jersey.”

Assemblyman Scharfenberger also commented about the Biden Administration’s lack of awareness of the crushing impact rising costs and inflation rates are having on NJ residents. “Despite the fact that the country is experiencing the fastest pace of inflation since December 1981, there appears to be no action by the federal government to address this economic emergency. Just a month ago, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen conceded that she failed to anticipate the inflation rate increases we are experiencing and admitted she was wrong to say in 2021 that inflation only posed a ‘small risk’ to Americans. Today’s announcement makes clear that the Biden Administration lacks the foresight needed to address our nation’s economy. I call upon the President and Congress to take immediate action now to end the undeniable pain New Jersey residents are facing daily due to their failed policies.”

Both Assemblymembers expressed their concern that the 9.1% inflation rate fails to even account for other price increases, such as energy, food, gas and housing costs. Many constituents have expressed their concern to the Assemblymembers that they are in the position of making the untenable choice of choosing between filling their gas tank or putting a nutritious meal on the table for their family. The Special Tax Relief Session would provide the Legislature the opportunity to openly discuss ways in which the State can provide immediate tax relief to New Jersey residents, starting with those ideas presented by Assembly Republicans during the current legislative session, such as:

  • Reducing the state sales tax (rolling back to 6%);
  • Temporary Gas Tax Holiday;
  • Tax credit to offset soaring gas prices and inflation;
  • Moratorium on any future toll increases;
  • Senior property tax freeze for anyone over 65;
  • Temporary tax holiday on school supplies