Morning News Digest: January 13, 2012

Morning News Digest: January 13, 2012

By Missy Rebovich

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Assembly reschedules reorg session at War Memorial

The General Assembly has scheduled a reorganization session at noon Tuesday in the War Memorial here.

The death late Monday of Republican lawmaker Alex DeCroce forced a change of plans and there were low-key swearings-in Tuesday.

The Assembly announced that after the reorganization, it will meet in joint session with the Senate at 3 p.m. for the governor’s State of the State address.  (Staff, State Street Wire)



South Brunswick Republican businessman Beck to challenge Holt in CD 12

Eric Beck, a South Brunswick small business owner and former state director of the Concord Coalition, today announced his candidacy for United States Congress in New Jersey’s newly formed 12th District.

“As our nation continues to face daunting fiscal problems and a struggling economy, professional politicians like Rush Holt are still trying to tell us that we can spend our way to prosperity,” said the candidate.  “The truth is that higher taxes and more debt are not the answer. Rush Holt is simply out of touch with the moderate voters in this District and does not seem to understand how big government hinders job creation.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Sources: Senate could be one vote short on marriage equality; Turner, Madden key votes

With marriage equality center stage as the new session begins, the Senate seems to be one vote short of 21.

Several sources spoke with State Street Wire today about the upper chamber prospects of S1, the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act, sponsored by state Sens. Raymond Lesniak, (D-20), Elizabeth; Loretta Weinberg, (D-37), Teaneck; and Sen. President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), West Deptford.  (Carroll, PolitickerNJ)



Poll finds Obama’s job approval rating improves slightly in N.J.

New Jersey voters split on President Obama’s job evaluation with 46 percent approving and 45 percent disapproving, according to the results of a statewide survey released Friday by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll.

Obama’s one-point advantage is an improvement from two previous three-point deficits (44 to 47 percent).

However, the president has a deficit of eight percentage points among men (40 to 48 percent) compared to an advantage of nine points among women (51 to 42 percent).  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



Christie, Oprah talk about weight, love, politics

Time to steal the doughnuts!

Apparently, that’s also the way to steal New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s heart.

In an interview with talk-show queen Oprah Winfrey, set to air this weekend, the hefty GOP governor said he knew that he had found a partner for life in wife Mary Pat when she suggested making an illicit late-night doughnut run.  (DeFalco, Associated Press)|topnews|text|State



Christie silent on potential gay marriage bill

Gov. Chris Christie isn’t saying what he’ll do with a gay marriage bill, which Democratic lawmakers consider a major priority of the new session. 

“They have a right to set their agenda, I’ll set mine, we’ll see who gets there first,” he said Thursday in Camden. “When forced to make a decision, if forced to make a decision on it, I’ll make a decision.”

In the past, Christie has said he favors the state’s civil unions law that was adopted in 2003.  (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)



Christie will consider raising N.J.’s minimum wage

Gov. Chris Christie said he will consider a proposal by state Democratic leaders to increase the state’s minimum wage by $1.25 per hour, but added that he has concerns about stunting New Jersey’s economic growth.

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) said Monday that one of her top priorities this year will be increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour — as required by federal law — to $8.50. Her chamber will start work on a bill in the coming weeks, she said.  (Rizzo, The Star-Ledger)



Gov. Christie: I won’t force N.J. towns to allow medical marijuana facilities

“They use this library,” said Holt, who used the library on Thursday to announce two pieces of library-related legislation he’s trying to enact into law.

And if that means ultimately vetoing a bill — sponsored by a fellow Republican — that would prevent communities from using zoning laws to keep the medical pot business from moving in, Christie said he’ll do it.

Christie today was asked about a bill Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) said he intends to introduce that would include marijuana under the Right to Farm Act, which “protects responsible commercial farmers from public and private nuisance actions and unduly restrictive municipal regulations,” according to the state Agriculture Department website.  (Livio and Portnoy)



Christie signs Urban Hope Act allowing nonprofit-run schools in Camden, Newark and Trenton

Gov. Chris Christie Thursday traveled to Camden to sign legislation that attempts to expand education options in failing schools and urban school districts and provide students with access to educational opportunities.

Christie was joined by Camden Mayor Dana Redd for the signing at the Lanning Square School, where on June 9 he and the mayor publicly announced the initiative aimed at providing greater school choice for students in the some of the worst performing districts in the state.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



Camden sees hope in promise of new schools built by nonprofits

Twenty-three of Camden’s 27 public schools are already targeted for state turnaround efforts. Four others have been closed in the last two years under the guidance of the state’s fiscal monitor, and the Christie administration is currently weighing the extent it will further expand its intervention in the district.

And now, Camden looks like it will be ground zero for a new law first proposed by Gov. Chris Christie that could build up to four privately-run “renaissance schools” in the city, also under state oversight.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



Rewards, retributions at State House as committees assigned

Assemblyman John McKeon knew there was slim chance he’d survive as chairman of the Environmental Committee after he backed Democratic leader Joe Cryan’s failed attempt to unseat Sheila Oliver as Assembly speaker.

McKeon, also a Democrat, was right. When new committee assignments were announced late Wednesday, the South Orange attorney had been stripped of the chairmanship and dumped from the committee, despite having championed environmental issues for eight years.  (Delli Santi, Associated Press)|topnews|text|State



Senate committee merry-go-round

For those who can’t follow the Senate committees without a scorecard, here’s a scorecard.

With Andrew Ciesla, John Girgenti and Sean Kean leaving, that left seven committee slots up for grabs. But those weren’t the only changes: Loretta Weinberg takes Barbara Buono’s spot on Budget & Appropriations, while keeping Judiciary; new senator Nellie Pou got spots on both Budget & Appropriations and Judiciary; Jennifer Beck (now on Budget & Appropriations) traded spots with Michael Doherty (now on Judiciary); Doherty joined the Education Committee; and much, more more.  (Symons, Gannett)



Fight over residency leaves Assembly with vacant seat

Although the Democrats gained a seat in last November’s election, the 215th New Jersey Legislature still only has 47 Democrats in the Assembly today due to another fight over the question of residency.

Gabriela Mosquera won election to a seat in South Jersey’s 4th District by a comfortable 6,300-vote margin but was not sworn in on Tuesday with the rest of the lawmakers because of a last minute order by the state Supreme Court.  (O’Dea, NJ Spotlight)



Holt visits East Brunswick, Monroe to unveil library bills

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) said he happened to be at the East Brunswick Public Library on a weekend a few years ago when the fire alarm went off.

While he said he was happy there was no fire, he also was struck by the literally hundreds of high school students there that day who streamed into the parking lot.

“They use this library,” said Holt, who used the library on Thursday to announce two pieces of library-related legislation he’s trying to enact into law.  (Racz, Gannett)



Weaker version of veterans business bill becomes law

A bill directing the state Department of the Treasury to “encourage” military veterans who own businesses to compete for state contracts is now law.

Gov. Chris Christie recently signed the measure sponsored by state Sen. Christopher Connors, Assemblyman Brian Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove, all R-Ocean.

The bill was co-sponsored by more than three dozen state legislators.  (Bowman, Gannett)



Bill aids growth of pot facilities

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon wants to stop local governments from attempting to circumvent a state law that permits medical marijuana facilities from sprouting in their towns.

O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, announced Wednesday that he will introduce legislation next week that would prohibit counties and municipalities from interfering with the development of medical marijuana cultivation and distribution centers by extending their protections under the Right to Farm Act.  (Rizzo, Gannett)|topnews|text|State



The race to build more federally funded health centers in New Jersey

New Jersey’s federally qualified health centers are very busy places — understandably so, given that most of their patients are either uninsured or on Medicaid. But for Kathy Grant Davis, president of the New Jersey Primary Care Association, current capacity is only one of her concerns. She looking to 2014, when federal healthcare reform will drive up the number of patients who rely on FQHCs.

In order to serve that growing population, Davis plans on opening another 30 FQHCs. But Davis said keeping the expansion on track will hinge in large measure on New Jersey winning more federal money.  (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)



Chamber’s dinner in D.C. will have 3 fewer speeches

The annual chartered train trip to Washington that the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce bills as a way for members to get to know the congressional delegation will lack one thing this year: speeches from the congressional delegation.

In a break with tradition, the “Congressional Dinner” in a hotel ballroom after the chamber’s Amtrak special arrives in the capital will not feature speeches from the state’s two senators and the dean of the House delegation.  (Jackson, The Record)



EPA puts greenhouse gas on interactive map

If you want to know who are the biggest polluters contributing to global climate change, there is a new interactive tool to help you learn who they are. You might end up being surprised at some of the culprits.

There are the usual suspects on the list of the top emitters of greenhouse gases in New Jersey with power plants, as expected, leading the way to those contributing to warming of the planet, according to a new database compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



(Click here to request a free trial)



Daily State House Schedule



Governor signals agreement on direct-ship winery bill

Gov. Chris Christie said his administration played an integral role in the last-second amendments to the lame-duck bill allowing direct shipment of wine.

Sponsored by state Sen. President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), West Deptford, who sources said was hell-bent on its passage, the bill was reduced in scope significantly in the final hours before the end of the legislative session.  (Carroll, State Street Wire)



Minimum wage not a front office priority

In response to a push by Speaker Sheila Oliver, (D-34), East Orange, to move legislation to increase the minimum wage, Gov. Chris Christie left the door open for a compromise.

“I wouldn’t be inclined to do it,’’ he said today, but “we’ll have to wait and see.”  (Carroll, State Street Wire)



Christie not willing to sway locals on medical marijuana issue

Asked today whether the local opposition to medical marijuana dispensaries could be solved from the bully pulpit, Gov. Chris Christie took the high road.

It’s a decision “determined by local elected officials,” he said, not by governors in Trenton.

He said he inherited a “very flawed” medical marijuana bill passed by the Democratic Legislature in 2009. “And now we see how flawed it is,” Christie said.  (Carroll, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room 



Former Bergen Chairman Breslin endorses Pascrell

Michael J. “Jerry” Breslin, Jr., the former Chairman of the Bergen County Democratic Organization and former Treasurer of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, today endorsed U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell in the 9th Congressional District tilt.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)






Early primaries: Big deals in little states

Is this any way to choose the leader of the free world? If somebody from another planet dropped by to witness our presidential primary system, they would wonder how we’ve lasted this long as a nation.

It hasn’t always been this way. The current system came about because of images of smoke-filled back rooms where candidates were offered up by political machines and matched for their ability to carry this region or that constituency.  (Ingle, Gannett)



There are a few grand exits in life

“MORIR! Tremenda cosa!” “Death! A tremendous thing,” so begins the aria, “Urna fatale del mio destino,” from Verdi’s opera, La Forza del Destino. The aria is famous in its own right, but is legendary among opera buffs because the great baritone Leonard Warren sang it just before he died on the stage of the old Metropolitan Opera House on March 4, 1960.

Warren’s death was both tragic and poetic. The New York Herald Tribune writer who penned the story on deadline won a Pulitzer Prize. Warren died at the peak of his career doing what he did better than most anyone. Late Monday, far away from the opulence of the Metropolitan, in a first-floor restroom of the State House in Trenton, a venerable legislator, Alex DeCroce, died a similar death.  (Doblin, The Record)



Rothman touts Latino supporters, Pascrell more labor and party backing

Rep. Steve Rothman touted endorsements from Latino legislators and leaders in Ridgefield today while rival Rep. Bill Pascrell added a former chairman of the Bergen County Democrats and more labor leaders to his list of supporters.

The two Democrats, who have served together in Congress since 1997, are battling each other for the nomination to a single seat as a result of the new district map adopted by a state commission last month.  (Jackson, The Record)



Morning News Digest: January 13, 2012