Morning News Digest: March 12, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Tea Partier Cullari announces CD 6 bid
Tea Party Republican Ernesto Cullari today officially announced his intention to challenge U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6).
An orthopedic medical professional, Cullari has never run for public office. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
On difference fronts, Greenwald and Wisniewski step forward with contrast points to Christie
Two Democratic assemblymen this week stepped up their efforts to draw a contrast between themselves and Gov. Chris Christie, fueling party back-chatter that they look like gubernatorial candidates in-the-making.
In a party jeered at internally oftentimes for failing to assemble contrasting points to Gov. Chris Christie, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-6) and Assemblyman John Wisneiwski (D-19) sharpened their attack: the former with a budget proposal the governor panned as DOA, and the latter with a bill calling for an investigation of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Bergen Republicans head toward March 15th convention in pieces
Wednesday night’s Bergen County Freeholder meeting demonstrated no new storyline other than freeholder John Driscoll’s and Rob Hermansen’s exchange of bitter words on the dais reflecting the depth of behind-the-scenes intraparty estrangement.
It’s so glacial that the two sides can only communicate when they are forced to sit together in public. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie to head fundraiser for pal Kyrillos
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will top the bill at state Sen. Joe Kyrillos’ (KIR’-ill-ohs’) first major fundraiser since declaring his candidacy for U.S. Senate.
Tickets are $250 for Monday night’s event at the PNC Arts Center in Holmdel. About 500 people are expected to attend.
Kyrillos hopes to win the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez in the November elections. The incumbent is better known and far better financed, with $7 million in his federal campaign account. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
Once shunned by powerful GOP group, Gov. Christie now among its leaders
Gov. Chris Christie’s entourage — a whirling circle of stern-faced troopers and aides — stalled every few yards. A man leaned over a balcony to shout encouragement. People in suits waved. Later, during the weekend of governors meetings in the nation’s capital, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and former Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker scurried over to shake his hand.
The days of gliding unimpeded through a sparkling hotel lobby — especially one blocks from the White House — are long over for Christie. (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
Analysis: Christie budget would boost state spending by $2.1 billion
Governor Christie wants to spend more now than when he first took office and started to cut state spending.
Aid to public schools — a budget cut that drew ire and national attention — is just about back at the same level it was when Christie became governor.
The $32.1 billion budget proposal introduced last month includes money for several areas that had been cut during Christie’s first two years i
n office, including aid to schools and hospitals. In this, his third budget, Christie would increase state spending by $2.1 billion, thanks to revenue growth that he expects as New Jersey climbs further out of the recession over the next 1½ years. (Reitmeyer, The Record)
Early feedback about new teacher evaluation system generally positive
It’s still very early days for New Jersey’s controversial teacher evaluation system — now in limited pilot projects across the state — but reports from the front lines are starting to filter in.
Most of the feedback from teachers and administrators has been positive. Both relish the renewed focus on what’s happening in the classroom and their renewed dialogue, at least that’s the upshot of the latest NJ Spotlight Roundtable, held this past weekend. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
6 months into N.J. law to halt bullying, a survey takes a look at how it’s working
In the second day of classes at Hammarskjold Middle School in East Brunswick, a boy approached 11-year-old Jonathan Seltzer in the front hall and called him a name. The verbal harassment continued into the fall, Jonathan said, and in November, he went to his principal.
“That was my breaking point,” said Jonathan, a dark-eyed sixth-grader who aspires to be a singer and won the lead in his school play. “It felt like my head was a piece of paper and it crumpled.” (Rundquist, The Star-Ledger)
Late U.S. Rep. Donald Payne to be honored over 3-day period
U.S. Rep. Donald Payne will lie in state in an open casket for a public viewing from 1 p.m. Monday overnight through 8 a.m. Tuesday in the lobby of the Essex County Courthouse, 470 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd., as three days of events honoring the late congressman begin.
On Tuesday at 3 p.m., the public will walk with Payne on a military caisson during a horse-drawn procession from the Whigham Funeral Home, 580 Martin Luther King Blvd., to Metropolitan Baptist Church at 149 Springfield Ave. (Horowitz, The Star-Ledger)
Wage boost plan gets hearing
With proposals being considered in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut to raise minimum wages, some New Jersey lawmakers don’t want to leave out restaurant help and other workers who rely on gratuities and tips.
A bill sponsored by Middlesex County Assemblyman Joseph V. Egan and four other Democrats, if enacted, would in stages effectively boost hourly wages to $5 per hour by next year — a sharp increase for employees currently paid the federal minimum for tipped workers of $2.13 per hour. (Jordan, Gannett)
NJ lawmaker pushes tobacco tax hike
New Jersey lawmakers are considering raising the tax on all tobacco products, a move that would add millions to the dollars already flowing into the state’s economy from the steep tax on cigarettes.
New Jersey taxes cigarettes at $2.70 a pack, among the highest in the nation. The revenue – close to $770 million — goes to paying off a state bond issue, reimbursing hospitals for charity care to the poor and uninsured, and funding the general costs of state government. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
Officials tout advantages of new statewide growth plan
A panel of state officials today promised new levels of coordination among local governments and state agencies, as the Chris Christie administration pushes a new statewide plan for redevelopment and environmental preservation.
Speaking at the annual redevelopment forum hosted by New Jersey Future, the smart-growth organization, panelists touted the growth plan before hundreds of the state’s business professionals and local government officials. The state strategic plan, which Christie released last year, aims to realign cabinet-level agencies to help local governments to support redevelopment. (Burd, NJBIZ)
SDA to announce nearly 80 urgent projects it is moving ahead on
Kick-starting a long-delayed program, the Christie administration is expected to announce today it is moving ahead with nearly 80 “emergent” repair projects in more than 20 of the state’s neediest school districts.
Leaders of the Schools Development Authority plan hold a press conference in Harrison this morning to announce that reviews were completed on 300 requested projects across the state, from structural repairs to new boilers to fortifying masonry. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Clinton joins NRG chief on tour of Haitian solar installation
With a $1 million charitable commitment through the Clinton Global Initiative, Princeton-based NRG Energy Inc. has completed two of its 25 projects to bring low-cost solar energy to Haiti.
Meredith Moore, NRG senior vice president of communications and head of NRG Global Giving, said employees and the company raised more than $400,000 for relief efforts to Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake, but CEO David Crane believed solar could do more to build a sustainable economy. (Eder, NJBIZ)
GOP picks Lyon for freeholder; Montville man to sworn in
William “Hank” Lyon overwhelmingly defeated a rival at a GOP convention Saturday and was immediately sworn in to fill a vacancy on the Morris County freeholder board.
The 24-year-old political neophyte from Towaco defeated Edward France of Morristown by a vote of 265-40 during a court-ordered convention of Republican county committee members at Zeris Inn. (Wright, Gannett)
Track’s $100M trifecta?
The new management company leasing state-owned Monmouth Park wants to undertake a $100 million redevelopment of the landmark 320-acre site and associated properties, hoping to rebrand the racetrack as a year-round resort destination with an indoor water theme park and a Jersey-style boardwalk area.
The ambitious plans also call for a two-screen movie theater where patrons enter the racetrack, new retail and commercial space, a 36-hole miniature golf course, new restaurants and a concert venue that will feature occasional live music shows after a day at the races. (Jordan, Gannett)
Steep drop in natural gas prices informs major shift at PSEG
Upgrades and extensions to the regional power grid are increasingly driving the profits of Public Service Enterprise Group, a reversal of the past trends and one that could have big implications for customers if power prices rise.
Public Service Electric & Gas, the company’s regulated utility, plans to invest a staggering $5.4 billion in its electric and gas transmission and distribution systems over the next three years. Two-thirds of the expenditures are targeted at electric transmission, where the company earns more for every dollar it spends. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
14 more NJ schools cleared of cheating allegations
State education officials say 14 more public schools across New Jersey have been cleared in an investigation of possible cheating on state tests.
But further investigations have been ordered for nine other schools as part of the ongoing probe being conducted by the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance. Those schools join 11 others already under state investigation. (Staff, Gannett)
Lesniak hopes recently held ‘Amazon’-related bill will be released, voted on by next week
Despite the bill being held in committee on Thursday, Sen. Raymond Lesniak, (D-20), Union, hopes S1762, which would provide an 18-month tax holiday to Amazon (and similar large, Internet-based companies), will still be released and voted on in time for the Senate voting session on Thursday, March 15.
“I would hope we could get (the bill) out by (March 15) at the latest so we can vote it through,” Lesniak said on Friday in a phone interview. “We could actually have it posted for a Senate vote on March 15 with the anticipation of it being released.” (Smith, State Street Wire)
Was Sen. Barbara Buono bullied off anti-bullying bill?
Did someone try to bully state Sen. Barbara Buono off the anti-bullying bill?
Buono (D-Middlesex) was not invited to a news conference Wednesday when Gov. Chris Christie, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and state Sen. Diane Allen (R-Burlington) unveiled the bill to keep the anti-bullying law in effect after a state panel ruled it was an unfunded mandate.
In fact, The Auditor was told the original draft that was to be introduced didn’t include Buono’s name, even though she had introduced an almost identical version two days earlier. (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)
High court balance tipping toward Christie
An Appellate Court panel slapped Gov. Chris Christie on the wrist last week, ruling that the governor had put his toe over the constitutional line when he abolished the Council on Affordable Housing last year.
The power to get rid of COAH, a creature of the Legislature, resides with the lawmakers who made it, the three-judge panel unanimously ruled. Christie’s administration was quick to express its disappointment in the ruling, asserting that it would challenge the decision in the Supreme Court. (Schoonejongen, Gannett)
It’s civil war inside the Bergen County GOP
It is called a “come to Jesus” moment. That’s when someone in authority tells you that you’ve been slacking off, that it’s been noticed and if you enjoy the prospect of living to a rich old age, you better shape up fast.
If there’s any chance Jesus may take a road trip to New Jersey, he should come to Bergen County and sit down with its Republican leaders. What is unfolding is part-Mack Sennett and part-“Mack the Knife.” (Doblin, The Record)
Superintendent Cami Anderson needs support to make change in Newark schools
Cami Anderson, the new superintendent in Newark, is a veteran of the school wars in New York City, so maybe she was prepared for what hit her the other night during a community forum at the Louise A. Spencer School.
She was called a liar. She was called a coward. Her reform plan was condemned as an insult to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. And then it got worse.
The low point came when a union leader, Joe DelGrosso, compared the state control of city schools to slavery: “You robbed them of their ancestry once,” shouted DelGrosso, who is white. “Why not again?” (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
Christie, Dems woo taxpayers
Do you feel you’re like the prettiest girl in school and everyone wants to take you to the prom? It seems that way with not one, not two, but three tax plans vying to pin the corsage on New Jersey taxpayers.
Gov. Chris Christie wants a 10 percent across-the-board income tax cut that would apply to everyone paying income tax and be phased in over a three-year period so as not to bust the treasury as we climb out of the economic hole we’ve been in for several years. (Ingle, Gannett)
How ‘rational’ safety bill got sidetracked in Trenton
It seemed so easy.
Why not tighten state seat-belt laws to improve safety for wheelchair passengers in private ambulance vans?
Sounds simple, right?
What seemed like a logical and relatively obstacle-free road through the state Legislature last year for the so-called Wheelchair Seat Belt Law has become a series of detours and potholes. (Kelly, The Record)