Morning News Digest: April 3, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Strong opposition to Rutgers-Camden/Rowan merger, new poll shows
The proposed merger of Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University continues to have strong opposition, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.
Fifty-nine percent of registered voters oppose the merger, 19 percent support it, and 22 percent are unsure, according to a new poll released today.
A poll in February showed similar results: 57 percent against, 22 percent for the merger. (Mooney, PolitickerNJ)
Cunningham endorses Gill for Congress
State Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-31) said today she intends to support her Senate colleague, state Sen. Nia Gill (D-34) for Congress in the 10th District.
“I am definitely endorsing her and I will be encouraging people to support her,” Cunningham told PolitickerNJ.com. “She has excellent legislative skills. Nia has proven to me she that has a great deal of compassion; she is very articulate and she is consistently able to take her compassion and intelligence to create meaningful legislation. I believe she is savvy enough to handle herself in Washington, D.C.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
In Elizabeth, challenger Ocasio files with full slate
Elizabeth mayoral candidate Oscar Ocasio today officially filed petitions for June’s Democratic Primary.
“Today is another step in our journey to bring change to city hall,” said Oscar Ocasio, a former director of planning for the city of Elizabeth. “With 618 signatures in-hand, it’s pretty clear that ‘Democrats for Change’ have a groundswell of support behind us.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Gov. Christie calls made-to-order bills report ‘completely ridiculous’
Gov. Chris Christie on Monday lashed out at The Star-Ledger over a story that found the language in some of his biggest bills matches model legislation prepared by a Washington-based group that mostly caters to Republican-led states.
The governor called the report in The Sunday Star-Ledger “completely ridiculous” and “a bunch of research and a conspiracy theory in search of a story.” (Rizzo and Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
Gov. Christie talks budgets with prime minister on Israel trip
Walking the through the dusty Temple Mount this afternoon, Gov. Chris Christie adjusted a yarmulke embroidered with his name.
Just then Max Kleinman — one of New Jersey’s Jewish leaders who accompanied Christie on the first overseas trip of his term — yelled out: “Is that a sign of a higher office or a higher calling?”
Based on the agenda he tackled in his first eight hours on the ground, it’s hard to tell. (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
Democrats: Return energy tax money to towns
Democrats urged Gov. Chris Christie’s administration during a committee hearing Monday to give more money to municipalities from taxes levied against energy companies.
The Democrats on the Assembly Budget Committee said New Jersey should provide more funds from the energy taxes collected so that local officials could lower property taxes or hire police officers. (Method, Gannett)
Rowan ‘Secret’ report predicted opposition to merger
A Rowan University-commissioned report on how to win approval for the merger of Rowan and Rutgers-Camden is being pointed to as proof that the plan is a backroom deal by critics of the merger, who called the report a blueprint for propaganda. The report was dated the day after Gov. Chris Christie announced the plan but was commissioned months earlier. (O’Dea, NJ Spotlight)
NJ wants to collect on unredeemed gift cards
Remember that gift card you got from Aunt Francine but never spent? New Jersey would be more than happy to take it off your hands.
The state will soon begin requiring gift card sellers to obtain ZIP codes from buyers so it can claim the value of cards not redeemed after two years. At least one major seller, American Express, has pulled its cards from shelves rather than attempt to comply. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
American Express pulls gift cards from NJ
American Express has become the first company to pull its gift cards from New Jersey pharmacies, groceries and convenience stores rather than attempt to comply with a new wrinkle in the state’s unclaimed property law.
AmEx spokeswoman Vanessa McCutchen told The Associated Press that the company began pulling gift cards sold through third-party retailers last week. As of Monday, the only way for New Jersey residents to buy AmEx gift cards, which can be used practically anywhere, is directly from the company. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
Primary battles expose rift among NJ Democrats
The internal fighting among New Jersey’s Democrats will move to election booths in June as the party’s high-profile primary battles in two congressional districts take center stage.
In both cases, Districts 9 and 10 in North Jersey, the winner of the June 5 primary are considered favorite to win the general election in November. They are two of the nine districts with a primary battle for at least one of the parties, but the only ones expected to be close. (O’Dea, NJ Spotlight)
Pascrell, Rothman cross point of no return with primary filings
The Democratic primary battle for the 9th Congressional District passed the point of no return Monday when Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. filed petitions with more than 10,000 signatures for his race against Rep. Steve Rothman.
Pascrell also lined up two Bergen County Democratic freeholder candidates to run with him. The Rothman campaign dismissed both moves as “old-style political machine moves” that won’t mean anything when the election is held on June 5. (Ensslin, The Record)
Payne will face fellow Newark councilman for House seat
Newark City Council President Donald M. Payne Jr., whose father died last month after a 23-year career in Congress, will battle a fellow councilman, a state senator and the mayor of Irvington for the U.S. House seat.
Payne will face Ronald C. Rice of Newark’s west ward in the June Democratic primary, according to the state Elections Division. State Senator Nia Gill, of Montclair, and Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith are also on the ballot for the 10th congressional district, anchored by New Jersey’s biggest city. (Dopp, Bloomberg)
Fine Print: New Jersey, maybe not so green
Clean energy advocates and lawmakers like to tout the success of New Jersey in developing the nation’s second biggest solar market, a distinction they say has created thousands of jobs in an economy that otherwise has been shedding jobs like paper. Now, a new report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests the state may not have that much to brag about — at least compared to its neighbors in the Northeast. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Good news: No transit fare, MVC fee hikes
The good news for drivers and transit riders: Neither NJ Transit fares nor Motor Vehicle Commission fees will increase with the fiscal 2013 state budget.
Directors of both NJ Transit and the Motor Vehicle Commission delivered that good news during the Assembly Budget Committee hearing on the state’s transportation budget Monday afternoon. (Higgs, Gannett)
Morris County freeholder race: Hank Lyon still has to file for primary
William “Hank” Lyon, who was selected at a GOP convention last month to fill a vacancy on the Morris County freeholder board, must run in the June primary as a candidate to fill the remainder of the unexpired term, according to an appeals court order released today.
The appellate division’s order settled some murkiness surrounding a Feb. 7 ruling that ordered the removal of Margaret Nordstrom as a freeholder. The Feb. 7 decision set the stage for last month’s Republican convention at which Lyon, of Montville, was overwhelmingly selected by county committee members to fill the Nordstrom vacancy through the end of this year. (Wright, Gannett)
NJ program aims to keep seniors out of nursing homes
A New Jersey healthcare program known as Global Options, which helps seniors age in place rather than nursing homes, is earmarked for a big boost in funding under Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed 2013 budget.
It’s part of the sweeping changes in long-term care underway in New Jersey, a topic that drew 19,000 senior citizens via telephone and the Internet to a virtual town hall last week with State Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd and Human Service Commissioner Jennifer Velez. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
Norcross group takes over Philadelphia Inquirer
In a move that sent shock waves through the journalism world, South Jersey Democratic leader George Norcross II yesterday added the region’s largest newspaper to his growing political, business and civic empire.
Norcross, arguably the most powerful Democrat in New Jersey, and Lewis Katz, a former parking lot magnate who helped engineer the rise of former Democratic Gov. Jim Florio, will serve as managing partners of Interstate General Media Company L.L.C., the partnership that purchased the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and its website, Philly.com, for $55 million yesterday. (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)
DOT commissioner more prepared for question about diversity
As promised, diversity was a topic today during the Assembly’s Budget Committee hearing.
Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, (D-15) Ewing, took a moment during her questioning of the state’s Department of Transportation commissioner to inquire about the number of women and minorities employed by the administration (Arco, State Street Wire)
$358,000 for N.J. energy-efficiency projects
Two N.J. entities will receive $358,000 to promote healthy-environment projects, the EPA announced today.
The New Jersey Institute of Technology will receive $178,060 to develop an online toolkit that will provide training to supermarkets on ways to reduce energy through lighting improvements and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning controls, and reduce the release of hazardous materials from cooling system leaks, EPA said. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Rising fuel costs have big implications for state’s public transportation
The woes of the rising price of fuel are not lost on the state’s public transportation authority.
Despite reassuring Assembly lawmakers today that there will be no fare increase over the next fiscal year, James Weinstein, executive director of NJ Transit, said managing labor costs and fuel expenses remain a big concern for the agency. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Proposed rule would ease restrictions for out-of-state insurance companies looking to work in N.J.
Property and casualty insurers from out-of-state could begin to operate a little more quickly in New Jersey under a recent rule proposed by the Department of Banking and Insurance.
Currently, a “seasoning” rule requires out-of-state property and casualty insurance companies to show that they have been operating for five years in their home state before they begin work in New Jersey. (Smith, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Norcross, Katz to serve as managing partners of group buying Inky
South Jersey political power broker George Norcross III will serve as a managing partner of the group that has agreed to buy the Philadelphia Inquirer.
According to a report in the Inquirer the group headed by Norcross and Lewis Katz has agreed to buy the Philadelphia Media Network, which includes the Inky, the Philadelphia Daily News and Phill.com for $55 million. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Dean to speak in support of Gopal
Jim Dean, National Chairman of Democracy for America, the nation’s largest grassroots political action committee, is getting involved in a New Jersey county chairman’s race.
Dean will be in Asbury Park on April 29 to speak to county committee members about supporting Vin Gopal’s candidacy. Dean’s brother, Howard Dean, is the founder of DFA and is a former Democratic National Committee chairman and 2004 Presidential candidate. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
New wrinkle drives North-South Democratic divide
The bloodletting between U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg and South Jersey party boss George Norcross has New Jersey Democrats in damage control mode.
The party’s collective spin is this: This is nothing more than a personal spat between Democratic titans still nursing scars from past battles. Any talk of party unity breaking down along the familiar North-South divide is nonsense. It’s just a tempest in the party’s “big tent.” (Stile, The Record)
Christie chats with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, swarmed by fans
Governor Christie says he came to this contentious city as a pilgrim of sorts. He will probably leave with more talk swirling about his presidential potential.
On the first day of his first overseas trip as New Jersey governor, Christie left a chummy, 45-minute closed-door meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu only to be swarmed by dozens of well-wishers during a late-afternoon walking tour of the Western Wall, Judaism’s most sacred spot. (Kelly, The Record)