Morning News Digest: May 7, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Women’s groups endorse Gill in CD 10
The National Women’s Political Caucus and the Women’s Political Caucus of New Jersey today endorsed state Sen. Nia Gill (D-34) for Congress in the 10th District.
“Nia will be an excellent addition to the progressive voices in Congress. She has stayed true to her values during her time in the New Jersey State Senate,” said NWPC President Linda Young. “With the incessant attacks on women’s rights, it is inspiring to see a motivated woman ready to take on this climate. We look forward to what Nia Gill can accomplish in Congress.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Rothman: Obama, not Hillary Clinton, was the right choice
U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) issued a statement today in response to former President Bill Clinton’s endorsement of Rothman’s rival, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9).
“While I have great respect for Bill and Hillary Clinton, five years ago I endorsed Barack Obama for President and served as his campaign’s Northeast Co-Chair because I believed then, as I believe now, that he was the right choice for progressive Democrats,” said Rothman. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Winners and Losers: Week of April 30th
As we get closer to the June Primary, politicians in both parties received endorsements from powerful entities.
Those endorsements may or may not have an impact next month.
But some of them do have implications for future contests… (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Former President Clinton backs Pascrell in CD 9 race
President Bill Clinton announced his support today for Bill Pascrell in the 9th Congressional District Democratic Primary.
“I know Bill Pascrell, and he is the fighter we need to support President Obama,” Clinton said. “Bill helped write President Obama’s health care law, he’s a leader protecting and strengthening Social Security and Medicare, and he never stops fighting for the middle class. Nothing is more important to Bill than creating jobs in New Jersey. I saw that in the eight years we worked together to build unprecedented prosperity for America. We can’t afford to lose his ideas, energy, and experience just when they’re needed most.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Balancing principles and compromise is key to success, Christie tells Washington think tank audience
Governor Christie regaled supporters of a free-market Washington think tank with some of his best hits from past speeches on Friday night, making light of his weight and the state’s tough image while touting his recipe for success in dealing with a Democratic Legislature.
The keynote speaker at an economic awards dinner hosted by the Cato Institute, Christie touted the importance of compromise, as long as principles aren’t sacrificed. (Jackson, The Record)
N.J. Superior Court judges beware: Gov. Christie may be going after you
Gov. Chris Christie is expected to dump several state Superior Court judges in the coming weeks as the battle over judicial appointments heats up again.
Last week at a town hall meeting, Christie said he’s fed up with the judiciary, which he views as too activist.
“So I’m being much more discriminating about who I renominate. They have bills in to rubber stamp automatically. I’m not doing that. You’re going to be seeing me do less of that in the coming weeks,” Christie told the audience in Garfield. “I’m doing this because I’m at wit’s end about how to change this bench in the state.” (Spoto, The Star-Ledger)
Christie reaches agreement with largest public workers union
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the state’s largest union announced a tentative four-year contract agreement that increases pay, reduces clothing allowances and recognizes a new law raising workers’ benefit costs.
Specifics of the tentative deal will be released next week by the administration and the Communications Workers of America, Christie said in a statement today. The union represents more than 35,000 state employees. (Servetah, Bloomberg)
Gov. Christie says he hopes leadership in N.J. inspires the rest of the U.S. in Cato speech
Gov. Chris Christie tonight told a gathering sponsored by the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute that without strong leadership, America will pay an economic and foreign policy price.
“We’re going to continue to fight the good fight in New Jersey,” the Republican governor told 1,100 people who attended the biennial black tie dinner. “We hope it will inspire others around the country. And then when we talk about American exceptionalism, we can really feel it because we haven’t just had it as part of our past. We’re acting to make it a bedrock of our future.” (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
In new Christie budget, the one-shot returns
That surcharge on your electricity bill that’s supposed to be deployed to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy?
Starting in July, the state is siphoning $240 million from it to pay its own utility bills and buy fuel for NJ Transit buses and trains.
That $250 million sitting in municipalities’ coffers intended to expand the stock of affordable housing in one of the nation’s most expensive states to buy or rent a home? (Symons, Gannett)
By the Numbers: Analyzing New Jersey’s tax and budget growth
For the past three months, Republican Governor Chris Christie and Democratic legislative leaders have been trading charges over their rival plans to cut income and property taxes, over the governor’s claim that he has cut billions in state spending, and over the Christie administration’s projections that revenues will come in 7.5 percent higher next year despite $345 million in planned corporate and income tax cuts. (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)
With or without Legislature, Christie has options for pressing school reforms
Gov. Chris Chris Christie is back to calling out the state legislature for not moving on his agenda, from income tax cuts to changes in teacher tenure rights. Last week, he started his now familiar deadline by countdown, now at 55 days until the summer break.
But on his education agenda at least, the governor is also finding he can move on some key issues without the legislature’s full consent, creating tensions along the way but with, so far, no one stopping him. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
NJ cuts state scholarship fund
Last week, state Democrats touted they had saved a critical college funding program designed to provide scholarships for New Jersey students who choose to get a college degree in state, rather than travel outside. The reality, however, is that the program will provide fewer dollars to those who participate and may no longer serve the purpose it was designed to.
Gov. Chris Christie, who last Thursday signed the Democrat-sponsored legislation, had threatened to eliminate the NJ STARS program — which offers financial incentives for bright high school graduates to attend a county college — shortly after taking office in 2010. (O’Dea, NJ Spotlight)
In New Jersey, a debate over competing tax-cut plans, and whether any of them would help
One of Gov. Christie’s most colorful quotes last week had nothing to with the presidential race, Bruce Springsteen, or the fat jokes hurled at him at last weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington.
When Christie said Monday that he would rather “rearrange my sock drawer tonight” than debate Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D., Camden), he was talking taxes, specifically their differing plans to cut them. (Farrell, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
More hearings on NJ budget plans
New Jersey lawmakers plan to hold more hearings this week on Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed budget.
The Assembly’s Budget Committee has hearings scheduled Monday to hear spending plans for the Departments of Environmental Protection, Military and Veteran Affairs, Agriculture and Treasury. (Associated Press)
New Jersey to gain nonprofit health insurance company
A new nonprofit health insurance company that will be governed by its members — the individuals and businesses that purchase coverage — is being created in New Jersey with $107 million in low-interest loans from the federal Affordable Care Act.
The new company is sponsored by the Freelancers Union, which made the application to the federal program. But the nonprofit will be a completely independent entity, open to all customers — not just the 8,500 union members in New Jersey. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
GOP governors seeking A’s on education
A crop of ambitious Republican governors who are possible vice-presidential picks in 2012 are seeking high marks on education reform.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are trash-talking teachers’ unions and pushing for education legislation with a conservative spin in the name of the poorest students. Their efforts could help women warm to Republicans in a year when presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney is lagging by double-digits behind President Barack Obama with the key demographic. (Gibson, Politico)
Pascrell, Rothman ready for debates
The intense primary contest between Rep. Steve Rothman, D-Englewood, and Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-Paterson, moves into its next phase Monday with the first of three debates for the two incumbents vying for the redrawn 9th Congressional District.
North Jersey Media Group, which publishes The Record and Herald News, will sponsor two debates, including the one Monday at 7 p.m. at Bergen Community College in Paramus. That debate is sold out, but will be televised by FiOS and streamed live at northjersey.com. (Ensslin, The Record)
Christie Smith: Chen Guangcheng family, friends a concern
With an agreement in place to bring blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng to America, Rep. Chris Smith said Friday his “greatest fear” now is that the Chinese government will harass Chen’s extended family and supporters.
“Let’s hope that [Chen] gets out, his wife gets out and their children, and then we move to the next step of ‘What about the rest of the family?’” the New Jersey Republican told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Friday. (Dixon, Politico)
Horsemen clear final hurdle in big to operate Monmouth Park
The New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association has cleared its final hurdle in its bid to take over management of Monmouth Park Racetrack, following a series of approvals this week by the state Racing Commission.
The commission on Thursday approved the transfer of the Monmouth Park operating permit from the state Sports & Exposition Authority to the horsemen, according to Dennis Drazin, who will head the new management group. The board also approved several other related items, including a measure that allows the group to assume operations at the state’s off-track wagering facility in Woodbridge. (Burd, NJBIZ)
Women’s Club honors high achievers, discuss agendas
When the 118th annual convention of the New Jersey Sate Federation of Women’s Clubs convenes in Atlantic City today, women from 230 clubs around the country will explore issues from volunteerism to domestic violence to high achievement. The three-day convention will be at the Trump Plaza hotel.
Patty Whitehouse of Peapack-Gladstone, the state president, will preside over the meetings, which will include guest speakers such as Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. The convention will include an installation banquet, when Whitehouse will pass her gavel to her sucecssor, Linda Babeuf of Rumson. (MacKenzie, Gannett)
New Jersey’s grading of charter schools under scrutiny
Two city charter schools, targeted for closing by an internal document at the Department of Education last fall, do not appear on a new list recently released by the agency.
LEAP Academy University Charter School’s elementary-to-middle school and D.U.E. Season Charter School initially were on a list, circulated within the DOE in September, that was intended to identify low-performing schools. But neither is on a priority school accountability list issued by the department on April 11 — a list that identifies targets of state intervention and potential closing. (Shelly, Gannett)
ACLU’s legal challenge puts ID changes on hold
New federal standards scheduled to go in effect Monday for people seeking to obtain or renew driver licenses or identification cards in New Jersey are now on hold because of a legal challenge.
The state Motor Vehicle Commission announced Saturday afternoon that plans for implementing new TRU-ID standards would be delayed because of a court motion filed by the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. (Shipkowski, Associated Press)
BPU seeks better way to buy electricity at auction
Is there a better way for the state to purchase electricity for the bulk of residents and many businesses that do not want to bother to shop around for an alternative to their incumbent utility?
For the first time in the 11 years since New Jersey broke up its electric monopolies, that question is being seriously debated by the state Board of Public Utilities, which is being urged to make dramatic changes in an annual auction it holds to procure power supplies for more than three million customers. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Former NJ Assemblyman Harold Colburn dies at 86
Harold Colburn, a longtime New Jersey lawmaker and public official, has died. He was 86.
Family members say Colburn died Tuesday at a senior living facility in Moorestown.
A Republican who lived in Mount Laurel for many years, Colburn served as a Burlington County freeholder for 13 years before being elected to the Assembly, where he represented the 8th Legislative District. He held that seat for 11 years before resigning in 1995 to become director of the state Board of Medical Examiners. (Associated Press)
Record Lottery ticket sales mean $6 million more for state programs
The N.J. Lottery had more than $2.6 billion in sales last fiscal year, a $31.5 million increase over sales figures in fiscal year 2010, the state reported.
The uptick in sales meant some $930 million went toward various state programs, including education and social services. That is $6 million more than the prior fiscal year, the state said today. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Executive staff announced at DCA
The acting commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs announced three promotions to the agency’s executive staff.
Richard Constable has named Charles Richman as the agency’s deputy commissioner, Ana Montero as assistant commissioner and Paul Macchia as chief of staff. (Arco, State Street Wire)
$15G in grants to three food pantries
A total of $15,000 in grants went to three regional nonprofit agencies to improve physical access to food pantries for residents with disabilities. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Norcross, Lautenberg break bread
A month after signing onto a letter calling U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s position on the Rutgers Rowan merger “bizarre and misguided,” state Sen. Donald Norcross appeared at a Lautenberg press event to ask for a sit-down.
The two men headed to the Victor’s Pub in Camden for the impromptu lunch date, where sources say they discussed the city, the proposed merger and the national political scene. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Buono, other women lawmakers, backing Gill for Congress
State Senator and 10th Congressional candidate Nia Gill (D-34) had a fundraiser last night at the South Orange home of Pat Bell and those submitting checks included state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18).
State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) and state Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-31) were already officially on board with Gill. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Whose tax plan option will prevail in Trenton?
During Gov. Chris Christie’s State of the State address, the Republican star labeled what was happening in the Garden State as the “Jersey Comeback.”
The narrative, outlined in that speech, is that because of tough decisions and hard medicine forced on politicians and people alike over the past two years, 2012 was a year in which we could enjoy the fruits of Christie’s labor. The purse strings could be loosened a bit and, most importantly, the government that was taking so much out of your already depleted pockets could begin giving you a little back. (Schoonejongen, Gannett)
Sheriff’s Office attorney puts hat in ring to lead Bergen GOP
Cresskill’s John McCann will resign his post as the $110,000-a-year attorney for the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office if he is elected chairman of the county’s Republican Party.
McCann, who is expected to formally enter the race on Tuesday, said it “would not be practical” to simultaneously work for Sheriff Michael Saudino and preside over the deeply fractured Bergen County Republican Organization. (Stile, The Record)
Rutgers trustees quiet Christie, for now
Gov. Chris Christie has had ample time and opportunity to eviscerate members of a defiant Rutgers Board of Trustees, but, so far, he hasn’t called them “dopes” or “idiots” or “jerks” or “numbnuts” or any of the other epithets he uses to intimidate those who disagree with him.
Is the governor mellowing? Nah. (Braun, The Star-LEdger)
Christie’s ‘liberal’ take on drug crime
Lost amid the wash of conservative proposals from Governor Christie this year to cut taxes, strip teachers of tenure and revamp pensions and other benefits for government workers is a hugely liberal idea.
Among the Christie crowd, the proposal is known as “drug court.” But the concept is far more complicated. In essence, it calls for a complete restructuring of how New Jersey prosecutes drug-related crimes. (Kelly, The Record)
Frank Lautenberg, Donald Norcross break bread, build bridge?
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg — who has been at war with South Jersey Democrats over Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal for Rowan University to subsume Rutgers-Camden — broke bread last Thursday with one of their leaders: state Sen. Donald Norcross.
Yes, that would be the brother of power broker George Norcross, who called Lautenberg’s opposition “bizarre and uninformed.” (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)