Morning News Digest: June 22, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Yudin wins the BCRO chairmanship again with 58% of the vote over Rottino
Bob Yudin won the chairmanship of the Bergen County Republican Organization tonight.
He defeated challenger Anthony Rottino in a runoff election to gain another four year term.
438 votes for Yudin; 315 votes for Rottino.
“I look forward to making a tremendous amount of progress in the coming months,” Yudin said. “We have to close ranks. We have to win in November. What’s most important is to get past the rancor and to move forward as one.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Governor responds to Legislature
Gov. Chris Christie issued a statement Thursday referring to the majority party in the Legislature as “Corzine Democrats.”
The governor took issue with Democrats introducing legislation to impose taxes on millionaires while tying tax cuts to the governor’s revenue estimates.
“After months of promising to deliver critical tax relief to the people of New Jersey, Corzine Democrats today proved it’s just more of the same when it comes to their addiction to raising taxes and holding tax relief hostage,” the governor said in a statement. (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
Democrats give municipalities cover on affordable housing fees
Language in the $31.7 billion budget introduced by Democratic lawmakers today would preclude the administration from taking in some $200 million in affordable housing dollars held by municipalities.
The language change allows municipalities to commit their affordable housing funds by ordinance or resolution, in effect shielding them from the state.
The budget introduced by the governor allocates up to $200 million in affordable housing fees held by municipalities to the state’s general fund. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Chris Christie’s love for Bruce Springsteen goes unrequited
Chris Christie is, even in moments of tranquility—of which, in his life, there seem to be none—a torqued-up, joyously belligerent, easily baited, and preternaturally exuberant son of New Jersey, so bringing him to a Bruce Springsteen concert is an exercise in volcano management. Christie, in the presence of Springsteen—whom he would marry if he were gay and if gay people were allowed to marry in the state he governs—loses himself. He is, as is well known, a very large man—twice the width of Mitt Romney—but he is a very large man who dances at Springsteen concerts in front of many thousands of people without giving a damn what they think. (Goldberg, The Atlantic)
Democrats defy Christie by delaying tax cut in $31.7 billion budget
Defying Governor Christie’s veto threats, Senate Democrats took the first steps to approve a $31.7 billion budget that does not include an immediate tax cut and to impose a new millionaire’s tax in order to increase property tax credits for senior citizens and low-to-middle-income homeowners.
The Senate Budget Committee voted 8-5 along party lines to approve the budget bill, which sets aside $183 million in a special property tax relief fund that would be used to enable an additional property tax cut next April, but only if the Christie administration is on track to meeting its projected revenue growth of 7.2 percent, said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen). (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)
N.J. budget may snag on controversy over colleges
The state’s proposed $32 billion budget got caught up in anxieties over the overhaul of New Jersey’s universities Thursday, as a group of Democratic lawmakers threatened to buck their party unless adoption of the university plan was postponed.
Nine Democrats, led by former Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan of Union County, told their leaders they wanted to vote on the reorganization of the state’s higher education system in the fall instead of next week. Otherwise, they said, they would vote against the budget that the party’s leadership introduced Thursday. (Katz and Osborne, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Legislative message to Rutgers on restructuring: Taking it or leave it
The Legislature Thursday made several moves in its battle to restructure New Jersey higher education, including a legislative warning to the Rutgers’ board of trustees that the plan is all or nothing — accept all aspects of the proposal or have it voided in its entirety.
A threat of a different sort came from a faction of Democratic Assembly members who said they were ready to derail budget proceedings unless the Assembly leadership delays its vote on restructuring until November; the treasury department released updated cost estimates; and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) postponed a full floor vote on his chamber’s legislation until next week. (Nurin, NJ Spotlight)
Teacher tenure changes pass unanimously in NJ Senate
Many of the last hurdles were removed yesterday from what now seems like all-but-certain passage of a tenure reform law for New Jersey that would make it harder for teachers to gain tenure and easier to lose it.
The Senate passed the bill sponsored by state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) with a remarkable 39-0 vote, the Republicans’ unanimous support virtually assuring that Gov. Chris Christie will support it as well.
There remains a different Assembly version, but Ruiz met yesterday for a half-hour with state Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex), the Assembly’s education chairman and sponsor of that bill, to work out differences. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
N.J. near top in per-pupil spending
When it comes to public school spending, New Jersey’s average of $16,841 per pupil in 2010 ranked it second to the top among states, the U. S. Census Bureau reported Thursday.
The average of $18,618 in New York and $18,667 in Washington, D.C., exceeded New Jersey’s per-pupil spending. All nine states in the Northeast region were ranked among the top 15 in spending in 2010.
In arguing for a new tenure bill and weaker seniority rules, Governor Christie has long argued that money alone does not bring achievement, and that billions poured into the state’s poorest city schools have not brought adequate results. Many educators counter that New Jersey’s schools, in the aggregate, are among the highest-performing in the country, even though there are pockets of chronically troubled schools with dismal test scores and low graduation rates. (Brody, The Record)
Dems’ budget calls for maintaining education spending on needy students, despite Gov. Chris Christie’s attempt to cut
The $31.7 billion budget unveiled today by Democratic lawmakers eliminates changes to the school funding formula sought by Gov. Chris Christie that would decrease state spending on poor students and those learning English.
A summary of the amended budget calls for funding schools next year at levels similar to this year.
Christie proposed reducing the percentage of additional funding awarded to schools with high-needs students so that the funding weights match what lawmakers sought when they devised the school funding formula in 2008. Education advocates, however, say those levels are outdated. (Calefati, The Star-Ledger)
Nominee for N.J. community affairs chief says COAH ‘should not be in existence’
Amid a flurry of questions about his position on affordable housing, the Senate Judiciary Committee today approved the nomination of Richard Constable as director of the state’s Department of Community Affairs.
Constable, who worked for Gov. Chris Christie in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, has been serving in an acting capacity for six months as he awaits confirmation by the full Senate possibly by as early as Friday.
Asked about his position on the state’s Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), which Christie abolished last year, Constable said, “My firm position is that COAH should not be in existence at all; however, we have to follow the law.” (Spoto, The Star-Ledger)
Towns stand to gain more of pole tax
Democrats on the Senate and Assembly budget committees approved a bill that would increase the amount of energy taxes sent to municipalities.
The tax money comes from utility companies that essentially pay rent for placing their poles on public land. That money was intended to grow each year to account for cost-of-living increases, and the state is in charge of collecting it and doling it out to the municipalities.
But the state has been keeping a larger cut of that money to offset its own budget, and local officials have argued it’s not the state’s money to keep. (Hayes and Reitmeyer, The Record)
Bill to make N.J. syringe exchange program permanent passed by state Senate
The state’s five-year-old syringe exchange pilot program would become permanent and expanded to any town that wants to participate under a bill passed by the state Senate this evening.
The Senate voted 25-12 for the measure (S2001), which was also introduced Monday in the state Assembly
The program had been active in Atlantic City, Newark, Camden, Jersey City and Paterson.
The program had been active in Atlantic City, Newark, Camden, Jersey City and Paterson. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. Assembly OKs measure to create moratorium on approval of virtual charter schools
A bill that would create a one-year moratorium on the approval of virtual charter schools while a task force examines them passed the Assembly Thursday.
“This task force will play an important role in determining whether virtual charter schools should play a role in the future of education in New Jersey,” Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, D-Englewood, one of the bill’s sponsors said in a statement. “It’s important to proactively examine their place in our system now instead of allowing them to proliferate without the proper oversight.” (Hayes, The Record)
NJ Assembly advances bills aimed at highway safety
The New Jersey Assembly approved bills Thursday that would toughen driver’s license requirements for young people and would allow a driver’s use of a cellphone in traffic accidents to factor into criminal charges.
A Senate panel also discussed a measure that would change the way the state deals with drunken drivers.
The Assembly voted 79-0 for a bill that would make it easier to convict drivers of vehicular homicide or assault by auto when they kill or injure someone while using a cellphone. The legislation would classify the illegal use of a hand-held cellphone as driving recklessly, one of the factors in finding a person guilty of vehicular homicide or assault. (Duffelmeyer, Associated Press)
Assembly gives final okay to bill relaxing N.J.’s surrogate parenting law
New Jersey’s strict surrogate parenting laws, untouched since the 1988 landmark Baby M case, would be relaxed and clarified under a bill that won final passage by the Legislature today.
The bill would eliminate the three-day waiting period for parents of children born to surrogates to be listed on their birth certificates.
The Assembly voted 41 to 33 with two abstentions to approved the bill. The Senate approved the bill 21 to 11 on May 31. Now it’s up to Gov. Chris Christie to sign it into law or veto the measure. (Livio, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. Assembly backs tougher driving licensing rules
Legislation that would increase requirements for young people to get driver’s licenses has been approved in the New Jersey Assembly — even though Gov. Chris Christie vetoed an identical bill earlier this year.
Under the bill approved 52-26 Thursday, those under the age of 18 who apply for a learner’s or examination permit — and at least one of their parents — would have to complete a teen driver program. (Associated Press)
N.J. Assembly OKs bill banning fracking waste
Lawmakers have approved legislation that bans hydraulic fracturing byproducts created in other states from entering New Jersey.
The Assembly voted 56-19 for the bill Thursday.
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, involves blasting chemical-laced water deep into the ground. (Associated Press)
N.J. Assembly puts brakes on key perks at Port Authority
In the latest effort by lawmakers to crack down on perks at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Assembly Thursday approved a bill to restrict the use of company cars and drivers, overnight travel, housing allowances, personal expense accounts and toll passes for agency officials and employees.
Approved by New Jersey’s lower house in a 79-0 vote, the bill (A1247) is one of several pieces of recent legislation that would bolster accountability, enhance transparency and tighten restrictions on the Port Authority after last year’s record toll hike at bi-state bridges and tunnels. (Strunsky, The Star-Ledger)
Scrutiny proposed for halfway houses
The private contractors who run New Jersey’s halfway houses would face significantly increased oversight under two proposals lawmakers cleared Thursday — including one bill to audit their contracts that’s stalled for eight years.
Halfway house operators would be required to make quarterly reports to the Legislature on each halfway house and include the number of clients housed in each one, what private contractors are charging the state, and the number of violent offenders at each facility. They would also be required to detail what steps are being taken to mitigate violence in halfway houses. (Fletcher and Reitmeyer, The Record)
Another power plant to make the move from coal to natural gas
B. L. England, one of the state’s few remaining coal-fired power plants, is switching to cleaner-burning natural gas, a move environmental officials say will significantly improve air quality without harming energy reliability.
RC Cape May Holdings LLC agreed to the move in an administrative consent order signed with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The order stipulates that the company will shut down one of its-coal-fired units and convert two others, one now running on coal and the other using oil to natural gas. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
N.J. employers to receive share of $7.5M in insurer reimbursements
New Jersey employers enrolled in large- and small-group health insurance plans will receive a share of $7.5 million in reimbursements from insurers that failed to spend at least 85 percent of premiums on medical care and quality in 2011, according to an announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Eder, NJBIZ)
N.J. hospitals adapting to larger patients
Hospitals throughout North Jersey are buying larger beds and operating tables, and wider wheelchairs with reinforced steel frames, and building specialized rooms to treat the growing ranks of obese patients.
Englewood Hospital and Medical Center debuted a new stretcher and loading ramp this month for ambulances to transport patients weighing up to 1,100 pounds. Hackensack University Medical Center is spending $200,000 on two new operating tables to hold extra-large patients. (Layton, The Record)
Diegnan says tenure reform faces further tweaking
The tenure reform bill that was approved today in the Senate will go before the Assembly Budget Committee Friday morning for possible amendments.
Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, (D-18), South Plainfield, said the changes to be considered include changing to 45 days from 30 days the time for an arbitrator to render a decision in a tenure case. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
South Orange/Maplewood School District election shift bill passes Senate
The Senate unanimously approved a bill that would permit the School District of South Orange and Maplewood, the only Type II school district with a board of school estimate, to choose to move the date of its annual school election to the day of the general election in November. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Assembly moves Tabitha’s Law
Assembly lawmakers approved Tabitha’s Law following a 75-0 vote with two abstentions.
The bill, A1902/S721, requires parents to notify school administrators whenever their child will be absent from school, and requires administrators to contact parents whenever a pupil is absent without the parents having provided prior notice. (Arco, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
McCann’s ketter to the BCRO committee members
Some eight weeks ago I embarked on a journey to try and win the Chairmanship of our Bergen County Republican Organization. I entered this race not from any personal animosity towards either of the other candidates, but rather from a conviction that I would be better able to restore and heal the party than either of the other candidates. Unfortunately, my late start in the race and a family crisis which took me out of state the week before the election proved to be two obstacles which I could not surmount. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Resolution backs constitutional amendment regarding judicial salaries
The Senate Budget Committee approved a resolution today that would support a constitutional amendment clarifying that the Legislature has the authority to take a portion of judicial salaries and put it toward benefits.
SCR110 would allow for deductions from salaries of state Supreme Court justices and Superior Court judges to help fund their health benefits and pensions. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Rutgers to be dismembered in political ploy
New Jersey deserves better. Today, the embarrassing political assault on one of the state’s few symbols of excellence — Rutgers University — reaches a turning point. The state Senate will vote to dismember Rutgers. Next week, the Assembly is likely to agree. Gov. Chris Christie. He will call it “higher education reform.” (Braun, The Star-Ledger)