Morning News Digest: June 25, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Winners and Losers: Week of BCRO battle aftermath
Much of New Jersey politics is fairly predictable, to say the least.
Sooner or later, someone’s going to end up in handcuffs.
But it goes deeper than that.
When the other attorney phones it in from Atlantic City and you’ve got Angelo Genova not just standing in the North Jersey courtroom, but already up to his gums in a judge’s neck, chances are pretty good that you’re going to win. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Wagner, Eustace will back budget
Assemblywoman Connie Wagner and Assemblyman Tim Eustace confirmed on Friday they will support the proposed Democratic budget.
“While we continue to have concerns regarding the speed at which the higher education reorganization is happening, we are ready to offer our support for the Democratic budget proposal,” they said in a joint release.
“Following yesterday’s Senate amendments to the higher education restructuring bill, and it’s new effective date of July 1, 2013, we are more comfortable that we have a year to look at this bill and its impact on Rowan, Rutgers, UMDNJ, University Hospital and the rest of New Jersey’s institutions of higher education. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Christie: ‘This is the same old BS’
Beating the “Corzine Democrat” drum, Gov. Chris Christie told members of a town hall in Readington that he thinks “the game’s over” in Trenton.
The governor told residents he’s prepared to fight all summer for tax cuts – effectively drawing a line in the sand.
“I decided to compromise and I said to the Senate president, ‘OK, I’ll go with your plan,” Christie said Friday afternoon, telling the crowd he was willing to move away from his 10 percent tax cut plan to bring some sort of tax relief to residents. (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
Former State Senator Ewing dies at 93
Former Somerset County state Senator John “Jack’ H. Ewing Sr. died this week in Northfield, Vermont.
He was 93.
Mr. Ewing made his mark in education as a member of the state senate who served for 20 years, from 1977 to 1997.”Senator Jack Ewing served the people of Somerset County with distinction for many years,” said Somerset County GOP Chairman Al Gaburo. “He was a fierce advocate for children and education issues. His quick smile and sage advice will be greatly missed. Our prayers go out to the entire Ewing family at this difficult time.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Cryan: ‘Our decision was based on principle’
With the news that leadership peeled off two of his allies to back the budget despite their initial vow to oppose it without a push back of the date for the Legislature to vote on the reorganization of higher education, Assemblyman Joe Cryan (D-20) was grimly soldierly in gulping down the news. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Christie, veto pen await Democrats’ $32B budget
Republican Gov. Chris Christie has already uncapped his red veto pen for the $32 billion budget the Democrats are expected to send him Monday.
The Democrats’ budget adheres closely to Christie’s own spending plan with one key difference: They want to deny him a tax cut unless the state’s fiscal picture improves, and he wants it guaranteed.
Christie all but promised to red-line Democrats’ spending priorities out of the budget unless he gets their commitment that the tax cut phase-in will begin in January. The $130 million in spending the Democrats have added , money to increase a tax cut to the working poor and funds to restore a cut to family planning centers , are sure to be vetoed. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
Fights loom for Christie, N.J. Dems
On a day so busy that the Statehouse cafeteria stayed open an extra three hours for hungry lobbyists who were monitoring dozens of bills, Democrats scampered in and out of meetings to try to put together a $31.7 billion budget to send to Gov. Christie.
Turns out, they also needed to put out a fire that began Thursday and lasted well into Friday afternoon.
Assemblyman Joseph Cryan (D., Union) – who was ousted last year from the Assembly’s No. 2 post by Camden County Democrat Louis Greenwald – corralled a group of nine maverick Democrats. (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Analysis: If budget is approved, NJ faces fiscal crisis next spring
If the Legislature approves the proposed $31.7 billion FY13 budget and the tax cut that Gov. Chris Christie is demanding, New Jersey will face a built-in $2.5 billion hole in the following year’s FY14 budget – a gap almost twice as large as the combined increase in income, sales, and corporate taxes that Christie is projecting for the year ahead, a NJ Spotlight analysis shows.
Even if the Democratic-controlled Legislature decides next year that the state cannot afford the controversial tax cut, the state would still need to come up with $2 billion in revenue growth in Fiscal Year 2014 just to cover the required increases in pension costs, transportation borrowing and already-approved business tax cuts, and the more than $1 billion in one-shot revenues built into the Fiscal Year 2013 budget. (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)
Can Christie deliver Pa.?
Mitt Romney shouldn’t make Chris Christie his running mate, according to the conventional wisdom of the chattering classes, because he can’t deliver a swing state.
Forget for a second that the premise is flawed: President Obama won even though his running mate was from meaningless little Delaware; George W. Bush scored two terms with a vice president from solidly Republican, absolutely insignificant Wyoming.
But Romney’s V.P. pick is weeks away. Now is the time for wild speculation, history be damned. (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Gov. Christie’s state prosecutor swap leaves Democratic leaders questioning choices
Gov. Chris Christie has moved to replace five state prosecutors in recent weeks, upsetting Democratic leaders of the Senate panel that would have to approve them.
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Nicholas Scutari and committee member Raymond Lesniak (both D-Union) say they believe the moves mirror what they believe the Republican governor is doing with Supreme Court nominees: removing competent people to make room for those whose credentials are in question. (Spoto, The Star-Ledger)
Democrats split on school merger plan
A far-reaching plan to overhaul New Jersey’s higher education system will be heard in the Assembly next week, as a faction of Democrats trying to delay the fast-moving legislation fractured Friday.
The Assembly Budget Committee will hear the bill Monday, along with a companion measure that would ask voters to approve $750 million in borrowing for higher education. Final votes in the Assembly and Senate could come next week. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
Supreme Court can’t stop entire health-care reform law in N.J.
No matter what the U.S. Supreme Court decrees this week on the controversial Obama health care reforms, the law has already prompted changes in New Jersey that will endure, doctors and insurers say.
The implications of the justices’ ruling — which will address the constitutional question of whether Congress can require Americans to buy health insurance — are enormous for a broad swath of the nation’s economy, presidential politics and the role of government in health care.
Yet some of the changes the law has accelerated or set in motion are unstoppable. (Washburn, The Record)
Getting tough on campaign spending: reports of pricey meals and trips spur push for stricter rules and penalties
After a series of reports detailing how some of the state’s top elected officials used their campaign accounts to pay for everything from lavish meals to overseas trips, there’s growing interest in Trenton to find ways to curtail such spending.
One bill under consideration would throw elected officials out of office if they don’t comply with requirements to declare all that they raise and spend. Another measure, pushed by the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, would force elected officials to provide all kinds of details when they spend campaign cash on dinners, trips and other events — including for whom they picked up the checks. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Gestational carrier bill gets to Christie
A law allowing women to carry donated eggs to term for infertile clients is now before Governor Christie.
“Gestational carriers,” meaning women who agree to receive a fertilized embryo that is not her own and carry the child, currently operate legally in other states but advocates say such agreements are not legally enforceable in New Jersey.
A bill that passed the state Assembly Thursday would legalize those contracts. In return, arrangements between willing participants could be all-expenses-paid – covering carriers’ full medical bills as well as housing, food and living expenses for the pregnancy. (Fletcher, The Record)
N.J. Assembly to vote to reduce marijuana penalties
The state Assembly today plans to vote on a bill that would reduce penalties for being caught with less than half an ounce of marijuana, making it akin to getting a traffic ticket.
Gov. Chris Christie, however, said on Friday he would veto the bill.
The measure (A1465), which has bipartisan support, would replace criminal penalties with fines for those caught with fewer than 15 grams of marijuana — or enough for more than 30 joints. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. Senate to vote on bill to stop ‘fake farmers’ from getting tax discounts
The state Senate today plans to vote on a bill that would make it harder for property owners to qualify for large property tax discounts if they use their land for farming.
Under the bill (S589), sponsored by state Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), those who claim a farmland tax exemption would have to sell at least $1,000 worth of products from five acres of land — up from $500.
The bill would also require a review of the tax status every three years, training for tax assessors and have the state Board of Agriculture develop guidelines on what is and isn’t a farm. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Assembly committee OKs bill to add $250M to transit hub incentive
A state Assembly committee has advanced a bill that would lift the cap of the Urban Transit Hub tax credit program by $250 million, one of the bill’s sponsors said.
Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-Newark) said the bill, which was considered today by the budget committee, also would extend the program’s application deadline by about 18 months, to July 2014, to make it coincide with the newer Grow New Jersey Assistance Program.
A raised cap would address some concerns about the rate at which the state is approaching the $1.5 billion cap on the program. Over the past year, the state has doled out several large tax credits under the program, which offers incentives to companies that make capital investments in cities across the state. (Burd, NJBIZ)
State Assembly to discuss 2 criminal justice measures, including constitutional amendment
The state Assembly plans to vote today on two criminal justice measures proposed by Gov. Chris Christie.
One is a constitutional amendment (ACR153) that would let voters choose in November whether judges can deny bail to some defendants charged with violent crimes.
The state Constitution says all defendants are entitled to bail unless charged with crimes punishable by death. But since New Jersey repealed the death penalty, everyone is entitled to bail. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Malpractice exemption puts lawyers against volunteer doctors
Legislation that would shield doctors from malpractice lawsuits when they give free medical care to the needy once again faces fierce opposition, but is strongly supported by doctors who volunteer their time. This same group is hoping to encourage colleagues — specialists in particular — to treat patients who can’t afford to pay.
The bills (A2178/S1165) failed to pass in the final legislative session.
Attorneys argue that the bills would unfairly prevent low-income New Jerseyans from suing doctors for malpractice, thus making malpractice litigation a privilege of those who can afford to pay for healthcare. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
Sewerage authority head is nominated for judgeship
The man credited with cleaning up the scandal-plagued Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners on Friday was nominated by Governor Christie to become a Superior Court judge.
Wayne J. Forrest, who Christie appointed to take over the sewerage authority in 2010, has been tapped to become a superior court judge in his home Somerset County.
Forrest, former Somerset County prosecutor, was put in charge after Christie vowed to clean up the regional sewerage authority that was bloated with patronage and political corruption. Christie forced the resignation of the executive director, Bryan Christiansen, who at the time was making a salary of more than $312,000 a year. (Cowen, The Record)
NJ mayor, who rescued woman from burning building in April, again arrives at accident scene
The mayor of New Jersey’s largest city again came upon a life-or-death emergency, but the hero was someone else.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker tweets that he was one of several people who helped stabilize a pedestrian hit by a car Friday. A spokeswoman says an Essex County detective who arrived first on the scene called 911, wiped blood from the face of the victim, poured water on his wounds and helped him lie still. (Associated Press)
N.J. insurers flout law on autism, advocates contend
When the state Supreme Court five years ago ordered New Jersey and its insurer to pay for intensive therapy for a 5-year-old boy with autism, other families thought their days of piling up debt to get their kids treatment were over.
It didn’t work out that way for Ken and Meredith Blitz-Goldstein of Verona.
The family spent their savings and mortgaged the house to pay for years of behavioral therapy for their son Matthew, 7, after he was diagnosed with a form of autism as a toddler. And then they shelled out thousands in legal fees in a 3½-year battle to convince the state health benefits plan and insurer Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey to cover it. (Livio, The Star-Ledger)
Court orders BPU to rewrite rules on smart growth
For the second time in three years, the state Board of Public Utilities is being told by a court to rewrite its rules governing smart growth policies and the extension of utility service lines.
In a ruling by a state appeals court Friday, a three-judge panel ordered the agency to begin drafting a new regulation to award refunds to developers and homeowners who paid to have extensions of sewer, electricity, gas, and telephone lines to new homes because they were located in areas of the state not designated for smart growth. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Honeywell again seeking more tax credits as it reconsiders Pa. relocation
Honeywell International has applied for a tax credit under the popular Grow New Jersey Assistance Program less than two years after a different state incentive program was greatly expanded to keep the Fortune 100 company from leaving the state.
The Morris Township-based technology maker is once again considering a move to Pennsylvania as it seeks to modernize its headquarters, according to its application to the Economic Development Authority. The firm said the cost of renovating its corporate campus have spiked since 2010, when it first agreed to keep 1,100 employees in New Jersey, causing it to look to the more lucrative Grow New Jersey program. (Burd, NJBIZ)
N.J. vets lagging on job front
In May, with the economy sputtering again, the unemployment rate for New Jersey veterans outpaced the national average for ex-military personnel. And the situation could be even more challenging the rest of this year.
The unemployment figure for veterans 18 and older (not seasonally adjusted) in the Garden State was 11.9 percent last month, compared with 7.8 percent nationally, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And New Jersey veterans’ May unemployment figures also increased from May 2011’s figure, which was 10.5 percent. (Moss, The Record)
SBA applauds N.J. scholarship program for veterans
New Jersey veterans struggling to find business opportunities can take the educational or vocational training route to career success through a new post-secondary scholarship program, launched today by first lady Mary Pat Christie‘s New Jersey Heroes nonprofit.
The Heart of a Hero Scholarship program — initiated by a $100,000 donation from Walmart Stores Inc. — will award to 10 veterans a $10,000 scholarship to pursue a degree at any accredited university or vocational training school, in time for the 2012-13 academic year. (Eder, NJBIZ)
Higher-ed reorganization, bond issue in Assembly Budget Comm. Monday
A major piece of the budgetary and administrative puzzle for years to come, the higher education reorganization will be before the Assembly Budget Committee on Monday.
The massive makeover of New Jersey’s college landscape passed the Senate Budget Committee last Monday after undergoing numerous amendments. This coming Monday, the lower chamber committee will examine the bill whose costs clearly are in the tens of millions of dollars but whose true costs may not be known for years. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Christie reiterates that judges should pay their fair share toward pensions/benefits
Speaking on pension and health benefit reform, Gov. Chris Christie gave a prediction today of how a lawsuit recently argued before the state’s Supreme Court will play out.
The governor told members of a town hall here that state workers should pay their fair share – judges included. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Departmental reorganization bills advance
Having passed the budget bill, the Assembly Budget Committee handled several other bills today.
A3154/S1562: This increases the amount of tax credits authorized to be issued under the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit program and extends the application deadline. It lifts the cap of $250 million on the program. The bill passed with Republican Jay Webber abstaining. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
The Rock to host 2013 NHL Draft
The NHL is set to announce that the 2013 draft will be held at the Prudential Center.
A source said the NHL made the decision after receiving letters from Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) pitching the Rock for the draft. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
‘A Happy Leadership Team’
When asked what concessions Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-38) and Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-38) secured in signing onto the budget and bailing on an insurrectionary letter, the answer was loud and clear.
The Star-Ledger quoted Eustace saying he now supports the budget and reported Wagner also in support of the $31.7 billion document the legislature will consider on the floor next week. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Déjà vu all over again
Clearly someone has polled Jon Corzine in recent days and found out his favorables are in the tank.
How else to explain the sudden spate of references to the former governor-turned-disgraced Wall Street Wizard.
The Christie administration press shop and the governor himself have mentioned Corzine no less than half a dozen times in the past two weeks as he bludgeons Democrats with the label “Corzine Democrats.” (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Bergen GOP runoff left a trail of winners and losers
Bob Yudin, the Wyckoff appliance store owner, emerged victorious in last week’s Bergen County Republican Organization chairman’s race.
But here is a look at some of the other winners and losers in last week’s ugly party fight. (Stile, The Record)
Gilmore says he didn’t have inside scoop on corruption bust
Did someone tip off the powerful Ocean County Republican chairman, George Gilmore, to the biggest corruption bust in New Jersey history?
A paragraph buried deep in an FBI document recently made public suggests Gilmore knew about the coming raid, although Gilmore says he was just repeating rumors — a well-known phenomenon in New Jersey politics.
In a September 2009 interview with the FBI, Al Santoro — a former executive director of the Ocean County Democrats, who pleaded guilty to taking bribes — recounted an exchange with Gilmore. (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)
In halfway houses, they hear you scream
If there is a hell, it is a place where people hear you scream. It is a place where you emit a primal sound, something from deep down in your gut, an animal noise that would send dread into the souls of the most indifferent of men. People hear your pain, but this is hell, so they do not respond. For a low-level lawbreaker, for a barber who once smilingly posed for a photo with Newark Mayor Cory Booker, for Derek West Harris, this was Delaney Hall. (Doblin, The Record)
Kirk Cameron’s July visit to Jersey Shore represents ‘growing pains’ of homophobic bigotry—Cartoon and commentary by Rob Tornoe
Coming soon to the Jersey Shore — a former child TV star turned born-again bigot to tell all gay people why they’re ruining the Earth. Kirk Cameron, an actor best known for his 1980s TV sitcom “Growing Pains,” will speak at the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association in Ocean Grove at the end of July, and some residents are understandably upset about it. (Tornoe, Newsworks)