Morning News Digest: August 14, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Christie files appointments
Gov. Chris Christie filed the following direct appointments with the Secretary of State’s Office today, the governor’s office announced. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
NJ GOP sources bothered by Ryan selection
While publicly acknowledging Paul Ryan as a good pick for Mitt Romney nationwide, New Jersey Republicans privately bemoan the choice as bad for the New Jersey GOP.
In off-the-record conversations with two establishment Republican power players, PolitickerNJ.com listened to insider groans over the Ryan pick – at least from the statewide standpoint.
They get that he’s good overall, and maybe even a great pick, but they doubt Ryan does anything in New Jersey other than reinforce a public perception of GOP extremism.
A proponent of healthcare vouchers and the slow dissolution of Medicare, Ryan inflates the movement conservative cause and stands to be a good visible presence in places like Wisconsin, Idaho and western Pennsylvania, said two sources close to the party levers of power. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Drewniak to Middlesex Dems: here’s how to stop bleeding
In response to a report this morning from PolitickerNJ.com that the Middlesex County Improvement Authority (MCIA) has donated thousands to county and local Democratic organizations with ties to MCIA executive director Richard Pucci, the Governor’s Office offered some unsolicited public relations advice.
“Mayor Pucci, State Democratic Chairman John Wisniewski and Senator Bob Smith should hold a no-questions-barred press conference to explain all the links and involvement between them, the Middlesex County Democratic Organization, the MCIA, their secretive PACs and the vendors who get big public contracts in return for big campaign donations to those PACs,” said Michael Drewniak, press secretary to Gov. Chris Christie. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Housing funds decision does not alter substantive ruling, governor’s office says
The governor’s office responded to last week’s affordable housing funds court ruling by reminding that the basic underlying decision remains intact.
“We are disappointed with the appellate court’s decision, which was made without the benefit of oral argument, and we are examining our rights and options, including an emergent appeal,” Governor’s Office spokesman Michael Drewniak said in a release. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Christie to give RNC keynote
Chris Christie, the sometimes abrasive but always entertaining governor of New Jersey, is set to be announced Tuesday as the keynote speaker for the Republicans’ national convention later this month.
Christie, who considered a 2012 presidential bid of his own before endorsing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, is already at work on his speech to the convention in Tampa, Fla. His record of cutting his state’s budget, curtailing public sector unions and dealing with a Democratic legislature with disarming and combative confidence all were expected to be on display as he looked to fire up his party’s base.
The scheduling decision was first reported online by USA Today early Tuesday and confirmed by Republican officials directly involved in convention planning. The Republican officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the formal announcement was not planned until later Tuesday. (Associated Press)
New Jersey looking to privatize lottery
Gov. Chris Christie’s administration is looking to hit the jackpot with the New Jersey Lottery.
State officials last Friday asked private companies for bids to take over the state lottery’s sales, marketing and game development. The winning bidder would have to pay the state $120 million up front but could be paid hundreds of millions over the next 15-plus years.
For lottery players, changes under a privately managed lottery could include more games, reward programs and online play. Lottery retailers might see increased competition, as the state suggests in its request for proposals that a private operator might seek to add another 600 or more retailers, particularly chain stores, to the 6,500 places currently selling tickets. (Symons, Asbury Park Press)
Bergen County Democrats call on Assemblyman Schroeder to resign
Bergen County Democrats want a Republican lawmaker charged with writing bad checks to resign and for their GOP counterparts to return thousands of dollars worth of political contributions he gave to the party.
Assemblyman Robert Schroeder, R-Washington, acknowledged after his arrest that “I made a mistake, I apologize,” and he remains in the Legislature. High-ranking Republicans, including Governor Christie, have not called for Schroeder’s resignation.
Schroeder was charged earlier this month with writing bad checks totaling nearly $400,000 to two investors. According to a Record analysis, he and businesses he controls owe creditors more than $15 million, and Schroeder also faces numerous lawsuits. (Campisi and Reitmeyer, The Record)
Directors hired for Regional Achievement Centers overseeing low-performing schools
The Christie administration yesterday rolled out the staffing of its new Regional Achievement Centers (RACs) for turning around New Jersey’s toughest schools, at the same time confirming another top education official will be leaving the administration.
The additional staffing will be the hiring of six executive directors to head the new RACs that will serve as the department’s satellites for helping the lowest performing schools with training and technical assistance.
Their selections have been closely watched. The new directors are mostly a collection of public school leaders from inside the state, all overseeing nearly 100 people who will staff the new centers. Among them are a former assistant superintendent in Newark schools, a former county superintendent in Salem, and the leader of two charter schools in Brooklyn. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
New N.J. law bans first responders from sharing photos, videos of accident victims without consent
First responders are banned from taking and sharing photos or videos of accident victims without their consent under legislation recently signed by Gov. Chris Christie.
The law is nicknamed “Cathy’s Law,” after Cathy Bates, who was killed in a 2009 car accident in Barnegat. A volunteer took a picture of Bates at the accident scene and posted it on Facebook before her family was notified.
Gov. Chris Christie signed the bill (S199) on Wednesday. It had passed the Senate and Assembly without opposition after Bates’ mother, Lucille Bates-Wickward, lobbied for it and amassed 5,000 petition signatures. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Latest study of Barnegat Bay shows conditions worsening for tarnished ‘jewel’
Unless population growth in Ocean County is controlled and there is a halt to rapid changes in land use, the decline in Barnegat Bay will likely continue and even more probably worsen, legislators were told yesterday.
The bleak assessment was delivered by Michael Kennish, a longtime researcher at the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences and a contributor to a new multiyear study, which concluded overdevelopment poses a serious threat to the Barnegat Bay/Little Egg Harbor estuary.
Reversing the decline in the bay, described an “environmental jewel” by one lawmaker, has emerged as a top priority of both legislators and the Christie administration. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
N.J. legislators listen to ideas on saving Barnegat Bay, banning plastic bags in shore hearing
The Barnegat Bay is in danger of dying from runoff waters tainted by fertilizers, experts told lawmakers meeting at the Jersey Shore Monday where they also considered a ban on plastic shopping bags, another widespread source of pollution.
The United States consumes 102 billion disposable plastic bags each year, Chris Len, of the Hackensack River Keeper, told a joint meeting of the Senate and Assembly environment committees in Lavallette. The bags create so much litter, he said, that in the winter “some of the trees look like they have leaves” made of plastic.
Disposable plastic bags are “one of the bigger problems that face our watersheds,” Len said. (Linhorst, The Record)
Two more senior New Jersey education officials are moving on
It’s been a summer of departures from the high ranks of the state Department of Education. In the two weeks since Chris Cerf was confirmed as commissioner, his three top aides have gotten new jobs elsewhere.
On Monday night, chief academic officer Penny MacCormack was appointed superintendent of the Montclair public schools. Last week Cerf’s chief of staff, David Hespe, was named president of Burlington County College. And on Aug. 3, Deputy Commissioner Andy Smarick said he was heading to Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit think-tank, so he could spend more time with his family.
The three leaders were deeply involved in Cerf’s complex and ambitious plans to overhaul teacher evaluations, boost graduation requirements and fix the state’s roughly 200 failing schools. (Brody, The Record)
After miscue, refined role for Booker
Since Mayor Cory Booker called attacks on private equity “nauseating,” he hasn’t appeared once on national television as a surrogate for President Barack Obama. At the Democratic National Convention next month, one of the party’s rising stars won’t have a headlining speaking role.
Mr. Booker has moved to a mostly off-camera role for the president’s campaign after his unscripted remarks on May 20 about ads Mr. Obama was running about Bain Capital, the former company of presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
But the Newark mayor also remains a force for Mr. Obama, campaigning for the president in Michigan last week, hosting Democratic fundraisers and helping to draft the party’s platform for the convention in Charlotte, N.C. (Haddon, The Wall Street Journal)
NJ job site open to out-of-state companies
To help its own residents find work, New Jersey can’t avoid helping other states, too.
State officials have spent almost $390,000 in federal funds on a service meant to help the unemployed pair their skills with available jobs.
But in its quest to improve the state’s bleak unemployment picture, New Jersey has learned to factor in its role as a commuter hub.
In a move even state officials find ironic — but necessary — a new website features want ads from businesses in a 50-mile radius around New Jersey’s border.
A higher percentage of New Jerseyans cross state lines every morning to go to work than workers from neighboring states — 584,106, or 15 percent, of the state workforce in 2010, according to the state Department of Labor. New Jerseyans work in a half-dozen other states as well as Washington, D.C. Heading the other way, 10 percent of New Jersey employees come in from out-of-state. (Fletcher, The Record)
Youth driving laws limit even the double date
It is a rite of American teendom, celebrated in popular culture by “American Graffiti” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”: a teenager with a driver’s license piling as many friends as will fit into the car for a ride.
But increasingly, states are legislating away that carefree cruise, passing laws that restrict when, how and with whom teenagers can get behind the wheel.
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia now prohibit teenagers from driving with another teenager, and all but seven states forbid them from driving with more than one. In South Carolina, teenagers cannot drive after 6 p.m. in winter (8 p.m. in summer), and in Idaho, they are banned from sundown to sunup. (Zernike, The New York Times)
New casino panel head faces tough task
It’s doubtful any of the six previous leaders of the state Casino Control Commission faced challenges similar to what’s in store for Matthew B. Levinson, who must sync a massive regulatory overhaul with the state’s effort to ignite an Atlantic City comeback.
Levinson, 32, was sworn in last week as chairman of the three-member board that awards casino licenses.
The overhaul cut the size of the commission by more than half, leaving it with 50 employees and a $9 million budget, with many tasks transferred to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. (Jordan, Asbury Park Press)
DRPA chairman could be in line for a raise
The new inspector general of the Delaware River Port Authority will get new responsibilities and a $35,000 raise if the DRPA board approves a recommendation made Monday by its finance committee.
Thomas Raftery, hired in January as the DRPA’s first inspector general with a $130,000 salary, will get $165,000 if the finance committee recommendation is approved by the full board Wednesday.
The committee said Raftery would be responsible for conducting internal and external audits and rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse at the agency.
“I think this increase is totally justified,” said David Simon, the finance committee vice chairman, who is the designated successor to Gov. Corbett as chairman of the DRPA. Simon cited Raftery’s expanded job duties and his “fierce independence.” (Nussbaum, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
New rules for electronic funds transfers should speed processing of healthcare claims
The healthcare universe may not be entirely paperless, but it’s getting there.
Doctors, hospitals, and health plans in New Jersey will benefit from a new rule issued by the federal Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) that will streamline the processing of electronic healthcare claims.
The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reports that 28 percent of administrative staff time spent on billing and insurance-related tasks in a doctor’s office goes to receiving and posting payments, follow-up, and payment reconciliation. (Vecchione, NJ Spotlight)
Mobile health applications a surging industry
More and more people are tracking the number of calories they eat or the number of steps they take on their mobile phone — a trend that’s likely to continue as technology costs decrease.
Verasoni Worldwide, a marketing firm in Montclair, issued a report Friday looking at the 150 most popular mobile health applications downloaded onto both iPhone and Android devices as a way for developers and providers to better understand the way consumers are using these programs.
“It’s all the rage — it’s what you’re seeing. The mobile applications sector is exploding, so we wanted to see what people were actually downloading,” said Abe Kasbo, CEO of Verasoni. “We thought if we learned a little bit about what people were downloading, we would have a better understanding of what’s being consumed. What we found was people are downloading exercise, nutrition and weight loss more than any other apps.” (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
UMDNJ expanding successful veteran out reach to job training
Building off the successful Vet2Vet helpline started by the school, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey is reaching out to returning servicemen and women through a new job training initiative.
The program, Jobs4Vets, will sponsor 25 military personnel to go through a five-week program, beginning in November, to learn skills in environmental remediation and restoration.
Trainees will receive instruction in asbestos removal, lead abatement, construction safety, hazardous waste site and disaster site worker courses. After the training is provided, UMDNJ will assist the veterans in their job search. (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
Jersey City vigil held to remember shooting victims at Wisconsin Sikh temple
Children from the Sikh community clutched photographs of those slain and injured in a shooting at a Wisconsin temple last week as North Jersey residents gathered outside City Hall, holding candles in mourning for the lives that were lost.
More than 175 people stood side-by-side during a moment of silence, many raising electric candles. The silent moment followed remarks by elected officials and by several members of the Sikh community.
“For the families in Wisconsin, those were our uncles, our brothers and our sister,” said Kamaljit Kaur Kaila, a member of Sikh community. “Your grief is our grief, your tears are mirrored in our eyes, and we are a nation united mourning today.” (Alvarado, The Record)
From the Back Room
Coming soon to a press conference near you: the AG option
Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan for his running mate ended a favorite Democratic Party talking point: the indefatigably swaggering Chris Christie’s determination to be Romney’s number two.
But all is not lost for establishment Dems mostly indifferent to the prospect of another four years of Barack Obama.
Christie could be Romney’s attorney general! (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Paul Ryan’s impact on undecided voters
Looking at it from a number of ways, it’s difficult to see how the selection of Paul Ryan as vice presidential nominee makes Mitt Romney’s path to 270 Electoral College votes any easier.
This has nothing to do with Congressman Ryan’s qualifications to be Vice President. He’s smart, thoughtful and policy driven. He clearly passes the primary hurdle: Can this person step in if something happens to the President. By that measure, Mitt Romney made a solid pick that reflects well on his decision-making ability as a potential Chief Executive – which is after all how voters really assess the meaning of the VP selection. (Murray for PolitickerNJ)
Christie for veep chatter: Was it real?
The speculation is over.
Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan is GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s choice for vice president. Gov. Chris Christie was left out in the cold.
So goes the story of the breathless who loved all the talk — first, of Christie as a potential presidential candidate and then of Christie as second banana to the former Massachusetts governor.
But was it ever real?
The “Christie for president” talk certainly was, with titans in the Republican party calling the governor and trying to talk him into a run. He passed, though, and soon after the talked turned to a number 2 slot. (Schoonejongen, Asbury Park Press)
This teachers union wants to lead change in N.J.
Any time both Gov. Chris Christie and Barbara Keshishian, the president of the New Jersey Education Association, call the same legislation “historic,” that’s, well, historic. The problem is that, despite the hype from this unlikely duo of cheerleaders for what has been called tenure reform, the state has hardly been a leader in finding ways of using teachers and their unions as instruments of school change.
But change has happened elsewhere and it could provide a model here.”We should be moving from away the industrial model,’’ says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO. “Change affects everyone, including unions, and now it’s time to change how we conduct ourselves as a union.’’ (Braun, The Star-Ledger)