Morning News Digest: September 24, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Winners and Losers: Week of September 17th
The week was dominated by polls and economic news, and fallout from both top our list this week. Not to be outdone, the”corruptibles” continue to be a force on our weekly review and the G-men had a solid week putting former electeds and appointeds behind bars. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Governor takes heat for CVing monthly revenue report bill
Democratic lawmakers are preparing to pounce on the governor after his decision to rework legislation that sought to make it a requirement for the administration to post monthly revenue reports.
Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed legislation Friday that Democrats say would have held the governor’s feet to the fire by requiring him to report what’s already been laid out in his own executive order.
In his veto message, the governor added language to the bill that would impose a $10,000 penalty for the “unauthorized” dissemination of state revenue figures. (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
New Jersey maintains 4th highest unemployment rate
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released unemployment rates in all 50 states today, showing New Jersey maintains the fourth highest rate in the nation.
Preliminary numbers released today show only Nevada (12.1), Rhode Island (10.7) and California (10.1) maintain higher jobless rates than New Jersey, which hit 9.9 percent in August.
But while New Jersey’s rate of unemployment has risen a half of a percent since August 2011, the state has added the eighth highest job total in the nation at 51,400 new jobs over that span. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Christie takes action on four gender equality pay bills
Gov. Chris Christie took action today on four bills dealing with gender pay equity.
The governor signed into law A2647/S1930, which requires every employer in the state with 50 or more employees to post notification detailing the right to be free of gender inequity or bias in pay, compensation, benefits or other terms or conditions of employment under the “Law Against Discrimination.” (Arco, State Street Wire)
Donations portal bill CV’d by Christie
Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed bill A2351, which establishes an online portal for acceptance of donations to certain funds to which contributions can be made on tax returns.
Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed bill A2351, which establishes an online portal for acceptance of donations to certain funds to which contributions can be made on tax returns. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Diaz criticizes Delgado for standing by campaign consultant
The Wilda Diaz Campaign continued to keep Billy Delgado in its sights today, responding to a story that appeared in the Asbury Park Press following Diaz’s condemnation of condescending emails sent to her by controversial political operative James Devine.
Delgado told the Asbury Park Press he wasn’t going to fire Devine, but three weeks ago prohibited his consultant from having contact with Diaz.
Delgado told the Press he had notified the Diaz campaign of his directive regarding Devine.
On Wednesday, Devine apparently ignored the order when he confronted Diaz at her press conference, and today, Diaz’s United for Amboy campaign released the following statement in response to Delgado’s claims. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Chris Christie: Harry Reid ‘part of the problem’
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie defended Mitt Romney’s decision not to release his full tax returns as the general election looms and ripped Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for attacking the GOP nominee on the issue.
“I think every candidate’s got to make the issue on the tax returns for themselves,” Christie told Nevada reporter Jon Ralston on Thursday, the day before Romney released his return for 2011. “You don’t think anybody in America’s gonna make their decision upon Mitt Romney’s tax returns — that’s just silly.”
Christie slammed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for allegations an anonymous Bain investor told the Nevada Democrat that Romney had not paid any taxes for 10 years.
“Of course, Harry Reid wants to talk about that,” the governor said. “Harry Reid has been part of the problem.” (Cervantes, Politico)
Christie vetoes fracking wastewater ban
Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill Friday that would have banned wastewater generated by gas drilling from being treated or disposed of in New Jersey.
Christie’s veto disappointed but did not surprise the environmental community, which had pushed to ban drilling byproducts from other states, including Pennsylvania, from winding up in New Jersey.
The Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel immediately said environmentalists would push for an override vote. Democrats’ previous attempts to override the governor on other issues have failed.
The governor in his veto message cited the unlikelihood that the gas drilling technique generating the waste — called hydraulic fracturing or fracking — would occur in New Jersey anytime soon. He also said such a ban is premature since the federal Environmental Protection Agency is studying fracking and isn’t expected to issue any guidance before 2014. (Associated Press)
Gov. Christie’s travels: Next up is campaign stop in New Hampshire
Gov. Chris Christie continues an ambitious travel schedule next week with a daylong swing through New Hampshire for gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne.
Christie on Tuesday will attend a fundraising lunch in Bedford hosted by U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and former Gov. Steve Merrill, Lamontagne spokesman Tom Cronin said. More events will be added to Christie’s agenda in the Granite State.
Shortly after delivering the keynote address at the Republican National Convention in Tampa on Aug. 28, Christie began to step up his travel on behalf of GOP candidates. He’s been to North Carolina, Indiana and Iowa. Today he’s in Washington, D.C. Saturday he goes to Utah, followed by Missouri on Sunday. On Oct. 4, he’ll return to Washington state, where he went in August as well. (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
Christie’s the Boss for a Springsteen, for once
Bruce Springsteen has been making Chris Christie happy for decades, as Christie has seen Bruce perform in concert more than 100 times.
But in Christie’s role as New Jersey Governor, the liberal Springsteen is hardly as impressed with his fan’s work.
Still, even Springsteen figures to be pleased that Christie on Friday signed a bill into law that had been urged by Springsteen’s 20-year-old daughter, Jessica.
The legislation bans the in-state slaughter of horses, the sale of horsemeat for human consumption, and the transport of horses for slaughter. (Brennan, The Record)
N.J.’s middle class shrinking under growing income gap, Census data shows
New Jersey’s middle class has eroded in the last four years, further polarizing a state where the rich and the poor have long been miles apart on levels of income, if not on the map, new Census data shows.
A Star-Ledger analysis of four years of data from the American Community Survey shows the percentage of households with an annual income between $35,000 and $150,000 has dipped by nearly 3 percent since 2008, while the percentage of those richer and poorer has increased.
That accounts for about 79,000 people in the state leaving the middle class, according to New Jersey Policy Perspective, a left-leaning think tank. (Jones and Stirling, The Star-Ledger)
While lousy fiscal news batters N.J., some signs of a recovery emerge
James Huettenmoser, a plumbing and heating contractor in Summit, says he’s flooded with résumés these days
“I’m getting about a half-dozen a day, and we’re not even running help-wanted ads,” said Huettenmoser, who runs Stashluk Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning. “I’ve never seen anything like it. But we still can’t hire them.”
Huettenmoser, 57, expected life to be easier by now, but the still-staggering New Jersey economy has forced him and his nine employees to work longer hours for less pay and fewer benefits.
For many businesses and residents, the hangover from the Great Recession — which officially ended in June 2009 — lingers, and a new wave of disappointing economic news last week suggested conditions could get worse. (Renshaw and Rizzo, The Star-Ledger)
N.J.’s Top 25 towns for Obama, Top 25 for Romney, based on campaign donations
New Jersey is a decidedly blue state, but that hasn’t stopped Mitt Romney from competing for the financial gains to be found in one of the wealthiest regions of the country.
President Obama narrowly leads the Republican candidate in the total amount raised here with $5.3 million to Romney’s $5.1 million. However, Obama’s total comes from nearly 36,000 contributions, while Romney’s comes from 6,300, indicating that Republican supporters are backing their candidate with larger checks.
If you were to map out the number of Obama’s contributions from New Jersey against Romney’s, the state would be entirely blue. But the dollar amount presents a different picture. (Sagara, The Star-Ledger)
Minimum wage hike may be decided by NJ voters
The Democrat who leads the New Jersey Senate plans to introduce a measure Monday that would put a minimum wage increase before voters next year.
The resolution will ask voters to increase the wage by $1, to $8.25 per hour, and tie future yearly increases to national economic data, known as indexing, Senate President Steve Sweeney of Gloucester County told The Associated Press.
Gov. Chris Christie indicated that he would not sign a bill with for indexed adjustments, Sweeney said. He said that’s why he hasn’t advanced the bill the Assembly passed in May hiking the minimum wage to $8.50 per hour and creating annual adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index. Sweeney said his 2005 minimum wage legislation was approved only after he agreed to remove such a provision. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
Are there any doctors in the house? Physician shortage could triple in 8 years
New Jersey is hurting from a shortage of doctors and won’t be able to keep up with the added demand for services that the Affordable Care Act will bring, health experts warn.
The problem will be compounded as the state’s population ages and more of the approximately 1.3 million residents without health insurance become eligible through the federal health care law.
That’s expected to leave the state 3,000 doctors short of what’s needed by 2020, with severe shortages in many non-primary-care specialties, including neurosurgery and pediatric subspecialties. (Jordan, Asbury Park Press)
Cable TV, wheelchair transportation bills signed
Gov. Chris Christie signed numerous bills today, including measures dealing with civil service, cable TV, and transportation of people in wheelchairs. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Lawmakers propose another tax break for offshore wind
New Jersey has not been shy about creating incentives to lure segments of the renewable energy industry to the state — as evidenced by a bill making its way through the Legislature, offering a new tax exemption for offshore wind.
The bill (), which would eliminate sales taxes on materials and equipment used to manufacture wind energy components, cleared the Senate Environment and Energy Committee on Thursday with bipartisan support.
The Christie administration and lawmakers have made it clear that they hope to establish New Jersey as the hub of the offshore wind industry along the Eastern Seaboard. The goal is to develop more than 1,100 megawatts of wind capacity off the Jersey coast by 2020. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Gov. Christie signs construction permit extension act, among other bills
Builders whose permits have sat dormant during the housing bust will have two more years to get their projects off the ground under legislation Gov. Chris Christie signed Friday.
The governor also signed bills that prohibit the slaughter of horses for their meat, require defibrillators in all schools and expand sales for New Jersey’s microbreweries.
The permit extension act, opposed by environmentalists, gives builders another two years on permits that would have expired the end of this year. The permits now are valid through Dec. 31, 2014. (Spoto, The Star-Ledger)
Brownfields prioritization bill returned for changes
The bill that sought to prioritize financial assistance eligibility for the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund drew a conditional veto today.
A2395/S1246 is not comprehensive enough, Gov. Chris Christie said in his veto message.
The bill would have elevated the priority of some brownfields sites, but Christie said a broader approach is needed to ensure contaminated sites throughout the state benefit. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Fine Print: Longer school days, school year
What it is: A bill that would create a for extending the school day and school year, with the state providing a financial incentive. The legislation, sponsored by some high-powered Democrats, will be heard in committee today.
What it means: Having kids spend more time in the classroom is not a new idea, but it has been restricted by a lack of financing. This new approach calls for rolling it out a few districts at a time. The proposal calls for up to 25 districts to be chosen to test longer schedules and calendars, with $144 million being made available over three years through private contributions and state tax credits.
The stated aim: “The goal of the pilot program shall be to study the effects of a longer school day and school year on advancing student achievement, enhancing the overall school learning environment, and increasing student enrichment opportunities and educational offerings.” (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
N.J. lawmakers show off state’s Joint Base
Amid increasing political jitters over the potential for draconian military budget cuts next year, New Jersey congressmen hosted Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, on a tour of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Saturday.
“It was an opportunity to enlighten everyone how the country benefits” from the 40,000-acre military reservation that hosts every branch of the military, said Rep. Jon Runyan, who with Rep. Chris Smith, both R-N.J., showed McKeon around.
“Twenty percent of our National Guard live within 300 miles of this base,” making it an important part of matching up Guard and Reserve units with the active forces, Runyan said. (Moore, Asbury Park Press)
With Roche gone, N.J. sets sights on ‘next target’
Roche may have turned down New Brunswick as the site for its new research center, but the team of state and business leaders that tried to court the drugmaker already is setting its sights on luring other firms to the city.
The Swiss pharmaceutical company confirmed today that it had picked New York City to locate its new early development research hub. The firm said it narrowly chose a life sciences complex in Manhattan over a site in New Brunswick for the facility, which would have softened the blow of its move to close its 83-year-old Nutley campus next year. (Burd, NJBIZ)
Michelle Obama promises visit to alma mater Princeton
First lady Michelle Obama didn’t return to the campus of her alma mater, Princeton University, on Sunday, but she was in town for a fundraiser that brought on some nostalgia.
“Being back in Princeton, at Princeton, unfortunately I haven’t gotten a chance to get back on campus, but I’m going to make that happen,” she said, according to a pool report. Obama has only been back a few times since she graduated from the university in 1985. “But it is really, really great to be here.”
Talking as she often does about the student loan debt that she and President Obama were only able to pay off a few years ago, she joked: “Thank you, Princeton. Just kidding.” (Epstein, Politico)
Wellness initiative for employers launched statewide
A group of health care and business advocates announced in Trenton today the launch of a new wellness campaign directed at employers.
The Workplace Wellness Campaign is a spinoff of the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign, both facilitated by the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute.
“In the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign, we made mayors ‘champions’ of community health. We hope to do the same for corporate leaders with the Workplace Wellness Campaign,” said David Knowlton, CEO of NJHCQI, in the announcement. (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
To win, Romney and Ryan must both score knockouts in their debates
Forget about the national presidential popular vote polls. What matters is the Electoral College vote.
The candidate who wins 270 or more electoral votes is elected President of the United States. This past week, in my projections, Barack Obama moved significantly closer towards his reelection. Specifically, I shifted Wisconsin, with its ten electoral votes from toss-up status to the Obama column. (Steinberg for PolitickerNJ)
Calling Perth Amboy mayor ‘stupid’ a disaster for consultant
Jim Devine was fed up, and he finally decided he wasn’t going to take it anymore.
The most powerful women in New Jersey politics had gathered in force Wednesday outside City Hall in Perth Amboy to denounce him as a misogynist over his attacks on Mayor Wilda Diaz. One after another, he heard their roars.
From Diaz: “It’s the 20th century and we’re still putting up with this nonsense!”
From Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), the majority leader: “She is one of our sisters running for office who is told to sit down, shut up and stop making noise. … You are not smart enough.” (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
Bergen GOP’s not rushing to fill state committee seat
The Bergen County Republican Organization will not vote for a new state committeewoman until next March, county Chairman Bob Yudin said Friday.
The seat became vacant following the death this month of longtime Bergen Republican activist and fundraiser Eleanore Nissley of Ridgewood. Yudin said he did not want to consume the BCRO with an internal contest for the seat so close to the Nov. 6 general election. The replacement is made by a majority vote of the BCRO’s committee members. (Stile, The Record)
Newark council agenda item’s disappearance raises eyebrows
In the minutiae of Newark City Council business last month, a small agenda item raised some eyebrows.
Modia Butler, Mayor Cory Booker’s chief of staff, was up for a $2,000 tax abatement on a condominium he bought in Newark.
The abatement was routine for all of the tenants in the building, but when it was supposed to come up again for approval, the item had disappeared. (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)