Morning News Digest: September 25, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Christie continues to question feds’ method in finding 9.9% NJ unemployment
At his press conference today, Gov. Chris Christie continued to voice his skepticism over federal data showing New Jersey’s unemployment on the rise.
“We created 10,000 new jobs in August and yet the unemployment rate went up two tenths of a point,” said the governor, referring to the 9.9% figure released last week.
Christie invoked Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy’s similar objection to the Treasury Department’s data, noting that “We both think the unemployment rate is wrong, not from a poll but payroll data.”
Malloy is typically a Christie foe. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie to do retail campaigning for Kyrillos in October
As he continues to campaign outside New Jersey for GOP gubernatorial and congressional candidates, Gov. Chris Christie said he nonetheless remains engaged in what for him are at least two key contests here in his home state.
Asked if he’s excited by any elections in New Jersey, Christie named the U.S. Senate race featuring his friend, state Sen. Joe Kyrillos’s (R-13) challenge of incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and the LD 16 race, where Assemblywoman Donna Simon (R-16) is competing against Democratic challenger, teacher Marie Corfield of Hunterdon County.
He also noted his work with the GOP Congressional delegation in New Jersey. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Jones agrees with Christie in resisting state of emergency for Paterson
Paterson Mayor Jeff Jones agrees with Gov. Chris Christie that city officials are not talking with each other and until they do, they should not expect state of emergency funds from Trenton.
Christie today at his press conference in Long Branch responded to the city council’s planned vote tomorrow on a resolution asking the governor to declare a state of emergency in the crime-ridden north state city.
Christie laid the city’s problems at the feet of elected officials, both in the administration and on the city council. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Unveiling new CD7 ad, Chivukula calls Lance ‘far right’
Challenging U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7), Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-17) today released his first television ad.
A 30-second spot, “Problem Solver,” airs throughout the Central Jersey district, and tells Chivukula’s story, presenting him as an example of the American Dream.
It also outlines broadly his ideas on access to affordable education, reducing burdens on small businesses, and protecting Medicare for our seniors.
The ad is positive. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie defends proposed tax cut plan
Gov. Chris Christie on Monday offered his most vigorous defense yet of a plan to trim taxes by 10 percent, saying tax relief has become “even more urgent” because of recent bad economic reports.
Christie’s proposal to phase in a modest residential tax cut over three years beginning in January has been at the center of a partisan storm over the state’s economic trend.
Democrats agreed to fund the first phase of the cut — $183 million — but Christie said they are holding the money political hostage by refusing to release it unless revenue collections meet his optimistic projection of 7.2 percent. Democrats say it would be irresponsible to cut taxes if the state can’t afford to do so. Christie vetoed the Democrats’ plan for middle-class tax relief in June because it relied on additional tax revenue from the wealthiest 16,000 filers. (Associated Press)
Christie heads to New Hampshire to stump for GOP gubernatorial candidate
After returning from a four-day out-of-state Republican fundraising blitz, Governor Christie is back on the road Tuesday, this time campaigning for New Hampshire gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne.
Lamontagne is challenging Democrat Maggie Hassan, who entered the race after incumbent governor John Lynch, a Democrat who has served four terms, announced he would not seek re-election last year.
Christie, who as vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association has been stumping for GOP candidates across the country, will start the day with a closed-press fundraiser in Bedford at 11 a.m. (Hayes, The Record)
Christie dismisses polls showing Obama leading Romney in swing states
Governor Christie said he isn’t concerned about polls showing GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney trailing President Obama in key swing states one week after the release of a controversial video.
In the video, Romney can be heard referring to the “47 percent who are with [Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.”
“He didn’t have a good week,” Christie told reporters at a news conference in Long Branch Monday morning. “If the election were going to be held tomorrow, it would probably be a problem. But there’s a lot of ground to cover in the next 42 days, including three presidential debates that will be watched by tens of millions of people.” (Hayes, The Record)
Christie: Plan to put minimum wage hike on ballot ‘ridiculous’
Governor Christie called a plan to raise the minimum wage through a voter-approved Constitutional amendment a “truly ridiculous idea.”
Christie’s comment, made during a press availability at a school groundbreaking ceremony in Long Branch Monday morning, was in response to Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s plans to introduce a resolution next week that would send the minimum wage issue to voters. Sweeney, D-Gloucester, wants to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 beginning in 2014. After that, it would increase based on the annual consumer price index.
Because it’s a resolution and not a bill, the issue would go directly to voters in 2013 if it gets enough legislative support. (Hayes, The Record)
Kean, NJBIA oppose Sweeney’s call for constitutional amendment on minimum wage
The New Jersey Business and Industry Association, along with Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, (R-21), of Westfield, came out against Senate President Steve Sweeney’s proposal to increase the minimum wage, saying it will hurt the state’s economy.
“Rigid automatic increases in the minimum wage will make it almost impossible for the state to respond flexibly to future economic conditions,” NJBIA President Phil Kirschner said in a statement. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
N.J. poll: Obama ahead by 15 points
Droves of independents are once again powering the Democratic candidates for federal office to growing leads in New Jersey, according to results from the latest Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll.
President Barack Obama leads Republican nominee Mitt Romney by 15 percentage points among likely voters, 52-37, compared with an 8-point edge in the Monmouth/APP survey conducted in July. A similar shift in the U.S. Senate race has pushed incumbent Robert Menendez to a 49-34 advantage over Republican challenger Joseph Kyrillos Jr.
“We definitely usually see that by late September in New Jersey,” said Patrick Murray, the Monmouth University Polling Institute director. “But I think there was an expectation that it wouldn’t widen out so much here in New Jersey, just simply because the economy wasn’t rebounding enough and we weren’t going to see anywhere near the kind of numbers Obama was able to pull in four years ago.” (Symons, Asbury Park Press)
Poll: Keep casinos only in Atlantic City
Most New Jerseyans oppose expanding gambling outside of Atlantic City, according to a new poll release Monday. But one official in the Meadowlands, where casinos have been proposed for the sports complex, said the results are “moot” because the Giants and Jets would never sign off on gambling.
With Atlantic City mired in a 5½-year slump brought on by the opening of new casinos in states all around it, the drumbeat to allow casinos in the Meadowlands sports complex and at the state’s four horse racing tracks is growing louder, particularly among North Jersey politicians and the horse racing industry. (Copley, The Record)
Senator calls Port Authority officials ‘obstructionists’ in letter
Only last week, the Port Authority released the results of a self-commissioned audit that applauded the agency’s recent reform efforts, including moves toward openness.
But two longtime U.S. Senators offered the opposite assessment Monday in a sternly worded letter that called some agency officials “obstructionists who appear to put politics above the people and port they serve.”
The letter to Governor Christie’s two top appointees at the Port Authority is the latest round of a dust-up that began with an unusually combative exchange at a U.S. Senate committee hearing in April between Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, and Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni. The Port Authority declined to comment on the letter. (Boburg, The Record)
Port Authority rating cut one level by Moody’s on debt load
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s credit rating was cut one level by Moody’s Investors Service, which said the agency needs $2 billion in additional funds through 2016, primarily for the World Trade Center, and faces “significant growth” in capital needs.
Moody’s lowered the ratings for the agency that runs the New York City region’s three major airports, two Hudson River tunnels, four bridges and six marine-cargo terminals to Aa3, its fourth-highest rating, from Aa2. The action, which affected $18.2 billion in bonds, comes as the authority prepares to issue $2 billion in taxable debt this week.
“The increasingly back-loaded amortization of debt with this issue, while providing more debt capacity and stable financial metrics in the near and medium term, increases longer- term risks,” Moody’s said in a news release. The company gives the authority’s credit a stable outlook. (Braun, Bloomberg)
Calling EDA a victim of politics, Lesniak threatens to block new development bill
Developers hoping for additional funding for state incentive programs may have to wait, after state Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak continues insisting he’ll put a hold on any new incentive bills.
Lesniak (D-Union) is feuding with Gov. Chris Christie’s administration over the appointment of Christie appointments counsel Michele Brown to replace Caren S. Franzini as CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. Lesniak said it was a political pick to lead a nonpartisan agency.
“Did they do a search to replace Caren Franzini and Michele Brown’s resumé popped out as number one in this search? Of course not,” Lesniak said. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
Bill would stretch the school day, extend the school year
A Democratic-backed bill aimed at could morph into a broader measure that also pays districts to experiment with innovative approaches as to how time is used in schools.
The bill () would furnish up to 25 districts with grant funding to evaluate longer school schedules. The pilot would run for three years and be paid for with corporate contributions that in turn would earn 100 percent state tax credits.
The measure passed the Senate Education Committee yesterday; it was voted out by the Assembly education committee in June.
Just as soon as it passed, one of its chief Senate sponsors said yesterday that she would revise the bill significantly before taking it to a full vote, opening up both the programs available for grant funding and the financing mechanisms to pay for them. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Assembly panel advances stiffer penalties for utilities
The Christie administration and the Legislature appear to be moving in lock step to stiffen penalties for the state’s utilities if they fail to quickly restore power and service after major storms.
With little debate, the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee unanimously approved a bill with bipartisan backing (), which largely reflects the key points in a .
Both lawmakers and the administration are unhappy with the response by the state’s four electric utilities to that pummeled the state last year.
A record 1.9 million customers were left without power after Hurricane Irene made landfall in New Jersey, and another 1 million customers were left without electricity in the wake of a rare October snowstorm. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Panel moves bill to fund mandatory drug court, free beach access to veterans
Assembly lawmakers moved legislation that would allocate $5 million to fund the state’s mandatory drug court program.
The bill, A3175, was released from the Assembly Appropriations committee following little discussion among lawmakers. The bill was released along party lines. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Bill would let towns regulate TV
A bill introduced Monday would give towns where reality TV shows are filmed more control over the Situation. (Not to mention Snooki and JWoww, too.)
Assemblyman Ronald Dancer (R., Ocean) introduced the legislation for the “Snookiville Law,” which would let towns license and regulate the filming of reality shows and impose conditions, including requiring crews to pay for additional police officers.
Dancer said in a statement that New Jersey has a tradition of being a desirable setting for reality shows such as Jersey Shore, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and Cake Boss.
“These shows can attract crowds, which can benefit local businesses and challenge a community’s resources,” said Dancer, whose district includes parts of Ocean, Burlington, Middlesex and Monmouth Counties. “This bill will permit local officials to make sure taxpayers don’t get ‘Snook’-ered or public safety is compromised when reality stars such as Snooki or JWoww come to town.” (Parry, Associated Press)
Tara’s law clears Assembly panel
Assembly lawmakers released legislation from committee that would impose more stringent oversight rules for facilities that service developmentally disabled people in New Jersey.
The bill cleared the Assembly Appropriation Committee following a unanimous vote of approval. (Arco, State Street Wire)
N.J. Assembly panel OKs tougher penalties for drunk driving parents
Parents who drive drunk and crash with young children in the car could face harsher penalties under a state Assembly bill being proposed.
If a minor passenger is injured while a parent or guardian is driving drunk, the adult would be guilty of a fourth-degree crime if the bill becomes law. It was approved by the Assembly Law and Public Safety committee on Monday.
Fourth-degree crimes carry a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If the child is seriously injured in the drunken driving crash, the parent would be guilty of a third-degree crime, carrying a maximum penalty of three to five years in prison and a fine of $15,000. The bill toughens current law, in which a parent driving drunk with a child in the car is guilty of a disorderly persons offense, regardless of whether the child is injured. (Linhorst, The Record)
N.J. Assembly committee approves bill regulating EMS services
An Assembly panel today approved a bill that would for the first time set training standards for all first responders and regulate how emergency medical services are provided in New Jersey, despite objections that it would hurt volunteerism and drive the state’s infamous property tax bills higher.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee voted 6-3 to release the controversial bill — a version of which Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, partially vetoed about eight months ago because he wanted the state Health Department to study the bill’s fiscal impact. The three no votes came from the committee’s Republicans.
Physician and Assemblyman Herb Conaway, (D-Burlington), a sponsor, said the bill would help guarantee emergency service would be uniformly available at all times. He also emphasized the bill’s requirement that all EMTs undergo criminal background checks — a reasonable requirement considering how “intimately involved” they are in the care of patients. (Livio, The Star-Ledger)
Assembly panel approves ban on credit card direct marketing on college campuses
Credit card companies are “preying” on college students, according to some members of the state Assembly.
Under a bill advanced unanimously by the Assembly higher education committee today, state colleges and universities would be barred from allowing credit card companies to promote their products directly to students on campus.
“This bill would protect many unsuspecting college students from the predatory practices often employed by credit card companies,” Assemblywoman Celeste Riley, D-Cumberland, one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement. “College students are often unaware of the consequences of bad credit and many more don’t realize the exorbitant interest rates they’re charged.” (Linhorst, The Record)
Naturally occurring retirement communities let seniors age in place
Legislation that would create a pilot program to provide support services in communities with high concentrations of senior citizens has been approved by the Senate Health and Senior Services Committee and goes to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration.
The bill ( (Kalet, NJ Spotlight)), would appropriate $250,000 for a pilot program in Mercer County to service “Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities,” or NORCs, which are defined as contiguous areas in which at least 50 percent of households are headed by someone who is 60 or older. The communities usually are composed of seniors who have opted to stay in their homes and have become de facto senior communities and differ from traditional senior-designated communities because it was not built to house seniors, advocates say.
Assembly committee approves 2 bills to help domestic violence victims
Two bills meant to help domestic violence victims were approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee today.
One bill (A2919) would give victims of domestic violence or rape 20 days leave from work to seek medical, psychological, legal and other types of help. Their family members would be eligible as well.
The leave would have to be taken within one year of the incident.
“In addition to the physical and mental trauma, there are so many complicated factors that victims of domestic violence must deal with. So as legislators I believe this is the right thing to do,” said Assemblyman Angel Fuentes (D-Camden), its sponsor.
The legislation was approved by a vote of 7-0 with two abstentions.
The other bill (A1122), also sponsored by Fuentes, would waive a semester of tuition at public colleges and universities for victims who were unable to complete their course work because of the violence. It was approved by vote of 6-0 with three abstentions. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Lawmakers urged to continue fighting Gov. Christie on fracking
Environmentalists are urging state lawmakers to keep fighting Gov. Chris Christie on fracking, saying the governor is opening the floodgates to more pollution based on flawed legal reasons.
At a Statehouse news conference today, a coalition of environmental and religious groups called on the Legislature to override Christie’s veto last week of legislation to ban fracking waste from entering the state.
Fracking is the relatively new practice of blasting hundreds of chemicals into shale formations to extract natural gas.
New Jersey does not have much gas to be fracked. But critics fear that New York and Pennsylvania could end up sending a high volume of fracking wastewater into New Jersey for treatment, posing a health hazard. (Rizzo, The Star-Ledger)
NJ physicians look to join ACOs, large group practices
Some New Jersey physicians may not think all that favorably of the Affordable Care Act, but they are looking to one of its mechanisms to deal with rising overhead, changing reimbursement rates, and other issues.
That’s one of the findings of a survey of more than 400 Garden State physicians published Monday by the .
The survey documents the various ways that the ACA is affecting in-state physicians who are solo practitioners, members of a group practice, or employees of a healthcare facility. These trends include merging with other practices, deciding to practice in another state, and signing on with Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) — regional consortiums that (Mann, NJ Spotlight) to improve patient healthcare and reduce wasteful spending.
NJ: ACLU has facts wrong in lawsuit
New Jersey state police say the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union was mistaken when it sued over what the group believed was a policy banning political pins and buttons from the Statehouse.
State Police say there is no such rule.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit Monday saying the state wrongly denied an open-records request for the regulation. The group had already filed a suit aimed at stopping the policy itself.
But State Police Lt. Stephen Jones says political pins and buttons are allowed in the capital building and that the 1997 rules covering the use of State House grounds are public. (Associated Press)
N.J. expands prescription drug awareness initiatives
With the abuse of prescription painkillers claiming more than 40 lives a day nationwide, officials in New Jersey kicked off a public service campaign on Monday aimed at alerting parents and children to the danger lurking in the medicine cabinet.
“There is an epidemic in New Jersey and across the country, an epidemic that is responsible for personal tragedy, widespread suffering and enormous financial loss,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said at a news conference in Newark.
“It is one of the biggest dangers to our communities whether we are rich or poor, urban, suburban or rural,” he said. “It leads to addiction, accidental death, and violence in our streets, as well as lost revenue and ineffective treatment for disease. And the cause of that devastation is in our medicine cabinets.” (Sampson, The Record)
Perth Amboy schools chief says she will return to work
Janine Walker Caffrey expects to return to her position as district superintendent of schools and to Perth Amboy High School, where she had been teaching a ninth-grade physics class since the beginning of the school year.
“I’m coming back to work as soon as possible,” Caffrey said on Monday, two days after Board of Education members again voted to place her on administrative leave with pay, through the remainder of her three-year contract. The board also said Caffrey would not be reappointed at the end of her contract. It was the 18th special meeting conducted by the board, the first on a Saturday. (Russell, Asbury Park Press)
SDA breaks ground for Long Branch elementary school
All the complaints and court challenges against the Christie administration and its Schools Development Authority went largely unspoken yesterday in Long Branch.
For the first time since he was elected, Gov. Chris Christie stood in an empty lot with a ceremonial shovel and could enjoy an SDA groundbreaking he could call his own.
“Let’s get some shovels in the ground and get this project cooking,” he said.
Of course, it took almost seven years to get the George L. Catrambone Elementary School this far. And it will be at least another two before students will walk through its doors. But in choosing Long Branch, Christie picked one the few success stories of the state’s school construction project — largely because the district got in early and fast. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
From the Back Room
Vitale reinforces anti-Devine effort by Diaz campaign
After last week, Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz and her allies are happy to make the election about battered campaign consultant Jim Devine, who works for challenger Billy Delgado.
Devine worked for Diaz four years ago and this year joined the campaign effort of Delgado.
Sources say the Delgado campaign wouldn’t mind the public endorsements of the CWA and Assemblyman John Wisniewski, (D-19), Sayreville, but finds itself immersed in negative backlash coming off last week’s press conference in which Diaz made public a Devine email. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Despite bad patch, Christie ratings strong
David Rosen, the budget guru from the state Office of Legislative Services, got props for his wisdom from an unlikely source last week —– the administration of Gov. Chris Christie.
Rosen, routinely dismissed by Christie as perpetually wrong on budget numbers, testified before the Assembly Budget Committee’s hearing on state finances and soberly presented a less-than-glowing picture of New Jersey’s bank books. But he also said the state’s hair was not on fire yet. (Schoonejongen, Asbury Park Press)