Morning News Digest: September 27, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Romney still holds slight edge in NJ fundraising
President Barack Obama outraised GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney among New Jersey donors by more than $540,000 in the month of August, campaign finance records show.
But despite the heavy Obama lead in the waning days of summer, Romney still holds about a $100,000 lead among Garden State donors despite a recent poll showing the Republican down by 15 points in the state.
In total, Romney has raised $7.1 million in New Jersey against Obama’s haul of $7.09 million (including transfers from joint fundraising committees.)
Romney has taken to fundraising via robocall, asking voters for at least a $3 donation in an effort to stem the Obama tide. As of August 31, the president had outraised Romney nationally $432 million to $274 million and the Romney call beseeches donors to help make the difference. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Sweeney asks NFL owners to ‘think of their fans for once’
Appearing on CNN this morning, state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) denounced the “fake officials” who have replaced regular refs during a referees’ strike in the National Football League.
“The NFL is committing consumer fraud on the public and it’s not right,” said Sweeney,who yesterday announced he would introduce a bill prohibiting scab officials from reffing events in New Jersey.
“These players’ health is at risk,” Sweeney told CNN’s Carol Costello.
The Senate president said it’s his understanding that officials from the lingerie football league are now making calls in the NFL. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie’s style doesn’t bother most Jerseyans
Nearly two-thirds of New Jerseyans say they’re not bothered by Gov. Chris Christie’s style in dealing with people who disagree with him, according to results of the latest Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll.
Christie’s aggressiveness and name-calling do have some detractors; one-third of residents said they’re bothered at least a little bit by how Christie sometimes speaks to or about opponents. But to most people it’s not a big deal, and it may be helping Christie’s ratings climb despite economic headwinds, said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.
“I think it has a lot to do with his leadership style, a style which many in the media think borders on the obnoxious, if not fully into that territory,” Murray said. “But the public just doesn’t really care how he acts. That’s what it boils down to.” (Symons, Asbury Park Press)
Christie to visit Lacey today for town hall meeting
Gov. Chris Christie will air his frustrations with the state Legislature over his stalled political agenda at a town hall meeting set for Thursday afternoon here.
This will be the governor’s 94th such gathering with the public since he took office in January 2010.
The town hall meeting is entitled “The Christie Middle-Class Reform Agenda.” Among the proposals that Christie wants to talk about are his plans to ban dual-office holding, close loopholes in the new property tax cap law and end cash payouts for unused sick days to retiring public employees.
Christie is scheduled to arrive at the Lacey Elks Lodge on Beach Boulevard at 3 p.m. (Vossseller, Asbury Park Press)
Christie fends off right
Several dozen tea-party and conservative activists converged on this Ocean County township recently to express their concerns about an elected official’s proposal they see as anti-American.
“Socialism is socialism. It’s wrong,” said Faith Occhiogrosso, a 53-year-old dental hygienist from Old Bridge, during the hearing.
Ms. Occhiogrosso wasn’t referring to the policies of President Barack Obama. It was Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s.
An obscure Christie administration regional planning document called the State Strategic Plan has fueled opposition among a faction of the state’s staunchest conservatives who said the proposal usurps property rights. They are pressing the governor to scrap the whole thing—and giving him rare flak from his right flank. (Haddon, The Wall Street Journal)
Analysis: Governor Christie’s affordable housing policy in flux
Governor Christie came into office three years ago pledging to weaken the state’s strict affordable-housing rules and give towns more power to decide what gets built within their borders.
Yet Christie’s attempt to unilaterally change New Jersey’s regulations — including his order to dismantle the state’s affordable housing agency — has only intensified a long-running feud over the issue and could end up making the governor’s goal more difficult to achieve.
Christie’s actions have provoked a series of lawsuits from towns and advocates that, coupled with the failure of the Republican governor and the majority Democrats to reach a compromise over a new set of rules, have put the judiciary in the position of deciding one of the state’s most intractable political problems. (Campisi, The Record)
Health care law’s fate in N.J. may wait til election
New Jersey is giving mixed signals on how the federal health care law will be implemented here, with Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic lawmakers not in sync on setting up an insurance exchange before a federal Nov. 16 deadline.
Christie balked at a proposal from Democrats to pay $50,000 salaries to part-time members of a board overseeing the exchange, and other issues have ensued.
But delays aren’t unique in states where Republican leadership is opting to wait it out until the presidential election. GOP candidate Mitt Romney has campaigned on repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Waiting until after the Nov. 6 election leaves only a small window to pull together exchange plans before the deadline, said Joy Wilson, health policy director for the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. (Jordan, Asbury Park Press)
In Jersey’s 3rd District, campaigning is a full-contact sport
Political observers predict that the battle between the major party candidates in South Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District is going to be the closest in the state. Less than six weeks before the election, and the pundits are definitely on to something.
Earlier this week, Democrat Shelley Adler threw an elbow at Republican incumbent Jon Runyan with a new campaign ad. Meanwhile, the incumbent released the results of an internal poll showing him well ahead of Adler.
A former Cherry Hill councilwoman and lawyer, Adler is trying to unseat Runyan to reclaim for her party the seat formerly held by her late husband, John Adler. (Knox, NJ Spotlight)
Joe Kyrillos highlights immigrant roots at Iselin event
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe Kyrillos played up his family’s immigrant roots in front of about 50 mostly Indian-American business owners tonight.
“All of us at one point in time or another came from someplace else. My father came form Lebanon. Born in a little village called Byblos. And all my grandparents came from there as well. My wife’s father is Armenian, grew up in Jerusalem. And her mother of course was an English farm girl so of course she’s a pilgrim of sorts, I suppose,” said Kyrillos. “But the point is this: All of us came here or our parents came here for a great American life and to make the country stronger still for the next generation, and to help lead the world.”
Kyrillos, a 52-year-old state senator from Monmouth County, is running an uphill battle against incumbent Democrat Bob Menendez, who leads several recent polls by double-digit margins. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
State program to aid would-be exporters
New Jersey small businesses with an eye to export will soon be able to seek state grant money to develop foreign markets.
In a step aimed at giving promising smaller businesses some international reach, the state’s new International Business Development and Protocol will administer a $204,000 grant from the federal Small Business Administration to advise, train and even fund companies’ first steps beyond U.S. borders.
Michael Van Wagner, the executive director of the state’s Business Action Center, which includes the international development arm, said New Jersey would use the federal money to allow a variety of small companies everything from small trips to international trade shows – a bet he says can pay off for the state in terms of job creation and economic productivity. (Fletcher, The Record)
Jobless benefits appeals focus of upcoming hearing
The Senate Labor Committee Monday will hear testimony from state officials about why it has been taking so long for residents to have their appeals heard after they’re turned down for unemployment benefits.
The issue of the delays came to light a few weeks ago, when the three 20th Legislative District lawmakers – Sen. Ray Lesniak, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano and Assemblyman Joe Cryan – said several constituents reported to them about delays and lengthy waiting times to have their appeals heard. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Bill’s goal: Revruit minority men as teachers for struggling schools
Assembly lawmakers are set to vote on newly introduced legislation Thursday that seeks to recruit minority men as teachers for struggling schools in the state.
The Assembly Women and Children Committee will take up A3195, which would establish a pilot program to recruit and match minority men to teach at chronically failing schools. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Controversial bill would allow terminally ill patients to decide when it’s time to die
A state lawmaker says it’s time for New Jersey to openly discuss the most difficult of topics: whether terminally ill patients should be allowed to decide how and when they die.
Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester) on Monday quietly proposed a bill that would grant doctors the right to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to patients who have less than six months to live. It’s called the New Jersey Death with Dignity Act.
The South Jersey lawmaker wants suffering patients to have the option of ending their days on their own terms. He expects a long debate on the bill.
“This is the beginning of discussing a topic that we’ve got to get a sense of how people feel,” he said. “People are not favorable to a Dr. Kevorkian suicide bill that says someone who’s 45 and depressed and decides to kill themselves with help. That’s not what this bill is.” (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Guadagno touts SBA grant as key tool to get N.J. companies into exporting
A $204,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration will provide New Jersey small businesses with assistance to boost their exports, including training, international marketing, participation in trade missions and website translation services, as the state joins the SBA’s State Trade and Export Promotion program.
Acting Gov. Kim Guadagno launched STEP on Tuesday in a speech to the U.S. Commercial Service Global Business Forum in Atlantic City. The state Business Action Center’s Office of International Business Development and Protocol will direct STEP, which is for businesses new to exporting as well as those already doing business globally. According to the state, New Jersey ranks fifth nationally, with 14,406 small-business exporters. (Fitzgerald, NJBIZ)
Survey: So far, efforts to control health costs have weak impact
New Jersey health care experts are hoping changes now under way will eventually counterbalance data reported in a new survey that found the cost of medical claims paid by employer-sponsored health plans continues to rise.
Overall claims costs are forecast to increase in the high single-digits next year, according to 70 insurance companies who took part in the Wells Fargo Insurance Employee Benefits Survey. (Fitzgerald, NJBIZ)
State Supreme Court decision could make it tougher to pursue polluters
The New Jersey Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the state must demonstrate a cause-and-effect connection before it holds a suspected polluter responsible for contaminating groundwater or other natural resources, even if a hazardous discharge has occurred.
The unanimous 42-page decision may make it more difficult and more expensive for the to pursue potential polluters to recover cleanup costs.
It also marks a possible weakening of the state’s toughest law governing the reclamation of contaminated sites, the New Jersey Spill Control Act. The 1976 measure was passed in the wake of a big oil spill, and was a model for the federal law.
The case that led to the Supreme Court decision was a relatively minor one, involving groundwater contamination in Bound Brook that polluted some residential wells. The discharge was alleged to have come from a family-owned dry cleaners in a small, three-unit strip mall. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Online assessments test the limits of public school technology
As New Jersey moves toward a whole new battery of online testing, starting in 2014, a big obstacle stands in the way: At least half of its public school districts don’t yet have the necessary technology.
In a this spring and summer, the state Department of Education found that just half of the districts had the estimated bandwidth needed for the testing and only half were using adequate operating systems.
New Jersey officials yesterday said they were likely to do follow-up surveys to determine the needs, school by school, adding that it was premature to determine what steps would be taken next. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Camden board of education denies applications for ‘renaissance schools’
In a surprising vote after midnight Wednesday, the Camden board of education rejected all the applicants seeking to build New Jersey’s first privately owned public school facilities.
The board considered four applications, including one brought by affiliates of powerful South Jersey Democrat George Norcross, before voting down the proposals when the district’s school business administrator could not produce cost estimates for the projects.
Though Education Commissioner Chris Cerf may be able to overrule the board’s decision, the vote is a setback for the Christie administration’s education reform agenda.
In January, Christie signed the Urban Hope Act, a law allowing nonprofits to apply to start up to a dozen new public charter schools in Camden, Newark and Trenton. (Rizzo, The Star-Ledger)
Oyster Creek’s future debated
Local officials and residents expressed economic and environmental concerns Wednesday night about a transition plan for the closure of the Oyster Creek Generating Station in seven years.
Gov. Chris Christie announced in December 2010 that the 40-year-old nuclear power plant would close by Dec. 31, 2019.
“As a result of this announcement, local, state, and federal officials need to seriously consider what Lacey and Ocean County will look like after Oyster Creek closes its doors,’’ Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J., said during a public meeting Wednesday at the township’s middle school. The congressman is seeking re-election in November to the Third Congressional District seat. (Vosseller, Asbury Park Press)
Whitman: Anti-EPA message scares off independents
Former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman hopes to see a bit more of Gov. Mitt Romney rather than presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the coming weeks — at least on environmental issues.
“I’d hope he’d go back to the way he was as governor of Massachusetts,” said Whitman, a George W. Bush-era Environmental Protection Agency chief, during an interview with POLITICO on Tuesday. “Because in that position, he was finding the balance that can be struck between environmental protection and economic growth because it’s not a zero-sum game.”
Beating up on EPA isn’t new — and it’s been a durable tactic for Romney and the House GOP this year. But Whitman is concerned that the anti-EPA message will scare away the voters in the political center that Romney needs, even though it “may play well with the base.” (Dixon, Politico)
Should government web sites sell commercial advertisements?
As states continue to struggle to meet their revenue projections, more and more government agencies look to advertising to rescue them. Once limited to naming stadiums and entertainment centers, this practice is now being extended to New York City subway stations and web sites for State Agencies in New Jersey.
A bill introduced in the New Jersey Senate would allow several state agencies— the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, NJ Transit and the New Jersey Lottery—to initiate a two-year pilot program to test the feasibility of a state website advertising program. (Scarinci for PolitickerNJ)
N.J. Democrats take a big swing at Governor Christie’s little video
New Jersey Democrats claim Governor Christie broke the law and they have the tape to prove it.
Sounds sensational at first blush, but in truth it’s really just a small-bore attack on Christie’s use of a Republican Party-produced video at a recent town-hall-style event.
But to John Wisniewski, the state Democratic Party chairman, this was apparently a big deal. It was proof that Christie fails to recognize the legal boundaries separating governing from partisan politics.
Maybe so. But what Wisniewski and his colleagues don’t seem to recognize is just how petty this sounds. They are signaling that the Democrats prefer to attack, and react to, everything Christie stands for — rather than establishing their own compelling alternative to the conservative Christie bandwagon. (Stile, The Record)