Morning News Digest: November 10, 2009

NJ Gov- elect Christie considers declaring state of financial emergency

As he seeks concessions from state workers to balance his first budget, Gov.-elect Chris Christie is examining the possibility of declaring a financial emergency in the state, according to an official familiar with his plans. Such a declaration — invoking the same law as if New Jersey were hit by a natural disaster — could give Christie broad powers, such as suspending rules governing state worker layoffs. With many state workers due to receive two raises in the next fiscal year and a no-layoff pledge in place through December 2010, Christie’s transition team expects to tackle the issue before he takes office Jan. 19, two of his advisers said today. The advisers, who requested anonymity because the discussions are preliminary, said it is too early to determine whether a state of emergency would be an attractive proposition or a last resort in the face of a continuing recession.(Heininger/Margolin, Star Ledger)

Sweeney: ‘You could feel it on the ground’

The North Jersey urban operative, under the radar as always, eyes bloodshot late in the game last Tuesday night, said he saw what Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) saw among rank and filers in South Jersey, and it rattled him early on Election Day. "For the first time in all my years doing GOTV, rank and file labor guys weren't telling me who they were voting for," said the operative. "These are guys I'm talking to as they're heading in and out of the polls and ordinarily you'll get a thumbs up sign for the Democrat or some fraternal sign for the Democratic candidate. Not this time. This time – silence." Sweeney saw it a while ago – rank and file worry translating itself into anti-Corzine sentiment. Poised to become the next state Senate President, Sweeney, an ironworker by trade and business agent for Ironworker's Local 399, said South Jersey Democrats did everything they could to get the vote out for Gov. Jon Corzine. "We worked very hard," Sweeney told "But it wasn't in the cards, you could feel it on the ground." (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

McCormac not interested in heading MCDO

Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac told he does not want to chair the Middlesex County Democratic Organization. "No, that's just somebody starting trouble," said the mayor, whose town, Woodbridge, went for GOP candidate Chris Christie over Gov. Jon Corzine even as McCormac's local Democrats won in all but one of the wards where they contended. "Not interested," said McCormac, who also denied he is interested in leading the state party organization. Some Democrats quietly fumed and blamed the former State Treasurer for working against Corzine during the campaign, but the mayor all along said he was focused on electing local candidates and preserving a majority on the council. Association with an unpopular incumbent governor was not in his best local interest. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

In Hamilton, Christie says he won’t be a ‘pushover’ for public union employees

Governor-elect Christopher Christie continued his post-election education theme today, appearing in front of hundreds of students at Steinert High School in Hamilton Township this afternoon. The suburban environment surrounding the school, which counts Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito as an alumn along with two legislators who attended the assembly – state Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Hamilton) and Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (D-Hamilton) – provided a striking contrast to Christie's campaign stop on his first full day as Governor Elect, at the Robert Treat Academy in Newark. After praising the school's academic record, Christie told the students that kids in New Jersey's cities deserve the same quality. "Those people, because of where they're born and where they live, are not getting the same education," he said. "Those kids in Trenton, Camden, Newark, Jersey City, Asbury Park – those kids deserve the same kind of education you all get in Hamilton — at Steinert." About half of the students gave Christie a standing ovation when he was introduced. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

From vantage point in assembly, O’Scanlon eagerly anticipates a ‘whole new world’

He sits on the budget committee as a member of the minority party calling into that chasm between himself and Democrats running both the executive and legislative branches. But while the opposition last Tuesday maintained its hegemony on the legislative side, the GOP now has a governor-elect in Chris Christie, from whom Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon (R-Little Silver) trusts there will be an invitation of engagement. "I'm hoping the Chris Christie administration will work hand in hand with the legislature and I'm hoping folks like me will have a seat at the table policywise," O'Scanlon said. "The cabinet needs to be about real reform, not re-election four years from now. I'm looking forward to a cabinet created that way. I hope it's going to be an open administration. "As a member of the budget committee I hope to be included and I would like to believe one won't need a cabinet position in order to have input," added O'Scanlon. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

NJ Attorney General Anne Milgram not to remain for Christie administration

Gov.-elect Chris Christie said today Anne Milgram won’t stay on as attorney general in his administration. "She says she doesn’t want to stay," Christie told reporters after speaking to high school students in Hamilton. "Someone who says they don’t want to stay, I don’t want to consider." Milgram spokesman David Wald said the attorney general was not planning to work in Christie’s administration, adding that she hasn’t spoken with either the incoming governor or members of his transition team. Christie, a former U.S. attorney, has praised Milgram’s ability as a prosecutor, and the two worked together to put former Newark Mayor Sharpe James behind bars for fraud and conspiracy. It’s routine for new executives to name their own people to top positions. Christie has not named a replacement for Milgram, but says he wants a "tough" prosecutor who will work well with the U.S. Attorney’s office and make fighting corruption a priority. (Megerian, Star Ledger)

NJ Supreme Court hears arguments on officials using campaign funds for legal fees

The state Supreme Court heard arguments today on whether politicians may use campaign money to pay for criminal trials as an "ordinary and necessary expense of holding public office." Former state Sen. Wayne Bryant, who was indicted on corruption charges earlier this year and is now serving time in federal prison, wants to use some of his $556,000 in leftover campaign funds to pay for his legal fees from that trial. "The bottom line of what you’re saying is that it’s not an extraordinary expense or expectation that a public officeholder will have to defend against criminal charges during his or her tenure in office?" Justice Barry Albin asked. (Fuchs, Star Ledger)

Christie may have input on Xanadu

Governor-elect Chris Christie will have a lot of important decisions to make about the Meadowlands Sports Complex during his four-year term — and he may have the option of making one decision very quickly. The four-year term of Carl Goldberg, the chairman of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority board, will expire Jan. 11 — eight days before Christie is sworn in as governor. Goldberg, who was appointed by Gov. James McGreevey in 2002, has backed the Meadowlands Xanadu project since he and most other board members first approved it in February 2003. Christie has been critical of the idea of a retail and entertainment complex at the Izod Center site. He also has expressed strong doubts that Xanadu will ever get the remaining $500 million in new investment it needs to open its doors. That assessment is in stark contrast to Goldberg's — and Governor Corzine's — longtime optimism that the new funds will come soon. Xanadu's tenuous future could actually work in Goldberg's favor, even if Corzine doesn't engineer a last-minute board reappointment. (Brennan, The Record)

At NJ school, Christie’s remarks political, personal

Gov.-elect Christopher J. Christie reiterated many of the themes of his campaign in an appearance at a suburban New Jersey high school yesterday, and offered glimpses of his personal life at the end of the campaign trail. Christie told a crowd of hundreds of students at Steinert High School in Hamilton, Mercer County, that his priorities were cutting taxes and government spending. He struck a humble tone, telling the teenagers that "you're never quite prepared for this." He recounted that he and his wife looked at each other shortly after they had learned he was headed for victory on election night, and that she said, "Oh, my God, you're going to be governor." Asked by a student how he defeated Gov. Corzine – who had the advantages of wealth and the support of national Democrats, including President Obama – Christie said, "I have absolutely no idea." Christie, who was joined by Lt. Gov.-elect Kim Guadagno and a handful of state lawmakers from the region, told students he wanted them to be able to afford to build lives in New Jersey as they grow older. Christie has four children, the eldest a teenager who now asks to be dropped off behind school so the new security detail following the family does not draw too much attention. (Lu/Tamari, The Inquirer)

Mulshine: Yes, you could go to jail; no, it’s not about individual responsibility

A lot of liberals are upset that we conservatives are stating the obvious about the individual health insurance mandate endorsed by the Democrats in their dead-of-night effort to bring socialized medicine to the U.S. They argue that we are exaggerating when we say you could go to jail if you don't comply with the mandate. That's no exaggeration. Every government mandate is ultimately backed up by the threat of force .Otherwise it wouldn't be a mandate. It would be voluntary. As George Washington famously said, "Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is force." And if the government forces you to get health insurance, that force has to be backed up by a penalty for not doing so. In this case, the penalty is an increase in your income tax. Of course you have the option to just pay the tax. But if you fail to exercise that option, Uncle Sam will come for you with guns. On his Balkinization blog, the otherwise intelligent but liberal law professor Jack Balkin tries and fails to refute that point. But he also fails on another key point often made in defense of the mandate: "in this case the tax is correlated to the costs that you impose on others by failing to join the risk pool for health insurance." This is a common misconception. But the point of the mandate is not to get the young and the healthy to cover the costs they impose on others. It's to get them to pay premiums that will be in excess of the costs they impose on others. (Mulshine, Star Ledger)

Ingle: Bryant takes money argument to Supremes

In any other place, this would be a no-brainer. But in The Soprano State, former senator and current felon behind bars Wayne Bryant has gone to the state Supreme Court to see if he can use leftover campaign donations for his defense. Election officials said he cannot use $600,000 to pay his lawyers. Bryant is appealing that. The state Election Law Enforcement Commission said criminal defense costs do not count as an ordinary expense for a public office holder. Bryant lawyer Angelo Genova argued that there is always a risk that a public official will need to defend himself against criminal accusations. (Ingle, Gannett)

Doblin: Lame ducks can walk same-sex couples down the aisle

THERE WAS another vote Tuesday besides the one for governor of New Jersey. In Maine, voters decided the fate — at least for now — of legalized same-sex marriage in their state. It isn't legal anymore. While New Jerseyans may have paid little attention to Maine, they certainly know what happened a year ago in California. Voters took away the rights of same-sex couples to legally marry there. Now, both New Jersey and New York State are poised to take up the issue. New York's Gov. David Paterson doesn't have a lot of clout. There is no way to gauge whether a marriage equality bill will pass. But it may come up for a vote in the coming weeks. In New Jersey, there's a very good chance that a bill will make its way to the floors of the state Senate and Assembly during the so-called lame duck session. If passed, it would become law before Governor Corzine leaves office. The governor is committed to marriage equality, and a senior official in the Corzine administration said it is a top priority for the exiting governor. It would be the last major piece of his social policy agenda. Critics of same-sex marriage were quick to tag Corzine's defeat to his support of marriage equality. It's a stretch. Corzine lost for a lot of reasons, but they had to do with checkbooks and wallets, not wedding cakes and chapels. (Doblin, The Record)

Are Casella’s days numbered?

Democrats in the state are expected to move quickly to act on any pending appointments and reappointments before incoming Republican governor Chris Christie is sworn in and given the opportunity to fill the positions. That includes the long-delayed appointment of a prosecutor in Cumberland County. Democratic-elected officials have until January to decide whether or not to reappoint Prosecutor Ron Casella, whose term expired in April 2008. Casella has continued to serve as Cumberland County prosecutor since his 5-year term expired last year. Now, it appears that his time as the county's top cop may come to an end before 2009 is over. State Sen. Jeff Van Drew said that there are "one or two qualified names" currently being discussed as possible replacements for Casella. "I think there is a real possibility that action will be taken before the end of the year," Van Drew said Monday. "The single most important issue is that the nominee is someone who will be a quality prosecutor." Previously, former Cumberland County assistant prosecutor and trial chief Tina Kell was considered a possible replacement for Casella. (Dunn, Newhouse)

Morristown Council President John Cryan’s case is transferred to Passaic County

A criminal case against a Morristown councilman charged with getting drunk and assaulting a police officer has been transferred to Passaic County, authorities said today. John Cryan, 36, was arrested early Oct. 31, when police were called to the parking lot of Tavern Off the Green and found Cryan on the ground, roughed up and "highly intoxicated," according to a statement issued by police. Three individuals told police they had scrapped with Cryan to prevent him from driving, police said. "Uncooperative and acting in a disorderly manner," Cryan was taken to the emergency room of Morristown Memorial Hospital, where he "became combative and assaulted an officer," according to the police statement. After a brief struggle, Cryan was "placed in custody" and charged with aggravated assault and disorderly conduct. (Lockwood, Star Ledger)

Mulshine: Clouds hang over the global-warming alarmists

President Obama’s headed to Copenhagen next month to talk climate change. Al Gore’s headed toward profits that could make him the world’s first "carbon billionaire." But where’s global temperature headed? Nowhere, it seems. The most reliable readings of the Earth’s temperature show that it peaked back in 1998. This was not widely reported in America, where the state of science reporting is dismal. But over in England, where they take that sort of thing more seriously, the British Broadcasting Corp. created quite a stir with an article headlined "What Happened to Global Warming?" In it, BBC climate correspondent Paul Hudson gave a summary of the problems facing the alarmists: "For the last 11 years, we have not observed any increase in global temperatures. And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise." Hudson went on to cite numerous scientists skeptical of the theory of anthropogenic global warming. But perhaps the most damning observation came from a scientist who supports the theory. Mojib Latif is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the group that set the panic off with its 1996 report on global warming. (Mulshine, Star Ledger)

Morning News Digest: November 10, 2009