Morning News Digest: February 23, 2010

Greenstein still working prospective senate bid 

Upon learning that state Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Hamilton) would vacate his seat for he Port Authority next month, Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro) quickly lined up support in her native Middlesex County, catapulting her to frontrunner status for the Democratic nomination to run for the sea in November. 

Three years ago, when Republican state Sen. Peter Inverso announced his retirement, Baroni, then an assemblyman, moved quickly to wrap up several important union endorsements, cutting off potential sources of support for Greenstein. Greenstein, who had been in the assembly four years longer than Baroni, opted not to run. 

But Greenstein said that Baroni’s endorsement advantage was just one of many factors that went into that decision. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ) 

CWA official reflects on 36-0 

Not a single no vote.

Despite lobbying against the three pension reform bills that passed the senate today, the public workers’ unions could not convince a single senator to vote against any of them. 

Three senators abstained, and a fourth was absent. 
Does that reflect waning influence of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which represents 60,000 public workers in New Jersey? (Friedman, PolitickerNJ) 

Manzo set to testify in civil suit on Wendesday 

Louis Manzo, a former assemblyman and five-time unsuccessful candidate for Jersey City mayor who was arrested on corruption charges in July, has been ordered by show up o civil court on Wednesday, where he has been subpoenaed to testify. The trial is the latest manifestation of a two-year dispute between Manzo and Dannielle Leigh, a fundraiser for his failed 2007 bid for state senate. Leigh claims that Manzo owes her $23,000. In August, an arbitrator ruled that Manzo owed Leigh the money, but he appealed. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ) 

N.J. Senate committee grills acting education commissioner 

The state Senate Judiciary Committee grilled acting education commissioner Bret Schundler Monday on school funding, waste and abstinence-only sex education but ran out of time before voting on whether to confirm him. Schundler, whose children attend private school, repeatedly answered questions by saying his job was not to dictate his own preferences but to enforce policies set by the legislature. He said he wanted streamlined core curricula and sophisticated testing that shows when teachers are improving student performance. He said he aimed to lead a department that is “less the harasser in chief over picayune standards and regulations and more an enabler of schools to do excellent work,” he said. (Brody, The Record) 

Senate confirms Christie nominees Eristoff, Solomon 

The full Senate Monday confirmed Andrew Eristoff as state treasurer and Superior Court Judge Lee Solomon to head the state Board of Public Utilities. Another of Governor Christie’s key nominees, acting Education Commissioner Bret Schundler, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday morning for a hearing. After about 90 minutes of testimonly, the panel opted to continue the hearing on the former Jersey City mayor’s appointment. Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), objected to Eristoff’s appointment, saying he had a couple of concerns, including Eristoff’s stand on targeted tax cuts. “New Jersey needs targeted tax cuts” to create jobs, Lesniak said. He said Eristoff’ was “very, very constrained with some limited support for them” in his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. (Ackermann, The Record) 

Stile: Unions lose seats of power 

Marching orders bellowed from across the state Senate president’s balcony on Monday, jolting the union members nestled in the public gallery. They had to get out — now. Too noisy. Too crowded. The beefy sergeant-at-arms did not seem to care that some people had secured those seats hours earlier. “That’s everybody,” he said, his arms shooing them toward the exits. “Well, that’s a first,” a stunned New Jersey Education Association representative complained. A brigade of public employee union leaders, hoping to defeat four pension “reform” bills with a last-minute show of force, also found little sympathy or patience downstairs at the door to the Senate chambers. A “Vote No!” chant was quickly doused. Officials herded them along the wall. An irritated state trooper snapped at one protester perceived to be a little too loud. (Stile, The Record) 

Ingle: Senate passed pension reform bills 36-0 

It took five years, but the state Senate today passed three bills aimed at public employee pension reform. They all passed 36-0. Senators Allen, Baroni, Rice and Turner did not vote. A fourth bill not voted on would put a constitutional amendment before the people to require the state to put in its share of the pension money. That has to have a public hearing first. The bills would require workers and retirees to contribute to their own health care costs. They would ban part-time workers from the pension system and cap cap sick-leave payouts, among other things. (Ingle, Gannett) 

Kinney: How long can Christie hack it? 

It would be easy to say Gov. Christie rattled Trenton more in his first four weeks than Jon Corzine did in four years, but if the loud, proud former U.S. attorney has been clear on anything, it’s that nothing’s easy about this gig. Like a general fighting two wars at once, Christie aims to pull New Jersey from the financial abyss and persuade residents to love a leaner, meaner government. He’s a one-man detox for officials “addicted to spending” and taxpayer-junkies jonesing for the high life. There’s a reason his old boss, George W. Bush, nicknamed Christie “Big Boy.” And it’s not just because of his suit size. In one month, Christie issued four vetoes and 14 executive orders – including one declaring a fiscal emergency so he could close a $2.2 billion budget gap all by himself. (Kinney, Inquirer) Morning News Digest: February 23, 2010