Morning News Digest: July 15, 2010

Targeting Christie, Bollwage admits ‘he’s the only one down there… with a backbone’ Leader for 18 years of the state’s

Targeting Christie, Bollwage admits ‘he’s the only one down there… with a backbone’

Leader for 18 years of the state’s fourth biggest city, the compactly built Mayor Chris Bollwage does not ordinarily generate the glamorous headlines of New Jersey’s other, more famous bald urbanite. Bollwage doesn’t trail a clanking camera crew eager to get that penetrating close-up of him embroiled on the job. But the mayor now is encircling media like at no other time of his long political career as he jabs at the Democratic legislature and throws a right hand at the policies of Gov. Chris Christie, most significantly in the case of the 2 percent property tax cap that Christie signed yesterday with Democrats all but shouldering one another of the frame to get close. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

Senate Dems jump on Reform Jersey Now

Senate Democrats have joined the call to include issue groups in the state’s efforts to ban pay to play. Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) announced Wednesday that he and other members would introduce a measure banning state contractors from donating to 501 (C)(4) groups such as Reform Jersey Now, the Republican advocacy group that has become a rallying point for Democrats in recent weeks. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)

Christie unconvinced of funding source for women’s health 

After meeting for an hour today with state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) and Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Fanwood), Gov. Chris Christie said he still doesn’t know whether he will restore $7.5 million for women’s healthcare centers. “However, I will tell you that my concern here – as with the homebuyers supplemental – is with the funding, and the state treasurer has told me that the funding source (as presented by Weinberg and Stender) is not valid,” Christie told Eric Scott in a call-in program tonight on 101.5 FM. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ) 

Straten hammers Pascrell – and Pelosi 

No-hoper Republican Congressional candidates at least have a chance in the coming weeks to unleash bottled up angst over the presence of poll-tested loser U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco). In this case, Paterson businessman Roland Straten reveled in the additional ammo as he chastised U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) and the speaker amid reports of Pascrell’s and Pelosi’s tag-time take down of a White House staffer. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ) 

Tea party hopes to shed racist claims 

Since its emergence on the national seen last year, the Tea Party movement has been pegged as a home for white, middle-class suburbanites, angry over government spending, rising taxes and pork. Several national polls by Gallup, CNN, Quinnipiac and others have borne out the Tea Part demographic, listing membership as more than 80 percent white and wealthier and better educated than the average American. And while the hravily white dominated group does not openly espouse racsim, accoding to many, it has crepat into the party’s ranks and taken up residence like a cancer. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ) 

From the Back Room… 

The 35th District Underground 

There is considerable ongoing speculation in Paterson about the 2011 future of the 35th Legislative District, where at least three factions try to gain traction heading toward next year’s primary. Living dangerously on the political outskirts of the district’s power projection platform, Hawthorne-based state Sen. John Girgenti (D-Hawthorne) already told to count him in for re-election. But the emergence of former staffer Jeff Gardner as the disapproving local Democratic Committee chairman gives a focal point to suburban progressives eager to dethrone Girgenti after the senator’s no vote last year on marriage equality. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ) 

New Jersey Towns May Exceed Christie Property-Tax Cap as Health Fees Surge 

New Jersey towns and schools are likely to use an exemption to Governor Chris Christie’sVAN4NYJ5IHLI”>The rise in medical premiums for 2011 was presented to the State Health Benefits Commission today. An increase in such costs of more than 2 percent are exempt from New Jersey’s new limit on the highest U.S. property taxes, under a compromise between Christie and Democrats who run the Legislature. The governor, a first-term Republican, had originally opposed exemptions for anything except debt payments. Municipal health costs are forecast to jump 12 percent. “This is something the compromise included,” Christie’s spokesman, Michael Drewniak, said of the premium increases in an interview before Aon Employee Benefits Consulting appeared at the benefits commission in Trenton. “That’s not to say in the future we’re not going to have changes.” (McNichol, Bloomberg News) 

Lawmakers want to expand existing pay-to-play legislation

 A controversial organization run by Governor Christie’s top advisers would be barred from accepting big donations from state contractors under legislation announced by Democratic leaders Wednesday.
Trying to step up pressure on the Republican governor, four top Senate Democrats proposed changes to an existing bill (A2595) that would require 501(c)4 issue-advocacy organizations to disclose their donors and expenditures. The lawmakers, led by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), said they would amend the bill to also force such groups to abide by state pay-to-play limits. (Heininger, The Record) 

NJ, NY senators: Investigate alleged BP-Lockerbie bomber release link

 The four senators from New Jersey and New York on Tuesday asked the U.S. State Department to investigate whether oil giant BP played a role in winning last year’s release of the man convicted of the Lockerbie airliner bombing. The request to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton came a day after the same senators asked her to press the British government to look into the circumstances surrounding the release of the convicted bomber, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi. In the second letter, the four Democrats said they were concerned BP may have put profits ahead of justice in the al-Megrahi case, given the petroleum giant’s current handling of the Gulf oil spill. (AP) 

Christie grateful for donors’ help against unions 

Governor Christie tried Tuesday to distance himself from a group of supporters soliciting political donations outside state limits, even as he welcomed the “help” against labor unions that are spending furiously to defeat his agenda. The governor also criticized the “unfairness” of New Jersey’s campaign finance system, a day after he appeared as a “special guest” at events that circumvent those rules. The events — advertised with a $25,000-per-person price tag — are hosted by Reform Jersey Now, an independent organization run by prominent Republicans and some of Christie’s top advisers. (Heininger/Margolin, The Record)

 Bill would institute three strikes law for texting, talking while driving 

A state senator wants to institute a three strikes law for drivers caught talking or texting on their cell phones. State Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex) introduced a bill earlier this month that would suspend the licenses of three-time offenders of the state’s ban on driving while talking or texting on a handheld device. A parallel bill was proposed in the lower house on Monday by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano. (Friedman, The Record) 

State benefit costs going up; towns to pay nearly 12 percent more

 Municipalities and school districts enrolled in the state’s health insurance system likely will be asked to pay more for benefits next year, which would add further pressure on local governments and property taxes. A consultant told state officials that municipalities should pay an average of 11.7 percent more for benefits next year, while school districts should face an average rise of 5.7 percent. The state commissions that oversee the costs will vote on the recommendations next week. (Method, Inquirer) 

NJ Transit approves capital, operating budgets 

 New Jersey Transit has approved a capital budget that includes the purchase of another 100 multilevel commuter rail cars and 10 dual-powered locomotives. The agency’s Board of Directors on Wednesday approved a $1.79 billion operating 
budget and a $1.35 billion capital program for the 2011 fiscal year, which started July 1. NJ Transit had faced a roughly $300 million budget gap caused by ridership declines, rising fuel and operating costs, and an 11 percent reduction in its state subsidy. (AP) 

Health insurance rates going up for state’s health insurance system

 Municipalities and school districts enrolled in the state’s health insurance system will likely be asked to pay more for benefits next year, which would add further pressure on local governments and property taxes. A consultant told state officials that municipalities should pay an average of 11.7 percent more for benefits next year, while school districts should face an average rise of 5.7 percent. (Method, Gannett) 

Stile: Residents in five towns deserve to be heard on the Teterboro question

 Nobody speaks with more passion about the importance of public input than Governor Christie. “You are here engaged, you need to engage us,” Christie said to a senior citizens group last month about his property tax reforms. “You need to help us to make this happen.” A noble sentiment. Now that the Teterboro land-grab bill is postponed, Christie has a chance to put some of that populist fervor into practice, and here’s how. He should demand public hearings in each of the five towns involved, followed by a public referendum. (Stile, The Record) 

 Ingle: Take it easy on that privatization 

Dick Zimmer’s committee on privatization has produced recommendations that state agencies should consider seriously, but let’s not run willy-nilly into this as if privatization for privatization’s sake is a worthy endeavor. Unless you’re a newcomer, we’ve been down this road before. The last time it was a Republican governor named Christie — Christie Whitman. The results were a disaster. A little history is in order for newbies and people with short memories: The federal government requires us to test tailpipe emissions to make sure the gadgets auto makers attach to cars to cut down on pollution really work. (Ingle, Gannett)

Morning News Digest: July 15, 2010