Morning News Digest: March 10, 2011

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Lobbyist spending hits record high

Spending by lobbyists hit a record high in 2010, cresting $65 million, even as spending nationwide fell.  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



New Bergen Dem chief Stellato wants name and HQ location changes

He just got the job, but don’t figure on calling Lou Stellato chairman of the Bergen County Democratic Organization.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



New Jersey nearly sold confidential data at auction

Files on abused children. Employee evaluations. Tax returns. A list of computer passwords. Names, addresses, birth dates and other information on hundreds of foster children and abused children. And, of course, Social Security numbers.  (Peréz-Peña, The New York Times)



At town hall event, Christie fan tells gov he’s ‘hot’

Gov. Chris Christie was thrown off guard, but only for a moment, at Wednesday’s town hall when an admirer in the audience called him ‘hot and sexy’ and the audience erupted.  (Jennings, Asbury Park Press)



Christie moves to resolve dispute with 5 Morris County towns over judicial nomination

Gov. Chris Christie wants “local input” on nominees to joint municipal courts, but he will exercise his legal authority and exert final control over the appointments, his spokesman said today.  (Horowitz, The Star-Ledger)



Governor Christie’s talk is blunt, but not always straight

New Jersey’s public-sector unions routinely pressure the State Legislature to give them what they fail to win in contract talks. Most government workers pay nothing for health insurance. Concessions by school employees would have prevented any cuts in school programs last year.  (Peréz-Peña, The New York Times)



Scrutinizing a governor’s statements

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has built a national reputation as a straight talker who will answer tough questions. But a close look at his public statements over the past year shows that some do not stand up to scrutiny. Here are a selection of statements, and an examination of their truthfulness.  (Peréz-Peña, The New York Times)



Christie’s tenure brings jump in lobbying

Gov. Christie’s Statehouse shake-up has triggered a gold rush for the government lobbying industry.  (Burton, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



State lobbying report says NJEA spent $6.6 million on ads against Christie

The state’s largest teachers union spent $6.6 million in advertising campaigns during a public relations war with Gov. Chris Christie last year, new figures show, and even the union concedes it earned little extra credit with voters.  (Method, Gannett)|head



Christie’s town halls a formula that works

The Chris Christie road show is part Justin Bieber concert, with police officers locking doors to keep overeager fans at bay.  (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Legal bill for ARC tunnel money fight tops $330,000

Governor Christie’s fight to keep the federal government from reclaiming $271 million spent on the Hudson River rail tunnel he scuttled has so far cost more than $333,000 — for one month of legal work — records show.  (Rouse, The Record)



Where the money went: Spending by NJ special interest groups

It’s the who’s who of lobbyists and special interest groups in Trenton, a voluminous report and database that details who is spending how much each year to try to influence legislation and policy.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Cerf starts reorg with charter office

Almost two months into the job, acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf has begun to reorganize his department, starting with the charter school office that will be at the center of a major policy priority for Gov. Chris Christie.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



The promise and costs of charters

In a perfect world of unlimited resources, it’s possible, though hardly certain, that this small, diverse, generally liberal borough on the banks of the Raritan River might want to become a host to the nation’s first Hebrew-language public high school.  (Applebome, The New York Times)



Northeastern senators seek rail money rejected by Florida

States in the Northeast will happily accept the $2.4 billion in federal high-speed rail money that Florida has said it doesn’t want, five senators told Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  (Chebium, Gannett)



New Jersey lawmaker seeks new ‘millionaire tax’ Christie vetoed

New Jersey’s millionaires may have to pay an income-tax surcharge under a bill from Democrat John McKeon, the Assembly’s deputy speaker, even as Governor Chris Christie has said he’ll veto “job-killing” taxes.  (Dopp, Bloomberg)



At least 27 N.J. towns may ask voters by referendum to raise taxes above 2-percent cap

At least 27 towns have notified voters they may be asked to raise their taxes through a referendum next month, the first time New Jersey residents will have a say in their property tax rate.  (DeMarco, The Star-Ledger)



School unions: Pay cuts too steep

Teachers unions, complaining they’re already saddled with historic lows in salary settlements, say they’re bracing for reductions in compensation because of proposals to reform health care plans and the pension system.  (Williams Boyd, Asbury Park Press)



N.J. development on the fast track

The Department of Environmental Protection will be able to waive many of its rules for developers and property owners under a proposal that critics say will erode New Jersey’s environmental standards.  (Fallon, The Record)



DEP looks to loosen environmental regulations

In a move denounced by lawmakers and environmentalists, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) yesterday proposed to waive regulatory requirements in limited cases where the rules prove to be “unduly burdensome.”  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Greater Atlantic City Chamber opposes Meadowlands casino plan

Greater Atlantic City Chamber Chairman Ken Calemmo issued a statement Wednesday opposing a proposal by the Meadowlands Regional Chamber to build a casino at the Meadowlands.  (Landau, Press of Atlantic City)



Groups fight Christie plan to let towns decide beach access issues

New Jersey’s main beach access advocacy groups have called on Gov. Chris Christie to scrap a plan to let individual shore towns decide what level of public access should be required of them.  (Parry, The Associated Press)



Cape May County GOP candidates make their pitch for state office

Six candidates made their pitch for state office Wednesday to Cape May County’s Republican Committee with promises they could unseat Democratic incumbents, including state Sen. Jeff Van Drew.  (Miller, Press of Atlantic City)



From the Back Room



Snowflack sighting

The former editorial page editor at the Daily Record of Morristown who wrote a blog about politics and was bounced during a round of Gannett cuts earlier this year, Fred Snowflack has surfaced as spokesman for Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.  (Staff, PolitickerNJ)






A competitive map

What makes a legislative map competitive? Definitions vary, but in my view it includes the following characteristics: either party has a chance of winning a majority and the number of districts that could conceivably change hands in each election is maximized. This is not to say that legislative control would, or even should, change hands every two years – just that the possibility exists.  (Murray, PolitickerNJ)



Bergen’s new Democratic chairman invokes the past to win the future

Lyndhurst voters had a tough time finding commissioner candidate Lou Stellato’s name on the 1982 ballot — it was tucked in a remote column normally reserved for fringe candidates and the occasional Communist.  (Stile, The Record)



Even with reform, state pensions may deteriorate

Lawmakers with two brain cells to rub together know public employee pension reform is necessary to save the system, even though many would rather it be Reform Light. The bad news is the system may continue to deteriorate even with meaningful reform.  (Ingle, Gannett)



They’ve got love for “hot and sexy” Christie

Gov. Christie, despite the confrontational bombast evident on YouTube, generally gets a mostly warm response at town hall meetings.  (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



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Morning News Digest: March 10, 2011