Morning News Digest: June 20, 2011

Morning News Digest: Monday, June 20, 2011

By Missy Rebovich

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Winners and Losers: Week of June 13th

“May you live in interesting times,” a politician mouthed somewhere amid the fray this week, quoting the Chinese epigram.

Amen, brother.

How those times turn out is unknown, but this week’s winners and losers are in the books. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)



N.J. GOP chairman wants Dems to condemn union official’s remarks

The state Republican Party chairman has called on Democrats to publicly condemn a union leader for remarks made Thursday comparing Gov. Christie and the Democrats who support pension and benefits reform to Hitler and Nazi Germany. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)



Gov. Chris Christie’s benefits bill is not assured full support

Gov. Chris Christie hoped to seal the key elements of a budget deal with last week’s bipartisan agreement to increase public-worker contributions to their pensions and benefits. (Fletcher, Press of Atlantic City)



Sweeney will again try scaling back worker costs

When State Sen. Stephen Sweeney proposed cutting benefits and pay for public workers five years ago, saying they needed to align with those of the private sector, labor leaders hauled out a supersize inflatable rat and ran ads against him. (Rao, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Pension proposal may be too little

Government workers are white-hot angry over a proposal to make them pay more for their pensions and health care.

But with the state now facing a $120 billion long-term cost for the unfunded portion of pensions and retiree health benefits, experts say that the measure, expected to be voted on in the full state Senate today, does not go far enough. (Method, Gannett)|topnews|text|State



Filling in the details of NJ’s health insurance exchange

Health insurance exchanges — virtual marketplaces that will let individuals and small businesses comparison shop for coverage — are a key part of the federal healthcare reform slated to go into effect in 2014. (Stainton, NJ Spotlight)



N.J. Senate panel to hear resolution to condemn pullout from greenhouse gas reduction plan

The debate over Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to pull New Jersey out of a 10-state effort to reduce air pollution along the East Coast is far from over. (Schoonejongen, Gannett)



Benefits bill brings more protests, debate to NJ

More union protests were planned at the New Jersey Statehouse Monday as the debate over public employee benefits rages on. (Delli Santi, The Associated Press)



Looming vote over public worker benefits highlights rift between N.J. Democrats

Trenton’s streets were dark Wednesday night as union leader Hetty Rosenstein headed back to the Statehouse for yet another meeting with Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver.

With the door shut, they went toe-to-toe one last time over a plan to cut public worker benefits. Even though Gov. Chris Christie had already announced a deal with lawmakers, Oliver (D-Essex) was still holding out hope for a compromise with the union. (Megerian, The Star-Ledger)



Emotions run high over Vineland center closure

Karen Lee Colletti has severe autism, speaks only a few words and needs a diaper. When she was 27 and her parents felt they couldn’t care for her at home any longer, they moved her to the Vineland Developmental Center, which cares for women with developmental and intellectual disabilities. (Mulvihill, The Associated Press)



Bill to force N.J. agencies online moves forward

Legislation that would require New Jersey’s government-related authorities, commissions, and other agencies to have an online presence cleared the Assembly’s Housing and Local Government Committee last week, but it’s uncertain whether the full Assembly will vote on the bill. (The Associated Press)



Bill calls for life vests in cold weather

Small boat operators and their passengers could be required to wear life jackets when they are on the water from Nov. 1 to May 1, the months when safety experts say cold water dramatically increases the chances of drowning in an accident. (Moore, Gannett)



Safety standards often lowered to accommodate aging nuclear plans like Oyster Creek in Lacey Township

Federal regulators have been working closely with the nuclear power industry to keep the nation’s aging reactors operating within safety standards by repeatedly weakening those standards, or simply failing to enforce them, an investigation by The Associated Press has found. (Donn, The Associated Press)



Regional grid operator warns of greater risk of brownouts next summer

The risks of brownouts next summer are growing, because of delays in building a high-voltage power line in northern New Jersey. Still, they remain a “very low probability,” executives of the regional power grid told state officials last week. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



The wind turbine dilemma: hurting preservation or supporting farmers in New Jersey?

Two bills moving through the Legislature would allow widespread construction of wind turbines on New Jersey farmland that the state has spent more than $1 billion over the years to preserve for strictly agricultural purposes. (Barlas, Press of Atlantic City)



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Week in Review: Week of June 13th



Week in Advance: Week of June 20th



USDOJ: medical marijuana decision due in ‘short order’

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice said the agency plans to respond “in short order” to the state’s request for guidance on its proposed medical marijuana program. (Isherwood, State Street Wire)



Vitale, Weinberg resolution opposes Medicaid waiver income-eligibility reduction

Two Democratic lawmakers are fighting the Christie administration’s proposed Medicaid Waiver application.

Sens. Joseph Vitale, (D-19), Middlesex, and Loretta Weinberg, (D-37), Bergen, on Thursday introduced SCR165, which urges the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to reject provisions in the state application, that among other things, would reduce income eligibility limits. (Staff, State Street Wire)



Sweeney urges that charges be dropped against union protesters

Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), of West Deptford, whose pension and health benefits reform bill was released by the Senate Budget Committee Thursday afternoon, urged that charges be dropped against the protesters who were escorted by State Police from the committee chambers. (Hassan, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room



Bollwage blasts out-of-state hospital ban in healthcare legislation

Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage denounced the provision in the Health Care Legislation, which would bar public workers from using out-of-state hospitals unless there “is no in-state health care provider reasonably available to treat the particular condition.” (Staff, PolitickerNJ)






Political ties hard to ignore in NJN demise

Steve Adubato Jr. is comfortable with television cameras bearing down on him each week. He’s not so comfortable being under a microscope. (Stile, The Record)



Someone is taking early aim at a possible U.S. Senate contender

Someone is trying to stop a U.S. Senate campaign by biotech mogul John Crowley before it even starts.

The Auditor has obtained an opposition research memo about Crowley — but it’s unclear where it came from. (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)



Suppose the unions learned from their mistakes?

Another week. Another union demonstration. This time for a photo op they want to cross the Delaware (on a bridge) which somehow is supposed to relate to George Washington’s crossing to take on the Hessians. And they want to set up a tent city as part of what the NJEA is calling the “Second Battle of Trenton.” (Ingle, Politics Patrol)



Millionaire’s tax would be harmful to local economy

They’re at it again. A cadre of state legislators and their government employee union allies are clamoring for the re-imposition of a confiscatory gross income tax rate on so-called millionaires. (Davis, NJBIZ)



In case you missed it



N.J. Democrats to introduce millionaires tax bill

The way state Sen. Ray Lesniak and several other Democrats see it, public employees are about to dig deeper into their pockets to bail out New Jersey’s fragile economy, and they want millionaires do the same. (Renshaw, The Star-Ledger)



Democrats rankled by Sweeney provision

Democratic legislators mounted a challenge Friday to eliminate a controversial section of the pension and benefits bill that would bar public employees from getting out-of-state hospital treatment. (Rizzo and Renshaw, The Star-Ledger)



Casualties mount in NJ employee benefits battle

The struggle to legislate higher pension and health benefits contributions from a half-million New Jersey public workers is producing winners and losers. (The Associated Press)



What NJN is, and what its end will mean

New Jersey Network — created 40 years ago by a governor and Legislature concerned about being overlooked by New York and Philadelphia television stations — is now scheduled to go dark in just two weeks. (Reitmeyer, The Record)



NJN staffers get ready for final sign-off

Legislators met in a raucous hearing room to consider extraordinary cuts to public-employee benefits. Protesters were arrested en masse. One union leader called Gov. Christie a Nazi. (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Christie administration called the most disciplined in recent memory

It all started last summer, when Gov. Chris Christie and his senior staff sat down at the governor’s mansion in Princeton to forge a strategy to accomplish the unthinkable:

Make public workers pay much more for pension and health benefits and persuade leaders of the union-friendly Democratic Party to go along with it. Do it with legislation, not at the bargaining table. In New Jersey no less. (Gibson, The Star-Ledger)



Gov. Christie hopes to quickly usher in law making Xanadu’s $200M in tax breaks legal

Last month, Gov. Chris Christie stood inside the partly finished entertainment complex formerly known as Xanadu — a name that had become associated with a boondoggle in the swamp — to announce a deal with a new developer to get the stalled $1.9 billion project off the ground. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)



Dems try to foil Medicaid cuts

As Gov. Chris Christie prepares to ask the federal government to approve sweeping changes to New Jersey’s Medicaid program, two lawmakers are hoping their colleagues will join them in urging federal regulators to reject a part of the plan that would leave about 23,000 people without coverage. (Lederman, The Associated Press)|topnews|text|State



Hudson County senators split on pension overhaul

Two of Hudson County’s state legislators cast different votes Thursday on legislation aimed at overhauling state workers’ pensions and benefits. (McDonald, The Jersey Journal)



A bid to keep some Urban Enterprise Zone funds at local level

In 2008, Lawrence Hill bought $76,000 worth of equipment, a portion of the start-up cost to open his Rita’s Water Ice shop in Camden, a state-designated Urban Enterprise Zone. The bill was paid with sales-tax revenue generated by other businesses in the zone. (Vargas, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



NJ lawmakers advance end-of-life care measures

Legislation that proponents say would make end-of-life care decisions easier for New Jerseyans and their families could soon come before the full Assembly for a vote. (Shipkowski, The Associated Press)



N.J. officials face off with power industry insiders

Before Lee Solomon was the president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, he served as a Superior Court judge, deputy U.S. attorney and Camden County prosecutor. (Caroom, The Star-Ledger)



Middlesex County Democratic Committee convention highlights rift

Behind-the-scenes bickering highlighted cracks in the Middlesex County Democratic Committee during a recent battle over a new chairman. (Haydon, The Star-Ledger)



Pro-pot advocates fume at rule delay

Advocates for medical marijuana, long at odds with Gov. Christie, were fuming at him Friday, a day after he said he was waiting for assurances from federal authorities that people involved in state-sanctioned sales of pot to patients would not be prosecuted. (Mulvihill and DeFalco, The Associated Press)



Chatham fund manager aims at NJEA with ads

Two wealthy North Jersey hedge fund managers and a Newark school choice advocate have formed a nonprofit group designed to counter the New Jersey Education Association’s air campaign against Gov. Chris Christie. (Roh, Gannett)



Sen. Van Drew wants fill PILOT program funding for 2012 budget

New Jersey’s “Open Space” Payment in Lieu of Taxes Program remains at $6.5 million for the proposed Fiscal Year 2012 budget, down from over $9 million in 2010. (Adomaitis, The News of Cumberland County)



Fracking plan has perils, benefits

To natural gas drillers, the Marcellus Shale is the Saudi Arabia of the United States.

To many environmental groups, pummeling rock formations deep beneath the surface with high pressure columns of water to release gas is a catastrophe waiting to happen. (Stilwell, Gannett)



Essex County leader hospitalized after bike crash

Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo has been hospitalized with serious rib injuries sustained when his bike struck a concrete bench at a county park Saturday afternoon. (The Associated Press)



New Jersey winemakers worried by bottleneck on direct shipping

In the midst of a busy summer sipping season, New Jersey wineries can’t expand and new wineries can’t open because of a stalemate in the Legislature over a bigger issue: allowing the direct shipping of wine from out of state. (Nussbaum, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



11 companies express interest in building wind turbines off New Jersey

Eleven companies have told the federal government they’re interested in building wind turbines off the New Jersey coast. (The Associated Press)



Union County to put solar panels on government buildings

Work will begin soon on a project to cover dozens of government buildings across Union County with solar panels in one of the first efforts of its kind in New Jersey. (Hutchins, The Star-Ledger)



People and Power: Savings from shrinking size of Casino Control Commission will not make this year’s state budget

Shrinking the New Jersey Casino Control Commission from five members to three would save the state as much as $340,000 in salaries and benefits, fiscal estimates show. (Fletcher, Press of Atlantic City)

  Morning News Digest: June 20, 2011