Morning News Digest: June 21, 2011

Morning News Digest: Tuesday, June 21, 2011

By Missy Rebovich

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Under Sweeney’s leadership, Senate approves seminal public employee benefit reform

After years of vigorous debate and weeks of stirring protest, the state Senate passed landmark pension and benefit reform for public workers, which had the backing of Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic majority leaders state Sen. Steve Sweeney (D-3), of West Deptford, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34), of East Orange. (Carroll, PolitickerNJ)



Union negotiations continued over the weekend before falling apart a second time

Two days after a contentious Senate committee hearing that ended with the approval of landmark pension and health benefit reform, Democrats in both houses of the Legislature and union leaders met to continue talks over a deal to soften the blow for public employees. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



Sweeney answers lingering questions on reform

Responding to press questions about the passage of his pension and benefit reform bill, state Sen. President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), of West Deptford, said he is confident it will prove a boon to taxpayers and public employees. The bill passed the Senate today, 24-15. (Carroll, PolitickerNJ)



Pension overhaul in New Jersey is near

Landmark pension and health benefit legislation marched inexorably ahead Monday, with government workers unions saying the bill would cause a race to the economic bottom and Democrats remaining deeply divided. (Method and Symons, Gannett)



Roll call vote on NJ public employee benefits bill

Roll call of the public employee pension and health benefits reform bill, which passed the Senate in a 24-15-1 vote on Monday. Voting yes, 16 Republicans and 8 Democrats. Voting no, 15 Democrats. One Democrat was absent. (The Associated Press)



Sweeney delivers the Senate

Legislation to increase public employee pension and healthcare contributions sped through the Senate headed for final Assembly passage Thursday — but not without raising new questions. (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)



South Jersey Democrats supply key votes to pass pension and health-care bill backed by Christie

In the battle over benefits, Team South Jersey is dragging the most controversial bill in recent Statehouse history over the finish line.

By joining with the GOP minority, the New Jersey Senate’s southern Democrats bucked the majority of their party and unions to supply six key votes to pass legislation requiring government workers to pay more for their pensions and health care. (Rao and Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Senate advances bill to keep N.J. in cap and trade program, despite Christie’s retreat

Environmental advocates won a symbolic victory today when a Senate panel advanced a bill to block Gov. Chris Christie’s retreat from a regional program to curb air pollution that contributes to climate change. (Baxter, The Star-Ledger)



Christie approval rating slips to lowest in year as women turn thumbs down

Chris Christie’s approval rating slid to the lowest in a year as support waned among women, a Quinnipiac University poll said, after the Republican governor of New Jersey cut funding for schools and family planning. (Dopp, Bloomberg)



Apology on gay marriage

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney said Monday that his choice last year not to back legislation that would have allowed gay marriage was the worst decision of his nine-year legislative career. It was the strongest and most public statement he has made on the issue.   (DeFalco, The Associated Press)


New Jersey police leaders say they warned state about pension system

New Jersey police union leaders say they have been warning officials for years that the state’s pension system was becoming unsustainable because state and local governments were not paying enough into it, but that no one would listen. (Weaver, Press of Atlantic City)



N.J. could still pay millions annually to support NJN, despite takeover by WNET

Gov. Chris Christie may be getting New Jersey out of the TV business by signing a deal with WNET Channel 13 to manage the state’s public TV network, but the state could still be on the hook for millions of dollars annually to support the operation. (McGlone, The Star-Ledger)



Stepping up solar production before the administration slows it down

The state is moving to accelerate how much solar power will be produced in New Jersey, a step it hopes will rejuvenate a sector coming under increasing scrutiny from the Christie administration. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Vineland’s nearly $24 million solar energy facility to start producing power by the fall

A Monmouth County firm said Monday it will build a nearly $24 million solar-energy facility here that should be operational by the end of September. (Barlas, Press of Atlantic City)



Mobility complicates New Jersey officeholder residency rules

The fear was that a carpetbagger might wrest control of local government.

The solution was a hodgepodge of rules, some drafted more than a century ago, that set residency requirements for elected officials. (Helfer, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Carl Lewis’ legal team seeks deposition of Guadagno

An attorney representing state Senate candidate Carl Lewis has asked a federal judge to order New Jersey Secretary of State Kim Guadagno to sit for a deposition as part of the legal battle into the former track star’s eligibility to run for office. (Levinsky, Burlington County Times)



Newark superintendent takes a new tack on how and where teachers are placed

In a trial run of a proposal the Christie administration wants to take statewide, Newark’s new school superintendent yesterday moved quickly to tighten up policies about how and where district teachers are assigned. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



Jon Huntsman’s venue, Liberty State Park, has storied history

When Jon Huntsman announces his candidacy for president Tuesday at Liberty State Park in New Jersey, he’ll join a long list of politicians who have found the spot to be an exquisite backdrop for big campaign events. (Hohmann and Groll)



NJ reaches settlement on chromium contamination

New Jersey’s environmental commissioner says the state has reached a settlement with three chemical companies to reimburse the state for cleanup of numerous chromium-contaminated sites in Hudson County. (The Associated Press)



Officials: WTC work on track

With a key date arriving in less than three months, construction at the World Trade Center site is at a frenzied, round-the-clock pace that could be best described as controlled chaos. But it is chaos with a purpose and a very public deadline, which Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials pledge they will meet. (Higgs, Gannett)|topnews|text|State



A capital day for N.J. protests

Protesters in Revolutionary War costumes, environmentalists, and pink-shirted women’s advocates were among those who filled the street in front of the Statehouse on Monday in a series of rallies, with the largest opposing a legislative plan to overhaul public workers’ pensions and benefits. (Lederman, The Associated Press)



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After marathon session, pension and benefit reform approved by Assembly committee

The Assembly Budget Committee has approved legislation that overhauls pension and benefits for police officers, firefighters, teachers, and judges, among others. The bill, A4133, is the lower chamber version of state Sen. President Steve Sweeney’s (D-3) reform bill, and was approved by the lower chamber committee today, 7-5. The committee began hearing testimony at nearly 11 a.m. this morning and took their final vote after 8 p.m. (Staff, State Street Wire)



NJEA warns lawsuits likely if reforms enacted

Vince Giordano, executive director of the state’s largest teachers union, the N.J. Education Association, told the Assembly Budget Committee that the pension and benefit reform bill has “massive public implications.” (Carroll, State Street Wire)



Assembly Democrats vow to fight to restore cuts in women’s health care

Several Assembly Democrats today pledged to do what they can to restore cuts in women’s health-care funding.

Assembly members Linda Stender, (D-22), Scotch Plains; Herb Conaway, Jr., (D-7), Delran; Valerie Vainieri Huttle, (D-37), Englewood; and Connie Wagner, (D-38), Paramus, said they will work to pass legislation to reverse the Christie administration’s budget cuts. (Staff, State Street Wire)



State reaches agreement with companies over Hudson County sites cleanup

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin and New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow announced today the state has reached a settlement with Honeywell International Inc., Occidental Chemical Corp., and PPG Industries, Inc. to reimburse the state for the cleanup of numerous chromium contaminated sites in Hudson County, and also to establish responsibility for continued cleanup work. (Staff, State Street Wire)






Past errors no reason to ditch talks with unions

The barking of the bullhorn on the sidewalk outside was a faint, tinny cry by the time it penetrated the marble walls of the Senate chamber.

It was no match for the soaring rhetoric on the Senate floor, where “history” was being made. (Stile, The Record)



In New Jersey, ‘shared sacrifice’ for public workers, not the rich

The gold-domed State Capitol doubled as a divorce court on Monday.

As burly Stephen M. Sweeney, the Senate president, a Democrat and a high official in the ironworkers union, presided over a vote, his putative union brethren — teachers and firefighters and transportation workers — sat in the gallery above and bared their teeth at his every move. (Powell, The New York Times)



A pup-tent Potemkin Village rises along the Delaware

I’ll say this for all those unionized public employees: At least they chased away the geese.

The geese in question normally occupy what used to be a perfectly good parking lot next to the Statehouse. The state tore up that lot and seeded it with grass as part of an abortive scheme to build a park it couldn’t afford. (Mulshine, The Star-Ledger)



Party boss, hospital & insurance exec, and now activist: George Norcross goes all in on ed reform

And turns South Jersey politics on its ear in the process.

In an email last Friday to his colleagues at Conner Strong & Buckelew and Cooper University Hospital, of which I’ve obtained a copy, George Norcross explained his decision to jump into the highly emotional public schools reform debate. (Roh, Strictly Politics)

  Morning News Digest: June 21, 2011