Morning News Digest: June 23, 2011

Morning News Digest: Thursday, June 23, 2011

By Missy Rebovich

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Flashpoint: Out-of-state provision sends Ramos packing on reform deal

It was the last straw for Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, (D-33), of Hoboken, according to sources close to the lawmaker. On Thursday, he will break with his political godfather and vote against the landmark pension and benefit reform package. (Carroll, PolitickerNJ)


Lautenberg slams pension and health bill

Democratic U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg today called the pension and health benefit reform legislation working its way through the legislature an attack on collective bargaining and a set-back for the middle class. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



Greenstein, Benson, DeAngelo to examine freeze on senior freeze program

With budget-writing season heating up, State Sen. Linda Greenstein, (D-14), of Plainsboro, and her district-mates Assemblymen Wayne DeAngelo and Daniel Benson, both of Hamilton, will host a Friday morning seminar with constituents to discuss the status of the Property Tax Reimbursement Program – commonly known as the “senior freeze” program, they said in a release. (Carroll, PolitickerNJ)



Christie shrugs off jeers at town hall, credits both parties for reforms

For the first time at one of Gov. Chris Christie’s town hall meetings, a group of protesters was removed Wednesday by police from an event that drew an audience of more than 500.

But love was also in the air, with the Republican governor showing a new fondness for state Democratic lawmakers — a departure from the past criticism Christie has dished out. (Jordan, Gannett)|head



Christie is transparent with state government, not so much with his politicking

On the day of his inauguration in 2010, Gov. Christie declared that a “new era of accountability and transparency is here.”

Since then, he has posted readily accessible information on state spending, made himself available to citizens, pulled back the curtain on quasi-governmental authorities, and vetoed extravagant or undocumented expenses. (Burton, The Philadelphia Inquirer)


Assembly to vote on changes in benefits

Contentious employee benefits legislation that has spawned waves of protest at New Jersey’s Capitol and jeopardized organized labor’s loyalty to Democrats is all but certain to clear its last legislative hurdle today. (Delli Santi, The Associated Press)



7 days to find $800M lawmakers short on time to balance budget

New Jersey lawmakers have an $800 million hole to close with only one week to go before the state’s constitutionally mandated deadline for a balanced budget. (Reitmeyer, The Record)



Treasurer: N.J. budget will be done on time

Eight days short of the constitutional deadline to adopt New Jersey’s budget, state Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff said Wednesday he’s confident it will get done in time to avoid a government shutdown.

He also expects the Assembly will pass a bitterly controversial benefits bill today that he calls the “most profound public policy issue of a lifetime.’” (Stilwell, Gannett)



N.J. Democrats nix budget, saying theirs will be fairer

Democrats who control the Legislature have decided to reject the budget that Republican Gov. Christie has proposed for the coming fiscal year and draft one they say will be fairer to working families and the state’s most vulnerable residents. (Delli Santi, The Associated Press)



N.J. budget plan could help police departments and senior citizens

Democrat leaders in the Senate and the Assembly agreed on a budget proposal Wednesday that restores Medicaid cuts, provides property tax relief for senior citizens and money for cash-strapped police departments, according to sources. (Renshaw, The Star-Ledger)



Pension bill may not be enough, some say

If New Jersey makes no changes to its troubled pension system, every household in the state would have to pay an extra $2,475 in taxes a year for three decades to fully restore the fund, according to a study released this week. (Rao, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Proposed stay-in-state health care plan criticized

The head of the health policy committee for Gov. Chris Christie’s transition team criticized a proposal for the state to create health insurance plans that would direct government workers to seek care in New Jersey. (Method, Gannett)|head



Advocacy group’s ads target NJEA

Better Education for Kids (B4K), a new advocacy group funded by two hedge fund managers, went on the air Wednesday with a radio ad that appeared to swipe at Democrats. (Roh, Gannett)



Assembly to vote on NJN turnover deal

The New Jersey Assembly is expected to vote on a resolution to block the transfer of operations of New Jersey’s state-owned public television network to one of New York’s largest public broadcasting stations. (DeFalco, The Associated Press)



Class of 2011: Diplomas still to be decided

New Jersey’s high school exit exam has long been the subject of debate and disagreement.

Through all of it, there are now three ways to graduate from a public high school. Pass the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA). Pass the Alternative High School Assessment (AHSA), the much-maligned back-up test. Or, failing the first two, the newest and last option is to win on appeal to Trenton. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



How much will consumers have to pay to make offshore wind happen?

The state’s efforts to vault into the lead of developing offshore wind farms may be derailed by a new regulatory effort to determine how to finance those projects. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Attorneys argue in NJ court over constitutionality of federal health care reform law

A federal appeals court hearing arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of last year’s U.S. health reform law focused primarily on whether plaintiffs need to demonstrate they are suffering economic harm now or will when the part of the law mandating that everyone have health coverage takes effect. (The Associated Press)



Christie signs Schultz’s law, upgrading penalties for killing police and rescue dogs

Legislation enhancing penalties for intentionally killing an on-duty police or search and rescue dog is one of two bills signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie, his office announced on Wednesday. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



New bill eyes cheerleading in head injury safety plan

Legislation requiring the New Jersey Department of Education to include cheerleading in its student-athlete head injury safety training program was introduced by a state Assembly panel on Wednesday. (Biggy, Gannett)



Union protesters adopt American symbols

The protest outside the New Jersey Statehouse had all the usual trappings of a tea party rally: colonial costumes, allusions to governments infringing on rights and rattlesnake-emblazoned Gadsden flags reading “Don’t tread on me.” (Lederman, The Associated Press)



Poll: N.J. fond of access to shore

New Jersey voters generally like living and vacationing in the Garden State, but they overwhelmingly want more bathrooms at the beach, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released this morning. (Bates, Gannett)|topnews|text|State



N.J. public workers to stage large protest over pension and health insurance reform

New Jersey’s battle over benefits could hit a fever pitch today.

Thousands of public workers are expected to stage what leaders vow will be their biggest Statehouse protest yet over a controversial bill to force them to pay more for health insurance and pensions. The bill is up for final passage in the Assembly, which would send it to Gov. Chris Christie, who is expected to sign it swiftly. (Gibson, The Star-Ledger)



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Dems’ budget will seek to increase funding for suburban school districts

According to sources, the budget plan that will be introduced next week by Democrats will call for increasing some programs by significant amounts. (Hassan, State Street Wire)



Additional federal aid available for paying home-energy bills

Households that receive federal home-energy aid will be able to receive additional benefits, the governor’s office reported. (Staff, State Street Wire)



Democratic leaders meet on budget, agree on ‘concept’ they will unveil Monday

Democratic leaders met today in the Assembly Speaker’s office, and said leaders of both houses have agreed on a budget “concept” they will introduce Monday that they said takes into account the needs of middle-class residents more than Gov. Chris Christie’s $29.4 billion spending plan does. (Hassan, State Street Wire)



Quijano wants NRC to do better job of overseeing aging nuclear plants

The head of the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee wants the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to do a better job of oversight of nuclear power plants, especially aging ones such as the nation’s oldest plant in Oyster Creek. (Staff, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room



The other Cryan

Assemblyman Joe Cryan is not the only Democrat from his family leading a charge.

Last week, the Hoboken Democratic Committee elected Jamie Cryan, the younger cousin of the fiery Trenton lawmaker, as their newest chairman. (Carroll, PolitickerNJ)



Approval ratings of New Jersey pols






Governor tones act down, and it works

Governor Christie gave a masterful performance in his Fair Lawn town hall Wednesday despite a sound you normally don’t hear in these pro-Christie echo chambers — boos.

Although it was largely a Christie crowd — having an A-list of Bergen County Republicans filling the bleachers kind of helps — boos competed with the applause in his 90-minute appearance. At some points, the Christie supporters ramped up cheers in hopes of drowning out the booing. (Stile, The Record)



Compared to the Minnesota Twins, Christie’s a heavy hitter

I am not not the biggest fan of our governor. But the more I look at the field for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, the more I like his chances should he run.

Let’s look at a potential Chris Christie candidacy in light of the campaigns of the two candidates who have come to be known as the “Minnesota Twins.” (Mulshine, The Star-Ledger)



Evesham helistop emails broke law, council members spoke in private

Evesham council members violated the state Open Public Meetings Act to expedite unanimous adoption April 12 of the township’s helistop ordinance, according to emails obtained by the Courier-Post.

That ordinance was key for a controversial helistop project sought by Conner Strong & Buckelew, a billion-dollar insurance company that records show has 143 public contracts across the state. (Rosen, Courier-Post)



Polistina’s a yes on pension and health benefits bill

Assemblyman Vince Polistina, R-Atlantic, said today he’s overcome his initial objections about a bill that dramatically changes pension and health benefits for public workers and will vote with his party tomorrow. (Roh, Strictly Politics) Morning News Digest: June 23, 2011