Morning News Digest: Wednesday, July 20, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Democrats call for transparency from One New Jersey
Legislative Democrats today are calling on the founders of One New Jersey, a 501 (c) (4) launched Monday by a group of Democratic operatives, to open their books and reveal the contributors behind the organization.
On Monday a spokesman for One New Jersey, which says its mission is to watchdog public officials and call them out when they harm New Jersey families, said the group will not disclose its backers, saying the law does not require transparency. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Christie: ‘If Lagone has advice for me that’s between me and him’
At his press conference today, Gov. Chris Christie touched on several topics, including an invitation to meet with Home Depot co-founder Kenneth Langone who wants to gauge his interest in a presidential run.
Christie, who said that Langone is a longtime friend, added, “There are some people who believe I should leave this job and go to another one. (Mooney, PolitickerNJ)
Gov. Christie reverses course on medical marijuana
Gov. Chris Christie has come back from his two-week vacation with a change of heart — at least in one respect. The governor announced yesterday afternoon that he will no longer stand in the way of New Jersey’s medical marijuana law.
His decision to allow the program to move forward was welcomed by the law’s legislative sponsors, outside advocates and patients. (Stainton and Kassel, NJ Spotlight)
Gov. Chris Christie’s comments on the resumption of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program
Here are the remarks Gov. Chris Christie’s made in Trenton on Tuesday regarding his decision to resume the state’s medical marijuana program:
“On January 18th of 2010 the New Jersey Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act was signed into law in the last day of the Corzine Administration. We were left with very little instruction in the end about how to implement this law and how to do it in a very complex legal environment, with conflicting and intersecting federal and state legal requirements and opportunities….” (Staff, New Jersey Newsroom)
Christie faults Obama on debt reduction talks
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says President Barack Obama has failed to lead on debt reduction talks.
The United States will default on its debt in two weeks unless a deal is reached to raise the debt limit, so lawmakers in Washington are scrambling for a debt reduction plan to break the gridlock. (The Associated Press)
NJ gov, education reformer to announce partnership
Gov. Chris Christie travels to Paterson on Wednesday to announce a new partnership with education advocate Geoffrey Canada.
Canada is the education reformer who founded Harlem Children’s Zone, a community-based nonprofit that strives to improve the quality of life for children and families. The HCZ Project includes in-school, after-school, social-service, health and community-building programs. (The Associated Press)
Christie budget cuts damaging, witnesses say at Assembly hearing
Advocates for and families of blind, disabled, abused, and working-class children appealed to New Jersey legislators Tuesday to restore funding vetoed from the state budget by Gov. Christie.
Convened to explore what Democratic lawmakers say will be the adverse effect of Christie’s vetoes on children, the Assembly Budget Committee heard about several feared service cuts. (Giordano, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
N.J. Assembly hearing on budget cuts turns to discussion on funding for blind students
An Assembly hearing dissecting the budget cuts made by Gov. Chris Christie provided fresh fodder for partisan bickering Tuesday when a 5-year-old blind youth and his mother testified that he had not received Braille instruction in more than a month.
“His teachers … recommended that he continue with summer Braille tutoring.’’ Anju Dharia of Princeton, the boy’s mother, said. “With the reduction of (teachers) we are afraid that Krish’s leaning will regress and he may be unable to keep up with his sighted peers.’’ (Livio, The Star-Ledger)
Christie watching for NJTV improvement
The replacement for New Jersey Network has only been on the air for a few weeks, but Gov. Chris Christie has seen enough of the new NJTV to give good reviews of its news show.
“I would say that the coverage is generally pretty good. It’s going to be much better once they get fully staffed,” the Republican governor said. “I have great confidence in the people involved in the project and I think they‘re going to make it very, very good.” (Jordan, Gannett)
Assembly Dems doubt surplus, pan budget cuts
The Assembly Budget Committee chairman said Tuesday the state’s budget surplus is larger than Gov. Chris Christie says because redesigning health-care plans for public workers will save $500 million.
Another debate about the new law requiring public workers to pay more for their health coverage intruded on a Tuesday hearing about line-item vetoes by Gov. Chris Christie that affect children’s programs. (Symons, Gannett)
More than a quarter of funds raised by N.J. Republican Party come from other states
Buoyed by Gov. Chris Christie’s growing national reputation, more than a quarter of the funds raised by the state Republican Party this year have come from out-of-state donors.
Reports released yesterday by the state’s campaign finance watchdog showed the Republican State Committee took in $1.66 million in the first six months of 2011, and a Star-Ledger analysis found that $494,000 of that came from outside New Jersey. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Sen. Robert Menendez not a sure bet to win reelection, poll says
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) won’t be coasting to re-election in 2012, according to a poll released yesterday. The question, political observers say, is whether Republicans can field a strong enough candidate to take him out.
Public Policy Polling, a North Carolina-based firm with Democratic ties, says Menendez has a 37 percent job approval rating, with less support among independents. Republicans dislike him more than Democrats like him, the poll said. (Megerian, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. Senator Donald Norcross says he was not pressured to resign from labor union
The head of one of the biggest labor unions in New Jersey will be leaving on Labor Day, but he says he’s not being pressured. State Sen. Donald Norcross plans to retire as head of the Southern New Jersey Central Labor Council on Labor Day weekend.
Norcross, 52, from Camden, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that his decision had nothing to do with the union members’ unhappiness with his support of the pension and health care reform bills. His well-known brother George has long supported public-sector reform of health care and pension benefits. (Holt, New Jersey Newsroom)
Testing erasures draw questions at NJ schools
They are the nearly invisible clues left behind that can tip off experts about possible cheating on standardized tests: the little erasure marks of an answer changed from wrong to right.
And sadly, it’s mostly the adults who are the culprits.
Now the prevalence of such erasures is getting 34 New Jersey public schools a letter from the state indicating that it wants another look at their exams and procedures. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Audit finds Port Authority could have saved $22M yearly, service contracts lack oversight
In a rare rebuke of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey by another public entity, an audit by the New York State Comptroller’s office found the bi-state agency lacked documentation to justify hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts with outside vendors for cleaning, trash hauling, maintenance and other miscellaneous services.
The audit, made public yesterday, also found the Port Authority failed to show that it periodically reassessed service contracts and may have missed opportunities to save millions of dollars. (Strunsky, The Star-Ledger)
Financing offshore wind farms
Offshore wind developers appear to be moving toward a consensus on how the state should finance the building of wind farms off the Jersey coast, but it could be at least three to five years before wind turbines start churning out power.
In a meeting at the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) offices in Trenton, developers, power suppliers and utility executives yesterday debated the details of how the wind farms would earn offshore renewable energy credits (ORECs) for the electricity their wind turbines generate. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Latest from State Street Wire
Small businesses, non-profits tell how bureaucracy costs them time, money
Representatives of non-profits and small businesses told a state panel today how regulatory bureaucracy hurts them, especially in a down economy.
“I call it death by a thousand pinpricks,’’ said Laurie Ehlbeck, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Coalition of venues, managers fights paperless ticket restrictions
A coalition that includes venue operators and recording artist managers has launched a campaign in opposition to states that want to restrict use of paperless tickets.
The coalition hopes to fight for the right of performers and venues to use paperless tickets as a means to fight scalpers who drive up ticket prices. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Legislation to be introduced regulating home-schooling in wake of 8-year-old’s death
The death in May of an 8-year-old girl has spurred a lawmaker who will introduce legislation to help prevent the circumstances that contributed to the death.
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, (D-37), Bergen, announced today that she would sponsor a bill to regulate the home schooling of children in light of an investigation recently conducted by the state Department of Children and Families into the death of Christiana Glenn of Irvington. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Greenwald, Chiusano spar over motives for budget hearing
A quarrel took place today between Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Lou Greenwald, (D-6), of Voorhees and Gary Chiusano, (R-24), of Sparta, regarding the purpose of the meeting called for today to take testimony regarding the effect of the governor’s budget cuts. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Governor gives green light to medical pot
The federal Department of Justice, responding to requests from New Jersey and other states for guidance on medical marijuana, indicated recently that so long as distribution programs are kept small, closely monitored and genuinely medical, the department will not interfere. (Ahearn, The Record)
State turns blind eye to conflicts at the BPU
When it comes to state agencies, none has more of a sordid past than the Board of Public Utilities, an agency allegedly dedicated to keeping utility rates low for New Jerseyans. How’s it working for you? (Ingle, Gannett)
Christie ‘special guest’ at Steve King Iowa fundraiser
Chris Christie, who was today urged by a group of Republican donors to jump into the presidential race, will apparently help fete conservative Iowa Rep. Steve King while he’s in the Hawkeye State for an education-related event. (Haberman, Politico)
Drivers deserve a treat, not a long MVC line
Far be it from me to advise the political party that has put 27 of their number into the governor’s chair since 1829, but if New Jersey Democrats are serious about trying to make Republicans pay in November for the long lines at motor vehicle offices, they ought to be thinking more about cupcakes than Senate hearings. (Cichowski, The Record)