Morning News Digest: Thursday, July 21, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Public sector union leaders complained about Norcross to AFL-CIO brass in waning days of his CLC leadership
A week after a handful of public sector leaders requested his immediate expulsion as president of the Southern New Jersey Central Labor Council (CLC) in a letter to national organization President Richard Trumka, state Sen. Donald Norcross (D-5) announced his retirement as president, but said he had no knowledge of the effort to oust him and received no calls from AFL-CIO leadership telling him to leave. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie announces partnership with Harlem Children’s Zone
Gov. Chris Christie formally announced an educational clearing house pilot progam here with pioneering Harlem educator Geoffrey Canada.
Christie said Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone would help facilitate and deliver educational services in concert with the state Department of Education – using existing resources. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Gov. Chris Christie to receive Pete du Pont Freedom Award in Delaware
Gov. Chris Christie will be awarded the Pete du Pont Freedom Award at a dinner in Delaware in September.
The award, created in honor of du Pont, a Republican who was governor of Delaware and ran an unsuccessful campaign for president, has been bestowed four previous times. The previous recipients were political commentator George Will, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and publisher Steve Forbes. (Gibson, The Star-Ledger)
Poll: Christie ratings falling
A new Public Policy Polling survey finds Gov. Chris Christie losing popularity among voters, with disapproval particularly high among moderates.
A pool of 480 registered voters queried from July 15 through 18 disapproved of the job Christie is doing, 53 percent to 43 percent. Self-described moderates gave the Republican chief executive a much bigger thumbs down, 62 percent disapproval to 34 percent approval. (Roh, Gannett)
Christie names his six appointees to new state public employees’ health benefits committees
Gov. Chris Christie has named his six appointees to the new State Health Benefits Plan Design Committee while also placing three of them on the new School Employees’ Health Benefits Plan Design Committee, his office announced on Wednesday.
The committees, composed of public officials and public employees, are responsible for providing health plans for state and local pubic workers with at least three levels of coverage, featuring varying levels out-of-pocket costs. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
What Chris Christie told the tycoons
Fifty of the most prized donors in national politics schlepped to a Manhattan office and hovered around speakerphones as venture capitalist Ken Langone, a co-founder of The Home Depot, implored New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to seek the GOP presidential nomination.
Attendees said the governor was firm that it’s not in the cards this time, but left his spurned suitors with the impression he might well go in 2016. He impressed the audience with his emphasis on family and commitment, and flashes of disarming humor, according to attendees. (Allen, Politico)
Lawmakers to review budget cuts affecting seniors
The Assembly Budget Committee is back in session Thursday and ready to hear from senior citizens who say they’ll be adversely affected by cuts to nursing homes and other medical programs.
Gov. Christie slashed $1.3 billion from the budget Democrats sent him before signing a $29.7 billion budget June 30. (The Associated Press)
Records show N.J. Republicans tried to restore millions in funding for disadvantaged
In the weeks before the budget battle engulfed Trenton, Republican lawmakers tried to restore millions in funding for programs aimed at the poor and disadvantaged only to see their support wilt under the partisan flame, records made public Wednesday show.
The scenario suggests there was plenty of common ground between Democratic and Republican lawmakers on a host of programs affecting the state’s most vulnerable residents that ended up as casualties in the final budget. (Renshaw, The Star-Ledger)
Union donations dry up for Democrats
Three major public worker unions’ committees stopped donating to state lawmakers while the legislators — who face elections in November — were preparing to vote on a landmark overhaul of pensions and health benefits.
The Communication Workers of America, New Jersey Education Association and AFSCME halted what had been historically steady donations to candidates and to political parties between January and March. The reform bills were introduced in February. (Fletcher, The Record)
Most schools to keep restored state aid for next year’s budget, not property tax relief
New Jersey residents will have to wait until next year to see significant property tax relief from the extra $600 million in school aid restored in the state budget.
Only 20 of the state’s 580 public school districts have opted to return some or all of their restored state aid to taxpayers as property tax relief this year, a list provided Wednesday by the state Department of Education shows. (D’Amico, Press of Atlantic City)
School-community partnerships meld academic discipline and social services
Geoffrey Canada, CEO of the famed Harlem Children’s Zone, is no stranger to New Jersey — or to Gov. Chris Christie. Yesterday in Paterson, the two stood together for a third time since Christie’s election to talk about replicating the New York City program on this side of the river.
The two were at a downtown nonprofit to announce a partnership between Canada’s organization and the state. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Senator asks to revisit ’05 News Corp. claim
New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) urged the Justice Department and FBI on Wednesday to revisit a years-old but never resolved allegation of hacking by a News Corp. subsidiary as the law enforcement agencies look at whether the media giant illegally wiretapped U.S. citizens. (Boliek, Politico)
DEP sets up sites to test Barnegat Bay water
Under overcast skies Wednesday afternoon, state Department of Environmental Protection workers stood in a rocking boat to take water samples from Barnegat Bay.
Ken Hayek, a principal environmental technician, and Bob Schuster, of the Marine Water Monitoring Bureau, used plastic containers to retrieve water to be tested at a DEP trailer. (Weaver, Press of Atlantic City)
Gov. Chris Christie, wife honor Team Walker founder Jerry Walking in Jersey City
Gov. Chris Christie and New Jersey first lady Mary Pat Christie visited Jersey City’s School 22 on Van Horne Street yesterday afternoon to recognize former St. Anthony High School and Seton Hall University basketball star Jerry Walker as an “NJ Hero” for his work with his local youth program, Team Walker. (Kowsh, The Jersey Journal)
Conservative group wants to shut down NJ’s offshore wind program
A conservative group that spearheaded efforts to lobby the Christie administration to pull out of a regional initiative to curb greenhouse gas emissions is now trying to undercut New Jersey’s efforts to develop offshore wind farms.
Americans for Prosperity retained the Beacon Hill Institute to do a cost-benefit analysis of the state’s plans to develop up to 1,100 megawatts of wind capacity off the coast of southern New Jersey. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Who is Geoffrey Canada?
Bronx native Geoffrey Canada, 59, is the high-profile founder and chief executive of one the country’s best-known educational experiments, the Harlem Children’s Zone.
With their emphasis on preparing students for college, Canada’s privately run, publicly funded charter schools are credited with achieving better results than nearby public schools in Harlem. HCZ cites test results showing 83 percent of third graders at one of its schools scored at or above grade level in math. (Tyrrell, New Jersey Newsroom)
Latest from State Street Wire
NRC renews Hope Creek nuclear plant for 20 additional years
The Hope Creek nuclear power plant has won approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate for another 20 years.
The license of the power plant, operated by Public Service Enterprise Group, had been set to run out in 2026. The renewal means the plant can continue until 2046. (Staff, State Street Wire)
State to allow experimental play of blackjack variant at casino
Casino game enthusiasts can look forward to playing a new type of blackjack game in Atlantic City as part of an experiment the state is conducting to see if it catches on.
The game, Triple Attack Blackjack, will be allowed as an experiment for a 270-day period starting July 25 at the ACH (formerly the Atlantic City Hilton), located on the Boardwalk. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Just 20 districts will use additional school aid to reduce taxes this year
Just 20 of the nearly 600 school districts that received additional state aid plan to use the money for tax relief in the current fiscal year, according to the Department of Community Affairs. (Isherwood, State Street Wire)
Democrats’ new PAC reeks of hypocrisy
Seven months ago, New Jersey Democrats criticized “Reform Jersey Now,” a Governor Christie-linked “shadow PAC,” as the incarnation of political evil.
Now a group of Democratic Party operatives has launched its own shadow PAC. “One New Jersey,” they say, is a necessary evil. (Stile, The Record)
Poll: Gov. Chris Christie’s star dimming in NJ
So, there’s a new poll out – performed by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling – that shows Gov. Chris Christie’s popularity is dropping.
While the governor might be a big hit in the front office at The Home Depot, here in New Jersey, his numbers are falling faster than a dropped hammer. Apparently, more and more people want to punch the governor in the head. (Manahan, The Star-Ledger)