Morning News Digest: Monday, July 25, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Winners and Losers: Week of July 18th
Gov. Chris Christie returned to the Garden State this week after a two-week vacation and juggled his schedule between ravaged New Jersey cities and New York City.
Sources in both parties almost uniformly take him at his word that he’s not running for president in 2012, but that doesn’t mean, by his own admission, that he can’t enjoy listening to powerful people who continue to tell him he should run. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Wynona’s House: Christie left a mangled mess for abused children and political allies
One of the fallen in this year’s budget battles was the Wynona Lipman Child Advocacy Center in Newark, a budget cut that took everyone off guard – even key players close to Gov. Chris Christie’s administration, according to sources. (Carroll, PoltickerNJ)
Gov. Christie casts shadow over Iowa, 2012
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he’s not running for president, but he’s still leaving an imprint on the 2012 Republican campaign as a potential kingmaker — and distraction.
His visit to Iowa on Monday is evidence of both.
Christie is swooping in to speak at an education conference in Des Moines and headline a political fundraiser for a congressman. (Beaumont, Gannett)
Christie’s energy plan up for public review
New Jersey residents will soon get their first chance to comment on Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal for the state’s energy future.
Three public hearings on the revised energy master plan are scheduled. The first will take place Tuesday afternoon at New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, while the others will be in Trenton and Pomona next month. (Delli Santi, The Associated Press)
Poll: Americans think of Christie, N.J. often
Congratulations, Chris Christie: You’re among the things Americans most closely associated with New Jersey, alongside corruption, pollution, overpopulation and a “bad smell.”
A Fairleigh Dickinson PublicMind poll released today asked respondents across the country what popped into their heads when they thought about the Garden State. Gov. Christie was the eighth-most popular answer. (Roh, Gannett)
New Jersey businesses spared huge tax jump
Gov. Chris Christie has signed legislation that calls for the phasing in of a sharp increase in the state’s unemployment tax rate, a move proponents say will spare businesses from having to immediately pay a hefty boost in the rate.
The increase, needed to help restore the state’s depleted unemployment insurance fund, will now be phased in over a three-year period instead of being imposed all this year. The measure, which had received bipartisan support and was strongly backed by the business community, was signed by Christie late last month. (Shipkowski, The Associated Press)
N.J.’s jobless tax rate will rise gradually under new measure
Gov. Christie has signed legislation that phases in a sharp increase in the state’s unemployment-tax rate, a move that proponents say will spare businesses from having to immediately pay a hefty boost.
The increase, needed to help restore the depleted unemployment insurance fund, will be spread over three years instead of being imposed at once this year. Christie signed the measure, which had received bipartisan support and was strongly backed by the business community, late last month. (The Associated Press)
Assembly panel to examine cuts to legal services
Democrats in Trenton will start round three this week in their attempt to show how cuts Gov. Chris Christie made to the budget will hurt New Jersey’s most vulnerable populations.
An Assembly panel will gather Wednesday to hear how a $10 million cut in funding to legal services for low-income residents will affect those who can’t afford to hire a lawyer. (The Associated Press)
State acts to deter cheating on standardized tests
New Jersey Department of Education officials say the standardized-test cheating scandal leading to a major shake-up in the Atlanta public school system would probably never happen here because of stringent testing protocols.
“We take the security of our test scores and data very seriously. If something were to happen like Atlanta, we could deal with it quickly and move on,” state DOE spokesman Justin Barra said. (Rothschild, Gannett)
Gawker is taking the New Jersey Governor and Fox News to court
Gawker is planning to go after a Governor and the head of Fox News in court on Monday, The New York Times‘ Brian Stelter reports. Gawker, the company, and its reporter John Cook are filing a civil suit against Chris Christie’s office in order to obtain any communications the New Jersey Governor might have had Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News. The origin of the case began in a New York profile of Ailes where it’s reported that Ailes called Governor Christie and tried to convince him to run for President in 2012. Cook made a request to Christie’s office for the communication between the two after reading the profile, but he was denied. (Simpson, National Journal)
Norcross among those endorsed by AFL-CIO
The Southern New Jersey AFL-CIO’s political arm has endorsed nearly all Democratic legislative incumbents in the region — including member Donald Norcross.
The 5th district senator has denied his decision to retire as president of the Southern New Jersey AFL-CIO’s Central Labor Council was spurred by union anger at his support for greater employee contributions toward pensions and health benefits. (Roh, Gannett)
Newark’s deeply troubled Barringer High awarded federal SIG grant
Newark’s Barringer High School, arguably the most troubled high school in New Jersey, is about to get some federal help.
The high school that became notorious last year for fights in the hallways and chaotic scheduling in the classrooms is one of three Newark schools slated to receive multimillion dollar School Improvement Grants from the Obama administration. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Latest from State Street Wire
Assembly Judiciary to assess effect of budget cuts on legal service for poor
This week the Assembly tackled budget cuts’ effects on seniors, disabled, and children.
Next week, the lower chamber will address their effect on legal services for the poor.
The Judiciary will convene Wednesday to collect testimony on the impact of the governor’s cut of $10 million from Legal Services of New Jersey as well as other programs. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Convention talk leaves yet another door slightly open for a Christie push
File this one in the ever-growing Christie-for-President Speculation folder: An anonymous group of Republican operatives circulated a memo last week sketching out a “path” that would allow next year’s presidential nominee to be picked by unpledged delegates at the Republican National Convention. It would allow the rank and file to pick someone other than a nominee anointed after the “dreadful slog” of primaries. (Stile, The Record)
Now or never for Chris Christie?
Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey worked with Democratic Sen. President Steve Sweeney last month to pass significant pension and benefit reforms. But their relationship has since hit the rocks. (Finley, The Wall Street Journal)
It’s an anniversary for Joe Doria, too
Two years ago today, FBI agents were rounding up a large number of people, 44, including many Democratic Party politicians and insiders — mostly from Hudson County — who were charged with corruption for accepting payments from a now infamous FBI informant, Solomon Dwek. (Torres, The Jersey Journal)
Republican, Democratic bases make national debt deal difficult
Rep. Bill Pascrell is 74 years old. His gray hair is getting thinner, and he settles himself into the chair in his Washington office more carefully now.
But over the years, going back to his time as mayor of Paterson, he has learned how to cut a deal. And to him, it’s not complicated: It starts by understanding that you can’t get everything you want and it ends with a compromise. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
Like taxes, laws are only for the little people
It is said that it is good to be the king. It’s better to be a judge.
Kings often get caught up in coups, insurrections and messy family squabbles that end up in the pages of tabloids like the now-shuttered News of the World. Judges rarely make news. Even better, they get to decide what laws are worth obeying. (Doblin, The Record)
Sen. Robert Menendez picks up fundraising steam, despite unkind polls
There’s no love lost between Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). But that doesn’t mean a canny politician can’t cozy up to both.
State Sen. Brian Stack (D-Hudson), who not long ago called the Republican Christie the state’s greatest governor, is holding a fundraiser for Menendez, a Democrat, on Friday. The lunch will take place at the chic Park Avenue Bar and Grill in Union City, where Stack is the mayor, a position Menendez once held. (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)
Is test cheating going on in school districts in New Jersey?
Is New Jersey headed for the same kind of massive school cheating scandal that thrust Atlanta into the headlines across the nation? If so, will the state try to cover it up instead of going public as officials did in Georgia? (Ingle, Gannett)
In case you missed it
Expert: Christie trying to soften image
One of Gov. Chris Christie’s laugh lines when discussing the financial mess he inherited upon taking office is that he feels like the guy cleaning up empty bottles strewn about after a long party.
By that measure, this past week he was the guy picking up trash cans and sweeping up broken windows after the riot he ignited before leaving town for two weeks for a vacation and a National Governors Association meeting. (Symons, Gannett)
N.J. Senate President Sweeney endorsed by Southern New Jersey AFL-CIO for re-election
State Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Gloucester) may have broken his shovel with public employee labor unions for joining Gov. Chris Christie in hiking their members’ cost of health and pension benefits, but the legislator has the backing of the Southern New Jersey AFL-CIO Central Labor Council. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
N.J. Assembly panel to examine Christie’s decision to cut $10.4 million in legal services for the poor
The Assembly Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on Wednesday to gauge the potential impact of Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to cut from the 2011-12 state budget a $10 million Democratic proposed allocation for Legal Services of New Jersey and other legal assistance programs for the poor. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
At least $1.5M paid out secretly Elizabeth school, a fraction of workers’ settlements
When Luis Mario Rojas was fired from the Elizabeth Board of Education in 2006, he claimed he had been the victim of a political purge.
In a federal lawsuit, Rojas said that while district officials cited a poor work record and budget cutbacks, the real reason for his termination after nearly 20 years on the job was that he became viewed as a disloyal soldier. His sister, former board member Oneida Duran, had a falling out with those in control of the school district. (Sherman, The Star-Ledger)
Health reform surplus sparks debate
State officials, looking at a woefully sick health benefits system that is $67 billion short in paying for long-term costs and wanting to stem the financial bleeding, are also arguing over the money that will result from any savings. (Method, Gannett)
Redrawn N.J. legislative districts offer few gains for minorities, analysis shows
While jockeying to redraw state legislative districts in their favor earlier this year, Democrats and Republicans talked a big game about making the Legislature look more like the state.
Members of both parties acknowledged minority groups — Hispanics and Asian-Americans in particular — are underrepresented in the state Senate and Assembly. In fact, Republicans made it a central point in their argument. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Snag for Christie’s racetrack leases
Gov. Chris Christie’s administration took shortcuts in its race to turn the state’s money-losing horse racetracks over to private management, triggering delays for when leases of Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands Racetrack will take effect. (Jordan, Gannett)
2 years later, legacy of Operation Big Rig corruption sting lives on
It was a story that sparked international headlines, countless jokes on late-night television, political resignations and prosecutorial recriminations.
But two years since the biggest federal corruption sting in New Jersey history broke open, the strange and sometimes bizarre criminal case involving dozens of politicians, five Orthodox rabbis and a guy selling black market kidneys, continues to play out. (Sherman, The Star-Ledger)
Marriage Equality rally at Pier A Park in Hoboken
In honor of today being the first day that same-sex couples in New York are legally able to marry, officials at Garden State Equality and Lambda Legal will hold a rally for marriage equality today, July 24, at 2 p.m. at Pier A Park in Hoboken. (Kowsh, The Jersey Journal)
NJ STARS students get continued funding for 2011-2012
When Gov. Chris Christie signed the state budget into law on June 30, the New Jersey Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship and the NJ STARS II scholarship were unchanged — important news for the many students who rely on the scholarships to help pay for their college education. (Driscoll, Gloucester County Times)
Funding cut off during appeal by Trenton Community Charter School
A state court earlier this month denied a motion that would have allowed Trenton Community Charter School (TCCS) to continue receiving state funding while it appeals a decision by the New Jersey Department of Education to revoke its charter, a move that has effectively brought operations at the school to a standstill and left teachers and staff unpaid. (Fair, The Times)
New Hudson County Superior Court judge sworn in by Christie, Fishman, others
Hudson County Superior Court Judge Lisa Rose donned her robe yesterday at a Jersey City swearing in ceremony attended by Governor Chris Christie, US Attorney Paul J. Fishman, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner and other dignitaries, officials said. (Conte, The Jersey Journal)
Booker weighs in on national debt level on Meet the Press
Newark Mayor Cory Booker appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press this morning, joining others in the role of pundit during the show’s weekly panel discussion.
Booker added to debate about the fight to increase America’s debt ceiling. It’s a fight, some were saying, suggests “Washington is broken,” and its leaders unable or unwilling to compromise. Booker didn’t disagree. (Hutchins, The Star-Ledger)
Looking beyond transitional aid, Trenton seeks more permanent ways to benefit from hosting state government
City officials may have breathed a sigh of relief after Gov. Chris Christie resurrected the transitional aid program for cash-strapped municipalities, but the move did little to alter Trenton’s vexed financial relationship with the state. (Rosenau, The Times)
Redd’s hiring of Ferguson as acting Camden police director still causing turmoil
Even as Gov. Christie was withholding and then restoring aid to New Jersey’s distressed cities to make his case for better oversight of spending, Camden was hiring a new police administrator with little evidence of an established protocol. (Vargas, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
On their children’s’ school, politicians should save the outrage
If you’re a politician who has all kinds of things to say about public education, do voters have the right to know where you send your children to school?
That’s a question that seems to be surfacing a lot lately. A few weeks ago, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, as vicious a critic of teachers unions as exists among American politicians today, repeated his assertion that where he chooses as a parent to educate his four children (Catholic schools, as it turns out) is nobody’s business. (Bai, The New York Times)