Morning News Digest: Tuesday, July 26, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
In Iowa, where Romney and Bachmann’s numbers divide GOP, Christie calls for educational unity
Landing in the Iowa cornfields as that state revs toward a Republican Presidential Primary early next year, Gov. Chris Christie invoked unity, and took credit for advancing education reforms in a speech at the Iowa Education Summit hosted by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
DCCC zaps Runyan, LoBiondo and Lance in robocalls
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) today released robocalls savaging at least three Republican congressmen from New Jersey for protecting tax breaks for the rich and powerful in the name of lowering the country’s debt ceiling, according to the ad. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Sweeney: LD 11 could become competitive
n an interview this morning on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC, state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) of West Deptford provided a thumbnail of the upcoming legislative races and indicated where he believes Democrats must concentrate their attention. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Gov. Christie gets Governors Association post
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been named to the nine-member executive committee of the National Governors Association.
The first-term Republican joins the governors of Nebraska, Delaware, Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Washington on the bipartisan committee that sets the association’s priorities and determines it activities. (The Associated Press)
Christie in Iowa on Monday; visit includes hosting fundraiser for Rep. Steve King
Gov. Chris Christie is spending Monday in Iowa where he was a key speaker at Gov. Terry Branstad’s education conference in the afternoon in Des Moines and hosted a fundraising dinner for Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) in the evening.
Christie’s Iowa Education Summit address was entitled, “The Year of Education in New Jersey.’’
King, a political ally of Christie, is a cable news-friendly conservative. Christie, at least in part, is showing his gratitude to the congressman for helping him during a rough 2009 congressional hearing in Washington, King adviser Chuck Laudner told the Associated Press. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Christie’s office claims privilege, backtracks
In a move to derail a challenge to Gov. Chris Christie’s invoking of executive privilege to deny a request for records concerning any correspondence between the administration and Fox News President Roger Ailes, the Governor’s Office on Monday released what it termed was the only bit of information it had about meetings between Christie and the television executive — a schedule entry about a private dinner attended by both men. (Schoonejongen, Gannett)
Suit seeks Christie’s contacts
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Monday against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s office on behalf of Gawker Entertainment LLC, asking for information regarding possible communications between the governor and Roger Ailes, chairman of News Corp.’s Fox News.
The suit said there is “a strong public interest” in knowing “whether the executive in charge of the nation’s most-watched cable news channel is acting as a political consultant to a prospective Republican presidential candidate.” (Korn, The Wall Street Journal)
In face of lawsuit, Gov. Chris Christie makes copy of calendar public, revealing private dinner with FOX news chief
Reversing course in the face of a lawsuit, Gov. Chris Christie’s office Monday made public a copy of his calendar showing he met with Roger Ailes, the Fox News chief, for a private dinner last year.
But that simple notation — which the Christie administration had refused to release — is the only official record of the meeting that exists, and there is no record of any correspondence between the two men, the governor’s office said.
The disclosure is an attempt by the Christie administration to head off a brewing legal battle over what records the governor can keep confidential. (Megerian, The Star-Ledger)
ACLU likely to drop records lawsuit against NJ gov
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey on Monday said it will likely drop a lawsuit filed earlier in the day against Gov. Chris Christie for records that confirm he met with the head of Fox News last year.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit on Monday on behalf of a reporter for Gawker Entertainment LLC, saying the governor’s office had issued a blanket refusal to release any records pertaining to the meeting. (DeFalco, The Associated Press)
New Jersey lawmaker says states can offer online gambling within borders
A New Jersey lawmaker says individual states have the legal right to offer in-state Internet gambling within their own borders.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, wrote late last week to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asserting that position.
He said he will introduce legislation in November to address the main concerns expressed by Gov. Chris Christie in March when the governor vetoed a bill that would have made New Jersey the first state in the nation to legalize in-state Internet gambling. (Parry, The Associated Press)
Business leaders request a stronger Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
Nearly two months after New Jersey said it would pull out of a regional initiative to curb greenhouse gas emissions, a few hundred business executives called on the 10 states participating in the program to strengthen and overhaul the effort.
In a letter issued yesterday, the business leaders urged New England and Mid-Atlantic governors to support and improve the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a program designed to help deal with global climate change while supporting clean energy and energy efficiency programs. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
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)
Norcross offers ideas on policing Camden, and creating charter schools there
If Cooper University Hospital chairman George E. Norcross 3d could have his way, Camden City would start sprouting charter schools and the police department would be disbanded to make way for a county force.
Those are just some of the ideas Norcross – one of the most influential Democrats in the state, who for years has stayed behind the scenes – has recently discussed openly with anyone who will listen. (Vargas, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Going inside a ‘Jersey Sting’
Two years ago this past weekend, FBI agents fanned out across New Jersey and Brooklyn, handcuffed 43 people and hauled them in giant blue buses to local courthouses. The sweep caught politicians—including three prominent mayors—taking bribes, rabbis laundering money through charities, and even an alleged ring peddling black-market kidneys. (Fleisher, The Wall Street Journal)
Advocates and administration continue to clash over solar
By the numbers, New Jersey’s solar industry is racking up some pretty impressive milestones. More than 10,000 solar systems installed statewide. A total of 380 megawatts of electricity generated from those panels. A record 42 megawatts installed in June, involving 520 new solar projects.
Citing those milestones, the Christie administration yesterday defended its plans for developing new sources of renewable energy, a commitment called into question by some clean energy advocates ever since the release of a draft Energy Master Plan (EMP) last month. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Closure of Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital has patients’ families worried
The Sen. Garrett W. Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital in Hunterdon County is closing, and Mary Zdanowicz is frightened.
She says her 49-year-old sister, Beth Grojean, diagnosed with severe schizophrenia, has spent three quiet and safe years there at the state’s smallest hospital, nestled in the mountains overlooking Round Valley Reservoir in Glen Gardner. (Livio, The Star-Ledger)
Latest from State Street Wire
Conference will focus on issues facing Hispanics in N.J.
The growing impact of Hispanics in New Jersey – from the positives of businesses created to the negatives of jobs lost via deportations – will be among the topics during a first-ever, two-day Hispanic Leadership Summit scheduled for September. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
In advance of Emergency Master Plan hearing, state touts solar energy milestone
With the first of three public hearings on the state’s Energy Master Plan scheduled for Tuesday, the state today sought to tout its record of advancing the cause of renewable energy.
Well aware of environmentalists’ arguments that Gov. Chris Christie’s revised Plan undercuts renewable energy goals, representatives of the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Board of Public Utilities today pointed to a record-setting June, during which the state installed 520 solar energy projects totaling more than 40 megawatts. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Unions ready legal challenge to pension reform, focus on COLAs
Two-thirds of the state’s projected savings from the pension reforms recently passed are tied to a freeze on annual “cost of living adjustments,” or COLAs.
But several unions are banding together to challenge the freeze by filing a lawsuit, claiming workers had a right to the increases.
“We’re going to get sued, there’s a news flash,” the governor said recently in a press conference. “We’ve done our legal homework on this.” (Carroll, State Street Wire)
Sierra Club claims conflict in DEP official serving as bank chairman
The appointment of a Department of Environmental Protection official to the board chairmanship of a bank has drawn conflict of interest accusations from the N.J. Sierra Club.
Michele Siekerka, who oversees the Office of Economic Growth and Green Energy in DEP, was recently named board chair of Robbinsville-based Roma Bank, whose president is former state Sen. Peter Inverso. The state chapter of the Sierra Club stated in a release that it believes this is a conflict. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Report: Christie inserts himself into Iowa battleground congressional race
Politico reports that Gov. Chris Christie’s hosting of an Iowa fundraiser for conservative U.S. Rep. Steve King today comes in the midst of a “potentially difficult race” for the incumbent Republican. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
In federal budget fight, discretionary spending cuts slash critical services
In the fight over the federal budget, both sides agree on one thing: Discretionary spending is going to take a giant hit.
At first blush, that sounds sensible. If it’s discretionary, then how critical can it be?
As it turns out, very critical. Veterans benefits are discretionary. So is bridge repair. In the budget fight, all it means is that the items in question are not entitlements, like Social Security and Medicare, but are dependent on annual appropriations. So when we cut “discretionary” programs, we can lose important things. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
Gov. Christie brings greetings, sort of, from Asbury Park
Gov. Chris Christie gave a speech to a group of Iowa educators in Des Moines today and, as he has often in the past, used Asbury Park as a prime example of why school reform is urgently needed.
Christie referenced his favorite singer, Bruce Springsteen, and the album (yes, on vinyl) that launched Springsteen’s career onto the national stage. (Method, Gannett)
Iowa lawmakers: Christie talks like a presidential candidate
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presentation before hundreds of-Iowa educators sounded more like a political speech than a talk about education, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers agreed.
He has a message for the nation,” said Rep. Kevin Koester, R-Ankeny and a member of the House Education Committee. “It smells like a campaign to me.” (Clayton, Gannett)