Weekly Roundup: Week of July 25

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie, the former prosecutor perceived as practically invincible because of his knack for emerging from political dustups with nary a blemish, seemed all too human Thursday as he suffered a health setback when he was rushed to an emergency room for an asthma attack.

A fairly routine bill signing in Hillsborough involving land preservation was delayed and eventually canceled, and as the minutes ticked by, it was announced that Christie was taken to Somerset Medical Center after he complained of feeling lightheaded and a shortness of breath.

The governor returned to work the next day, claiming he is feeling “fabulous.”

But for most of Thursday, all attention swiveled from legislation and routine politics to the health of the governor.

Christie spent about eight hours in the hospital undergoing tests. His press aides assured the media and public that he was OK, and he eventually exited the hospital early Thursday evening, held a brief Q&A to confirm that he was in no danger, and headed home.

He returned to work at the Statehouse Friday but had no public schedule. And all seemed back to normal.

But for a large chunk of the day Thursday, the man who has garnered national attention for his policies and politics captured the spotlight over concerns about his health.

Hope for cities

With the hope of revitalizing some of the state’s largest – and distressed – cities, Gov. Chris Christie signed into law Tuesday a modified version of the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit, as authored by Sen. Raymond Lesniak, (D-20), Elizabeth, and Assemblyman Albert Coutinho, (D-29), of Newark. The bill provides a tax credit as large as 35 percent, whereas previously it was 20 percent.

Critics, such as Fair Share Housing, have said the new law is a way for the state to skimp on providing its fair share of affordable housing.

Court access

The Assembly Judiciary Committee took testimony Wednesday from Legal Services of New Jersey regarding the impact it suffered from millions of dollars in budget cuts.

After initially offering to leave $5 million in his budget for the service, which serves poor people in various civil disputes, Gov. Christie also cut that as well, leaving the service with a net loss of $10 million in state funds.

Assemblyman Peter Barnes III, (D-18), Edison, said he hopes the governor will have a change of heart to restore the funding, just like he had with transitional aid and the Wynona Lipman Center.

The head of Legal Services said that if the money is not restored, then in many cases two out of three potential clients will not receive the quality of legal aid to which they are entitled.

But a day before the hearing, Christie dismissed it as nothing more than “election-year theater.”

Talking about energy

A hearing was held Tuesday at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark regarding the governor’s proposed Energy Master Plan.

Critics have decried the plan, claiming it short-circuits clean energy goals, particularly by reducing the renewable energy target from 30 percent to 22.5 percent.

However, Christie, as he has in the past, defended it, saying the previous goal was never realistic, and was nothing more than a “political sop.”

But during the hearing, the first of three such public events, a representative of the League of Women Voters chastised the state, saying it was more concerned with cost efficiencies than with the health and welfare of residents.

Ellie Gruber of the League’s natural resources committee warned, for example, that the plan represents a threat to water quality. She said she believes the plan essentially endorses the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing to find natural gas deposits.

Weekly Roundup: Week of July 25