Morning News Digest: August 17, 2011

Morning News Digest: Wednesday, August 17, 2011

By Missy Rebovich

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Denied by NJEA, Stack retaliates, calls union ‘evil empire’

In a letter to the Jersey Journal, which he CC’d to, state Sen. Brian P. Stack (D-33) of Union City criticized the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), which earlier this month denied him its endorsement for his thumbs up contribution to public worker health and pension benefits reform.

“NJEA has shown their true colors and it’s evident that this group is not about the education of our children, just as their mission is not about standing up for public school teachers,” wrote Stack. “Instead, it’s the objective of this evil empire of do-nothings to create a hierarchy of union leaders who get paid to take politicians to lunch and dinner.”   (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Rove picking up Prez Christie ‘vibrations’

Former Bush brain Karl Rove told Sean Hannity on Fox last night that he believes Gov. Chris Christie could still get in the race for president.

“I think Chris Christie and Paul Ryan are gonna look at it again,” said Rove, who also mentioned former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. 

“… I’m starting to pick up some sort of vibrations that these kind of conversations are causing Christie and Ryan to tell the people who are calling them, you know what, I owe it to you, I’ll take a look at it,” he added.

Rove told Fox in the aftermath of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign announcement that the GOP risks losing in 2012 if it nominates a right-wing candidate to face President Barack Obama.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



McGowan gets in LD14 Assembly race

The departure of Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried from the 14th District Assembly race due to a health issue creates an opportunity for Robbinsville Councilwoman Sheree McGowan, who today launched her campaign.  

“As a councilwoman, Sheree has been a tremendous advocate for responsible budgeting and economic development,” said Fried. “Sheree is the fresh voice for taxpayers that we desperately need in the Assembly.”

McGowan is running on a Republican ticket with plumber/pipefitter Richard Kanka of Hamilton for Senate and former Cranbury Mayor Wayne Wittman for Assembly.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Gov. Chris Christie’s N.J. poll numbers on the rise while President Obama’s ratings drop

Gov. Chris Christie’s poll numbers have improved while President Obama’s hit a new low in the Garden State, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released this morning.

New Jersey registered voters are split on what they think of Christie, with 47 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving. That’s slightly better for Christie than a June Quinnipiac poll, when 44 percent approved and 47 percent disapproved.

Obama’s approval ratings have suffered, with 52 percent of voters disapproving and 44 percent approving — down from a positive 50 percent to 46 percent in June.

And U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, up for re-election next year, also saw his rating drop, to 39 percent and 42 percent disapprove – down from a positive 45 percent to 38 percent in June.  (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)



Lewis taken off fall ballot

Former Olympian Carl Lewis Tuesday compared Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who is also secretary of state, to former President Richard Nixon after she ordered county clerks to leave Lewis’ name off general election ballots in the 8th Legislative District.

Guadagno, the state’s top elections officer, explained her decision Monday in a letter accompanying certification of candidates in the Nov. 8 elections.

“In April, I found that Mr. Lewis was not a resident of New Jersey for the constitutionally required four years prior to this year’s general election,” Guadagno wrote.

“Although the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ordered Mr. Lewis’ name to appear on the primary ballot, that order was carefully circumscribed and limited only to the primary ballot — the sole issue before the Third Circuit at the time of its order.  (Roh, Gannett)



Democrats challenge administration’s draft energy plan

With the Christie administration yet to end hearings on a draft Energy Master Plan, Democratic lawmakers already are threatening to reverse a decision to scale back New Jersey’s renewable energy goals.

In a press conference, the two chairmen of key environmental committees in the legislature yesterday said they are drafting statutes that would restore a goal of having 30 percent of the state’s electricity produced by renewable energy, instead of the 22.5 percent target set by the administration in its revised plan issued this June.

The dispute has emerged as perhaps the most contentious of many hotly debated issues involving the new plan, which has been embraced by the business community, but widely criticized by most environmental groups.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



NJ gov to sign open space legislation

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be in central New Jersey on Wednesday to sign farmland preservation legislation.

The bill signing at Terhune Orchard, a well-established farm in Princeton Township, marks the continuation of Christie’s summer tour of the state that has included stops at farms and the Jersey Shore.

Earlier this month, the governor signed bills appropriating $157 million for land preservation at a working, 220-acre farm in Hillsborough. His first trip to that site was derailed when the governor sought emergency treatment for an asthma attack. 

Earlier this week, he signed legislation appropriating $10 million to preserve the state’s historical assets, including President Grover Cleveland’s birthplace.  (The Associated Press)



Speculation of Chris Christie presidential run continues after Rick Perry joins race

It’s the same as it ever was.

Another Republican declared his candidacy for president and the clamor for Gov. Chris Christie to get into the race continued.

And the governor said he’s not running. “My answer is not going to change,” Christie said Monday.

After Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s announcement Saturday didn’t bring an end to the calls, political observers say Republican dreams of Christie getting in the race might not be quashed until it’s too late to add his name to the ballot.

The first ballot deadline: November. “There is still time, if he were to shock us and say, ‘I’m running,’” said Rutgers political science professor David Redlawsk.  (Gibson, The Star-Ledger)



GOP eyes new 2012 candidates

What if Rick Perry isn’t the last one in?

The Texas governor’s late entry in the presidential race might have been expected to close out the GOP’s 2012 field. But, in some conservative circles at least, there’s evidence it’s had the opposite effect.

Rather than marking the end of the period in which new candidates would join the race, it may have touched off a new phase of interest in the contest by suggesting that the unsettled GOP field still has room for more candidates.

Karl Rove, the architect of George W. Bush’s political run, told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Monday night that he believes the field is still open—and named New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan as two who may take a second look.

The Weekly Standard reported Tuesday morning that Ryan is indeed “strongly considering a run” and is currently on vacation with his family discussing a prospective bid.  (Haberman and Sherman, Politico)



Teacher contract talks: slow going, small raises

Against the backdrop of New Jersey’s battles over union rights and collective bargaining, tensions are playing out in local teacher contract talks, too.

More than a third — or nearly 210 at last count — of the state’s school districts will be starting the year without contracts, according to the school boards association in its annual labor update to be released today.

And of those that have settled, salary increases are getting tighter. The latest are averaging 2 percent, a full point less than all the contracts now in place, the association said.

The number of outstanding contracts is higher than usual for this time of year. Typically, about 150 districts are still in talks when schools open. And more than a third of ongoing negotiations have declared a formal impasse, which means calling in a state mediator, the association said.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



Local Congressman promoting manufacturing growth with tour, forum

After nearly a quarter-century of steady and dramatic decline, some pundits and economic experts seem just about ready to give up on the nation’s manufacturing industry.

To those who would consider doing that, U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, D-12th District, has a message: Not so fast.

“It’s way too early to write the obituary for manufacturing in America,” Holt said Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the launch of a two-week tour of New Jersey manufacturing sites. “We need manufacturing here. We have manufacturing here now, but we can have a lot more.”

Since 1979, the U.S. manufacturing sector has shrunk from 20 million jobs to fewer than 12 million jobs; the recession sparked late in 2008 helped create about a quarter of that reduction.  (Spivey, Gannett)



N.J. DEP proposes rules to hasten cleanup of 16,000 contaminated sites

The state Department of Environmental Protection has proposed rules designed to accelerate the pace of cleaning up the New Jersey’s over 16,000 contaminated sites.

All contaminated site cleanups that are not directly overseen by the DEP must be handled by a so-called licensed site remediation professional by next May.

Upon adoption, the rules will culminate a three-year phase-in of the Site Remediation Reform Act, the law that provides changes to the way contaminated sites are investigated and cleaned up. That act established the DEP’s Licensed Site Remediation Professional program.

“This is an important step to help us more quickly and efficiently achieve that important goal,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said. “It will benefit public health and the environment, and will make underutilized properties available more quickly for redevelopment, benefiting economic growth.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



Top 100 places to live includes N.J. towns South Brunswick, Madison, Montville, Ridgewood and Hillsborough

CNNMoney Magazine has released its list of the top 100 places to live in the United States, and New Jersey is well represented with five of the first 53.

Checking in at number 17 is Montville, in Morris County. Money likes the fact that over 50 Fortune 500 companies have facilities in the area. Location is considered a plus: Montville is only an hour away from New York City, the Jersey shore, and the Mountain Creek Ski Resort.

Montville Mayor James Sandham Jr. said to the Daily Record, “We have a great community with a lot of volunteers that put a lot of effort into making Montville a great place to live.”

South Brunswick comes in at number 22. The Middlesex County town has a great public school system, housing ranging from $100,000 one-bedroom condos to million-dollar homes, and good jobs in the area.  (Holt, New Jersey Newsroom)



Kids Count survey ranks New Jersey fifth for child health

New Jersey remains one of the best states in the nation to raise and educate children, according to the latest Kids Count survey to be released today.

The annual report found New Jersey ranked fifth highest for child health and well being, which measures factors ranging from infant mortality and teen deaths to the pecentage of teens in high school and children living in poverty.

That’s an improvement from the survey released last year, which placed New Jersey seventh. New Hampshire ranked highest, while Mississippi came in last.

But the report, by the Baltimore-based Annie Casey Foundation, showed the recession hurt children in New Jersey and across the nation.  (DeMarco, The Star-Ledger)



Cuomo seeks changes to 9/11 event

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is quietly pushing the Bloomberg administration to give him more control over his role in the nationally televised ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, said people familiar with the discussions.

In high-level talks between city and state aides, the governor’s office has sought greater influence over the several-hour program, questioning whether Mayor Michael Bloomberg should be in charge of an event his office has controlled for the past decade, the individuals said.

The changes sought by Mr. Cuomo leave open the possibility that he’ll address the gathering with substantive remarks, the individuals said. In past Sept. 11 anniversary ceremonies, governors have read brief lines of poetry.  (Gershman, The Wall Street Journal)



NAACP reps to meet with state Attorney General over low black ranks in new trooper recruit class

Lawyers for the NAACP will meet with Attorney General Paula Dow and State Police Supt. Rick Fuentes next week to discuss why just five black applicants were selected for the new 123-member trooper recruit class that began Monday.

In an effort to avoid a new round of legal action threatened by the NAACP, the two sides will review minority recruiting by the State Police and what can be done to bolster the number of black candidates, officials said Tuesday.

“We’re going to explore any possibility we can to resolve this by an agreement that avoids litigating in front of the judge,” said David Rose, an attorney for the NAACP. “But we’re certainly prepared to go to court if we are not able to resolve our differences.”  (Baxter, The Star-Ledger)



Northfield resident is trying to generate support for proposal to give more state aid to suburban, wealthy school districts

A Northfield resident is trying to get local support for a North Jersey state senator’s proposal to give more state aid to suburban and wealthy school districts to offset property taxes.

But Dennis Mahon may be facing an uphill battle. Both Democratic Sen. Jim Whelan and his Republican challenger, Assemblyman Vincent Polistina, said they do not support the so-called Fair School Funding plan proposed by Sen. Michael Doherty, R-Warren, Hunterdon.

Doherty’s plan would provide the same amount of state aid for every child no matter where he or she lives. He calculates that amount at about $7,500 per student based on current state income tax revenue.  (D’Amico, Press of Atlantic City)



Jobs vs. toll, fare hikes: Commuters, union members disagree at hearings

The arguments for and against the Port Authority’s planned increases in fares and Hudson River crossings came down to those who didn’t have jobs and need them and those who had jobs but are just scraping by.

The meeting room in the Port Authority’s Jersey City Technical Center was filled to standing room Tuesday morning for one of nine hearings on the proposed hike, with unemployed labors in orange shirts that read “Port Authority = Jobs” the most visible sight upon entering.

While opponents had sympathy for the unemployed workers, they had little to none for the agency proposing the increases and called for an audit of the Port Authority’s books and another, better located, well publicized round of hearings.  (Higgs, Gannett)



Group says bills would lead to more supermarkets in NJ

A group of proposed laws designed to ease the path for supermarkets to open in New Jersey is being touted by the New Jersey Food Council as a way to bring quality foods to residents who currently are unable to get them.

The legislative agenda includes everything from tax incentive programs to regulatory reforms, which advocates say will promote the growth of the food retail and distribution industry.

That industry, said Food Council President Linda Doherty, “accounts for 9 percent of gross state product and 17 percent of all New Jersey jobs.”

Six of the proposals are already in the form of legislation.

Among them is a measure to increase the number of liquor licenses a supermarket can hold from two to 10.  (Staff, Gannett)



Wind and solar not steady enough for the national grid

There’s lot to like about solar and wind energy, if you discount the higher cost. They’re clean, with no greenhouse gas emissions, and they’re powered by resources that cost nothing when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing.

Therein lies the problem. As intermittent sources of power, wind and solar pose challenges to the operators of the nation’s regional power grids, whose highest priority is maintaining the reliability of a system that is the envy of the rest of the world for delivering electricity virtually all of the time.

If renewable energy is really going to take off, then the nation needs to develop a reliable system of storing the power produced by solar farms and wind turbines, a priority of the federal government and now the government of New Jersey.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



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OLS responds to Treasury’s July revenue report

The debate continues regarding who is projecting revenues better for the upcoming fiscal year.

The Office of Legislative Services said today that it found it “difficult to reconcile” that the Treasury Department’s reported revenue collections in July were lower than expected, even though they collected a great deal more money compared to last year.

In an internal memo, OLS chief David Rosen said, “it is premature to make any statement about fiscal year 2012 revenue trends.”

The memo was sent to Senate and Assembly budget committees and obtained by State Street Wire.  (Staff, State Street Wire)



Changes to staff/client ratio, reimbursement rates for certain care proposed

The Department of Human Services is proposing changes to reimbursement rates and staff-to-patient ratios for certain types of psychiatric care.

For what it calls “psychiatric adult acute partial hospital and partial hospital services” and “independent clinic services’’ the state wants to change the ratio of staff to clients from 1 to 12 to 1 to 15.  (Mooney, State Street Wire)



McKeon, Smith seek to counter Christie Energy Master Plan with eventual legislation

Assemblyman John McKeon, (D-27), South Orange, and Sen. Bob Smith, (D-17), Piscataway, said today they are preparing legislation to combat the governor’s scaling back of renewable energy goals and other aspects of his revised Energy Master Plan.

In advance of Thursday’s joint legislative hearing in Toms River, the lawmakers and environmentalists castigated Gov. Chris Christie for attempting to turn back the clock on New Jersey’s progress as a leader in alternative energy.  (Mooney, State Street Wire)



Bill would provide student incentives to remain in state

A bill designed to encourage graduates of N.J. colleges and universities to remain in the state, and to encourage residents attending out-of-state institutions to return here post-graduation, has been introduced.

A4095, sponsored by Assembly Democrats Connie Wagner, Peter J. Barnes and Pamela Lampitt, would create a “Retaining Our Best and Brightest Loan Redemption Program” to provide incentives to such academically successful graduates.  (Staff, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room 



Turner wants two-year toll freeze

State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-15) of Lawrenceville called for a two-year toll freeze today in a letter she wrote to Gov. Chris Christie.

“Please allow me to express my strong opposition to the proposed toll hikes on Port Authority of New York/New Jersey crossings and PATH trains,” the senator wrote.  (Staff, PolitickerNJ)






Moment of truth for Carl Lewis

Victory often illuminates the very best of human endeavor.

In no place is this more obvious than athletics. Plainly put, winning makes an athlete a winner. But what happens when they step off the field and into another role? Can they still be that winner?

All his success on the track, both the predictable and the stunning, may not help former Olympian Carl Lewis in his latest race. Lewis, one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century, is running as a Democrat against Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego in Burlington County in this year’s legislative elections. But his nine Olympic gold medals mean nothing in the courts, where Lewis has landed, his race to unseat Addiego beset by problems with residency requirements.  (Schoonejonhen, Gannett)



Christie, deflecting anger, prepares toll deal

The melodrama that Governor Christie has been stage-managing with toll and fare increases on Port Authority bridges, tunnels and trains should fool no one. His fingerprints are all over the script.

It began Aug. 5 with the authority proposing sharply higher tolls on the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels to Manhattan, with somewhat lower increases for frequent users of the three bridges that link New Jersey to Staten Island.

The present E-ZPass rush-hour toll is $8, raised from $6 just three years ago. The new toll, effective next month, would be $12. For off-peak E-ZPass motorists, the present $6 toll would rise to $10. The cash toll, now $8, would shoot up to $15 at all times. Further, three years later, in 2014, all tolls would rise another $2.  (Ahearn, The Record)



Guadagno orders Carl Lewis’s name off the ballot in LD8

Former Olympian Carl Lewis today compared Lt. Gov. and Secretary of State Kim Guadagno to Richard Nixon after she ordered county clerks to leave Lewis’s name off general election ballots in the 8th legislative district.

“In April, I found that Mr. Lewis was not a resident of New Jersey for the constitutionally required four years prior to this year’s general election,” Guadagno wrote in a letter accompanying certification of candidates in the Nov. 8 elections.

“A three-judge panel for the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, unanimously affirmed my decision, finding it to be supported by adequate evidence,” Guadagno continued.  (Roh, Gannett)



NJMVC lines are shorter – for now

Long lines have shrunk a bit at Motor Vehicle Commission offices this month, and the agency’s chief administrator remains confident that they’ll shrink even more, especially in Lodi, where readers tend to focus their wrath.

All it takes, says Ray Martinez, are additional personnel, a few more digital cameras and an office redesign, as well as adopting a better sense of timing.

“Full-time staff has risen from 1,037 to 1,058 compared to last year, and I’ve got 222 part-timers instead of last year’s 156, so manpower isn’t the issue,” Martinez said Tuesday. “I’m also installing 10 more cameras — two in Lodi — so that shouldn’t hold up the lines for digital license photos.”  (Cichowski, The Record)


  Morning News Digest: August 17, 2011