Morning News Digest: August 19, 2011

Morning News Digest: Friday, August 19, 2011

By Missy Rebovich

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Christie, Cuomo outline proposal for scaled back toll hike

The governors of New York and New Jersey late Thursday outlined a proposal for a scaled back Port Authority toll hike that would raise the cost to cross the Hudson by $1.50 initially and another $3 over the following four years.

Fares to ride the PATH train would increase 25 cents initially and then 25 cents per year for three years.

This is a responsible alternative that balances the infrastructure needs of the region with toll and fare payers’ economic realities,” Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a joint letter to the chairman and vice chairman of the Port Authority board.  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



Poll: Voters want Democrats to control legislature

The majority of New Jersey voters want to see Democrats remain in control of the legislature according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton poll released today.

Just over half of those surveyed said they want Democrats to continue to balance the power in Trenton, versus 38 percent who said they hope the GOP takes control of the legislature.

Democrats fared better in the most recent poll than in April, when their margin stood at nine points.   The party held a 17 point margin in February.

“When thinking about the legislature versus the governor, voters prefer that Democrats remain able to balance Gov. Christie,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “But when asked simply to consider their actual vote in Assembly and Senate races, they are somewhat less supportive of Democrats.”  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



Gov. Christie: Obama not leading like a president

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says it’s time for President Obama to show leadership on the issue of health care reform.

At an event at a hospital on Thursday, Christie said the president should ask the Supreme Court to take up the question of the health care bill’s constitutionality now.

A federal appeals court recently ruled the measure’s requirement that every American have health insurance is unconstitutional. The case is expected to reach the Supreme Court eventually.

Christie said the uncertainty is harming the economy because businesses aren’t sure what their health care costs will be. He said Obama needs to lead like a president, not a political strategist.  (The Associated Press)



Governor lauds ‘safety net’ hospitals

Governor Christie visited one of Union County’s regional medical centers on Thursday, highlighting his decision to boost funding toward safety-net medical services for cash-strapped residents.

Christie, touring Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth to see wards for cancer and cardiac patients, praised what he called “safety-net urban hospitals.”

He said he had restored $20 million in hospital funding in the budget he signed in June, expanded availability to send that money to all hospitals and provided an extra $30 million to train new doctors.

After increasing a tax on hospitals in 2010 to provide state funds for treating uninsured patients, Christie faced concerns from hospital groups that the new system risked limiting health care access for poorer patients.  (Fletcher, The Record)



Christie will speak at GOP event in Miss.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is set to speak later this month at a Mississippi Republican Party fundraising dinner in Jackson.  The party said Thursday that the Aug. 31 dinner will honor Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who’s in his final year in office.

The $250-a-ticket event is at the Jackson Convention Center.

Barbour, who chaired the Republican National Committee in the mid-1990s, is limited to two terms as governor. Earlier this year, he toured several states with early presidential primaries or caucuses before announcing that he wouldn’t enter the 2012 race for the White House.  (The Associated Press)



Lewis stumps tirelessly; ballot status still unsettled

It’s been 14 years since Carl Lewis, the nine-time Olympic gold medalist, stepped onto a track to compete.

But when the graying former sprinter knocked on doors Wednesday in Marlton to talk politics, it was clear his star power hadn’t dimmed. People smiled and even hugged the New Jersey Senate candidate, and many asked for a picture with him.

For Lewis, 50, fame has erased one of the biggest challenges to a political neophyte: name recognition. But whether his name will be on the ballot in November remains to be seen.

Republicans have challenged his residency status, saying he hasn’t lived in New Jersey for the four years required to run for the state Senate. This week, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, in her role as secretary of state, declined to certify him as a candidate in the Eighth District, citing her concerns about his residency.  (Farrell, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Mayor: Event marking 9/11 is finalized

As the governors of New York and New Jersey quietly sought more control over the Sept. 11 anniversary ceremony, Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed back Thursday against what he described as any moves that would distract from or politicize the solemn event.

“We’ve tried very hard every year to keep the focus away from politics and politicians, and on families, where it belongs,” Mr. Bloomberg said at a news conference in Queens.

“This day isn’t about any of us,” the mayor added, referring to the elected officials who will participate in the nationally televised ceremony next month. “It is about the families of the 3,000-odd people who lost their lives 10 years ago. And none of us in elective office, I think, should ever forget that.”  (Saul, The Wall Street Journal)



Christie’s 9/11 memorial blunder

A furious New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took another slap at plans for the 9/11 anniversary ceremony yesterday, saying Mayor Bloomberg has now snubbed the Port Authority chairman.

“The Port Authority lost 84 employees on September 11, and the Port Authority should be represented there that day,” Christie demanded.

He said that his appointee, PA Chairman David Samson, “should be included in the ceremony.”

It was Christie’s second shot in as many days at the plans surrounding the solemn ceremony, which is being fully choreographed by the Bloomberg administration.

Christie privately denounced Hizzoner as a “dictator,” “Napoleon” and a “putz” because the city initially left former New Jersey Gov. Donald DiFrancesco — who was in office at the time of the terror attacks — out of the ceremony.



Don’t taint Sept. 11 anniversary ceremony with politics, Mayor Bloomberg urges

Mayor Bloomberg on Thursday panned any political jockeying for speaking time at the Sept. 11 anniversary ceremony, saying it cheapened the sacred event.

The mayor slammed reports that Govs. Cuomo and Chris Christie were angling for larger roles at the Ground Zero ceremony.

“We’re trying to keep focus on families, and that’s where it belongs,” Bloomberg said. “This day is not above any of us, it’s about the families of 3,000-odd people who lost their lives 10 years ago.”

“When it comes to 9/11,” Hizzoner added, “I don’t think the public is interested in some of these probably made-up stories about political squabbling that really take away from the solemnity of the occasion.”

Ceremony organizers – who are now inviting first-responders to watch from a nearby park – have been overwhelmed with requests to attend the 10th anniversary commemoration.  (Blain and Lemire, NY Daily News)



NJ renewable energy proposal debated in Toms River

New Jersey’s proposed energy policy calls for 22.5 percent of the state’s power to come from renewable sources within 10 years — a goal that was the subject of heavy debate at a legislative hearing attended by nearly 100 people Thursday.

Environmentalists said they want a 30 percent target, but business leaders said that would drive their costs up.

State Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, defended the goal proposed in Gov. Chris Christie’s draft energy master plan, calling it fair and an “aggressive standard.”

Only eight states have higher renewable portfolio standards than 22.5 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy website. The standards are state policies that require electricity providers to obtain a minimum percentage of their power from renewable energy resources, including the sun and wind, by a certain date.  (Jordan, Gannett)



Jobless rate holds line in New Jersey

New Jersey’s private sector employers added 3,900 jobs in July, the state said Thursday in a report that marked the sixth straight month of job gains for a labor market slowly recovering from a deep recession.

New Jersey’s private sector employers added 3,900 jobs in July, the state said Thursday in a report that marked the sixth straight month of job gains for a labor market slowly recovering from a deep recession.

Over the six-month period from January to July, the state’s economy added 47,800 jobs, an average of nearly 8,000 per month.  (Mikle, Gannett)



Poll: Voters don’t like plan to increase tolls

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s initial proposal to dramatically increase tolls on the bridges into New York is an unpopular one with New Jersey’s voters, according to a poll released Thursday.

A Quinnipiac University poll showed registered voters disapprove of the plan to hike tolls between $4 and $7 for commuters by a margin of 54 to 41 percent. In addition, 54 percent of those surveyed blamed the port authority for the proposal, rather than the governors of New Jersey and New York, who appoint the authority members.

“Just about everyone in New Jersey has heard about the Port Authority’s toll proposals and they’re not popular,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Even in South Jersey, where there’s another Port Authority which controls toll bridges to Pennsylvania, voters are opposed.”  (Staff, Gannett)



NY Fed ‘trying to do everything we can’ to get economy moving: official

The man who runs the Federal Reserve’s most powerful bank visited Jersey City’s Waterfront yesterday, telling city officials the Fed is “trying to do everything we can” to get the economy moving again.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley met with officials on the 25th floor of a Waterfront office building, in a conference room with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline, to discuss the city’s efforts to revitalize Downtown Jersey City, Journal Square and other city neighborhoods.

Dudley seemed dour on the state of the nation’s economy, and the prospects that it will improve in the near future.

“I wish I had that magic wand,” he said. “Unfortunately we don’t have any great answers on how to restart this.”  (McDonald, The Jersey Journal)



Utilities to pay more for use of state land

The Christie administration has unveiled new rules for calculating how much utilities would pay for placing pipelines and similar projects across state lands.

The rules, announced Thursday, have already been used to negotiate a proposed lease that could cost one utility as much as $7.8 million for natural gas pipeline spurs through parkland in Passaic and Sussex counties.

The rule changes were recommended by a study group created by state Environmental Commissioner Bob Martin after criticism last year that the fees were too low.

“The state’s process for valuing leases was long overdue for a major overhaul,” Martin said. “This is our opportunity to bring this system up to date, to provide more predictability for business and to get the … most fair compensation for the people of New Jersey.”  (O’Neill, The Record)



Reading Disabilities Task Force said state educators not doing enough to identify children who cannot read

Educators in New Jersey are not doing all they can to properly identify and help children who cannot read, members of the New Jersey Reading Disabilities Task Force said at a meeting at the Ocean City library Wednesday.

Task force members said a top priority will be raising awareness of current research and teaching methods that are effective in helping the estimated 15 percent of all children who struggle with dyslexia or other reading disorders.

Formed earlier this year, the task force has a year to make recommendations to the governor. But members said they want to start raising awareness now so that parents and teachers can be better informed. They said one problem is that teachers are not getting the instruction they need to identify children at a young age.  (D’Amico, Press of Atlantic City)



New Jersey Policemen’s Benevolent Association to bring its events back to Atlantic City

The New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association will bring events back to Atlantic City after the city rehired the last of 60 police officers it had laid off last year, the PBA president said Thursday.

“New Jersey’s largest law enforcement union is in Atlantic City to stay,” NJSPBA President Anthony Wieners said.

The state’s largest law enforcement union pulled its annual events from the city last year in response to the city’s decision to lay off 60 police officers.

Wieners at the time said the PBA could not support a city that did not support public safety.

“We tried to have a dialogue with the city administration during the layoffs and they said they didn’t have to speak with us. We told them, hey, we bring a lot of revenue to the city with our events,” PBA spokesman Jim Ryan said.  (Weaver, Press of Atlantic City)



As tolls keep rising, some still pay nothing

For eight years, Alfred Buono had made it a twice-weekly occurrence: He would drive his car across a bridge from New Jersey to Staten Island and not pay the toll — doing so a total of 998 times, authorities said.

By taking advantage of gateless E-ZPass toll lanes, Mr. Buono failed to pay a total of $5,254 in tolls, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

With the advent of E-ZPass, numerous toll authorities, including the Port Authority, have introduced gateless toll plazas, rewarding E-ZPass users with shorter travel times.

But at Port Authority crossings, records show, roughly 2 out of every 100 cars driving over bridges and through tunnels pass through the gateless toll lanes without paying.  (Haughney, The New York Times)



Connecticut union takes concessions

After nearly six months of negotiations and two rounds of votes, Connecticut’s public unions have approved $1.6 billion in contract concessions proposed by Gov. Dannel Malloy.

The deal means at least 3,000 state workers will keep their jobs. While the administration expects to continue laying off managers and consolidating state agencies, and it estimates 2,000 employees will retire before Oct. 1, the thousands of pink slips unionized workers received this summer will be rescinded beginning Monday.

The union’s rank-and-file members shot down the deal in June. This week’s vote followed a decision by the union leadership to ease voting rules.  (Banjo, The Wall Street Journal)



Greenwich Township blocks ‘fracking,’ despite the apparent lack of natural gas within its borders

After Greenwich Township Committeeman Dan Perez saw “Gasland,” a documentary about the negative impacts of natural gas extraction, he said he realized the township had to protect itself from the practice.

“People would turn on the water and light it,” Perez said, describing a scene from the film. That’s something that we don’t want.”

The township committee Thursday night unanimously passed a resolution disallowing hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the term used for the extraction technique being employed in northeastern Pennsylvania and elsewhere.  (Foster, The Express-Times)



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Bill that frees sexual assault victims from paying for forensics exams signed into law

Legislation that ensures victims of sexual assault don’t have to bear the costs of forensic examinations has been signed into law.

Gov. Chris Christie today signed S972, which addresses what its sponsors see as a cruel injustice. Currently, each county provides forensic examinations by a physician or certified forensic sexual assault nurse examiners.  (Staff, State Street Wire)



Cherry Hill/Merchantville merger study commission advances

A possible municipal merger gained some traction today.

The Local Finance Board of the Department of Community Affairs approved an application to form a commission to study a possible merger between Merchantville and Cherry Hill.

The idea to study the effects of consolidating the two towns was advanced by  a grassroots group,  Merchantville Connecting for the Future.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



Codey criticizes state proposal to alter staff/client ratios for mental health care

An administration proposal to reduce reimbursement rates and change staff-to-patient ratios for certain mental health care in order to reduce costs drew criticism today from a state senator.

Sen. Richard J. Codey, (D-27), Essex, called proposed alterations to the Medicaid/NJ FamilyCare program “deeply troubling.’’  (Mooney, State Street Wire)



Beck confronts Sierra Club resistance to new Energy Master Plan

The leading environmental lobbyist in New Jersey said he had to wait through nine hours of administration hearings on the governor’s Energy Master Plan to have his voice heard, but it was heard today at the joint legislative hearing on the state’s energy blueprint.  (Carroll, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room 



The Booker-Bollwage backroom chatter

An Elizabeth insider, speaking on condition of anonymity, laughed so hard at the suggestion of Mayor Christian Bollwage as a gubernatorial candidate that he almost fell out of his chair.

“Governor?” he asked “No, man, no, no. He’s not running for governor. The best the mayor could hope for is to take Lesniak’s seat when Lesniak retires. He’s a party guy.”  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)






Thompson: Judge’s suit over reforms ‘absurd’

Assemblyman Samuel D. Thompson has a message for the Superior Court judge who is challenging the constitutionality of New Jersey’s pension reform law: Take a look at Michigan.

Thompson, R-Middlesex, took a poke at Judge Paul DePascale, a Hudson County Republican, for his suit, calling it “absurd’’ and saying the Michigan judiciary recommended cutting 50 judges in order to help with that state’s budget crisis.

“Michigan judges understand the difficult economic times of their state and the nation, and have offered to reduce their ranks and maximize efficiencies,” Thompson said in a statement.  (Schoonejongen, Gannett)



You’ll need a Jackson for the George

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey wants to raise tolls and fares. At some point today, New Jersey and New York commuters should know whether they are just going to be fleeced or butchered for lamb ragu.

The commissioners of the Port Authority are scheduled to vote on a proposed set of toll and fare hikes that could very nearly price many low- and middle-income folks out of their jobs. The Port Authority has told commuters it has no choice. It is not the agency’s fault that it cannot rein in its overtime. It’s not the agency’s fault that it can’t raise taxes so it has to raise tolls and fares. It’s not the agency’s fault that New Jersey wants to use PA funds to repair infrastructure that should be paid with money from the state’s Transportation Trust Fund except the TTF is broke.  (Doblin, The Record)



Real Steve Sweeney doesn’t care about Fake Steve Sweeney.  Real George Norcross, OTOH…

Twitter is a fantastic reporting tool! It also might get me fired. I know who the guy behind @SenSweeney is! But I’m not naming him. Explainer on everything (and some profanity) after the jump.

As I’ve long suspected, the guy behind @SenSweeney — the satirical account that’s been needling real Senate President Steve Sweeney since March — is an angry progressive Democrat. By turns funny and mean and funny, @SenSweeney was named one of the top accounts to follow by Politico last month. 

Why I won’t out him: he’s not a legislative staffer or public employee. Also the real Sweeney, per his spokesman, isn’t much bothered by @SenSweeney.  (Roh, Gannett)



Getting manipulated by both sides of the Hudson

How is it possible to squeeze billions of dollars more out of us road warriors to keep one of America’s giant transportation bureaucracies going for at least another few years?

Those who run the Port Authority have been trying to scare us to death with outlandish claims if we don’t pony up bridge and tunnel tolls as high as $16 by 2015. For example, the bridges will start falling down — or just as bad — airports, trains and crossings will no longer be able to secure our safety. Others who simply want to preserve their jobs or create more jobs — and strengthen the regional economy, of course — have signed on to the same scary tactic.  (Cichowski, The Record)


  Morning News Digest: August 19, 2011