Morning News Digest: Monday, September 19, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Winners and Losers: Week of September 12th
There is a chill in the air, but in Washington Township (Warren County) it ain’t the weather that’s causing it, it’s the neighbors upset over a bonehead Sept. 11 memorial. The Township Committee in the Warren County burg heads our losers list this week, while Carl Lewis headlines the winners. Lewis may soon set a record for the most times flip-flopping from loser to winner as his residency case continues to meander through the courts. Fear not, the deadline for Lewis to appear on the ballot is today (unless your name is Lautenberg or Torricelli, of course.) (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Senate committee to look at hospital sale amid allegations of corruption
As allegations of illegalities surface against the non-profit that manages Hoboken Hospital, the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee will hear issues surrounding the conversion of non-profit hospitals to for-profit status Monday at its scheduled meeting.
The committee plans to examine problems that have arisen from the transfer of public hospitals to private status. The hearing is scheduled amid the back drop of the Hoboken Hospital transfer, which has faced allegations of illegal activity by the board that manages the hospital.
Sen. Loretta Weinberg, the chairwoman of the committee has asked both the U.S. Attorney and the state Attorney General to investigate the sale and the hospital’s bankruptcy.
If reports are true, the actions of the Hoboken Municipal Hospital Authority represent criminal fraud and malfeasance, and should be prosecuted to the highest standard of law,” Weinberg said. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Whelan and Weinberg tag-team on women’s healthcare issue in battleground LD2
Second District Democrats stood with state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, (D-37), Teaneck, today at their headquarters and highlighted Republican opponents who they say stood quietly beside Gov. Chris Christie and failed to reverse the Republican governor’s decision to not fund women’s healthcare.
“We are highlighting the need for a safety net,” said state Sen. Jim Whelan (D-2), Atlantic City, who’s fighting to hold onto his seat in the face of Assemblyman Vince Polistina (R-2), Egg Harbor Twp.
“Assemblyman Polistina and Assemblyman (John) Amodeo have already voted in lockstep with Gov. Christie, when lack of access to healthcare is a real issue for working families,” added the senator, presenting himself as an independent alternative who had the guts to tell union leadership that he would vote in favor of pension and healthcare reform even though he knew it wouldn’t endear him to base Democratic Party support heading into the general election.
The Senate’s most vocal opponent of Christie’s decision to cut $7.5 million in family planning funding, Weinberg with her feet planted in Atlantic County said she is prepared to do whatever it takes to help Whelan win re-election and to assist his team land two more Democratic seats in the Assembly. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Gov. Chris Christie targets friendly audiences in town hall appearances, analysis shows
Gov. Chris Christie today revives a town hall tour that’s been a smash hit across New Jersey as the outspoken Republican uses his roving stage to bash lawmakers, grab attention for his agenda and show off his gregarious demeanor and speaking skills.
At each appearance, Christie doesn’t merely hear cheers from the crowds. He gets standing ovations.
There may be a reason for that.
A look at the demographics of where Christie holds town halls as he roams New Jersey shows that while the zip codes change, the audience members consistently remain the same.
Most are white. Many are senior citizens. And they’re generally watching the governor in towns that are richer, less racially diverse and more friendly to Republicans than the rest of the state, according to a Star-Ledger analysis.
The governor’s office says the towns — 46 that hosted town halls or their precursor “conversations with the governor” — were picked to spread the meetings out geographically, account for various media markets and provide a diverse audience. (Gibson, The Star-Ledger)
Christie, Cerf, and teachers’ union: A fragile peace
Fred Frangiosa’s presence was conspicuous last week when Gov. Chris Christie visited a Bergenfield middle school to promote his plans for remaking teacher evaluation statewide.
Frangiosa is president of the Bergenfield Education Association, and it is his union’s 450 teachers who will help test the new system. Bergenfield is one of 10 pilot districts for Christie’s plan.
But there was Frangiosa, sitting in Christie’s audience in a middle school classroom — not a cheerleader for the plan, by any means, but not protesting it, either.
“You can’t sign off on something if you don’t know what it is,” Frangiosa said, “and you can’t oppose it either. “
His comments are indicative of the state of relations between Christie and the state’s dominant teachers’ union, the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). It’s not exactly warm and fuzzy, but the thaw is unmistakable – at least where this potentially contentious plan is concerned.
Frangiosa said that was his sense too. He didn’t even get a call from the NJEA’s officers when word got out that Christie would be visiting. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
New Jersey Legislature turns focus on new job-related bills
After a year in which budget battles, benefits changes, and Atlantic City revitalization have dominated Statehouse politics, an old issue is re-emerging as a renewed priority.
As former President Bill Clinton’s campaign might have said: It’s the economy again, stupid.
New Jersey politicians argue they have never stopped worrying about unemployment as they tackled other issues. But in the past two weeks, a chorus of federal and state officials have started focusing on jobs, issuing multiple proposals to stimulate the economy.
State Senate committees are scheduled to begin working on nearly a dozen jobs-related bills today.
The renewed activity comes as the economy continues to sputter more than two years after the national recession officially ended in June 2009. (Froonjian, Press of Atlantic City)
First-time candidate trying to sweep Sweeney out
Salem County Republican Michael Mulligan wants to display his Third Legislative District campaign slogan – “Sweeney’s Gotta Go” – on the side of a car in Pennsville’s Septemberfest parade.
But county Freeholder Bruce Bobbitt, a Democrat, shakes his head.
“This is not a political parade,” Bobbitt said, fuming. “If you’re an incumbent, you put your name on your car, that’s fine, but not . . . ‘Sweeney’s Gotta Go.’ “
The two men are duking it out when Sweeney himself arrives, shaking hands, saying hello. New Jersey Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, the 10-year incumbent, is the most powerful man in the Legislature, the politician everybody knows.
Sweeney, a Democrat, chuckles at his political rival’s sign. Nearby, an old fire truck with the names of Sweeney and his Assembly running mates is gearing up to go. Mulligan covers his sign up but still drives the car in the parade. Sweeney walks ahead, waving to the crowd lining Broadway.
Even though he expects to win the election, Sweeney says, Mulligan “is not going to outwork me.”
But few are calling the Third District a tight race, and no matter how much Mulligan wants his opponent to go, incumbents like Sweeney are difficult to knock out. (Rao, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
State drops the ball on cheaper health care
Public workers looking for the cheaper health plans promised after benefit reforms will not have those choices by October’s open enrollments, while their existing “Cadillac” plans threaten double-digit increases in premiums.
Without new plans for workers, taxpayers also won’t save. New Jersey could save $6,000 for some cheaper family plans, but officials charged with finding savings haven’t approved them.
Both Governor Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney promised to curb the costs of health care for union members with a set of new plans. But delays and disagreements mean those promised plans will not be ready in time for Oct. 1, the date state employees can make changes to their insurance coverage.
The panels designing the plans have not finished their work, and have no scheduled meetings this week. Once completed, the plans’ rates must be approved by a further state commission.
If state officials stick to offering last year’s benefits packages — described by Christie as “Cadillac plans” — they miss their first chance to save taxpayer dollars on public health care, a key argument proponents made in passing the controversial health reforms. (Fletcher, The Record)
N.J. has big stake in fight for Irene aid
Battles over funding disaster relief could continue into the winter holidays this year, even as rebuilding from storms as long ago as 2004 is put on hold by the cash-strapped Federal Emergency Management Agency.
A nearly $7 billion emergency spending bill for FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies with disaster relief programs won bipartisan support in the Democratically controlled Senate on Thursday.
But that bill appears dead in the Republican-controlled House, which could pass a temporary 2012 budget this week that provides less than $3.7 billion for FEMA and the corps. That funding is offset by cutting $1.5 billion in grants designed to encourage automakers to upgrade plants to build more efficient vehicles.
The Senate’s bill was not offset, and some Democrats warned Republicans, especially those from Gulf states, of setting the precedent of requiring disaster aid to be offset by cuts in other spending.
The full damage from Hurricane Irene still has not been tallied, but President Obama has asked Congress for an extra $5.1 billion for FEMA to cover damage from Irene and past disasters, including the deadly tornado in May that killed 159 people in Joplin, Mo. (Jackson, The Record)
Panel to review New Jersey end-of-life care services
New Jersey has a new advisory council that proponents say will help make end-of-life care decisions easier for residents and their families.
The 21-member panel’s main mission will be conducting a comprehensive study on the quality and cost-effectiveness of end-of-life care services and how easily they can be accessed. It also will develop policy recommendations relating to state agencies, policymakers, health care providers and third-party payers.
The panel was created under legislation signed late last month by Gov. Chris Christie. It had been overwhelmingly passed by both the state Senate and the Assembly earlier this summer.
The panel was created under legislation signed late last month by Gov. Chris Christie. It had been overwhelmingly passed by both the state Senate and the Assembly earlier this summer.
In the Senate, Democrats Loretta Weinberg, of Bergen County, and Teresa Ruiz, of Essex County, were the primary sponsors of the legislation, which also drew the attention of several groups in the public health field. (Shipkowski, Associated Press)
Lawmakers, drivers sound off against toll increases
Democrats assembled near the base of the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee to decry a toll increase that went into effect Sunday, calling it a tax hike and an assault on Bergen County’s working families.
With cars whizzing nearby, Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, claimed that Governor Christie’s “tax increase” will disproportionately affect Bergen County residents.
She said the toll increase was the latest in a series of Christie’s policies – including a reduction in municipal and school aid and the cancelation of the Hudson River train tunnel – that hurt county residents.
“We are here today to tell you that Democrats would defend Bergen families,” she said. “Democrats will fight for Bergen families, and clearly, clearly, Chris Christie is no friend to Bergen County, Bergen families, Bergen taxpayers, Bergen commuters, Bergen residents.
“With Christie in office, we are all going to have to watch our backs, and we certainly all need to watch our wallets,” Weinberg added. (Superville, The Record)
Mobile farmers markers would deliver the garden to the Garden State
Even in the densely populated Garden State, there’s still room for food deserts. The term, as defined by the state and federal governments, refers to areas with little access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods.
The problem affects cities across the state and low-income urban communities in particular. A lack of supermarkets and large grocery stores can mean a diet based on fast food and convenience market fare, which can ultimately lead to diabetes and other chronic diseases.
As of 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 360,000 people in New Jersey are “food insecure” (lacking in access to nutritious food).
The state Assembly passed a bill (A-3688) this summer to combat the problem, as well as to promote New Jersey farms and products. The measure calls for the state Department of Agriculture to develop a network of mobile farmers markets that will travel to underserved communities and sell fresh produce. The program will include a voucher system that will let low-income residents buy fresh food at a discount.
Although the specifics have yet to be sorted out, most likely community-supported and nonprofit farms will run the markets. The program also will include nutrition education for children. (Knox, NJ Spotlight)
Efforts by Princeton, NJ show challenges in municipal mergers, even when they make sense
Fewer than 30,000 people call Princeton home, but two of them are mayors. There are also two police chiefs, two treasurers, two administrators and two public works superintendents in this community best known for its Ivy League university.
That’s because one of each belongs to the Borough of Princeton, while the other belongs to Princeton Township, which wraps around the borough like a doughnut.
In November, voters from both municipalities will decide whether they should merge. It will be at least the fourth attempt in almost 60 years to create a unified Princeton and one of dozens of attempts over the years at consolidation in New Jersey.
Consolidation is an old idea that has been given new urgency in the aftermath of the recession, which has left some U.S. towns on the brink of bankruptcy and studying the issue. But difficult questions about economic benefits and community identity often get in the way. (Associated Press)
Bayonne Medical Center first in N.J. to sign on to Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Team program
Bayonne Medical Center on Friday became the first hospital in New Jersey to sign onto the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Team program aimed at curbing energy consumption, slashing carbon emissions and cutting waste.
Daniel A. Kane, CEO and president of the Bayonne Medical Center, and EPA Regional Deputy Administrator George Pavlou signed the agreement at a ceremony in front of the hospital on Avenue E.
Under the agreement, the BMC will take part in the EPA’s Energy Star program by slashing energy consumption by 10 percent. “We are an environmentally conscious hospital and committed to our green programs and initiatives,” Kane said. “This commitment reinforces our commitment to improve the lives of our patients by providing high quality cost effective health care in response to the needs of residents of Bayonne and Hudson County.”
New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez said that installing solar panels on the parking garage roof will produce 255,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually the equivalent of reducing carbon emissions by 176 tons a year, officials said. (Hack, The Jersey Journal)
Hoboken softball game raises funds for 9/11 Widows Foundation
It was the Big Apple verses the Garden State in Hoboken on Sunday afternoon, as the New York state and the New Jersey Young Democrats sponsored a charity softball game at Mama Johnson Field, Fourth Street and Jackson Street, to benefit the 9/11 Widows Foundation.
Assemblyman Ruben Ramos Jr. of Hoboken threw out the ceremonial first pitch. “It’s for a wonderful cause,” Ramos Jr., said, from the baseball diamond. “New York and New Jersey Democrats coming together for a wonderful cause like that? – How could I not come out.”
Ramos Jr., who represents the 33rd legislative district, is a lifelong Hoboken resident.
‘Ten years after September 11th, we all still have heavy hearts with the memories of those who were lost that day,” Christopher Smith, one of the event’s organizers, said in a statement that announced the event. ‘It’s important for us to pay tribute to their memories and stand side by side with them every year. The lives of so many children and young adults were forever changed that day and no one understands how important that is more than our friends here today.’ (Kowsh, The Jersey Journal)
Scamming the system?
Surrounded by angry union protesters in June, Orange Mayor Eldridge T. Hawkins Jr. boldly stepped to the table and testified, twice, at legislative hearings about why it was important to pass pension and benefits reforms.
“My pension is at stake in this, because I had a law enforcement background,” Hawkins told the Assembly Budget Committee. “It is the comprehensive reform we need, and if we don’t have legislation like this pass, layoffs will continue to occur.”
Hawkins, however, may never need to worry about his pension. His application for a full disability could be passed Monday — and Hawkins will receive two-thirds of his $77,818 police salary in tax-free payments for life because of a rear-end car accident, which resulted in little damage to the police cruiser.
Some officials say that a wave of disability pensions for police and firemen has swelled since the state Supreme Court loosened standards for the cases in 2007 and 2008 decisions. If nothing is done to stem the tide, they could destabilize the pensions for police and firemen despite recent reforms, they say.
“Everyone is getting out of a car, or walking down a hall in a correctional facility, they slip, and they’re collecting for the rest of their life,” said John Sierchio, a Bloomfield police officer who heads the state board overseeing pension benefits for police and fire departments. (Method, Gannett)
Political embezzlement rises as U.S. campaign accounts swell
Representative Susan Davis’ latest letter to supporters said: “We have been robbed!!”
Davis, 67, is one of several California Democrats whose campaign accounts were allegedly looted during the past year by their treasurer, Kinde Durkee. On Sept. 10, Davis sent out the appeal to begin rebuilding her account.
Five days after Durkee’s arrest in Burbank on Sept. 2, Representative Frank LoBiondo’s former campaign treasurer was sentenced to 30 months in prison for embezzling more than $450,000 from the New Jersey Republican’s campaign committee.
As candidates raise more money for their campaigns, there is greater opportunity for nefarious treasurers to embezzle campaign cash from politicians accustomed to putting their careers in the hands of consultants, aides and volunteers, said Michael Toner, a former Federal Election Commission chairman.
Such thefts are “almost entirely preventable,” said David Mason, another Federal Election Commission chairman who is a senior vice president at Washington-based Aristotle Inc., a political consulting company. “Politicians still want to rely on trust. It’s a personal business.” (Salant, Bloomberg)
Latest from State Street Wire
State moves to transfer $27M in unspent bond funds for debt service
The state today took steps to approve the transfer of approximately $27 million in unspent general obligation bond funds in order to pay debt service on bonds.
At a meeting that included representatives of the Treasury and Governor’s offices, the state also approved submitting to the Joint Budget Oversight Committee a request to approve the transfers. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
NJTV eyes Statehouse Visitor’s Center for studio space
New Jersey Television (NJTV), which replaced the longtime public-funded New Jersey Network, would like to set up a studio at the Statehouse Visitor’s Center to conduct interviews and record segments.
The network is fine with letting other media organizations use the space as well, the State Capitol Joint Management Commission was told today. The suggestion to let other groups use the space was made by the Treasury Department. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Informed opinion on education reform poll?
Last month, Monmouth University and NJ Press Media released a poll on education reforms proposed by the Christie administration. It has produced a whirlwind of blogosphere commentary from a few folks who took exception to the poll’s results.
The poll found broad, general support for the governor’s proposals, but with a few caveats. When we asked questions pertaining to public awareness, we found a widespread lack of knowledge about these policies (especially with regard to charter schools). We also found some concerns about implementation: performance-based pay is a good idea, but using the current standardized tests as the metric on which to base that may be unfair. And finally, we found that one of the arguments used by reform proponents – that it would close the achievement gap – does not necessarily hold
Sheila Oliver meets Ferdinand the Bull
It is often said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result. Earlier this month, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, said Governor Christie is mentally deranged.
Christie isn’t insane or, for that matter, deranged. The governor is not repeating the same mistakes over and over and expecting a different outcome. For starters, he refused to engage Oliver in a war of words. Christie, circa 2010, would have charged like an angry bull at a red cape. There has been a transformation: Meet Ferdinand the Bull.
Since his legislative victories of June, the governor has taken a laissez faire approach when it comes to angry Democrats. And why not? He pushed massive reforms through a Democratic Legislature. There is nothing worse than a sore winner. (Doblin, The Record)
NJ political bosses pose a hurdle to reform of repugnant payoff system
In Newark last week, the corrupt owner of a demolition company testified under oath that you cannot get a contract with local governments in Jersey unless you first pay a bribe or make a political contribution.
The pols want a piece of the action, one way or another. The only difference is that when the payoff is a political contribution, it is perfectly legal.
“I make political contributions because I learned over the years that not making them, I lost tens of millions of dollars,” said Nicholas Mazzocchi, now under the tender care of the FBI.
This is sad, even repugnant, but it is no surprise. Listen to any corruption trial in this state and you hear the same story. Those are the rules. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
If Christie’s the new darling of the far-right, where does that leave Steve Lonegan?
For several years now, Steve Lonegan, the right-wing former Bogota mayor, has been the Koch Brothers main guy in New Jersey, serving as executive director for their front group, Americans for Prosperity-New Jersey.
So I had to wonder: What was Lonegan’s reaction after learning of oil billionaire David Koch’s praising Governor Christie as “my kind of guy” in front of a room packed with corporate donors in late June?
I didn’t get an answer.
For longtime Lonegan watchers that might be hard to believe. Lonegan has never been media shy, often stating his opinions with conviction and bluster. But he did not respond to four interview requests placed over the past two weeks. (Stile, The Record)
NJ gay marriage bill may make legislative comeback
After an unsuccessful attempt to pass gay marriage in the state Senate last year, advocates have focused on waging their battle in the court system — not the Legislature.
That may be changing, The Auditor has learned.
State Sens. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) and Ray Lesniak (D-Union) — sponsors of the original failed legislation — will meet Friday in New York with Alphonso David, New York State’s deputy secretary for civil rights. Garden State Equality Chairman Steven Goldstein also is expected to be there.
David was key to pushing gay marriage through the New York Legislature. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it into law in June. (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)
UMDNJ and Barnabas Health negotiating takeover of University Hospital
Officials of the University and Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and executives of Barnabas Health, New Jersey’s largest private hospital system, are negotiating an agreement to turn over Newark’s University Hospital — the state medical school’s public teaching hospital — to the private company.
The talks, shrouded in secrecy, are rattling union leaders who say they are concerned about what privatization will mean for the hospital’s patients and 3,000 employees.
But, says a UMDNJ supporter, the deal with New Jersey’s largest private health care system may be the only way to preserve the independence of Newark’s medical school. (Braun, The Star-Ledger)
Star treatment for Carl Lewis?
For a time, Carl Lewis was the fastest human on earth – but not fast enough to live simultaneously on opposite coasts.
As an Olympian with nine gold medals, he rivaled Fort Knox. But his past triumphs – track-and-field gold in the 1984, ’88, ’92, and ’96 Olympics – should not allow Lewis to hurdle the laws of New Jersey, where he now lives. (Texas and California are where he spent most of his adult life.)
That’s what I think, but two out of three judges on a U.S. district court disagree. It happens they were appointed by a Democrat, which is what Lewis is, while the dissenting judge was appointed by a Republican. But all that’s just a coincidence, right? (Bykofsky, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
He’s still up after ‘super downgrade’
The interior of Miami Couture, a stylish little boutique on Haddon Avenue, blooms with tropical hues.
The vivid colors seem bright enough to banish any dreary fears about the fiscal future of Collingswood.
“I love it here,” proprietor Magdala Jean-Gilles declares.
But since its grand opening in September 2010, the downtown store has faced what Jean-Gilles calls “a tough, tough road.”
The same could be said about the last few years of the borough’s celebrated transition, from fraying inner-ring suburb to cosmopolitan hot spot.
The road has been particularly tough for the LumberYard, the handsome but unfinished condo-retail complex on Haddon near Collings Avenue.
A complicated and evolving public-private financing arrangement for the $18 million project is a major reason Moody’s Investors Service last week downgraded Collingswood’s creditworthiness. (Riordan, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
The scandal on the Hudson
Edgewater is not necessarily Tea Party country — a place where residents are taking to the streets to demand that government shrink itself and stay out of their lives. But if you ever wanted a prime example of the damage that hands-off government can cause, go to Edgewater and take a walk along the waterfront.
It’s a mess
This is a long-running tragedy. But the central narrative of this story revolves around a decision three decades ago by New Jersey to place much of the planning and development of Edgewater’s valuable Hudson waterfront with its majestic views of Manhattan in the hands of developers. (Kelly, The Record)
In case you missed it
Gov. Christie to host town hall meeting in Union on Monday
Gov. Chris Christie returns to the town hall circuit next week after taking a break for the summer.
Christie will host a town hall meeting in Union in Union County on Monday at 3:30 p.m. Doors open at 2:45 p.m.
The governor’s town hall meetings have been the scene of some of his most explosive encounters with opponents. He uses the meeting to lambaste the Legislature, push his legislative agenda and get residents who attend them on board with his policies. (Gibson, The Star-Ledger)
Christie signs legislation to ease the individual sale of homes
Gov. Chris Christie has signed bipartisan legislation designed to boost New Jersey’s real estate market and cut red tape in order to ease the individual sale of homes and seasonal rentals by providing an exemption from New Jersey’s bulk sales notification process.
The bulk sales notification process was established in 2007 to ensure the state is able to collect outstanding tax liability from businesses before they leave the state or disposed of a large portion of assets. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Christie has to slow his goals for schools
Gov. Christie may have declared this the “year of education reform,” but for legislators, this is the year of reelection.
Amid campaign fund-raising and door-knocking this fall, legislators are only sporadically convening to consider bills. That means Christie’s efforts to overhaul public education have slowed until after November.
So far unable to push a single significant education bill through the Democratic-controlled Legislature, Christie is lowering his short-term goals, easing the antiunion rhetoric, and highlighting more mild aspects of his reform agenda. (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Christie criticized for out-of-state trips without notice
Gov. Christie doesn’t believe you need to know if he takes his wife to a birthday dinner in New York. Or if he takes his children to his alma mater, the University of Delaware, for a football game. Or if he goes to Philadelphia’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel, as he did last week, for a Republican Governors Association gathering.
But State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D., Bergen) wants to know. She is introducing a bill Monday that would require the governor to alert legislative leaders any time he leaves the state. (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Female politicians likely to gain only a few seats in N.J. Legislature come election day
Even though a record number of women are running as Democrats and Republicans for the state Legislature this year, their ranks in the Senate and Assembly aren’t likely to change much after Election Day.
There are now 33 women in the 120-member Legislature. Of the 239 major party candidates for state Senate and Assembly, 67 are women. But only 36 are running in districts where their parties dominate or have a reasonable shot at winning. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Forgotten cash: N.J. finds $26M in unused money buried in old bank accounts
It took two years of scouring through the books, but the state came out $26 million richer yesterday after the Christie administration found unused money buried in bank accounts going back to the 1960s.
State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff announced the windfall yesterday and said he hopes to pay down a small portion of the state’s massive debt with the money. (Rizzo, The Star-Ledger)
Burlco GOP tries again to disqualify Carl Lewis
Burlington County Republicans made a last-ditch effort Friday to stop Olympian Carl Lewis from appearing on the ballot as a state Senate candidate.
Attorney Mark Sheridan filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, seeking to have its 13 members revisit a Tuesday decision by a three-judge panel of the court that allowed Lewis to run in the Eighth Legislative District. The district spans parts of Burlington, Atlantic and Camden Counties. (Rao, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Democrat Carl Lewis faces battle in Republican-leaning 8th District
For voters in New Jersey’s 8th Legislative district, there has been uncertainty since April over whether nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis would be on the ballot for state Senate in November.
The issue appears to have been resolved in the affirmative with a court ruling. Pending a longshot appeal to the entire U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals or U.S. Supreme Court, Lewis will be listed on the ballot as a Democrat challenging Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego, a freshman GOP incumbent who moved up from the Assembly last year. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
Political analysts believe voter turnout could decide 2nd District Senate race between Whelan and Polistina
The biggest factor deciding whether Democratic Sen. Jim Whelan or Republican Assemblyman Vince Polistina will be the senator next year for the 2nd Legislative District will be which party can get voters to the polls, two longtime political analysts say.
Sheer voter numbers in what is expected to be an otherwise low-turnout election will be the biggest factor, Brigid Harrison and Carl Golden said. This will drive up the importance of parties, they said, and decrease the importance of any one issue. (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)
Solar stutter brings state, industry together in Trenton
A state market for solar energy credits was so successful at rewarding projects that the value of the credits dove this year after panels flew up and supply outstripped demand. Now state officials are considering intervening to make the market less volatile.
Hundreds of men and women packed a Board of Public Utilities hearing in Trenton on Thursday to vent their high anxiety over the state of New Jersey’s solar credit market. (Caroom, The Star-Ledger)
New Jersey ranks poorly on long-term nursing care
New Jersey nursing-home care is less affordable and patients are more likely to suffer bedsores or need trips to the hospital than in many other states, according to a new scorecard on long-term care for the elderly and disabled.
Overall, New Jersey ranked in the second tier of states — 22nd — for choice, affordability, quality of care and support for family members who take care of the elderly and disabled at home. Home care was found to be more affordable here than elsewhere. (Washburn, The Record)
$420,000 cleanup in Statehouse garage
Floods that closed the Statehouse’s underground parking garage after the two recent tropical storm systems will cost more than $420,000 to clean up, a state commission was told at a meeting Friday.
The Statehouse is within 200 yards of the Delaware River, and the bottom level of its three-tier garage, including its outlet drains, were built in 1995 below flood level in a flood plain. It has endured 12 floods since 2004, five in the last two years, costing more than $3 million for environmental cleanups and repairs. (Symons, Gannett)
WHYY sees ‘opportunity’ with new stations
Lost in the summer controversy over the demise of the New Jersey Network television station was that the state also got out of the radio business.
Philadelphia-based WHYY, a National Public Radio member station, acquired the biggest share of the former New Jersey Network’s radio licenses. The transition began in July after Gov. Chris Christie pushed to move broadcasting from a government body to independent entities. (Jordan, Gannett)
Credit troubles atypical
Collingswood’s downgrade to junk status by the ratings agency Moody’s may have raised questions about whether other New Jersey towns are in danger of seeing access to credit dry up.
Most are not.
Nine months after Wall Street analyst Meredith Whitney sparked a sell-off by predicting — in a “60 Minutes” segment — a massive crash in municipal bonds, the market is relatively stable. (Roh, Gannett)
N.J., Pa. tap toll-road funds for general road projects
Struggling to pay for roads, bridges, and transit, Pennsylvania and New Jersey increasingly are tapping their turnpike drivers.
Rather than rely on traditional sources such as higher gas taxes or motor-vehicle fees, both states are raising tolls to provide hundreds of millions of dollars to non-toll-road projects.
Some transportation and environmental organizations have cried foul, arguing that the burden for statewide transportation costs should not rest so heavily on the users of just one or two arteries. (Nussbaum, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Farmers in 20 N.J. counties may apply for federal natural disaster aid and loans
20 New Jersey counties damaged by flooding and high winds from Hurricane Irene on Aug. 28 have been granted a federal natural disaster designation, Gov. Chris Christie announced Friday.
The governor requested the disaster designation prior to the hurricane but the request was open-ended and covers damages and crop loss beginning May 14 and continuing through the aftermath of the storm. Besides the hurricane, farmers this year have confronted excessive heat and rain, flash flooding, and hail. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
N.J. medical marijuana center official booted over ties to con man Solomon Dwek
To New Jersey’s most famous con man, he’s “Uncle Kenny,” a family insider who shared the spoils of elaborate Ponzi schemes, according to federal bankruptcy filings.
But Kenneth Cayre, a wealthy Monmouth County entrepreneur, was set to become an influential player at one of the state’s new nonprofit medical marijuana centers: a potential landlord, member of the medical advisory board and, through his foundation, a beneficiary. (Brittain, The Star-Ledger)
Early test is the law
Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell’s son Patrick was born with a congenital heart defect five years ago. But O’Donnell, his wife — and their doctors — didn’t know until a few days later.
The night before discharge, the O’Donnells’ pediatrician detected a heart murmur during a routine examination of the baby.
“He said it was probably nothing; he just heard something a little different,” recalls O’Donnell, a Hudson County Democrat. “He then asked us if we would mind having a pediatric cardiologist come in the next day. (Cooney, Gannett)
What’s next for Fort Monmouth?
The colors have been struck, laboratories moved and gates padlocked.
Now the question for the property that once was Fort Monmouth is: What’s next?
That’s what Bruce Steadman and his team hope to answer in the years to come. Steadman is executive director of the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority, the state-sponsored agency that will determine the future of the fort’s former 1,100 acres. (Bowman, Gannett)
End of Council on Affordable Housing doesn’t help West Cape May
This borough, one of the towns affected greatly by state Council on Affordable Housing mandates, will not benefit from a decision by Gov. Chris Christie to abolish the controversial agency.
COAH mandates led to a lengthy and costly lawsuit that stretched this small town’s finances. The borough and the developer suing the town over its lack of affordable housing had a combined six attorneys working the case at one point. Legal fees for both sides were estimated at $800,000. (Degener, Press of Atlantic City)