Morning News Digest: September 20, 2011

Morning News Digest: September 20, 2011

By Missy Rebovich

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Christie files direct appointments

Governor Chris Christie filed the following nominations and direct appointments with the State Senate and Secretary of State’s Office. 

The Governor’s nominations are subject to the advice and consent of the State Senate…  (Staff, PolitickerNJ)



Sires anticipates his district growing in Middlesex

In the midst of congressional redistricting, it was fitting to find U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-13), West New York, in Middlesex County, where his district includes pieces of the sprawling Democratic turf.

“My district has to grow (by 40,000 plus people), and I would imagine my district will end up including more of Middlesex,” Sires told

Sires appeared at the head of the high table tonight in a packed Pines Manor to address his fellow Democrats, aong with Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy and former Gov. James Florio, who introduced Sires.

“In Washington, people do not want to work with the president,” the congressman said. “They do not care about the direction of the country. They don’t care about anything other than their own philosophy. What is needed is a good left hook.”  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



‘Anti-Christie’ Malloy comes to Middlesex: ‘I don’t want to get in a fight with the guy’ but…

He calls himself the anti-Christie, and he came here today to help heal a wounded party organization, still suffering the after-effects of a bruising brawl – not of Christie’s so much as of its own intra-party making – or undoing.

The fight also happened to feature the back channel politicking of at least two prospective gubernatorial candidates.

But Malloy wasn’t interested in Democratic Party fisticuffs within its own ranks.

Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Peter Barnes unveiled the first Democrat elected governor of Connecticut since 1986 as decidedly a unifying figure.

“We face a lot of the same problems,” Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy told between flashbulbs in the backroom of the Pines, pausing while handlers seized another coterie of political insiders who wanted their picture with the Northeast Democratic Party leader.

“I’m not here because Gov. Christie’s the governor,” Malloy added. “I have mutual friends with the chairman who asked me to be the speaker.”  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



In town hall meeting, Gov. Chris Christie challenges N.J. Legislature to advance his agenda

After a nearly three-month break, Gov. Chris Christie revived his town hall meetings today in Union County, returning to one of his favorite mantras: lawmakers are not acting on his agenda quickly enough.

Christie picked a new theme to criticize lawmakers, deriding them for not enacting proposals he made last year to broaden disclosure requirements, restrict “pay to play” and eliminate the practice of holding multiple elected offices.

“In 376 days we’ve done nothing, in this limited area we’ve done nothing,” Christie said. “We look like Washington.”

Christie wants lawmakers to be required to disclose all of their incomes and investments, a rule that applies to the governor and his cabinet.

In highlighting one of his proposals, Christie took a shot at Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan, whose hometown was the site of today’s town hall meeting. The two have one of the of most vitriolic political rivalries in the state.  (Gibson, The Star-Ledger)



New Jersey Senate committees approve 10 job-creation bills

State Senate committees on Monday approved 10 bills, including proposals to create tax breaks and loans for businesses that hire, as part of legislative efforts to spur job creation

The bills, many proposed previously, were taken up by various committees meeting in the Statehouse.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney said the Legislature must focus on jump-starting the slow economy. Unemployment in New Jersey is at 9.4 percent, state data show.

“Today was just the beginning. We will be working over the coming weeks and months on both existing and newly developed ideas to get our economy moving again,” said Sweeney, D-Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland.

The Senate Economic Growth Committee approved a proposal by Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, to create a Small Business Loan Program within the state Economic Development Authority. Under the bill, small businesses that hire workers could receive loans with interest rates of no more than 2 percent.  (Froonjian, Press of Atlantic City)



Gov. Kean, former FEMA director DeWitt to address New Jersey homeland security conference

Over 400 law enforcement and emergency management officials from federal, state and local agencies will gather in New Brunswick Wednesday for an annual homeland security conference that will feature addresses from former Gov. Tom Kean, ex-chairman of the National 9/11 Commission, and former Federal Emergency Management Agency director James Lee Witt. Gov. Chris Christie also will attend.

The conference also will feature panel discussions on regional catastrophic planning, the mix of crime and terrorism in our cities, and the challenges of securing mass transit networks and ports, protecting critical infrastructure, cyber security, and the importance of partnerships between law enforcement and the private sector.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



Christie calls on legislative Democrats to act on his government ethics proposals

Gov. Chris Christie on Monday urged the Democratic-controlled Legislature to act on ethics legislation he has proposed last September.

It was last September when the governor outlined his agenda to overhaul state ethics laws to “provide the high standards of integrity the people of New Jersey deserve at all levels of government.”

Christie said Democrats in the Legislature have failed to act on his proposals, including what State Comptroller Matthew Boxer last week called the “fatal flaw” loopholes in current pay-to-play laws, dual office holding, legislative disclosure of conflicts of interest, the practice of “wheeling” in campaign financing, and pension collection from elected officials who abuse the public trust.

“New Jerseyans deserve government with integrity that they can have faith in and be proud of,” the governor said. “New Jersey’s ethics laws remain a patchwork of ineffective half measures and loopholes that fail to apply a uniform standard of rules of conduct for all levels of government in our state.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign advice to 6th-grader: Keep your promises

Sixth-grader Zack Martini is thinking about running for student council president, so today, he sought campaigning advice from one of his favorite politicians: Gov. Chris Christie.

The governor, who ran an insurgent campaign to oust incumbent Democrat former Gov. Jon Corzine, was happy to oblige him with a few tips

First, Christie advised Martini, 11, to find a group of friends who think he would make the best sixth-grade president. Second, he told the middle-schooler to go out and ask his classmates for their vote.

“They don’t like to just take their vote for granted,” Christie explained.  (Gibson, The Star-Ledger)



Sunshine Law fines at issue

The Senate is pushing a revamped bill to overhaul the state Sunshine Law, key lawmakers say.

Bill sponsor state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, said she’s been paying close attention to reports of elected officials’ prohibited email quorums and ensuing county prosecutors’ investigations.

Weinberg says this session’s proposed overhaul of the Sunshine Law, or Open Public Meetings Act, would increase fines for first violations from $100 — set in 1994 — to thousands of dollars per violation, to generate revenue and force officials and prosecutors to take violations more seriously. It will specify that email and text message quorums are prohibited.

“I’ve had so much input from so many different people and legislators on board, it’s rather dizzying,” Weinberg said Monday. “My feeling about government is if you don’t want it in public, there must be something wrong, except for the obvious sensitive negotiations.”  (Rosen, Gannett)



Democrats and administration clash over clean energy subsidy

Ever since the Christie administration unveiled its draft Energy Master Plan (EMP), it has triggered a vigorous debate over how ambitious the state’s renewable energy goals should be.

Yesterday, that issue took a back seat to questions as to whether New Jersey’s policies supporting that effort, primarily funded by surcharges on all customers’ electric and gas bills, ought to be scaled back, or, at the very least, be re-examined.

The dispute crystallized as Democratic lawmakers yesterday pressed their fight with the Christie administration over energy and environmental policies, voting along party lines to rebuke efforts by the Republican executive branch to change course on promoting renewable energy and economic development.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Panel opposes waivers by DEP

Gov. Chris Christie spent some of his first days in office in January 2010 signing a series of executive orders designed to cut government red tape, and Senate Democrats on Monday said it is time to reconsider proposed waivers of environmental rules.

The Environment and Energy Committee voted 3-2 along party lines to oppose the loosening of Department of Environmental Protection rules. The measure will go to the full Senate for a vote.

Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex, said the DEP’s ability to discard rules would create “an overly flexible situation where standards go out the window.”

The bill “determines that proposed DEP rules and regulations establishing procedure for waiver of DEP rules are inconsistent with legislative intent,” according to summary language.

Though environmentalists who testified in favor of the bill said DEP flexibility could lead to development close to waterways and other sensitive land areas, Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, said, “It probably does not give as much leeway as was described.”  (Jordan, Gannett)



Fine-tuning a controversial tenure proposal – quietly

The Democrats’ leading bill to change teacher tenure in New Jersey is unlikely to get another public viewing until after the election, but its chief sponsor has begun a series of private meetings to fine-tune and amend the controversial measure.

State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) always claimed that the bill she filed this summer was just a starting point. In some of her first extensive comments on the bill since then, the Senate education committee chairman yesterday said the work to revise it has begun in meetings she started last week with stakeholders and others.

“We have given people enough time to get their hands around it and study the bill,” she said in her Trenton office. “Now we’re having open dialogue as to what stakeholders think works and doesn’t work and how to change it.”

The amendments won’t necessarily be at the core of the bill, she said, which would revamp how teachers earn and retain tenure protections. In its current version, Ruiz’s bill would grant tenure after a teacher completed four years with satisfactory reviews and take it away after two consecutive years of unsatisfactory grades.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



Teachers union accepts evaluation program

It may be too early to call it détente, but the state’s largest teacher union has told local chapters to cooperate with a state pilot program that will help create a new evaluation system for teachers.

The New Jersey Education Association said Monday that it wants its teachers involved in helping to craft the job reviews, which Gov. Chris Christie wants to use to help award or take away tenure and determine raises.

“We’re glad they’re doing it as a pilot program; we want it to be successful,” NJEA spokesman Steve Baker said. “We want it to get good data as to how it’s working, whether it’s going to work.”

Newly appointed state Deputy Education Commissioner Andrew Smarick also talked about collaboration Monday in a presentation to the state Senate Education Committee.  (Method, Gannett)



Another side of education funding – school-bus ads

Could bus-side advertisements for brand-name sneaks spare little feet from having to trudge a couple of miles to school?

Will promos for banks and other local businesses spell tax relief for beleaguered homeowners?

New Jersey will soon begin to find out.

In the last legislative session, the state became the latest to approve advertising on school buses. Now, the state Board of Education is working on regulations for districts that choose to tap into this new revenue source.

The regulations are not expected to be adopted until at least February, according to state education spokesman Richard Vespucci.

According to the authorizing legislation, 50 percent of revenue from the ads must be used to offset fuel costs for student transportation. The other 50 percent can be used to support programs and services determined by local school boards.  (Giordano, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Little-known state government office save New Jerseyans from higher utility rates

Electricity rates in New Jersey are among the highest in the nation, but they’d be even higher if it weren’t for Stefanie Brand.

Brand is the head of the Division of Rate Counsel, a little-known office of state government that fights rate increase requests when they come before the Board of Public Utilities, typically cutting them by about 40 percent through research, opposition before the BPU and negotiation, according to Brand.

“Say a utility comes in and they want an increase in their rates,” Brand explained. “We are the adversary, the institutional adversary, and we put on the case on the other side for why they shouldn’t get that rate increase, and then the BPU makes the decision between them.”

In a recent PSE&G case, that meant a rate increase was knocked down to $100 million from more than $200 million, Brand said.  (Caroom, The Star-Ledger)



Full 3rd Circuit appeals court to consider Lewis candidacy

Carl Lewis was a sprinter. The legal saga over whether he’s eligible to run for New Jersey’s state Senate is a marathon.

The 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals agreed Monday to enter the case and scheduled a hearing for Tuesday — a week after a three-judge panel from the same court put Lewis on the ballot for Nov. 8.

The issue is whether Lewis, a nine-time Olympic gold medalist running as a Democrat in a heavily Republican district, meets the four-year residency requirement in for state senators as laid out in the state constitution.

The facts in the case are the subject of dispute. The legal issues are even more complicated. Lewis’ lawyers argue that the rule itself violates Lewis’ right to equal protection of the law.

Lawyers for the state and Burlington County Republicans dismiss that, saying he has the right to run for the state Senate — just not in this election.  (Mulvihill, Associated Press)



Sen. Loretta Weinberg requests 24-hour notice prior to governor’s out-of-state political travels

A day’s notice, in writing: That’s the advance warning state Sen. Loretta Weinberg wants New Jersey governors to give when planning any out-of-state travels.

Weinberg, (D-Bergen), introduced a bill today, aiming to require the governor to tell legislative leaders in advance of any trips, detail what states he would visit and explain the broad purpose. It comes on the heels of numerous trips by Governor Christie, which have come to light through leaked recordings and limited disclosure.

Weinberg said only written notification to legislators would be sufficient.

“Telephone calls don’t seem to work, because we go into the he-said, she-said,” she said.

But Weinberg said she would make a distinction between trips the governor takes for personal and political reasons.

“I do not think the residents of New Jersey or any of us have a right to intrude on the governor’s private time, vacation time with his family,” Weinberg said today. “So if he wants to say, ‘I’m going to Florida with my family,’ that’s sufficient. He doesn’t have to say what hotel he’s staying at, or what rides he’s going to take in Disneyland, or how often he’s going to the beach.”  (Fletcher, The Record)



Holt urges Congress to keep COPS alive

Two years ago, Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., stood on the front lawn of North Brunswick High School to announce that the school would receive about $45,000 to improve security measures through the federal Community Oriented Policing Services — COPS — program.

On Monday morning, Holt stood in same spot, but for the opposite reason. This time, he visited the township to denounce Congress’ latest effort to end the decades-old COPS program — the only federal program that supports community policing efforts.

Holt was joined at Monday’s news conference by North Brunswick Mayor Francis “Mac” Womack, police and educational officials and several students to protest the House of Representatives’ version of the 2011 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Act that would end the Community Oriented Policing Services program.

The Secure Our Schools initiative, one of several funded through COPS, supports state and local efforts to improve school safety, including the costs of metal detectors, locks, lighting security assessments and security training.  (Racz, Gannett)



N.J. Senate panel approves bill to spare minors from prostitution charges

A Senate panel has approved a bill that would automatically spare minors from criminal prosecution if they’re caught engaging in prostitution.

“If you are 12 and you’re a prostitute, there’s a problem,” said state Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex), a sponsor. “You will have more control, be able to get a better outcome by providing them with services.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill unanimously.

The legislation was a combination of two bills: Gill’s (S2599), which would send minors to treatment facilities if they’re arrested; and one (S2763) by state Sens. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) and Diane Allen (R-Burlington) that would create an “affirmative defense” for minors arrested for prostitution. Under current law, a person gets an affirmative defense if they’re victims of human trafficking, but not necessarily minors.  (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)



Elizabeth school board president, two others accused of stealing more than $7K from free lunch program

The president of the Elizabeth School Board, an Elizabeth city employee, and the husband of the head custodians for the city’s school district were arrested Monday morning and charged with defrauding the district’s free lunch program, state Attorney General Paula T. Dow announced.

Marie L. Munn, 46, of Elizabeth, the school board head; Peter W. Abitanto, 42, of Elizabeth, the husband of the chief custodian, and Angela Lucio, 35, of Elizabeth, the city employee and the ex-wife of a principal in the district, are charged with third-degree tampering with public records.

The lunch program provides free and low-cost lunches for students who cannot otherwise afford them.

State Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor said Munn, Abitanto and Lucio each allegedly falsified information on applications for the free lunch program, which led to the theft of a total of more than $7,000 in lunches. The trio were arrested early this morning at their homes by detectives of the State Police Official Corruption North Unit. They were processed at the State Police Newark Station and released.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



Westwood assemblywoman seeks sales tax waiver in Irene’s wake

Assemblywoman Charlotte Vandervalk said she plans to introduce a bill to allow for the sales tax to be waived on purchases made in connection to damages caused by Hurricane Irene.

Vandervalk, R-Westwood, introduced a similar bill in the wake of Tropical Storm Floyd, in 1999, and the bill was successfully signed into law. Subsequent attempts to reintroduce the sales tax waiver after a severe nor’easter hit New Jersey in April of 2007 were unsuccessful, however.

Bergen County’s public agencies have reported more than $19.3 million in damaged public buildings, roadways and expenses connected to garbage removal and employee overtime, records show. The estimated damage in Passaic County is $42 million, with half of that incurred in Paterson alone, according to documents. Those costs are in addition to the $199.8 million in damage to business and private properties reported so far in both counties.  (Quirk, The Record)



Bill targets cat-kicking domestic abusers

A man who punches a woman probably kicks the cat, too.

That’s a sad reality that animal-cruelty investigators and domestic-violence-awareness advocates have come to notice in their years in the trenches, and both are lauding a New Jersey state senator’s bill aimed at protecting pets caught in the middle of the violence.

“They’ll hurt the animal to show what happens if they don’t behave,” said Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Yesterday, state Sen. Tom Kean Jr.’s bill to include animals in domestic-violence restraining orders passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kean said that he created the bill because he had heard too many stories about “victims of domestic violence who will stay with their abuser for fear of what will happen to their pets.”

Smith said that the correlation between domestic violence and animal abuse is strong and that she believes that other states are looking into similar legislation.  (Nark, Philadelphia Daily News)



Division of Gaming Enforcement proposes new rules for casino regulation

New Jersey gaming regulators Monday proposed sweeping new rules that carry out Gov. Chris Christie’s reform plan to help revitalize the Atlantic City casinos.

The state Division of Gaming Enforcement regulations supersede the so-called emergency rules that had been in place since the governor signed the casino reform bill into law in February.

The plan makes it cheaper and easier for the casinos to conduct their business, moving them toward a less stringent, Las Vegas-style regulatory structure.

“I think it works very well in Nevada, and I think it will work very well here,” said Dennis Gomes, chief executive officer of Resorts Casino Hotel and a former Las Vegas gaming regulator.

The changes mark the most significant overhaul of casino regulations in Atlantic City’s 33-year history of legalized gambling. The governor discarded what he considered onerous and outdated regulations – “an antique car,” in his words – and replaced them with a system that gives the casinos more freedom.  (Wittkowski, Press of Atlantic City)



Fine Print: Special incentive for transmission lines

What’s at stake: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved special incentive rates to build transmission lines to help promote reliability of the electric power grid, a policy that increases costs to consumers to make sure the lights stay on, especially during the times when the grid is straining to deliver electricity to customers, which is when electricity costs traditionally spike.

Why New Jersey doesn’t like it: Several big transmission upgrades in New Jersey have won the special incentive rates, which allow big electric utilities to collect rates while the lines are being pulled, but not yet in service. It also allows the utilities to recover all costs they expend in developing the lines, even if the projects are later cancelled for reasons other than the utilities’ faults. The projects to earn the special incentive rates include the Susquehanna-Roseland line, a controversial expansion of transmission lines through the heart of the New Jersey Highlands and the Delaware Water Gap.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



After a dip in 2009, N.J. homicides spiked in 2010, FBI report shows

The number of homicides in New Jersey rose sharply last year, erasing progress made in 2009, while overall violent crime remained steady, statistics released today by the FBI show.

There were 371 killings in the state in 2010, a 16 percent increase from the previous year but close to the number for 2008, when 376 were reported, according to the FBI statistics.

The overall violent crime rate in the state, calculated as offenses per 100,000 residents, dipped 1.2 percent in 2010 when compared with 2009. Robberies and burglaries rose slightly, while the number of rapes and aggravated assaults fell.  (Baxter, The Star-Ledger)



Candidate alleges Wayne official has conflict of interest

A candidate for the Legislature says that Wayne Township Planner John Szabo’s second job as mayor of Oakland created a conflict of interest that hampered the town’s ability to handle and prevent the massive flooding that followed Hurricane Irene.

William Brennan, running for Assembly, said Szabo was unable to push for the best flooding policies for Wayne because such measures, like keeping the Pompton Dam floodgates shut during the storm, would harm upstream Oakland.

Brennan is the Democratic nominee for Assembly in the 40th District, opposing an incumbent team that includes Republican Scott Rumana, former Wayne mayor and chairman of the Passaic County Regular Republican Organization. Szabo was planner during Rumana’s municipal administration.

“If, as city planner, he would have lobbied or advocated for keeping those gates shut during the hurricane, they would have thrown him out of Oakland,” said Brennan.  (Schectman, The Record)



Teaneck lawyer Michael Cole dies

Michael R. Cole, a former chief counsel to Gov. Thomas Kean whose legal stewardship helped establish state policy on school funding and gubernatorial powers, died Saturday. He was 67.

Mr. Cole, husband of New Jersey Supreme Court Associate Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, also had been a partner in the DeCotiis, FitzPatrick & Cole law firm in Teaneck, and served in the state Attorney General’s Office for eight years before Kean tapped him for chief counsel. He was a resident of Morris Township.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our partner Mike Cole,” M. Robert DeCotiis said Sunday. “Mike was widely and deservedly admired by us and the New Jersey legal community as a person who possessed superior legal ability.

“He set a high standard for ethical responsibility and genuine decency — all qualities that we wish were more abundant in the practice of law today,” DeCotiis said.  (Bautista, The Record)



Disgraced ex-Secaucus mayor wants new trial, alleges prosecutorial misconduct

In heated motion arguments today, a lawyer for former Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, who was convicted of bribery in July, argued his client is owed a new trial because prosecutors engaged in misconduct when they tried to link him during trial to a history of corrupt politicians and politics in Hudson County, thereby impugning his character.

At the same time, Elwell’s lawyer, Jeffrey Garrigan, also contended that his client is owed an acquittal after the fact, because, he said, there was insufficient evidence presented at trial against the former nine-year mayor.

But U.S. District Court Judge Jose Linares today appeared to focus more on the new-trial portion of Elwell’s arguments. He listened to both prosecutors and Garrigan for nearly two hours before announcing he’d issue a ruling on both motions at a later date.  (Grant, The Star-Ledger)



Rutgers will host SNN forum on bullying

Rutgers University will host an “Anderson Cooper 360°” town hall special on bullying. The program will air on CNN at 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9.

The death of Tyler Clementi brought the issues of cyberbullying and the suicide of gay youths to the attention of the world.

For the first anniversary of his death — and because October is Bullying Prevention Month — the producers of Anderson Cooper 360° approached the university about serving as the venue for a town hall-style meeting on the topic of bullying.

“Rutgers boasts a rich diversity in our campus community,” President Richard L. McCormick said, “and we strive to promote the free exchange of ideas in an atmosphere of civility, inclusion and mutual respect. The university is gratified that CNN recognized this and invited us to host this important event that is part of a wide-ranging national campaign to combat bullying.”  (Staff, Gannett)



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ID cards for veterans could help them gain discounts

The Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Monday released bill S2991, which would enable county clerks to create identification cards for military veterans living in those counties.

The cards could help veterans who do not hold an identification card from the federal government that identifies that person as a veteran.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



Hoboken hospital bankruptcy hearing postponed until Thursday; creditors and management in ongoing negotiations

Per a judge’s orders today, a decision on Hoboken hospital’s bankruptcy claim was rescheduled for Thursday, according to a lawyer for the hospital authority.

The hospital non-profit manager is claiming insufficient funds to pay more than $30 million in back bills to several creditors, including union pension funds.

“Discussions are ongoing,” said Kenneth Rosen of Lowenstein Sandler, attorney for the Hoboken Municipal Hospital Authority. “The hearing (scheduled for) Wednesday will take place on Thursday.”  (Carroll, State Street Wire)



$7.9M increase in preschool aid

The state Education Department has notified poor, urban school districts of a $7.9 million increase in preschool education aid for fiscal year 2012.

The administration action ensures full compliance with the state Supreme Court’s order in May in the Abbott case, according to the Education Law Center.

According to ELC spokeswoman Sharon Krengel, the Center had informed the Attorney General that the budget signed by Gov. Christie in July did not fully fund preschool aid under the 2008 School Funding Reform Act.  (Staff, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room 



Nordstrom defeats Lyon in Morris County

Following months of legal wrangling, incumbent Morris County Freeholder Margaret Nordstrom defeated GOP Primary challenger Hank Lyon tonight, 213 to 208, in a special convention to determine the Republican general election candidate.  (Staff, PolitickerNJ)






Pay-to-play loophole shows law is a ruse

New Jersey laws designed to end the legal form of political bribery in local governments remain “fair and open” — for campaign donors.

In other words, the famous “pay-to-play” laws don’t work on the local level. They don’t stop officials from rewarding donors with lucrative contracts. The door to political money was supposed to have been slammed shut.

But in fact, political lucre continues gushing through a massive loophole, says the state comptroller, Matthew Boxer.

Local officials are still free to hand out rewards to donors — regardless of how much they give — as long as the contract is awarded under a “fair and open process,” which really is one of those civic-sounding, Orwellian phrases that means, really, nothing. The law never really describes what “fair and open” means.  (Stile, The Record)



Court battle helps raise Lewis’ profile

Is it all over but the voting?

Carl Lewis, engaged in a time-consuming, money-sucking court case questioning the legitimacy of his candidacy for the 8th Legislative District Senate seat held by Republican Dawn Marie Addiego, won another round last week in his battle to stay on the ballot.

When Lewis, a nine-time Olympic gold medalist and native of Willingboro, beat back the latest challenge to his candidacy in federal appeals court last week, Republicans’ efforts to get him off the ballot took another hit. But they haven’t given up yet. The full federal 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals will hear the case this morning.  (Schoonejongen, Gannett)



Chris Christie to the rescue?

Republicans are now confessing openly: The current field is weak, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry leaves them with substantial doubts. This conversation from the “Panel Plus” discussion of “Fox News Sunday” is illuminating…

There are several factors at play here.

First, Perry has not yet coaxed the big donors off the sidelines.There is plenty of money for Christie to scoop up.

Second, none of the candidates in the field has been able to put together all factions of the party. As Evan Bayh noted on Fox, Christie is someone who embodies the Tea Party spirit (feisty, anti-D.C. establishment) but is more than sophisticated enough to satisfy mainstream conservatives, business leaders and policy wonks.  (Rubin, The Washington Post)



Jersey sure needs more corporate tax breaks, not fewer

The MTV show “Jersey Shore” represents perhaps the best proof to date of H.L. Mencken’s observation that no one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.

But the news coverage of its production company’s tax break shows you won’t go broke underestimating the economic acumen of the members of the mainstream media.

The Star-Ledger’s story about the producers of “Jersey Shore” getting a tax break for filming here was accurate. But the national media promptly proceeded to mangle the facts beyond recognition.

The original article stated the company got a tax credit, i.e. a reduction in the amount of taxes owed to the state. But once that news went national, the story changed. Typical was a headline in Time magazine: “New Jersey Taxpayers Cough Up $420K to Support MTV’s ‘Jersey Shore.’”  (Mulshine, The Star-Ledger)

  Morning News Digest: September 20, 2011