Morning News Digest: Monday, September 26, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Winners and Losers: the end of the LD8 race
Our long Burlington County nightmare is over.
Hours ago, legendary Olympian Carl Lewis ended his less than august entry into politics with the cessation of his 8th district state Senate campaign.
It looked like it was going to be entertaining watching Lewis battle a jittery GOP led by 8th District state Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego of Evesham, but it didn’t turn out that way this week as the 8th delivered the end of a surreal storyline that probably outdid Haines v. Bodine 2007, but finally spared us a contest.
Those players from BurlCo are in the mix this week, but there are others, too… (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
State GOP releases Christie’s fundraiser schedule
In the wake of a brouhaha over Gov. Chris Christie’s schedule, the state Republican Party has released a list of out-of-state events the governor plans to attend next week.
The release is a departure from the norm as the governor’s office generally does not list out-of-state political events the governor attends.
Last week, Sen. Loretta Weinberg called for the governor to make the public aware of all trips after Mother Jones Magazine revealed that Christie had taken an until-then unreported trip to Colorado to speak to a convention of wealthy donors.
Christie dismissed Weinberg’s proposal as garbage and told the Statehouse press corps that he would not reveal certain events.
“That’s just how it is,” he said then.
A spokesman for the state GOP said the release of the political schedule has always been handled by the state party. Spokesman Rick Gorka said the release had nothing to do with Weinberg’s request. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Speziale still sitting on 500k war chest
Former Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale continues to sit on $530,000 in campaign cash more than a year after Speziale abruptly left his post for a top position at the Port Authority.
Speziale’s warc chest was the focus of much attention at the time of his departure and Republicans openly celebrated that the money would not be used against them that fall. Some Democrats grumbled that they wanted a refund of the money they had donated ot the sheriff, but instead Speziale promised to donate his substantial war chest to charity.
“For my sick wife – cancer UMDNJ, the needy children, baseball, soccer, kids, sports which I believe in, etc.,” Speziale told PolitickerNJ in August of last year.
But with the exception of small donations totaling less than $40,000 the money has gone largely untouched, according to reports filed with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, leaving the former sheriff with $534,000 on hand.
It’s unclear what the sheriff plans to do with the funds or if he hopes to one day run for office again. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Christie courted, still says no
A determined cadre of Republican donors is casting wishful eyes on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in an 11th-hour push to persuade the former prosecutor to enter the 2012 presidential race.
The drive reflects lingering discontent in some GOP quarters over the current crop of GOP candidates, particularly since the recent stumbles of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has led in national polls of Republican voters.
Mr. Christie’s aides say the governor hasn’t budged from his months-long insistence that he won’t enter the presidential fray, despite what one described as a “relentless” stream of calls over the last week from prominent Republicans urging him to run.
“None of that triggers any new thinking on his part,” said one Christie adviser. “He’s very polite to these people: ‘Thank you for calling. That’s very flattering. I’ll let you know.’ And I think they interpret that, ‘Ah-ha! A rethinking.’”
A speech Mr. Christie will deliver Tuesday evening at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in California has nonetheless intensified speculation about the governor’s intentions. Aides insist he won’t use the appearance to make any surprise announcement. (King, The Wall Street Journal)
Mike hails Christie for GOP prez run
Mayor Bloomberg surprisingly became a cheerleader for a Chris Christie presidential run yesterday, gushing that the New Jersey governor has the best shot against President Obama in 2012.
“He’s been a good governor in New Jersey. He’s shaken things up in a state that’s had problems that have gone on and on and on,” raved Bloomberg, the latest to prod the reluctant Republican governor to join the race.
“Some things he does I agree with. Some things he does I don’t agree with. But if he wants to run, he certainly should just get in there and go do it,” Hizzoner, an independent, told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“I think he would be a credible, formidable candidate,” he added.
Bloomberg even criticized the field of GOP candidates, saying they “obviously don’t have any chance … either to influence the dialogue or to be the nominee.”
The rare praise from Bloomberg comes amid a growing chorus of Republicans urging Christie to run and new reports that Christie is finally starting to think about it. In public, Christie has been unwavering in his determination not to run for the White House. (Miller, New York Post)
Predecessors rate Christie
The governors of New Jersey interview series on the NJ Today news program last week featured some of the former state chief executives telling anchor Mike Schneider what they think of Gov. Chris Christie’s performance and whether he‘s capable of running for president.
The past governors generally gave Christie high marks, but when it came to style, they didn’t express much fondness for some of his YouTube moments.
The news show episodes with the interviews remain available on the NJTV website, http://www.njtvonline.org. (Jordan, Gannett)
Raft of bills before the N.J. Senate to spur hiring
Planning on a nose job? New Jersey senators want you to undergo surgery in-state.
They will break from campaigning to vote on a bill Monday to phase out a 2004 tax on plastic surgery that some complain has driven people out of state for cosmetic procedures.
That legislation is one of more than a dozen bills up for a vote aimed at bolstering the state’s struggling economy. Others would give businesses tax breaks and offer loans to spur job growth at a time when New Jersey’s unemployment rate has soared to 9.4 percent.
Democrats have made the economy their number-one issue heading into the November elections, when all 120 legislative seats are up, and are urging Gov. Christie, a Republican, to support their efforts. Most of the economic bills awaiting votes have sponsors from both parties. (Rao, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
NJ Senate set to vote on domestic violence measure
Legislation that would impose more stringent bail restrictions on those charged with violating domestic violence-related restraining orders in New Jersey will go before the state Senate this week.
Proponents say the measure, which cleared the Assembly last fall, would provide more protection for victims by making it harder for suspects to post bail and make offenders more accountable for their actions.
It would bar those accused of violating such orders from having the option to post 10 percent of their bail to gain their release. Instead, they would have to post the full amount or have a bail bond secured by real property equal to the bail amount plus $20,000.
Under current law, suspects can gain freedom by paying as little as $50, giving them little incentive to appear in court, critics note. (Shipkowski, The Associated Press)
Dems back bill that would grant small biz loans of up to $250,000
A bill to be considered by the New Jersey Senate today would create a program to grant small businesses low-interest loans of up to $250,000, provided they increase their workforce by 10 percent, or one employee.
The bill is one of several before the Senate that are part of the Democratic package designed to boost the economy, which includes legislation that would create a program to help transit hubs, give tax breaks to film and television companies and provide tax deductions for investors who back companies in urban enterprise zones.
The loan program, which would be administered by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA), would make loans at no more than 2 percent interest to companies that have fewer than 100 full-time employees, have raised less than $10,000 in equity financing and are not dominant in their field. Recipients could spend the money on capital investment, employee training and salaries for new positions. (Morley, The Record)
Buono petitions for block of environmental waiver rule
State Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18th) has posted an online petition against the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Waiver Rule. The petition has garnered more than 11,000 signatures since Sept. 15.
Proposed in March, the Waiver Rule allows the DEP to waive its own regulations should they get in the way of economic development, Buono said. Last month, the Senate majority leader drafted a resolution (SCR-239) that would block the Waiver Rule, which she said, is an unconstitutional imbalance of power that could harm the environment, workers and families.
Buono said she posted the online petition to pressure her colleagues into voting on her resolution before the Waiver Rule is signed by DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. Environmentalists said his signature is expected soon. (Makin, Gannett)
New Jersey ready to bet on sports?
Past polling showed support for the nonbinding referendum to legalize sports betting in New Jersey on the November ballot. The head of the Fairleigh Dickenson University PublicMind poll said it would be foolhardy to bet on slippage occurring when the organization releases a fresh show of hands Monday.
The organization in April found 53 percent of respondents favored legalized sports betting, while 30 percent opposed it. Even if the referendum is approved, bets couldn’t be placed on NFL games and other events until a federal law banning legal sports betting is overturned. The ban doesn’t apply to Nevada and three other states.
Pete Wooley, a political scientist and director of the poll, said the final 300 interviews were to be conducted over the weekend.
“I can’t make any firm observations about this current measurement however my expectation is that there will be little movement since our April poll which showed people ready to embrace sports betting in venues where there is already betting,’’ Wooley said. “I think most people see this as a revenue generator for the state with little downside.‘’ (Jordan, Gannett)
Crafting an accurate system for evaluating teachers
Charlotte Danielson may not be a recognizable name to the general public, but the Princeton-based consultant is the architect of a framework for observing and evaluating teachers that has been the gold standard in schools across the country.
By one count, a third of New Jersey school districts use the Danielson method in their own evaluation systems, focusing on its criteria for effective teaching. Danielson divides those criteria into 22 components across four domains: preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibility.
As the Christie administration now moves to create a statewide teacher evaluation system, the Danielson framework is one of the programs being offered to 10 pilot districts. Of course, Gov. Chris Christie is also putting a heavy emphasis on student achievement measures such as state test scores for the rest of the rating, a component not in Danielson’s system.
Last week, Danielson spoke with NJ Spotlight about the latest push for better evaluation nationwide — both strengths and pitfalls, including some worries about how New Jersey is pursuing its reforms. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
State raise red flag over how decisions are made on regional power grid
The state is asking the operator of the regional power grid to no longer allow incumbent transmission owners to play a crucial role in determining what new electric generating stations hook up to the grid.
In a letter to PJM Interconnection, which oversees the grid serving more than 50 million people, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) suggested that the current process is “problematic.” Right now, transmission owners that have affiliates providing large amounts of electricity to the grid decide what new power plants can come online.
The issue is important to consumers in New Jersey, a state saddled with some of the highest electric bills in the nation. The problem is largely blamed on too little generating capacity, which leads to congestion on the power grid in the northern part of the state, according to agency officials. By state projections, consumers here will pay $1 billion or more this year because of congestion. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Latest from State Street Wire
Bills to protect breast-feeding mothers, others introduced
Sens. Diane Allen, (R-7), Edgewater Park, and Thomas Kean Jr., (R-21), Westfield have introduced a bill to extend civil rights anti-discrimination protections to breast-feeding mothers.
Under S3060, it would constitute a civil rights violation for a working mother to be fired or discriminated against because of breast feeding during breaks at work. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
N.J. FAA workers’ back-pay effort advances
Some 650 state-based workers for the Federal Aviation Administration may receive back pay after a Senate committee approved a bill to do so, Sen. Frank Lautenberg said on Friday.
The Senate Appropriations Committee released the Transportation Housing and Urban Development bill that includes funds for the FAA workers who were not paid because they were furloughed due to a partial FAA shutdown in July. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
State names 21 educators to teacher evaluation pilot program
The Department of Education today announced the 21 education professionals who will serve on the state Evaluation Pilot Advisory Committee (EPAC) that will guide the department on the teacher evaluation pilot program for this school year.
The group will also produce a recommendation for statewide rollout of a new teacher evaluation system. Additional EPAC members, representing all participating pilot districts and persistently low performing districts that have received federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) funds to implement change, will be added to the committee in the coming weeks, state officials said. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
You think Democrats want us to focus on jobs?
The inbox of every reporter on State Street was flooded this morning with nearly identical releases from a host of Democratic lawmakers commenting on the state’s economic woes and the party’s new jobs package.
By 1:45 the releases numbered an even dozen, all with variations of the same quote. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Christie in ’12 and Lonegan in ’13?
The recent report by Newsmax.com that Chris Christie is reconsidering entering the GOP presidential primary should not be surprising. For months, political insiders have been urging the first term governor of New Jersey to enter the race.
Despite repeated statements that he will not seek the nomination because he “is not ready” to be president, the governor has met with the two most influential Republican financial backers, David and Charles Koch, long-time behind the scene players and multibillionaires.
Over the years, the Kochs have donated tens of millions of dollars to several nonprofit organizations, including the Cato Institute, FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity among others. Although generally considered defenders of free markets and limited government, the Kochs did not support Rep. Ron Paul, the most consistent advocate of a constitutional republic, in his 2008 presidential bid. The Kochs are not supporting Ron Paul’s presidential bid this time either. (Sabrin, PolitickerNJ)
Chris Christie’s out-of-state travel: Then he reported it, now he won’t
There was a bit of ruckus last week about Gov. Chris Christie’s out-of-state travel after it was disclosed that he slipped under the radar and took a trip to Colorado one Sunday in June to attend a conservative gathering.
Christie explained at a news conference last Tuesday that he never wrote an official letter to Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno or the legislative leadership notifying them that he was leaving the state because it’s not his practice to do so if he isn’t going to be away overnight.
Except when he does.
Last year, on two occasions, Christie wrote letters notifying those in the line of succession that he would be out of state for only a few hours, according to letters obtained in January through an Open Public Records Act request. (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)
Was Assembly speaker taking one for the Teamsters?
Ever since Governor Christie’s political travel stirred controversy this month, every undisclosed, out-of-state jaunt by a prominent political figure has come under scrutiny — or at least when reporters find out about them.
Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver’s travel to Washington, D.C., to serve as a panelist for a Congressional Black Caucus event last Thursday is one example. During her visit at the convention center, Oliver and her staffers ran into Daniel Reilly, a Teamsters union official and former Corzine administration aide and Assembly aide.
A source told me earlier in the week that Oliver was traveling down to the capital to begin repairing relations with the Teamsters, who were furious with her late June decision to endorse and post legislation forcing public employees to contribute to their health care and pensions. The bill was passed by both houses and signed into law by Christie, which he has heralded as a major victory and an example of his bipartisan negotiating skills. (Stile, The Record)
Christie won’t be in race, but presence will be felt
The political landscape on which New Jersey voters will make their decisions in the November legislative elections is dramatically different from what it was just two years ago.
The first reason is Gov. Chris Christie. His record, agenda, style and temperament will be the key dynamic in most of the races. The second reason is that following the 2010 census, New Jersey’s 40 legislative districts were redrawn to take into account population and demographic shifts. This is the first election with legislators running in these new districts.
Christie is the dominant political force in the Garden State. He has taken the inherent powers of the governor’s office and, using his formidable political and media-savvy skills, repeatedly overwhelmed his opponents. (Dworkin, for Gannett)
Why Chris Christie should – and shouldn’t – run for president
Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s recent stumbles — his rambling attempt at last week’s GOP presidential debate to attack former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s flip-flopping is a prime example — have renewed speculation that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie might rethink his “no go” decision on the 2012 race.
Even as some Republican donors make the case — again — that this is Christie’s moment, his closest advisers insist that nothing has changed, pointing to comments he made last week at New Jersey’s Rider University in which he said he still isn’t interested.
Of course, at that same event, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, himself the subject of much 2012 speculation, said he is “not taking ‘no.’ . . . I’m taking ‘not yet’ ” in regard to Christie’s presidential aspirations. (Cillizza, The Washington Post)
Race for Legislature is on
The entire New Jersey Legislature is up for election this November; all 40 seats in the Senate and 80 seats in the Assembly. This means that control of the Legislature is up for grabs.
Voters will decide whether to endorse the current configuration of state government — with split-party control between the Legislature and the governor — or call for a new direction by handing control of both branches of government to the Republican Party.
You may think that. And bless your heart if you do. But you would be wrong.
Yes, Democrats and Republicans are competing for nearly every seat in the Legislature except two. (As of this writing, a federal court has ordered Democrat Carl Lewis’ name off the 8th District Senate ballot and there is only one Republican running for the two available Assembly seats in the 20th District.) (Murray, for Gannett)
Wrong attitude, Mr. Governor
Governor Christie started out last week calling on the Democratic majority in the Legislature to pass a series of ethics reforms designed to clean up state and municipal governments by eliminating dual-office holding, ending “pay to play” and disclosing conflicts of interest.
This reform agenda has stalled in the Legislature, and the governor is right to call for its passage. While New Jerseyans often revel in their state’s image as a rough-and-tumble arena populated by HBO-series gangsters, the stark reality is that political corruption and abuse of the public trust cost taxpayers dearly.
When Christie campaigned for office, he did so as a good-government reformer. Although he likes to claim a conservative mandate, part of his election is due to the fact many swing voters — independent voters who might swing to candidates from either party — voted for him because of his reputation as a corruption-buster, particularly when it came to public officials. (Callahan Harrison, for The Record)
Chris Christie buzz more symptom than remedy for GOP
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was so committed to not running for president that he joked earlier this year that the only thing he could do to prove he’s serious would be to kill himself.
Nobody is joking anymore. The latest round of Christie-for-president pining is the most serious and urgent yet — fueled by the admission by top aides that, while nothing has changed in the governor’s thinking, yes, the calls for him to reconsider have grown in volume.
Christie, of course, would have some explaining to do if he does admit any daylight into his previously firm denials. He’ll be in the national spotlight this week, with a cross-country fundraising blitz and a speech at the Reagan Presidential Library where 2012 questions will surely follow. (Klein, ABC News)
Is it Morris County or Essex County West?
I confess that I will never quite understand Morris County politics.
The other day, for example, I came upon the astonishing fact that the Morris County Republican chairman is, on occasion, in the habit of making campaign contributions to the Essex County sheriff, who is a Democrat.
In 2009, John Sette contributed $100 to the campaign fund of Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura. He also made contributions to Fontoura in prior years.
Republicans in the rest of the state don’t help Democrats. But Morris Republicans seem to be special, at least regarding their relationships with Essex Democrats.
That’s true of the most important Morris Republican of them all, Chris Christie. But let’s start with Sette. I called him the other day to ask why he gave money to Fontoura. (Mulshine, The Star-Ledger)
In case you missed it
Christie hitting the road again
The Chris Christie Road Show began its fall tour last week with a new set list but the same swagger.
Following on his successful 2010-11 trek, when he repeatedly called for an overhaul of public employees’ health and pension benefits, Gov. Christie now is pushing a package of ethics proposals that he introduced more than a year ago.
As he did in town halls before a summer hiatus, the former prosecutor identifies his adversaries and tells his adoring audiences in plain-spoken, aggressive, and occasionally funny ways why those foes are wrong, lazy, and/or blatantly incompetent. (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Christie will visit 3 states to raise funds for his party
Gov. Chris Christie heads to California, Louisiana and Missouri next week to headline seven political fundraisers, as well as deliver a speech Tuesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
Four fundraisers, including three in California, will generate money for the New Jersey Republican State Committee. The others benefit the Republican parties in Louisiana and Missouri, as well as a Missouri candidate for Congress. (Symons, Gannett)
Reports: Gov. Christie rethinking White House bid
The steady drum beat of calls for Gov. Chris Christie to run for president took a turn today as reports emerged that the first-term governor is rethinking his decision to stay out of the race.
But those close to the governor say any suggestion that he would get into the 2012 race are wrong and simply the product of wishful thinking. (Gibson, The Star-Ledger)
With GOP presidential field fading, some wishing on Gov. Christie’s star
The buzz is getting louder.
As Gov. Chris Christie embarks on a cross-country trip this week, with a centerpiece speech Tuesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, speculation about him launching a bid for the White House is at fever pitch.
The prime-time speech, along with an unhappiness with the current presidential field by many big-dollar Republican donors and a lack of a strong front-runner, fed a weekend of speculation that Christie might give in to party pressure and finally decide to run. (Gibson, The Star-Ledger)
Chris Christie back in spotlight as Perry sags
With the party’s front-runner sagging, Chris Christie is reconsidering pleas from Republican elites and donors to run for president in 2012, two Republican sources told POLITICO.
The New Jersey governor has indicated he is listening to big-money backers and Republican influence-makers, and will let them know in roughly a week whether he has moved off his threat-of-suicide vow to stay on the sidelines of a presidential race that remains amorphous heading into the fall, the two sources said. (Haberman and Martin, POLITICO)
The buzz won’t go away
It was one of those weeks on the Christie beat when you wonder: Could he? Is he? Will he?
Several occurrences taken together could make the more gullible among us believe the Garden State governor is on the verge of announcing his candidacy for president of the United States… (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Meg Whitman fundraising for Christie
Meg Whitman, the GOP gubernatorial nominee last year in California who was just appointed to the top slot at HP, is hosting a fundraising dinner honoring Chris Christie, according to an invitation.
The Sept. 28 event will be at Whitman’s home, with $15,000-a-couple asking price and $25,000-a-couple to be listed as a host, the invitation says. (Haberman, POLITICO)
Report: Perry would welcome Christie into 2012 presidential race
Texas Gov. Rick Perry thinks New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is a “great competitor” and would welcome him into the race for the Republican nomination for president, according to an Associated Press report on Saturday.
“I see anybody that gets in the race that believes in America and is a small government but efficient government individual, I would welcome into the race. It just strengthens the point that the Republican Party’s all about getting our country working again. Whoever that is,” Perry told the AP. (Staff, National Journal)
Ad for Christie leaves out key facts
A new television ad is promoting Governor Christie as a reformer who is balancing the state budget and increasing education aid, all with a bipartisan flair that’s lacking in Washington.
But a closer look at the $1.5 million ad reveals something else, including a series of statements that don’t tell the full story.
The ad also never mentions the word Republican, though Christie is an outspoken partisan, and the organization running the ad is the officially non-partisan Committee for Our Children’s Future, but it is headed by three Christie campaign contributors and has a spokesman with ties to former Republican President George W. Bush and former GOP presidential candidate John McCain. (Reitmeyer, The Record)
Cattiness kicks off campaign season in NJ
Democrats are talking about jobs. The governor is talking about ethics. All politicians are thinking about elections.
“If they are not talking about the issues that are really important to voters, namely property taxes, there must be an election coming up,” said Monmouth University political science professor Patrick Murray. (DeFalco, The Associated Press)
Four governors urge Washington against politics on disaster aid
The governors of four East Coast states — two Democrats and two Republicans — issued a joint statement on Friday imploring the federal government to “put aside politics on disaster issues.”
They pleaded to clear away any partisan barriers that might interfere with emergency aid promised in the wake of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. (Warner, Bloomberg)
Stalemate stalls aid for flood recovery
A partisan battle over disaster relief funding continues as the Federal Emergency Management Agency edges closer to running out of money to help states, including New Jersey, recover from recent storms.
House lawmakers voted 219-203 early Friday to pass a stopgap spending bill that included $3.6 billion for disaster relief, with $1 billion to become available immediately. The measure called for just over $1 trillion in overall spending and would have kept the federal government operating through Nov. 18. (Chebium, Gannett)
Voters in 30 towns won’t be asked to raise property taxes beyond 2 percent cap
Of the 30 towns that could ask voters to raise property taxes beyond a 2 percent cap this November, none will pursue that option.
According to the Department of Community Affairs, none of the towns — those who operate on a fiscal year calendar, rather than a calendar year — will hold referendums to exceed the cap. (DeMarco, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. towns weigh further cuts
New Jersey town managers have exhausted the cost-cutting methods used to get through past economic downturns and should ask taxpayers what services they are willing to give up, say two Rutgers professors who study local government.
“We don’t think we will come out of this downturn with a booming economy and a large tax base,” said Angie McGuire, one of the professors who conducted a study on how local administrators are coping with declining revenues and residents’ high expectations for services. (Boburg, The Record)
“Vote for what I believe in,” a disqualified Lewis tells supporters
With his political race over, Olympic track star Carl Lewis said Friday that he had not soured on politics and that he hoped people who wanted to vote for him would still go to the polls Nov. 8.
“You’re not going to get a chance to vote for me on the ballot, but you can actually vote for what I believe in,” he said in a news conference at the Mount Laurel Aloft hotel. (Farrell, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
New Jersey Senate prepares state sports betting bill to help overturn the federal ban
Supporters of sports betting are planning to strike quickly with new legislation should voters approve legalizing the form of gambling Nov. 8.
The state Senate gaming and tourism committee will hold a hearing Monday in Trenton to begin fashioning a bill to implement sports betting if it is passed. The committee chairman, Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, said the Legislature could act on a bill in lame-duck session between the election and the end of the legislative term Jan. 9. (Froonjian, Press of Atlantic City)
N.J. lawmakers seek to strengthen law requiring attorney general to oversee transfer of non-profit hospitals
Two key Democratic lawmakers are planning to strengthen a law that requires the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office to oversee the transfer of non-profit hospitals.
The move comes after the proposed sale of the Hoboken University Medical Center escaped the stringent review by successfully arguing that its status as a city-run hospital exempts it from the Community Healthcare Assets Protection Act, or CHOPA. (Renshaw, The Star-Ledger)
Legislator presses for online gaming
The indictment last week of well-known poker television personalities Chris “Jesus” Ferguson and Howard Lederer for their alleged role in an online Ponzi scheme has spurred renewed calls from the commercial casino industry for a federal law legalizing online poker.
But state Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union, doesn’t want to wait. He recently reintroduced an amended version of a bill that would make New Jersey the first state to allow residents to play versions of casino table games online. He sponsored a similar bill that passed the Legislature during the spring, but it was vetoed by Governor Christie. (Brennan, The Record)
South Jersey candidates worry super PACs, with anonymous donors will influence elections
Legislative election campaigns in South Jersey have been among the most expensive in state history. But at least the candidates and public have known who was bankrolling million-dollar campaigns.
Recent trends in campaign spending, however, have area candidates and state election regulators wondering whether big-moneyed committees with no public accountability will soon be influencing legislative district races. (Froonjian, Press of Atlantic City)
Politicians, political analysts say endorsements largely do not sway voter opinion, but could drive some to the polls
Candidates in the 1st Legislative District are collecting endorsements like merit badges as their respective campaigns begin in earnest.
Republican state Senate candidate David DeWeese has received the support of two large unions: the New Jersey State Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association and the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association. (Miller, Press of Atlantic City)
Republican 1st District Assembly candidates Suzanne Walters, Samuel Fiocchi focus on jobs
Providing better jobs in Cape May, Cumberland, and Atlantic counties should be the priority for state lawmakers, Republicans running for state Assembly said Friday.
Cumberland County Freeholder Samuel Fiocchi and Stone Harbor Mayor Suzanne Walters told the editorial board of The Press of Atlantic City that they would focus on unemployment across the 1st Legislative District. (Miller, Press of Atlantic City)
N.J. public school teacher evaluation committee includes 5 teachers
Five public school teachers are among the 21 members of a new committee created to advise the New Jersey Department of Education on a controversial teacher evaluation program that is the centerpiece of Gov. Chris Christie education platform.
The Evaluation Pilot Advisory Committee will offer advise to the DOE over the course of the 2011-12 school year. Besides the teachers, the panel is composed of two school superintendents, three principals, two state DOE officials, two college representatives, and a representative from special education, school boards, the state school board, vocational schools, parents, non-public schools and charter schools. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
EPA: N.J. needs $8B to fix antiquated sewer systems
His eyes fixed on the Jersey City shoreline of the Hackensack River, Bill Sheehan nosed his pontoon boat toward the end of a metal pipe where it juts out into the choppy brown water.
“Most people wouldn’t have any idea what this is,” said Sheehan, the head of a nonprofit group that watches over the river, “but come out here enough and you’ll figure it out. You’ll smell it.” (Baxter, The Star-Ledger)
State hails federal offer of ‘No Child’ exemption
“New Jersey welcomes the Obama administration’s move to exempt states from some aspects of the No Child Left Behind law,” the state’s education chief said Friday.
If granted a waiver within the next couple of months, New Jersey will pursue its own school reforms more aggressively, said Chris Cerf, commissioner of the state Department of Education.
In announcing the administration’s plan, President Barack Obama said states will be exempt from the landmark education law if they have solid plans to prepare K-12 students for work or college. (Chebium, Gannett)
Report finds N.J. courts need to improve juvenile system, reduce detention wait time for minorities
New Jersey courts have made great strides in eliminating racial bias in recent years, but more guidance is still needed to help minorities navigate the complex legal system, a report to the judiciary says.
However, it also says reducing the length of time minority youths remain in detention while awaiting their day in court is still a struggle in a legal system that now has all white faces at the top rung of the ladder — the Supreme Court. (Spoto, The Star-Ledger)
Port Authority moves to preserve 4.7 acres on Raritan Bay in Hazlet
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has approved funding for the potential acquisition of 4.7 acres of open space on Raritan Bay in Hazlet, Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) said Friday.
The funding was approved by the Port Authority Board of Commissioners through its Committee on Operations, Kyrillos said. The New York-New Jersey Estuary program was set up by the Port Authority in 2001. The program provides money for the acquisition of sites in the estuary, identified by staff as suitable for conservation, ecological enhancement, public access or environmental mitigation. The baykeeper is working in conjunction with Hazlet in an attempt to restore and protect the Raritan Bay Estuary. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Iowa takes new look at films despite New Jersey flap
They are crass, loudmouthed and foul-tempered. They drink, smoke and eat too much. And they get tax credits from their state’s film office — for now.
“Snooki” and the hellions of “Jersey Shore” helped boost MTV owner Viacom’s profits by 53 percent in its second quarter. The show’s producers also receive $420,000 in tax credits just for filming in New Jersey. (Belz and Jacobsen, Gannett)
South Jersey poverty, unemployment up sharply as effects of recession linger
Fallout from the last recession — and continued economic weakness — in South Jersey was evident in county employment and income statistics released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau
The numbers show a region that has yet to recover from that recession, which officially ended in June 2009 but whose deep impact still lingers across the nation. (Landau, Press of Atlantic City)
NJ insurance industry performed well post-Irene, state says
Nearly a month after Hurricane Irene struck New Jersey, the state’s Department of Banking and Insurance has given the insurance industry mostly clean marks for its response to the storm.
The agency, which monitors the insurance industry’s compliance with state regulations, has found that carriers have abided by its orders to mobilize disaster response plans ahead of the storm and suspend so-called hurricane deductibles after it passed. (Beeson, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. students turning heads with solar house
New Jersey’s first entry in the biennial national Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C., is easy to tell from the rest: It’s the only building made of concrete.
The 960-square-foot, one-bedroom house dubbed Enjoy weighs more than 500,000 pounds, with the unique “inverted hip” shaped roof tipping the scale at 150,000 pounds alone. (Jackson, The Record)
$100M grant from Mark Zuckerberg begins to have effect on Newark schools
After years of struggling in Newark’s troubled public schools, Lacha Young enrolled earlier this month in one of the city’s new experimental high schools.
At Newark Leadership Academy, she found new books, an enthusiastic new principal, teachers with time for tutoring and small classes with as few as five students. (Calefati and Heyboer, The Star-Ledger)
New Jersey casino regulators say they are prepared for Revel’s opening in 2012
Casino regulators said they would be familiar enough with recent state regulatory changes and have enough staff on hand to handle the opening of the Revel casino next year.
“Absolutely,” said Linda Kassekert, chair of the Casino Control Commission.
State Deputy Attorney General Mary Jo Flaherty also expressed confidence. (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)
NJ commuters spend more time in their cars
Love your car?
You’d better because New Jersey commuters spent more time in the car and on the bus or train getting to work in 2009 than any other place in the county, according to U.S. Census data.
And the solo driver car remains the mode of commuting choice in New Jersey, although in parts of the state, mass transit use is at a 10 percent or higher rate, the census found in its American Community survey report of commuting for 2009, the latest year for which figures are available. (Higgs, Gannett)