Morning News Digest: September 28, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Eames says Codey record on taxes more pertinent than GOP endorsements
District 27 GOP challenger Bill Eames of Hanover called state Sen. Richard Codey’s (D-27), Roseland, GOP muscle flex little more than head games when there are more important issues to confront – like Codey’s propensity to tax and spend, Eames said.
Partially redistricted into Morris County, Codey this morning marched into the Hanover Marriott with a squad of Republicans eager to publicly embrace him regardless of party.
“I think he is exercising smart politics in the way he’s conducting his campaign,” said Eames, former head of the Atlantic County Chamber of Commerce who’s challenging Codey as a Tea Party conservative. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Ethics commission to look at Stack’s use of aid
A state ethics commission today agreed to take a further look into allegations that state Sen. Brian Stack is using a state funded legislative aide to do work in Union City, where Stack is mayor.
In a complaint to the ethics commission, Joseph Blaettler alleges that Stack aide Brian Albiez, who is paid by Stack’s Senate office as well as by the Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, spends time doing Union City business though he is not employed by the city and collects a $75,000 salary for his full time work with the legislators. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Christie says he’s not running as he slams ‘bystander’ Obama
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he plans to sit out the 2012 presidential race and then used a nationally broadcast appearance to assail President Barack Obama as a “bystander in the Oval Office.”
The 49-year-old Republican pointed to video clips on the Politico website in which he says he’s not a candidate. “Click on it, those are the answers,” he told a capacity crowd at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, yesterday. That didn’t stop him from weighing in on the campaign.
“We continue to wait and hope that our president will finally stop being a bystander in the Oval Office,” Christie said. “We hope that he will shake off the paralysis that has made it impossible for him to take on the really big things that are obvious to all Americans.” (Dopp, Bloomberg)
Christie says economy, gridlock menace US future
Governor Christie, himself the center of a fever-pitch of presidential hype, delivered his version of American leadership Tuesday before a well-heeled conservative crowd at the home of one of the most powerful of Republican symbols.
Christie’s day started in Missouri at a private fund-raiser and continued in California for another lunch with donors before ending at the Reagan Presidential Library. His out-of-state fund-raising tour this week helped push the Christie-for-president rumors to their highest heights so far.
It was at a lunch Tuesday afternoon — where 40 or so wealthy donors each paid $15,000 to see him for one hour — that Christie gave a decisive “no” to the that presidential question. But by evening his public answer had softened, giving supporters hope. (Fletcher, The Record)
Gov. Christie sounds like a candidate in a speech at the Reagan library
Sounding every bit like the Republican presidential candidate that conservatives are pining for him to be, Gov. Christie hammered President Obama, flirted with foreign policy, and criticized Congress during an hour-long address Tuesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
But he did not, as the Fox News and C-Span cameras rolled, announce his candidacy for president.
Escorted by Nancy Reagan, who had invited him to speak, Christie paid homage to her late husband’s “strength, perseverance, and faith,” citing the Republican president’s conviction in taking on the unionized air traffic controllers in 1981.
Christie has built his national reputation on his own showdowns with public-sector unions, and he drew a connection between the “leadership and compromise” he has overseen in Trenton and a need for the same in Washington to improve America’s global reputation. (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Chris Christie takes a shot at Rick Perry on immigration policy
Though New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was vague about his own presidential ambitions during an appearance at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Tuesday night, he did take direct aim at the current front-runner for the Republican nomination.
During a Q&A session Christie took issue with Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s assertion at a debate last week that refusing to provide discounted college tuition to illegal immigrants was heartless.
“I want every child who comes to New Jersey to be educated, but I don’t believe that for those people who came here illegally, we should be subsidizing with taxpayer money, through in-state tuition their education,” Christie said. “And let me be very clear from my perspective: That is not a heartless position that is a common sense position.” (Falcone, ABC News)
Christie adds little new, but fails to quell the talk
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey failed to address intense speculation about his presidential ambitions on Tuesday night during a foreign policy address at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.
With those close to the governor saying he was “reconsidering” whether to mount a bid, Mr. Christie’s unwillingness to address his political future during his speech left some Republicans exasperated and worried that a protracted game of “will-he, won’t-he” would be bad for the party’s chances of retaking the White House.
“It’s drive-it or park-it time,” said Robert List, a former governor of Nevada and an uncommitted member of the Republican National Committee. “The picture doesn’t gel until the players are all understood. It just muddies the water further.” (Shear and Medina, The New York Times)
NJ gov signs ‘sexting’ legislation
New Jersey teenagers caught texting sexually explicit photos or posting them online can avoid prosecution under a new law Gov. Chris Christie signed this week.
The law targets “sexting,” the practice of sending explicit photos by cell phone, email or Internet posts. The nationwide problem has confounded parents, schools and police.
The bill gives first-time offenders the chance to complete an education program.
Lawmakers took up the issue after a 14-year-old girl allegedly uploaded nude pictures of herself and was arrested on child pornography charges last summer. She eventually received probation and court-ordered counseling. (The Associated Press)
Underfunded rural school districts seek redress in court
Abbott v. Burke may get all the attention in New Jersey, but another case almost as old is heading back to court to challenge how the Christie administration funds schools.
Lawyers for 16 poor rural districts — virtually all in South Jersey — have gone back to the state appeals court to contend that they, too, are entitled to full funding under the state’s school funding law.
The districts are part of the Bacon v. New Jersey Department of Education case that was first filed in 1997 as a rural version of the Abbott case, which was on behalf of the state’s highest-poverty urban districts.
The Bacon case involves districts like Buena Regional, Clayton, Egg Harbor City, and Hammonton and maintains that these districts have also been underfunded for years due to their poverty. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
State agency wants to know why Jersey pays so much for power
New Jersey will press its investigation into why power prices are so steep for businesses and residents, with a top state official ordering a new hearing to explore what can be done to rectify the problem.
In an order issued early yesterday evening, the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) said issues raised during an earlier proceeding warranted continued investigation into practices of the operator of the regional power grid, the PJM Interconnection; power suppliers; and owners of transmission lines.
The latest probe is likely to ramp up pressure on the energy industry to find a way to build new power plants here, a step the Christie administration argues is the best way to reduce some of the highest electric bills in the country for consumers. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Congress approves autism bill
Legislation by a New Jersey congressman to extend the federal government’s autism research programs for three years is on its way to the White House.
President Barack Obama is expected to sign it by Friday, when the 2011 fiscal year ends.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., cleared its only hurdle when the Senate approved it by voice vote late Monday. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., lobbied for the bill on the Senate floor.
Earlier, a small group of conservative Republicans — led by Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Jim DeMint of South Carolina — had put holds on the bill, but they withdrew them after striking a deal with Menendez. Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., struck a similar deal with the Senate opponents. Pitts is chairman of a health subcommittee in the House. (Chebium, Gannett)
Smart growth policies face overhaul
The state is thinking about revamping its policies dealing with what projects receive financial incentives to reduce energy use in buildings, a change smart growth advocates fear will lead to further sprawl and loss of open space.
For nearly a decade, various policies have sought to promote construction in so-called Smart Growth zones, generally more urban and developed areas where sewer systems, schools and mass transit are already in place. Further, state agencies, including the New Jersey Office of Clean Energy, were encouraged to funnel aid away from projects in rural and low-growth areas without established infrastructure.
That policy could change, at least, in terms of what projects would receive incentives from the office to make new construction as energy efficient as possible. The office is poised to recommend to the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) that it eliminate policies that limit most incentives to new construction in Smart Growth areas. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Postal workers seek Garrett’s support
All they want is eight hours’ pay for an honest eight hours’ work, and their $20 billion back that Congress hoodwinked from them in 2006.
Postal workers from New Jersey’s Postal District 5, which covers Sussex, Warren and northern Somerset counties, gathered in front of U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett’s Newton office Tuesday to protest the proposed cuts to postal facilities and workforce.
Representatives of three postal unions — the American Postal Workers Union, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the Rural Letter Carriers Union — called on Garrett, R-5th Dist., to stop the corporate takeover of the Postal Service and support legislation that will save the post office and fully fund its operations. (Reilly, New Jersey Herald)
Sen. Codey touts GOP re-election support
State Sen. Richard J. Codey on Tuesday introduced seven current and former Morris County Republican politicians — and one big former football player — who endorsed his re-election bid for his newly redistricted seat.
Codey, a Democrat from Roseland who also served as governor, is running for re-election to his 27th District Senate seat against self-described Tea Party Republican William Eames of Whippany.
Codey introduced his Republican supporters during a news conference at the Hanover Marriott on Route 10, where he spoke about the need for bi-partisanship at a time both major parties are fiercely opposed to each other. (Manocchio, Gannett)
N.J. chamber honors state lawmakers in Atlantic City
he New Jersey Chamber of Commerce honored four legislators and three business advocates Tuesday night at Bally’s Atlantic City.
The celebration was part of the chamber’s bi-annual Legislative Awards Reception. Those honored included Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Salem, Gloucester, Cumberland.
Tom Bracken, president and chief executive officer of the chamber, said award recipients were recognized for their work to better improve business relations within the state — as well as the quality of life for state residents.
“It’s a multifaceted selection process,” Bracken said before the event began. “The people we’re honoring tonight clearly stand out.” (Dineen, Press of Atlantic City)
9th hopefuls do battle
Contenders for the 9th District state Senate and Assembly seats agreed they want New Jersey and federal regulators to hold tighter control over the Oyster Creek nuclear generating station and its post-2019 decommissioning.
But in a meeting Tuesday with the Asbury Park Press editorial board, the Republican incumbents and Democratic challengers differ sharply on controversial legislation, vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie, that sought to protect Barnegat Bay by allowing local storm water utilities to be set up and raise money from fees on property owners. (Moore, Gannett)
Morris officials unleash on JCP&L at Parsippany hearing
Morris County officials and residents got their chance to complain to state officials about Jersey Central Power & Light Co. during a hearing Tuesday evening, accusing the power company of inadequate preparation for Hurricane Irene and poor communication with towns and customers during power outages following the storm.
Morristown officials also raised questions about manhole cover explosions that have plagued the municipality for years, including an explosion that injured a woman two days after the storm as JCP&L workers were in the process of restoring power. (Koloff, Gannett)
NJ officials look to collect unpaid tolls
Revenue is down on New Jersey’s two major toll roads so officials are getting aggressive in a bid to collect unpaid tolls.
Letters are going out to violators and the violations fee will increase from $25 to $50 on Oct. 17.
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority intends to suspend registrations, impound vehicles, file lawsuits and have deadbeats arrested for theft of service. (The Associated Press)
NJ lawmakers: CDC will study, create protocols for student athlete concussions
As awareness continues to grow about sports-related concussions among student athletes, two New Jersey lawmakers say it’s time for schools to start following nationwide protocols governing such injuries.
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and Rep. Bill Pascrell announced Tuesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed to study and develop national guidelines for managing sports-related concussions for student athletes.
Menendez and Pascrell, both New Jersey Democrats, had sponsored legislation, which passed the House but stalled in the Senate, that would have made such protocols mandatory. Several states, including New Jersey, have laws requiring a physician’s approval for a student to return to sports, but Pascrell said there needs to be nationwide guidance for schools and youth sports programs to follow. (The Associated Press)
N.J. ethics panel dismisses complaint against Assemblyman Rumana
A state ethics panel voted Tuesday to dismiss a complaint against Assemblyman Scott Rumana, R-Wayne, for his advocacy of a non-profit organization for which he serves as chairman.
The state’s joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards voted 5-2 to dismiss the complaint, which it began to examine last year after a political rival of Rumana, Bill Brennan, accused him of a conflict of interest.
“I am gratified by today’s decision to dismiss the complaint,” Rumana said through his spokeswoman, Lonni Miller Ryan. “The ruling today demonstrates that I did not violate any ethical standards.”
Brennan, a Democrat, is challenging Rumana for his seat representing the 40th Legislative District, which includes parts of Bergen, Essex and Passaic counties (Gartland, The Record)
Disaster money debate appears to settled for now
Congress appears to have resolved — for now — a partisan impasse over disaster-aid funding that had threatened to shut down the federal government.
The Senate voted 79-12 late Monday to pass a stopgap spending bill that would keep the government operating until Nov. 18 — seven weeks past the end of fiscal year 2011 on Friday — and provide $2.6 billion for disaster aid programs in fiscal year 2012.
The GOP-controlled House is expected to pass the Senate bill with support from lawmakers representing New Jersey and other states that need federal aid to recover from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. (Chebium, Gannett)
Yanks made Mets cash offer for N.J.
The Yankees offered the Mets $250,000 last week in exchange for permission to temporarily relocate one of their minor-league teams to Newark, N.J., Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost said Tuesday. But he said negotiations broke down after the Mets demanded the right to permanently relocate one of their minor-league affiliates to either Long Island or Connecticut.
The Yankees were looking to move their Triple-A team to Newark’s Riverfront Stadium for one year while their home ballpark in Moosic, Pa., is being renovated. But under Major League Baseball rules, the Mets and Yankees share territorial rights to the region. No team can move a major-league franchise or minor-league affiliate into the area without both teams’ consent. (Costa, The Wall Street Journal)
Latest from State Street Wire
Petty’s Run plan approved
The State Capitol Joint Management Commission today approved the $1.6 million Department of Environmental Protection/Mercer County plan to preserve Petty’s Run, the historic site near the Statehouse. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Life after COAH: DCA says it’s reducing bureaucracy; Housing Center opposes DCA’s directives
The decision to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing has reduced bureaucracy and paved the way for cost-effective planning, according to the head of the Department of Community Affairs. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Kean Jr., DeCroce attack Obama stimulus plan
State Republican leaders said today that the president’s latest economic stimulus plan will threaten New Jersey’s economic recovery.
In addition, Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr. and Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce took state Democratic Sens. Steve Sweeney, Paul Sarlo and Barbara Buono and Assemblyman John Wisniewski to task either for publicly supporting Obama’s plan or tax hikes. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Oppo beginning on Christie?
As rumors of a potential Chris Christie Presidential candidacy caught fire Tuesday, it seems someone may have already begun their oppo research on “candidate Christie.” (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Gov. Chris Christie lets down GOP, nation by passing on White House bid
It was a standing ovation at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, with the entire crowd begging Gov. Chris Christie to jump into the race for president.
And it wasn’t enough. Still, the governor stuck to his previous denials, saying it was an honor to be asked, but that he didn’t have the fire in the gut.
Christie is outright adored by his own party. But it is time for them to move on if they want to beat President Obama. Because Christie’s long flirtation has weakened an already weak Republican field. He’s made it clear that there is a thirst for something better, and a standing ovation tonight put an exclamation mark on it. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
The GOP’s ready for Christie
The sophisticated-looking woman seated next to me on a flight to New Orleans asked where I was from. Then she wanted to know if I knew the governor. For more than I decade, I told her. “Tell him if he runs for president, I will work for him in Florida.”
Turns out she played a role in the Florida campaign for George W. Bush — “you know, the one with all the hanging chads.” (Ingle, Gannett)
It was an extraordinary night out at the Reagan library. I have never seen a crowd so literally desperate for someone to run for president, nor seen such a heartfelt and frank appeal to someone to run as from the woman who got up in the balcony to implore Christie to think about (he didn’t say he wouldn’t). The governor seemed moved by the entire experience. His speech was plain-spoken rather than eloquent, but benefited from Christie’s emphatic and sincere delivery. (Lowry, National Review)