Morning News Digest: October 19, 2011


Morning News Digest: October 19, 2011

By Missy Rebovich

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Ballot measure allowing sports gambling has strong support

If today were Election Day, an amendment to the state Constitution allowing gambling on sporting events would “easily win approval,” according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

The amendment to allow sports betting at race tracks and casinos will be on the November 8 election ballot, and the Rutgers-Eagleton poll shows it has the support of 58 percent of likely voters with only 31 percent opposed.

“(T)his ballot measure will not have any practical effect unless the federal government lifts its ban on sports betting,” said poll director David Redlawsk, professor of political science at Rutgers University. “Nonetheless, New Jerseyans are ready to position New Jersey to take advantage of any change in federal law.”  (Staff, PolitickerNJ)



Scutari opponent ends bid against LD 22 judiciary chair

Muscled up moneywise in this cycle, state Sen. Nick Scutari (D-22) is one of the state’s top ten legislators in possession of the biggest campaign warchests, and now political junkies will be deprived of watching him drop his on someone.

That’s because Republican challenger Michael Class of Middlesex Twp. won’t oppose Scutari after all.

“I would like to request immediate removal from the election ballot for the position of state senate, State of New Jersey, Legislative District 22,” Class wrote in a letter to Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)


Gov. Christie’s presidential buzz helped raise nearly $1.5M over 3-month period

Gov. Chris Christie’s flirtation with the presidency has paid off in cold hard cash for state Republicans.

The Republican State Committee raised $1.48 million from July 1 to Sept 30 — over a half-million dollars more than the previous period — Rick Gorka, the spokesman for the state Republicans, said today.

During those three lucrative months, speculation over a Christie candidacy reached a frenzy as the governor went on a cross-country tour that included fundraisers for his party in Missouri as well as California, where he delivered at speech at the Ronald Reagan Library and had audience members urging him, unsuccessfully, to run.  (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)



Details released on Christie’s taxes

Gov. Chris Christie and his wife paid a bit more than $116,000 in federal income taxes and more than $30,000 in state taxes last year on roughly $600,000 in gross income, according to tax returns made public Tuesday by the Governor’s Office.

Their income included around $410,000 in wages — $145,364 to Christie as governor and $264,691 to Mary Pat Christie for her job as a vice president at the Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald.

It also included $91,000 in capital gains, $57,000 from Goldman Sachs hedge funds and $21,700 from Listerine royalty rights. That was offset by $83,000 in capital losses and a $63,000 deduction for business expenses, yielding an adjusted gross income of around $450,000.  (Symons, Gannett)|topnews|text|State



Ruling redraws battle lines on benefits

Governor Christie now faces either a drawn-out court battle over his health benefit revisions or a yearlong wait to close a constitutional provision that keeps judges from paying more as are other public workers.

Christie on Tuesday called for a constitutional amendment that would rewrite the provision on judges’ salaries and allow him to require members of the court to pay more toward their pension and health benefits.  (Fletcher, The Record)



As N.J. legislative election nears, Democrats have raised more than Republicans

The over 240 Democratic, Republican and Independent candidates seeking election to the Legislature on Nov. 8 have raised and spent slightly less than they did at the same time four years ago while the incumbents appear to be gaining an increased advantage over the challengers, according to an analysis by made public Tuesday by the state Election Law Enforcement Commission.

The 29-day pre-election reports show candidates have raised $26 million and spent $12.7 million since the June primary. The reports also show that they have $13.3 million in reserve, also down slightly from comparable figures reported in 2007. That was the last election when all 120 seats were at stake.  (Hester, News Jersey Newsroom)



Legislative hopefuls cut costs

Spending by New Jersey’s legislative candidates is down so far this year, but one closely watched race in North Jersey is developing into the state’s most expensive contest, according to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission.

All 120 seats in the Assembly and Senate are on the November ballot, and candidates for those offices have collectively spent $12.7 million since the June primary, according to campaign finance reports submitted to the commission.  (Reitmeyer, The Record)



Campaign spending in N.J.’s 38th District leads the state

Spending by New Jersey’s legislative candidates is down so far this year, but one closely watched race in North Jersey is developing into the state’s most expensive contest, according to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission.

All 120 seats in the Assembly and Senate are on the November ballot, and candidates for those offices have collectively spent $12.7 million since the June primary, according to campaign finance reports submitted to the commission.  (Reitmeyer, The Record)



N.J. congressional delegation kicks fund raising into overdrive

Rep. Scott Garrett became chairman of a subcommittee that regulates the financial industry this year, and since then Wall Street and its executives have helped him raise more money than anyone else in New Jersey’s delegation in the House.

Rep. Steve Rothman continues to leverage his position on the defense appropriations subcommittee by raising 13 percent of contributions this year from military contractors.  (Jackson, The Record)



Investigations find N.J. Medicaid spending, fraud detection are too lax

Two examinations of Medicaid, the government health insurance program serving more than 1 million of New Jersey’s poor and disabled, say efforts to detect and recover fraudulent claims are too lax, resulting in higher insurance costs.

State Comptroller Matt Boxer released a report today showing that in 2009 and 2010 Horizon NJ Health only identified $188,207 in improper payments of the $1.3 billion it received from the government to pay claims, or less than one-tenth of one percent of the program’s costs.  (Livio, The Star-Ledger)



N.J. announces applications for 42 more charter schools

The desire to open charter schools in New Jersey appears to remain strong, as the state Tuesday announced a new crop of 42 charter applicants.

While shy of the 58 named in April by the Department of Education, this list represents a sizable showing of interest, including in some nonurban districts that are not traditionally fertile soil for the alternative schools.

In South Jersey, the Creative Arts Charter School would open in the generally well-performing Voorhees Township district, eventually accommodating 190 children in grades two through five.  (Giordano, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Unfounded mandates on schools under debate

The state’s Council on Local Mandates only meets a few times a year. Its task: determine if a statute constitutes an unfunded mandate on a community and, in turn, is unconstitutional.

But in the case decided yesterday and with one coming up that involves the state’s controversial new anti-bullying law, the little-known panel is making its presence felt on some high-profile matters facing both local schools and the Statehouse.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



Richard Kanka, Megan’s father, running for central N.J. Senate seat

When Richard Kanka knocks on a door and introduces himself as a candidate for New Jersey Senate, he’s often greeted with the same question: “Are you Megan’s dad?”

In 1994, Kanka’s 7-year-old daughter was raped and strangled by a previously convicted sex offender who lived across the street. He lured Megan inside with the promise of a puppy. Megan’s Law, which requires sexual predators to register their addresses to inform neighbors of their crimes, is named for her.  (Farrell, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Legislative District 39

The lesson of the primary in the 39th is that strong candidates get votes.

In a district where registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats by only about 7,000 voters, the veteran incumbents got thousands more votes than their Democratic counterparts.

Republican Sen. Gerald Cardinale receved 3,321 votes in the GOP primary, while his November Democratic opponent Lorraine Waldes received 119 votes, none of which came from the Passaic County portion of the district.  (Daigle, NJ Spotlight)



Legislative District 40

William Brennan, a Democratic challenger for the State Assembly in the 40th District, may not topple the Republican incumbent. But he is turning what looks like a comfortable Republican victory into an interesting race.

Brennan has in recent years filed six separate complaints against public officials and towns. One of those was against Republican Scott Rumana, the incumbent Assemblyman in this district, which is spread over Bergen, Essex, Morris, and Passaic counties. The complaint centered on Rumana’s joint roles as mayor of Wayne and president of a co-generation and solar energy company promoted to build an energy project and sell electricity to the township. Although the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards dismissed most of the complaints against Rumana, it but tabled the one that accused him of conflict of interest.  (Daigle, NJ Spotlight)



Senate candidates in New Jersey’s 23rd Legislative District to debate without independent challenger

Two state Senate candidates in New Jersey’s 23rd Legislative District are set to face off in a debate Monday night in Bedminster Township, N.J.

But they forgot to invite the other guy.

Independent candidate Daniel Z. Seyler, of Phillipsburg, was not extended an invitation to the debate between Democratic challenger John Graf Jr. and Republican incumbent Sen. Michael Doherty, R-Warren/Hunterdon.

Seyler said he would have accepted an invitation but he wasn’t put “in the loop.”  (Rowan, The Express-Times)



Assembly hopefuls talk waste, spending at candidates night

When one Ogdensburg resident asked the candidates in the crowded Assembly race how they would reduce spending, most agreed that fraud needs to be wiped out, but beyond that their penny-saving plans diverge.

The six candidates for two Assembly seats in the 24th District debated this and other topics at a Meet the Candidates Night at the Ogdensburg Firehouse Tuesday.

Republican incumbent Gary Chiusano told stories of the excessive fraud and abuse he saw in New Jersey. He cited school officials in Elizabeth who enrolled their children in the free lunch program, despite being well over the salary requirements.  (Reyes, New Jersey Herald)



1st District Democrats raise far more than Republicans; in 9th District, Republicans way ahead in funds

Gov. Chris Christie is expected to campaign for Republicans in Cape May County this week, providing a badly needed fund-raising boost to challengers with less than a month to go in the race.

Democrats have a nearly two-to-one advantage in fund-raising in the 1st Legislative District, according to reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.  (Miller, Press of Atlantic City)



2nd District legislative candidates raise nearly $1.9 million

The six people running for the 2nd Legislative District’s three seats already have raised almost $1.9 million and spent almost $1.3 million through Oct. 11, setting them on pace to break previous local finance records.

Campaign finance reports released by the state Election Law Enforcement Commission on Tuesday showed that while fundraising is down statewide, candidates for the district representing most of Atlantic County could easily spend millions of dollars on the race.  (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)



Marijuana legalization activist, facing trial, campaigns for N.J. Assembly

New Jersey’s most noted marijuana-legalization activist – Edward “NJ” Forchion – said Tuesday that he regularly sends reefer to the governor.

Since last spring, the Weedman said, he has mailed one gram of weed (“Enough for a fattie”) to 15 public officials, from the state attorney general to the Burlington County prosecutor to Gov. Christie himself. None has been returned, he said.  (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Power plant subsidies conjure up vision of troubled past

When New Jersey officials talk about subsidizing the development of power plants, some industry veterans grimace and worry that it will lead to a repeat of PURPA — the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act.

Passed during the Carter administration in the wake of the oil embargo, the program required electric utilities to enter into long-term contracts with independent power producers, which were expected to produce electricity more efficiently and, it was thought at the time, more cheaply.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Taking a gamble on expansion

Atlantic City’s casinos are expanding gambling into places it had never been before, making plans for slot machines and table games outside restaurants and shops, and even in an enclosed swimming pool that transforms into a nightclub when the sun goes down.

Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City wants to become the second New Jersey casino to extend gambling into areas beyond the casino floor. An executive with the casino said Tuesday it wants to put six table games at The Pool, its huge enclosed swimming pool that becomes one of Atlantic City’s hottest nightspots.  (Parry, The Associated Press)



Officials applaud, defend arrangement that brought Panasonic to Newark

Panasonic Corp.‘s decision this spring to keep its North American headquarters in New Jersey has faced criticism about whether the millions of dollars in state incentives given to the electronics giant were too generous to keep the company in-state.

So as Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno stood before company representatives and local government leaders Tuesday morning, she tackled those criticisms head on, saying the credits don’t amount to a corporate giveaway.

“It is not a blank check from the state of New Jersey to Panasonic,” Guadagno said. “You in fact were going to go someplace else had we not all gotten together.”  (Kaltwasser, NJBIZ)



Valley, Englewood hospitals present last stand as Pascack Valley battle heads to hearing

On the eve of a Health Department hearing on Hackensack University Medical Center’s plan to reopen the former Pascack Valley Hospital, in Westwood, opponents on Tuesday released new studies they commissioned that support their argument that Bergen County has excess hospital beds and reopening the hospital will divert hundreds of patients and millions in revenue from Valley Hospital, in Ridgewood, and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center.

The hearing by the State Health Planning Board, expected to draw hundreds, will be 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Westwood Regional Junior/Senior High School, in Washington Township.  (Fitzgerald, NJBIZ)



Sens. urge baseball to ban tobacco

U.S. senators and health officials are taking on a baseball tradition older than the World Series itself: chewing tobacco on the diamond.

With the Series set to begin Wednesday between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers — a team that started life as the Washington Senators 50 years ago — the senators, along with health officials from the teams’ cities, want the players union to agree to a ban on chewing tobacco at games and on camera. They made the pleas in separate letters, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.  (Frommer, The Associated Press)



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Bar Association: Christie attempting to ‘intimidate’ judges again

The state Bar Association president said the governor’s comments about Mercer County Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg today were bully shots, again.

“Gov. Chris Christie’s comments today are yet another attempt to intimidate the courts and unduly influence the judicial process,” said Bar Association President Susan Feeney. “Further, his personal criticism of Mercer County Assignment Judge Linda Feinberg is unwarranted and irresponsible.”  (Carroll, State Street Wire)



Codey, Lesniak agree: judges should share the pain, but Christie went over the line again

Two Democratic lawmakers agree with Gov. Chris Christie’s call today that pension and benefit contribution hikes should apply equally to the judicial branch. But the two senior senators said – as they have in the past – Christie overstepped the bounds of judicial independence.

State Sens. Richard Codey (D-27), of Roseland, and Raymond Lesniak (D-20), of Elizabeth, said Christie and the state are right to appeal the Mercer County court decision extending constitutional protection to judges as it relates to increased benefit contributions.  (Carroll, State Street Wire)



Joint Ed committee conducts biopsy of Christie’s school report; state takeover process under fire

Gov. Chris Christie’s Education Transformation Task Force’s first draft recommendation report was on trial today at the Joint Education Committee hearing. But some participants at Eastside High School in Paterson zoned in on what was called a “discriminatory” practice of selective district takeovers.

Speaking on the report, many professionals testifying agreed in principle to the facts and conclusions included.  (Carroll, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room



In competitive districts, confident Dem source says watch the ad buys

Despite headlines showing GOP cash-on-hand advantages in three key races – LD2, LD14, and LD38 – Democratic sources say they are confident about how the party is spending money to keep those seats in Democratic hands.

“The Gordon campaign has spent a million dollars on cable TV over the past six weeks,” said a high-powered source invested in the 38th District campaign. “The flip side (the GOP) has spent about $250K, so naturally they have a little more money right now, and they’re waiting for the late money.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)






For N.J. schools, new bullying rules test patience

In Ridgewood the other day, a teacher at Benjamin Franklin Middle School overheard a student calling his friend “a retard” during lunch. In years gone by, the teacher would have taken the student aside and told him his language was inappropriate. That would have been the end of it.

No longer. Last fall the New Jersey Legislature passed the Antibullying Bill of Rights, and Governor Christie signed it into law in January. Things have changed. Boy, have they ever.  (Ahearn, The Record)

  Morning News Digest: October 19, 2011