Weekly Roundup: Week of Oct. 3

TRENTON – After all the media hype and public teasing, Gov. Chris Christie made it official at a playful and packed news conference early Tuesday afternoon: He is not running for president.

Citing such reasons as having a job he loves and always wanted, and still facing much work to be done to fix a broken state, the pugnacious governor said that, regardless of whether you love him or hate him, “you’re stuck with me.”

Christie was clear-cut about where he stood on running for the job of Leader of the Free World. But that didn’t stop some from wondering if he is still angling to become vice president, since he didn’t flat-out reject that prospect. He would only say he doesn’t have the personality for being someone’s number 2 and he has difficulty thinking someone could ask him to be their running mate.

Driving home a point

The proposed changes by the state Department of Banking and Insurance on personal injury protection – PIPs – certainly got a lot of people’s attention. Supporters and opponents packed the Tudor-style committee room 12 during an Assembly committee hearing on the proposed changes.

Most of the supporters were insurance companies whose witnesses said the changes are needed to drive down the number of arbitration cases that have led to skyrocketing costs in the past few years. Some even said if the trend keeps up, they will have to pack up and leave the state, dealing another big blow to consumers who would no doubt see their premiums experience upward pressure.

Opponents of the proposed rules included mostly medical professionals and citizens’ action groups. The medical professionals said certain services may be cut from reimbursement and the citizens’ groups said the rules would become tighter, limiting only extreme cases for compensation.

One of the other proposals – a requirement to file an appeal within five days of notice – could also prevent many from seeking justice, opponents said.

Signs of savings

The debate about whether the landmark pension and benefits reform legislation that was passed in June went far enough to address some of the state’s financial and structural problems got some feedback this week.

The Christie Administration said in the past week the legislation is expected to save municipalities some $267 million in fiscal year 2012, with a $224 million savings from the Police and Fireman’s Retirement System and $43 million from the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS), which covers all other state employees.

A marsh plan

The state Department of Environmental Protection announced that it would be working with several agencies to help promote and improve the Bordentown Marsh. One of the partners is energy giant Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G).

At least one environmental group, the New Jersey Sierra Club, criticized the inclusion of PSE&G, saying it’s analogous to Ben & Jerry’s running Weight Watchers.

However, one of the other partners in the pact, Environment New Jersey, defended PSE&G, saying PSE&G has long been a good partner in the field of enhancing the environment.

Market forces

The populist movement Occupy Wall Street made its way to several cities, including to the steps of the Statehouse in Trenton.

Protesters expressed disdain over the excesses of the financial services industry, where many  key players have enjoyed large bonuses and golden parachutes.

The activists aim to get the government to pay attention to the struggles of regular folks who are laboring to find a job and put food on the table.


Weekly Roundup: Week of Oct. 3