Morning News Digest: November 14, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Doherty and Kyrillos let each other know where they stand vis a vis 2012 as Little surfaces
More than several heads turned in the Senate Republican caucus room yesterday when state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, (R-13), Middletown, huddled with state Sen. Mike Doherty, (R-23), Oxford.
People understood the implications of their quiet conservation.
Having each enjoyed a walkover election on Tuesday night, now their focus was on the next contest: U.S. Senate 2012.
In conferring about the future, the renegade conservative Doherty and Gov. Chris Christie kitchen cabinet member Kyrillos each received the impression the other intends to run for the right to challenge U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, (D-NJ), according to sources. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
From school board to Congress
Mike Assad, a Republican school board member in Absecon Township, has launched a bid for Congress in hopes of unseating nine-term U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, (R-2nd).
Assad, 24, says he is challenging LoBiondo, because the incumbent is not serving the people of South Jersey, but instead has sold them out in favor of union bosses.
“Congressman LoBiondo has supported legislation that would kill jobs and continuously refuses to support measures that would create jobs,” Assad said, noting LoBiondo’s opposition to free and open markets and his support of Cap and Trade and Card Check,” Assad said in a release announcing his candidacy. “Time and time again, Congressman LoBiondo has traded the best interests of our country for the support of union bosses,” Assad said. “I am running against Congressman LoBiondo in the Republican primary because South Jersey deserves principled leadership. I will support legislation that will create jobs, reduce our nation’s debt, and reform our broken tax system.” (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Christie’s midterm election results in status quo
Tuesday’s elections brought anything but change to the Legislature, where Democratic leaders are prepping for a feistier two years ahead.
Helped by new district boundaries that encouraged continuity, 106 of the 120 lawmakers elected to be members of the Senate and Assembly next year serve in Trenton already. Just one seat — held by a Republican assemblyman in Gloucester County — switched parties. Democrats keep their solid majorities and will control 60 percent of each legislative house.
While their top lieutenants changed, Senate President Stephen Sweeney of Gloucester County and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver of Essex County return to the leadership posts they’ve held since Gov. Chris Christie took the reins in the executive branch last year. So far, they’re striking familiar refrains about a millionaires’ tax and focusing on jobs. (Symons, Gannett)
State readies new school report cards
Get ready to see how every local public school in New Jersey stacks up, at least according to the state.
The Christie administration will unveil this week a plan for new school report cards that will rate every public school in New Jersey both statewide and against their peers on overall achievement, gaps in achievement, and specific academic targets.
The proposed School Performance Reports are one piece of the state’s application for a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, due by the end of today.
But whether the application is approved or not, acting education commissioner Chris Cerf said yesterday that the administration would pursue the new system regardless, saying it would provide a better accounting than the current system that lists detailed scores but little in the way of rankings. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Wide gap still separates Christie, teacahers union
When Gov. Christie’s education emissary waded into New Jersey’s annual teachers union convention here last week, he brought none of his boss’ artillery to that
Noting at the start of his speech that he was a former high school teacher, acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf used conciliatory language. He joked at crowd interruptions and pledged to work with the New Jersey Education Association toward common goals.
In other words, it was not a “Christie” speech.
Cerf’s words Friday, coupled with the NJEA’s recent release of its own education “reform agenda,” indicated a possible thawing in relations between the state’s largest teachers union and the Christie administration. (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Cerf takes moderate tone with teachers
It was a change in tone.
Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf came to the teachers union convention Friday and told educators that he appreciated and valued them and wanted to listen to their concerns.
Cerf also praised the leadership of the New Jersey Education Association, telling the teachers twice that they were “well represented.”
“Let’s agree to put children first,” Cerf said near the end of his hourlong address, which was attended by some 200 teachers and union officials. “Let’s find areas where we agree and work on them.”
Later Cerf added: “I really would love to engage the NJEA much more substantially.” (Method, Gannett)
New NJ measure aids domestic violence victims
Legislation that imposes more stringent bail restrictions on those charged with violating domestic violence-related restraining orders has been signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie.
Proponents say the measure provides more protection for victims by making it harder for suspects to post bail and makes offenders more accountable for their actions.
The bill bars those accused of violating such orders from having the option to post 10 percent of their bail to gain their release. Instead, they now will have to post the full amount or have a bail bond secured by real property equal to the bail amount plus $20,000. (Associated Press)
Health savings likely small
New Jersey will soon learn exactly how many public workers chose low-cost, high-deductible health insurance plans, but many, including Governor Christie, aren’t expecting that number to be high enough to save significant money.
When Christie pushed to offer government workers a set of health plans with low premiums but higher out-of-pocket costs for care, he pointed to Indiana, where three-quarters of state workers enrolled in those pay-as-you-go plans this year.
A monthlong enrollment for state, municipal and school workers ended Friday, but treasury officials predict just 2 percent will have selected that coverage. (Fletcher, The Record)
After election victory, sports-betting backers push ahead
Even though it’s been a frustrating season for the Eagles, Justin Hardwick always puts his money on them on game day.
So far, he’s done it figuratively.
But “if Atlantic City gets sports betting, I’ll be placing a bet on them for sure,” said Hardwick, 26, a salesman from Smithfield, Va., who spent the weekend here at the Tropicana for a bachelor party. “As a sports fan, it gives you another incentive to watch the game . . . by having a stake in it.”
A referendum question that passed Tuesday to amend New Jersey’s constitution to allow wagering on sports at the state’s casinos and racetracks is just the first step of a potentially long legal fight before Hardwick’s wish is fulfilled. (Parmley, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
N.J. job losses hurt blacks, Hispanics more
Widespread layoffs across the nation have left few families untouched.
However, prospects in an uneven recovery are especially bleak for unemployed blacks and Hispanics, who came into the recession on a lower rung in the job market.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the latest New Jersey average monthly unemployment figures from October 2010 through September 2011 show the rate at 15.4 percent for blacks, 10.9 percent for Hispanics and 8.6 percent for whites, down just slightly from a year ago.
That is slightly less than the national jobless rate of 16.7 percent for blacks recorded in September, the highest rate since 1984. Unemployment for whites in the U.S. was 8 percent. (Shields, Gannett)
Low-income housing dispute with Cherry Hill returns to court
The years-long fight between Cherry Hill Township and the Fair Share Housing Center, a low-income-housing advocacy group, is to return to court Monday, with the dispute this time focusing on the township’s accounting of its court-mandated, low-income-housing fund.
In the latest development from Fair Share’s 2001 lawsuit, Superior Court Judge Robert J. Millenky is to consider the group’s allegation that Cherry Hill misspent more than $500,000 in development fees instead of setting the money aside for affordable housing.
The complaint is the most prominent of several the group has brought before the judge. It wants him to appoint a forensic accountant to investigate. (Osborne, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Menendez builds up campaign bankroll
A family-owned print shop in Hudson County and the people fighting the Turkish occupation of Cyprus might not have anything else in common.
But they do have Sen. Bob Menendez.
The Passante family, owners of Royal Printing Services in West New York, gave Menendez $92,000 over the past five years. Lobbyist Andy Manatos raised $19,000 from Greek Cypriot supporters. The two disparate donations are just at the tip of a Menendez fund-raising mountain that continues to grow.
A year before he faces New Jersey voters seeking reelection, Menendez has raised more than $10 million. Half comes from his North Jersey connections and the rest from outreach to donors with national and even global interests. (Jackson, The Record)
Sweeney stays on top of slag issue
Despite the redrawing of Legislative District lines that moves Newfield out of the Fourth District and into the Third, Senate President Stephen Sweeney said he won’t have a problem pushing Shieldalloy Metallurgical Corporation to transport its low-level radioactive waste out of the borough and state.
“We are going to stay very much attached to it,” said Sweeney, a former Gloucester County freeholder director, of West Deptford. “I’m very well in tune with the issues there because I was freeholder director.”
Sweeney — and Third District Assembly members John Burzichelli and Celeste Riley — must now pick up where Fourth District Sen. Fred Madden left off as the liaison between Newfield residents and the state. (Romalino, Gloucester County Times)
N.J. counties capitalize on in-house repairs
Many New Jersey communities are trying to find ways to reduce expenses in these tough economic times. As part of that trend, Mercer County is saving taxpayers’ money by doing its own bridge repairs.
After six bridges in Mercer County were damaged by Hurricane Irene, some of the engineering and construction work to repair the spans is being done in house, according to Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes.
“We don’t need to go out and bid for the bond money. We don’t have to go out and get outside engineers in here to take a look at it both before and after they start construction,” Hughes said. “I think we’re able to do it faster. We’re able to do it directly to our specifications.” (Gregory, Newsworks)
Medicaid seeks to bring managed care to behavioral services
New Jersey is seeking federal approval to redesign
its system for providing behavioral health services to Medicaid members — one of the many changes the state Department of Health (DHS) proposed in the Comprehensive Medicaid Waiver it submitted in September.
If the plan is approved, it would mark the first time that adult Medicaid beneficiaries with mental illnesses and addictions would be administered by a behavioral health managed care provider. The DHS has long used managed care to deliver physical health services to most of the Medicaid population. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
Hospitalization privatization explored
The Burlington County Board of Freeholders is exploring privatization options for its Buttonwood Hospital, citing rising costs.
The freeholders have been subsidizing the annual operating costs with taxpayer dollars the past seven years because of lower Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements for its long-term care and psychiatric patients.
Last week, the Freeholders authorized a shared services agreement with the Burlington County Bridge Commission for assistance in exploring future options after recently receiving a consultant’s report on hospital finances. The commission has improvement authority power and also coordinates a shared services forum for the county and its municipalities, including refinancing capital debt. (Comegno, Gannett)
Corzine aid in spotlight
Even before Jon S. Corzine had lured Bradley Abelow in September 2010 to serve as his top deputy at MF Global Holdings Ltd., the firm’s chief executive was already saving key decisions for his trusted aide.
“Jon would even say, ‘Wait until Brad gets here,’ ” said Peter Forlenza, who served as MF Global’s global head of equities until last week. “It was almost like there was a messiah coming, and he was going to clean everything up.”
With MF Global now in bankruptcy court and Mr. Corzine having resigned, Mr. Abelow, who worked closely with his boss at the New Jersey statehouse and shared his Goldman Sachs pedigree, has been left to sort things out. (Baer and Lucchetti, The Wall Street Journal)
DRBC revised draft regulations draw environmentalists’ ire
Environmental advocates criticized the environmental draft regulations concerning natural gas drilling that were released this week by the Delaware River Basin Commission, saying they have gone from bad to worse.
The fact that some 69,000 comments were issued between last December and April shows the level of concern people have for the basin, which provides drinking water for some 15 million residents, key environmentalists said. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Sources: Dow headed to superior court judgeship
Sources – including one powerful source close to Attorney General Paula Dow – tell PolitickerNJ.com that she will leave the attorney general’s office to become a superior court judge in Essex County.
Following PolitickerNJ.com’s breaking story yesterday regarding Dow’s imminent departure from the AG’s Office to pursue a judgeship, speculation turned to whether the judgeship would be superior or supreme.
Five sources told Politicker that she would move to a superior court judgeship for two main reasons.
She wants to be in Essex County to be closer to family. Secondly, as a liberal, Dow would not fit to specs as a supreme court nominee of Gov. Chris Christie’s. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
How the media gave Ron Paul’s candidacy a shot in the arm in South Carolina
By now, after nearly a dozen GOP primary presidential debates, every American has seen how the Mainstream Media hate Rep. Ron Paul because he is an uncompromising champion of liberty, sound money, free enterprise and a noninterventionist policy. In each debate, the moderators usually have asked Rep. Paul the least amount of questions, even though his ideas are resonating with more Americans, especially young voters, who have become his core supporters. (Sabrin, PolitickerNJ)
Bergen GOP chief feeling heat for election losses
Nothing like a good old-fashioned shellacking at the polls to get the fractious Bergen Republicans talking about a leadership change.
Only hours after Tuesday’s losses, some party members blamed the most obvious scapegoat, Bergen County Republican Organization Chairman Bob Yudin. And that blame squarely put a large bull’s eye on Yudin’s back — three people have been mentioned as possible challengers to Yudin for the chairmanship. His term ends in June.
Yudin is aware of the chatter. He vowed to seek another term and defend his record against all comers. (Stile, The Record)
Voters not unhappy with ‘partnership’
We have come to expect them — those press conferences held after elections to tell you, the voter, exactly what you were thinking when you went to the polls on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
This year was no different. Gov. Chris Christie, speaking at an event at a hospital in Newton on Wednesday, said it was the redistricting map’s fault that his Republicans didn’t pick up seats in the Legislature and that the results of the election (no gain for the GOP in the Senate; one lost seat in the Assembly) were no referendum on his tenure.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the Middlesex County Democrat who also serves as the chairman of his state party, said voters showed they were sick of the governor’s bully politics. (Schoonejongen, Gannett)
Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf offers olive branch at NJEA meeting
Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf made a noble attempt on Friday to assure teachers that Gov. Chris Christie really does love them.
It was a tough mission, because the governor’s tirades on this topic are infamous. Union leaders are “thugs.” Teachers use students as “drug mules.” At his town hall meetings, beating up teachers is a go-to move. And everyone remembers that one year ago, the Christie administration broke tradition by boycotting the annual meeting of the New Jersey Education Association in Atlantic City.
The message was received.
But here was Cerf, laboring valiantly under the weight of that history, trying to build a relationship by attending this year’s teachers’ convention. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
Former Corzine employee at MF Global falls on his feet
After suffering through the demise of MF Global, Josh Zeitz, a former aide to Jon Corzine, has landed on his Florsheims.
Zeitz was laid off on Monday. By Tuesday, he was at MWW Group
, an influential New Jersey-based public relations, marketing and lobbying company, where he will serve as a senior vice president for corporate affairs.
MF Global dismissed more than 1,000 employees Friday, but Zeitz was out the door by then. “I told my HR guy, ‘I have a new job, so fire me when you need to fire me,’ ” Zeitz told The Auditor.
Zeitz, who worked for Corzine when he was governor and then followed him to MF Global, said he was not involved in the trading that brought down the company. (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)
Christie goes to New Hampshire, where politics is personal
In New Hampshire, there is an old joke about two residents discussing an election and one guy asks the other his opinion of a candidate. The second guy says he doesn’t know yet because he’s met the candidate only three times.
Seriously folks, that’s how they look at things here. Politics is personal and face-to-face.
The day before my visit here, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas won re-election in a landslide.
En route to a restaurant down the Daniel Webster Highway, I saw a man on the corner holding up a Gatsas for Mayor sign that had “Thank You” bumper stickers pasted across it. The white-haired fellow looked into each passing vehicle, mouthed “thank you” and waved. (Ingle, Gannett)
A need to think past sports betting
We’re pleased to see New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure in support of legal sports wagering in the state.
Allowing New Jersey to get a piece of a trade that’s already flourishing through local bookies and arm-breakers is an overdue means of helping fill the state’s coffers, and has the added benefit of attracting bettors to the casinos and racetracks that have been unable to fend off competition from neighboring states.
A federal ban has made sports betting illegal in all
but four states, and only Nevada allows the kind of full-on wagering imagined by lawmakers who want this to be a New Jersey staple. (Staff, NJBIZ)