Morning News Digest: November 22, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Sources: Mennan in strong position to run for GOP in LD16
Central Jersey Republican sources are preparing to field William Mennen of Hunterdon County as the replacement for Assemblyman Pete Biondi (R-16), who died earlier this month.
At the very least, Mennen will have the support of the Somerset County GOP Committee, which forms the backbone of the district, and of Hunterdon.
A resident of Tewksbury – located in the 23rd – Mennen would move into the 16th District, sources say.
On the Democratic side, sources say state Sen. Bob Smith (D-17) wants South Brunswick Councilman Joe Camarota to oppose Mennen in a special election next year. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Constable replaces Grifa as another ex-federal prosecutor joins Christie Administration
Gov. Chris Christie announced the resignation of Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Lori Grifa today, bringing in Richard Constable, the deputy commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, as her replacement.
Grifa is returning to the private sector and her former employer, the prominent law firm of Wolff & Samson, when the transition ends on Jan. 2, 2012.
On comparisons between private practice and public service, she said it is “the difference between what is important and what clients tell you is important.”
She’s manned the front line on reforms of Urban Enterprise Zones and municipal aid, streamlining various forms of aid and stepping up oversight and requirements set upon receiving towns. (Carroll, PolitickerNJ)
Assemblyman Singleton takes the oath of office
Surrounded by family, friends and allies on both sides of the aisle, Assemblyman Troy Singleton assumed the oath of office today as an assemblyman from the 7th District.
“It means a lot,” Singleton told PolitickerNJ.com between committee meetings. “I started my career in government as an intern, then a staffer. It’s very emotional for me, and I had a flood of memories.”
In attendance in support of the new assemblyman were his wife and three children, his grandmother and extended family.
Singleton and Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-7) ran and won together this year in one of the most combative contests statewide. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Gov. Christie to Democrats: ‘You want to cut positions out of me, I’ll cut positions out of you’
Gov. Chris Christie today described the game of chicken he played with top Democratic lawmakers over funding for staff salaries.
When battling with Democrats over this year’s state budget, Christie vetoed $3.8 million in salaries for legislative staff. He said it was payback for when Democrats removed funding for oversight at the Department of Environmental Protection.
Christie’s message? “You want to cut positions out of me, I’ll cut positions out of you,” he said.
But the Democrats who control the Legislature were going to force Republicans to bear the brunt of the cut.
“Instead of distributing that cut fairly and evenly across both parties, they decided they would do it solely upon the Republicans,” Christie said. (Megerian, The Star-Ledger)
Christie accuses non-partisan office of putting out faulty revenue figures
Governor Christie lashed out at the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services Monday, saying they owe him an “apology” for
putting out inflated revenue projections to help Democrats score political points.
“They are the handmaiden of the majority,” Christie said in a news conference after being asked about sluggish revenue collections that have put the state in a $210 million hole after the first four months of the fiscal year.
Democrats relied on the more optimistic revenue projections provided in part by the Office of Legislative Services to help add roughly $1 billion in spending to the 2012 budget, but most of the additional spending was vetoed by Christie. At the time, Christie said the numbers were fictitious.
Democrats spent the campaign season blasting Christie for the cuts, painting him as a person out of touch with the state’s middle and working class residents. (Renshaw, The Star-Ledger)
New Jersey Legislature begins lame-duck session
The lame-duck legislative session opened Monday with a blitz of Assembly and Senate committee hearings and the swearing-in of two South Jersey legislators.
Among the bills approved by committees were measures that would make it a felony to fail to report the disappearance of a child within 24 hours, allow over-the-counter sales of hypodermic needles, and create a program that gives tax credits to New Jersey-based companies that retain and add jobs.
Democrat Troy Singleton was sworn in as assemblyman for the Seventh District, spanning western Burlington County. Also sworn in was Gerri Nardello, a Republican representing the Eighth District, which covers parts of Burlington, Camden, and Atlantic Counties. Nardello will serve until the end of the year to complete the term of Pat Delany, who stepped down in August; then, Burlington County Freeholder Chris Brown, who won the Nov. 8 election, will take over the Assembly seat. (Rao, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Telecom deregulation: How much is too much?
The recent weather-related outages and service interruptions have some Democratic legislators arguing that a bill to deregulate the state’s telecom and cable industries goes too far, stripping away consumer protection.
They also say that the proposed legislation can leave seniors and people with disabilities at risk.
Chief among the critics is state Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex). Joined by state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), as well as representatives of the AARP and New Jersey Citizen Action, Smith yesterday introduced new legislation, S-3062, that he claims will remedy the shortcomings of a bill proposed this past spring and expected to be approved during the lame duck session. (Haggin, NJ Spotlight)
Bill advances on needle sales for drug users
A legislative committee paved the way Monday for final legislative action on a measure allowing New Jersey pharmacies to sell syringes and needles to intravenous drug users.
New Jersey and Delaware are the only states that do not allow over-the-counter sales now.
The bill would allow up to 10 syringes or needles to be sold at once through a licensed pharmacy. The legislation is designed to give IV drug users access to clean needles.
The bill’s sponsors say access to clean needles helps stem the spread of HIV, hepatitis C and other blood-borne diseases.
Opponents worry about the state legitimizing illegal drug use.
“A tremendous amount of medical organizations support the over-the-counter sales of syringes,” said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a sponsor. “New Jersey needs to keep up with the rest of the country.” (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
N.J. Senate panel approves Caylee Anthony-inspired bill
The N.J. Senate Law and Public Safety Committee has approved a bill inspired by the murder of Caylee Anthony that would make it a felony to fail to report the disappearance or death of a child within 24 hours.
“Would it prevent what happened in Florida? Absolutely not. That’s a human being’s decision to act unreasonable,” said state Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-Hudson). “What this does is if anyone took that tact they would be facing a longer jail term and much longer fines.”
The “Caylee’s Law” legislation brings together two different version of the bill that had been floating around since July, Casey Anthony was found not guilty of murdering her daughter
, Caylee. One (S3010) was sponsored by Sacco and Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex), while the other (S3014) was backed by Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Union) and Diane Allen (R-Burlington). (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Assembly committee reviewing expansion of Urban Transit Hub tax credit
Another round of changes may be in store for the state’s Urban Transit Hub tax credit program, which would be amended under a version of the Grow New Jersey incentive bill up for review today by an Assembly committee.
The amendments would include extending the radius around the designated urban train stations — from a half-mile to a mile — in which properties could qualify for the development incentives, according to state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), chair of the economic growth committee. The new radius would apply to the nine train stations outlined under the original Urban Transit Hub law, he said.
The new bill also would make property around Newark Liberty International Airport’s rail station eligible for Urban Transit Hub benefits, according to the text of the legislation. The original law excluded the station, which is on the outskirts of the city and is abutted by large swaths of undeveloped land. (Burd, NJBIZ)
Bill approved to remedy NJ Transit parking problems at train stations
The Senate Transportation Committee Monday approved legislation designed to remedy problems surrounding overcrowded parking at NJ Transit train stations.
The bill (S-2968.A-1080) would make clear that a vacant permit parking space at the stations is available for general public use during off-peak times. Off-peak hours are described as between 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. during the weekdays, and all day on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Often commuters without permit parking are forced to park in permit-only parking areas and receive citations.
The measure moves to the Senate floor for a vote. It passed the Assembly in June.
“In many cases, the NJ Transit lots are largely reserved for permit parking by daily commuters and that’s understandable, but there’s no reason why these spots shouldn’t be open for general public use during nights and weekends,” Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), the lower house sponsor, said. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
N.J. says private cleanups bring faster results
The failings of environmental officials that led to a Garfield neighborhood being threatened by cancer-causing chromium will never happen again, the state says, thanks to one word:
The Department of Environmental Protection is essentially getting out of the cleanup business with a program that forces polluters to hire private consultants to oversee cleanups. This sea change, begun two years ago, also sets stricter timeframes for investigations and cleanups.
“We’re setting up a process of mandatory timeframes that will make sure cleanups are done on time,” said Assistant DEP Commissioner David Sweeney. (Fallon, The Record)
N.J. Assembly panel advances home sprinkler system measure
Legislation to require sprinkler systems in new homes passed an Assembly panel Monday, but not before reigniting a debate about whether the safety measure would be worth the added cost amid a staggering economy.
The bill (A3278) would direct the state Department of Community Affairs to withhold occupancy permits for new one- and two-family homes unless they are equipped with sprinkler systems similar to those required in hotels, dormitories and apartment buildings.
“Sprinkler system have been protecting lives for 100 years throughout the United States,” Timothy Travers, a spokesman for the National Fire Protection Association, told the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee. “Building homes without fire sprinklers equates to building substandard housing.” (Baxter, The Star-Ledger)
Suburban schools vs. charter: First round goes to the suburbs
An administrative law decision in favor of three suburban districts fighting a charter school in their midst could embolden districts facing similar battles.
That was the essence of the discussion among both charter and district advocates yesterday. The subject: the decision on Friday by administrative law judge Lisa James-Beavers rejecting Princeton International Academy Charter School (PIACS) in its suit against three districts challenging its opening.
PIACS had charged that Princeton Regional, West Windsor-Plainsboro, and South Brunswick had wrongfully spent more than $100,000 in taxpayers’ money for legal and other fees to fight the school’s opening, including opposing PIACS’ application for a zoning variance. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Teaneck virtual charter school will delay opening if funding law stays the same
The lead founder of the Garden State Virtual Charter School said Monday that the school would delay opening if the state charter school law is not amended to address funding for virtual charter schools.
“Should the New Jersey Department of Education … approve our charter application, but … restrict it to just a single school district, our board intends to decline the charter approval and not implement the school,” Jason Flynn, a Teaneck resident and parent of a Teaneck public school student, wrote to school officials over the weekend. “Rather, the school would await specific legislative or regulatory changes that would permit unrestricted statewide student enrollment prior to launching our program.” (Superville, The Record)
Fine Print: A-2502/S-1406 or the New Jersey Property Tax Assessment Municipal Financing Program
Primary sponsors: Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-Somerset) and Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex)
Summary: The bill is designed to promote the development of new solar systems in New Jersey by allowing local governments to help property owners or a group of property owners install renewable energy systems or energy efficiency projects by loaning them money and having it repaid though a special property tax assessment.
What it would do: The legislation would direct the state Economic Development Authority to create low-cost sources of financing that towns participating in the program could tap. An identical bill, sponsored by Smith, cleared the Senate before lawmakers broke for their summer recess. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
ARC rail tunnel’s high price tag, financial impact criticized at transportation forum
Had New Jersey not pulled the plug on it, the ARC commuter train tunnel to New York City would have been a transportation Frankenstein that crippled the state with debt, siphoned money intended for crumbling roads and bridges, and failed to take riders where they wanted to go.
That was the dire scenario described today by state Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson during a Newark Regional Business Partnership transportation symposium.
“The tunnel project was sucking the life out of the rest of the system and the state,” Simpson said from the top floor of One Newark Center, in front of big windows that framed the Manhattan skyline and North Jersey’s extensive network of roads, rails, bridges and runways. “…You’d have to shut the Pulaski Skyway and shut the Wittpenn Bridge.” (Frassinelli, The Star-Ledger)
Deficit-cutting panel gives up
The deep partisan divide over taxes and spending that forced Congress to create a deficit-reduction “super committee” in August also doomed it on Monday.
To the surprise of few inside and outside the Beltway, committee leaders conceded they could not agree on $1.2 trillion in spending cuts or revenues over the next decade.
“It was improbable that a group extracted from a highly polarized body would be able to escape polarization,” said Rutgers University political scientist Ross Baker.
“What we get now is mixed martial arts. The Republican script says it failed because [President] Obama didn’t get involved. The Democratic script says it failed because the Republicans were protecting fat cats from higher taxes,” Baker said. (Jackson, The Record)
Business owners speak highly of Guadagno as 100-company tour closes
A visit to Switlik Parachute, in Trenton, last week was the final stop for Kim Guadagno‘s 100 Business Initiative, which has given the lieutenant governor a front-row seat to what drives New Jersey employers.
At Switlik, Guadagno was able to hear first-hand about the fourth-generation, family-owned company, which manufactures safety and survival products for the aviation, marine and government services industry. It produced 70 percent of parachutes used by the U.S. military during World War II, including the one that saved the life of former President George H.W. Bush over the Pacific in 1944. (Bourbeau, NJBIZ)
‘Fracking’ opponents pack Trenton to oppose natural gas extraction in Delaware River basin
Environmentalists poured into Trenton today to oppose new regulations that would open up the Delaware River watershed to hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method of extracting natural gas that could increase pollution as a side effect.
Hundreds of cheering rallygoers were in a celebratory mood because the Delaware River Basin Commission, which oversees the watershed, postponed a vote that was scheduled for today on whether to allow “fracking” in the region.
Environmentalists said the delay could boost their momentum toward blocking the regulations, which they fear do not go far enough to protect the states. (Rizzo, The Star-Ledger)
Andrews criticized for campaign spending
If invited to an overseas wedding, many guests might wish that someone else would pick up the tab.
For U.S. Rep. Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), that wish came true.
Andrews used $9,000 of campaign money in June to attend a wedding in Edinburgh, Scotland, with his wife and two daughters. He spent $7,725 for the hotel alone: two rooms for three nights at the five-star Balmoral Hotel. He also used $463 in campaign funds to buy a wedding gift (china) and about $1,000 more for miscellaneous trip expenses, according to campaign finance reports.
Andrews says his attendance at the wedding was political, not personal.
The bridegroom was a donor and volunteer campaign adviser, and the 11-term congressman said Monday that he had no reservations about spending money to keep his fund-raising network flourishing. (Farrell, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Poll: Fox News can make New Jerseyans less informed
Sunday morning news shows do the most to help New Jerseyans learn about current events, while some outlets, especially Fox News, lead residents to be even less informed than those who they don’t watch any news at all, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll released Monday.
In the latest poll asked New Jerseyans about current events at home and abroad, and from what sources – if any – they get their information.
Among other topics, New Jerseyans were asked about the outcome of the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East this past year. While 53 percent of residents know that Egyptians were successful in overthrowing the government of Hosni Mubarak, 21 percent say that the uprisings were unsuccessful, and 26 percent admit they don’t know. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Police cuts in cities are tied to dip in arrests
Police in Camden and other New Jersey cities where departments have had deep layoffs are making fewer arrests for minor offenses – a trend experts fear could lead to a rise in the most serious crimes.
Camden, Atlantic City, Newark, Trenton, and Paterson – all densely populated cities with significant crime problems – have made deep cuts in their police departments since the start of 2010, the result of less tax revenue and declining aid from state government.
ated Press analysis of municipal court data shows that when police are laid off, department priorities shift. Arrests and summonses of all kinds drop, with enforcement for minor crimes and traffic violations suffering most as police focus their remaining resources on more serious offenses. (Mulvihill, Associated Press)
Funding dispute will delay 9/11 museum
The 2012 opening of the Sept. 11 museum at the World Trade Center will be delayed by disputes over redevelopment costs, a person familiar with the construction project said Monday.
The dispute between the National September 11 Memorial & Museum foundation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was first reported in The Wall Street Journal.
The foundation is responsible for the museum’s cost while the Port Authority, which owns the site, is paying for infrastructure improvements. Exactly who should pay for each component of the project has been subject to debate, and the dispute responsible for the delay partly centers over $156 million that the Port Authority says the foundation owes. (Associated Press) http://online.wsj.com/article/APc98b4563d72f466aa57d6e3e0addf6b6.html?KEYWORDS=jersey
Chunk of Zuckerberg-donated $100M for Newark schools spent on literacy pilot program
Part of the $100 million gift from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to Newark Public Schools is being spent on giving away nearly 60,000 books to elementary students as part of a literacy pilot program, city leaders said today.
A pilot dubbed “My Very Own Library” will combine $176,000 of Facebook money plus a $125,000 donation from philanthropist Anne Feeley to give about 5,200 students at eight Newark elementary schools a set of 10 books each.
The nonprofit First Book will deliver the books in three installments over the course of the year, according to officials from the Foundation for Newark’s Future, an entity set up to distribute the Facebook funds. (Lee, The Star-Ledger)
Some cough medicines maybe off-limits to NJ kids
The New Jersey Legislature may restrict sales of a widely used cough suppressant.
Dextromethorphan (dex-TRO-meth-or-fan) or DM is an active ingredient in 100 over-the-counter medicines like NyQuil, Robitussin and Dimetapp.
But it’s also used recreationally as a hallucinogen.
Lawmakers on the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee unanimously advanced legislation banning the sale of products containing DM to anyone under age 18 and requiring retailers to keep medicines with DM beyond the reach of consumers. (Associated Press)
N.J. moves toward permits for medical pot facilities
New Jersey is moving closer to letting medical marijuana facilities open.
The state Health and Senior Services Department last week published the forms that the alternative treatment centers will need to fill out to get permits to start doing business. The centers were told about the forms Monday.
It’s a bureaucratic development, but an important one.
Earlier this year, the state selected six nonprofit groups to grow and sell pot to qualifying patients.
At least one of them says it has its locations lined up and is ready to start planting crops, but first needs final permission from the state. (Associated Press)
U.S. Park Police want to help out in Jersey City, Bayonne
Those flashing lights coming up behind a car running a red light in Jersey City or Bayonne could one day come from the U.S. Park Police.
Two high-ranking, uniformed Park Police officers appeared before the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee today to make their case for enforcing traffic laws and fourth-degree and misdemeanor offenses in the two municipalities. (Hooker, State Street Wire)
Measure designed to combat teen drug use passes committee
Minors would no longer be legally able to buy over-the-counter cough syrups and related products under legislation designed to thwart teens from getting high on the products.
Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, (D-4), Turnersville, told the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee he wrote the legislation (A650) after a visit from a constituent who told him her daughter was getting high on the cough medicine. (Hooker, State Street Wire)
Assembly committee approves EDA small business loan program
The state Economic Development Agency would establish a small business loan program providing for up to $250,000 for small privately held businesses under a bill approved by the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee today.
An identical bill passed in the Senate in September.
According to the language in the bill, the loan money would be used for capital purchases, employee training and salaries for new positions. (Isherwood, State Street Wire)
Christie on fracking, telecom deregs, and the politicization of revenue estimates
Gov. Chris Christie fielded an array of questions today, including why he restored legislative staff salaries slashed in his budget vetoes.
“You wanna cut positions out of me, I’ll cut positions out of you,” Christie said of the recent reports of quiet restorations of legislative salary cuts. The cuts that he made in his veto override were in response, he said, to Democratic cuts of positions in the Department of Environmental Protection: “They didn’t like the people who were in there.” (Carroll, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Spadea a go in LD 16
A source close to GOP activist/businessman Bill Spadea said the Republican from Princeton will run for the vacvant assembly seat in LD16.
The seat opened with the death earlier this month of veteran Assemblyman Pete Biondi.
Spadea’s run would pit him against the GOP establishment and its choice for a replacement.
Republican sources tell PolitickerNJ.com that Hunterdon County Freeholder Will Mennen is the county committee’s likely successor to Mr. Biondi. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Gov, Legislature seek upper hand
With a quiet election season in the past and several weeks of lame-duck legislative action looming, Trenton stretched, yawned and shuffled to life a bit Monday.
Legislators, lobbyists and protesters prowled the Statehouse and surrounding grounds, committee rooms buzzed as action was taken on a stack of bills and two new members of the Assembly took the oath of office. So begins a late-year flurry to clean up, clear up and restock before a new Legislature is seated in January. (Schoonejongen, Gannett)