Morning News Digest: Tuesday, November 29, 2011,
By Missy Rebovich
In Monmouth, Gopal v. LaRocca
Democrats on two sides of a Monmouth County civil war continue to make phone calls and firm up support to succeed Monmouth County Democratic Party Chairman Vic Scudiery, who’s retirng in June of next year.
On one side stands Vin Gopal, finance chair of the county party organization and an LD 11 campaign casualty in November’s general election.
On the other stands Frank J. LaRocca, law partner and ally of Marlboro Mayor Jon Hornik, who crushed his Republican opponent in November to give Monmouth Dems one of their few feel-good stories of the cycle.
As they probe county committee people, Hornik and LaRocca make the argument to beleagured party members that essentially they want to take to the county what they have done in Marlboro over the course of three cycles, which is to have won eight of the nine seats in a Republican county. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Somerset GOP to tap Ciattarelli for Assembly seat, and freeholder tomorrow night in Manville
Somerset County and 16th District Republicans will hold a convention at the VFW Building in Manville tomorrow night to formally select a successor to the late Assemblyman Pete Biondi and to pick a successor to Freeholder Jack Ciattarelli.
Republicans are expected to choose Ciattarelli for Mr. Biondi’s seat.
Elected to the assembly earlier this month, Ciattarelli will assume the seat Mr. Biondi gave up when he died two days after the general election.
County Committee members will also pick a successor to Ciattarelli for the freeholder seat he is to vacate to claim the assembly seat. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Jones of City Council: ‘I think a purging is necessary’
Excoriated by the city council for receiving overtime pay for his work during Hurricane Irene, Paterson Mayor Jeff Jones heads into Wednesday’s City Hall showdown confident of being able to rout his deliberative body rivals.
But the mayor doesn’t want to stop there.
Jones told PolitickerNJ.com he intends to make a point of doing his part as a citizen to rid the council chamber of those members who blew the overtime issue out of proportion, in the mayor’s view.
“I definitely think a purging is necessary,” said Jones. “It’s up to the public. I’m going to demonstrate that what they’re putting out there is not the truth. I have no problem with them as individuals, but I do have a problem with them as a body, and I am not afraid.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie threatens veto of jobs training bill, citing $3M cost
A jobs training bill for unemployed residents is unlikely to survive Gov. Chris Christie’s veto pen so long as New Jersey’s revenue collections continue to sag.
Christie on Monday threatened to veto even a scaled-back version of Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver’s jobs bill that moved through the Assembly Labor Committee because it would cost $3 million that has not been budgeted.
“The Legislature likes to spend money,” Christie said. “We are simply not spending money in a supplemental way.”
Christie said there’s not enough money for the program — and that his methods of cutting the cost of local and state government have helped create 50,000 private-sector jobs. Democrats have been critical of the Republican’s efforts to create more jobs. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
Gov. Christie announces initiative to help criminal offenders re-enter N.J. society
Gov. Chris Christie Tuesday outlined an initiative to help offenders get the help they need to successfully re-enter society, break the cycle of criminality and lead productive lives.
The governor outlined the initiative at Cathedral Kitchen, a community service organization that serves meals to those in need in Camden. Cathedral Kitchen operates a culinary arts program which gives job training to unemployed, unskilled, homeless citizens, and parolees.
The initiative includes the expansion of the state’s Drug Court Program, the appointment of a Governor’s Office re-entry coordinator, the creation of a Governor’s Task Force on Recidivism Reduction, an ongoing program assessment, and the development of a real time recidivism database. Christie announced that Lisa Puglisi, an attorney with more than a decade of experience with the Attorney General’s Office representing the Department of Corrections and later the State Parole Board, as his coordinator for Prisoner Re-entry. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
NJ lame-duck Legislature considers eliminating school budget elections, requiring county purchasing programs
Two new bills dropped into the lame-duck session of the Legislature would, if passed into law, mark significant changes for local governments and school districts.
Municipalities and school districts would be required to participate in county purchasing programs under one bill. It would create potential for wider local government consolidation and shared services.
Another bill would eliminate annual school budget votes for any school districts that keep within the state budget cap and move their school board elections to November.
School budget votes have long been a pet peeve of the educational establishment, because, school officials contend, residents often use the up-or-down ballots to unleash their fury at rising property tax bills. (Method, Gannett)
N.J. Assembly panel bill would grant $100M to repair damages caused by Hurricane Irene
New Jersey would issue $100 million in bonds to repair water and transportation infrastructure damaged during Hurricane Irene under a bill released by an Assembly panel this afternoon.
The “Emergency Transportation and Water Infrastructure Recovery Bond Act of 2011” would provide $50 million for counties and $50 million for towns.
Voters typically have to approve bond issues, but a provision in the state constitution allows the state to issue bonds without voter approval when the funds are used to “meet an emergency caused by disaster or an act of God.” (DeMarco, The Star-Ledger)
Democrats press to restore aid to N.J.’s poorest cities
After a nearly six-month standoff with Gov. Chris Christie, Assembly Democrats offered up a proposal today to restore more than $100 million in aid to the state’s most troubled cities.
The Democrats’ bill, which was also introduced in the Senate last week (S3118), would add $1.5 million for the state to supervise the 11 cities receiving the aid, oversight Christie insisted on before he would agree to sign off on the aid.
Resorting to a line-item veto in June, Christie slashed $139 million in aid from the budget, leaving just $10 million to help the fiscally distressed cities.
At the time, the governor said he objected to Democrats removing a clause that allocated 1 percent of the total $149 million for oversight. (DeMarco, The Star-Ledger)
Committee says NJ won’t treat wastewater from hydraulic fracturing
In a move that may be more symbolic than substantive, a legislative committee yesterday voted to prohibit New Jersey’s sewage treatment plants from accepting wastewater from operations drilling for natural gas in Marcellus Shale deposits in Pennsylvania and other states.
The legislation, narrowly approved by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee, is unlikely to win final legislative approval in the lame duck session, but both proponents of the bill and foes agreed it would send a signal that New Jersey steadfastly opposes the controversial method of extracting natural gas. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Stricter laws may leave N.J. teens facing tougher road to driver’s license
Teenagers who are learning to drive — and their parents — would face a longer road to a driver’s license, under a tough new teen-driver safety law proposed in the Legislature.
Parents of teens with a driving learner’s permit would be required to take a teen driver-orientation course, and the teenagers themselves would have to practice driving for up to 100 hours, under the bill sent to the state Assembly.
The bill would also lengthen the current six-month driver permit phase to one year, giving New Jersey one of the strictest teen driver safety laws in the nation.
The bill advanced today by the Assembly Transportation Committee in an 8-0 vote would build on previous teen driver safety efforts, such as decals signifying the driver is under 18, and a limit of one passenger. (Frassinelli, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. Assembly bill calls for commuter rail parking lots to be open during special events
Legislation that would require publicly owned or operated parking facilities associated with rail service be open on weekends when a special event is taking place was approved Monday by the Assembly Transportation Committee.
Under the bill (A-4127), any parking facility – including garages, lots and park-and-ride lots – that is owned or operated by NJ Transit or any municipality, authority or other governmental entity, and is associated with use by customers of rail passenger service or light rail passenger service, would have to be open to the public on the weekends and other times outside weekday commuting hours during a special event such as sporting events, trade shows, expositions, and concerts. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
The high price of keeping New Jersey’s drinking water clean
For the most part, New Jerseyans hardly give a thought as to the cost of water when they turn on their faucets, fill their bathtubs, or wash their clothes.
That mindset surely will change with the rising cost of upgrading an aging water infrastructure that by some estimates will need investments of $20 billion over the next few decades to continue delivering safe drinking water to residents and businesses in the state.
“The last increment of cheap water is gone,’’ predicted Michael Sgro, vice president of New Jersey American, the state’s largest water company. Sgro was a panelist at a NJ Spotlight Roundtable on New Jersey’s Water Supply in the 21st Century held at Rider University yesterday. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
N.J. hospitals’ operating margins creep up
New Jersey’s hospitals saw operating margins rise slightly in 2010 despite a weak economy.
While 70 percent of the state’s hospitals had modest gains, 30 percent remain in the red.
Operating margins — or money left over after all patient expenses are paid — were 2.3 percent in 2010, compared with 1.7 percent in 2009, according to an annual report released Monday by the New Jersey Hospital Association.
Kerry McKean Kelly, spokeswoman for the association, declined to release the names of New Jersey hospitals with operating deficits.
The report attributed the slight uptick to aggressive cost-reduction strategies, such as layoffs, service cutbacks, hiring and wage freezes, and postponing or downsizing capital projects. (Stilwell, Gannett)
New Jersey nurses charge religious discrimination over hospital abortion policy
A dozen nurses in New Jersey have rekindled the contentious debate over when health-care workers can refuse to play a role in caring for women getting abortions.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court Oct. 31, 12 nurses charge that the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey violated state and federal laws by abruptly announcing in September that nurses would have to help with abortion patients before and after the procedure, reversing a long-standing policy exempting employees w
ho refuse based on religious or moral objections.
“I’m a nurse so I can help people, not help kill, and it just doesn’t seem right to me,” said Beryl Otieno-Negoje, one of the nurses. “No health professional should be forced to choose between assisting abortion or being penalized at work.” (Stein, The Washington Post)
Easing end-of-life care
End-of-life care is always a difficult issue.
In New Jersey it’s also one that is both costly and aggressively pursued: The latest Medicare study by the nonprofit Dartmouth Atlas, which analyzes nationwide variations in healthcare, found that nearly 25 percent of New Jerseyans spent a week or more in the hospital intensive care unit in their last six months, compared with the national average of 15 percent. In that time they saw an average of 11 doctors, compared with eight for the nation. Medicare spending averaged $65,436 in the last two years of life in New Jersey, compared with $53,441 for the U.S., according to the Dartmouth Atlas review of 2003 to 2007 Medicare data. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
As Christmas approaches, retailers take aim at online shops that don’t charge sales tax
The loss of revenue for the state and the loss of competition for retailers in New Jersey “compounds daily,” said New Jersey Retail Merchants Association president John Holub, because of online retailers that avoid the 7 percent sales tax.
“The lost revenue is important,” Holub said. “Bricks-and-mortar stores, before they even open their doors, are at a 7 percent disadvantage because of the lack of these online, Internet-only retailers’ failure to collect sales tax.”
The association commissioned a study, done by the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University earlier this year, which showed in 2009, the state lost an estimated $171 million in revenue from Internet-only retailers not collecting sales tax. That amount could increase to nearly $300 million by 2015. (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
Newly elected N.J. councilman charged with punching and pointing BB gun at child
A 43-year-old man who was elected this month to the Borough Council has been accused of physically beating and using a BB gun to threaten a child.
Sean McNear was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, police said.
A person, described by the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office as a witness, came to police on Nov. 18 to report a child, now 7 years old, was being abused, police said.
Police interviewed the alleged victim, who said that when he was 5, McNear had pointed a loaded BB gun at his face while in his bedroom, according to the affidavit in the case, which also said that McNear knew the gun was loaded and even handed the victim one of the BBs used in the gun. (Staff, Gannett)
Bill would allow more tree-removal at state lands
A bill that would allow more logging in state forests cleared the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee today unanimously.
This bill, A4358, sponsored by Assemblyman John McKeon, (D-27), South Orange would direct the Department of Environmental Protection to develop a forestry harvest program on state-owned lands. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Solar energy bill clears Assembly committee
The Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee released a major solar-energy initiative today that is at odds with the governor’s energy policy.
The bill was passed along party lines with Republicans voting no and Democrats yes.
The bill, A4279, among other things, requires the Board of Public Utilities to offer, as a minimum, the same level of incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs as those offered on Jan. 1, 2011; and provides all classes of ratepayers with access to solar renewable energy certificates. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Ag Committee tables proposal to move Fish and Wildlife Division
Environmentalists from a dozen or so of the most respected green organizations in the state today beat back a proposal, temporarily at least, to move the Division of Fish and Wildlife from one state department to another.
The proposal to move Fish and Wildlife from the Department of Environmental Protection to the Department of Agriculture was set for a vote before the Assembly Agriculture Committee, but the committee’s chairman agreed to hold the bill (A2770) in the face of stinging opposition. (Hooker, State Street Wire)
National Association of Realtors sees ‘positive’ trends in 2012 after a flat 2011
The National Association of Realtors projects a positive trend in commercial real estate next year, after seeing stagnation this year.
For those living in apartments or running a store, that could mean higher rents in the years to come.
“Vacancy rates are flat, leasing is soft and concessions continue to make it a tenant’s market,” NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement. “However, with modest economic growth and job creation, the fundamentals for commercial real estate should gradually improve in the coming year.” (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Bill gives stalking victims some legal recourse
New Jersey would join ten other states in giving stalking victims easier recourse against their alleged harassers through the courts under a bill that cleared a committee today.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee today unanimously approved a bill (A4086) that would allow alleged victims of stalkers to proceed to the courthouse by bringing civil suits for damages against them.
“This would give the person who’s being stalked a little more leverage,” said Judiciary Chairman Peter Barnes, D-Edison. “Right now, it’s often hard to get law enforcement and prosecutors to bring charges.” (Hooker, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Developing Paterson Ward race match-ups
In Ward 2, veteran Councilman Aslon Goow is expected to receive a challenge from Sheriff’s Officer Edwin Lozado.
Ward 3 is expected to feature veteran Councilman William McCoy challenged by two well-recognized school board members: Alex Mendez and Kenny Simmons.
In the 4th Ward, veteran Councilwoman Vera Ames will retire next year.
Early contenders for her seat include Rubie Cotton, whose husband Eddie Cotton (a professional boxing referee) held the seat before Ames. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Assembly panel plays the name game
Naming public works after people is a great American tradition. You can’t throw a stone in this country without hitting something with the names of John F. Kennedy or George Washington attached to it.
In New Jersey, entire towns are named after famous figures from our past. We have six Washingtons, five Franklins and a Frelinghuysen. We honor people by putting their names on schools, bridges and even turnpike rest stops. We even have a university, Rowan in Glassboro, named after businessman Henry Rowan, who donated $100 million to what was then Glassboro State College. (Schoonejongen, Gannett)
Unlikely as it sounds, GOP leader may survive
Bergen County Republican Organization Chairman Bob Yudin had a bad year at the polls. And 2012 doesn’t look all that promising for the county party — or his future as its leader.
The “detractors,” as he sardonically calls them, want him out. They accuse him of letting the Chris Christie momentum wheeze out of the party machine like air from a flat tire.
It’s time for somebody else to retool the BCRO for Governor Christie’s reelection drive in 2013, critics say, and the Bergen GOP’s embarrassing drubbing at the polls on Nov. 8 has them clamoring for a regime change. (Stile, The Record)
Fond memories of Assemblyman Peter Biondi
Somerset County Assemblyman Pete Biondi, who died of cancer the day after he was re-elected to the New Jersey Assembly, was always a straight-talking, tell-it-as-it-is guy whose complete candor was much appreciated by anyone who knew him well.
Hillsborough Township’s best-known public official, Assemblyman Pete never, ever thought he was smarter than those he represented — he continually talked to voters, sought their opinions on pending issues, at his favorite WaWa outlet and elsewhere. (Raymond Bateman for Gannett)