Morning News Digest: Wednesday, November 30, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Princeton Twp. Dem puts name forward in LD16
Having championed consolidation locally in the storied Princetons case, Princeton Township Deputy Mayor Sue Nemeth now wants to expand her area of influence and run for the Assembly in LD 16.
“I’m definitely interested in running,” said Nemeth, who just won re-election to her local seat in a landslide.
A fundraiser for the Eagleton Institute for American Women in Politics for the past 20 years, Nemeth said she is a good fit for the newly configured 16th District.
She was raised in Somerset County, lived in Middlesex and now lives in Mercer.
“The legislature is something I’ve had my eye on for some time,” Nemeth told PolitickerNJ.com. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Somerset County selects Ciattarelli for assembly and Caliguire for freeholder
There were no surprises tonight at the VFW Building in Manville as the Somerset County Republican Committee backed Montgomery Mayor Mark Caliguire for freeholder.
Caliguire won the seat Jack Ciattarelli vacates as he assumes the seat vacated by the late Assemblyman Pete Biondi (R-16).
The county committee unanimously supported Ciattarelli for the assembly seat. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Life after the uprising: O’Donnell joins community college teachers’ battle for contract
On the losing end of an intra-party leadership battle, Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell (D-31), Bayonne, proved there’s life after the rebellion tonight as he threw in with stymied community college teachers.
“If you want to pick on cops and firefighters, okay, I get it,” the career Bayonne firefighter told a basement crowd at Raritan Valley Community College where the teachers don’t have a contract.
“But you want to go after teachers? Are you kidding me?”
Stung by George Norcross-allied Democrats when he, state Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan (D-20), Union, and others tried to win leadership in the lower house more sympathetic to public sector unions, O’Donnell said he plans to take the megaphone of his office into the streets. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Chris Christie: President Obama’s just a ‘bystander’
Gov. Chris Christie on Monday tore into President Barack Obama in the aftermath of the supercommittee’s failure to reach an agreement on debt reduction last week, asking the president, “What the hell are we paying you for?”
Calling Obama “a bystander in the Oval Office,” the outspoken New Jersey governor said the White House spent the weekend tossing out a whole lot of “spin” about the supercommittee’s inability to come to an agreement before the Nov. 23 deadline.
“I was angry this weekend, listening to the spin coming out of the administration, about the failure of the supercommittee, and that the president knew it was doomed for failure, so he didn’t get involved. Well then what the hell are we paying you for?” Christie said during a press conference in Camden, N.J. “It’s doomed for failure so I’m not getting involved? Well, what have you been doing, exactly?” (Lee, POLITICO)
Anything but govern for Bam
The words cut like a knife. “What the hell are we paying you for?” Gov. Chris Christie asked of President Obama.
The New Jersey Republican has a gift for getting to the heart of things, and his broadside against the president over the debt bomb is Exhibit
A. His assertion, framed as a question, makes the case against Obama better than anything heard from the actual candidates.
Christie’s decision not to run remains a disappointment, but he is a valuable player who can help sharpen the fuzzy aim of Mitt Romney, the man he supports. Christie’s consistent theme is that Obama has defaulted on the responsibility to provide presidential leadership during a national crisis. (Goodwin, New York Post)
Indiana Gov. Daniels dumps on Christie’s Romney endorsement
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels thinks highly of Governor Christie and his record of accomplishment here in New Jersey.
But Daniels doesn’t think Christie’s recent endorsement of Mitt Romney for president accomplished very much.
“An incredibly well-respected person, Governor Christie, made an endorsement a couple weeks ago, and it sort of sank without a trace, so I don’t know why anybody would be excited about what I thought,” Daniels said in an interview Tuesday with Indiana Public Radio.
Daniels, who made his remarks when pressed about his own presidential endorsement plans, was not knocking Christie, but the weak, ephemeral power of endorsements and the disproportionate amount of energy and coverage wasted on them (Stile, The Record)
Two high-ranking N.J. Dems aim to end state’s 3-day waiting period for marriage
Call it a shot in the arm for shotgun weddings.
Two leading Democrats want to eliminate the state’s three-day waiting period for marriage licenses as well as those for civil unions, a move they say will help New Jersey become more of a destination for weddings.
What’s more, as Atlantic City reimagines itself again as the Vegas-by-Ventnor place to party, having a chapel to step into after a night at the tables and the bars would provide one more attraction for eager lovers.
“Right now people from out of state who might come here to get married might not do it. They have more hurdles,” said state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), who with Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) introduced the measure (A4366) on Monday. “Many other states don’t have a waiting period. Las Vegas in Nevada is one of the top places in the States because they have no waiting period.” (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
NJ state parks could open up to logging business under Legislature bill
Private companies might get the green light to launch commercial forestry and logging businesses in New Jersey’s state parks under a bill making its way through the state Legislature.
The proposal to allow the state Department of Environmental Protections to award a five-year contract to a project manager to oversee a forestry harvest program has drawn the ire of environmentalists, who say the legislation has no guarantees that public access to the parks will not be affected by falling timber.
“They’re going to cut down trees, and there’s no need for it,” said West Orange resident Carol Rivielle on Tuesday, a day after she attended an Assembly Environment Committee hearing on the commercial forestry bill. Rivielle is a member of the League of Humane Voters. (Jordan, Gannett)
Legislation intended to increase odds of tigers’ survival in wild goes before N.J. Senate committee
Legislation intended to increase the odds of survival for tigers in the wild and serve as a model for other government agencies gets its first hearing before a New Jersey Senate committee on Thursday.
Sen. Ray Lesniak’s bill would require New Jersey’s tigers to be counted, registered and tracked to help ensure they aren’t killed for their parts.
The Democrat says he hopes to cut into the worldwide trade of tiger parts hastening the animals’ extinction. (Associated Press)
Port Authority to pay firms $2.2M to help audit
After being criticized for questionable spending, the Port Authority of New York
and New Jersey says it will pay consultants $2.2 million to assist with an audit lead by Port Authority commissioners.
The agency says Navigant Consulting and Rothschild will help with the “top-to-bottom review.” A port Authority spokesman says Navigant will be paid $700,000 and Rothschild will earn $1.5 million.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the examination as a condition of toll increases they approved in August. (DeFalco, Associated Press)
NJ senators agree on terror detainees after vote change
Democratic New Jersey Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez were briefly on opposite sides Tuesday in a vote on whether to change federal law dealing with accused terrorists.
Lautenberg voted for an amendment by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., to remove language dealing with detainees from a larger defense authorization bill the Senate is debating. Udall noted that the White House has said the terrorist detention provisions in the bill would tie the hands of intelligence work and open a host of legal issues. A White House statement said Obama could veto the bill if the provisions remain unchanged.
That carried little weight in the Senate, however, as Udall’s attempt to delete the provisions got only 37 votes. Some 61 senators, including Menendez, voted to support the language. (Jackson, The Record)
FEMA may buy flood-ravaged land in N.J.
The federal government has started the process of potentially purchasing property in 13 New Jersey towns which have been continuously ravaged by flooding, most recently during Hurricane Irene, according to the state Office of Emergency Management.
Mary Goepfert, a spokeswoman for the office, said the towns will be awarded grant money through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Severe Repetitive Loss Pilot Program, designed to speed up the process of buying out or raising homes in flood-prone areas around the country.
According to Goepfert, officials have started discussing buyout options with homeowners in Wayne, Lincoln Park, Fairfield, Pompton Lakes, Pequannock, Manville, Little Falls, Paterson, Cranford, New Milford, Westwood, Middlesex Borough and Denville. (Stirling, The Star-Ledger)
Grants to help pay for hurricane repairs
Help is on the way for cash-strapped towns and counties facing repair bills from Hurricane Irene damage to water and transportation infrastructure.
The state is making plans to issue $100 million in bonds that will be used for grants to local governments. Because the need for the bonds stemmed from rare weather events, the legislation is exempt from the ordinary constitutional requirement that it be put on the ballot for approval.
The borrowing proposal cleared the Assembly Environment Committee without debate Monday and is expected to receive full legislative approval before the current session ends next month.
A bill sponsor, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, said the measure is rightfully on the fast track. (Jordan, Gannett)
Poverty rate for school-age kids growing faster in N.J. counties
Poverty rates for school-aged children increased by a statistically significant rate in more than 60 percent of New Jersey’s counties between 2007 and 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates for income and poverty released today.
Nationally, that was the case in a little over 20 percent of counties, according to the Census Bureau.
Thirteen of New Jersey’s 21 counties experienced significant poverty rate increases for families with children ages 5 to 17 in that time span: Bergen, Camden, Cape May, Essex, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex and Union counties. (Symons, Gannett)
Charter schools sue state, claiming they’ve been shortchanged
A group of Jersey City charter schools have sued the Christie administration to correct what they say has been a stark underfunding of their schools, throwing a twist into the ongoing debate over how New Jersey’s charters are paid for.
The four charter schools — Learning Community, Golden Door, Soaring Heights, and Ethical Community charter — have petitioned acting education commissioner Chris Cerf to address what has been a longstanding disparity in the how Jersey City and several other districts’ charter schools are funded.
In the petition, the schools contend that they are put at a unique disadvantage because of Jersey City’s massive property tax abatements, which draw the school district additional state aid – called adjustment aid — that is not shared with the charters. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Kean takes issue with climate-change deniers
Former Republican Gov. Thomas Kean is such a believer in climate change that he is calling on informed citizens to “confront those who don’t believe in the science of it for the ignorant people that they are.” Speaking before a Rutgers University conference in New Brunswick Tuesday, Kean criticized fellow Republican Gov. Chris Christie, saying it was a “shame” that he pulled New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
RGGI represents an effort by northeastern states to tackle the problem by using a “cap and trade” system, charging companies for polluting emissions but allowing them to buy credits from cleaner firms, thus providing economic incentives to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. (Tyrrell, NJ Spotlight)
Former N.J. State Police lieutenant picked to run medical marijuana program
A retired State Police lieutenant was named today to run the state’s fledgling medical marijuana program that is expected to begin operating next year, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary O’Dowd announced.
John H. O’Brien Jr., a 26-year veteran and retired lieutenant of the New Jersey State Police, and “an expert in the use of FBI and New Jersey criminal history record systems,” will begin on Dec. 5, according to O’Dowd’s announcement.
John H. O’Brien Jr., a 26-year veteran and retired lieutenant of the New Jersey State Police, and “an expert in the use of FBI and New Jersey criminal history record systems,” will begin on Dec. 5, according to O’Dowd’s announcement. (Livio, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. distributes $1.3M to 6 food banks
The state government is providing $1,363,600 for N.J.’s six food banks to purchase food to hand out during the holiday season, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno announced in Hillside Tuesday.
The State Food Purchase Program aid provides $904,331 for Community FoodBank of New Jersey in Hillside, $178,282 for Food Bank of South Jersey in Pennsauken, $141,667 for the Foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties in Neptune, $59,640 for Mercer Street Friends in Ewing, $50,786 for Southern Regional Food Distribution Center in Vineland, and $28,891 for NORWESCAP in Phillipsburg.
The money is an attempt to ensure food for those in need and is the second round of aid for the 2011-12 fiscal year. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Fine Print: Anti-bullying incident report form
What it is: The state this week distributed to school districts the for reporting incidents of harassment, bullying and intimidation under the new Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights. The form is page 4 of the state’s system for recording all incidents of violence, vandalism, and substance abuse in schools.
What it means: The form is the first of several steps the state is taking to address worries about the bureaucratic burdens imposed by the new law aimed to prevent bullying in and outside of schools. While lauding the law’s intentions, administrators and educators have said the state up to now has provided little guidance on how to implement a law that requires strict timelines and procedures for investigating accusations of bullying, including those online and outside school. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Back to court for controversial transmission line project
The battle over building a high-voltage transmission line through three units of the national park system in New Jersey is headed back to court once again.
In a lawsuit filed in the appellat
e division of Superior Court, a number of environmental organizations are asking the court to order the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to reconsider its decision to approve the 45-mile expansion of the Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line.
The filing was made earlier this month by Earthjustice and the Eastern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the New Jersey Sierra Club, Environment New Jersey, the New Jersey Highlands Coalition, the New Jersey Environmental Federation, and Stop the Lines. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Camden County to create $49 million solar-power network
Camden County is preparing to borrow up to $49 million for a sprawling solar-power network that would be among the largest in New Jersey.
The county plans to begin work in early 2012 installing rooftop and on-the-ground solar panels across its offices, libraries, and college campuses, totaling 7 megawatts of generating capacity, which would exceed that of some of the state’s largest solar farms.
The project comes as New Jersey continues to rank second in the nation (after California) in generation of solar power, buoyed by an incentive system that allows solar generators to sell credits to power plants and other polluting industries to help offset the costs of installation. (Osborne, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Bergen County hospitals battle over beds
Hackensack University Medical Center got a green light Tuesday from a state regulatory panel to reopen Pascack Valley Hospital in Westwood. Now the matter goes to State Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd, who is expected to rule by year end—but her decision isn’t expected to settle things. Englewood Hospital and Medical Center and Ridgewood’s Valley Hospital are fighting the Pascack Valley reopening on the grounds that it will siphon off patients and weaken them financially. The two hospitals have said they will go to court if, as they expect, O’Dowd follows the recommendation of the state Health Planning Board and approves HUMC’s plan to open a 128-bed hospital in partnership with the Texas-based for-profit hospital developer LHP Hospital Group. LHP has committed nearly $40 million to renovate Pascack Valley, which went bankrupt and closed in 2007. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
Pascack hospital reopening approved by planning board, faces likely legal challenge
Hackensack University Medical Center’s application to reopen Pascack Valley Hospital as a full-service hospital was approved by the State Health Planning Board, clearing a key hurdle to the facility’s reopening.
The fate of the Hackensack University Medical Center North project now rests in the hands of state Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary O’Dowd, with state officials saying she will likely make a decision on the Westwood site by the end of the year. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
In a tiny Burlco town, council candidate wins by a single vote
From a tiny Burlington County community comes proof that every single vote matters.
That lesson was delivered recently in Beverly, a hardscrabble city of 2,600 people that sits on the banks of the Delaware River.
When the absentee and provisional votes cast in this month’s general election were certified, Bob Thibault had won a seat on the city council. The tally: 291-290.
“To win by a landslide or a big margin, it’s a great thing,” said Thibault, a construction company owner. “But to win by one, it means every one of those one votes put me over. Every voter counted. They each helped me win.” (Hefler, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Animal groups aim to halt N.J. black bear hunt
Animal protection groups seeking to stop New Jersey’s black bear hunt from getting under way told an appeals court Tuesday that the hunt was based on faulty data – exaggerated numbers of bear-human incidents and unreliable population counts that put too many pregnant female bears at risk of being hunted.
Two animal-rights groups sued the state l
ast year, challenging the bear management policy that allows an annual six-day hunt. The activists failed to stop last year’s hunt, in which 592 black bears were killed, but the lawsuit was allowed to continue on its merits.
Last year’s hunt was the first in five years. A similar legal challenge succeeded in 2007, and no hunt was held. An appeals panel found flaws with the management policy and ruled that the 2005 hunt should not have taken place. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
Lampitt bill would address issue of unused sick leave payouts
Gov. Chris Christie had been slamming Democrats in recent weeks for – among other things – dragging their feet on approving sick-leave reform legislation that will end large cash-outs for retiring employees.
But on Tuesday, Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, (D-6), Voorhees, introduced a bill, A4345, that would end sick-leave payouts for retiring employees who have accumulated 60 or fewer unused sick days. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Schaer submits adoption/foster care bill to ensure child’s religious rights
If a new bill makes its way through the pipes in Trenton, children will no longer be forced to abandon their religion under foster care or adoption.
The bill, A4353, was submitted this week by Assemblyman Gary Schaer, (D-36), of Passaic, an Orthodox Jewish lawmaker who has become the foreman for religious tolerance legislation.
The bill was sparked by the adoption of an anonymous pair of New Jersey Muslim children, who were converted against their will to Christianity and stripped of their given Muslim names by their adoptive parents, Schaer said today. (Carroll, State Street Wire)
Assemblyman assesses hurdles his proposed constitutional amendment faces
The assemblyman who introduced the proposed constitutional amendment concerning judicial salaries is aware of the difficulties he faces in getting it before the voters.
Sam Thompson, (R-13), Matawan, has introduced ACR210, which seeks to amend the state Constitution, removing the provision that protects judicial salaries from being diminished. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
New Jersey ban on syringe sale must end…now
In New Jersey we like to think of ourselves as a state with progressive public policies. This is particularly true when it comes to the delivery of healthcare to citizens who are most vulnerable and in need of government intervention. E.g., NJ FamilyCare, which provides health services to the state’s poorest children.
But when it comes to the issue of allowing pharmacies to sell syringes, New Jersey’s public policy has been an abject failure. Up until now, only two states, New Jersey and Delaware, forbid this practice without a prescription. The policy makes no sense and many healthcare advocates argue it has contributed to drug addicts using dirty or used needles, which has only exacerbated the HIV/AIDS epidemic—particularly in urban areas. (Adubato, Jr. for PolitickerNJ)
Christie to Santa: “End ‘naughty-nice’ class warfare distinctions”
Now that the Christmas season is upon us, Governor Chris Christie is calling for the end to class warfare. Specifically, Christie is demanding that Santa Claus scrap his traditional list of who has been Naughty and who has been Nice.
“The tax policies of this state are driving the Naughty away,” said Christie. “If only the Nice get gifts this Christmas, you’re going to see a faster exodus of the Naughty to Pennsylvania, along with the dollars they spend in New Jersey.” (Novick for PolitickerNJ)
Bipartisanship as a bad word
With the latest fight over the federal budget having ended without an agreement, some pundits and commentators are insisting that only the 2012 elections will determine the answer to the question at the heart of our disagreements: What is the proper role of government in our lives? But there is a more fundamental question at the center of our current debates: How do we understand politics?
The failure of the congressional supercommittee revealed a deep divide. On one side are the traditionalists, who believe that politics is at its core about bargaining, negotiation, and compromise, all of which are needed to arrive at a majority and pass something. On the other are the contrarians, who say the politics of bargaining, negotiation, and compromise are exactly where America went wrong. (Dworkin for The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Paterson should ‘purge’ mayor who sought Hurricane Irene overtime
Paterson Mayor Jeffrey Jones sounds like a kid, right after a good spanking: He’s going to make people pay. He’s going to get even. Just you wait. Just you watch. He’s going to show all of us.
Jones, you might recall, wanted to pad his pay check with overtime – that’s right, overtime – because of the long hours he had to work, consoling residents who were financially and spiritually devastated by Hurricane Irene and the destructive flooding that followed.
Apparently, being mayor of Paterson is a 40-hour-a-week job and should be full of only happy stuff like throwing out the first pitch at Little League games. (A crisis? The worst flooding the city has seen in decades? Uh, sorry, the mayor is off the clock, but maybe for time-and-a-half …) (Manahan, The Star-Ledger)