Morning News Digest: December 1, 2011

Morning News Digest: December 1, 2011 By Missy Rebovich Try State Street Wire, Follow PolitickerNJ on Twitter and Facebook. Text

Morning News Digest: December 1, 2011

By Missy Rebovich

Try State Street Wire, Follow PolitickerNJ on Twitter and Facebook. Text “PNJ” to 89800 to receive alerts



DCCC after Runyan again

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is once again taking aim at U.S. rep. Jon Runyan (R-3), the Republican ex-eagles lineman who won the seat in a hard fought election last year.

The DCCC this time blames Runyan for the failure of the so-called Super Committee that recently folded its attempt to find $1.2 billion in federal budget cuts and revenue and plans a robocall in his district to let voters know.

According to a release, Runyan ensured the failure of the committee by “demanding more tax breaks for billionaires while insisting the Medicare guarantee be eliminated.”  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



PAC spending dropped in 2010 after record setting 2009

After shelling out money at a record pace during the 2009 election cycle, special interest Political Action Committees slashed their spending by more than 20 percent in 2010, according to a new report from the Election Law Enforcement Commission.

The drop is attributable to an off election year in 2010, when only three legislative seats were up for grabs in special elections.

In all, special interest PACS reported $28.2 million in contributions in 2010, down from $35.4 million in 2009, a gubernatorial election year.

Spending by the top 25 PACS dropped even more precipitously in 2010 over a year earlier. In 2009, the top 25 PACs alone reported contributing $11.3 million directly to state and local fundraising committees. Last year, the top 25 PACs reported direct contributions of just $4.6 million in New Jersey – a 59 percent reduction.  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



Rutgers-Eagleton poll: ‘Overwhelming’ support for medical marijuana; majority favors decriminalization

One day after Gov. Chris Christie attempted to kick start the state’s medical marijuana program, a Rutgers-Eagleton poll shows the public is staunchly behind him. 

According to the poll, 86 percent of respondents favor legalization of marijuana for medical purposes – a current law being met with roadblocks in the implementation stage.

Yesterday, Christie named a former State Police lieutenant as the new coordinator of the program, but the poll director David Redlawsk, professor of political science at Rutgers University, wondered at the pace at which the program is progressing.

“The slowness with which the Christie administration appears to be implementing the medical marijuana law passed at the end of the Corzine administration seems to fly in the face of public opinion,” said Redlawsk. “While recent reports say some of the problem is related to the difficulties of opening the dispensaries called for under the law, public support for the concept is very strong.”  (Carroll, PolitickerNJ)



New Jersey’s Christie to make Iowa trip next week to campaign for Romney

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is scheduled to travel to Iowa next week to campaign for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the state where voting in the party’s nomination race starts on Jan. 3.

The trip by Christie offers the latest sign that Romney is ramping up efforts to more aggressively compete in the Iowa caucuses as former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich is getting a second look from the state’s Republican activists.

Christie is to appear on Romney’s behalf on Dec. 7, according to a Romney campaign official who wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the event. No details of Christie’s Iowa stop were available.  (McCormick, Bloomberg)



Chris Christie: Barack Obama and his ‘henchmen’ fear Mitt Romney

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie believes the onslaught of Democratic National Committee attacks on Mitt Romney is “the greatest thing in the world” for the former Massachusetts governor’s campaign.

“Let’s let the president and his henchmen keep doing it,” Christie said Wednesday at the Republican Governors Association meeting here. “That shows he’s the person they’re most afraid of. And that’s good news for us from a political perspective.”

The first-term governor, who endorsed Romney after deciding not to run himself, predicted Newt Gingrich would eventually fade as a 2012 rival.

“Past is prologue,” he said after a press conference. “Maybe he’ll be different, but every person who has come up and either come near Gov. Romney or risen above him turns out to then have fallen back down.”  (Hohmann, POLITICO)



New Jersey aid holdup may force towns to borrow to pay workers

New Jersey lawmakers’ inaction on $139 million in state funding for cities in financial distress is forcing some local officials to delay payments to school districts and vendors and consider borrowing to make payroll.

Six of 11 cities waiting for their share of the so-called transitional aid operate on a calendar year, giving them a month to make their cash last without a collective $16.2 million. Disbursement of the assistance, promised in July, has been held up by a dispute between Republican Governor Chris Christie and Democrats who control the Legislature over how to fund the $1.5 million cost of supervising payments.

Christie cut transitional aid 13 percent from $159 million last year to help wean municipalities off the assistance. Half of U.S. cities have had state aid reduced since 2009 as governors deal with budget deficits, according to a September survey by the National League of Cities. Mayors are struggling to raise revenue and cut costs to balance their books.  (Young and Dopp, Bloomberg)



Obama approves federal disaster aid for 8 N.J. counties stemming from Oct. 29 snowstorm

President Obama Wednesday declared the freak snowstorm of Oct. 29 caused a major environmental disaster for New Jersey and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery costs in eight counties.

The counties are Cape May, Essex, Hunterdon, Morris, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren.

Federal funding is now available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storm. Aid also is available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation statewide.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



D.C. watchdog group: N.J. Rep. Rob Andrews ‘knowingly and willfully’ violated law in campaign fund controversy’

Charging U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews “knowingly and willfully” violated the law when he spent campaign funds to take his family to Scotland for the wedding of a donor and advisor, a Washington watchdog group Wednesday filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission.

In the eight-page complaint, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) also accused Andrews of breaking federal campaign law by using his account to pay for part of a celebration at his home marking a daughter’s high school graduation and his 20 years in Congress.  (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)



Princeton real estate executive Bill Spadea to seek seat of deceased Assemblyman Peter Biondi

Bill Spadea, a political operative and real estate executive, announced his candidacy for Assembly in the 16th Legislative District today.

Spadea, of Princeton, is running in a special election by Republican committee members in the four counties that comprise the district. He wants to succeed the late Assemblyman Peter Biondi (R-Somerset), who passed away two days after being reelected .

“Pete Biondi was a great legislator, public servant, community leader and patriot,” said Spadea in a statement. “So many business and political leaders asked and encouraged me to consider this run to do right by Pete’s legacy of public service.”  (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)



Sick time reform pitched 

Government workers would no longer be able to be paid for unused sick leave but could use the value of that time to offset their costs for health benefits after retirement, under the latest legislative proposal to revamp sick-leave rules.

Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, D-Camden, introduced legislation this week that would attach an actuarial value to accumulated sick leave that exceeds 60 days, then permit retiring public employees to use that value to reduce their post-retirement medical benefits by up to $7,500.

Retired public workers who choose a medical plan that requires them to pay $1,500 a year from their pension toward their benefits, for instance, could use the value of those unused days to eliminate that cost sharing for five years.  (Symons, Gannett)



N.J. Sen. Bateman introducing sex abuse notification bill in wake of Penn State, Syracuse scandals

In reaction to the child molestation scandals at Penn State and Syracuse University, Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Somerset) announced Wednesday he will introduce legislation Thursday to require witnesses of child sexual abuse to notify law enforcement officials.

“In both cases, adults knew that the abuse was occurring yet they failed in their moral duty to take the appropriate steps to end the abuse,” Bateman said. “When my bill passes witnesses will no longer have that decision. They will be required to notify law enforcement authorities of these obscene violations.” Bateman is a member of the upper house Judiciary and Law & Public Safety committees.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



N.J. legislative committees to consider sports betting and job creation bills Thursday

State Senate and Assembly committees will hold public hearings Thursday and legislation to permit casinos to provide sports betting and the Democratic-sponsored “Back to Work NJ” job creation and business bolstering bill package highlight the agenda.

The Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee is expected to approve the sports betting proposal, which follows the approval by New Jersey voters to allow the wagering. The proposal also is expected to eventually gain the approval of the full Legislature and Gov. Chris Christie but the state would still need to overcome the federal ban on sports betting in New Jersey before casinos could actually offer the wagering.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



Two decades on, Opportunity Scholarship Act remains moving target

Yesterday, it was a rally in opposition to the proposed Opportunity Scholarship Act, although the sparse crowd in the Jersey City school auditorium made it more a polite gathering than a protest.

Today, advocates of the controversial tuition tax credit bill boast they will have 2,000 people on the Statehouse steps. But if history is any indication, the vast majority will be Catholic school students bused in for the day.

Either way, the people who really matter — the legislators who may act on the school voucher bill — are keeping notably quiet, even apparently among themselves.

“I haven’t heard a thing,” said state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), the primary sponsor of the bill. “And you would think I would. One would hope, at least.”  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



Parents: New education bill would hurt public schools

Education activists and parents rallied Wednesday against a bill that would allow the use of taxpayer-funded vouchers for religious and private schools, calling it “a backdoor way to privatization” of public schools. 

Several said the program would drain resources from poorer districts and undercut initiatives aimed at improving public schools.

Parent Luz Mayi, who said her seven children, ages 14 to 35, attended parochial and public schools in Jersey City, said supporters of the voucher program were disingenuous in trying to sell it as an attempt to give parents school choice. The proposal would not allow children with less-than-stellar grades, special needs, language barriers, or other obstacles to be accepted at any school, she said.  (Henry, Associated Press)



Bill banning fracking wastewater gets overhaul

Reconsideration of a 33-year-old U.S. Supreme Court decision on interstate commerce has led New Jersey lawmakers to rewrite a bill banning the treatment, disposal or storage of wastewater from fracking for natural gas, also known as hydraulic fracturing.

New language in the bill removes mention of shipping or transporting the effluent, focusing the prohibition on the wastewater being “treated, discharged, disposed of, or stored’’ in New Jersey and not mentioning a point of origin.

The nation’s high court ruled in 1978 that a law preventing waste from Philadelphia and elsewhere from being trucked into New Jersey was unconstitutional because states cannot discriminate against other states’ articles of commerce.  (Jordan, Gannett)



N.J. will team with Target to deliver disaster supplies

State homeland security officials in charge of handling future catastrophic emergencies will now rely on the big-box corporation Target to fast-track certain goods and supplies to aid recovery.

The new partnership, spelled out in a memorandum of understanding that officials plan to formally announce Thursday, is the first large-scale cooperative agreement of its kind between New Jersey’s emergency preparedness team and a retail chain.

Charles McKenna, the director of the state Office of Homeland Security, said Wednesday that the state had not contracted to buy a precise quantity of goods from the retailer, but would consult with the store during an emergency on what supplies were needed and what Target could quickly provide.  (Fletcher, The Record)



Port Authority changes reason for toll increase

Remember this summer’s bridge and tunnel toll increases that were needed to help pay for redeveloping the World Trade Center? It looks like the extra money isn’t going there after all.

In legal filings in November, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said none of the money from the toll increases will be used for the World Trade Center but will instead be used for the agency’s Interstate Transportation Network that includes bridges, bus terminals and other transportation buildings.

The filings came in response to a lawsuit filed by AAA of New York and New Jersey, which tried unsuccessfully to stop the increases from taking effect in September. In the suit, AAA argues that the World Trade Center is not a transportation center and, therefore, the toll increases are being illegally collected to pay for it.  (Associated Press)



Lance collects cards for troops from Hillsborough school children

U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J. District 7, visited Triangle Elementary School here Monday, and collected homemade holiday cards from the school’s third- and fourth-grade students for U.S. troops.

The cards are being delivered to the American Red Cross Greater Somerset County chapter and will be part of the Red Cross’ Holiday Mail for Heroes program.

“I commend Triangle Elementary School students for making thoughtful greeting cards for U.S. troops,” Lance said. “This is a special time of the year when many of us reflect on family and friends and I expect the students’ wishes will warm the hearts of our troops stationed here at home and around the world.”  (Staff, Gannett)



N.J. Labor Dept. launches OnRamp search engine on

The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development Wednesday launched a job-search engine on the website — — to help New Jersey’s unemployed find work..

The free search engine — OnRamp — allows job-seekers to go online to quickly upload a resume or create a customized resume, even for industries where resumes are traditionally not used. Visitors to can use OnRamp to have their skills showcased to possibly thousands of employers and access job opportunities listed on 2,400 websites with one search.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



LS Power to build new plant – without help from ratepayer subsidies

It turns out a subsidy from ratepayers is not needed to get a new power plant built in New Jersey–at least according to a company that had once pressed for such incentives.

LS Power Group yesterday announced it has lined up the financing to build a 738-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant in West Deptford, a project that some viewed as not economically feasible after it failed to secure a controversial subsidy from ratepayers to help develop the facility.

The decision to go ahead with the plant is another strange twist in what has been a tortuous journey by the Christie administration to encourage new generation to be developed in the state, a step it believes will reduce some of the highest electricity costs in the nation.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Despite battle, turbine parts arrive in N.J.

While the long-raging battle over a controversial wind turbine is far from resolved, the turbine itself may soon be making its way to the borough.

All of the components of the turbine recently made the trek across the county and are currently being stored in Newark, according to Louis Granata, the Matawan-based attorney for the Bayshore Regional Sewerage Authority — the entity looking to construct the proposed 380-foot, $7.7 million energy-producing turbine.

Monmouth County, according to Granata, has asked the authority to obtain transportation permits from all of the Monmouth municipalities the the turbine will be passing through while being shipped to Union Beach before the county agrees to grant a transportation permit to the authority.  (Biese, Gannett)



World AIDS Day 2011: New Jersey’s strengths and struggles

In the 30 years since the first diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, the disease has killed 25 million people worldwide. It is a staggering number — and there is still no vaccine available to wipe out the virus.

AIDS in the United States is responsible for more than a million deaths. It ravaged the bisexual and gay community, killed countless intravenous drug users, and is increasingly prevalent among black men in poor urban areas, according to Avert, an international AIDS charity.

And yet World AIDS Day 2011 finds millions of people living with the disease, enjoying longer and healthier lives than once thought possible.  (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)



Camden County prosecutor warns of impact of police layoffs on crime

Camden County’s top law enforcement officer on Wednesday said police in Camden are “losing the battle” against emboldened criminals and called for an influx of resources into the city. “We’re reaching a critical stage right now where unless we get more officers soon … we’re going to have to dig out of a very serious situation,” said Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk.

In a meeting with the Courier-Post editorial board, Faulk spoke frankly about his concern about escalating violence in the city in the past weeks that he indicated is fueled in part by warring drug factions. He stressed his belief the city’s police department needs an additional 100 to 150 officers to keep conditions from growing worse.  (Mast, Gannett)



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McKeon, environmentalists to meet over proposed amendments to forestry bill

Every acre of forest land is precious, and consequently, must be actively managed. So says Assemblyman John McKeon, (D-27), South Orange.

The bill he introduced to do just that, A4358, would allow some harvesting of trees on state forest land.

The proposal – although released this week by the Environment Committee he chairs – faced some critici
sm by environmentalists. And McKeon said today he has a meeting scheduled for Thursday with them to address their concerns.  (Mooney, State Street Wire)



Comptroller: Some progress in follow-up to Irvington’s financial ‘disarray’ audit

State Comptroller Matthew Boxer sent a letter this week to Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith, a follow-up from a performance audit from 2009 that found financial management “disarray” and inadequate internal controls.

Among other revelations, the initial audit found the town’s general ledger out of balance by $59.7 million, of which roughly $1.4 million was never reconciled.  (Carroll, State Street Wire)



Kean fires back at OSA detractors

One of the prime supporters of the Opportunity Scholarship Act fired back today at its opponents.

Sen. Tom Kean Jr., (R-21), Union, said that OSA’s detractors are defending an unacceptable status quo.

“The only people abandoning public education are those who say that we should keep kids trapped in a failing school for fear of change,” he said in a release.  (Mooney, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room



Port Authority brass fibbing?

With $2 million in hidden payments here, $70 million in risky investments there, an extra $5 million in salaries and a multi-million dollar toll hike to pay for it, it seems the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey throws around money like a Wal-Mart shopper on Black Friday.

And as if the toll hike weren’t enough, it seems someone at the PANYNJ thought it a smart idea to pull at the heart strings of tri-state residents still troubled by Sept. 11 and claim the money would go in part to the redevelopment of the World Trade Center.  Works better than saying they need it to pay for overtime, sick pay and hidden payments to employees, doesn’t it?  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



Report: Booker to stump for Obama next week in NH

Newark Mayor Cory Booker will make his first ever political trip to New Hampshire next week to headline events promoting President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, according to WMUR political analyst James Pindell.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)






Brand may change, but label is the same

Governor Christie has been testy lately about the media’s obsession with his combative “style.”

The Christie brand has been undergoing a repackaging as a bipartisan conciliator, the governor who reaches across the political divide (or the “boulevard” which is Christie’s metaphor of choice these days) to strike compromise. He’d like to downplay the Bully in the Bully Pulpit persona, but those superficial, tweeting, style-obsessed reporters won’t let him.

“I hear the press write all the time about me, ‘Oh, he’s so belligerent, he’s too caustic, he’s too angry.’ All this stuff, right?” Christie complained to a packed conference room at the Princeton Public Library last week.”  (Stile, The Record)



Chris Christie: the drug war has failed

This is one reason I hav
e a soft spot for the abrasive New Jersey governor. He’s basically just a brash, tough-talking moderate with a pretty good sense of certain issues I care about a lot – such as mass incarceration. His soft-spoken counterpart in Indiana, Mitch Daniels, is similarly savvy when it comes to our penal system and the War on Drugs.

Now that Gary Johnson is likely moving over to the Libertarian Party after being almost universally snubbed as a Republican, the remaining anti-drug-war candidate is Ron Paul. Paul doesn’t have quite the charisma of someone like Chris Christie. But Christie isn’t running so if the drug war is an issue you care about, Ron Paul is your best bet – certainly much better on the issue than the current president.  (Kain, Forbes)



Corzine twisting in the political winds

Ordinarily if a Wall Street maven runs into trouble with the powers that be in Washington, he can race to the Republicans for help. But if he’s a Democrat with a high profile like Jon Corzine, there is no refuge.

After his re-election hopes were dashed, Corzine returned to Wall Street, his home for nearly a quarter century before being replaced in a 1999 palace coup at global investment banker Goldman Sachs. He seemed happy at the helm of MF Global although there was that curious attachment to a plan to sell bonds that told potential investors if President Barack Obama wanted him and the Senate approved he could be leaving the firm. It was like a hitchhiking blonde showing some ankle to attract a passing motorist.  (Ingle, Gannett)|newswell|text|Politics|p


  Morning News Digest: December 1, 2011