Morning News Digest: December 23, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
PolitickerNJ’s 2011 Power List and Year in Review
We are proud to present PolitickerNJ’s 2011 Power List of the 100 most influential people in New Jersey politics.
For the first time, we are releasing the list as part of our annual Year in Review, where we recap the year in politics that’s coming to a close.
It was a tumultuous year in Trenton as Gov. Chris Christie continued to dominate headlines with a presidential dalliance and growing national presence. But it was also a year that saw Democrats score some important victories. One victory in particular stood out, as you’ll see from our choice for the most influential politico of the year. (Editor, PolitickerNJ)
Dem’s final submission pushes Rothman-Garrett fair fight
The Democratic Redistricting Commissioners submitted their final map to Tiebreaking Member John Farmer, Jr. a short time ago and have mostly retired from the Heldrich.
As New Jersey prepares to lose a congressman owing to the loss of population in the Garden State, the main redistricting collision still concerns congressional districts 9 and 5, and the Democrats’ final map maintains an even fight between U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) and U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5), sources say.
The Republicans’ final map gives Garrett a four point edge in the head-to-head. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Chris Christie opens door to VP job
Chris Christie says that while he and Mitt Romney have never discussed a potential vice presidential role for the New Jersey governor, it would still be “presumptuous” for him to turn his back on the possibility.
In an interview with Fox News that aired on Thursday, Christie said the topic of being Romney’s 2012 running mate has “never come up.”
“I don’t think you talk about that stuff. I think if you’re the nominee you’re afraid to talk about that stuff because you don’t want to jinx yourself,” he said. “I don’t think [Romney] wants to be presumptuous enough to start talking to somebody about a vice president when he’s not yet the nominee.” (Lee, POLITICO)
N.J. Gov. Christie announces $3.38 million in funding for homeless shelters, transitional housing
Emphasizing the vital work of service organizations in communities throughout the state, Gov. Chris Christie announced the awarding of 37 Shelter Support grants totaling $3.83 million in both state and federal funding.
The grants will aid nonprofit and local government agencies operating emergency homeless shelters and transitional housing facilities while assisting approximately 3,000 New Jersey households over the next year.
Christie made the announcement at Community Hope’s Hope for Veterans program, a 95-bed transitional housing program for homeless veterans at the VA New Jersey Health Care System’s Lyons Campus in Somerset County. Community Hope is receiving a $189,982 grant that will assist in the improvement of living conditions and provide a stable and safe place to stay until they can regain their financial footing and move into more permanent housing. (Staff, Gannett)
Gov. Christie shakes up administration as key advisor bolts for private sector
Gov. Chris Christie announced a number of changes to his close-knit team of top advisers Thursday, including the departure of his chief of staff, as he embarks on the second half of his first term.
Christie said Richard Bagger, 51, his chief of staff, would be returning to the pharmaceutical industry and Kevin O’Dowd, 39, the current deputy chief counsel, would move into the job.
In addition, he said Charles McKenna, the state’s director of homeland security, would replace Jeff Chiesa as chief counsel. Chisea, 51, with whom the governor has worked closely for 20 years, was nominated last week to replace Paul Dow as state attorney general and is awaiting Senate confirmation. (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
Christie staying close to home for the holidays
After taking heat last year for going to Disney World during a blizzard, Gov. Chris Christie says there’s “no way” he’ll be going far this holiday season.
Christie was criticized last December after he took off for vacation in Florida, just ahead of a blizzard. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno also was vacationing at the time.
The GOP governor says he may venture into New York City to take his children to a Broadway show, but otherwise plans to stay in New Jersey this year. (Associated Press)
Steve Rothman in a hole
It’s looking a lot like a Steve Rothman – Scott Garrett member vs. member clash in New Jersey.
And that’s bad news for Rothman.
Rutgers Law School Dean John Farmer, an independent who’s chairing New Jersey’s bipartisan redistricting panel, isn’t expected to reveal the state’s new congressional map until Friday, but Democrats are telling us that the forthcoming plan will likely put Rothman, a veteran Democrat who serves on the Appropriations Committee, in a tough district against Garrett, a conservative member from the northernmost portion of the state. (Isenstadt, POLITICO)
Proposed House redistricting map up for vote
Reps. Scott Garrett and Steve Rothman likely will see their hometowns merged into the same North Jersey congressional district under the revised map being voted on today by a state commission.
New Jersey is losing one of its 13 seats in the House of Representatives because its population growth has lagged Southern and Western states. The adjustment will force Rothman, a Democrat, and Garrett, a Republican, into the same district, with ripple effects also changing the contours of the state’s 11 other districts. (Symons, Gannett)
N.J. gets passing education grade
New Jersey is one of seven states that have won a share of $200 million in federal “Race to the Top” money to improve K-12 education programs, the Education Department announced Thursday.
The Garden State got third-most funding at $37.9 million. Only Illinois’ $42.8 million and Pennsylvania’s $41.3 million were more. The other four states to win funds are Arizona at $25.1 million, Colorado at $17.9 million, Louisianna at $17.5 million and Kentucky at $17 million. (Associated Press)
NJ reaches contract agreement with 2 unions
Gov. Chris Christie’s administration has reached a four-year contract agreement with public sector unions representing about 5,000 New Jersey state employees.
The agreement announced Thursday was made with the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers and the Service Employees International Union. It calls for no salary increases for 2011 and 2012, a 1 percent increase in July 2013 and a 1.75 percent increase in July 2014.
IFPTE represents approximately 4,900 state employees throughout departments in the executive branch and at state colleges. SEIU represents 190 employees at the state Motor Vehicle Commission. (Associated Press)
Camden’s rating stays unchanged
When it comes to finances, the city isn’t in great shape, especially in light of last year’s $26.5 million budget gap.
It’s a gap hampered by a dramatic cut in state aid.
Regardless, Moody’s Investor Services has removed Camden’s rating from review for possible downgrade, maintaining its current credit rating of Ba2.
“The fact that Moody’s did not downgrade our rating despite the conditions of the national economy is a positive sign the City of Camden, under the leadership of Mayor (Dana) Redd is making progress on improving its financial books,” City Finance Director Glynn Jones said. (Murray, Gannett)
Port Authority: Toll cheats, arrests on the rise
For motorists looking to skate across the George Washington Bridge without paying the toll, Port Authority police Officer Jason Malice is the Grinch, minus the green face and red hat.
Malice’s caseload has been increasing in the months since the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the region’s transit hubs, bridges and tunnels, raised the price of tolls. Truckers and other motorists have been employing a variety of tricks to try to avoid the tolls, such as driving through unmanned toll collection lanes that use the E-ZPass electronic payment system even though they don’t have E-ZPass devices and hiding their license plates so their vehicles can’t be identified. That has led to more stops for Malice and his colleagues who prowl the tollbooth areas on foot. (Associated Press)
Casinos will report financial data more frequently under new regulations
The Division of Gaming Enforcement announced Wednesday that in the new year, casino financial reporting will have different requirements.
The new regulations, to be published in the Division Financial Reporting Manual, are changes made to address the Casino Control Act and corresponding re-regulation.
Among the changes, casinos — and their parent companies — can use internal documents for certain regular filings, to reduce redundancy, but must file internal monthly financial statements online with the division, an increase from the quarterly filings previously required. The division said the increased frequency will not place an additional burden on casinos, because the reports are already created, and many licensees file monthly under their license conditions. (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
Direct appointments to Juvenile Justice advisory committee
Gov. Chris Christie filed direct appointments for the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Advisory Committee. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Maximum UI check rising from $598 to $611
The state Labor Department announced Friday that the maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit checks would increase from $598 to $611. (Staff, State Street Wire)
$3.8M in grants to aid homeless shelters
Gov. Chris Christie today announced the award of 37 Shelter Support grants totaling $3.83 million in both state and federal funding.
The grants will aid nonprofit and local government agencies operating emergency homeless shelters and transitional housing facilities while assisting approximately 3,000 New Jersey households over the next year, the governor’s office announced. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
School board member background-check law catching on
In May, a bill was passed requiring school board members to undergo a criminal background check.
It appears that after a slow start, an overwhelming number of those members have undergone the checks and a few have even been disqualified following it. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Christie brand ‘bugging’ MSNBC
Viewers who caught Governor Christie’s stop on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Tuesday saw the cable show had created a special screen logo — or “bug” — for his appearance.
Christie, previously an occasional guest, will now be a featured face on the talk-show, with visual marketing to match. (Fletcher, The Record)
Remaking Congress line by line by line
UNLESS RUMORS flying up from New Brunswick are all false, Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage, and Rep. Steve Rothman, D-Fair Lawn, will face off in the general election in 2012. In the congressional game of musical chairs played every 10 years, they are the two men left standing with only one empty seat.
For those in New Jersey who think an accurate Census report is not important, congressional redistricting should be a wake-up call. The Garden State is not growing as fast as other states and as a result, its 13 congressional seats are shrinking to 12. (Doblin, The Record)