Morning News Digest: January 19, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Kyrillos set to announce Senate candidacy Thursday
State Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-13) is preparing to announce his candidacy for U.S. Senate tomorrow, according to two sources with knowledge of his plans.
Kyrillos reportedly reached out to Republican County Chairmen Wednesday night to ask for their support. Kyrillos will face Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, who is seeking his second full term. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Christie files dozens of nominations
Gov. Chris Christie today filed the following nominations, which include four nominations to judgeships as well as the re-nomination of Acting Department of Education Commissioner Chris Cerf. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Some ministers part company with Dem leadership on marriage equality
Republican Gov. Chris Christie is scheduled to land in Essex County Thursday for another leg of his comeback tour where ministers are somewhat steamed at Democrats for backing marriage equality as a cornerstone issue in their 2012 agenda.
Opposed to same-sex marriage, Christie stayed off the subject in his State of the State address Tuesday, and now heads into God’s Country – specifically the Christian Love Church in Irvington – with African-American ministers affirming his stands on gay marriage, education reform and state upgrades in drug counseling. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Revenues up 3.2 percent in first half of FY12, still 3.2 percent below projection
State revenue collections rose 3.2 percent in the first half of the FY12 budget year, compared to the first half of the FY11 budget year, but remained off from administration projections.
According to the Department of Treasury, the influx will prevent the state from “diverting (funding) from key priorities.” But Democrats derided the update as 3.2 percent short of the adminstration’s fiscal year projections. (Carroll, PolitickerNJ)
Gov. Christie holding town hall in Irvington
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is headed to Irvington for his second town hall event of the year.
But the GOP governor does not expect to feel the love during Thursday morning’s event in the Essex County community.
Noting that only 4.7 percent of Irvington voters supported him in the 2009 gubernatorial election, Christie says he’s expecting a rough ride at the session. (DeFalco, Associated Press)
Tempers flare at Christie town hall
A vocal foe of a planned charter school in Cherry Hill got under Gov. Chris Christie’s skin during a town hall meeting here Wednesday.
About an hour into a session that had been cordial and laced with applause, Cherry Hill resident Alan Erlich interrupted Christie as the governor was answering a question about the school, Regis Academy. Emotions quickly escalated. (Cooney, Gannett)
Gov. Christie: I can cut N.J. income taxes while boosting state education aid
Gov. Chris Christie said he can institute an across-the-board 10 percent income tax cut and still increase state aid to education.
As part of a day-long victory lap Wednesday to promote the ideas unveiled one day earlier in his State of the State address, the Republican governor told a town hall audience in Vorhees he would phase-in the cut over three years at a cost of $300 million per year. (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
Christie kills bill to cut off lobbyists’ public benefits
New Jersey taxpayers will still fund public pensions for a group of private employees and lobbyists because of another disagreement between Democratic lawmakers and Governor Christie.
The governor used a pocket veto this week to kill legislation that would have ended taxpayer-funded benefits for new employees at three advocacy organizations that were granted the perks in a long-overlooked law dating back to the 1950s. The legislation had cleared both houses of the Legislature unanimously. (Reitmeyer, The Record)
Christie signs bill allowing sports betting at casinos and race tracks
Legislation which will allow licensed Atlantic City casinos and New Jersey racetracks to take bets on professional and collegiate sporting events was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Chris Christie.
The new law (S-3113), will allow people over the age of 21 to place a bet on a sporting event in-person at special lounges created in casinos, racetracks or at the site of a former racetrack. The law does not permit bets to be placed on college games that take place in New Jersey or on any game in which a New Jersey college team participates, regardless of where it takes place. That means no betting would be permitted on Rutgers, Seton Hall or Princeton games. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Christie shuns charter dispute: “I am not a king:
Gov. Christie, who held a town-hall meeting in Voorhees Wednesday to sell his plans for New Jersey for 2012, was bombarded with questions about a charter school opening in Cherry Hill.
Christie said he’d prefer that charter schools open only in struggling school districts rather than compete with high-performing public schools, such as those in Voorhees and Cherry Hill. But he said the law prevents him from barring the Regis Academy from opening. (Farrell, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Betty Lou DeCroce, widow of Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, tells GOP leaders she wishes to fill his seat
Betty Lou DeCroce, the widow of Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce, Wednesday announced she wants to replace her husband in the Assembly.
DeCroce, of Parsippany-Troy Hills, is a deputy commissioner in the state Department of Community Affairs. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Poll: Majority of N.J. voters support gay marriage
As Democrats are making a legislative push for same-sex marriage, a poll released this morning shows that a majority of New Jersey voters supports the measure.
Fifty-two percent of Garden State voters think same-sex couples should have the right to marry, while 42 percent think they should not.
It’s the first time support for gay marriage has topped 50 percent in a Quinnipiac poll. The previous high was in April 2009, when 49 percent said they supported it. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Revenue shortfall fuels debate over tax cut
For Governor Chris Christie, the timing couldn’t be worse.
As the governor made a triumphal tour of the morning talk shows yesterday touting his State of the State call for a 10 percent income tax cut, his Treasury Department was preparing to release revenue numbers showing that tax collections for the first six months of the fiscal year had come in $325.7 million – or 3.2 percent — short of projections. (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)
State employees’ paid leave can roll over from year to year indefinitely, court rules
Days off that state employees negotiated with former Gov. Jon Corzine in return for pay raise deferral and furloughs are not like unused vacation time and can be carried from year to year indefinitely, a state appellate court panel ruled today.
The ruling in favor of the Communications Workers of America and two other state employee unions reverses a 2010 amendment to state Civil Service regulations that, once enacted, prohibited state employees from carrying so-called paid leave bank days beyond June 30, 2012. (Spoto, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. Attorney General announces new prescription drug addiction program
Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa Wednesday unveiled New Jersey’s most comprehensive program to date to crack down on prescription drug addictions and overdoses, but making a dent in the problem will depend largely on how many doctors and pharmacists buy into the state’s efforts.
“Prescription drugs, when properly prescribed and properly taken, are of great benefit to patients,” Chiesa said. “But a prescription drug improperly obtained and taken indiscriminately without a valid medical purpose can be deadly.” (Baxter, The Star-Ledger)
Acting Education Commissioner Cerf moves to Somerset County, escaping senatorial block
Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf has established a home in Somerset County, meaning his nomination to Gov. Chris Christie’s Cabinet no longer can be blocked by Sen. Ronald Rice through senatorial courtesy.
Cerf continues to own the home he purchased in Montclair in 1999, but the renomination of Cerf that Christie filed Tuesday with the Senate says he now lives in Montgomery.
“Commissioner Cerf has established residency in Somerset County to allow him to shorten his commute and be closer to Trenton,” said Department of Education spokesman Justin Barra. (Symons, Gannett)
N.J. lawmakers join in outcry
The outcry over bills designed to curb Internet piracy brought a quick reaction from many in New Jersey’s congressional delegation, and several lawmakers used Facebook and Twitter to voice their opposition.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., is one of 40 co-sponsors of the Protect Intellectual Property Act, but he told his Twitter followers Tuesday he wants revisions to the bill.
“I hear your concerns re: #PIPA loud & clear & share in these concerns,” Menendez tweeted. “I’m fully committed to ensuring that any bill that passes the Senate will maintain freedom of the Internet & protect intellectual property.” (Jackson, The Record)
Overhaul of legal advertising rules dropped
Leaders from both parties in the state Legislature said Wednesday they are dropping plans to overhaul legal advertising requirements for governments, an initiative panned by good-government advocates and newspaper executives.
The proposal would have allowed governments to skip buying legal ads in papers as long as they self-published budgets, bids for services and other public records on the Internet. (Jordan, Gannett)
DCCC chair tried to talk Rothman into challenging Garrett
The chairman of the committee responsible for helping Democrats retake control of the House confirmed at a news conference today he tried unsuccessfully to convince Rep. Steve Rothman to run against Republican Rep. Scott Garrett after New Jersey’s congressional districts were redrawn.
Rothman, D-Fair Lawn, decided to move and run in a primary against Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-Paterson, after Fair Lawn was put in the Republican-leaning 5th District that Garrett represents. (Jackson, The Record)
Pascrell, Rothman each pick up support in other’s territory
Today’s installment of the ongoing battle of endorsements in the congressional primary face-off between Reps. Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell featured each candidate picking up support in the other’s territory.
Rothman cited the endorsement of Latino pastors in Passaic County; Pascrell picked up the backing of a former Bergen County party chairman. (Jackson, The Record)
Fund-raiser wanted in Rothman-Garrett race
The chairman of the committee working to help Democrats retake control of the House said Wednesday that he “would have preferred” that Rep. Steve Rothman run against Republican Scott Garrett instead of taking on fellow Democrat Bill Pascrell Jr.
Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said he offered financial support to Rothman. Israel laughed, however, when asked during a news conference about reports that he had promised $2 million from the DCCC’s coffers. (Jackson, The Record)
N.J. congressman calls for investigation of Live Nation’s secret deals with Meadowlands
U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Wednesday called for a federal investigation into reports the nation’s largest concert promoter was secretly paid more than $2.9 million to book acts into the Meadowlands.
Pascrell (D-8th Dist.), a longtime critic of Live Nation — which negotiated the so-called incentive agreement — said the company has too much control of the market. (Sherman and McGlone)
Menendez urges SEC to require political spending disclosure
Sen. Bob Menendez is seeking to have his colleagues join him in a letter urging the chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue regulations requiring corporations to disclose political spending.
Menendez, D-NJ, is sponsoring a bill that would give corporate shareholders a chance to vote on companies’ political spending. The letter’s release today is timed to coincide with the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United that struck down a decades-old ban on corporate political spending. (Jackson, The Record)
Keeping track of pills, pharmacies flag abuse of pain prescriptions
Efforts to track abuse of pain killers have stepped up in New Jersey, where pharmacies are now helping flag illegal use of pills. By entering the narcotics into a statewide database, pharmacists have expanded their role in the war on prescription drugs.
The database for narcotics like the pain reliever OxyContin is routinely monitored by physicians, pharmacists, and law enforcers to help identify drug abusers who manipulate the medical system to obtain pills for their own addictions or to sell in the lucrative street drug trade that rivals heroin and cocaine. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
Proponents push for pot program to begin
Princeton resident Vanessa Waltz thought the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act would be flourishing by now.
The law allows for New Jersey residents suffering from cancer, AIDS, Crohn’s disease and other serious conditions to obtain and use therapeutic cannabis with a doctor‘s prescription.
But two years after Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed the medical pot act into law, the program remains inactive. (Jordan, Gannett)
DRPA appoints deputy CEO, hires inspector general
Leadership changes at the Delaware River Port Authority continued Wednesday with the appointment of a new deputy chief executive and the hiring of a former FBI agent as the DRPA’s first inspector general.
Michael Conallen Jr., a former chief of staff to two local Republican congressmen, was named deputy chief executive officer, replacing Robert P. Gross. He will be paid $174,000 a year. (Nussbaum, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
State agency to investigate improper billing at PSE&G
The state Board of Public Utilities yesterday decided to launch an investigation into allegations that Public Service Electric & Gas improperly billed customers by shifting some of its expenses to clean energy and energy efficiency programs and then recovering those costs from ratepayers.
The agency had been urged to look into the allegations, the subject of a whistleblowers’ suit filed by three former PSE&G employees last month in Superior Court in Essex County, by the Division of Rate Counsel. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Christie says charter schools should be targeted toward failing districts
Gov. Chris Christie seems to be in agreement with some people who are opposed to seeing charter schools open in well-performing districts.
In response to one woman at his town hall today who complained about a charter school that’s seeking to open in Voorhees, which she described as a very good district, Christie agreed that the primary focus of opening charter schools should be in districts that are deemed failing. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Christie pledges more aid to school districts ‘shut out’ of process
Gov. Chris Christie said on Wednesday the state will provide more school aid to districts that have largely been shut out since much of the aid was given to the state’s neediest schools.
“A lot of districts will see increased aid,” he said during his first-ever town hall meeting in a trendy mall on Town Center Boulevard here surrounded by hundreds of people, some of whom looked over from the rafters. “We’re going to do it in a coordinated way.” (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Plainfield Armory to be auctioned
Who wants an armory? Well, unless you can start the bidding at $900,000, don’t bother to apply.
The state Treasury Department today announced it will hold a four-day internet auction later this month for the disused Plainfield Armory in the city of Plainfield in Union County. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Rosenstein: Court ruling should end Civil Service dispute
An official with one of the state’s main public worker unions said she hopes the appellate court’s pro-labor decision today will not generate further legal action.
Hetty Rosenstein, New Jersey State Director of the Communications Workers of America, said she hopes the administration will not pursue further appeals. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Same-sex marriage law before Judiciary next week
Wasting no time, the Senate Democrats will have S1, the marriage equality bill, front and center Tuesday when the Senate Judiciary convenes.
When Democratic leaders unveiled plans for the same-sex marriage law last week, they said they would give it priority.
The bill, sponsored by Sens. Steve Sweeney, Loretta Weinberg and Ray Lesniak, was introduced Jan. 10 and will be heard in committee room 4 at 11 a.m. in the Statehouse Annex next Tuesday. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Facts seem to be irrelevant in looming tax cut showdown
Without delving into the arguments for or against Gov. Chris Christie’s income tax cut, yesterday’s statehouse sideshow on the proposal is worth some analysis.
First, the governor tossed out the proposal knowing full well it would drop like a bomb in the Democratic caucus and send the party hustling for a response. The governor provided only one detail – that the cut would be phased in over three years, but offered no explanation of how he intends to pay for it. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
The New Jersey Tea Party Caucus and Smart Girl Politics announce the kick off School Choice Week, January 22, 2012. Headlining will be Bob Bowdon, creator of ‘The Cartel.’
In New Jersey, a group of activists live by the principle of limited government. It may be common for many to turn to government to solve the problems of a less than adequate system of education, but others in the State believe that government interference has been the very force that has escalated New Jersey’s education problems. As School Choice Week approaches, some groups in the State are relying on legislators to correct the problems they have created but others believe that New Jersey’s best hope for rectifying its educational problems rests with its citizens. (LaRossa for PolitickerNJ)
Democrats will give in to income tax cut
New Jersey Democrats channeled a new, defiant Occupy activist anger minutes after Governor Christie disclosed his State of the State tax-cut sound bite to thunderous applause.
Christie’s crowd-pleasing one-liner, declared state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, was just a “B.S. tax cut,” pennies from heaven for average folks, manna for Christie’s millionaire pals.
“It’s not real, it’s for the wealthy,” Sweeney said Tuesday in a post-speech news conference. “We are not going to jeopardize the economy of this state for a sound bite.” (Stile, The Record)
Focus on drug war overhaul a bright spot in Gov. Christie’s address
The most important moment in Gov. Chris Christie’s speech Tuesday was not when he proposed a giant income-tax cut, because that will never pass.
It was not when he pressed Democrats to reform education either, because those battle lines were drawn months ago, and the odds are that Christie will get about half of what he wants.
The highlight came after Christie called for a revolution in New Jersey’s approach to the drug war that would divert non-violent addicts from prison and put them in treatment programs instead. And he did it with characteristic Christie style, in big bold strokes. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
What is motive behind marriage equality bill?
Even supporters of same-sex marriage were surprised to hear the Democrats are making passing of a bill allowing it a priority. Some are a bit skeptical of their motive and rightly so.
“All evidence shows New Jersey’s civil union law falls far short in providing equality,” said Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex. “Civil unions send a message to the public that same-sex couples are not good enough to warrant equality.” (Ingle, Gannett)