Morning News Digest: January 31, 2012

Morning News Digest: January 31, 2012

By Missy Rebovich

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Civil Rights hero criticizes Christie in Trenton

Edmund Pettus Bridge icon John Lewis paused on his way to another political event to throw an oratorical elbow at Gov. Chris Christie.

The Atlantia Congressman objected to Christie’s comments bemoaning the absence of a referendum during the 1960’s Civil Rights struggles.

The governor made the remark last week when he called for a marriage equality referendum.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Gusciora rips governor’s reliance on ‘name-calling’

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, (D-15), Trenton said this afternoon he stands by his criticism of  the civil rights remarks made by Gov. Chris Christie, who singled out the openly gay lawmaker this morning by calling him “numbnuts.”

“The governor constantly reverts to name calling when he is unable to address issues on their merits,” Gusciora said.  (Hassan, PolitickerNJ)



Christie says he tried to interest Legislature in campaign finance law reform – to no avail’s report last week that Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo dips as a matter of course into his campaign funds to pay for day-to-day expenses, including golf games and dinners, caused Gov. Chris Christie today to throw an elbow at the State Legislature.

The Republican governor said he called on the Democratic-run Legislature last year to tighten campaign finance laws – to no avail.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Christie said missed revenue projection likely won’t affect income tax cut

Chris Christie said today lower than expected revenues for the first six months of the year likely will not affect his plan to cut state income taxes by 10 percent.

The state missed its projections by about 3 percent, or about $326 million for the first half of the fiscal year.  

Asked if the missed projection could mean the plan to cut income taxes by 10 percent across the board might wait a year, Christie said probably not, but said he will evaluate to ensure the cut is instituted “in a responsible manner.”  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



Christie nominates two to Cabinet

Gov. Chris Christie nominated two new members to his Cabinet Monday, to head New Jersey’s National Guard and Department of Banking and Insurance.

Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff, 54, a resident of Belle Meade, is Christie’s pick to head the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs. Cunniff has been in charge in an acting capacity since Dec. 16, when the adjutant general, Glenn Rieth, left due to an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.  (Symons, Gannett)



Christie calls Assemblyman Reed Gusciora ‘numbnuts’

As he attempted to clarify a controversial comment he made last week about same-sex marriage and civil rights, Gov. Chris Christie Monday called openly gay Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) “numbnuts.”

The name-calling came as the governor tried to clear up the comment he made in regards to his call for a voter referendum on same-sex marriage in New Jersey instead of the Democratic-controlled Legislature sending him a bill to legalize it. He has voted to veto the proposal.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



Budget expert: Income tax cuts will benefit the rich

The debate over income tax cuts vs. property tax cuts took center stage in Trenton yesterday, as Governor Christie defended his decision to chop property tax rebates, while Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee sparred over whether Christie’s income tax cut would simply benefit the rich.

“The fact of the matter is we had to reduce the property tax rebate program because we had overspent our budgets by an extraordinary amount of money in the years before we came here,” Christie said in response to a question about an NJ Spotlight report that showed that the average household paid $1,275 — or 20 percent — more in net property taxes in 2011 than it did two years earlier because of deep cuts in the rebate program.  (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)



Christie open to ways to remedy anti-bullying setback

Gov. Chris Christie and leading legislators yesterday vowed to address a state ruling that says sections of New Jersey’s landmark anti-bullying law are an unfunded mandate — without discounting the idea of supplying districts with additional money.

Christie said he still needed to review Friday’s decision of the state’s Council on Local Mandates that the law imposed an unconstitutional mandate on districts in not providing adequate funding.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



Christie warns not to ‘smear’ family of Supreme Court nominee

Governor Christie warned not to “smear” the family of one of his picks for the state Supreme Court, saying he knew the nominee’s mother had settled with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to end a complaint about illegal banking deposits.

Christie also said his second nominee — the first openly gay man named to the court — volunteered during an interview with the governor that he would not rule on any same-sex marriage challenge.

Lawmakers said they have new concerns about the nominees, particularly Philip Kwon and his family’s legal issues — a matter Christie said was resolved.  (Fletcher, Sampson and Patberg, The Record)



Christie says he knew about federal suit settlement involving family of Supreme Court nominee

Gov. Chris Christie said today he was aware of the civil settlement reached last month between federal authorities and the liquor store run by the family of state Supreme Court nominee Phillip Kwon.

Christie said that the case was discussed before nominating Kwon and that the governor’s office concluded it did not involve Kwon or reflect in any way on his ability to serve as a justice on the state’s high court.  (Baxter, The Star-Ledger)



Sen. Menendez, Rep. Pascrell push Obama tax reform plan at Passaic factory

One of the last garment factories in the city provided the backdrop Monday as two prominent Democrats called for adoption of President Obama’s tax reform package, which aims to revive manufacturing and restore the nation’s “Made in America” brand.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, visited the Jackie Evans/Susana Monaco Inc. factory on Third Street, a major manufacturer of Girl Scout uniforms that nearly shut down in 2010 when the non-profit offered the contract to China. Only a tidal wave of bad publicity — and some last-minute political arm twisting by Pascrell — kept the Girl Scouts of America from shipping the 80 jobs overseas.  (Cowen, The Record)



Pascrell out-raises Rothman, closes cash gap

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. raised nearly twice as much money as Rep. Steve Rothman in the last three months of 2011, and Rothman’s lead in total cash on hand is shrinking, new campaign disclosure reports filed Monday show.

Most of the contributions during the quarter were made before a new congressional district map was adopted and Rothman decided he would move and challenge Pascrell in the redrawn 9th District.  (Jackson, The Record)



Sen. Gordon calls for more transparency at Port Authority of N.Y. & N.J.

In the aftermath of a news report that since Gov. Chris Christie took office in 2010, 50 people with ties to him or his administration have obtained jobs at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a Democratic state senator is calling for more transparency at the bi-state agency.

The jobs range from federal affairs director to toll taker and together pay about $4 million in annual salaries, according to The Record of Hackensack.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



Passaic Freeholder Duffy in race against Garrett

Passaic County Freeholder Terry Duffy said Monday that beating five-term Rep. Scott Garrett would be a “monumental task,” but it is “doable” and he’s ready to try.

Duffy, a tavern owner from West Milford whose children include two police officers, a firefighter and a teacher, is the second Democrat to seek the party’s nomination to challenge Garrett, a five-term incumbent from Wantage who is one of the most conservative members of the House.

“I’m a middle-of-the-road, blue collar guy. I think Scott Garrett doesn’t represent the district as well as I could,” Duffy said.  (Jackson, The Record)



N.J. Assembly panel passes bill to add fluoride to public water supply

Water companies in New Jersey would be required to add fluoride to the water supply under a bill approved Monday by an Assembly panel at the urging of dentists and public health professionals — despite objections from environmentalists and utility officials.

The bill’s passage by the Assembly Health Committee was never in doubt since it prime sponsor was Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Camden), the panel chairman and a doctor himself, is a prime sponsor. The vote was 8-0 with two absentions, and the measure now moves to the full Assembly.  (Livio, The Star-Ledger)



Tax-cut details irk Christie foes

Democrats in the New Jersey Senate took their first look at Gov. Christie’s plan to cut income taxes 10 percent, and the details they got from the Legislature’s budget expert confirmed their suspicions: The higher a resident’s income, the bigger their tax reduction would be.

The biggest winners, if Christie’s proposal is enacted, would be the top 1.6 percent of taxpayers, who earn $500,000 or more, David Rosen, the Legislature’s chief budget officer, told the Senate Budget Committee.  (Delli Santi, Associated Press)



Donna Simon sworn into Assembly, replacing Biondi

Donna Simon was sworn in on Monday as the newest member of the Assembly. She will represent the 16th Legislative District (Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset Counties), filling the seat of Assemblyman Pete Biondi, who died in November.

Simon joins state Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli as the district’s other Republican representatives in the Statehouse.  (Staff, Gannett)



Adler’s widow to run

Shelley Adler said Monday her decision to seek the Democratic nomination for Congress was made because of what’s not being done.

“The issues people are caring about are being lost in the partisan bickering in Washington,” said the widow of former U.S. Rep. John Adler. “People are concerned about jobs, taxes. And those issues are not being addressed.”  (Cooney, Gannett)



Primary battle in 9th District may revolve around who’s on home turf

The battle over the redrawn 9th Congressional District has turned two longtime friends into primary campaign foes.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. of Paterson and Rep. Steve Rothman of Fair Lawn — or Billy and Stevie as they sometimes call each other — are dead set on hanging onto the seat that each man has held for 15 years.

In separate recent interviews, the two veteran Democrats kept coming back to the issue of who is on his home turf in the district, which includes parts of Bergen, Passaic and Hudson counties.  (Ensslin, The Record)



NJ drivers would face lower fines for forgetting license, registration under Senate bill

A bill released by a state Senate committee Monday would take some of the financial sting out of being stopped by the police if you forget your driver’s license or vehicle registration.

A bill proposed by state Senate Christopher “Kip” Bateman, R-Somerset, would drop the maximum fine for forgetting those documents from $150 to $100, if all the documents are valid at the time of the police stop and if the officer can verify they are current by using a computer database at the scene. The Senate Transportation Committee voted unanimously Monday to release the bill for a vote by the Legislature.  (Higgs, Ganett)



Trying to set a fair price for private use of public lands

The Christie administration and lawmakers still appear to be at odds on how to reform the leasing of private rights-of-way on state-owned land, an issue that has emerged as contentious as a spate of energy infrastructure projects aims to crisscross environmentally sensitive areas.

Department of Environmental Protection executives touted an interagency task force report to legislators as making big strides in dealing with the problem. The issue arose as the result of a much-criticized deal in 2010 involving the leasing of a natural gas pipeline through two state parks and a wildlife management area in the heart of the New Jersey Highlands.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Rutgers-Camden students mobilize to oppose Christie’s merger plan

Amid the throngs of students filling the campus center at Rutgers-Camden on Monday, one weaved in and out, slipping a flier into their hands.

It wasn’t advertising a fraternity party or a lecture; it contained instructions on how to oppose Gov. Christie’s plan to take their school out of the Rutgers system and merge it with Rowan University:

Sign an online petition, e-mail government officials, and so on.  (Osborne, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



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Bill upping penalties after Jersey City cop’s death amended and passes in committee

The Assembly Public Safety Committee passed A1013 today, MarcAnthony’s Law, which criminalizes use of defaced or stolen firearm to injure a police officer and enhances penalties for defacing a firearm.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Charles Mainor, (D-31), Jersey City, the bill is named for Marc Anthony DiNardo, a Jersey City detective shot and killed in the line of duty last year.  (Carroll, State Street Wire)



Labor Dept. explainer on UI numbers mix-up

Following the confusion in this morning’s committee room over the results of the Unemployment Insurance Task Force report, a department official sent a response.

The bill, S1121, changes the unemployment insurance (UI) tax rate for certain employers.

Bill sponsor, state Sen. Fred Madden, (D-4), Washington Township, said the Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s (LWD) expectations from the bill went from $22 million to $220 million last Friday, although he said he was not sure why the adjustment was made.  (Carroll, State Street Wire)



Monmouth Co. loosens pay-to-play regs; Citizens Campaign: return to ‘wheeling’ days

Last week, the Monmouth County freeholders replaced their pay-to-play ordinance with a “weak” fair-and-open process, according to a government accountability group that called for the more rigorous law to be reinstated.

The Citizens Campaign called the freeholders’ new policy an “ill-advised” resolution in a release today, which would open the door for less accountability in local campaign financing.

Heather Taylor, an organization spokesperson, said, “The new policy adopted by Monmouth County is clearly designed to reinstate business as usual, allowing for the trading of campaign contributions for government contracts. After Operation Bid Rig, Monmouth County taxpayers cannot afford to return to the days of wheeling and dealing with taxpayer’s money.”  (Carroll, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room 



Christie: My door is open if Lewis wants to meet

As civil rights movement hero U.S. Rep. John Lewis prepares for a press conference to discuss comments made by Gov. Chris Christie about the movement that made Lewis an icon, Christie invited the congressman for a visit to the Statehouse.

“Congressman Lewis is an American hero,” Christie said.  “Any time that he wants to come to New Jersey he will be welcome with open arms.  If Congressman Lewis wanted to come by and see me I’d clear my calendar to see him.  I’d be excited to meet him. I’ve never met him.”  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)






Christie gets history class after talking too much

A week ago, the state’s top gay rights advocate hailed Governor Christie as a civil rights hero for nominating a gay black man to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

But on Monday, Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a Civil Rights-era icon “who left a little blood on that bridge in Selma,” accused Christie of ignorance.

“Apparently, the governor of this state has not read his recent history books,” Lewis said in a news conference outside the Trenton train station with Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Rep. Rush Holt, a Central Jersey Democrat. “Maybe he has not watched a segment of the ‘Eyes on the Prize,’ ” the award-winning documentary about the Civil Rights movement.  (Stile, The Record)



Rutgers-Camden, Rowan may marry, but they should keep their names

Gov. Christie’s proposal to “merge” Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University under the Rowan name looks less like a collegial partnership and more like a hostile takeover. Or perhaps a shotgun wedding.

Whatever you call it, the plan – part of an effort to reorganize, if not revolutionize, higher education statewide – feels like a foregone conclusion.

It arrived last week, floating on promises of more money, more jobs, more . . . more. And like so many decisions with enormous consequences for Camden, it appears to have been made with little input from people who live or work there.  (Riordan, The Philadelphia Inquirer)


  Morning News Digest: January 31, 2012