Morning News Digest: January 9, 2012

Morning News Digest: January 9, 2012 By Missy Rebovich Try State Street Wire, Follow PolitickerNJ on Twitter and Facebook. Text

Morning News Digest: January 9, 2012

By Missy Rebovich

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



As appeals court weighs decision on Mosquera, lawmakers join the fray

As an appeals court prepares to decide the fate of 4th District Assembly candidate Gabriel Mosquera, Democratic lawmakers around the state railed against the ruling that nullified her November election win.

A District Court judge Thursday wiped out the results of her election because she had not lived in the district for the required one year prior to November.

Mosquera’s lawyer has appealed and is seeking emergent relief in order to get Mosquera reinstated in time for Tuesday’s swearing in.  But several prominent Democrats also are weighing in on the case, saying the ruling by Judge George Leone will disenfranchise the 19,000 plus voters who supported Mosquera in November.   (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



Teaneck Deputy Mayor Gussen to run against Garrett

Teaneck Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen tonight announced his decision to run for Congress against U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5).

“In grade school we learned that pro and con are opposites,” said the Democrat. “It has taken the likes of Scott Garrett to teach us all how Congress has become the opposite of Progress. Scott Garrett is wrong for the people of the 5th District, and the people of NJ. He represents the fringe of the (Republican Party)and is not representative of the values nor sensitive to the needs of those he was elected to represent. He has become a caricature of himself trying to outdo the most right wing of the right wing the most conservative of the conservative. District 5 needs something new.”  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



In CD 10, Payne targets rightward-tilted GOP, Rice pinpoints Dems’ failure to stand by Obama

A potential 10th Congressional District Dem Primary features U.S. Rep. Donald Payne against West Ward Councilman Ronald C. Rice, in which the veteran incumbent focuses on enemy GOP Tea Partiers while the challenger takes aim at what he sees as weakness within the ranks of elected Democrats. 

Rice has formed an exploratory committee and intends to make a final decision about running sometime in February following a scheduled January 31st fundraiser at the Spot in Newark.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



N.J. Gov. Chris Christie opens up about his woulda-coulda-shouldas

Regrets? He has a few.

Maybe he shouldn’t have stayed at Disney World after a blizzard buried parts of the state in 30-plus inches of snow last winter. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to tell reporters they should “take a bat” to state Sen. Loretta Weinberg.

As he prepared for Tuesday’s State of the State address, the usually brash Gov. Chris Christie told The Star-Ledger in a wide-ranging interview that perhaps he should have done some things differently — hardly the posture New Jerseyans have come to expect.  (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)



Gov. Christie admits his ‘spontaneity’ sometimes gets him in trouble

Turns out Gov. Christie does have a filter to process his thoughts before he speaks into a microphone.

He just doesn’t always use it.

“I think I can become better at the way I express myself to the public,” Christie acknowledged Friday in a 45-minute Statehouse interview to mark his term’s midpoint.

“I’m a completely unscripted person most of the time, and sometimes that leads you to say things that in retrospect you wish you had said differently. . . . Those are all things that I have to keep in mind.”

Christie’s rare admission of fault comes nearly two years into a term that has seen him achieve bipartisan policy victories at home and an explosion in political popularity nationwide.  (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Christie turns protestor’s chant into anti-Obama tirade

After protestors interrupted his rally on Sunday, Mitt Romney got help from an ally who doesn’t mind going toe-to-toe with hecklers -– New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

After a handful of “Christie kills jobs!” chants could be heard rippling through the jam-packed Exeter High School gym, the famously combative Christie immediately retorted, “Really? You know, something may go down tonight, but it ain’t gonna be jobs, sweetheart.”

The governor said that 60,000 new jobs had been created under his administration, and quickly sought to turn the disruption to his friend’s political advantage by seeking to tie her remarks to President Obama.  (Boxer, The National Journal)



Christie: School changes this year

Gov. Christie said he believed he had a good shot at making significant changes to public schools this year because the Legislature seems to have the political will to vote on proposals that stalled in 2011.

The Republican governor told the Associated Press he might have overreached by expecting the Democratic-controlled Legislature to approve a contentious public worker pension/health benefits overhaul, then take up difficult education issues in a reelection year. He said he realized now the legislators were probably too fatigued politically to do both.  (Delli Santi, Associated Press)



Analysis: N.J. Legislature’s racial, ethnic makeup out of step with state’s demographics

The new Legislature that takes over Tuesday will look very much like the old one — and not much like New Jersey.

White males once again will dominate the 120-member Legislature, which will also have lots of 50-somethings and lawyers, according to a Star-Ledger review.

Fourteen new members of the 215th Legislature will be sworn in after noon, including a chiropractor, a Gulf War vet and a former special education teacher.

The number of openly gay lawmakers will double to two, which is the same number of new lawmakers named Chris Brown. Women will lose one seat. There will be one more African-American member and three more Hispanics.  (Friedman and DeMarco, The Star-Ledger)



Retiring Assemblyman Joseph R. Malone III reflects on his record

Assemblyman Joseph R. Malone III, who has represented parts of Monmouth and Ocean counties for two decades, sat in his office Friday and greeted a stream of well-wishers who had come to say goodbye.

Malone, 62, a Republican who has developed a statewide reputation for speak-his-mind comments on government spending and politics, is retiring and clearing out his office in the last few days of the state legislative session.

A former longtime GOP budget officer, Malone had announced last summer that he would not seek another term in office. His district had shifted south in the redistricting process, done every 10 years.  (Method, Gannett)



Special Report: Did N.J. property tax reform help most taxpayers?

New Jersey homeowners paid an average of 2.4 percent more for property taxes in 2011, the smallest increase in nearly two decades, showing Gov. Chris Christie’s push to restrain local levies might be working.

A Star-Ledger analysis of taxes in all 566 New Jersey towns shows the average property tax bill was $7,758 last year, an increase of about $182 from 2010.

Although more than 82 percent of the towns saw some increase in their average property tax bills last year, the 2.4 percent increase was a significantly slower rate of growth, the newspaper found. In 2010, property taxes rose 4.1 percent and year-over-year increases topped 7 percent for three consecutive years in the middle of the past decade.  (DeMarco and Sagara, The Star-Ledger)



Menendez denies opposition to appointment is political payback

Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) said Friday that his decision to block a federal court appointment had nothing to do with the judge’s relationship to a federal prosecutor who investigated him in 2006.

Menendez is the first Democrat to reject one of President Obama’s judicial appointments. He said Judge Patty Shwartz, whom Obama nominated in October, was not qualified to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia.

“Judge Shwartz did not adequately demonstrate the breadth of knowledge of constitutional law and pivotal Supreme Court decisions . . . that we should expect from a U.S. Circuit Court judge,” Menendez, a lawyer serving his first full Senate term, said in a statement.  (Farrell, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



George Norcross discusses Urban Hope Act, other education reforms

George Norcross’ name is inextricably linked to the Urban Hope Act — the seemingly unstoppable legislation that would permit private organizations to build and manage public schools in New Jersey.

His brother Donald is the bill’s chief sponsor in the state Senate. His Camden ties and stated visions for revamping the city’s schools are mirrored in the legislation.

Now that the Urban Hope Act looks all but certain for passage in the legislature today, NJ Spotlight caught up with the South Jersey businessman and political leader this weekend and asked him to explain what he has in mind.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



Same-sex marriage a priority for Democrats in Trenton

Democratic leaders in New Jersey are planning to make a bill allowing same-sex marriage the centerpiece of their agenda for 2012, reflecting a key change from two years ago, when a leading Senate Democrat abstained from a vote on the issue.

But the legislation still faces long odds. Unlike two years ago, when there was a Democratic governor ready to sign the bill if the Legislature passed it, this time Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican with national ambitions, is expected to veto it.

While Democrats control the Legislature, they will need votes from Republicans to override any veto. And while they identify some Republicans who they hope will support the legislation, the Democrats acknowledge that overriding a veto is a long shot.  (Zernike, The New York Times)



N.J. bill to allow sports wagering, permit betting on horse racing at 12 bars or restaurants goes before lawmakers

New Jersey lawmakers are set to expand the ways in which residents can gamble.

The state legislature will vote today on bills that would legalize sports betting and set up a pilot program in which patrons at up to 12 bars or restaurants could place bets on horse races.

But even if the sports betting measure passes and is signed by Gov. Chris Christie, who supports it, New Jersey would still have to go to court to try to overturn a federal ban on sports betting in all but four states.  (Associated Press)



N.J. considers changing school elections criteria

A bill giving New Jersey districts the option to move school board elections to November will go before the state Legislature.

The measure up for consideration Monday also allows school budgets to skip voter approval if they are within the 2 percent property tax cap. Otherwise, voters would have to approve the additional spending.

School elections are now held in April in New Jersey, and all school budgets require voter approval.  (Associated Press)|topnews|text|State



Despite critics’ concerns over drinking water and sprawl, water quality bill poised for OK

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns it could degrade New Jersey’s waters. A consultant claims it could lead to the dumping of more than 1 million pounds of pollutants into waterways. It even appears to have united the increasingly fractured environmental movement in the state.

Nonetheless, the lame-duck legislature is poised to approve a bill (S-3156) today that would once again delay water quality management rules, which advocates argue are crucial to protecting drinking water supplies and preventing sprawl.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



N,J. lawmakers seek to compel greater solar-energy production

New Jersey lawmakers, pressed by solar-power lobbyists, will send a bill to the full Legislature that would compel utilities to more than double their solar production in 2013.

The bill – which industry lobbyists want lawmakers to pass by Monday, the end of the lame-duck session – would boost New Jersey’s solar industry, but at the expense of ratepayers and utilities, critics say.

“What the solar developers are asking for is a bailout,” said Stefanie Brand, the state’s public advocate for utility customers.

“They want to get the benefit of the system,” Brand said. “And they need more money than the market will give them.”  (Schectman and Patberg, The Record)



No tax for Botox? Lawmakers to vote on repeal of nip/tuck levy

The tax on facelifts and tummy tucks could be repealed in New Jersey, under legislation being voted on today in Trenton.

Lawmakers are mulling whether to phase out a 6 percent tax on cosmetic surgery procedures that went into effect eight years ago.

The tax applies to elective procedures, like Botox, that aren’t usually covered by health insurance plans. The New Jersey Society of Plastic Surgeons has lobbied for repeal ever since the tax was enacted in 2004, arguing that it encourages patients to leave New Jersey and have procedures done in Pennsylvania and New York to avoid the tax.  (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)



Assembly to consider train station parking bill

Legislation designed to remedy parking problems at New Jersey Transit stations will be considered by the Assembly on Monday.

The measure — which has already passed the state Senate — would clarify that a paid, reserved permit parking space may be used by the general public during off-peak times. Proponents say that would help alleviate chronic parking space shortage problems experienced at the sites.

Off-peak times are defined as from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Friday, and all day during weekends and holidays.  (Associated Press)|topnews|text|State



N.J. leg considers bill limiting pesticide exposure

Assembly members are poised to consider a bill that would make New Jersey a national leader in limiting children’s pesticide exposure.

But it’s still not known if the measure will also get a vote in the state Senate on Monday, the last day of the current legislative session.

The “Child Safe Playing Field Act” would prohibit the use of most lawn pesticides on public and private school playgrounds, recreational fields and day care centers. Low-impact organic pesticide applications would be allowed, and there is an exception that allows stronger pesticides during emergencies.  (Associated Press)|topnews|text|State



N.J. lawmakers poised to consider logging measure

Commercial lumberjacks may soon be able to cut and sell trees from New Jersey’s state-owned forests.

Proponents say the program would help the state bring 800,000 acres of forest land back to health by removing trees and allowing sunlight to feed new growth. They say that would create new habitats and reduce the risk of fires.

But several environmental groups say the bill does little to address what they say is a major problem: the troubles caused by deer that eat most new plants in the forests.  (Associated Press)|topnews|text|State



Two candidates separated by style

Study just the voting records of Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr. and Steve Rothman, and it can be hard to tell them apart.

Their personal and political styles couldn’t be more different, and the two Democrats are likely to spend their upcoming primary fight focusing on their differences.

But that doesn’t change how they’ve voted since both were elected to Congress in 1996.

They each voted for President Obama’s marquee stimulus and health care laws, for raising the debt limit, and against a balanced budget amendment.  (Jackson, The Record)



In the suburbs, charter schools raise concerns about local control

When a charter school opens in a gritty urban neighborhood, few parents and officials argue that kids in the district don’t need an alternative to the local public schools. In a leafy New Jersey suburb — which may be home to some of the best schools in the country — charters can spark off a battle between skeptics and believers. The former often dismiss charters as “boutiques,” and argue that they’ll sap increasingly scarce dollars from local schools. The latter want their kids to have more choices and challenges — like Mandarin language immersion — and think their school taxes should pay for them.

Ultimately, the issue comes down to local control. Should school districts have the right to bar a charter from opening in their midst, as well as the right to refuse to pay for it?  (Lehren, NJ Spotlight)



Customers tapped by water rate increases

With thousands of heads to shampoo, spa robes to bleach and more towels to wash every week than anyone cares to calculate, the owner of five beauty salons in South Jersey is concerned about the cost of water.

Anthony Rossano, owner of Bernard’s Salon and Spa in Cherry Hill and Marlton and three spinoffs called B2, introduced women to sybaritic pleasures 23 years ago. Back then, the cost of water was barely a blip on his business budget.

Today, with increases up to 20 percent pending by New Jersey American Water, the state’s largest regulated water company, the cost of water is becoming a burden.  (Stilwell, Gannett)



Many are questioning parking authority hire in Camden

When Camden Parking Authority Board Commissioner Falio Leyba Martinez walked into the Dec. 19 board meeting, he didn’t think much of the agenda: routine. Approve minutes from the previous meeting and bills for the month.

Martinez left just before the meeting ended because of a family emergency.

Then the three board members who remained voted to hire Willie E. Hunter, a politically connected former board member, as the authority’s director of operations.  (Vargas, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Rejected 3 times, school may still open soon, and with a grant, too

In the last couple of years, Sharon Akman, a real estate agent, applied to the state of New Jersey three times to open a new charter school in the Highland Park area, to be called Tikun Olam Hebrew Language Charter High School.

Each time, she was rejected.

Then on Oct. 6, one week after the state’s most recent rejection, the United States Education Department announced that it had approved a $600,000 grant to finance Ms. Akman’s proposed charter.

It would have taken federal officials just a few phone calls to determine that there were many good reasons for the state to have rejected Ms. Akman’s applications.  (Winerip, The New York Times)



Beating Megan’s Law: How violent sex offenders can legally live in towns without the public knowing

Recently released sex offenders can live for months near schools, day care centers and playgrounds, with no requirement that community members — or even police — be notified.

New Jersey’s Megan’s Law requires that offenders be classified after their release from prison, a process that can take several months to complete.

Little Egg Harbor Police Chief Richard J. Buzby Jr. said he learned in the early fall that a man convicted of sexually assaulting two young girls had moved into nearby Tuckerton near two playgrounds and several school bus stops.  (Mikle, Gannett)



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Medical marijuana-related bill introduced

Two Democratic Assembly members have introduced a bill that would give some added help to the state’s medical marijuana program.

Peter Barnes III, (D-18), Edison, and Annette Quijano, (D-20), Elizabeth, have introduced a bill that would stipulate that authorized use of medical marijuana must be considered on the same level as use of other prescription medicine.  (Mooney, Staet Street Wire)



‘Grow NJ’ tax credit bill signed

The so-called “Grow New Jersey’’ bill that provides tax incentives when companies create new jobs and maintain existing ones has been signed into law.

Sen. Raymond Lesniak, (D-20), Elizabeth, said in a release that “The Grow New Jersey tax credit represents an innovative approach to spur economic activity and recovery, and will encourage businesses to expand in the Garden State.  This is the latest tool to help reshape our State’s economic climate and expand our job market, and I look forward to seeing the Grow New Jersey tax credit program in action.”  (Staff, State Street Wire)



Judiciary handling 37 nominations on Monday

Another 37 appointments are before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, following an extensive list that was approved on Thursday.

Four nominees will be interviewed by the panel: Joseph Buckelew (N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority); Mary-Anna Holden (N.J. Board of Public Utilities); Richard Vohden (Highlands Council); and Yolette Ross (State Parole Board).  (Carroll, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room 



PolitickerNY coverage from New Hampshire

Check out the on-the-ground coverage from our PolitickerNY colleague David Freedlander as he’s on hand for the final 48 hours before the New Hampshire primary.  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)






Christie says visit to Bergen wasn’t meant to signal GOP shake-up

Governor Christie came to Fair Lawn last Tuesday night to tout one of the Republican Party’s few triumphs last November, not to telegraph political doom for Bob Yudin the county GOP chairman.

“And that was all that was meant to signal,” Christie said in an interview with reporters from The Record on Thursday, “a little victory lap for my party at the municipal level in Bergen County.”

Christie brushed aside the symbolic significance of his swearing-in the new mayor, Jeanne Baratta, who doubles as Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan’s chief of staff.  (Stile, The Record)



Why did Sen. Robert Menendez block nomination of favored N.J. judge?

Like him or not, most people regard U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez as a very smart fellow. He was a boy wonder in Hudson County politics, winning public office at age 19 as an anti-corruption crusader. And in the decades since, his ascent up the political ladder has never stopped.

But what was he thinking when he blocked the nomination of Judge Patty Shwartz to the U.S. Court of Appeals?  (Moran, The Star-Ledger)



Another dustup between Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and state arts council?

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s irritation with the state Council on the Arts is no secret, but The Auditor was surprised to learn the council had been banished from the Department of State website.

The day after the arts council voted to hire a former Democratic legislator from Massachusetts, Nicholas Paleologos, as its executive director — since Guadagno forced out the last one — its name and internet link vanished from the list of agencies within the Department of State. In addition, Guadagno’s name was removed from the council board, though she is a non-voting member in her role as secretary of state.  (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)



On-line legal ad bill: Lame duck sneak attack

The lame duck session of the Legislature is a perfect time for last-minute stealth attacks. This year’s target is New Jersey newspapers..

And in a broader sense, it’s an attack on you, the reader.

Of course, that’s not how supporters are marketing S-2702, which will be voted on in both houses of the Legislature on Monday. It was tacked onto the voting agendas late Friday, a common and cowardly lame duck tactic. It gives opponents little notice and little time to mobilize opposition.  (Stile, The Record)



Lame duck session in Trenton mostly lame

New Jersey’s 215th Legislature will look a lot like the 214th, give or take a few familiar faces. But, by law, it will be different, and that’s why Monday in Trenton will look a lot like a fire sale at a department store.

The Assembly and Senate have board lists approaching 80 bills long — everything from a measure to discourage steroid use among students to legislation to require vehicle registrations to contain the issue date. And following the obligatory hail and farewell to departing colleagues, both houses will begin the slog through their final sessions before Tuesday’s reorganization and State of the State speech.  (Schoonejongen, Gannett)



N.J. needs to place its bets online

Tapping an online audience hungry for casino gaming was seen as a legal long shot, but a ruling made public late last month out of the federal Justice Department has New Jersey lawmakers seeing it as a sure bet.

Essentially, the Justice Department ruled as long as all gaming activity is in state, and does not include sports events, the activity is subject to the state’s own laws. The legal opinion concerned online lottery ticket sales, but has broad implications in markets like Atlantic City, which has a chance to be on the forefront of taking gaming beyond casino doors.  (NJBIZ)


  Morning News Digest: January 9, 2012