Morning News Digest: February 15, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Qarmout to announce GOP candidacy for U.S. Senate
Morris County College sociology Prof. Bader Qarmout of Newton intends to announce his Republican candidacy for the U.S. Senate Monday in Sparta.
“If I have to sum it up in one word it would be love,” said Qarmout, when asked why he’s getting in the race. “Love for democracy, love for the ccountry, and love requires action.”
The fledgling candidate said he wants to be the businessman in the race. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Self-proclaimed ‘conservative’ freeholder team rolls out in Morris County
Republicans John Cesaro, councilman from Parsippany-Troy Hills; John Krickus, former mayor of Washington Township; and David M. Scapicchio, former mayor of Mount Olive, today announced the formation of a joint campaign committee to challenge the three incumbent Republican Morris County Freeholders who are up for re-election this June. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Source: Christie due in to WNY tomorrow to stand with Roque
A week after West New York Mayor Felix Roque stunned Hudson County by endorsing Joe Kyrillos over Bob Menendez in the U.S. Senate contest, Gov. Chris Christie plans to travel to the North Hudson town in support of the locally embattled Roque.
Christie is scheduled to appear at Memorial High School at 11 a.m., according to sources in West New York.
The timing reveals the governor’s willingness to stand with Roque as the mayor tries to fend off Democratic Party outrage over his decision to back Christie’s friend, Kyrillos, a Republican, over local legend Menendez, a Democrat. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie: Supreme Court nominees to be heard in March
Gov. Chris Christie today said he has been assured that the nominations of his two Supreme Court nominees will be heard in March and that their confirmations will be fully resolved by the end of that month.
“I’ve had the assurance of the Senate president since last May and he has assured me again and again we will have hearings during the month of March and a resolution of their confirmation during the month of March,” Christie said. “And so he has done nothing to back off of that in the conversations he has had with me.” (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Gov. says Cerf has changed residence to get confirmed
With his embattled nominee for education commissioner again facing delays in confirmation, Gov. Chris Christie threw his support behind Christopher Cerf’s assertion that he has changed his residence, even as Cerf’s own words continue to add haze to his claims.
Christie, speaking during a morning news conference at the Statehouse Tuesday, said Cerf has taken the necessary legal steps to change his residency from Montclair in Essex County to Montgomery in Somerset County.
“He’s done everything that he needs to do to establish residency,” Christie said. “He’s changed his driver’s license, he’s changed his voter registration, and he has a lease down there (in Montgomery) on an apartment, and so I don’t know how else you judge residence other than that, and those are the factual indicators that they use.” (Schoonejongen, Gannett)
Gov against constitutional convention on taxes, schools
Gov. Chris Christie does not, for now, support the idea advanced by a Democratic power broker that New Jersey should hold a constitutional convention to address taxes and school-funding issues.
“I don’t think we’re there yet,” Christie said. “I’m not convinced. I think a constitutional convention is a significant step. I don’t think we’re at the point where we need to do that.”
But, Christie added, the proposal “could be something in the future.” (Method, Gannett)
Chris Christie: No brokered Republican National Convention
As he dismissed speculation of a brokered convention, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie hinted Tuesday that the Republican Party only has itself to blame for a drawn out primary process.
“The fact is, this is what the Republican Party rules set up. We decided to go from winner-take-all to proportional, and as a result, you’re going to have a much longer run here. … So the rules are working the way the rules were intended to work by the folks in the RNC. We voted against that rule, by the way, in New Jersey,” Christie told reporters at a press conference. (Lee, Politico)
Christie douses “brokered convention” talk
The possibility of a selecting a Republican nominee through a “brokered convention” is starting to gain traction among pundits and Anybody-But-Mitt activists.
But Governor Christie dismissed the idea Tuesday and expressed confidence that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will have enough delegates to seize the nomination when the Republican National Convention convenes in Tampa in August.
“That stuff that folks in the media and political punditry like to talk about…hasn’t happened in the Republican Party since Wendell Wilkie,” said Christie, who is one of Romney’s top campaign surrogates and has been mentioned as a possible running mate. “I don’t think it’s going to be happening in 2012.” (Stile, The Record)
Christie calls same-sex marriage vote “just theater,” promises quick veto
Governor Christie called Monday’s vote for same-sex marriage in the Senate “just theater” and promised today he would “take swift action” with a veto if the bill passes the Assembly later this week.
In an about face from two years ago, the Democratic-controlled Senate advanced a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage by a 24-16 margin on Monday.
The measure will go next to the Assembly, where Democrats also hold an advantage. A vote is scheduled for Thursday and Democratic leaders say they are confident it will pass.
Christie, a Republican, has vowed to veto the bill. He wants the issue to go before voters in November. (Reitmeyer, The Record)
Christie seeks more latitude for judges on bail denial
Gov. Christie, a former federal prosecutor, wants a constitutional amendment on the state ballot in November to change the state’s bail law so certain violent offenders are kept in jail until their trials.
The change would mirror the federal system and bring New Jersey in line with other states that give judges more leeway in forbidding bail to the accused.
Christie offered no specifics but said pretrial detentions would be allowed if evidence suggested that a defendant might not return to court, or if a defendant’s release could lead to violence against witnesses or others. (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
In honor of Whitney Houston, Gov. Christie ordering flags flown at half-staff in N.J.
Gov. Chris Christie plans to sign an executive order requesting flags on public buildings in New Jersey to fly at half-staff on the day of Jersey native Whitney Houston’s funeral.
“Whitney Houston was an important part of the cultural fabric of this state,” Christie said during a press briefing today. “She was a cultural icon in this state and her accomplishments in her life were a source of great pride for many people in this state and for this state as a whole. On that basis, I think she’s entitled to have that recognition made for her.”
Christie said he will sign the order later this week, when the pop star’s family makes a final decision on when the funeral will be. (Portnoy and DeMarco, The Star-Ledger)
Poll: Voters not warm to Christie plan to upend N.J. university system
Less than a quarter of New Jersey voters support Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to fold Rutgers-Camden into Rowan University, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released today.
According to the poll, 57 percent of registered voters disapprove of the proposal, which would result in Rutgers losing its satellite campus on Camden to Rowan, including the law and business schools there; 22 percent approve of the move, and 21 percent of voters say they are unsure.
Last month, Christie announced the recommendations of a special committee he established to study the creation of major research institutions in New Brunswick, Newark and Camden. (DeMarco, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. proposal to convert foreclosed homes to affordable housing introduced in state Senate
Legislation that would create an office under the state Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency that would use money from the state Affordable Housing Trust Fund to purchase foreclosed properties to be used as affordable housing has been introduced by two Democratic state senators.
The bill would also create incentives for cities and towns to change foreclosed properties into affordable housing by giving them a 2-to-1 match against their affordable housing obligation for affordable houses created from foreclosed properties. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
New list of SDA projects will face tough history lesson
Today, Gov. Chris Christie will be in West New York’s Memorial High School to announce a new class of school construction projects for New Jersey’s neediest districts, according to his office.
Yet the pace of progress on the last class — announced with less fanfare one year ago today — may not exactly bode well for a lot of shovels getting in the ground anytime soon.
Of the in places like Jersey City, Newark and Elizabeth that were given the green light by the Schools Development Authority last February, just two have even gone out for bid. Another two projects are slated to go to bid next month, and four more after that. The final plans for the two remaining are still to be developed, officials said. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
N.J. generic drug industry would benefit from federal bill
A bill to speed up low-cost generic drug delivery to patients will boost New Jersey’s generic drug industry, create jobs and save consumers billions of dollars, according to U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-Long Branch), who introduced the proposed legislation.
The bill, known as the Generic Drug and Biosimilar User Fee Act of 2012, will authorize generic drug manufacturers and the Food and Drug Administration to expedite review of generic drug applications, and provide funding to review and approve lower-priced versions of complex, living cell-based biologic drugs, known as biosimilars. (Eder, NJBIZ)
With demand strong, EDA shelves residential Urban Transit Hub applications
The state Economic Development Authority will temporarily stop accepting applications for residential projects under the Urban Transit Hub tax credit program, agency officials said today, as the demand for residential tax credits has outpaced availability.
At the EDA’s monthly board meeting, in Trenton, CEO Caren S. Franzini said the incentive program was about $30.5 million from reaching its $250 million cap on residential tax credits. She recommended the remaining allocation be reserved for projects that were previously approved and “ready to go,” but in need of additional credits to close their financing gaps. (Burd, NJBIZ)
Lawmakers ask Obama to save fisheries lab
One day after President Barack Obama proposed in his budget to close a fisheries lab on the Jersey Shore, state lawmakers are asking him to reconsider.
Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez and Rep. Frank Pallone, all Democrats, sent a letter to Obama on Tuesday to express “strong opposition” to closing the lab.
“We will work to prevent the closure of this facility during the upcoming appropriations process and we ask that you reconsider your position,” the lawmakers wrote. (Herman, Gannett)
NJ Chamber of Commerce chief says state is making a comeback
New Jersey is in the midst of a business comeback, according to the president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.
Tom Bracken, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, was the keynote speaker for the eighth annual Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce’s “State of the Chamber” meeting Tuesday morning.
“The comeback has begun,” Bracken told the local business leaders who were gathered. “You can see that the administration is fighting for you. You cannot replicate what this state has.” (Huba, Gannett)
Solar growth spurt: Good news – at least for now
Speculation about an imminent collapse in the solar sector in New Jersey seems to be off the mark, at least for now.
Last month, the state set an all-time record for the number of solar systems installed, with approximately 84 megawatts of new capacity developed. That brings the total installed capacity in New Jersey to nearly 654 megawatts.
The development comes at a time when some in the industry worry the flourishing solar business in New Jersey could be headed for a fall, largely due the steep drop in prices for the electricity the systems generate. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Think tank cautions NJ needs to do more to prepare for Medicaid surge
As state plans for changes, conservative group differs from Rutgers study on impact of healthcare reform.
While supporting most of the measures the state is taking to address the rising cost of Medicaid, the Common Sense Institute of New Jersey, a conservative think tank, argues that more needs to be done if the state is to wrestle with a surge in Medicaid patients due to the federal Affordable Care Act.
Indeed, the think tank cites estimates developed by the Cato Institute that Medicaid patients could rise from its current 1.2 million members in New Jersey to more than 2 million. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
Amazon commits to Del. Warehouse; impact on possible N.J. investment unknown
New Jersey has mounted a well-publicized effort to attract a distribution center for Amazon.com Inc., but the online retail giant today announced it has chosen Delaware for the site of a new warehouse, leaving it unclear what the retailer’s future in the Garden State may be.
Delaware’s Economic Development Office announced the move in a press release, and said the warehouse will create 850 jobs in the First State. (Eder, NJBIZ)
EDA approves grant for canceled TV show
The state Economic Development Authority approved a nearly $7.3 million tax credit for an NBC medical drama that was cancelled two years ago.
The show, a hospital drama called “Mercy,” was filmed in or around Jersey City. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
EDA amends Urban Transit Hub program
The state Economic Development Authority approved changes Tuesday to the Urban Transit Hub tax credit program to make it more effective.
The amendments were suggested following a review of the program the EDA conducts periodically.
Under the UTHTC, which was approved in 2008, commercial projects are eligible to receive a 100 percent tax credit toward their capital costs. For residential projects, the UTHTC could be as much as 35 percent of the costs, according to EDA. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Judiciary slated to interview Higher Education secretary
Although Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf’s appearance Thursday before the Senate Judiciary has once again been put off, another Cabinet level official is now scheduled to appear before the panel.
Rochelle Hendricks is scheduled to be interviewed for the post of Secretary of Higher Education.
Gov. Chris Christie nominated her to the post in May. His Higher Education Task Force had recommended the post be created. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Editor: Inky antsy over potential sale to powerbrokers
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s executive editor told the Washington Post that newsroom anxiety exists over the potential sale of the Inky to a group of investors that includes Democratic Party powerbrokers.
Stan Wischonowski acknowledged to the Post’s Erik Wemple that the interest of former Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell and South Jersey Democratic Party Powerbroker George Norcross III in the paper doesn’t constitute “usual circumstances.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Where in the world is Christopher Cerf?
As talk swirls about the actual residency of Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf, we decided to see what the tax man had to say about it. We’re not sure what this says – if anything – about Cerf’s residency and whether he’ll eventually come before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but this is the state Division of Taxation’s take on what constitutes a domicile. These rules govern the filing of taxes and not senatorial courtesy, but if it’s good enough for the Division of Taxation… (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)