Morning News Digest: February 7, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Dem Assembly leadership tells caucus votes are there for marriage equality
Sources piling out of the Assembly Democratic Caucus room told PolitickerNJ.com that leadership expects to have 41 votes to get a majority on marriage equality, hence their willingness to post the bill next Thursday.
Ten to 12 caucus members did not report to today’s scheduled meeting, but the leaders said no worries – the votes will be there, according to sources.
“It wasn’t arrogant,” a source told PolitickerNJ.com. “There was more emphasis on how Democrats have always stood up for Civil Rights than the mechanics of how we get the votes. They underscored why this is important.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
West New York Mayor endorses Kyrillos over Menendez
West New York Mayor Felix Roque is endorsing state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-13) over U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) in the contest for U.S. Senate.
“I know Joe Kyrillos and he is a good man,” Roque told PolitickerNJ.com. “I have known Kyrillos for many years. He is a friend of mine.”
Roque vanquished incumbent West New York Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega in last year’s municipal elections.
Vega ran with the hearty endorsement of Menendez, the former mayor of neighboring Union City, and the victor said he doesn’t forget. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Three-way LD 16 Dem race scheduled for March 11
An LD 16 Democratic Primary convention showdown is scheduled for March 11 at the Manville VFW Building
As of right now, three candidates want the party’s backing to go up against the GOP: art teacher Marie Corfield of Flemington, Princeton Township Deputy Mayor Sue Nemeth and former council candidate William O’Brien of Rocky Hill.
An Assembly candidate last year who ran an energetic campaign and lost to the Republicans by fewer than 3,000 votes, Corfield (pictured) has the support of her 2011 running mate, South Brunswick Councilman Joe Camarota. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Poll: Christie liked, but his focus is not
A majority of New Jersey adults approve of Gov. Chris Christie’s job performance, according to the latest Monmouth University/New Jersey Press Media Poll, though nearly half think he is more concerned with his own political future than running the state.
Fifty-two percent of adults surveyed approve of the job Christie is doing as governor, including 24 percent who strongly approve.
Thirty-eight percent disapprove, 27 percent of them strongly. Those numbers are similar to the 54 percent to 38 percent mark Christie registered in a poll four months ago, conducted after he affirmed he wouldn’t run for president. (Symons, Gannett)
Christie looks to set up a N.Y. Giants’ victory rally in Meadowlands
Gov. Chris Christie said Monday that his staff is in contact with the New York Giants to see if a Super Bow victory rally can be held at Met-Life Stadium sometime this week.
“My folks are working with the Giants people this morning to try to get that done,” the governor said on WFAN radio. “Nothing is set yet, but we’re really hopeful that it will work out. And as you said I think the Maras and the Tisches are very sensitive to the fact that they have both New York fans and they have New Jersey fans and that all the facilities are over in our state. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Gov. Christie: A Giants parade no-show?
After all the cross-Hudson rivalry over which state gets to claim the victorious Giants, it seems New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is taking his time in deciding if he will honor the Super Bowl champs in New York.
A Christie administration spokesman said that the governor’s schedule is still being finalized for Tuesday, but he was “not planning on being in the city” as of Monday afternoon. Eli Manning and company are set to parade up Broadway starting at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Christie had campaigned for the team — who he emphatically calls the New Jersey Giants — to hold the parade in the Garden State instead. The Giants, of course, have played their home games in East Rutherford, N.J., since 1976. (Haddon, The Wall Street Journal)
N.J. Assembly will vote on legalizing gay marriage on Feb. 16
Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex) announced Monday that the Assembly will vote on legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey on Feb. 16.
The vote will follow the Senate vote on the measure, which is set for Feb. 13.
Oliver said the legislation was discussed during the lower house’s Democratic caucus. “We had a great conversation today about marriage equality and several other important matters,” she said. “I look forward to the Assembly voting on Feb. 16 to give the marriage equality legislation final legislative approval.” (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Tepid support as Sweeney renews pitch for shared services
New Jersey’s difficulty in consolidating and regionalizing school districts is well-known, but even a plan to just share services is proving easier said than done.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) has called expanded shared services by local schools and municipalities one of his legislative priorities for the year, saying it help would bring down or at least stabilize property taxes.
With schools the bulk of the local tax bill, Sweeney has pressed a year-old bill that would allow the state to appoint in each county an organization such as an education services commission or special service district to serve as a hub for sharing local school resources like transportation, nursing and special education programs. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Bill to change N.J. teacher tenure rules is reintroduced by lawmaker
State Sen. Teresa Ruiz introduced a bill today that would dramatically overhaul teacher tenure by using a rating system based on annual evaluations.
The bill is the latest attempt to overhaul the century-old system that has come under fire from Gov. Chris Christie and other critics who say tenure protects bad teachers and is a lifetime guarantee of employment. Proponents for tenure argue teachers must be protected from political hiring decisions.
Christie has made teacher tenure and other education changes a major goal of his administration. (DeMarco, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. Senate committee approves bill to expand job opportunities for ex-convicts
Legislation designed to expand employment opportunities for some ex-convicts in order to aid in their reentry into society was unanimously approved by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee Monday.
The bill, S-876, would permit certain ex-offenders convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude to be employed by alcoholic beverage licensees, so long as they are not involved in the serving, selling, soliciting, mixing or handling of alcoholic beverages. (Hester. New Jersey Newsroom)
Proposal to create N.J. Office of Taxpayer Advocate approved by Senate panel
A longstanding proposal by Sen. Diane Allen (R- Burlington) to create an office within the state Treasury Department designed to attempt to improve customer service for taxpayers and streamline compliance issues was approved Monday by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism, and Historic Preservation Committee.
The measure (S-1187), establishes the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate, a position that would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate that would bear responsibility for improving taxpayers’ experience in dealing with Treasury’s Division of Taxation and make recommendations to improve tax law so as to ease compliance problems for businesses and individuals. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Assembly Committee clears health insurance exchange bill
The first in a long series of steps toward healthcare reform was taken yesterday, when a bill that will introduce sweeping changes to the way insurance is sold in New Jersey was voted out of an Assembly committee.
A2171 defines a health insurance exchange — an online marketplace where individuals and small businesses will buy coverage starting in 2014, when federal healthcare regulations will make insurance mandatory for most Americans. The bill was moved over the objections of health insurers and business trade groups, but with strong support from consumer advocates. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
NJ bill requiring teens stay in school advances
New Jersey teenagers would have to stay in school until they’re 18 under a bill approved by a state Senate committee.
State law requires those between 6 and 16 to regularly attend school. Several states have sought to raise the age limit to reduce the drop-out rate.
The bill approved Monday by the Senate’s Education Committee now heads to the full Senate for a vote. (Associated Press)
Atlantic City casinos betting on hand-held devices to drive business
Legislation that would allow patrons at Atlantic City casinos to make bets through hand-held devices was cleared by a state Senate committee Monday.
Sen. Jim Whelan, chairman of the Senate Wagering Committee, said the devices are in line with the expectations of a new generation of visitors to the casinos.
“It’s being done in Nevada and other jurisdictions,” Whelan said. “This is an attempt to recognize the reality that we have a generation now of young adults who are used to getting their recreation and communication in the palm of their hand.” (Jordan, Gannett)
2 different career paths define Christie N.J. Supreme Court nominees
One nominee has logged long hours in the courtroom, and the other has rarely appeared before a judge. One has a $3.5 million real estate portfolio, while the other owns less than $1 million worth of property.
Those are just a couple of the distinctions between the two attorneys nominated by Gov. Chris Christie to serve on the state Supreme Court detailed in questionnaires submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The documents, obtained by The Star-Ledger, offered a glimpse into the different backgrounds of Phillip Kwon, 44, of Closter, and Bruce Harris, 61, the mayor of Chatham borough. If confirmed, Harris would be the first openly gay justice on the court, and Kwon the first Asian-American. (Baxter and Spoto, The Star-Ledger)
State judge reverses dismissal of ethics charges against lawmaker
An action by a state panel that resulted in dismissing ethics charges against state Assemblyman Scott Rumana was scuttled by a judge Monday because a panel member was allowed a vote by phone.
William Brennan, the Wayne resident who had sued the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards in October after it voted against adopting charges against Rumana, said Monday that the state Superior Court judge’s opinion showed that the committee had violated the law. (McGrath, The Record)
Watchdog group seeks audit of Rep. Rob Andrews’ spending
A watchdog group called Monday for an audit of campaign spending by Rep. Rob Andrews, after an election agency indicated the congressmen spent more than $11,000 in political contributions on a West Coast trip with his daughter.
Andrews, a Democrat from Haddon Heights, traveled to Los Angeles in mid-November, the same time his 16-year-old daughter, Josie, an aspiring singer, had a recording-studio session there. (Walsh, Gannett)
Rutgers-Rowan merger moves forward
Is the president of Rutgers University willing to cede his school’s Camden campus to Rowan University?
The most accurate answer may be: It depends.
“Given a choice . . . I seriously doubt the board of trustees or the board of governors would want to give up Rutgers-Camden,” president Richard McCormick told a Senate hearing yesterday on the proposed restructuring of the state’s medical schools.
Yet McCormick also hinted that Rutgers might still give its approval to the merger if it meant the state university would take control over three central Jersey arms of the University of Medicine and Dentistry, whose restructuring is the focus of the plan. (O’Dea, NJ Spotlight)
Costs of New Jersey higher education merger are still unknown
It will cost New Jersey $40 million to merge Rutgers University and the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, but the overall price tag to reorganize higher education in the state remains an open question.
The additional costs for Rowan University to take over the Rutgers-Camden campus or for the re-creation of a medical school in Newark have not yet been developed, officials told the state Senate Higher Education Committee during a hearing on Monday. (Method, Gannett)
Monmouth Park bid is back in the running
Efforts by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration to put new management in place at Monmouth Park are back on track, with the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association resurrecting an expedited bid to take over the landmark Oceanport track.
Negotiations to lease the state-owned facility to real estate developer Morris Bailey collapsed two months ago, but the horsemen’s group has made an offer “substantially similar” to Bailey’s bid, said John Forbes, president of the THA. (Jordan, Gannett)
29 school board members disqualified throughout New Jersey
Seventeen school board members were disqualified for failing criminal background checks, and 12 others have been disqualified for failing to submit to background checks by the extended deadline, the state Department of Education announced Monday.
The list includes four from Atlantic County; three from Monmouth County; two from Camden County; and one each from Bergen, Gloucester, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, Union and Warren counties. These include 14 school board members and three charter school trustees. (Symons, Gannett)
State agency urged to turn down proposal for first offshore wind farm
The state is being urged to reject a proposal to build New Jersey’s first offshore wind farm about three miles off Atlantic City by the Division of Rate Counsel, which argues the project fails to deliver a net economic benefit.
The recommendation from a consultant hired by the division is backed by its director, Stefanie Brand, who said, “the numbers just don’t add up.” The was filed Friday with the Board of Public Utilities, which is expected to act on the Fishermen’s Energy project sometime this spring. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Atlantic City tax credit program bill advances
The Senate Tourism and Wagering Committee released bill S1324, which would create a new tax credit program for development within Atlantic City that doesn’t include casinos or other gaming facilities.
Under the bill, non-gaming properties located in the Atlantic City Tourism district would be eligible for tax credits from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority when they expand and employ more state residents. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Marriage equality bill faces votes next week
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said this afternoon the chamber will vote Feb. 16 on the marriage equality bill.
“We had a great conversation today about marriage equality and several other important matters,” Oliver said in a release following a caucus.
“I look forward to the Assembly voting on Feb. 16 to give the marriage equality legislation final legislative approval.” (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Contract information web site bill released by committee
The Senate State Government, Wagering and Tourism Committee on Monday unanimously released bill S143, which requires the state Treasurer to post up-to-date contract and grant information on a single web site.
Documents could include purchases, contracts or agreements, and grants, awards, or loans paid with state funds by or on behalf of a state agency. A link to the web site would be included on the state home page. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
DEP wants to intervene in Pa. power plant’s EPA challenge
The state Department of Environmental Protection filed a motion today in federal court to intervene in a Pennsylvania power plant’s challenge to a federal Clean Air Act permit that, it said, requires it to substantially cut air pollution in New Jersey.
The power plant, located in Portland, Pa., releases thousands of tons of pollutants a day into several North Jersey counties, said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Gusciora to meet with Christie later this week
A week after Gov. Chris Christie called Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-15) a numbnut, the two men are scheduled to sit down and talk.
Gusciora emailed the governor after Christie slammed him last week.
The battle started when Christie lamented the fact that civil rights wasn’t on the ballot in the 1960s. Gusciora went into attack mode, and the governor later objected to the assemblyman likening him to George Wallace and Lester Maddox. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Former Govs. Tom Kean, Brendan Byrne on key N.J. issues
Former governors discuss gay marriage, Chris Christie’s judicial nominees, the higher ed restructuring plan, and the proposed switch from fighting drug with incarceration to treatment. (Kean and Byrne for The Star-Ledger)
Christie’s hypocrisy evident on proposed gay marriage, charter school referendums
Democracy is a wonderful thing, except when it’s not, but it’s often difficult to know when it is and when it isn’t. It all depends on, well, politics — or the whims of the governor, which in New Jersey is often pretty much the same thing.
So, according to Gov. Chris Christie, it’s a good thing to have a vote on a civil right — same-sex marriage — but not a good thing to have a vote on local charter schools. (Braun, The Star-Ledger)