Morning News Digest: March 13, 2012

Morning News Digest: March 13, 2012

By Missy Rebovich

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FDU Poll: Christie job approval at 54%

Governor Chris Christie continues to ride high in public approval, putting up his best numbers since March of 2009, just weeks after he took office. According to the most recent statewide survey by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™, 54% of New Jersey voters approve of the job Christie is doing, while 34% disapprove, and 12% are mixed or not sure. Moreover, half of voters (50%) rate the job he has been doing as “good” or “excellent.”

“His numbers are noteworthy at a time when national Republican candidates have been sharply critical of each other,” said Peter Woolley, director of the poll.  (Staff, PolitickerNJ)



Christie: ‘everybody gets agitated’ with subpoenas

In the aftermath of the Assembly Transportation Committee last week passing a bill to investigate the finances of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie denounced the effort as a political escapade.

Looking for subpoena power to examine the inner workings of the authority and teaming with New York lawmakers on hearings, the efforts of Committee Chairman Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19) represent “just a political thing,” the governor said.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Bergen County GOP will decide its freeholder slate, says Christie

On March 15th this week, the Bergen County Republican Organization (BCRO) will select its candidates for this year’s county races, but Gov. Chris Christie said he does not intend to get involved.

Of particular pressing interest is the fate of incumbent Freeholder Rob Hermansen, who at this year’s swearing-in ceremony denounced elements of bossism of county politics and appeared to openly disagree with BCRO Chairman Bob Yudin’s influence on the county leadership process.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Christie makes no apologies following verbal spat with ex SEAL as Greenwald attacks

Less than a week after he got in a Town Hall scrap with a war veteran, Gov. Chris Christie made no apologies about calling William Brown an idiot.

Less than a week after he got in a Town Hall scrap with a war veteran, Gov. Chris Christie made no apologies about calling William Brown an idiot.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Christie appearance at fundraiser Kyrillos Senate bid raises $600,000

Gov. Chris Christie Monday night helped rake in $600,000 at the first fundraiser of Republican state Sen. Joe Kyrillos’ bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez.

More than 500 people were expected to attend $250 a plate dinner at PNC Arts Center in Holmdel. Besides Christie and Kyrillos, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Ocean County GOP Chairman George Gilmore were on the bill.  (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)



Christie and Cerf call on legislature to approve 3 key education bills

Gov. Chris Christie and state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf Monday called on the Democratic-controlled Legislature to approve the proposals the governor has made in what he sees as an effort to improve public education.

During a visit to Bordentown Regional High School, Christie said the legislation is needed to turn around failing schools and provide the students with an education that prepares them for college or a career.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



N.J. and N.Y. legislators to hold Port Authority joint public hearing on finances and accountability

New Jersey and New York legislators Friday announced they will hold a joint public hearing on the finances and accountability of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on April 20 at the College of Staten Island.

The legislators intend to examine the authority’s spending practices and financial management, and, as they describe it, develop ways to make the bi-state agency more accountable and transparent.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



‘More progressive’ than Pascrell, Rothman tells editorial board

An animated Rep. Steve Rothman pitched himself Monday as a more liberal alternative to Democratic primary opponent Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. on abortion, immigration, and the 2008 Wall Street bailout.

“I’ve been more progressive than he is,” Rothman told the editorial board of The Record in a wide-ranging meeting.  (Jackson, The Record)



Terry Duffy drops out of 5th Congressional District race

Passaic County Freeholder Terry Duffy has dropped out of the running for the 5th Congressional District, leaving three Democrats vying to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett.

Duffy, of West Milford, issued a statement Monday morning saying his decision was based on three months of discussions with elected officials, party leaders and his family.

“Although I believe that this is a winnable race and Scott Garrett is vulnerable, a divisive primary is not in the best interest of the Democratic party,” he said in the statement.  (Hayes, The Record)



Assemblyman Jerry Green lines up support to succeed Sheila Oliver should she run for Congress

Although he’s not sure if Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver will run for Congress, Assemblyman Jerry Green has begun calling his colleagues to line up support to succeed her as the top member of the Assembly in case she does.

“It’s been brought to my attention that as speaker pro-tem, the bylaws basically say if (Oliver) resigns and moves on that I become speaker,” said Green (D-Union). “So I wanted to make sure that the members were ok with that, rather than the bylaws being the only reason I become speaker.”  (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)



Expert: No legal hurdle for online gambling

A New Jersey constitutional law expert told an Assembly committee Monday that a referendum won’t be necessary to allow online casino gambling if the bets are processed though Internet servers in Atlantic City.

John B. Wefing, a professor at Seton Hall University who has taught numerous courses dealing with constitutional law and the state judiciary, said the 1976 referendum legalizing casino gambling in Atlantic City contained “broad” language, allowing “wide discretion to a Legislature to determine what games are allowed in Atlantic City.”  (Jordan, Gannett)



Panel approves fix for anti-bullying law

An effort to bring New Jersey’s anti-bullying law into compliance with state-mandate requirements was approved by an Assembly panel on Monday.

The fix, made necessary by a January ruling by the Council on Local Mandates that the law contained requirements on school districts that were not funded, will now head to the full Assembly for consideration.  (Staff, Gannett)



SDA qualifies latest project list – much to critics’ frustration

The Schools Development Authority yesterday announced it will start on a list of 76 projects required to address health and safety issues in some of New Jersey’s neediest districts.

Just don’t count on all of them starting — or wrapping up — anytime soon.

The list of so-called emergent projects had been a long time coming, culled from 700 requests made last summer by the 31 urban districts falling under the Abbott v. Burke school equity rulings.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



Amazon, online sales tax bills advance, but face uncertain fate in Senate

Bills that would apply sales taxes to some online retailers and delay requiring Inc. to collecting the tax were advanced by the Assembly Appropriations Committee today, but their fate in the Senate remains cloudy.

The committee also released a bill that would extend permits to develop properties for two years, setting the measure up to potentially be passed by the Legislature on Thursday.  (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)



NJ lawmaker withdraws ‘foreign law’ bill

A New Jersey state lawmaker has withdrawn a bill after complaints from Muslim leaders that it could be viewed as anti-Muslim.

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi says her legislation was intended to prohibit the application of foreign laws when they violate constitutional rights.  (Associated Press)|newswell|text|NewJerseyNews|s



Assembly panel approves bill to increase wages for tipped workers

New Jersey is one of just a few states that allow restaurants and other companies to pay little or no wages to tipped workers, with restaurant owners and other business leaders saying gratuities often exceed the minimum wage, but a proposal moving through the state Assembly might change that arrangement.

The Assembly Labor Committee cleared a bill Monday that would lift base compensation to tipped employees to 69 percent of the minimum wage, matching current practices in New York and Connecticut.  (Jordan, Gannett)|topnews|text|State



Assembly committee redefines renewable energy

In a Statehouse deeply split along partisan lines, there is a lot of agreement that New Jersey needs to do more to promote renewable energy and energy conservation.

How to go about achieving that is another matter entirely.

Those dividing lines emerged again yesterday, as the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee debated and approved over the objections of environmentalists and the state Division of Rate Counsel a bill (A-1383) to redefine what technologies would be considered renewable energy. It passed in a party-line vote.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



NJ ethics committee mediate crucial end-of-life decisions

When a nursing home resident can no longer make decisions, someone else has to make the tough ethical choices. Should the patient’s life be prolonged with a ventilator or feeding tube? Has the time come to remove life support? What would this person have wanted? The family and the nursing home staff can wind up at loggerheads, unable to take the next step.  (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)



$1M PMUA payout to be probed

Acting at the request of Gov. Chris Christie, the state has launched an investigation into the controversial $1 million post-employment compensation package recently awarded to a pair of former Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority executives.  (Spivey, Gannett)



PSE&G agrees not to divulge customer credit histories

Public Service Electric & Gas customers no longer have to worry about the state’s largest utility reporting information to a credit agency.

In a settlement with the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel and the state Board of Public Utilities, the Newark utility agreed to withdraw a proposal to begin reporting payment histories of all residential, commercial, and industrial gas and electric customers to the credit agency Experian.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



With tax credit off limits, NJIT will tap bonds to fund mixed-use Newark project

The New Jersey Institute of Technology will move forward with the first phase of a community development project, though it will require adjustments to its financing plans.

Monique King-Viehland, director of area development for NJIT, is president of Campus Gateway Development Corp., a group organized to develop a mixed-use neighborhood that’s been in the planning stages for more than six years. The school’s board of trustees approved the first phase of the project in late February.  (Caliendo, NJBIZ)



Heading Christie’s counsel
Chris Christie has made three job offers to Craig Domalewski, and each one came with a pay cut. 

“He said it would be for less money, it would double your commute and add a lot of aggravation — but I don’t know how you can possibly say no to that kind of job offer,” Domalewski said of the most recent opportunity, in 2009, when he agreed to serve as senior counsel in the incoming governor’s administration.

Now, after serving through the first half of Christie’s term, Domalewski has returned to his former employer, now known as Dughi, Hewit & Domalewski P.C., in Cranford.  (Kaltwasser, NJBIZ)’s-counsel



N.J. Assemblyman Nelson Albano suffers heart attack, expected to recover

Assemblyman Nelson Albano suffered a minor heart attack Friday but is expected to fully recover, his colleague said today.

State Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May), who serves in the 1st District with Albano (D-Cumberland), said the assemblyman is recuperating at home in Vineland.

“He had a very minor heart attack. He is doing well,” Van Drew said.  (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)



Hundreds of mourners attend opening of 3-day farewell for late congressman Donald Payne

Hundreds of dignitaries, students and police officers stood in silence on the steps of Essex County’s historic courthouse today as the body of U.S. Rep. Donald Payne was carried inside, beginning three days of events that will serve as a final goodbye for Newark’s elder statesman.

With his son, Newark City Council President Donald Payne Jr., and other relatives following, the flag-draped casket holding Payne was walked inside the courthouse shortly after noon today. Payne will lie in state there until this morning.  (Queally, The Star-Ledger)



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UEZ town officials ask for restoration of funding

Officials from towns that benefit from Urban Enterprise Zones told the Assembly Labor Committee today they want the state to restore funding for the program.

Urban Enterprise Zones offer certain municipalities a reduced sales tax (3.5 percent), tax-free purchases on certain items, financial assistance from agencies such as the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, energy sales tax exemptions, and tax credit options to help spur business and economic growth.  (Smith, State Street Wire)



Verizon defends performance in face of BPU show/cause order

Verizon this afternoon defended its performance in southern New Jersey after a state regulatory agency expressed displeasure with the telecommunications giant.

“We will work with the Board (of Public Utilities) and present a strong case to demonstrate our commitment,’’ said Verizon spokesman Lee Gierczynski.  (Mooney, State Street Wire)



National Employment Law Project hails effort to boost minimum wage for tipped workers

The National Employment Law Project today hailed the Assembly Labor Committee’s release of a bill that calls for increasing the wages for employees of jobs that are largely reliant on tips.

The committee voted 6-to-2 to establish a minimum wage for tipped workers such as waitresses, carwash attendants and nail salon workers.   (Hassan, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room 



A Payne Jr. departure to Congress could strengthen Ramos, Baraka 2014 mayoral candidacies

As Essex County mourns the death of pioneering U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-10), party leaders in the coming days face the prospect of filling the now-vacant 10th Congressional seat. 

Sources say key players within the Democratic Party establishment prefer Newark City Council President Donald Payne, Jr., over Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34).  (Payne, PolitickerNJ)






Millionaires’ tax bill a poison pill

Despite 2012 being the year of education reform — as declared by Gov. Chris Christie — the talk for the past two months has been more about tax cuts.

First unveiled during his January State of the State address, Christie’s plan (10 percent across-the-board income tax cut) has spawned two counter proposals from Democrats in the Senate and in the Assembly.  (Schoonejongen, Gannett)



Merger proposal affecting recruiting at Rowan, Rutgers-Camden

When the Rutgers-Camden acceptance letter arrived at his Nashville home, Greg Sullivan was thrilled.

Worried, too. Would it be wise to uproot himself, and his wife, to pursue a master’s degree in creative writing at a respected institution that could be merged into something unrecognizable – and unrecognized?  (Riordan, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Morning News Digest: March 13, 2012