Morning News Digest: March 15, 2012

Morning News Digest: March 15, 2012

By Missy Rebovich

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Nicole Payne: ‘He was passionate about compassion

One by one at the lectern here in the Metropolitan Baptist Church, the Payne Family remembered U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-10).

The congressman’s older brother and lifelong protector Bill Payne fought off the tears.

“I have a difficult time referring to my brother in the past tense,” he said. 

The Newarker refused tissues.

“We grew up in poverty; we didn’t have tissues we just went like this,” Payne said, wiping his eyes with his hand.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Republican Rabbi family launches CD9 bid

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach of Englewood today formally announced he will run for Congress in New Jersey’s 9th district. 

“The values that have dominated the American political landscape for decades include an obsession with gay marriage, abortion, and now contraception,” said Rabbi Shmuley, a Republican. “If elected, I pledge to be a ‘values voice’ in Congress, and focus on issues that have largely been ignored; it is time to expand the values conversation and agenda, and once again make them the center of our country. Let’s begin with saving the institution of marriage by making family a priority again.”  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



‘I want to be a role model for kids I talk to on street corners:’ Farewell to U.S. Rep. Payne

Civil rights heroes, Bergen Street friends and constituents, Newark politicians, fellow Congressional colleagues, a former president, sitting governor, and the family of U.S. Rep. Donald Payne bid a Gospel goodbye to the Congressman today at the Metropolitan Baptist Church.

“We’ve come to celebrate his life and all that he has done,” said Rev. Dr. David Jefferson Sr., moments before Trustee Chama White of Bethlehem Baptist Church sang a soaring solo of the Lord’s Prayer.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Congressman Donald Payne is remembered as a champion and a gentleman

He was a champion, a gentleman, a congressman to the world.

A thousand people filled the pews of Newark’s Metropolitan Baptist Church yesterday to remember Rep. Donald Payne, New Jersey’s renowned elder statesman, who died last week of colon cancer at 77.

As lofty adjectives flowed from the memories of more than 30 world, national and local leaders, it was the simple tearful remembrance of his son that seemed to encapsulate the grief of supporters and friends here and abroad.  (Giambusso and Martin, The Star-Ledger)



Death by a thousand cuts: The crisis in government services

Despite major savings from last year’s pension and health benefits overhaul, New Jersey’s state, county, and municipal governments and school districts will be taking in $13 billion less than they need to maintain services at current levels five years from now, according to a study by a blue-ribbon panel of former state officials and foundation leaders conducted for the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers.  (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)



Group: New Jersey stalls in efforts to offer online access to data

New Jersey ranks in the middle among the states in providing online access to government spending data, according to an annual report issued Wednesday by the Public Interest Research Group.

New Jersey got a C-plus, one of 14 “emerging states” to be assigned C-range grades. Twenty-two states got higher scores than New Jersey’s 7
8, including seven with high enough scores to get A or A-minus grades.  (Symons, Gannett)|topnews|text|State


N.J. governments may need 20% of service cuts, report says

New Jersey’s state and local governments may need to cut services by 20 percent to close growing budget deficits over the next five years, a panel that includes former top-level officials said in a report.

The state will confront a gap between revenue and spending of as much as $8.1 billion by 2017, while towns and cities may face collective shortfalls as great as $2.8 billion, said the group, which was convened by the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers. Counties’ deficits may be as much as $1.1 billion while schools’ gaps may reach nearly $1 billion, the group said.  (Dopp, Bloomberg)



NJ Dems take another run at cap-and-trade bill

Nearly a year after Gov. Chris Christie announced he was pulling New Jersey out of a 10-state anti-pollution pact, Democratic lawmakers are still pushing to rejoin it.

Calling the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative a failure, Christie said he wouldn’t let the state participate. Months later, he vetoed a Democratic bill that would have forced him to stay in RGGI.

The bill up for consideration Thursday in the Senate is considered largely symbolic, since Christie’s expected to veto it.  (Associated Press)|newswell|text|State|s



N.J. school choice program expects over 3K students next year

The state Department of Education is projecting that under the school choice program, 3,356 students will be enrolled in 73 school district outside the one where they reside in the 2012-13 school year, a number that has tripled over the past three years.

To support what he sees as the continued growth of the program, Gov. Christie has allotted an additional $14.2 million for the Interdistrict School Choice program in the proposed 2012-13 state budget, part of a $212.5 million increase in K-12 state aid and a total of $7.8 billion in K-12 formula aid.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



New system slows reporting of graduation rates

Just a few months short of the Class of 2012’s high school graduation, the state Department of Education is still tallying the numbers for the Class of 2011.

Counting graduates was slowed as the department puts in place a new system for more accurately totaling up the number of students who make it through high school and how they do so, officials said. 

The delay has also postponed the release of the state’s annual School Report Cards. Typically released in February, the Report Cards provide data and analysis for every school on their test scores, class sizes and a host of other measures.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



NJ moves to reimburse anti-bullying efforts costs

New Jersey lawmakers are all but certain to send Gov. Chris Christie a $1 million appropriation that would allow the state’s tough anti-bullying legislation to be implemented.

The Senate and Assembly are due to vote on the appropriation Thursday. Christie has signaled his willingness to sign it.

New Jersey’s anti-bullying law was set aside after one small school district complained about the cost of training and materials. A local mandates council agreed the law created a financial burden.  (Associated Press)|newswell|text|State|p



Lawmaker seeks subpoena power over Port Authority

A measure Democrats say will help get to the bottom of wasteful spending at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is evoking criticism from Republicans.

The resolution being vote
d on Thursday gives the Assembly Transportation Committee’s chairman power to subpoena witnesses and documents while investigating the authority’s finances. The power would push inquiries forward on how toll money is being spent and whether employees of the bistate agency earn too much in overtime and perks.  (Delli Santi, Associated Press)|newswell|text|State|s



Following Afghan civilian killings, N.J. congressman seeks info on how soldiers with brain injuries are evaluated

The murder of 16 civilians in Afghanistan, allegedly by a soldier treated for a traumatic brain injury and serving his fourth deployment, has prompted Rep Bill Pascrell to ask Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for more information how servicemen and women are evaluated after getting hurt.

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), co-chairman of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, wrote a letter Tuesday to Panetta also seeking information about the soldiers injury, diagnosis and treatment.  (Livio, The Star-Ledger)



Triple Five: American Dream won’t be realized in time for Super Bowl

The developer planning to revive the failed Xanadu project as American Dream Meadowlands hopes to secure its full slate of financing for the plan by early summer, a spokeswoman for the firm said today.

The company, Canada-based Triple Five, is still lining up a complicated $1.8 billion financing plan for the project and working through an environmental review process for a portion of the site, said the spokeswoman, Jill Renslow. Completion of those segments, especially the financing, will allow the firm to immediately focus on leasing and remaining construction at the East Rutherford site.  (Burd, NJBIZ)



40 faith-based N.J. organizations sharing over $1M in state aid

40 faith-based organization that attempt to help at-risk youth, seniors, non-English speaking residents and convicts reentering society will share over $1.1 million in state aid, the state Department of State announced Wednesday.

A total of $475,000 will go to 19 organizations at $25,000 apiece to help at-risk youth. The programs are designed to promote business initiatives, gang prevention, developing effective study habits, and providing school homework and tutorial assistance, among others.  (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)



Highway bill would send $1.5 billion in funding to New Jersey 

New Jersey would get the highest public transportation funding ever — $519 million per year — under the federal highway bill passed by the Senate on Wednesday.

People who take public transportation to work and seniors also would benefit from the bill.

But New Jersey would get less money for road projects than in 2011. New Jersey would get $988 million, which is a 4.6 percent decrease from the $1.04 billion it received last year. Overall, New Jersey would get $1.5 billion for transportation needs.  (Herman, Gannett)|topnews|text|State



NJ seeks to pay orthopedic doctors for ‘episodes of care’

New Jersey is piloting the way doctors get paid for hip and knee replacement surgery by looking to pay a single, bundled fee for an “episode of care.” Surgical groups are participating in the program to help insurers determine the costs beyond the operating room for such procedures.

In the orthopedic pilot, surgeons are directing their patients’ entire care, typically 90 days from pre-admission prep, to surgery, to recovery. The full cost of the three-month hip or knee replacement episode varies widely, depending on the health of the patient, and whether there are complications that require further medical care or readmission to the hospital, and where rehab takes place.  (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)



Experts: Avoid status quo in hospital operations to improve care, finances

Hospital executives gathered Wednesday at the New Jersey Hospital Association offices in Princeton for a day of leadership lectures, focusing on the relationship between quality outcomes and operating an efficient facility.

The event brought together five speakers covering a spectrum of topics, from scientific analysis of organization management to the patient experience.  (Caliendo, NJBIZ)



Exonerated NJ lawmaker wants US to pay legal fees

A former New Jersey lawmaker charged in the state’s largest corruption sting but later exonerated wants the government to pay his legal expenses.

Louis Manzo filed a 33-page document late Wednesday.

Manzo was one of 44 people arrested in July 2009 in a federal corruption and money laundering sting. All charges against him were dropped last month in a ruling by a federal judge in Newark.

In his filing, Manzo claims the government’s pursuit of him was “frivolous and in bad faith.”  (Porter, Associated Press)



Chevron asks federal agency to block natural gas pipeline

A huge petrochemical company is urging a federal agency to delay a decision on a 16-mile natural gas pipeline through northern New Jersey, saying the project poses significant environmental risks, including the “potentially catastrophic release of benzene into public waters.”

With the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission scheduled to issue its final environmental impact statement as soon as tomorrow, an emergency motion by Chevron throws a possible eleventh-hour roadblock into Spectra Energy’s bid to build a pipeline from Staten Island to Jersey City and then into New York City.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



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Utility goes to court over gas-regulator relocation plan

New Jersey Natural Gas filed a motion today in Monmouth County Superior Court seeking permits from Red Bank to start its regulator relocation project, the company confirmed.

“We have not been able to get the permits,” said utility spokesman Michael Kinney.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



Beck, Red Bank oppose above-ground gas regulators

Sen. Jennifer Beck, (R-13), of Red Bank, and local officials of this vibrant Monmouth County municipality with a bustling downtown are fighting to prevent some uninvited guests from popping up: above-ground gas regulators.

New Jersey Natural Gas is planning to move a whopping 88 underground gas regulators above ground. In the town’s compact central business district, that means the regulators, which would be about knee-length high, could be installed near many storefronts.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



Former state officials warn of huge reduction in services to come

A group of business leaders that includes several former state officials is warning that without drastic changes to state and local budgets, state residents will face a dramatic reduction in services in the decade to come.

In a report entitled “Facing our Future”  the group, which includes two former state treasurers, says budget gaps will forc
e the state as well as local and county governments to cut as much as 20 percent of the services currently provided.  (Isherwood, State Street Wire)



Local Finance Board OKs energy-related projects

The Local Finance Board approved these energy conservation applications.

$2.7 million for Spotswood Board of Education, $5.5 million for Barnegat Board of Education, and $9.06 million for Teaneck Board of Education.  (Mooney, State Street Wire)






Bergen’s GOP feud being felt statewide

Embattled Bergen Republican Organization Chairman Bob Yudin is now the target of a phone-call campaign — mobilized by Governor Christie.

Christie told GOP county chairmen from around the state to call Yudin and urge him to end the infighting that has virtually paralyzed the Bergen GOP and county government. The governor made his impromptu pitch at a Monday meeting with county chairmen at the governor’s mansion in Princeton, according to three people who attended the meeting.  (Stile, The Record)



Amid ‘idiot’ debate, an unanswered question

As Paul Newman said in the ’67 movie “Cool Hand Luke,” “What we have here is failure to communicate.”

It started at one of Gov. Chris Christie’s town-hall meetings, where William Brown asked the governor about the proposal to merge Rowan University and Rutgers-Camden. Brown, 34, a law student at Rutgers-Camden, understandably wants a Rutgers degree, and Christie said all currently enrolled students would get one. Then, Brown asked about what his kids or friends would get.  (Ingle, Gannett)


  Morning News Digest: March 15, 2012