Morning News Digest: March 19, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Winners and Losers: Conventions Edition
The GOP showdown in Bergen County focused the state on an internal drama dogging the Bergen County Republican Committee that prompted Gov. Chris Christie to get at least vocally involved.
But Hermansen v. Yudin in Bergen wasn’t the only contest of note that produced a hard luck loser.
Just ask Anna Little in Monmouth… (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Payne, Jr. to seek CD 10 seat
Newark Council President Donald Payne, Jr, will seek his late father’s Congressional seat in the 10th District.
“I am running,” Payne told PolitickerNJ.com. “After lots of thought and discussion with my family, we think it is the right thing to do to continue his legacy.”
Insiders say Payne anticipates line A support in Essex County, home to the lion’s share of the Tenth District. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Politano: Gill to go for CD 10 seat
Pat Politano, spokesman for state Sen. Nia Gill (D-34), Montclair, confirmed that the veteran senator will seek the vacant District 10 Congressional seat.
“We’re ready to go,” said Politano.
Gill is the second candidate to officially declare intentions to pursue the seat left vacant by the death of U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-10). (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
New Jersey (no kidding) is among best corruption fighters
Despite a well-deserved reputation for scandals, New Jersey is among the state leaders in the fight against official corruption, with most states doing a poor job, according to a wide-ranging study released on Monday.
Five states received a “B” grade for accountability and transparency and eight got an “F” in the investigation by the nonprofit groups Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International. No state got an “A.” (Reuters)
Gov. Christie takes stage in support of Mitt Romney at Illinois rally
Putting on his showman’s hat, Gov. Chris Christie Friday told potential Illinois primary voters a win Tuesday will help convince Republicans around the nation that Mitt Romney is the best candidate to face President Obama in the fall.
“Gov. Romney needs to show our party and our country that he’s not only competing everywhere but that he can win everywhere,” he said. Hundreds packed into a hall at Elmhurst College to hear Christie in his first in-person campaign stop for the GOP hopeful since early January. (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
Gov. Christie’s budget projection is the most optimistic in nation
When he hits the campaign trail these days, Gov. Chris Christie denounces the nation’s economy under President Obama, decrying unemployment and thundering that change is desperately needed.
“He said unemployment was never gonna go over 8 percent if we passed the stimulus plan,” Christie said of Obama on the CBS program “Face the Nation” several weeks ago. “We went up over 10 percent.” (Renshaw and Rizzo, The Star-Ledger)
Jersey talk gives governor a national personality
Before he was even sworn into office, Governor Christie signaled his brand of leadership would be brusque by Trenton’s political standards.
While transitioning from candidate to governor in late 2009, Christie — the first Republican to win statewide in over a decade — called a Democratic lawmaker’s bill “garbage” and “political lying,” then characterized a Democratic political appointee as “probably the singular most unqualified candidate … you could find.” (Reitmeyer, The Record)
Vice president expected in Morris Twp. for fundraiser; expect road closings
Vice President Joe Biden is expected to be a special guest Monday at an invitation-only fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.
Police Chief Dennis Reilly would not confirm that Biden is expected to be in town between 4 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, but he cautioned that motorists will face lengthy delays and detours on multiple roads between those hours. (Wright, Gannett)
Report warns of $13B budget gap without consolidating services
If the state, municipalities, counties and school districts in New Jersey continue business as usual to provide government services, they could face a combined gap of up to $13 billion between revenues and services by 2017, according to a report by a nonpartisan commission under the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers. (Eder, NJBIZ)
Second public hearing on Rutgers-Rowan merger set for today
The combined Senate and Assembly higher education committees are set to hold their second public hearing today on the still vague proposal to restructure three New Jersey universities.
The joint committee chose friendlier territory — Rowan University, which would take control of the Rutgers-Camden campus under the plan — for the 11 a.m. hearing, although students and faculty at Rowan are by no means united in support of the merger. (O’Dea, NJ Spotlight)
New funding for anti-bullying law, but is $1 million enough?
The legislature’s passage last week of a bill to add $1 million to New Jersey’s school anti-bullying law is almost certain to satisfy a state ruling that threatened to nullify the legislation as an unfunded state mandate.
But will it satisfy the districts that brought the challenge in the first place? (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Poll: Menendez trails nameless challenger
A new poll shows incumbent Democrat Bob Menendez holds a double-digit lead over his likely Republican challenger in New Jersey’s U.S. Senate race.
But the Fairleigh Dickinson-PublicMind poll out Monday also shows Menendez could be in some trouble.
The poll shows Menendez leads GOP state Sen. Republican Joe Kyrillos KIR’-ill-ohs’) by 10 percentage points, with 23 percent of respondents undecided. (Associated Press)
RGGI auction sells $41.6M in carbon dioxide allowances
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative announced today it sold $41.6 million in carbon dioxide allowances on Wednesday in its first quarterly auction since New Jersey’s official withdrawal from the cap-and-trade program. The announcement was made one day after the Senate passed a bill that would require the state to rejoin the multistate compact.
The bill, if it makes it through the Assembly, could
have a hard time getting through Gov. Chris Christie, who shot down a similar bill in the last Legislative session. (Tarbous, NJBIZ)
Passaic County counsel’s connections shed light on fine ethical line
A panel of consultants sat in a public meeting one September evening to ask Passaic County to back as much as $30 million in bonds for a risky solar power project.
Among the four professionals was Daniel Mariniello of NW Financial, the county Improvement Authority’s financial adviser on the proposal. Across from him on the freeholder dais, engaged in the discussion, was County Counsel William Pascrell III — a partner in a private firm that has long lobbied for NW Financial. (Patberg, The Record)
Spectra pipeline would have limited environmental impact, report says
A controversial natural gas pipeline proposed to run from New Jersey to New York would have “limited adverse environmental impacts” if built, a federal regulator has found.
In a report released today, staff members from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the project by Spectra Energy “would be an environmentally acceptable action,” concluding that any adverse impacts would occur mostly during construction. The report brings the Houston-based firm one step closer to being able to build the 20-mile pipeline, which would run through part of Union and Hudson counties. (Burd, NJBIZ)
How N.J. doctors dealt a blow to auto insurers
Last summer, the Christie administration called the part of New Jersey auto insurance policies that helps pay for accident victims’ medical care a “pot of gold to abuse” after doctors and at least one Hudson County hospital submitted wildly inflated bills.
Officials stressed that personal injury protection, better known as PIP, is the fastest-growing auto insurance cost in a state where rates are already among the highest in the nation. (Livio, The Star-Ledger)
A pledge to help Camden
Camden school board president Susan Dunbar-Bey was thrilled when she received a call a couple of months ago saying millionaire businessman Lewis Katz wanted to talk about helping the district.
Dunbar-Bey was prepared to discuss the Camden High football field renovation and construction of a new Lanning Square Elementary School. (Vargas, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Newark to announce expansion of school plans
Newark officials are set to unveil more details about a wide-ranging plan to reorganize the city’s struggling school district.
Superintendent Cami Anderson and Mayor Cory Booker will both speak during a Monday news conference, where Anderson says she will present “expanded school options” for Newark students. (Associated Press)
District officials: State funding move avoids tackling toughest problems at TCHS
Public school officials say the state’s latest funding initiative is not only inadequate, it’s also illogical.
The Trenton school system has $36 million of items on its priority to-do list and the state is offering to fund just a small fraction of that total. Worse still, the state has picked only lower-priority items to fund, school officials say. (Fair, The Times)
N.J. tourism on rebound
New Jersey’s $38 billion tourism business – the state’s third-largest industry – may be back on a roll after posting a 7 percent revenue increase in 2011 over the year before.
And the particularly warm winter, which has attracted throngs of out-of-season visitors to the Jersey Shore, may extend the upward trend into the 2012 summer season, officials predict. (Urgo, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Compromise solution could help restore health of NJ woodlands
Few argue New Jersey’s dwindling forests are in trouble.
An overpopulation of deer, invasive species that crowd out native flora, and a decline in habitat for threatened and endangered species all continue to risk the health of about 800,00 acres of state-owned woodlands. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Van Drew bill: Empower budget committees to veto rate hikes
A senator wants legislative committees empowered to overturn rate increases approved by the Board of Public Utilities.
Sen. Jeff Van Drew, (D-1), Dennis Township, introduced a bill this week that would give the Senate and Assembly budget committees the authority to veto a rate increase. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Jersey City mayor rips FERC pipeline decision
The Jersey City mayor criticized today’s federal decision that helps push further along the gas pipeline expansion project in northern New Jersey.
Mayor Jerramiah Healy ripped into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission which issued an environmental impact statement about the tri-state project that involves parts of New York and Connecticut. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Ravi is not a criminal
The conviction of Dharun Ravi on March 15 on all counts of bias intimidation and invading the privacy of his roommate Tyler Clementi, who subsequently committed suicide, is a tragedy for everyone involved in this incident. Ravi and Clementi shared a dorm room at Rutgers University in September 2010 when Ravi committed the crimes he was found guilty of on March 15. (Sabrin, PolitickerNJ)
Brash talk ahs made Christie a star, but also hurts him
Governor Christie often laments how the leg-breaking Tony Soprano and the hot-tub-hopping Snooki perpetuate the unfair stereotype of New Jersey as a vulgar backwater.
Yet, the com
bative Christie has cultivated the reputation as unvarnished, crude Jersey celebrity, the over-the-top governor who occasionally says things that are considered out of bounds for politicians. (Stile, The Record)
We are driving over the poor
Decades ago when I worked for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, I recall Cardinal Roger Mahony saying the great tragedy of the Los Angeles freeway system was that it enabled people to literally drive over the poor.
Mahony was talking about elevated segments of freeways that had cut up old ethnic neighborhoods and allowed motorists to drive above pockets of poverty without ever seeing what was below them. Mahony is not known for poetic rhetoric, but in this case, he got it right. (Doblin, The Record)
Quality political wit in short supply today
Poor Ramsey MacDonald.
The British prime minister in the years before World War II didn’t stand a chance against the razor-sharp tongue of Winston Churchill, who at one point branded the British leader as a man who had “the gift of compressing the largest number of words into the smallest amount of thought.” (Schoonejongen, Gannett)
The Highlands Council’s dirty shame
Even for hardened veterans of New Jersey politics, the stunt pulled by the Highlands Council on Thursday evening was hard to stomach.
For two hours, council members listened to a parade of people praise their executive director, Eileen Swan, as a woman who is remarkably smart, hardworking and reasonable.
And then they voted to fire her. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
A former governor goes underground
The guy with the wool hat, scruffy whiskers and dirty face seemed like just another homeless bum. He wasn’t. He was a Jersey pol.
Richard Codey, the former governor who continues as a Democratic state senator from Essex County and occasional foil for Governor Christie, took on a new role earlier this month. (Kelly, The Record)