Morning News Digest: March 20, 2012

Morning News Digest: March 20, 2012

By Missy Rebovich

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Biden: ‘Usually Republicans hide the football,’ but not this year

Vice President Joe Biden headlined a fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) tonight at the Morris County home of attorney Phil Sellinger.

“Obama went to Washington D.C. to do what is right regardless of re-election,” Biden told the group of Menendez groups.

Guests included state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18) and State Party Chairman John Wisniewski, generally regarded as two potential 2013 Democratic candidates for governor.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



At state and federal levels, lower houses pinpointed as the source of political rancor


Everyone’s favorite word.

Gov. Chris Christie references the concept in the NJ GOP’s latest radio ad wherein he projects an alliance with Senate President Steve Sweeney’s (D-3) tax plan priorities while badmouthing the offering of the Assembly Majority Democrats.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Kyrillos campaign attacks Menendez for Corzine association

Heading for a $1,000 per-plate fundraiser in Morris County later today which Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to headline, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) objected to his Republican opponent’s efforts to crank up the volume on Biden’s and Menendez’s associations with former Gov. Jon Corzine. 

“Joe Kyrillos has some nerve,” said the U.S. Senator, who hopes to raise “several hundred thousand” tonight for his re-election bid.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Testimony disputes Gov.’s power to reorg Rutgers

A Rutgers Camden alumnus today said the power over the proposed merger with Rowan University rests with the Legislature, not with any executive order from the Governor.

Timothy Farrow, treasurer of the Rutgers University Alumni Association, told a joint Senate/Assembly Higher Education Committee at Rowan here that the recent court ruling that overturned the governor’s attempt to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing relied on the same legal basis.  (Mooney, PolitickerNJ)



Christie warms up to surrogate role

Say one thing for Gov. Chris Christie: When he commits to a candidate, he’s all in.

New Jersey’s star governor made a trip to Illinois on Friday to stump for his chosen GOP presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Christie praised Romney as having experiences and abilities that no other Republican in the race has, and he hinted that those talents far outweigh those of his potential Democratic opponent, President Barack Obama.   (Schoonejongen, Gannett)



Christie to teacher: I’m sorry if I’ve scared you

Gov. Chris Christie apologized Monday to a public-school teacher who said she nearly didn’t attend his latest town-hall meeting to ask him a question because he scares her.

The second-grade teacher — who left immediately after the 10-minute exchange and didn’t want to share her name with reporters — said she brought her two children and dog to the gymnasium in the Archdiocesan Youth Retreat Center in this Hudson County town because she wanted her 3-year-old daughter to respect government and see
the governor.  (Symons, Gannett)



Christie calls contraception debate ‘silly’

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says some of the debate over contraception that has cropped up in the Republican primaries is misguided.

Christie made the comment during a town hall event in Kearny.

When a questioner asked him about the focus by Republican candidates on contraception issues, Christie said too much time has been spent talking about it.

Christie said women need to have access to affordable contraception. He added that some issues, such as whether Catholic organizations should be required to cover birth control costs for their employees, should be addressed.  (Associated Press)



John Adler’s widow to run for his old seat in Congress

Former Rep. John Adler’s widow today is to announce her bid to regain his seat in the 3rd Congressional District.

Shelley Adler, of Cherry Hill, will seek the Democratic nomination to oppose Rep. Jon Runyan, R-Mount Laurel, in November’s general election. Runyan, a former Philadelphia Eagle serving his first term in Congress, defeated John Adler in 2010.  (Staff, Gannett)



Tax revenue growth slowed in late 2011

State tax revenue growth across the country slowed in the last three months of 2011 to the lowest point since the economic recovery began, a think tank said Monday.

The Rockefeller Institute of Government said tax revenue increases hesitated at 2.7 percent.

When two states are factored out — one with a large increase and the other with a large decrease — the growth for the quarter came to 4.4 percent.  (Method, Gannett)|topnews|text|State



Rutgers-Camden: Reject merger with Rowan U.

Rutgers University students, faculty and administrators continued to rally for the survival of the Camden campus, urging lawmakers at a public hearing Monday to reject Gov. Chris Christie’s plan for a takeover by Rowan University.

Lawmakers hearing testimony on the proposal to reorganize New Jersey’s higher education system aren’t sure the merger plan requires their approval.  (Delli Santi, Associated Press)



N.J. lawmakers still fuzzy on Camden-Rowan merger plan

Three months after an advisory board suggested the merger of Rowan University and Rutgers-Camden, state lawmakers are no closer to knowing how it would work, what it would cost, or what say they have in the matter.

Even those who support the concept, including Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) and Ali Houshmand, Rowan’s interim president, say they need more details before proceeding.  (Farrell, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Accountability study ranks N.J. at the top

State governments lack transparency and accountability to citizens and remain at high risk for corruption, according to a new study of all 50 statehouses.

The state doing the best? New Jersey.

Not a single state received an A in the State Integrity Investigation ranking, a product of the Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International, and Global Integrity.  (Parry, Associated Press)



Critics say revised N.J. beach-access rules are no fix

Fishermen and marina owners came out ahead Monday in new beach-access rules published by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

But beach-access advocates say the new rules amount to minor tinkering that still does not do nearly enough to prevent shore towns from having too much say in who can reach the beach and where they can do it.  (Parry, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Property tax relief? Not while the state diverts local utility taxes

For years, the state has skimmed money from special accounts in its fiscal budget to help balance the books.

Perhaps no one has suffered more from the accounting sleight of hand than local governments, which, in in the past decade, have been denied hundreds of millions of dollars in utility taxes that should have helped municipalities provide property tax relief to residents.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



2011 hospital performance report pinpoints strengths, shortcomings

The state health department on Monday posted to its website the eighth annual Hospital Performance Report, which lets consumers assess the quality of care for every hospital in New Jersey — a boon when trying to choose a facility or make other healthcare decisions.

The report also makes it possible for New Jersey hospitals to see how they stack up against their peers, determining where they lead and where they lag in relation to dozens of quality indicators — from how consistently a hospital gave the right care for pneumonia and heart failure to the frequency of hospital-acquired infections.  (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)



Newark super drums up support for sweeping reforms

Newark schools superintendent Cami Anderson’s announcement yesterday of the final details in her plans to reorganize New Jersey’s largest district was almost as much about appearance as it was about substance.

The substance was significant: The outright closing of six school buildings; the “renewal” of eight more with new leadership, faculty and programs; and the expansion of both early childhood and high school options.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



$6.1 million “Clean & Safe” plan launched in Atlantic City

Unless the “Queen of Resorts” is clean and safe, visitors won’t come back, and investors won’t finance the projects needed to turn it into a world-class travel destination.

That is the thinking behind a $6.1 million plan announced Monday that enlists 12 local, county, and state agencies and the casino industry to heighten security, expand the use of law enforcement technology, and target blight in Atlantic City.  (Urgo, the Philadelphia Inquirer)



Tech woes may delay unemployment pay

Unemployment benefits for approximately 115,000 people may be delayed because problems with New Jersey’s website prevented some people from claiming unemployment benefits online Sunday and Monday.

The state Office of Information Technology conducted electrical upgrades and maintenance Sunday at the state’s server hub in Ewing, which had been expected to shut down state websites for a half-hour early Sunday morning and limit their functionality until 7:30 p.m. that night.  (Symons, Gannett)



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State’s libraries need more money, NJLA tells Assembly

As libraries alter their methods in a changing, online-centric world, state funding has continued to drop, according to Patricia Tumulty, the executive director of the New Jersey Library Association, who testified on Monday at the Assembly Budget Committee hearing.

Although Tumulty said she was happy to see increases in the contributions to state education, she said her members are not seeing more money in a time when new methods, such as online services, are becoming necessary.  (Smith, State Street Wire)



Education advocates seek greater increase in funding; say schools still underfunded

Public schools need an increase in funding and a change in the proposed school aid formula, according to education advocates testifying at the Assembly Budget Committee hearing on Monday.

Brian Volz, of the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, said that while the proposed additional $140 million in funding to schools is better than additional cuts, the money is “far short of what the school formula requires and what our children deserve.”  (Smith, State Street Wire)



UMDNJ needs more state funding, reps tell Assembly budget committee

UMDNJ (or its successor) needs more money from the state for capital infrastructure improvements and to continue fulfilling its safety net mission, representatives from the school and its partner hospital testified before the Assembly Budget Committee during a hearing on Monday morning.

Denise Rodgers, the interim president of UMDNJ, said that even if there were no plans to shuffle higher education in New Jersey being proposed, she would still be in front of the committee asking for funds.  (Smith, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room 



Governor to issue plan for CD 10 on Friday

Sources tell that Gov. Chris Christie will make a decision by Friday about how to proceed in Congressional District 10.

Word is he intends to call for an election to fill the vacant seat for the reminder of this term to run concurrently with the regulalry scheduled June Primary election for a two-year term.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Anything you can do

Senate Democrats have taken a page from the Christie play book and will hold a series of townhall meetings to discuss their version of tax reform.

Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg will take their show on tour in hopes of convincing the public that not only is their plan a good one, but also that it is better than Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal for a 10 percent across the board income tax cut.  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)






Has New Jersey’s gender gap really closed?

An article in the Star-Ledger today reports on a poll that gives President Barack Obama and Governor Chris Christie the same job approval rating among New Jersey women. This would be big news if true. But I’m not so sure I buy it.

e poll, only conducted among New Jersey women voters, reports that 59% approve of Obama and 57% approve of Christie. The article claims, “The poll confirms a recent trend for Christie who has, for months, been closing the gender gap. In October, a Monmouth University/NJ Press Media poll found women approved of the governor 53 percent to 40 percent.”  (Murray, PolitickerNJ)



Ex-mayor’s possible run could aid Pascrell

Call it the Michael Wildes card.

OK, so that’s a lame pun, but it does describe the possible role that Wildes, the former Englewood mayor, could play if he chooses to jump into the 9th Congressional District Democratic primary between incumbents Bill Pascrell of Paterson and Steve Rothman of Englewood.

“I haven’t gotten there yet,” Wildes said of a possible run. “I’m going to be taking stock. I’m going to be taking advice from my family, from my law partners and from everybody that is important in my life in the next few weeks.”  (Stile, The Record)



Swinging at wild pitches on casino gaming’s future

Last week, someone in Trenton finally realized that casino gaming in neighboring states represents a major threat to Atlantic City.

Now, if only there were a way to change that sentence to start with “Ten years ago,” we might have averted a major problem. But the state’s stubborn insistence on holding out hope on Atlantic City has gone beyond the territory of missed opportunities and into the realm of lost lunches. Pennsylvania’s gambling operations are the five-alarm fire Trenton lawmakers have been ignoring, but Connecticut and New York are dangerous and, in the latter case, growing, which has pushed the chairman of the Assembly gaming committee to schedule hearings for later this year on whether people should be allowed to place bets in the Meadowlands.  (Staff, NJBIZ)

  Morning News Digest: March 20, 2012