Morning News Digest: March 21, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Kyrillos continues offensive salvo against Menendez in GOP stronghold Ocean
The powerful Ocean County Republican Committee unanimously backed state Senator Joe Kyrillos (R-13) for United State Senate tonight at the organization’s meeting, and the newly minted candidate promptly slammed incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) as an MIA senator.
Beckoned to the front of the room at the Holiday Inn by Ocean County Committee Chairman George Gilmore, Kyrillos hailed the organization, political apparatus of the biggest concentration of Republicans in the state. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Authority over Rutgers reorganization at issue
Among the unresolved issues following Monday’s joint legislative hearing into the proposed Rowan/Rutgers-Camden merger is one of authority.
The issue of whether the Executive or Legislative branch of state government controls the reorganization process in higher education divides experts.
Gov. Chris Christie, who supports the merger proposal, reiterated Tuesday at a press conference his unwillingness to compromise on the reorganization, and said it would create a major research university and economic engine for South Jersey. (Mooney, PolitickerNJ)
Administration working overtime on Supreme Court nominees
The Christie administration is working overtime to ensure the votes are in place for the two latest nominees to the State Supreme Court.
Philip Kwon and Bruce Harris will come up before the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, but both men could face a tough battle for confirmation.
Two sources told PolitickerNJ.com that the front office this week attempted to get a head count of senators who plan to support Harris and Kwon. At least one source said so far senators have been reluctant to commit. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Advisory panel signs off on Christie court picks
A panel of lawyers picked by Gov. Chris Christie to vet his two Supreme Court nominees has unanimously endorsed the selections.
The panel voted 7-0 to endorse Bruce A. Harris and Phillip H. Kwon, whose confirmation hearings are scheduled for Thursday.
Harris, who is black, would become New Jersey’s first openly gay justice. Kwon would become its first Asian representative and the first justice born outside the United States. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
Christie refuses to revise college merger plan
Governor Christie on Tuesday rejected any alternative to the sweeping merger he has planned for some of the state’s largest universities and, despite a gathering storm of opposition, said the changes are coming.
“They’re going to merge,” the governor said. “That’s what’s best for the higher education system in New Jersey, that’s what’s best for our economic future, that’s what’s best for the regional future of South Jersey.” (Alex and Reitmeyer, The Record)
Christie sees possible boost in higher ed funding, defends environmental record
Gov. Chris Christie said it’s possible the state’s colleges and universities will receive more capital funding this year, during an event at which he provided details of a $1 million urban college scholarship program.
“We’re going to have to decide as a state, as times get better here, whether we’re willing to invest more to make college more affordable, both in terms of direct aid to the institutions and in terms of capital investment in those institutions, so that those institutions don’t have to make those capital investments purely on their own,” Christie said. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
NJ scholarships would increase under Chris Christie’s budget; Asbury Park, Lakewood in urban program
Low-income students headed to college will have more access to state aid and scholarships under proposals Gov. Chris Christie touted Tuesday.
The programs would amount to $393.2 million in the proposed $32.1 billion state budget, slated to be enacted by July 1.
“Our emphasis is to increase opportunity for everybody and not have it restricted by anything other than a child’s potential, their record and their willingness to work hard,” Christie said during an appearance at a Catholic high school here. (Method, Gannett)
Intervening in troubled school districts just got simpler
The Christie administration and the state Board of Education have moved ahead to streamline how and when they decide to intervene in school districts.
Meanwhile, debates roil in two of New Jersey’s biggest cities over what role the state should play in running local schools in the first place. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Agency rules restrict beach access, conservationists claim
New Jersey has 127 miles of coastline along the Atlantic and 83 miles along its bays, a natural treasure that brings in more than $35 billion in tourism revenue a year.
Looking to expand access to those beaches and waterways, the state Department of Environmental Protection this week adopted new rules that it says enhances entry to those areas, particularly for fishermen. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Shelley Adler vow to defeat Rep. Jon Runyan in 3rd District
Democrats are putting a positive spin on the chances of party candidate Shelley Adler to win the revamped 3rd Congressional District in Burlington and Ocean counties.
But Republican leaders say they have the advantage with the new district configuration and with Republican incumbent Jon Runyan, a former Philadelphia Eagles player. (Comegno, Gannett)
NJ Transit paid $4.1 million for unused sick and vacation time in 2011
Despite a policy decision to rein in unused sick and vacation time payments for nonunion workers, NJ Transit spent $4.112 million last year in payouts.
That total is up from the $3.67 million NJ Transit made in payouts the year before, a practice Gov. Chris Christie has vowed to end for public employees. Officials in Christie’s administration said they are looking to end such payouts, which he called “boat checks,” and prefer a “use it or lose it” policy for vacation time and that sick time be used during illnesses, similar to what is done in private industry. (Higgs, Gannett)
Mass layoffs up in N.J. last year, account for 66K unemployment filings
New Jersey saw a jump in mass layoff-related unemployment claims in 2011, according to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Garden State employers took 585 mass layoff actions in 2011, causing 66,811 workers to file for unemployment, according to agency’s report, released today. The agency defines a mass layoff as one affecting more than 50 workers. (Kaltwasser, NJBIZ)
Unemployment pay glitch resolved
New Jersey officials say they fixed a computer problem that may have delayed tens of thousands of unemployment insurance payments to jobless workers.
After a scheduled state-governmentwide computer system upgrade over the weekend, the Labor and Workforce Development Department was unable to process most of the claims submitted online and by phone. (Associated Press)
Camden sets education forum
Mayor Dana Redd on Thursday is hosting an education forum required by the school district’s poor showing on quality measures.
The meeting, which is open to the public, is at 5:30 p.m. at Adventure Aquarium.
In another school issue, Redd planned to attend a school board work session Tuesday night to urge support for the building of four Hope Schools — a hybrid between charter schools and public schools — in the city. (Shelly, Gannett)
Mayor hits genealogy lottery
Cory Booker, the Mayor of Newark, today calls New Jersey home. But in the first episode of the new PBS series, “Finding Your Roots,” Mr. Booker explores his genealogy with the help of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. The two men caught up at Lincoln Center for the premiere. Before the screening, we chatted with the 42-year-old mayor. (Vilensky, The Wall Stret Journal)
State providing millions for economically-disadvantaged college-bound students
Gov. Chris Christie today announced more funding for high school students looking to continue their education, particularly students in urban areas.
By providing these grants, Christie said it levels the playing field between students of vastly different s
ocioeconomic backgrounds. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Christie takes verbal swipe at Tittel
Gov. Chris Christie said, “I can’t please Jeff Tittel,” and added that he’s not “planning to.”
Christie made the comment during a Tuesday press conference when a question came up regarding the Department of Environmental Protection’s decision to grant waivers in certain cases. The department said a waiver process is needed to prevent project standstills due to cumbersome regulations. (Hassan, PolitickerNJ)
Showdown in the 9th
Politically and ideologically, Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman are virtually indistinguishable. Both are liberal Democrats. They were elected to Congress together for the first time in 1996 and have been reelected together seven times.
Now each is trying to defeat the other in the June 5 primary election. (Ahearn, The Record)