Morning News Digest: March 23, 2012

Morning News Digest: March 23rd 2012

By Missy Rebovich

Try State Street Wire, Follow PolitickerNJ on Twitter and Facebook. Text “PNJ” to 89800 to receive alerts



Senate Judiciary Committee deals loss to Christie as it votes down Kwon, 7-6

By a vote of 7-6, the state Senate Judiciary Committee this evening voted down the state Supreme Court nomination of First Assistant Attorney General Phil Kwon.

Although he tried, Gov. Chris Christie could not summon a second Democrat to join state Sen. Brian P. Stack (D-33) and five Republicans in voting aye to Kwon.

All voting yes, the Republican committee members fumed over the unsuccessful nomination in the lead up to the inevitable.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



In Kwon aftermath, Christie bewails ‘partisan side show’

Gov. Chris Christie called Phil Kwon a man of integrity, in contrast with Democrats in need of a political win. 

“To see what Phil went through today is a disappointment to me personally,” said the governor, who claimed Democrats treated Kwon as a political punching bag.

Flanked by GOP members of the senate judiciary committee (all but state Sen. Mike Doherty, who had a previously scheduled town hall meeting), the governor identified public sector unions’ efforts to dump Kwon.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Sources: law enforcement authorities subpoena WNY mayor

Sources in West New York say federal law enforcement authorities today dropped a subpoena on Mayor Felix Roque.

Roque was not available for comment.

A source said the subpoena is related to an insurance fraud investigation, which the mayor’s office denied.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Christie courts mandatory treatment for drug offenders

Gov. Chris Christie is proposing what might sound like a counterintuitive strategy to address the revolving door of drug abuse, crime and prison. He wants to expand the state’s drug court, where substance-addicted, nonviolent offenders voluntarily enter treatment programs instead of going to jail.

But Christie proposes making treatment mandatory, not voluntary, for nonviolent offenders. Which raises the question: How effective can drug treatment be if individuals aren’t there willingly?  (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)



Rowan reveals takeover plan for Rutgers-Camden

Rowan University on Thursday unveiled a plan to implement its proposed takeover of Rutgers-Camden, including the maintenance of existing course offerings at both schools for at least six years and an increase in programs designed to boost enrollment.

The 17-page report provided the first details about how the Glassboro-based school would absorb the university located in the heart of one of the nation’s most depressed cities, but it still did not fully address the costs of the proposal. It did nothing to change the minds of Rutgers’ faculty or Chancellor Wendell Pritchett.  (O’Dea, NJ Spotlight)



Rowan says partnership with Cooper proves it can handle merger with Rutgers

Amid ongoing mudslinging over the proposed merger of Rutgers–Camden and Rowan universities, Rowan interim President Ali A. Houshmand presented a report today to outline the transition from the university’s perspective.

Though the plan did not offer specific steps to accomplishing an expansion of student population, research expenditure and staff, a spokesman said the university’s success in partnering with Cooper Health System to form the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University is enough to prove that the merger can be done.  (Eder, NJBIZ)



Rutgers pay shows campus imbalance

New data on Rutgers University salaries appear to illustrate the regional imbalance that some leaders say they are trying to address through a statewide reorganization of higher education.

Faculty and other staff at the Rutgers University-Camden campus make up 7.4 percent of the $821.6 million in salaries throughout state university. That came to $61.1 million for all of 2011, according to a salary database recently obtained by New Jersey Press Media.  (Method, Gannett)



New Jersey environmental waiver rule challenged by 27 groups

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s new rule that lets the state waive environmental regulations on a case-by-case basis was challenged today by 27 groups that claim it creates damaging loopholes for developers and polluters.

The New Jersey Sierra Club and others appealed a rule signed March 6 by Bob Martin, Christie’s environmental commissioner. Martin said regulators will apply “commonsense principles” for waiving compliance and “provides us with a modest measure of flexibility to manage special circumstances.”  (Voreacos, Bloomberg)



Just three New Jersey towns asking voters to OK tax hike

Towns across New Jersey are in turmoil as they struggle to balance budgets by cutting services. They are laying off police and other staff, closing town halls on Fridays, shutting libraries, borrowing money, depleting surpluses, and using one-time fixes.

But raising taxes has become such a taboo that only three of the state’s 566 municipalities will be asking voters for permission to boost taxes beyond a state-imposed 2 percent cap.  (Hefler, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



New Jersey pension funds rise 6.3% before payouts to start 2012

New Jersey’s pension-fund assets increased 6.3 percent before payouts in the first two months of the year, helped by stock gains, according to the state’s investment division.

After payments to beneficiaries, excluding those in the police and firefighter plans, the value rose 4.9 percent from Dec. 31 to $70.5 billion, the division said in a report presented today to the State Investment Council.

“It was definitely a stock-pickers’ market for the first two months of the year,” Timothy Walsh, director of the Division of Investment, said at a meeting in Trenton.   (Young, Bloomberg)



New Jersey job figures show slow but steady growth

During the first two months of 2012 alone, New Jersey created more than half the number of jobs it did during all of last year, according to new data released yesterday from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

In January and February, employers in the state added a net total of 17,500 non-farm jobs. Last year’s tally came to 33,400 new jobs in the private sector.  (Beeson, The Star-Ledger)



Bill would deny Facebook data

Legislation that would bar employers from requiring current or prospective employees to give their Facebook login information is being introduced in the state assembly.

“This is a huge invasion of privacy. It’s really no different than asking someone to turn over a key to their hous
e,” said John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, who is a sponsor. “In this job market, especially, employers clearly have the upper hand. Demanding this information is akin to coercion when it might mean the difference between landing a job and not being able to put food on the table for your family.”  (Staff, Gannett)



After ousting director, N.J. Highlands Council searches for new one

A week after the state’s Highlands Council voted to remove Eileen Swan as executive director, the council’s personnel committee is looking for a replacement.

Council chairman Jim Rilee, also mayor of Roxbury, said the personnel committee, on which he sits, will likely recommend a candidate in the next few weeks.

Rilee said the council must work “expeditiously” to find a replacement because the council’s deputy executive director, Tom Borden & who would have become acting director — resigned in protest after Swan was fired.  (Horowitz, The Star-Ledger)



BPU straw proposal advanced to stabilize solar sector

What is it going to take to bring new investment into the state’s once fast-growing solar sector?

That issue was debated yesterday as the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities held a public hearing on a straw proposal from its staff on a way to stabilize the sector, which is seeing a dramatic slowdown in the number of solar projects in the pipeline after a period of extraordinary growth.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



(Click here to request a free trial)



Daily State House Schedule



New Jersey one of only two states to pay health benefits exchange board members

Of the states that have already adopted a state health benefits exchange, New Jersey is one of just two that plans to pay members of the exchange’s board, a State Street Wire survey has found.

And at $50,000 per year, the proposed salary here dwarfs the $30 per workday officials in Oregon will earn.  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



Essex immigration detainee centers don’t meet federal standards, report says

Essex County immigrant detention facilities fail to meet national standards for housing immigrant detainees, according to a report expected to be released Friday.

The New Jersey Advocates for Immigrant Detainees says detainees are given inadequate medical attention and are mistreated by guards and staff at several Essex County facilities. The immigration advocacy group also claims immigrants are given limited access to legal representatives.  (Arco, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room 



Christie v. Sweeney

Gov. Chris Christie continued late in the day to try to pry one more Democratic vote off the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of his nominee, Phil Kwon.

But Christie undertook those efforts against long odds, said Republicans are convinced the Democrats on the committee – with the exception of Christie ally state Sen. Brian P. Stack (D-33) – intended to vote down Kwon. 

A source told that Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) had no intention of facilitating passage of Kwon’s troubled nomination.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Former Supreme Court Justice: Appropriate for committee to look at everything

Former Supreme Court Justice Virginia Long spoke to NJTV today as her potential successor on the high court awaited his Senate confirmation hearing, telling Managing Editor Mike Schneider that things were different in her day.

Long told Schneider her first confirmation hearing for appointment to the high court was a “love fest,” but her re-nomination hearing seven years later was much more contentious.  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ) Morning News Digest: March 23, 2012