Morning News Digest: April 26, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
House honors Payne
The House of Representatives honored U.S. Rep. Donald Payne today with a ceremony in the Capitol Building’s Statuary Hall.
Among the speakers honoring Payne, who died last month after battling cancer, were Speaker of the House John Boehner, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver and U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, the dean of the New Jersey delegation.
Payne’s son, Donald Payne Jr. and other family members were on hand to remember the fallen Congressman. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Will Christie conditionally veto the health insurance exchange bill?
Gov. Chris Christie has until May 10 to either sign or veto a bill that creates a New Jersey health insurance exchange, the online marketplace where New Jerseyans will buy federally subsidized health plans in 2014, when the Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to get coverage.
But the U.S. Supreme Court will decide the constitutionality of the ACA in June, and a ruling that strikes down all or part of the law could scuttle the state-run exchanges. Some Trenton insiders think Christie will conditionally veto the exchange bill, thus tossing it back to the legislature for revision and another vote — and allowing the governor to postpone his decision until after the Supreme Court rules. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
Mitt Romney meets with donors at exclusive N.J. fund-raiser
Mitt Romney came to New Jersey for a series of big-dollar fund-raisers and meetings with key donors now that the primary season is all but over.
The Republican candidate for president appeared at a $50,000-a-plate dinner in Short Hills on Wednesday night and is expected for another round of events in New York on Thursday morning, including one hosted by Jets owner Woody Johnson.
Romney, who swept five primaries on Tuesday, is beginning to reap the benefits of being the presumptive nominee, including the ability to form a joint fund-raising committee with the Republican National Committee, which has much higher contribution limits than individual candidates. (Reitmeyer, Stile, and Jackson, The Record)
2 seek merger price tag
Two Democrats who publicly questioned the state’s top higher education official on Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to reorganize state colleges and universities Wednesday said they still have concerns that the proposed merger is speeding ahead before its costs have been calculated or analyzed.
Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Vincent Prieto said it makes no sense to move forward before the costs are tallied, despite the Republican governor’s July 1 deadline. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
New Jersey state college faculties protest pay, benefit propsals
Faculty from across New Jersey’s state college campuses protested Wednesday as tensions with Gov. Christie continue to grow over proposals to freeze professors’ pay and cut benefits.
Christie has called for four-year salary freezes and an end to perks such as guaranteed sabbaticals, a staple of academic life, at the state’s nine nonresearch universities, which do not include Rutgers or the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, according to faculty union officials who have been involved in contract talks. (Osborne, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
State puts together $55 million fund for CHP and fuel cells
The state is looking to hand out up to $55 million in grants to encourage the building of combined heat and power systems and fuel cells to help business and industrial customers drive down their energy costs.
The program, a top priority of the Christie administration’s Energy Master Plan, is soliciting applications through June 25, 2012. It is being overseen by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and the state Board of Public Utilities. Up to $20 million will be allocated in the first award. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Social, economic issues dominate debate among Democrats in 5th Congressional District
Two of the three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to run in the 5th Congressional District fielded questions on education, finance, jobs and corruption during a debate Wednesday night.
Jason Castle and Diane Sare presented their platforms before an audience of about 50 at the event, which Bergen Grassroots, a government reform group, hosted at the Ethical Cultural Society of Bergen County. (Hayes, The Record)
NJ Department of Education blamed or slowing repair of decaying schools
The Christie administration’s slow pace with court-ordered school construction and repairs is now heading to court, this time with a twist on who actually is being sued.
The Education Law Center, the Newark-based advocacy group representing school children under the Abbott v. Burke litigation, yesterday announced it had filed a lawsuit over what it said was the administration’s failure to move on scores of so-called “emergent projects” in the state’s poorest districts. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Assemblyman Lou Greenwald pushes property tax relief plan to AARP members
Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald pushed his property tax relief plan on a conference call with more than 10,000 AARP members this morning.
The seniors questioned Greenwald about his plan, which would give senior citizens and disabled residents making less than $250,000 a year a credit equal to 25 percent of their property taxes. The credit would be applied against their income taxes. For non-seniors, the credit would be 20 percent of property taxes. (DeMarco, The Star-Ledger)
$1M study of Passaic River flooding included in house, Senate bills
The Army Corps of Engineers would spend $1 million next year to evaluate the best solutions to perennial flooding in the Passaic River basin. That’s if bills that advanced in the House and Senate this week become law.
While much more money would be needed to implement whatever solutions are identified, it would be significant if Congress agrees to fund a study that could lead to new projects when there is a bipartisan agreement to reduce discretionary spending. (Jackson, The Record)
Attorney: State Police have escorted ‘dozens’ of caravans, but not at high speeds
The attorney for one of two troopers suspended amid allegations they led a caravan of sports cars racing to Atlantic City last month said Wednesday his own investigation shows the State Police have escorted “dozens” of similar caravans in the past, though not at high speeds.
“I’m not talking about a funeral,” said Charles Sciarra, who represents suspended Sgt. 1st Class Nadir Nassry. “I’m talking about high-end vehicles moving on the state roads with escorts.” (Baxter and Queally, The Star-Ledger)
NJ marking 40th anniversary of housing ruling
Princeton University is marking the 40th anniversary of the first ruling issued in an affordable housing lawsuit that has been debated in New Jersey ever since.
The Southern Burlington County branch of the NAACP sued Mount Laurel Township, arguing that the Philadelphia suburb’s zoning laws discriminated against the poor. And on May 1, 1972, a state judge agreed.
Exactly what each town’s responsibility is to house the poor has been debated in courts and politics ever since. (Associated Press)
NJAR issues retraction on its housing and tax poll
On Tuesday, April 24, the New Jersey Association of Realtors released a public opinion poll that contained inaccurate information.
A question posed to 800 randomly selected New Jersey voters asked them if they would be more or less likely to support a Senate Democratic plan to receive a tax credit equal to 10 percent of their property taxes, knowing they would no longer be able to deduct property taxes from their state income tax. Unfortunately, the question posed was erroneous. In fact, the loss in a taxpayer’s ability to deduct one’s property taxes from state income tax filings is not part of Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s property tax plan. (Staff, Gannett)
JCP&L puts outage data in customers’ hands
To address complaints from its 1 million ratepayers about its response system for last year’s storms, Jersey Central Power & Light has launched a Web-based power outage mapping tool to give customers and politicians access to real-time reported data on outages from their desktops, smartphones and mobile devices.
“If people don’t notify us, we don’t know they’re out of power,” Dennis O’Boyle, vice president of external affairs for JCP&L, said today at a press conference at the utility company’s Morristown headquarters. “After last year’s storms, people told us they needed more information. This will show them how many outages there are and what percentage (of an area) is out.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
Perth Amboy school board puts superintendent on paid leave
Perth Amboy’s outspoken school superintendent was placed on paid administrative leave tonight as she faces a string of personnel charges.
The move by the city school board to place Janine Caffrey on leave, effective immediately, was supported by four of the nine board members.
Five board members abstained, with four saying they could not vote on personnel issues because they have relatives employed by the district. (Haydon, The Star-Ledger)
New Jersey welcomes global pharmaceutical firm Ipsen
Working to bring more jobs to New Jersey and grow the state’s life sciences sector, the Christie Administration today welcomed global pharmaceutical company Ipsen to New Jersey, where the company has established its new North American headquarters. Ipsen plans to create approximately 100 new jobs based in its new offices in the Basking Ridge section of Bernards. (Staff, Gannett)
How long do you have? N.J. life expectancy on the rise
People in the United States are expected to live longer than their cohorts 20 years ago, and New Jerseyans have a slightly longer life expectancy than the average American, according to a national report released last week.
The report, which provided life expectancy estimates for every state and county in the United States, said that men in New Jersey in 2009 were expected to live to 77.8, compared to the nationwide life expectancy for men of 76.2.
New Jersey women in 2009 were expected to live to 82.2, almost a year more than the national average for women of 81.3. (Hopkins, Gannett)
Stockton College president: ‘Tool kit’ bills could help higher ed
The unpassed bills in Gov. Christie’s so-called “tool kit,’’ including Civil Service reform, would go a long way toward helping financially beleaguered N.J. higher-education institutions, a college president told the Assembly Budget Committee today.
Stockton College President George Pruitt said that if the state is going to impose mandates then it must also give college officials the ability to meet them. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Coutinho: Continued unanswered higher-ed reorganization questions unacceptable
The financial uncertainties surrounding the Christie administration’s higher-education reorganization – primarily regarding bond debt – are a concern, the head of the University of Medicine and Dentistry told the Assembly Budget Committee today.
In response to questions from Albert Coutinho, (D-29), Newark, interim UMDNJ President Denise Rodgers said the primary issue that causes concern for her is how bond debt will be dealt with and whether any will be transferred once the reorganization is completed. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Montclair State president: NJTV’s ‘arranged marriage’ going well
A once-sore subject emerged at this afternoon’s roundtable discussion between the Assembly Budget Committee and a panel of higher-education officials.
The topic? NJTV and Montclair State University.
Last year, when the state was exiting the public TV business and turning those functions over to the entity that would become NJTV, some lawmakers questioned why the Christie administration was not turning to Montclair State instead, considering that the university already had in place studio infrastructure and personnel to handle the work. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Police: Attrition becoming an issue on local level
Local police officials are dealing with declining numbers because they have not been able to fill vacated positions in their squads following retirements, public safety representatives said at a lengthy Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee hearing today.
“We’re being worked to death,” said Steve Demofonte, a member of the executive board of the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police. “We’re being forced to work more hours. We’re being forced to endure hardships financially and emotionally.” (Smith, State Street Wire)
Silliness is epidemic in nation’s politics
There is an old saying about politics being theater for the ugly. Theater always had been a part of it and frankly a reason why politics has been fascinating to follow. But somewhere along the way it went from acceptable drama to Three Stooges.
When Sen. Frank Lautenberg summoned Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Deputy Director Bill Baroni to Washington to embarrass the Christie administration without stopping to think Lautenberg had embarrassing issues himself related to the bi-state authority, it was not like a serious, dignified Senate inquiry. It was more of a Monty Python sketch. (Ingle, Gannett)
Ed Koch’s 1977 New York City mayoral victory: A good guide for Mitt Romney in 2012
Whenever I hear commentators speak of how “boring” a Mitt Romney-Rob Portman ticket would be, I am reminded of Ed Koch’s victory in the New York City mayoral race in 1977.
In 1977, believe it or not, Ed Koch, then an incumbent Democratic Manhattan Congressman, was viewed as the “boring” candidate in the New York City mayoral race. As noted by the New York Times in its April 14, 1988 edition, “It seems hard to believe now, but Mr. Koch had been a relatively subdued figure in Congress who was then pushing his record and was not the vivid political personality that later emerged.” (Steinberg for PolitickerNJ)