Morning News Digest: May 15, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Rothman scuffles to get to Pascrell’s left as latter says rival camp doesn’t tell the truth
Standing in a university theater ordinarily reserved for classical music recitals, the two Democratic Party combatants in the 9th Congressional District ratcheted up the cacophony tonight, as U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) charged U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) with uncorking the ugly first in campaign advertising.
“I’m most concerned about the negative attacks on my character, which have been proven false,” said Pascrell. “I hope my opponent continues to tell the audience the same distortions because everyone knows their distortions. … You don’t change our mind because of what’s in the paper. You change your mind because of what’s in your heart. You obviously haven’t.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Deal between Gov. and Sweeney included credit on property taxes and higher income limit
The tax cut deal that was in the works today between Senate President Steve Sweeney and Gov. Chris Christie included the basics of Sweeney’s intial property tax cut plan with an increased income threshold, sources familiar with the deal told PolitickerNJ.
The deal would include a 10 percent credit against the first $10,000 of property taxes paid for anyone earning less than $400,000, according to two sources. The income cap is up from Sweeney’s initial proposal of $250,000. The plan also would restore the earned income tax credit to 25 percent of the federal credit from its current level of 20 percent. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Assembly Democrats holding firm
While rumors swirl that Gov. Chris Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney are closing in on a deal over a proposed tax cut, Assembly Democrats say they are sticking to their guns.
Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-6), Voorhees, issued a statement Monday afternoon indicating Assembly Democrats would continue to push for the lower chamber’s tax credit proposal. The statement came despite news of Christie and Sweeney are on the verge of announcing a compromise on their respective plans. (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
Christie, Sweeney reach deal on tax cut, but can NJ afford it?
Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) have reached agreement on a compromise tax cut plan. Now the question is whether any of Sweeney’s fellow Democratic legislators will agree with the plan themselves.
For one thing, the state could be facing a $1 billion shortfall over the next 14 months, according to Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden). For another, the compromise tax plan took Senate Democrats by surprise, and they’re wary. (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)
Revenue figures Tuesday could affect Christie tax cut plans
Governor Christie’s “Jersey Comeback” budget and his signature income tax face a major test Tuesday: a revenue report for the most crucial month of the year which pits actual tax receipts against budget projections.
Poor tax collections for the month – the news many in Trenton expect to hear – could force Christie to cut spending now to balance the current budget. And low revenues could also make it harder for Christie, a Republican, to pitch the income tax cut featured in his new budget and to convince the Democrats who control both houses of the Legislature that now is the right time to cut taxes. (Reitmeyer and Fletcher, The Record)
Christie to attend groundbreaking for Cooper expansion
Gov. Chris Christie is expected to speak at today’s groundbreaking for the Cooper Cancer Institute’s $100 million expansion.
Events will begin at 11 a.m. at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Haddon Avenue, across the street from Cooper University Hospital. The 103,000-square-foot expansion will result in a new suite of offices for the institute to provide a full range of cancer care under one roof. The project is expected to be finished by the fall of 2013. (Gannett)
N.J. Treasury delays release of April revenue figures without explanation
A joint news conference between Gov. Chris Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney wasn’t the only thing that didn’t go off as scheduled today in Trenton.
The state’s Treasury Department failed to release April revenue figures as expected. The department declined to explain the delay.
April is a critical month in the budget cycle where the state receives the bulk of its income tax collections. (Renshaw, The Star-Ledger)
Pascrell, Rothman clash on voting records in debate at Montclair State University
Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr. and Steve Rothman clashed repeatedly Monday night on their voting records, campaign commercials and on who is the better Democrat in the second debate in their intense primary fight in the 9th Congressional District.
Pascrell accused Rothman, a fellow Democrat, of distorting his votes on issues such as offshore oil exploration and the estate tax by running ads that make claims that independent reviews have found to be false or mostly false. (Ensslin, The Record)
Analysis: Rothman, Pascrell unbowed in final televised debate
No one landed a knockout blow in the final televised debate Monday between Democratic Reps. Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell.
But the two veteran Democrats seeking the nomination in North Jersey’s redesigned 9th Congressional District showed where they’ll take their campaigns as the battleground shifts to radio and cable TV stations, voters’ mailboxes and the streets of Bergen, Passaic and Hudson counties. (Jackson, The Record)
Officials discuss compromise in Rutgers-Rowan merger: A combined institution with an independent board
A tentative compromise is in the works that could save the controversial proposal to merge Rutgers-Camden with Rowan University, higher education officials said today. The framework for the deal calls for creation of a combined institution in South Jersey that would be controlled by an independent board but retain some form of the Rutgers name, the officials said.
Under the plan, negotiated behind the scenes by a group of state lawmakers and university officials, Rutgers would still oversee how degrees are awarded and other academic issues but would have no authority over day-to-day operations of its Camden campus, those involved in the talks say. (Heyboer, The Star-Ledger)
‘User fees’ bill clears State Senate panel, upsetting local officials
A bill that would include “user fees” in the state’s 2 percent cap on property taxes cleared a Senate panel today by a 5-0 vote, to the dismay of local officials and advocates for towns.
The bill (S1914), which advanced 5-0, would crack down on towns skirting the 2 percent cap by levying user fees on services like garbage collection, to take the cost of the service out of the property tax levy. (DeMarco, The Star-Ledger)
NJ Senate panel approves bill changing requirements for workers to collect disability pensions
A Senate committee on Monday cleared a bill that would change the requirements for employees seeking to collect a disability pension, despite opposition from union officials.
The Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee approved the bill, designed to combat abuse of the state’s retirement systems and sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, in a 4-0-1 vote. Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, abstained, saying she wanted to bring all the interested parties together to work through the concerns raised during the hearing. (Hayes, The Record)
Assembly committee approves two bills to change punishment for nonviolent drug offenders
Two measures that would change the way New Jersey’s criminal justice system deals with nonviolent drug offenders have cleared a legislative hurdle.
The Assembly’s Judiciary Committee on Monday approved a bill that mandates nonviolent drug offenders receive treatment rather than a jail sentence and creates a two-year pilot program in two counties. The panel also passed a measure that would erase the offenders’ criminal records if they successfully complete the treatment program. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
NJ Senate committee OKs bill extending tuition aid to NJ students born to illegal immigrants
A state Senate committee approved a bill Monday that would give New Jersey students born in the United States equal access to state tuition assistance for college, regardless of their parents’ immigration status.
The bill, S-1760, would reverse a policy that denies tuition grants and in-state college prices to children of illegal immigrants. The legislation would consider a student “domiciled” in New Jersey for eligibility purposes if the student is a U. S. citizen, has lived in the state for at least a year and the student’s parent or guardian provides the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority with recent tax documentation. (Brody, The Record)
N.J. Assembly Committee approves bill banning indoor tans for minors
An Assembly committee approved a measure today that would bar people under 18 from indoor tanning despite the objections of salon owners, who warned that the youths would find unregulated and potentially harmful ways to bronze their skin.
After a nearly three-hour debate, the committee approved the bill
(A2142) by a vote of 5-to-2.
State law currently prohibits children under 14 from using commercial tanning beds and permits children from 14 to 17 to tan at salons if a parent accompanies the teenager to sign a consent form. (Livio, The Star-Ledger)
Casagrande, Bramnick announce Republican effort for working women
State Assembly Republicans plan to spend the next month holding discussions on how to improve job opportunities for women, Assemblywoman Carol Casagrande (R-Freehold) and Minority Leader Jon M. Bramnick (R-Westfield) announced today.
Casagrande said the effort is designed to encourage businesses to make changes that promote opportunities for women, and could lead to her introducing legislation combating discrimination. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
Panel OKs bill to make cellphone crashes easier to prosecute
A Senate panel approved a measure Monday that would make it easier to prosecute a motorist who causes an accident while illegally using a cellphone.
The bill, co-sponsored by state Sen. Fred Madden, D-Gloucester Township, is named in part for Toni Bolis, 28, of Washington Township, and her unborn son, who died in a June crash allegedly caused by a man looking at his cellphone while driving. (Staff, Gannett)
NJ Senate panel OKs resolution requesting MLB to retire Roberto Clemente’s number
A measure “respectfully requesting” that Major League Baseball retire No. 21 in honor of Hall of Famer player Roberto Clemente was approved unanimously Monday by a state Senate committee.
The continuing resolution drew the backing of the Senate Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee. Should the full Senate and Assembly each approve the measure would be passed along to Bud Selig, the commissioner of Major League Baseball. (Brennan, The Record)
Fine Print: Teacher evaluation update
What it is: The state Department of Education is releasing every month an update on its teacher evaluation pilot, now including 10 districts and another 19 individual schools and expanding to another 30 districts next year. The latest update provides a useful run-down of the basics of the program — including the tricky nomenclature of teacher evaluation — and also highlights the work in one district in particular, this time, Alexandria Township. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
N.J. effort to reduce regulations cobbled by lack of construction
While the Gov. Chris Christie administration has made overturning a decade’s worth of strict regulatory policies a top priority for the state, business owners won’t recognize the improvements until construction picks up, an economist said.
“Old perceptions die very hard, even if attempts have been made to improve the state’s tax climate and regulatory environment,” said James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. “If a company was looking to add a new facility, and it has had to deal with a strict regulatory environment in the past, the CEOs still have that perception in their mind now.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
Supporters of NJSTARS see silver lining in the scaled back program
The NJSTARS college scholarship program is shining a little less brightly on top high school graduates, but supporters of the program are pleased it wasn’t totally extinguished.
Gov. Chris Christie this month signed into law changes to the program that reduce the scholarships available to students who graduate in the top 15 percent of their high school class, but supporters of the bill said they hope the changes will provide stability to the program and allow it to remain affordable to the state. (D’Amico, Press of Atlantic City)
EKGs for athletic kids: Protecting the young at heart
Brenda Gergich had open heart surgery at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in February to repair a congenital heart defect. Last Saturday she was back with her entire family, and the three children had electrocardiograms during the free sports physical clinic the hospital runs twice a year to identify heart abnormalities, and screen student athletes for concussions.
Most kids don’t get an EKG before going out for sports, and a state task force on sudden cardiac death in athletes recommended doing a better job on the sports physical. The new legislation requires cardiac examination training for the clinicians who perform them, but it stopped short of recommending EKGs. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
ACLU: injunction upheld in ‘Tru-ID’ challenge
The American Civil Liberties Union says a state judge has upheld a temporary restraining order that blocks stricter requirements for people seeking to obtain or renew driver’s licenses in New Jersey.
The order was issued May 7 after the ACLU and others claimed the state’s motor vehicle commission had improperly tried to impose new standards, known as TRU-ID, without publishing details or soliciting public comment as required under state law. (Associated Press)
Google-backed offshore wind-powered grid gains traction
The Atlantic Wind Connection, the Google-backed plan to build an offshore wind transmission system off the Eastern seaboard, continues to move forward even as efforts to develop wind farms off the Jersey coast lag.
The U.S. Department of Interior yesterday announced there was no competitive interest in using certain areas of the Outer Continental Shelf to build a backbone transmission system 12 to 15 miles off the coasts of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Chiropractor sentenced for illegally soliciting clients
A 36-year-old Perth Amboy man was sentenced today to three years behind bars in a state prison for illegally soliciting patients for Central Jersey Chiropractic and Rehabilitation Centers.
Jimmy Tovar was sentenced in Middlesex County Superior Court after he pleaded guilty in March. Tovar admitted he conspired to procure clients, patients or customers in cooperation with providers seeking to obtain benefits under an insurance contract for providing services to the insured, according to the Office of the Attorney General. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Senate bill would ban red light cameras in N.J.
Sen. Michael Doherty, (R-23), Washington Township, today introduced legislation that would lead to the end of red light cameras in New Jersey.
The legislation would prevent municipalities from adopting red light camera systems in the future and would prohibit municipalities that already use the system from renewing contracts with the vendors that operate and maintain them. (Smith, State Street Wire)
Home-schooling bill regarding DYFS cases advances
A bill that would mandate that a child under state supervision and placed in a home cannot be home-schooled unless the Division of Youth and Family Services gives approval cleared the Assembly Women and Children Committee along party lines today. Both Republicans opposed the measure as currently written.
Supporters of home-schooling fear the bill will end up hurting them. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Tigers, law enforcement animals and horses discussed in Assembly committee
The Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee released several bills relating to various animals and wildlife. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Chris Christie defies gravity
Once upon a time, the Northeast was ruled by Republicans.
Yankee politicians like New York’s Teddy Roosevelt, Massachusetts’ Henry Cabot Lodge, Connecticut’s Prescott Bush, New Hampshire’s Warren Rudman, Rhode Island’s John Chafee, Maine’s William Cohen and Vermont’s James Jeffords represented more than a century of GOP dominance in the North that began with the presidency of Abraham Lincoln and ended with George W. Bush’s election. (Scarborough, Politico)
Jerry Brown vs. Chris Christie
In his January 2011 inaugural address, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared it a “time to honestly assess our financial condition and make the tough choices.” Plainly the choices weren’t tough enough: Mr. Brown has just announced that he faces a state budget deficit of $16 billion—nearly twice the $9.2 billion he predicted in January. In Sacramento Monday, he coupled a new round of spending cuts with a call for some hefty new tax hikes.
In his own inaugural address back in January 2010, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also spoke of making tough choices for the people of his state. (McGurn, The Wall Street Journal)