Morning News Digest: May 18, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Pascrell puts together massive rally for endgame run against Rothman
Team Pascrell projected dominance tonight at a campaign rally attended by an estimated 1,000 people, who packed St. Joseph’s Hall in support of the embattled incumbent U.S. Congressman.
In dogfight mode as he faces the most demanding two and a half weeks of his long political life, Pascrell focused his Paterson troops on the task of defeating U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
CD 10 candidates scrap at NACCP forum
Head-to-head in an NAACP-sponsored forum for the first time, the contenders in the 10th Congressional District tried to outshine one another this evening at Trinity AME Church.
“We need to continue the 23-year legacy going forward,” said Newark City Council President Donald Payne Jr., son of the late U.S. Rep. Donald Payne. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Gubernatorial appointments and nominations listed
Gov. Chris Christie today filed the following nominations and direct appointments with the State Senate and Secretary of State’s Office. The Governor’s nominations are subject to the advice and consent of the State Senate. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
The impact of Gill’s CD 10 run on LD 34 2013 and the potential emergence of Mark Alexander
Win or lose, state Sen. Nia Gill’s (D-34) decision to run for Congress this year could produce a shakeup in the 34th.
Gill wins, she goes to Congress.
She loses, she has to trudge back to Montclair as a line officer and county employee who ran against the party establishment. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Tax-relief proposals on hold
Lawmakers are contending with an increasingly unsettled budget picture in Trenton, forcing them to shelve two bills — both said to offer tax relief — as they await more information on state revenues.
A bill that would create an income tax credit for middle class homeowners — put forward by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, as a counter to Governor Christie’s proposed 10 percent income tax cut — was held by the Senate Budget Committee on Thursday. (O’Brien and Reitmeyer, The Record)
Pro-Christie group’s latest TV ad may sway public opinion on N.J. tax debate
A deep-pocketed group that supports Gov. Chris Christie’s agenda rolled out a new television ad today and announced a $1.6 million campaign to blanket the airwaves from New York to Philadelphia over the next three weeks.
It is the fourth TV spot underwritten by the Committee for Our Children’s Future since the group was formed in September, said its spokesman, Brian Jones.
The issues-advocacy organization, which is not required to disclose its donors, has now spent more than $4.8 million on TV and Internet ads trumpeting Christie’s victories in the Statehouse and drumming up public support for his plans. (Rizzo, The Star-Ledger)
Former N.J. Gov. Whitman, Americans Elect group throws in the towel on bipartisan presidential ticket
Former Gov. Christie Whitman’s dream of putting a bipartisan presidential ticket on the ballot won’t come true – at least not this year.
An experimental group Whitman helped lead, Americans Elect, announced today it would not nominate a candidate for president because its candidates failed to meet the threshold to enter its online convention in June.
“The primary process for the Americans Elect nomination has come to an end,” it reads. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Sen. Robert Menendez blasts decision to give Cuban president’s daughter U.S. visa
The daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro has been granted a U.S. visa to attend an academic conference in San Francisco and another event, one of her associates confirmed Thursday. The decision has already drawn fire from Cuban-American politicians and on anti-Castro blogs, which argue that she is an apologist for the Communist government her family has led for decades.
Cuban-American Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), slammed the decision on Wednesday, even before the trip was confirmed. He called Mariela Castro “a vociferous advocate of the regime and opponent of democracy.” (Associated Press)
Senators call on Governor to end “war on women,” expand healthcare access
Marking National Women’s Health Week in New Jersey, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Nia Gill today announced a new effort to expand women’s access to critical health care services in New Jersey.
During a press conference attended by health care professionals and women’s health advocates, the Senators called on the Governor to end his assault on women’s health care. Senators Weinberg and Gill announced their intention to restore funding for family planning services in the FY2013 budget and to leverage millions of dollars in additional funding for these services through a generous 9-to-1 match offered by the federal government. (Proebstle, New Jersey 101.5)
Can the state save New Jersey’s solar sector?
Hoping to avert a crash in the solar industry in New Jersey, a key legislative panel yesterday passed a bill that aims to stabilize the sector, once hailed as one of the fastest-growing parts of the state economy.
Whether the legislation ( (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)) will succeed, however, remains an unanswered and much disputed question among its advocates and critics.
Bill to decriminalize small amount of marijuana gets N.J. Assembly committee hearing
Getting caught with a small amount of marijuana would be akin to getting a traffic ticket under a bill that is up for consideration by an Assembly panel on Monday.
The measure before the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which has bipartisan sponsorship, would replace criminal penalties with fines for those caught with less than 15 grams of marijuana — or enough for more than 30 joints.
Too far out there? According to Roseanne Scotti, state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. it’s the furthest a bill to decriminalize marijuana has ever gotten in the New Jersey Legislature. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Senate committee repeals bill allowing N.J. to claim unused gift cards as revenue
The state Senate Budget Committee passed a bill today repealing a 2010 law that allowed the state to claim the value of of unused gift cards as revenue.
Just two years ago, lawmakers agreed to include gift cards as part of the unclaimed property law, which means the state claim cards that go unused for two years. The law sparked a law suit from retailers and at least three major companies to pull their cards from shelves to avoid dealing with burdensome regulations. (Renshaw, The Star-Ledger)
State Senate moves to prevent abuse by ‘fake farmers’
Legislators took a step closer Thursday to making it harder for people to call themselves farmers for the sake of tax breaks.
The Senate’s Environment and Energy Committee unanimously passed a bill that doubles the revenue a land owner must make from a farmed product in order to get a 98 percent property tax break.
The annual income level, if the bill passes the full Legislature, would increase from $500 to $1,000. (Patberg, The Record)
Princetons find merger vote easy part of consolidation
Combining the two New Jersey communities that share the Princeton name is testing Governor Chris Christie’s effort to get the state’s patchwork of 566 cities and towns to merge governments.
Voters in 1.9-square-mile Princeton Borough, which includes the downtown shopping area, and the surrounding 16.6-square-mile Princeton Township approved consolidation in November, after at least three earlier referendums failed. Elected officials have been meeting at least once a week as they face a Jan. 1 deadline to decide on everything from how many people to fire to which municipal buildings to spare. (Dopp, Bloomberg)
Room at the top: NJ’s urban school districts search for supers
The Camden school board’s move this week to launch a search for a new superintendent adds to the growing list of urban supers in flux in New Jersey — where the Christie administration could play a prominent role in filling most, if not all, of them.
Camden joins Jersey City and Trenton in the process of replacing their superintendents, while Paterson and Perth Amboy are almost equally uncertain about their future leadership. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Stop to DEP waivers and workers comp pay hikes advance, despite business opposition
A pair of measures opposed by business groups advanced in the state Senate on Thursday, including a resolution blocking a proposed environmental waiver rule and a bill providing annual increases for workers compensation recipients.
A rule that would allow the Department of Environmental Protection to waive regulations for one of four reasons would be blocked under a resolution released by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
Private sector adds jobs as more in N.J. actively seek work
In a near reversal from March, private-sector employment in New Jersey increased by 6,300 jobs in April, while the public sector shed 3,700 jobs, mostly at the local government level, according to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
“In just one month, we came within 1,000 jobs of completely reversing the March decline in private-sector employment,” said Charles Steindel, chief economist for the New Jersey Department of Treasury, in a statement. (Eder, NJBIZ)
Competition takes center stage at East Coast gaming summit
The swelling competition for Atlantic City’s casino industry was front and center today as Revel, the city’s newest resort, hosted this year’s East Coast Gaming Congress.
At a panel discussion on the growing number of mid-Atlantic casinos, New Jersey gaming executives sat with counterparts from neighboring states as they recounted plans to revive the struggling resort city. Tony Rodio, CEO of the Tropicana casino, said Atlantic City gaming halls face the unusual challenge of having to compete with one another — in a state that has no limit on casino licenses — and with regional competitors. (Burd, NJBIZ)
Allergan signs lease for Central Jersey R&D facility
After announcing plans to move to New Jersey in November, multispecialty health care company Allergan Inc. has signed a lease to open a 93,000-square-foot research and development facility in Bridgewater — creating several hundred jobs and injecting about $12 million in private investment into the state’s economy within the next three to five years. (Eder, NJBIZ)
Senate Health releases housing and parenting bills
The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens committee advanced multiple bills on Thursday, including S1401, which would establish a statewide database of the motels and hotels used for emergency assistance placement.
S1401, sponsored by Sen. Ron Rice, (D-28), Newark, cleared the committee by an 8-0-1 vote, with Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego, (R-8), Evesham, abstaining. (Smith, State Street Wire)
Senate ‘Gestational Carrier” bill advances
The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens committee released a bill authorizing gestational carrier agreements in New Jersey by a 7-0-2 vote today.
S1599, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-19), Woodbridge, is known as the “New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act.” (Smith, State Street Wire)
Senate committee releases Sweeney’s user fee ban bill
Senate Budget Committee members wasted little time on releasing three pieces of legislation today during the committee’s afternoon hearing.
The committee released S1121 with little discussion and no testimony. The bill changes unemployment insurance compensation rates for employers, excluding governmental entities. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Doherty, Turner, Lonegan, Sierra Club fight Scudder Falls project
A diverse and unlikely coalition has formed in opposition to the replacement of the Scudder Falls bridge over the Delaware River.
Conservative firebrands Sen. Michael Doherty, (R-23), Washington Township, and Steve Lonegan, head of Americans for Prosperity, have joined with liberal stalwarts Sen. Shirley Turner, (D-15), Trenton, as well as Jeff Tittel, head of the N.J. Sierra Club, to fight the $330 million Scudder Falls bridge project. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Trying to capitalize on the momentum of some hardluck headlines for U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9), the campaign of U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) prepared to unveil its latest cable television ad. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
But was there a man with one arm?
A source tells PolitickerNJ that Republican Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo, arrested last month on charges that he allegedly took a $12,400 bribe in exchange for influence, is doing his best to make light of the situation. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Once Governor Christie’s nemesis, Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s now a believer
Three months ago, Senate President Stephen Sweeney mocked Governor Christie’s budget math. He accused the administration of fudging revenue figures for political gain.
“Each year, he’s underestimated the surplus and then they come in like champions,” the Gloucester County Democrat said moments after Christie promised a 10 percent across-the-board income tax cut. “They play a lot of games with the numbers.”
But these days, Sweeney the Critic has become Sweeney the Convert. (Stile, The Record)
There are no big tents left in America
The first weekly newspaper group I worked for had a marketing partnership with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus. I might have the order of the names reversed; it was so long ago. For about one week every year, almost everyone who worked at the newspaper lived and breathed the circus. I didn’t realize in the 1980s that it would be the last time that I would see a big tent.
In 2012 there is no “big tent,” at least in American politics. It’s gone. The circus still comes to town on Election Day, but the tent is small. The problem with small tents is that it is not just the audience that is diminutive in size, the acts are small as well. (Doblin, The Record)