Morning News Digest: May 21, 2012


Morning News Digest: May 21, 2012

By Missy Rebovich

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Hospital Association did not support Prieto, Wisniewski, Bramnick effort to exempt hospitals from PIP regs

When three assemblymen sponsored legislation last year that would exempt hospitals from state efforts to cap fees on outpatient procedures performed under auto insurance policies, critics said their goals was to help Meadowlands Hospital, which had spread hundreds of thousands of dollars around the state in campaign donations and lobbying fees.

Two of the lawmakers, Assemblymen John Wisniewski (D-19) and Jon Bramnick (R-22), who each received thousands in donations from the hospital’s owners and others tied to the group and who both had previous business dealings with one owner, countered the claims, saying the bill was not aimed at Meadowlands and would have helped all hospitals across the state.  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



Winners and Losers: Two and a half weeks out

The tractor beam is beginning to take hold.

But before the final wins and losses tally, the preliminary wins and losses…  (Staff, PolitickerNJ)



Kean says Bruce Harris deserves a “fair” hearing

Supreme Court nominee Bruce Harris deserves to be treated better during his Senate confirmation than the last nominee received earlier in the year.

That was the message from Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean (R-21) of Westfield, on Friday afternoon, who called on lawmakers on the other side of the aisle to give Harris “a fair hearing” and that they have “open-minded consideration” during the May 31 confirmation proceedings.

“As a public and commercial finance attorney and a long-standing local elected official, Bruce Harris uniquely understands how the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the State Constitution impacts the citizens of this state,” Kean said in a statement.  (Arco, PolitickerNJ)



Former Hamilton Township Councilman Jack Lacy has died

Former Hamilton Township Councilman Jack Lacy, a longtime member of the township Republican Party who was active for decades in local politics, has died.

Lacy, who served on the township council for 24 years, including 12 as president, was 73.

Born and raised in Hamilton, Lacy was a 1956 graduate of Hamilton High School.  He graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in journalism and from St. Regis University with a Masters in Political Science.  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



Gov. Christie: Obama is ‘posing and preening,’ not resolving issues as president

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told Kentucky Republicans on Saturday that President Barack Obama was “posing and preening” instead of working to resolve pressing issues facing the country.

“He is the most ill-prepared person to assume the presidency in my lifetime,” Christie told some 600 Kentucky Republicans at a Lexington hotel. “This is a guy who literally is walking around in a dark room trying to find the light switch of leadership.”

Christie was in Kentucky to deliver a pep talk to state GOP leaders. The state’s presidential primary is Tuesday, though it will have no significant impact. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.  (Associated Press)



Christie’s second N.J. Supreme Court nominee to get confirmation hearing

Chatham borough Mayor Bruce Harris, Gov. Chris Christie’s pick for the state Supreme Court, will finally get his confirmation hearing the end of this month.

But the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee today said Harris may not make the cut because lawmakers are skeptical about his qualfications.

“I wouldn’t bet on him. He’s got no courtroom experience,” said Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), the committee chair. “It’s going to be difficult for people to vote for a man who doesn’t have a lot of courtroom experience.”  (Spoto, The Star-Ledger)



Christie backs EPA order against Pa. power plant

The administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is taking a hard line on power plant pollution near his state’s border, backing an Environmental Protection Agency order for strict reductions in sulfur dioxide emissions from a GenOn-owned plant in eastern Pennsylvania.

Unlike many neighboring East Coast states, New Jersey hasn’t joined the legal fight to defend the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule or the agency’s new mercury and air toxics rule for power plants.  (Martinson, Politico)



Poverty numbers are grim in N.J.

More New Jersey residents lived in poverty in 2010 than ever before, according to a report released Sunday.

A record 885,0000 people in the state, nearly 300,000 of them children, lived below the poverty line, say authors of an analysis by the Legal Services of New Jersey Poverty Research Institute in Edison, which is based on the most recent numbers available.

Overall, the poverty rate increased from 8.7 percent in 2008 to 9.4 percent in 2009, and finally to 10.3 percent in 2010.  (Lubrano, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



New Jersey bar president calls Christie criticism ‘borderline unethical’

New Jersey’s chief justice didn’t opine on the extraordinary upheaval and political controversies in the state’s court system Friday during his annual “State of the Judiciary” speech at the state’s bar association convention.

But the new president of the New Jersey State Bar Association most certainly did, in an interview slamming as “borderline unethical” Republican Gov. Christie’s recent criticism of one judge’s ruling.  (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



N.J. university restructuring plan already costing $566,000

Dozens of high-priced and well-connected lawyers, accountants and other professionals already are benefiting from Governor Christie’s plan to restructure some of the state’s largest public universities – even though the plan’s future is far from certain.

The tab for outside consultants has surpassed $566,000 and is on pace to reach into the millions, an analysis by The Record has found. The governor has shifted the cost of figuring out how to dismantle the state’s medical school in North Jersey and merge Rutgers and Rowan universities in South Jersey onto the schools themselves – a cost that will be borne by taxpayers and students.  (Alex, The Record)



Clinton-Obama rivalry from 2008 finds new battleground in Rothman-Pascrell race

Former President Bill Clinton has pledged to hit the campaign trail hard for Barack Obama this year. And Clinton’s wife, of course, remains Obama’s loyal secretary of state.

But for the fourth time since 2010, the embers of the pitched battle between Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination have flared again — most recently in North Jersey, where two veteran congressmen who chose different sides four years ago are locked in their own increasingly bitter race to represent the newly redrawn 9th District.  (Jackson and Fletcher, The Record)



Surrogate for Obama denounces anti-Romney ad

Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark, a prominent Democrat enlisted as a surrogate for President Obama’s campaign, sharply criticized it on Sunday for attacking Mitt Romney’s work at the private equity firm Bain Capital.

Mr. Booker, speaking on the NBC program “Meet the Press,” made his comments in response to a television advertisement the president’s campaign unveiled last week. It portrays Mr. Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, as someone who eliminated jobs for the sake of profits during his years running Bain Capital.   (Hernandez, The New York Times)



Booker walks back criticism of Obama campaign tactics

Newark Mayor Cory Booker released a video on Sunday emphasizing his support for President Obama’s re-election after condemning some the president’s re-election tactics as “nauseating.”

Booker said in a video posted to YouTube that he believed it was appropriate to fully vet Mitt Romney’s private sector record, clarifying his head-turning comments this morning on “Meet the Press,” on which he decried the Obama campaign’s attacks on Romney due to an instance in which a company acquired by Bain Capital, which Romney cofounded, ended up in bankruptcy.  (O’Brien, MSNBC)



Morris-Sussex to be without permanent assignment judge thanks to fight between Gov. Christie, Senate Dems

The political tussle over judicial appointments between Gov. Chris Christie and Senate Democrats will leave the Morris-Sussex vicinage without a permanent assignment judge this week.

Assignment Judge Thomas Weisenbeck’s term expired yesterday. Judge David Rand, presiding judge in the civil division who serves as Weisenbeck’s backup, will be filling in temporarily as assignment judge until the Senate resolves Weisenbeck’s fate.  (Horowitz, The Star-Ledger)



New Jersey considers law to prevent ‘granny snatching’

The New Jersey Legislature is considering a new law to prevent an elder abuse known as “granny snatching” by joining a multi-state network that protects adults who need the assistance of a guardian when families feud.

“There has been one case after another where we have venue challenges and jurisdictional challenges that have caused a lot of problems,” said Sen. Fred H. Madden (D-Gloucester), co-sponsor of the legislation.  (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)



U.S. Sen. Menendez to start re-election campaign at 2 events today

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez is kicking off his re-election campaign with two events in New Jersey.

The Democrat will be at Union City High School this morning. He’ll then head to the Camden County Emergency Training Center in the Blackwood section of Gloucester Township in the afternoon.

Menendez is being challenged by Republican state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (KIR’-ill-ohs).

The incumbent — who is better known and far better financed than his GOP challenger — had $9.5 million on hand at the end of the last reporting period, compared with $1.4 million for Kyrillos.  (Associated Press)



Newark Democrats split over South Ward control

The South Ward has been the center of Newark’s black political power for decades. Home to Sharpe James, the Paynes and the Barakas, the ward represents some of Newark’s biggest political brands.

For decades U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Sr. was the patriarch of the ward’s most powerful political family. But following his death in March, a power struggle ensued that has thrown control of the ward into question.  (Giambusso, The Star-Ledger)



5th District Democratic hopefuls trade shots at debate in Teaneck

Teaneck Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen and Jason Castle, who are seeking the Democratic nod to run for Congress in the 5th District, took shots at each other Sunday throughout a candidates forum at Teaneck’s Rodda Center.

Diane Sare, the third candidate in the race that will decide who faces longtime Rep. Scott Garrett, provided he wins the Republican primary, called herself a “LaRouche Democrat” and kept out of their fray for the most part.  (McGrath, The Record)



Jersey City state senator says cutbacks necessary to preserve scholarship program for high-achievers

High-achieving high-school students who attend county colleges as part of the state’s STARS program will no longer have college fees paid for due to revisions to the program signed into law earlier this month.

The program, which previously joined with county colleges to pay for tuition and fees for students who rank in the top 15 percent of their high school graduating classes, has proved too expensive for taxpayers and colleges, according to state Sen. Sandra B. Cunningham of Jersey City, of the primary sponsors of the revisions.  (McDonald, The Jersey Journal)



Trio of new power plants cleared to deliver capacity

The Christie administration’s effort to spur the development of new power plants in New Jersey apparently is working, perhaps beyond even its wildest expectations.

In an auction conducted by the regional operator of the nation’s largest power grid, three separate natural gas-fired plants cleared, energy industry jargon meaning they will receive payments for providing capacity beginning in 2015, according to industry officials and others familiar with the results.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



In Burlington County, a 458 percent tax hike with Christie’s blessing

When two New Jersey towns asked voters to approve a property-tax hike last month, Gov. Christie scorned them.

The state’s other 564 municipalities didn’t seek permission to exceed the 2 percent cap on tax increases. Didn’t Medford and Lawrence Townships know how to cut spending?

But Christie was mum a few days later when his administration quietly gave Chesterfield the go-ahead to raise municipal taxes a whopping 458 percent. The average tax bill in the tiny rural Burlington County community will jump nearly $1,000.  (Hefler, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Elizabeth mayor faces challenge from ex-insider in Democratic primary

When Chris Bollwage was first elected the mayor of Elizabeth, the Cold War had just ended, Johnny Carson hosted his last episode of “The Tonight Show” and Chris Christie was two years away from winning a seat on the Morris County freeholder board.

Two decades later, the city of Elizabeth is a different place. The demographics of the state’s fourth-largest municipality have shifted dramatically, with Hispanic and Latino residents accounting for nearly 60 percent of the populations in the 2010 Census — a 25 percent increase from 10 years earlier.  (Hutchins, The Star-Ledger)



Tensions rise over Paterson’s plans for schools

Another state-operated school district, another broiling debate over the Christie administration’s reform plans.

This time, it was in Paterson where deep divisions have surfaced over the administration’s mix of proposals, from changes in educational practices to the closing and reconfiguring of a half-dozen schools.

The Paterson advisory board on Thursday narrowly approved the package put forward by state-appointed superintendent Donnie Evans.   (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



Alternative-school links grow on Camden board

Milagros Torres joined a chorus of parents advocating for alternatives to public schools in Camden after her 9-year-old daughter was attacked in March by bullies in a Thomas H. Dudley Elementary School bathroom.

Moneke Ragsdale, however, says it was the Lanning Square School, a traditional, public elementary school, that made sure her son Eric Lee wouldn’t fall behind. Lee, now 19, went on to graduate with honors from Camden High School, just finished his first year at Camden County College, and hopes to go on to medical school.  (Vargas, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Board OKs non-casino attraction projects in Atlantic City

The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Board approved Tuesday two retail attraction projects to give tourists something to do that doesn’t involve gambling and a reason to stay in Atlantic City an extra day.

“We’re looking for new, fresh ideas to make the area safe, clean and welcoming,” said James Kehoe, chairman of the CRDA board. “At 6 o’ clock at night, we don’t want someone pulling down their garage door so their goods are not stolen.”  (Eder, NJBIZ)



Dissident from China now in N.Y.

The blind Chinese legal activist Chen Guangcheng, who had been at the center of a diplomatic row between the U.S. and Chinese governments, completed a four-week journey from confinement in a rural Chinese village to the freedom of New York City, arriving Saturday night after a flight from Beijing with his wife and two children.

Three weeks after taking refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, Chen arrived to study law at New York University. Chen has said he hopes he will end up back in China doing legal reform, but he could end up in prolonged and frustrating exile in the United States.  (Richburg, Washington Post)


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Daily State House Schedule



Weekly Advance: Week of May 21



Weekly Roundup: Week of May 14



U.S. data: Economic recovery remains sluggish

If it seems as if New Jersey’s economy has been spinning wheels like a car stuck in mud, the federal government has some data that supports that idea.

On the heels of the state releasing its own information recently showing that revenues have been lower than forecast, placing into question the fates of the various tax-cut plans floating around the Statehouse, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has come out with its latest figures on how unemployment rates are changing – or not changing – around the country as of April.  (Mooney, State Street Wire)



Pension Commission opposes prostate cancer screening-coverage bill

The Pension and Health Benefits Review Commission opposed legislation today that would require the state pension system to provide coverage for expenses incurred in screenings for prostate cancer.

A1656, sponsored by Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, (D-37), Englewood, would require the State Health Benefits Program to provide coverage for annual medically recognized diagnostic examinations for men over the age of 50 who are asymptomatic, and for men over the age of 40 with a family history of prostate cancer or other prostate cancer risks.  (Smith, State Street Wire)



Pension and Benefits Commission recommends Legislature not vote on judicial-retirement age increase until referendum is held

The Pension and Health Benefits Review Commission recommended today that the Legislature hold off on voting for a bill to increase judicial retirement ages until after a referendum is put to the voters to weigh in on a change to the state’s Constitution about retirement ages.

A168, sponsored by Assemblyman Erik Peterson, (R-23), Franklin Township, would increase the statutorily mandated retirement age for judges and county prosecutors from 70 to 75. The bill would affect Supreme Court and Superior Court judges, as well as Judges of the Tax Court, Administrative Law Judges, and Judges of the Division of Workers’ Compensation.  (Smith, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room 



Legalized sports betting?

The New Jersey and New York U.S. Senate delegations have been engaged in their own form of legalized betting of late over the NHL playoff matchup between the Rangers and the Devils.

Hardly born of the social media age, the four senators have nevertheless been engaged in a Twitter war of words over team honor.  (Staff, PolitickerNJ)






Why George Norcross won’t back Christie for governor: ‘I’m a democrat.’

The race for governor in New Jersey is more than a year away, but George Norcross, the Democratic power broker from South Jersey, has already cast his vote.

He says he’s not supporting the incumbent Republican, Gov. Chris Christie.

Norcross, arguably the state’s most powerful Democrat, has worked closely with Christie on several major initiatives — including pension and benefit reforms — and has been seen as crucial to the governor’s legislative success.  (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)



In Hackensack, a felony isn’t so bad

In the musical “1776,” John Adams laments the failure of the Continental Congress to declare independency. He asks, “Good God, what in hell are they waiting for?” Adams’ Colonial Philadelphia, Pa., had nothing on Hackensack, N.J.

On Wednesday, Police Chief Ken Zisa was found guilty of official misconduct and insurance fraud. He faces 23 years in prison. On Friday, he was still the police chief. Incredible.  (Doblin, The Record)



Race for Bergen GOP chief getting hotter than ever

To most Bergen Republican insiders, Cresskill’s John McCann is general counsel — and political watchdog — for Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino.

But now that McCann has entered the June 14 race for Bergen County Republican Organization chairman, one of his opponents, Anthony Rottino, suspects he is playing a more devious role — stalking horse for the embattled incumbent, Bob Yudin.  (Stile, The Record)



Three ways of looking at Cory Booker

Newark Mayor Cory Booker spent Sunday afternoon attempting to clarify comments he made on Meet The Press, in which he called the Obama campaign’s attack on Bain Capital (and private equity) “nauseating.”

In an almost four-minute follow up video for his social media followers, Booker explained that Romney’s business record was fair game, and that he was simply frustrated by negative campaigning.  (Byers, Politico)



Morning News Digest: May 21, 2012