Morning News Digest: May 22, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Booker latest GOP draw
Internet searchers looking for news on Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker are finding a result they didn’t expect.
The National GOP has begun running a Google Ad asking searchers to “Stand with Cory Booker” in his fight for free enterprise.
The ad is seeking to capitalize on Booker’s recent appearance on “Meet the Press” where he slammed an attack against Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
The ad Booker took issue with came from President Obama’s re-election campaign and jabbed Romney’s former investment company, Bain Capital, calling it – and Romney – a destroyer of jobs. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Sources: Stack jumps into CD Primary for Pascrell
Union City Mayor Brian P. Stack is scheduled to send Stack forces into the City of Passaic tomorrow evening to do a lit drop for U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9), say sources close to the CD 9 contest.
Pascrell is in a Democratic Primary donnybrook with U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9). (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
NARAL endorses Rothman in CD 9
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, announced that her organization’s political action committee endorsed Rep. Steve Rothman in New Jersey’s newly configured 9th Congressional District.
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, announced that her organization’s political action committee endorsed Rep. Steve Rothman in New Jersey’s newly configured 9th Congressional District. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
NJ ‘comeback’ will lag nation, agency says
A Wall Street ratings agency became the latest critic of Governor Christie’s “Jersey Comeback” on Monday with a report that said the state’s economic growth “will likely remain muted.”
Moody’s Investors Service cited New Jersey’s $230 million tax shortfall in the current state budget and the state’s persistent high unemployment rate in its Weekly Credit Outlook Monday.
“New Jersey’s fiscal 2013 revenue growth will likely remain muted given recent tax revenue trends and our expectation that the state’s economic recovery will lag the U.S.,” Moody’s said. (Reitmeyer, The Record)
Christie’s schools budget challenged as ‘illegal’
An education advocacy group on Monday urged New Jersey lawmakers to reject Gov. Chris Christie’s schools budget for the coming year, claiming that it changes the formula for funding public education without prior legislative approval and in ways that will shortchange districts with the largest percentages of poor and non-English-speaking students.
The Education Law Center claims the governor’s budget for K-12 aid as presented to the Legislature is illegal. (Associated Press)
NJ Lt. Governor Guadagno touts state’s job-creation efforts
Trying to counter April’s picture of rising state unemployment, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno told lawmakers Monday the administration’s job-creation efforts were aiding the New Jersey comeback touted by her boss, Gov. Christie.
Testifying before the Assembly Budget Committee on state funding for business, Guadagno said last month’s rise in state unemployment to 9.1 percent after leveling out at 9 percent in March reflects that “people have begun to look again.”
“That means they believe there are jobs for them again,” Guadagno said. (Fletcher, The Record)
Booker: Obama’s right, Romney at Bain is ‘fair game’
It’s fair for the Obama campaign to question Mitt Romney’s claims at job creation, Newark mayor Cory Booker said Monday, clarifying remarks he made over the weekend.
After hearing President Obama explain his position on Romney’s business record earlier Monday, it became clear “he was focusing in on his job creation record,” the New Jersey Democrat said in anevening interview, and “to me I think that’s fair game.” (Epstein, Politico)
Cory Booker’s comments on Obama’s ‘nauseating’ campaign: Gaffe or calculated tactic?
A headshot of Cory Booker on one side, the GOP logo on the other.
The day after Booker, a surrogate for the Obama re-election team, went on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and let thenation know he was nauseated by one of the president’s campaign tactics against Mitt Romney, the Democratic mayor of Newark found himself embroiled in a national conversation.
What did he mean? Was this a gaffe or calculated? How big a headache did he cause his party? (Goldberg, The Star-Ledger)
Cory Booker’s most memorable moments
Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a rising star in the Democratic party, made a splash Sunday with his criticism of President Barack Obama’s campaign attacks on private equity. This isn’t the first time Booker has found himself in the national spotlight. (Weinger, Politico)
Senate Committee advances nominations of 17 Superior court judges
The Senate Judiciary Committee this morning advanced the renominations of 17 Superior Court judges, averting a fight that could have exacerbated a judge shortage in Essex County.
The renominations of the judges, from eight counties, now head to the Senate for a full vote on Thursday.
Democrats have said Gov. Chris Christie told them he would dump some Superior Court judges in the coming months. He did not renominate one judge from Essex and the renominations for several others came very close to the expiration of their terms. (Spoto, The Star-Ledger)
Democrats test Gov. Chris Christie with marijuana bill
Gay marriage vetoed. Medicaid subsidies for poor women stripped. Medical marijuana distribution blocked.
Now frustrated Democrats are trying to put another liberal test before Republican Governor Christie: decriminalizing marijuana possession. The measure cleared an Assembly committee Monday with unanimous support, making it the latest in a string of progressive bills that have forced Christie to show his conservative views on topics largely popular among middle-to-left voters. (Patberg, The Record)
Trenton lawmakers advance several bills, including to make gambling easier in Altantic City
Gamblers in Atlantic City would be able to place bets poolside or from any other area of their casino hotel without setting foot in the gaming room under legislation released from an Assembly committee Monday.
The bill, A2575, would allow visitors to use mobile gaming devices throughout the hotel, including the swimming pool or any outdoor recreation area like a beach bar. (Spoto, The Star-Ledger)
NJ Assembly panel OKs bill to overturn rules allowing businesses to sidestep environmental rules
An attempt to block a controversial set of rules that critics say would roll back environmental regulations passed an Assembly panel Monday, less than a week after a similar measure passed a Senate committee.
The resolution passed by the Assembly Environment Committee would compel the state Department of Environmental Protection to overturn the “waiver rule” that could allow developers, businesses and property owners to sidestep environmental protections. (Fallon, The Record)
Prominent lawmaker seeks to slow down NJ’s virtual charters
As students continue to sign up for New Jersey’s first experiments with online charter schools, one leading legislator is asking the state to slow down.
State Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex), chairman of the Assembly’s education committee, said yesterday that he is preparing legislation that would seek at least a six-month moratorium on new online charters.
If approved, how much impact the bill would have is uncertain. Five charters that are either full-time or so-called hybrid online schools have already been approved, although not yet granted final charters. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
NJ Assembly bill would let taxpayers donate to Meadowlands trust on returns
New Jerseyans may soon be able to donate money to the Meadowlands Conservation Trust on their state income tax form, under a bill approved by an Assembly committee Monday.
The bill could be voted on by the entire Assembly on Thursday, said is sponsor, Assemblyman Vincent Prieto, D-Secaucus. A companion bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate. (Fallon, The Record)
Rowan faculty and employees endorse no-merger recommendation
A union representing Rowan University’s faculty, adjunct faculty, coaches, and librarians has endorsed a set of recommendations that oppose the school’s proposed merger with Rutgers-Camden. Despite a pledge of neutrality by Rowan’s administration and the union itself, representatives of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 2373 voted to approve a proposal written by a state-wide coalition of labor unions that asserts, “Rutgers-Camden must remain a part of Rutgers University.” (Nurin, NJ Spotlight)
NJ Muslin leaders to meet again with state officials on NYPD surveillance program
New Jersey Muslim leaders who attended a March meeting with the state’s attorney general say they’ve been invited back this week for a follow-up discussion.
It will focus on the state’s response to revelations that the New York Police Department conducted secret surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey.
Muslim leaders and others critical of the NYPD’s activities hope the AG will announce at Thursday’s meeting a formal investigation into the NYPD’s activities in New Jersey, although several privately expressed doubt that would be the result. (Associated Press)
Menendez launches Senate reelection bid
Sen. Bob Menendez joined with Democratic Party leaders and students at Union City High School on Monday to formally kick off his reelection bid for the U.S. Senate.
“This campaign is not about bringing the powerful down, it’s about raising the middle class up so we can all have a better future,” said Menendez.
Menendez is seeking his second full term after first being appointed to replace Jon Corzine, who stepped down after being elected governor in 2005. (Hayes, The Record)
Chris Smith: I fear for Chen Guangcheng’s safety
Rep. Chris Smith warned Monday that blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who arrived in the United States on Saturday, will need extra security while in New York because the Chinese government could continue to track his moves – and even attempt to harm him in a staged accident.
“We’ve learned from … many other dissidents who finally got here and got asylum or protection that they are tracked, they are followed, they are harassed. So he will have to be watched — there will have to be an extra layer of protection here in New York,” the New Jersey Republican said on CNN’s “Starting Point.” “It has to be watched very carefully because they do things like car crashes or something happens that is made to look like an accident. So we have to keep a very, very sharp focus on his safety.” (Lee, Politico)
U.S. Congressional Race: District 4
New Jersey may be considered a blue state, but the shore area, part of which is in the 4th Congressional District, is decidedly Republican. Rep. Christopher H. Smith, a Republican, has had a strong hold on the district for three decades.
Still, Terrence McGowan, a former Navy Seal, volunteer firefighter and police officer who worked as a civilian military contractor in the Iraq War, has decided to take on the entrenched incumbent in the June 5 primary. (DeMasters, NJ Spotlight)
U.S. Congressional Race: District 5
New Jersey’s northernmost congressional district, the 5th, has been in Republican hands for nearly 70 years.
U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett, the current G.O.P. occupant and a resident of Sussex County, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2002 and appears primed to strongly defend the seat. He faces a primary challenge from two Bergen County residents, Michael Cino and Bonnie Somer, both of whom concede the odds of winning are against them. (Manochino, NJ Spotlight)
U.S. Congressional District 7
With the endorsements of Gov. Chris Christie and county Republican party chairs in his district, U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance would appear to be on his way toward winning a third term in Congress.
But before he even gets to the November election, he has to go through David Larsen, who polled 31 percent of the vote against Lance two years ago. (Zambito, NJ Spotlight)
9th District congressional candidate says health care debate spurred run
Saddle Brook Republican Blase Billack said Monday he decided to run in the GOP primary for the 9th Congressional District because of his dissatisfaction with the way the health care debate turned out in Congress.
Billack, an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at St. John’s University in Queens, called the process that led to the passage of the bill too partisan. (Ensslin, The Record)
Poverty Summit hears tales of New Jerseyans going without
When the electric company shut off Barbara Offredo’s service last spring, she used flashlights to cheer up her 11-year-old son, Joseph, who missed lights, cooked meals, and hot showers.
“Pretend we are camping,” she told him, knowing it would be eight days before she could pay some of what she owed.
Offredo, 51, of Hamilton, choked up telling the story Monday. A full-time hospice nurse and single mother of two, Offredo said she is on the brink of homelessness because rent for her two-bedroom apartment eats up half of her monthly salary. (Farrell, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Study: NJ coast not as polluted as thought
A new study by Rutgers University finds that New Jersey’s coastal waters are not as polluted as scientists had thought.
Marine scientists studying pollution-sensitive sea creatures on the ocean floor since 2007 found their numbers and types indicate healthier water conditions than expected. The study involved scooping small animals from 153 ocean floor sites along New Jersey’s 127-mile coastline from Sandy Hook to Cape May.
“Conditions were actually pretty good, pretty healthy,” said Michael Kennish, the project’s lead investigator. (Parry, Associated Press)
New projects still hard to come by for N.J.’s builders
With federal stimulus funding exhausted and state and local governments shrinking their operating budgets, contractors in New Jersey’s construction industry are continuing to work through their backlogs more rapidly than replacement projects are coming, according to an indicator that reflects the work to be performed by commercial and industrial contractors in the months ahead. (Eder, NJBIZ)
NJ utility to benefit from upgrades to regional power grid
With the retirement of many coal plants, the operator of the nation’s largest power grid has ordered $2 billion in upgrades to the region’s transmission system, including a $37.5 million project in Morris County.
Jersey Central Power & Light’s 6.4-mile 230-kilovolt line from Whippany to Montville was one of 130 projects approved by the PJM Interconnection Board last week as part of its efforts to maintain the reliability of the system serving more than 60 million people in 13 states and Washington D.C. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
PSE&G sits out auction to build power plant
For the past few months, PSEG Power has been telling analysts it is considering building a new natural gas-fired plant in Seawaren, but apparently that decision is now on hold.
When PJM Interconnection last week held an annual auction to ensure there is enough capacity in the 13-state region to keep the lights on, the Newark-based subsidiary of Public Service Enterprise Group failed to bid the plant into the auction.
“We basically felt we couldn’t compete with subsidized power plants,” said Kathy Fitzgerald, vice president of communications for the energy company. “A major investment in a power plant became too risky in such an uncertain market.” (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Mercer Chamber launches Latino council to meet rising demand
Michael Cano‘s parents came to the United States from Spain and Peru, but unless you’re discussing heritage, it would be difficult to tell he was a second-generation American. For Cano and other Hispanic business owners, building business relationships based in cultural commonalities is a rare opportunity. That’s why Cano, chair of the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce’s board, is leading a new Latino business council called La Liga.
Cano, president of Cano Wealth Strategies LLC, and Jose Hernandez, CEO of the YWCA of Trenton, co-chair La Liga — Spanish for “The League” — which is hosting its first event tonight at Fernando’s Grille, in Hightstown. (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
Feds approve gas pipeline that will run through Jersey City, Bayonne, and offshore Hoboken
Federal officials tonight gave the green light to a controversial, $1.2 billion natural-gas pipeline Houston-based Spectra Energy seeks to construct in parts of Bayonne, Jersey City and offshore Hoboken.
The pipeline is opposed by Jersey City and Hoboken officials, with Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy making it something of a personal mission to keep the plan from coming to fruition. Opponents said the pipeline would discourage residential development along the route and create numerous safety hazards. (McDonald, The Jersey Journal)
Assembly committee hears testimony on state recycling efforts
More recycling means more money for New Jersey, according to testimony taken today at the New Jersey Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee meeting.
New Jersey is celebrating its 25th anniversary of a statewide recycling mandate, and the committee took testimony on the status of recycling in the Garden State. (Smith, State Street Wire)
UEZ bill released
The Assembly Economic Development Committee released a bill (A2925) on the most recent incarnation of the Urban Enterprise Zone program, calling for a restoration of state funds cut by Gov. Chris Christie.
Over a five-year period, the 31 UEZ towns would get to keep less and less of their sales tax proceeds, giving them time to gradually become less dependent. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights enhancement bill released from committee
The Assembly Appropriations Committee voted to release legislation that proponents say would strengthen the state’s Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights.
The bill, A2380, is named after the former Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce, who championed the rights of crime victims, said Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, (R-26), the bill’s sponsor. (Arco, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Bencivengo fundraiser causing a stir
Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo, arrested last month on corruption charges, has residents in the Mercer County township buzzing over a planned fundraiser to pay for his legal defense.
The invite to the June 5 event is vague on how the $125 per head will be spent, saying only that after expenses the procedes will go “directly to John.”
Reached today, Bencivengo said after the fundraiser – to be held at Spigola on Route 130- was planned he set up a legal defense fund and the proceeds of the event will go to that. New invitations reflect the account, he said. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Christie in NY for Romney fundraiser
Gov. Chris Christie is headed to New York Tuesday to help raise money for presumptive GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
The event begins at 5 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt New York. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Axelrod ready to stand with Rothman
President Barack Obama’s Senior Campaign Advisor David Axelrod will formally endorse U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman for re-election in the 9th Congressional District Primary at a campaign rally to be held May 23 at the Fiesta on Route 17 in Wood-Ridge.
The event starts at 12:30 p.m. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Ravi’s sentence could have been worse
Judge Glenn Berman sentenced former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi to 30 days in the Middlesex County jail, three years of probation and 300 hours of community service for intimidation and spying on his gay roommate Tyler Clementi. According to the Star Ledger account of the sentencing hearing, the judge said, “This individual was not convicted of a hate crime. He was convicted of a bias crime and there’s a difference. I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi. He had no reason to. But I do believe that he acted out of colossal insensitivity.” (Sabrin for PolitickerNJ)
Cory Booker will learn he can’t play by his own set of rules
Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Governor Christie, the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby buddy tandem of New Jersey politics, are not the stars of “On the Road to the White House 2012.”
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are the marquee players, not these two guys from Jersey with a propensity to talk off message and too much about themselves. And “White House 2012” is not a comedy, either — it’s a war flick, not for the faint of heart, or people like Booker, who apparently have weak stomachs. (Stile, The Record)
With Ravi verdict, a judge’s missed opportunity
In the end, he said nothing
No plea for mercy. No final claim of innocence. No apology.
Dharun Ravi kept his mouth shut.
On what could arguably be the most meaningful day of his 20-year-old life, Ravi did not mutter so much as a syllable when he faced state Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman in New Brunswick to learn whether he would go to prison after being convicted on 15 counts, including bias intimidation, for using a webcam to spy on his Rutgers roommate. (Kelly, The Record)