Morning News Digest: May 25, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Rivals pray for Payne Gaffe as front-runner get through another debate unscathed
The CD 10 candidates confronted a series of News 12 questions tonight that presented little opportunity for contrast, leaving frontrunner Donald Payne Jr happily hopeful of his mechanical advantages as the Line A Democratic Committee standard bearer in Essex County.
The drug issue appeared to give the other candidates a chance to strike a robust counterpoint to Payne, who said he would consider decriminalizing drugs for nonviolent offenders. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Dow up for Burlco judgeship
Gov. Chris Christie announced his intention to nominate former Attorney General Paula Dow for a judgeship today.
Dow left the AG’s position late last year to take a post with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey while the judgeship process unfolded.
She originally was nominated for an Essex County judgeship, but that nomination was withdrawn and she now is being tapped for a Burlington County judgeship.
Sen. Diane Allen, (R-7), Edgewater Park, lauded the nomination. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Judge Falk sets June 4th for Roque hearing date
A federal judge this afternoon released West New York Mayor Felix Roque and his son each on a $100,000 insurance bond and restricted their travel to New York and New Jersey.
The Roques stand charged with three counts apiece of computer hacking and face up to 11 years in jail and $600,000 in penalties.
Judge Falk scheduled a prelimary hearing for June 4th at 11 a.m.
Arrested this morning at his home, Roque appeared in federal court in handcuffs and leg irons, entering the chamber with his son and half a dozen other similarly bound defendants. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Governor says NJ will implement sports betting on its own, defying federal ban on it
New Jersey will defy a federal ban and let people bet on the outcomes of football, basketball and other games this fall, Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday.
Speaking at a news conference highlighting efforts to reinvigorate Atlantic City, Christie said the regulations his administration will issue next week make no attempt to overturn a 1992 federal law that limits sports betting to four states.
“We intend to go forward,” the Republican governor said. “If someone wants to stop us, then let them try to stop us. We want to work with the casinos and horse racing industry to get it implemented. (Parry, Associated Press)
Christie dismisses talk of tarnished A.C. image
Gov. Christie is not “buying into it.”
Three days after two Canadian tourists were stabbed to death in broad daylight a block from the Boardwalk, Christie came to Atlantic City himself Thursday and dismissed the idea that the resort’s image has been broken.
“I’m not going to surrender to the perception” that the city is unsafe for tourists, he said. “If people have a wrong perception of Atlantic City, which I believe they do, it’s our job to go out and change it.” (Rosenberg, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Gov. Christie criticizes state senator amid Supreme Court nominee issue
Bristling over reports that another of his state Supreme Court nominees may not be confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee, Gov. Chris Christie today took shots at the committee’s chairman, Nicholas Scutari (D-Union).
The nomination of Bruce Harris, a Republican, appears to be on the ropes because Senate Democrats say they are wary about his lack of courtroom experience, sources have told The Star Ledger. Christie said the panel simply won’t vote for a Republican.
“It’s interesting that someone like Nick Scutari, with his educational background,” found Harris unqualified, Christie said. Harris graduated magna cum laude from Amherst and earned his law degree from Yale. (DeMarco, The Star-Ledger)
Christie recommends reseating state judges in Bergen, Passaic
Governor Christie on Thursday nominated two judges from Bergen County and one from Passaic County for reappointment to the state Superior Court bench.
Judges Menelaos Toskos and John Langan, both in the civil division in Hackensack, received the governor’s nod, as did Judge Thomas LaConte in the civil division in Superior Court in Paterson. Their reappointments now must be approved by the state Senate.
Superior Court judges in New Jersey are initially nominated for seven years and must be reappointed after that. They can serve on the bench until they reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 once reappointed. (Markos, The Record)
Gov. Christie: ‘I am not a fan in general’ of legalizing marijuana possession
Gov. Chris Christie today said he is generally not in favor of legalizing marijuana possession, the same day the state Assembly was scheduled to vote on a bill that would decriminalize possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana.
Christie did not say he would veto the bill outright.
“I’ll have to see what the bill looks like if it gets to me,” he said at a press conference on the Atlantic City boardwalk. “I won’t prejudge it.”
Still, he said he leans against the idea.
“I am not a fan in general of the idea of legalization of marijuana,” he said. (DeMarco and Livio, The Star-Ledger)
Christie accepts monitoring of Muslims
The New York City police did not violate New Jersey laws when they conducted cross-border surveillance of Muslim businesses, mosques and student groups, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration said Thursday.
The determination, by the state attorney general, concerned tactics of the New York Police Department like videotaping mosque-goers and collecting their license plate numbers.
Such operations were part of a Police Department program to collect intelligence on Muslim communities in New York and beyond, even when there was no evidence of a crime. (Associated Press)
Fiery Christie speech gets Springsteen exit-music
Gov. Christie’s dream of being played out by Bruce Springsteen came true Wednesday — but the Boss may not be thrilled, and neither may the Republican governor.
Moments after praising income tax-cuts before a crowd of lobbyists, Christie was unwittingly accompanied off-stage to Springsteen’s latest song — “We Take Care Of Our Own.”
Once Christie had injected political drama into his appearance at the Alliance for Action transportation conference — calling the state’s chief budget officer “the Dr. Kevorkian of the numbers,” for disagreeing with administration revenue projections — not much else about his speech had room to catch headlines. (Fletcher, The Record)
NJ treasurer defends borrowing plan
Democrats pressed Governor Christie’s treasurer on Thursday to explain how new borrowing tied to the administration’s plan to re-balance the state budget doesn’t violate a 2004 Supreme Court ruling.
Borrowing to balance the budget was banned by the state Supreme Court when it said the practice violated the constitution. State Republicans brought the case after then-Gov. Jim McGreevey, a Democrat, balanced his state budget by using nearly $2 billion in borrowed funds.
The justices allowed McGreevey to proceed with his borrowing – over loud Republican protests – because the case got to the bench weeks after that budget was enacted. But the court emphasized such borrowing is prohibited moving forward, a signature issue for the GOP at the time. (Reitmeyer and Hayes, The Record)
The politics of the budget: for Christie, any income tax cut will do
So what does Chris Christie really want?
The Republican governor started out in January calling for a 10 percent across-the-board income tax cut. The cut would mostly benefit the wealthy, but Christie defended it on the basis of economic competitiveness, arguing that it was needed to retain and attract “top earners and job creators” to New Jersey.
Then, less than two weeks ago, Christie agreed on a tax cut “compromise” with Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) that essentially adopted Sweeney’s plan to provide property tax credits of up to $1,000 on the income tax bills of those earning up to $400,000 — without a penny going to the millionaire and multimillionaire “job creators” his original plan was designed to woo. (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)
Senate President Sweeney pushes N.J. Democrats to support Christie tax-cut compromise
Senate President Stephen Sweeney urged fellow Democrats in a closed-door meeting Thursday to support a compromise tax-cut plan he struck with Gov. Chris Christie despite the state’s weakening revenue outlook, sources said.
Sweeney was drumming up support for the compromise in the wake of two days of budget hearings in which revenue shortfalls were said to range from $676 million to $1.3 billion, according to sources at the meeting who were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.
Some lawmakers doubted whether Sweeney would continue to push the plan after the revenue figures were announced, and he answered that question. (Renshaw, The Star-Ledger)
Black lawmakers oppose Christie NJ court pick
A group of black state legislators announced its opposition to Gov. Chris Christie’s choice of a gay, black Republican for the Supreme Court on Thursday, mounting evidence that Democrats were ready to reject the second of the governor’s high court picks.
The New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus told The Associated Press that attorney Bruce Harris’s legal qualifications fall short of the high standard required of the court’s seven justices. No blacks currently sit on the court. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
N.J. Assembly votes to increase minimum wage to $8.50
After nearly two hours of debate, the Assembly voted today to increase New Jersey’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, up from $7.25, the minimum required by federal law.
The wage floor would also rise automatically every year based on movements in the Consumer Price Index under the proposal by Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex). Republicans and business groups say the bill (A2162) is a job-killer.
Oliver said from the floor that the Legislature has passed numerous bipartisan bills to support businesses over the last two and a half years. She said low-wage earners also need support and added that they’re likely to spend the extra money, giving a shot in the arm to the straggling state economy. (Rizzo, The Star-Ledger)
Assembly votes down DEP waiver rule
In a vote along party lines, the Assembly yesterday approved without debate a measure that declares a controversial rule allowing the Department of Environmental Protection to waive many of its regulations as inconsistent with legislative intent.
The resolution (ACR-37) is identical to one expected to pass the state Senate next Thursday and reflects a legislative rebuke to the Christie administration’s efforts to make the state more business friendly.
The waiver rule, stemming from an executive order issued by Gov. Chris Christie, would allow the DEP to waive its regulations if one of four conditions are met: They constitute an undue burden; they conflict with rules of other agencies; there is a public emergency; and there is a net environmental benefit. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
NJ Assembly approves teen indoor tanning ban
Legislation that would bar anyone under 18 from using tanning beds in New Jersey has been approved by the Assembly.
The measure was approved 58-7 on Thursday, with 13 abstentions. It expands a 2006 state law that bans tanning bed use by anyone under 14, and requires written parental consent for those ages 14 to 17.
The bill allows for spray or sunless tanning for children aged 14 to 17 with parental consent.
The Senate has not yet voted on the proposal. (Associated Press)
State auditor issues report critical of how NJ oversees charter schools
The Christie administration’s oversight of charter schools has long been a point of contention, and a new report out of the State Auditor is sure to fuel the debate on how tough the administration has been in holding the alternative schools accountable for their successes and failures.
The State Auditor, a branch of the state Legislature, yesterday issued a report critical of how the administration has overseen more than 70 charter schools in the state.
Meanwhile, the administration itself released new warning letters to a handful of charter schools putting them on notice for low achievement among its students, among other issues. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Bill boosting public hearings on Port Authority toll hikes heads to Christie’s desk
The Port Authority would have to hold 10 or more public hearings at least 30 days before future toll or fare hikes, under a bill that now heads to Governor Christie’s desk.
The proposed law, a response to the controversial approval process that preceded September’s toll hikes on Hudson River crossings, would also require two-thirds of the bi-state agency’s commissioners to attend the hearings. It was approved by the Assembly on Thursday, following Senate approval in March. (Boburg, The Record)
School districts set to apply for state anti-bullying grants
Local school districts are seeking grants based on the newly revised Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, which provides money to qualifying school districts to help reimburse them for funds used for training purposes.
The state Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act was declared unconstitutional earlier in the year, after the state’s Council on Local Mandates decided it must provide funding to school districts to implement the required changes, including appointing anti-bullying specialists and coordinators at each school within a district and establishing stricter guidelines for responding to suspected bullying incidents. (Kleimann, The Record)
Assembly wants attorney general to investigate abuse and neglect of disabled
The Assembly approved a resolution today urging the Christie Administration to give the Attorney General the responsibility of investigating abuse and neglect of disabled people at state-licensed facilities.
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) sponsored the non-binding resolution (ACR147) at the request of families who testified at a hearing Monday that they have lost confidence in the Department of Human Services’ ability and impartiality to investigate the people who run group homes and facilities the department also pays and licenses. (Livio, The Star-Ledger)
Tuition assistance to encourage medical graduated to stay in state
New Jersey loses most of the nearly 800 residents who graduate from its teaching hospitals each year. Typically, they leave in pursuit of higher salaries and a lower cost of living — understandable, given that many launch their careers saddled with $200,000 or more in debt.
To help curtail this exodus, which is a particular problem for residents in family and internal medicine, several New Jersey teaching hospitals have started programs to help graduates repay their loans, as long as they opt to practice in the Garden State. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
County police should join sheriff, senator says
State Sen. Gerald Cardinale introduced a bill Thursday that would eliminate the Bergen County Police Department by merging it with the county’s Sheriff’s Office. Despite courting state Sen. Paul Sarlo for more than a week as a potential co-sponsor, the bill was introduced without bipartisan support.
“This is the right course of action given the benefits other counties have afforded to their taxpayers by implementing similar consolidations,” Cardinale said in a statement Thursday. (Quirk, The Record)
U.S. Senate Race: Republican Party Primary
Some of the candidates may object to the pecking order, but both feathers and ideas are flying in a freewheeling, issue-oriented campaign for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
The battle for the dubious honor of challenging well-funded incumbent U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, in a presidential year has attracted four energetic, if not especially well-known, contenders.
Best known is state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, R-Monmouth, and the most recent poll numbers found that more than two-thirds of New Jerseyans had never heard of him. None of the major polls even bothered to gauge voters’ opinions of the other Republicans: Bader Qarmout, David-Douglas Brown and Joe “Rudy” Rullo. (Tyrrell, NJ Spotlight)
U.S. Congressional Race: District 6
Two Republicans are vying for the right to challenge 6th District Democratic U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. in November.
In the Republican ring, a Tea Party-endorsed former mayor of Highlands, Anna Little, is going up against Ernesto Cullari, a small business owner and professional music writer who lives in Asbury Park.
The heavily Democratic district went through some notable geographical changes in the wake of reapportionment last year. But the changes are mainly cosmetic, as their greatest impact would potentially concern the fall election. (Kassel, NJ Spotlight)
9th District GOP candidate says near-death experience spurred public service
Paterson physician Hector Castillo said he almost died on the operating table in 2008 when his breathing and heart briefly stopped seven hours into what became a 13-hour surgery.
“You rebooted,” Castillo said his doctor told him. Ever since, he said, he has rededicated himself to public service —one reason he’s running for the Republican primary for the 9th Congressional District.
“I’m going to do what I can to make life better for everybody,” Castillo, 56, told The Record editorial board Thursday. (Ensslin, The Record)
10th District congressional candidates debate military spending, same-sex marriage, war on drugs
All six candidates vying for the 10th District Congressional seat faced off tonight in one of the final forums before voters hit the polls June 5.
Newark Councilman Donald Payne Jr., State Sen. Nia Gill, Newark Councilman Ron Rice, Cathy Wright, Dennis Flynn and Irvington Mayor Wayne Smith sat before an audience of hundreds at the Rutgers-Newark Paul Robeson Center making a pitch for their candidacies.
Military spending, prisoner re-entry, job creation, drug treatment and health care topped the list of issues floated by debate moderator John Alston. The debate, hosted by Rutgers radio show “All Politics Are Local” was the biggest so far as voters in Essex, Union and Hudson taste test candidates for the June 5 primary. (Giambusso, The Star-Ledger)
Assembly Race: District 26
Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce was only recently appointed to her seat in the 26th Legislative District, but her opponent in the June 5 Republican primary, Anthony Pio Costa III, says she is a good example of the need for term limits.
Betty Lou DeCroce, of Parsippany, defeated Montville attorney Larry Casha in a special GOP convention held in late January to fill the seat long held by her husband, Alex DeCroce, who died as the last legislative session ended. Alex DeCroce was the GOP leader of the lower house and Betty Lou DeCroce had the backing of the district’s Republican establishment. (Daigle, NJ Spotlight)
Mobile gaming device bill advances
Horseracing enthusiasts can more conveniently place bets on special mobile gaming devices instead of waiting in line, after the Assembly unanimously passed a bill allowing such a convenience.
The bill, A2610, was sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-14) of Plumstead, who believes that allowing the technological innovation at racetracks will help business. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Defibrillators at schools, crime victims’ bill of rights passes Assembly
Bills dealing with defibrillators at schools, crime victims’ bill of rights, cable TV companies, passed the Assembly today. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Bill regarding background checks, witnesses to drug overdoses clear Assembly
The Assembly passed bills dealing with protecting witnesses to a drug overdose from prosecution, criminal background checks for volunteers, annulments, and electronic waste. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Tiger trade, taxicab laws clear Assembly
The Assembly passed numerous bills today, including ones concerning the illegal tiger trade, review of tax expenditures, and taxicabs. (Arco, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Bencivengo fundraiser cancelled
A fundraiser for embattled Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo has been cancelled, according to a source close to event coordinator Bob Mule.
Originally scheduled for June 5 at Spigola, Bencivengo’s supporters pulled the plug, Mule told PolitickerNJ.com in response to an emailed question about the event. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Booker, Kryptonite and Meet the Press
It wasn’t that long ago Cory Booker was Superman. In April, the Newark mayor rushed into a burning house and rescued a woman from the second floor. He was hailed as a hero.
On Sunday, without a red cape, Booker was part of a roundtable on “Meet the Press.” He was asked to comment about a President Obama campaign ad criticizing Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney’s role at Bain Capital. Booker said many things, but like a Far Side cartoon depicting what a dog understands when a human speaks, only one word was understood. And it wasn’t dinner. (Doblin, The Record)