Morning News Digest: June 12, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Poll shows Christie favorability ratings on rise
Gov. Chris Christie’s favorability ratings are at their highest level.
A new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released Tuesday shows that for the first time since Christie took office in 2010, 50 percent of respondents have a favorable view of the governor, up 4 percentage points. Those with an unfavorable view dropped to 39 percent, and 11 percent have no opinion.
Among independent voters, Christie’s favorability ratings rose 12 percentage points to 55 percent. Among Democrats, his favorability number is 27 percent. Among Republicans, his numbers dipped, to 79 percent from 85 percent. (Mooney, PolitickerNJ)
Jimenez becomes new chair of WNY Democratic Committee
Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (D-32) beat embattled Mayor Felix Roque tonight to become the new West New York Democratic Committee chair.
Jimenez defeated Roque, 44-10.
She ran with the support of U.S. Rep. Albio Sires and state Sen. Nick Sacco. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Kuhl in Tuesday night showdown with DeSapio
It’s a Viking showdown between two Hunterdon County warlords, but in the end the heft of behind-the-scenes alliances may prove the difference.
On the one side stands Hunterdon County GOP Chairman Henry Kuhl, who’s served as chairman for 32 years and is ready for another term.
On the other side stands Gaetano “Guy” DeSapio, former county counsel of three decades.
According to sources close to Hunterdon politics, former Senator Marcia Karrow originally planned to run against Kuhl, but an intersection of agreement between Gov. Chris Christie’s political handlers and state Sen. Mike Doherty (R-23) determined that she personally not budge Kuhl. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie seeks a plan in case of shutdown
Governor Christie asked his Cabinet on Monday to prepare contingency plans in case of a government shutdown, though a spokesman said he expects to strike a budget deal by the July 1 constitutional deadline.
“We think we’ll get there and reach a budget agreement on time,” spokesman Michael Drewniak said Monday night. “But the responsible thing is for us to prepare for all possibilities. After all, there are only 20 days left.”
An internal memo, obtained by The Record, was being circulated to state department heads advising them to take precautions. (Hayes, The Record)
N.J. Supreme Court ruling on affordable housing council checks Christie’s powers and may affect university merger plans
Governor Christie and lawmakers are pressing to redraw the state’s higher education system by the end of the month but on Monday the Supreme Court checked the governor’s power to unilaterally dismantle state agencies and a second university board rejected parts of the merger.
Rowan University’s governing board said Monday that it wants to partner with Rutgers-Camden in offering programs, but balked at lawmaker’s calls for a joint governing board that would supersede its own authority.
The state Supreme Court, ruling in a case brought after Christie dismantled the Council on Affordable Housing, rejected an appeal for a stay and said the governor must immediately reinstate the board and its authority over municipal housing obligations. (Brody, Alex and Fletcher, The Reocord)
Court says Christie can’t dismantle housing agency for now
In a check on Gov. Christie’s use of power, the New Jersey Supreme Court on Monday refused to halt a lower-court ruling that mandated reopening the state’s affordable housing agency.
Housing advocates saw the decision as a victory over Christie’s efforts to roll back requirements on towns to build housing for those who can’t afford market rate.
“Gov. Christie simply does not have the power to unilaterally abolish independent agencies he doesn’t like,” said Kevin D. Walsh, associate director of the Fair Share Housing Center in Cherry Hill, which sued Christie over the issue. In a statement, he said the court’s ruling meant that dozens of state agencies are protected from “political interference.” (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Rowan Board of Trustees votes to support Rowan/Rutgers restructuring plan
In a move that could help reinvigorate negotiations in Trenton, members of Rowan University’s board of trustees voted unanimously Monday to support the higher education restructuring plan that would combine their campus with nearby Rutgers-Camden to form a new research center in South Jersey.
The 14-member board emerged from a nearly two-hour closed-door debate on the Glassboro campus to approve a resolution backing the complex plan to reshuffle pieces of Rutgers, Rowan and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. (Renshaw and Heyboer, The Star-Ledger)
Rowan’s resistance helps spur changes to education restructuring legislation
Forces are continuing to mass against a legislative plan to create a joint board to govern Rowan University and Rutgers-Camden. Meanwhile, co-sponsors of the Senate bill — introduced last week to restructure the state’s higher education system – are rewriting sections of it in response to pushback from both academic communities.
The latest group to express displeasure is Rowan’s Board of Trustees, which passed a resolution yesterday that endorsed the idea of a joint board to oversee new, voluntary collaborations between the two universities while “retaining the autonomy of both institutions and their respective governing boards.” (Nurin, NJ Spotlight)
Rowan endorses merger bill but wants autonomy
Rowan University trustees on Monday supported legislation proposing an overhaul of higher education in New Jersey while also expressing concern over a joint governing board controlling Rowan and Rutgers-Camden.
Following a more than two-hour meeting in Glassboro, the board issued a statement endorsing cooperation between the schools as long as the agreement retained “the individual autonomy of both institutions and their respective governing boards.”
“It’s a question of autonomy,” university spokesman Joe Cardona said. “They support the legislation, but not the joint board … as it’s written.” (Obsorbe, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Rutgers names negotiation team to reshape merger legislation
Rutgers University on Monday announced the team of board members that will help negotiate with lawmakers on sweeping legislation to realign Rutgers, Rowan University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
The team includes governors Gerald C. Harvey and Candace L. Straight, and trustees Dudley H. Rivers Jr., Lora L. Fong and Robert E. Mortensen, according to Greg Trevor, a Rutgers spokesman. Harvey and Rivers are the vice chairs of their respective boards. (Waters, NJBIZ)
Broad unemployment metric puts N.J. in middle of pack
The government’s broadest measure of unemployment and under-employment shows the labor situation in New Jersey is about average.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics Monday reported 16 percent of the state’s workers were “underutilized” in 2011. That statistic includes the 9.4 percent of New Jerseyans considered unemployed in 2011, as well as those working part-time instead of full-time, due to the economy; and those who were unemployed and open to work, but weren’t actively seeking it.
New Jersey’s 16-percent underutilization rate — referred to as the U-6 rate by the government — was up slightly from 2010 (15.7 percent) and in line with the national figure of 15.9 percent. (Kaltwasser, NJBIZ)
Medicaid waiver would help residents with developmental disabilities
New Jersey’s application for a Medicaid waiver would change the way federal money is administered for people with developmental disabilities, allowing many to stay out of institutions by receiving more community-based support services.
If approved, the state is proposing to spend $90 million a year on support that includes day programs for the disabled as an alternative to living in one of the state’s seven developmental centers. The Christie administration has added $57 million in its proposed budget to further help these efforts for people with a range of disabilities that include cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and autism. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
NJ police department sued for refusing to release NYPD surveillance documents
The Associated Press is suing the New Brunswick Police Department for failing to release information about a “safe house” near Rutgers University that was mistaken for a terrorist hideout but in fact was a operated by undercover New York Police Department officers.
The news agency requested records on April 26 under the state Open Public Records Act about a 911 call made from an apartment building at 1 Richmond St. in New Brunswick that NYPD intelligence officers reportedly turned into a command center for its surveillance operations. (Adely, The Record)
New power plant faces $15 billion interconnection fee to get on regional grid
LS Power will have to cough up more than $15 million to connect its new natural gas-fired power plant in West Deptford with the transmission grid.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week denied a motion to rehear its prior decision approving the mandated transmission upgrades, a ruling that underscores how difficult it is to build new power plants in the region.
Interconnection costs associated with tying new generating units into the transmission grid have emerged as a major policy dispute between officials in New Jersey and the operator of the regional power grid, the PJM Interconnection, as well as the federal agency. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz to seek a second term
Mayor Wilda Diaz will make it official Wednesday when she announces her bid to seek a second four-year term as chief executive of the city.
Two other people have previously announced their candidacy for the city’s top elected seat.
Billy Delgado, an attorney who ran against then three-term Mayor Joseph Vas in 2004, is making a second bid for mayor, and Sharon Hubberman, a personal financial adviser, is making her first bid for elected office. (Haydon, The Star-Ledger)
Former Motor Vehicle Commission auditor pleads guilty to theft by deception
A former auditor for the state Motor Vehicle Commission pleaded guilty today covering up unexcused absences and his failure to perform audits of private vehicle inspection locations, state authorities said.
James Pluchino, 52, of Manahawkin, admitted that from March to August 2010, he did not perform a large number of his assigned audits of inspection facilities, the state Attorney General’s Office said in a news release.
Pluchino was responsible for providing inspection stickers to the facilities and auditing their documentation to ensure all of their stickers issued matched corresponding inspection records. (Baxter, The Star-Ledger)
Revel casino gambling revenue underwhelms in May
Despite the much-anticipated addition of the Revel mega-casino, Atlantic City saw a heavy decline in gambling revenue last month, prompting some operators to question openly whether the $2.4 billion newcomer would provide the economic lift the resort had hoped for.
The city’s total gambling revenue was $263 million in May, down 9.5 percent compared with a year ago. Excluding Revel, revenue declined 14.3 percent.
“Revel’s results came in weaker than expected,” said gambling analyst John Kempf of Wells Fargo Securities L.L.C. Revel had gambling revenue of $13.4 million in April, its first full month in operation; it posted $13.9 million last month, again ranking eighth among Atlantic City’s dozen casinos. (Parmley. The Philadelphia Inquirer)
At event, F1 organizers insist race will come to N.J. next year
The first of 10 Formula One races slated to take place in Hudson County is expected to be on the circuit’s 2013 racing calendar by early next month, organizers said Monday.
Speaking at a promotional event in Weehawken, one of the host towns for the course, chief promoter Leo Hindery Jr. reaffirmed that the Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial remains on track to begin next June, despite recent rumors to the contrary. (Burd, NJBIZ)
Judge bars ballot question to preserve Camden police department
The fight to prevent the disbanding of Camden’s police department in preparation for a regional force was struck a blow Monday when a judge ruled against putting the matter before voters in a special election this summer.
The ballot’s proposed ordinance, which would have mandated that the city maintain its current department, would have placed undue restraint on City Council’s ability to make future decisions about the force, Superior Court Judge Faustino J. Fernandez-Vina said. (Osborne, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
State revenue tops forecasts as U.S. governors reduce spending
Most U.S. states are collecting more revenue than they forecast this year as the economy recovers, reducing budget deficits that have persisted in the nation’s capitals since the recession.
Thirty-one states collected more than they expected when drafting budgets for the current fiscal year, which ends this month in most states, according to a report released today by the National Governors Association. Still, state leaders moved to slow the growth of spending in the coming year, reflecting uncertainty about the economy, the report found. (Selway, Bloomberg)
RFP seeks single contractor for state’s clean energy program
The Christie Administration announced a restructuring of its approach to handling clean energy initiatives.
The administration said that on Friday it issued a request for proposal for a program administrator that is part of its ongoing plan to cut red tape and reduce regulatory bureaucracy. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Casino revenues, winnings suffer in May
Casino gaming revenues and game winnings took a hit in May.
Revenues in the Garden State’s gaming capital fell 9.5 percent from last month to $263 million, the Division of Gaming Enforcement said Monday.
Slot machine winnings fell 9.3 percent to $186.9 million and the winnings at table games decreased by 10.2 percent, to $76.1 million. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Ed. Note: Apparently free speech is not a civil liberty
Apparently freedom of speech, you know, that annoying right outlined in the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law” and all that bothersome stuff) is not a civil liberty. At least according to the ACLU.
In a June 11 Facebook post, outgoing ACLU Executive Director Deborah Jacobs complains that a June 4 PolitickerNJ Wake Up Call, you know that free service we send to anyone who subscribes, was sponsored by E3, a pro-education voucher group that paid for the sponsorship at our normal advertising rate. (Editor, PolitickerNJ)
Assembly odd man out on tax proposal
The Democratic leadership of the state Assembly provoked Governor Christie to lash out with one of his headline-grabbing asides last week.
The question now is this: Can they actually prod him to sign off on a new “property tax credit” that is financed by a surcharge on some 16,000 New Jersey millionaires?
Don’t bet on it. (Stile, The Record)