Morning News Digest: July 17, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Christie heads off on three-state Romney fundraising tour
Gov. Chris Christie is scheduled to attend three fundraisers for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney Tuesday, jetting to three states for the money-raising marathon.
The day begins in Atlanta, where Christie will attend a 1 p.m. event. He’ll then head to Columbia, S.C., where he’ll hit a 4 p.m. fundraiser. He’ll close the day in Raleigh, N.C. for a 7 p.m event.
The three-state jaunt is sure to give rise to more speculation over Romney’s potential choice of Christie as his running mate. Christie has said often he does not covet the job but that he’d listen should Romney call. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Menendez gets emotional in Union City
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) pulled a Hillary Clinton-in-New-Hampshire today, as he choked back tears while discussing gender equality in a daycare center for which he supplied federal funding.
Few would describe as intensely competitive his race with state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-13) so far, but the absence of a visibly strong campaign from President Barack Obama – at least to date – has forced Menendez to shoulder his own statewide machinery.
“The President’s numbers are good in New Jersey, and the President is going to be in the mainstream of New Jersey voters,” Menendez told PolitickerNJ.com. “But I’m running my own race.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Diaz-Cameron to work for Fortune 30 company
After working with the Booker Team in Newark since Jan. 7, 2008, Esmeralda Diaz-Cameron will go to work for a Fortune 30 company, she told PolitickerNJ.com.
“It has been an honor to work for Mayor Booker and to represent his Administration as city spokesperson,” the acting communications director said, ackowledging news first reported by the Star-Ledger. “The past four years have been a rewarding experience and I am proud to have been part of the historic achievements that are part of the city’s urban transformation under Mayor Booker’s leadership.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie opens tax tour with an old message
Gov. Christie, who famously told New Jerseyans to “get the hell off the beach” ahead of Tropical Storm Irene last summer, has evoked that witticism again, this time using it to urge legislators to return to Trenton for one day this summer to pass a tax cut.
The Republican governor began his self-styled “Endless Summer Tax Relief Tour” Monday, bashing Democrats who he says are blocking tax cuts for homeowners.
He urged residents to badger Democratic leaders all summer until they relent. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
Christie: Romney should play offense
Gov. Chris Christie says it’s time for Mitt Romney to play offense against President Barack Obama.
Fielding a question from a Romney supporter during a town hall event at the shore, Christie says he thinks Romney “will do quite well” if he fights for the things he believes in. The Republican governor with the tough-guy image joked that he’s well-suited to advise Romney to go on the offense.
Christie will be making a multistate fundraising sweep through the South for Romney this week. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
Wait on tax cut, say majority of New Jersey voters in poll
Governor Christie is pushing for an immediate tax cut, but a new poll indicates most New Jersey voters side with the legislative Democrats’ call for restraint.
When asked if they want a vote on the tax cut now – something Christie, a Republican, is making the case for in a series of public events this summer – 49 percent of those surveyed by Quinnipiac University said they would prefer to wait until revenues show improvement – a position being championed by Democrats.
The poll was conducted after the $31.7 billion state budget, which includes money for the tax cut built into its surplus, was enacted on July 1. The survey found 43 percent agree with Christie’s call for an immediate vote on legislation that would enact the credit. (Reitmeyer, The Record)
Gov. Christie is no less popular than he was 2 months ago, poll says
Half of voters surveyed in a Quinnipiac poll released today say Gov. Chris Christie is more of a leader than a bully, and the Republican governor’s job approval rating remains at 54 percent — the same as two months ago.
The poll found 39 percent of registered voters disapprove of the job he’s doing with 7 percent undecided. The results fell along party lines with 87 percent of Republicans approving and 65 percent of Democrats disapproving. However, overall, he scored 10 percentage points higher than he did around this time last year and in 2010. (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
Christie promises to sign bill to prop up solar sector
Gov. Chris Christie said yesterday he plans to sign a bill aimed at propping up New Jersey’s solar sector, one of the few growing segments of the state’s economy.
In questions taken at an event in Manasquan, Christie touted his administration’s efforts to promote not only solar energy but also offshore wind projects.
“This week I will be signing a bill regarding solar energy that will give a boost to solar energy business,” the governor said in response to a question at the press conference. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Gov. Christie set to nominate former federal, state prosecutor to N.J. Supreme Court
Gov. Chris Christie — rebuffed by Democrats on two recent state Supreme Court choices — plans to nominate Superior Court Judge Lee Solomon, a former federal and state prosecutor, to the high court, The Star-Ledger has learned.
The nomination of Solomon, 57, of Haddonfield, is expected to be announced shortly, according to people familiar with the process who declined to discuss the matter publicly.
In a radio interview earlier this month, Christie said he planned to submit the name of a new nominee in July. (Renshaw and Spoto, The Star-Ledger)
Chris Christie repeats: Mitt Romney likely won’t pick him as VP candidate
In the face of conflicting reports about when Mitt Romney might announce his vice presidential running mate, Gov. Chris Christie said today he expected the decision to come “relatively soon,” but repeated his refrain that it’s unlikely to be him.
“As I’ve said all along, I don’t expect to be asked because, I don’t know, do I look like a vice president?” the governor said, prompting a crowd in Manasquan — the first in a series of beachside events this summer — to shout: “Yes!”
“I hope that whoever Gov. Romney picks he doesn’t pick someone who’s about politics, the state they live in or anything else, that he picks someone who he believes is qualified to be president of the United States if something were to happen to him and they would need to step in,” he said. “I hope he picks someone who will be a full partner in governing with him.” (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
Democrats, GOP treat 3rd District as in play
Democratic challenger Shelley Adler has raised more money than Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J., for the second consecutive quarter.
Adler, 52, of Cherry Hill, raised $322,081 during the second quarter, compared with $300,639 raised by Runyan, 38, of Mount Laurel, who is seeking a second two-year term in the House of Representatives on Nov. 6.
During the first three months of the year, Adler raised $310,927 and Runyan raised $295,824. (Larsen, Asbury Park Press)
Financial woes plague a penal company tied to Christie
A company that plays a critical role in New Jersey’s corrections system, running halfway houses as large as prisons, has had such severe financial difficulties over the last four years that it contemplated filing for bankruptcy in 2010, according to newly disclosed documents.
Senior executives at the company, Community Education Centers, even feared at the time that they might not have enough money to pay workers, the documents show.
Community Education’s senior vice president, William J. Palatucci, is one of Gov. Chris Christie’s closest friends and political advisers, and Mr. Christie has long championed the company. (Dolnick, The New York Times)
Private halfway houses subject of legislative hearings
New Jersey’s private halfway house system will be the subject of two legislative hearings next week after reports of abuses and escapes.
Monday’s hearing by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee will be the beginning of an investigation into the system run by private vendors, said Tom Hester, a spokesman for the Assembly Democrats.
“It remains to be seen how exactly the inquiry will unfold, but it’s got to start somewhere and that start will be Monday,” Hester said in an email. (Linhorst, The Record)
DOE grants final charters to just nine schools
The Christie administration yesterday put out a short list of charter schools given final approval to open in the fall, but more interesting was the far longer list of those not getting the go-ahead.
Nine schools were granted final charters, according to the announcement from the state Department of Education late yesterday, including four in Newark and two in Camden.
More notable was the department’s decision to postpone 10 other school openings for another year, including the state’s first all-online schools. Another 13 schools that it had approved earlier were outright rejected. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
N.J.’s first online charter school delayed a year
The state’s first proposed full-time virtual charter school will have to wait at least year to begin educating students.
The state Department of Education today announced approval of nine new charter schools for September, but said the New Jersey Virtual Academy Charter School, a full-time online charter school, would instead be given a “planning” year to further develop “academic and operational components.”
However, two offering a mix of online and traditional learning did receive approval. Both Newark Prep and Merit Preparatory of Newark Charter School intend to offer “blended” learning in a school setting, Newark Prep serving high school students, and Merit Prep starting by enrolling sixth-graders. (Rundquist, The Star-Ledger)
U.S. Senate approves N.J. attorney for federal bench
The U.S. Senate today overwhelmingly approved Newark-based attorney Kevin McNulty to be the newest federal judge in New Jersey.
In a 91-3 vote in favor of McNulty on the Senate floor, the 57-year-old, who lives in Millburn, cleared the final hurdle to become a U.S. District Judge, and he is expected to be sworn in within days, said Carl Tobias, a professor of law at the University of Richmond in Virginia who follows federal judicial nominations and votes closely. (Grant, The Star-Ledger)
Housing funds face tie-ups
The state can begin the process of seizing $200 million in local affordable housing funds today thanks to an order from a panel of appellate judges released Friday.
Yet the process the court sketched out is replete with uncertainties and possible pitfalls that housing and local-government advocates say have the potential to tie up much of that money indefinitely.
But it’s still unclear when Governor Christie plans to begin the process to take those funds and how he plans to avoid long court battles while doing it — adding uncertainty to a budget balanced on razor-thin margins and posing a threat to the governor’s summer push for an income tax cut. (Campisi, The Record)
N.J. health department investigating Hunterdon County pair accused of performing dangerous tests on the disabled
The state health department has conducted an investigation on behalf of the federal government into allegations that a physician and a nurse practitioner of administered potentially dangerous doses of Vitamin D to residents at the Hunterdon Developmental Center and conducted research without families’ consent, a spokeswoman said Monday.
The Department of Health’s probe was in addition to investigations under way by the Department of Human Services, which oversees the facility in Union Township, and the Division of Criminal Justice. The state agencies are looking into physician Philip May and his wife, nurse practitioner Robin Davidson May. Human Services officials placed them on paid leave in mid-December but have not completed their investigation (Livio, The Star-Ledger)
New sewer service plans in to DEP, a map to future development
The state’s 21 counties have submitted new sewer service plans to the Department of Environmental Protection, a step that very likely will guide where growth occurs in New Jersey over the next two decades.
The plans, much delayed in a contentious battle between environmentalists and developers, could spell out where sewer expansions may be allowed, an issue that drives economic growth. Equally important, the plans will determine how successful the state is in preserving and protecting environmentally sensitive lands. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Second gift card company returns to N.J.
A second gift card distributor announced Monday it will restock its New Jersey shelves following revisions the state made to its escheatment process.
Blackhawk Network, based in California, will continue to supply its Gift Card Mall in New Jersey, following InComm’s announcement earlier this month of the same decision.
Both companies, as well as American Express, had decided in April to pull gift cards from the state because of New Jersey’s escheat laws requiring collection of consumer information. The law also would have collected unused balances and put them in the state Treasury as part of the unclaimed property program. (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
Sale of Christ Hospital, in Jersey City, finalized
The ownership struggle for Christ Hospital in Jersey City is over. On Friday, the sale of the financially troubled hospital was finalized, adding to for-profit operators Hudson Holdco LLC’s portfolio of properties.
After California-based Prime Healthcare pulled out of negotiations at the beginning of the year, Christ Hospital filed for bankruptcy. Hudson Holdco and a group formed by Jersey City Medical Center and Community Healthcare Associates bid on the hospital, and in late March, a bankruptcy judge awarded it to Holdco. (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
Burlington, Salem colleges join forces for trio of degrees
Residents of Salem and Burlington counties now have new options for degrees, thanks to a partnership formed by Burlington County College and Salem Community College on Friday.
The two schools signed memoranda of understanding to offer three-degree programs at in-county rates, including a program that has had nearly 100 percent job placement the last three years for its graduates. (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
On Affordable Care Act, Christie touts path that’s least expensive, most efficient
Gov. Chris Christie said today it’s “time to do the analysis” on the Affordable Care Act and its effect on New Jersey.
“There’s dozens and dozens of issues we’re going to have to deal with,” said Christie, adding much could change if Mitt Romney is elected to the White House in November. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Christie asks residents to pressure lawmakers to OK his next court nominee
Gov. Chris Christie warned Democrats during a beach town hall today that he planned to enlist residents’ support the next time he picks nominations to the state’s high court.Gov. Chris Christie warned Democrats during a beach town hall today that he planned to enlist residents’ support the next time he picks nominations to the state’s high court. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Huttle plans bills to combat human trafficking
An assemblywoman referenced the 2014 Super Bowl – being held in New Jersey – in announcing the introduction of bills to combat human trafficking.
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, (D-37), Englewood, announced plans for a package of bills to address the problem of human trafficking in time for the 2014 Super Bowl, which is being played at the new Meadowlands, or MetLife Stadium. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Possible VP candidates shouldn’t offer advice
The deck hands of a fishing trawler passing through Manasquan Inlet tried baiting Governor Christie on Monday, as he held forth 50 yards away on a crowded pavilion on the shoreline.
The taunts broke his concentration, but instead of barking back, the pugnacious Christie laughed it off.
“This is how I can get in trouble,” he said to a crowd of 130 that braved the 90-degree heat to hear Christie roast the “Corzine Democrats” for refusing to enact his tax cut in June.
The “trouble” was a reference to Christie’s July 5 Seaside Heights confrontation with a heckler. Christie, the Jersey guy who may someday be president, was caught on a cellphone camera, channeling his inner Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, the “Jersey Shore” goon (Stile, The Record)
Summer of words may not yield action
Trenton is July is no place to be.
A quick walk through the halls of the Statehouse on Monday illustrates this summer truism. In the Assembly chamber, three video cameras are trained on different sections of the house, but there is nothing to film. In the Senate chamber, five visitors listen as a tour guide discusses the history of the building.
But an empty Statehouse does not mean there is a lack of action among our political class. Republican Gov. Chris Christie, fresh from attending National Governors Association meetings in Washington, held a town hall meeting in Manasquan, the kickoff of his “Endless Summer Tax Relief” campaign during which he will try to goad the Legislature into delivering tax relief. (Schoonejongen, Asbury Park Press)
At Rutgers, tenure protects free speech as well as jobs
The legislative debate over tenure raged at the same time as the struggle over the ill-conceived proposal to dismember Rutgers University. The two issues seem unrelated. They were not.
Opponents of teacher tenure — such as Gov. Chris Christie — contended it was a guarantee of lifetime employment, a safe haven for the incompetent. Eliminating tenure, he said, would “give schools more power to remove underperforming teachers.” When the issue is framed that way, who could oppose it? Who is in favor of keeping “underperforming” teachers? (Braun, The Star-Ledger)
Boundary between the ‘two Jerseys’ depends on where you live
A number of years ago, a young reporter I worked with at a South Jersey newspaper came back from an assignment laughing about an encounter with a local farmer, who was trying to explain to him the difference in butter derived from various breeds of dairy cattle.
He found the distinctions silly, all but calling the farmer a rube.
“He knows the difference; you don’t,” I snapped at him. “Guess who’s the stupid one in his eyes.” (Schoonejongen, Asbury Park Press)