Morning News Digest: July 24, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Christie reiterates that he deals with Sweeney, not Scutari
At his second press conference since reports broke that Lee Solomon, a former assemblyman and current judge, may be tapped to serve on the state’s high court, Gov. Chris Christie – again – declined to go down that road.
The governor was asked about Solomon at a news conference today and told reporters he would not discuss the issue. He was prompted to discuss comments made by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-22), to The Star Ledger.
Scutari, who heads the Democrat-controlled panel that has the final say over gubernatorial nominations to the state Supreme Court, indicated in reports that his committee will not consider interviewing Solomon unless the governor also names his second choice to fill the other open position. (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
Kyrillos criticizes Menendez support for healthcare act, medical devise tax
Going on offense today in a flailing economy, state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-13) targeted the Affordable Healthcare Act as he criticized his opponent, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ).
On a tour of a medical device manufacturer in New Providence, Kyrillos argued that the healthcare industry will soon face record high tax increases, including the New Jersey-based C.R. Bard, which must shoulder a 2.3 percent medical device tax.
“This tax will effectively diminish the ability of medical device manufacturers, like C.R. Bard, to innovate and produce quality medical products for their consumers,” Kyrillos said. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Driscoll reports more COG than Gordon
Denied in his bid last year to oust state Sen. Bob Gordon (D-38), Bergen County Freeholder John Driscoll has more cash on hand than the incumbent Democrat.
Driscoll filed with $39,362.68 to Gordon’s $18,148.62, according to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).
Driscoll may oppose Gordon again next year, say sources. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie signs bill to help stabilize solar sector
It took a lot longer than expected, but a much-debated bill to maintain and potentially enhance New Jersey’s efforts to develop solar energy in the state was signed into law yesterday by Gov. Chris Christie.
The bill ( ), a priority of the Christie administration with bipartisan support in the Legislature for more than six months, aims to ensure investments in solar do not dry up in New Jersey, which is second only to California in the number of solar arrays –with 16,000 systems installed here.
To many, the state’s solar issue comes down to it being a victim of its own success. With lucrative federal tax cash grants and enticing state subsidies, so many solar systems were installed in New Jersey that it led to a collapse in prices owners of the systems earn for the electricity they produce, known as solar credits. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
NJ Gov. to host Ramadan dinner
Several New Jersey Muslim leaders say they’ve been invited to a Ramadan dinner Tuesday night at the governor’s mansion in Princeton.
The meal with Gov. Chris Christie at Drumthwacket will celebrate the Muslim holy month.
Several of the invited Muslim leaders met recently with the state’s attorney general, who announced in May that the New York Police Department had not violated any New Jersey laws in conducting surveillance at Muslim businesses, mosques and student groups in the state.
The attorney general’s findings angered many Muslims, but several of those invited to Tuesday’s dinner said Ramadan is not a time for politics. (Associated Press)
Governor Christie says U.S. must enforce existing gun laws
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said the U.S. has enough gun regulation and that he is “disturbed” by the politicizing of the Colorado movie theater massacre.
Christie, 49, a first-term Republican, told reporters in Trenton today that he agrees with President Barack Obama on gun regulation.
“It’s time for us to address and enforce the gun laws that we have, which I think we do fairly well here in this state,” Christie said. “I am a little bit disturbed by politicians who in the immediate aftermath of this type of tragedy try to grandstand, and I’m not going to be one of those people. I feel awfully for those families.” (Young, Bloomberg)
Gov. Christie puts positive spin on N.J.’s jobs numbers
Gov. Chris Christie today said he’s sticking with his Jersey Comeback narrative, despite a jump in the state’s unemployment rate.
“The numbers indicate that the comeback is still very strong,” he said in Statehouse news conference.
June saw an increase in the state’s unemployment rate from 9.2 percent to to 9.6 percent, which is above the national average of 8.2 percent. The state-to-national disparity hasn’t been this pronounced in more than three decades.
Starting with his State of the State address in January, Christie has proclaimed the beginning of a Jersey Comeback, complete with a backdrop banner erected at the town halls that have become the hallmark of his term. No such sign accompanied the first in a series of events the administration is calling “Endless Summer conversations” that was held last week in Manasquan. Christie said observers shouldn’t draw any conclusions from the change in approach. (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
Sharp words on New Jersey halfway-house system at Assembly hearing
Prominent Democratic lawmakers expressed deep skepticism about New Jersey’s privately run halfway houses on Monday, signaling during a contentious hearing that they favored a major overhaul of the system.
During more than seven hours of testimony, the state lawmakers sharply questioned officials and halfway-house operators about security, treatment programs and state contracts.
“Something is terribly wrong,” said Assemblyman Charles S. Mainor, a Democrat of Hudson County and the chairman of the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee, which held the hearing. “We are prepared to take whatever legislative action is necessary to remedy these problems.” (Dolnick, The New York Times)
Former Gov. McGreevey speaks at hearing on halfway houses
In passionate, firsthand testimony about his work with offenders, former Gov. Jim McGreevey urged lawmakers not to make halfway houses more like prisons, speaking at a hearing whose witnesses included the sister of a Garfield murder victim whose death raised questions about the privately run facilities.
Monday’s hearing — which at times was heated and emotional — was held almost a month after a series of stories in The New York Times detailed examples of violence, drug use and sexual assault inside some of the facilities, as well as escapes.
Governor Christie called for stepped up inspections following that report. The Democratic-controlled Legislature sought quarterly inspections of the facilities, writing that into the budget passed last month; Christie, a Republican, vetoed their effort, saying there sufficient state monitoring under his administration. (Reitmeyer, The Record)
N.J. Supreme Court to rule on judge’s pension challenge
New Jersey’s Supreme Court is expected to rule Tuesday on a challenge to a law that requires judges to contribute more to their pensions and health insurance.
The high court heard arguments on the controversy in March.
The challenge was brought last year by Hudson County Superior Court Judge Paul DePascale. He argues that the measure violates a state law that set judges’ salaries and says they cannot be reduced.
The state says the constitutional ban on reducing judges’ salaries while they’re on the bench does not include other compensation, such as pension and health benefits. (Associated Press)
Senate confirms Paterson native as federal judge
The U.S. Senate confirmed Paterson native Michael A. Shipp this evening to the United States District Court in New Jersey.
Shipp was nominated in January, and was confirmed after a 91-1 vote.
“Not only does he bring a sincerity about wanting to do the right thing but he has the knowledge and sensitivity that will make him a great U.S. District Court judge,” Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said on the floor before the vote.
Since 2007, Shipp has been a magistrate judge, a position that primarily involves handling pleas and proceedings and occasional trials. (Jackson, The Record)
N.J. Supreme Court ruling expands drug free school zones
The state Supreme Court expanded drug free school zones on Monday, ruling that the restricted areas begin at the edges of properties that have schools on them – and cover areas not dedicated to academic use.
The zones, which extend 1,000 feet out from primary and secondary schools in the state, provide for enhanced penalties for certain crimes committed within their borders.
Monday’s decision affects more than 3,700 public and private schools throughout the state.
Barrington McDonald, who struck and seriously injured a pedestrian in 2007 while driving under the influence of alcohol, had asked the court to let him withdraw a guilty plea he made in connection with the incident. (Campisi, The Record)
N.J. lawmakers vow to grill acting education chief on residency, education ties
Lawmakers said Monday that when acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf has a confirmation hearing Thursday, they will grill him on a host of issues ranging from his actual residency and charter school oversight to relationships with consultants.
Cerf has been on the job for a year and a half, but his confirmation hearing was held up because Sen. Ron Rice (D-Essex) used senatorial courtesy to block him. That privilege allows senators to prevent hearings of gubernatorial appointees who live in their counties. In return, Governor Christie did not act to fill vacant judgeships in Essex County, which created a backlog of cases. (Brody, The Record)
N.J. panel recommends closing two institutions for disabled
A task force established by the governor and the Legislature announced plans today to close within five years state-run institutions for the developmentally disabled in Woodbridge and Totowa that house almost 700 residents and employ 2,600 workers.
Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature established the group as a compromise in an effort to delay the closing of the Vineland Developmental Center, which the governor had initially proposed. As part of the agreement, the recommendations of the five-member panel are binding. (Livio, The Star-Ledger)
Urban Hope Act brings renaissance schools to Camden
Camden moves closer this week to being the first test of the Urban Hope Act, with formal proposals due soon for the new and sometimes controversial Renaissance Schools.
Pushed by Gov. Chris Christie, the Urban Hope Act was enacted last winter and opened the way for up to 12 Renaissance public schools to be built in three districts: Camden, Newark, and Trenton.
The schools would be built and operated by private nonprofit groups using public money, and while similar to charter schools, they would be operated with the consent of the local district.
But the Urban Hope Act has drawn its share of debate, with some critics calling it an example of the private sector moving in on public education — to the detriment of the communities and students. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Lack of pediatric specialists can delay treatment for smallest sufferers
Julia and Mia Paperella have suffered the type of pediatric disorders that require specialized care and years of therapy. Julia, 11, was an infant with life-threatening food allergies that caused ulcers, followed by speech delays. Mia, 8, had such hypersensitive skin that it made it difficult for her to put on clothes.
They found help with doctors and therapists at New Jersey’s Children’s Specialized Hospital, but a new study says that similar cases could be left untreated for months due to a shortage of pediatric specialists. Indeed, concern that current funding will be cut back is leading Julia and Mia, along with members of the Children’s Hospital Association, to meet with members of Congress today to ask for more money to train pediatricians. (Lehren, NJ Spotlight)
2012 has more intraparty incumbent battles than ever before
No fight may be more vicious than a family fight, and in the family that is Congress, this election year features an extraordinary number of kin-vs.-kin battles in which lawmakers are forced to face off against one another for their political survival.
“These races tend to turn friends into enemies and bring out the worst in every political actor,” said David Wasserman, an analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, whose research shows that the 2012 election season includes more intraparty battles between incumbents than ever before. (Helderman, National Journal)
Report: Small business lending slowed in 2011
Lenders are slowing the amount of loans being issued to small companies, according to the Small Business Administration’s annual lending report. The report said, across the country, lending was weaker in 2011 than it was in 2010.
Loans of less than $1 million decreased by nearly half a billion dollars, or 6.9 percent. In 2010, there was $652.2 billion outstanding in small-business loans, and in 2011, there were $606.9 billion.
Small-business loans declined for both types of loans, commercial real estate, and commercial and industrial, though the real estate loan decrease was smaller. (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
NRG’s $1.7B purchase of GenOn not a signal it’s pulling plug on N.J.
While Princeton-based NRG Energy has grown its retail electricity supply business to more than 2 million customers in Texas, the company has not seen significant growth in its retail sector in New Jersey, despite its acquisition of Philadelphia-based Energy Plus Holdings LLC last year.
But NRG President and CEO David Crane said the company’s $1.7 billion acquisition of GenOn Energy Inc., announced Sunday, will give it the boost in the wholesale electricity market to set the foundation for further retail expansion in the Northeast, including New Jersey. (Eder, NJBIZ)
Mainor vows legislation to address halfway house problems
The head of the Assembly committee examining halfway house problems vowed today that legislation would be produced to address some of the issues brought forth. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Solar bill supporters acknowledge not all sectors will be happy
Supporters and sponsors of the solar energy bill signed into law today said they are aware that not all sectors will be happy.
But Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, (D-17), Franklin Township, said all parties should wait and see how this law affects supply and demand before deciding what “fixes” may or may not be needed. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Tax ‘loopholes’ must be addressed, Christie says
Gov. Chris Christie said today that when the Legislature reconvenes this fall the holes related to the 2 percent property tax cap have to be filled.
Items they did not get to earlier this year must be addressed, he said during a press conference, otherwise the tax cap imposed on towns won’t work. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
What a difference an election makes
Gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie and Gov. Christie seem to be at odds over jobless reports numbers and optimism levels, according to an August 2009 report by The Star-Ledger.
When running against his predecessor, candidate Christie dismissed former Gov. Jon Corzine’s logic that added job growth coupled with an increased unemployment rate was anything to be happy about, according to the newspaper’s report. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Top ten senators COH
Christie walking fine line on gun control:
Governor Christie scolded some politicians for “grandstanding” on gun control Monday, declaring the subject off limits while the families of the Aurora, Colo., massacre victims are grieving.
“Can we allow people to be mourned appropriately by their families before you have opportunistic politicians out there trying to make political points in an election year?” Christie said at a State House news conference, and then praised both President Obama and Mitt Romney for veering away from that debate at such a sensitive time. (Stile, The Record)
Citizens don’t see bipartisanship
At Monday’s signing of a bill to help bolster New Jersey’s sagging solar industry, the state’s Republican governor took a moment to point out the obvious.
“You’ll notice that all of the legislators standing behind me are from the other party,” Gov. Chris Christie said to the gathered press as Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo and Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula — both Democrats — looked on. “Again this is another example of ways to act in a bipartisan fashion for the good of all the citizens of our state.”
But do the citizens that Christie serves see it the same way? Is bipartisanship the rule or the exception? (Schoonejongen, Asbury Park Press)
Morality: What do the Boy Scouts know that military, majority of Americans are missing?
I am an Eagle Scout. I consider the time I spent as a Boy Scout among the most influential and positive experiences of my life. The skills that have benefited me over the course of my life are immeasurable -self reliance, a sense of right and wrong, patience, commitment to community, etc. I could go on and on.
Which is why the decision of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to continue their policy of discrimination against openly gay members is so rattling. What do the Boy Scouts know about “morality” that the military and a majority of Americans are missing?
They know nothing. (Tornoe, Newsworks)
Tears for a life caught up in green-card maze
She cried. Cecilia Ojoawo couldn’t help but cry.
She started out the day strong enough, leaving in the early morning darkness for the three-hour bus trip to Newark, the American flag tacked to her front door slapping in the breeze, a prayer on her lips that, maybe this day, it would finally be over. Her differences with the federal government, a struggle that had lasted for years, would finally be resolved.
But, then, after waiting three more hours to talk with an immigration official, she heard the stranger say something about a decision in 2006 and Cecilia Ojoawo couldn’t help it — she burst into tears. (Braun, The Star-Ledger)