Morning News Digest: July 27, 2012


Morning News Digest: July 27, 2012

By Missy Rebovich

Try State Street Wire, Follow PolitickerNJ on Twitter and Facebook. Text “PNJ” to 89800 to receive alerts



Senate panel advances judicial pension constitutional amendment effort

Legislators are following through with their promise to let voters decide whether sitting judges should be exempt from the state’s landmark pension and benefit reform.

The Senate Labor Committee hosted a public hearing today in response to the Supreme Court’s recent 3-2 ruling that said Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature overreached when they passed the landmark reform in respect to sitting judges.

The public hearing is the next step before lawmakers can vote on the proposed constitutional amendment – SCR110.

The amendment is sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Sen. Shirley Turner, (D-15), Trenton and has bipartisan support. It unanimously cleared a Senate committee in June and an identical proposal has already been introduced in the Assembly.  (Arco, PolitickerNJ)



Kyrillos presents jobs plan, receives independent business endorsement

State Sen. Joe Kyrillos, who is challenging for a U.S. Senate seat, today unveiled a seven part job creation plan he says will put the country back on sound fiscal footing.  

The plan, dubbed America Works, calls for several measures aimed at reducing unemployment, including a cap on government spending, passage of a balanced budget amendment, reforming of the tax cut, reduction of red tape, job training, business tax credits healthcare reform and reducing fuel prices.

“We need jobs and my plan creates them by restoring fiscla responsibility, reforming the tax code, reducing unnecessary and burdensome red tape and restoring our nation’s place as the home of innovation,” Kyrillos said.  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



National Dems certify N.J. delegates to convention

The New Jersey Democratic State Committee announced that New Jersey’s delegates to the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. have been certified by the Democratic National Committee and Obama for America. 

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, will serve as chairman of the New Jersey Democratic National Committee delegation.  Wisniewski released the following statement about the 2012 delegation.

“When we began this process in 2011, we sought to include individuals who reflected New Jersey’s diversity, setting specific goals to ensure that the group we bring to Charlotte represents the Garden State’s melting pot,” he said in a statement.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Incumbent Diaz in a commanding position early in Perth Amboy mayor’s contest

When Wilda Diaz toppled Joe Vas, the bank teller and political neophyte catapulted herself into a City Hall that Vas dominated for 18 years.

Now with a term nearly completed, Diaz seeks another four years in the Middlesex County Latino capital of New Jersey and does so with the advantage of incumbency in a field overrun with challengers early.

Pre-Diaz, the dock front city was molded around Vas, who finally cracked up in 2009 and subsequently headed to prison on corruption charges.  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Christie blocks reform bill requiring Port Authority toll hike hearings

Governor Christie on Thursday blocked efforts by Democratic lawmakers to make the Port Authority more accountable, only hours before the agency announced that one of Christie’s rejected Supreme Court nominees would get a high-ranking job there.

The developments illustrated Christie’s tight control over the Port Authority and his administration’s insistence on reforming the agency from within, despite Democratic attempts to harness anger generated by recent toll hikes on the agency’s bridges and tunnels.

Christie’s veto of a proposed state law that would have forced the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to hold public hearings before future toll increases drew an immediate rebuke from the bill’s sponsors, who said Christie killed their effort to bring more transparency and accountability to the Port Authority. The bi-state transportation agency is jointly controlled by Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.  (Boburg and Reitmeyer, The Record)



Christie doesn’t budge on greenhouse gas, vetoes initiative again

On a day when the state was pummeled by a spate of unusually severe thunderstorms, Gov. Chris Christie, as expected, vetoed a bill that would have required New Jersey to participate in a regional initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In vetoing the bill (S-1322), identical to a measure he also rejected last year, the Governor said in his message to lawmakers that it would only “foist higher costs on New Jersey’s ratepayers.’’

The issue has emerged as a contentious dispute between the Republican administration and business interests against Democratic lawmakers, allied with clean energy advocates over the costs of a 10-state initiative to stem pollution from power plants contributing to global warming.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Christie gets creative with his messages for Democrats on ‘summer tax relief tour’

The venue changed but the message was the same as Governor Christie spoke before a packed crowd in a gazebo overlooking the water on Long Beach Island Thursday afternoon.

“The New Jersey Comeback has begun, but now we need to throw gasoline on it to get it really moving, and get more people back to work, and the way to do that is to cut taxes and put more money in people’s pockets,” Christie told about 100 people in Brant Beach.

Christie changed the theme of his town hall style events this summer, taking the “Jersey Comeback Tour” from community centers and schools to the Jersey Shore and calling it the “Endless Summer Tax Relief Tour.” His first event was in Manasquan last week and he visited Ocean City Wednesday before coming to Long Beach Island.  (Hayes, The Record)



For Cerf, an 18-month wait ends in a four-hour hearing

The hearing in the Statehouse committee room was ostensibly for the confirmation of Chris Cerf as New Jersey’s education commissioner, a formality at this point for a man who’s been on the job as acting commissioner for more than 18 months.

In the end, the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed Cerf by a unanimous vote, releasing the nomination for an all but certain confirmation by the full Senate on Monday.

But the committee’s four-hour-long interview yesterday was also part of the continuing power play by the Legislature to show its relevance in what has become an increasingly aggressive education agenda under Gov. Chris Christie.   (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



Move to hike judges’ pension pay-in advances

It took less than 12 minutes for a state Senate panel to put its stamp of approval on a measure that would force judges to pay more for their retirement benefits, as the state’s other public workers now are required to do.

Thursday’s hearing before the Labor Committee was a small step toward putting the question before voters in November.

If the resolution is approved by the Legislature on Monday, as expected, voters will be asked to give the Legislature authority to increase judges’ contributions to their pensions and health care costs in retirement.  (Delli Santi, Associated Press)



N.J. awaits advice on halfway house overpayments

New Jersey is waiting for a legal opinion to determine how it can recover nearly $600,000 in overpayments to private companies that run halfway houses, more than a year after these financial mistakes were first made public.

State officials concede, however, that they might not even have a strong case to fight for the funds since the overbilling goes back to contracts first approved in 2004.

“We are aware of this issue and are working with the Attorney General’s Office to determine the feasibility of getting this money back all these years later, which presents its own set of challenges,” said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Governor Christie.

A series of errors that began with the 2004 contracts resulted in the overbilling, well before Christie took office in 2010.  (Reitmeyer, The Record)



Philip Kwon, rejected N.J. Supreme Court nominee, scores a top Port Authority job

Governor Christie on Thursday blocked efforts by Democratic lawmakers to make the Port Authority more accountable, only hours before the agency announced that one of Christie’s rejected Supreme Court nominees would get a high-ranking job there.

The developments illustrated Christie’s tight control over the Port Authority, and his administration’s insistence on reforming the agency from within, despite Democratic attempts to harness anger generated by recent toll hikes on the agency’s bridges and tunnels.  (Boburg and Reitmeyer, The Record)



Top Christie aide is tapped to head business agency

New Jersey’s economic development agency has tapped as its new chief executive officer a top aide to Gov. Christie and former longtime federal prosecutor who was once embroiled in a controversy over a $46,000 loan she got from Christie when he was a U.S. attorney.

The board of the Economic Development Authority on Wednesday selected Michele Brown for the $225,000 job as part of a restructuring. CEO Caren Franzini announced she would step down on Sept. 30 after 21 years to pursue opportunity in the private sector.   (Associated Press)



State says it will use trust funds for affordable housing

The Christie administration said Thursday that the money it confiscates from municipal affordable housing trust funds will be used to support a range of housing programs for low- and moderate-income New Jerseyans.

The statement from the Department of Community Affairs came two days after it sent letters to 372 municipalities, demanding that they turn over to the state all unspent portions of those funds.

While it states that the trust funds will be spent on various housing initiatives, the DCA did not detail the specific state programs that will receive the money or how much additional funding will go to each. The state budget initially set aside $200 million to be collected from the trust funds, although this week DCA put the anticipated figure it would collect at $161 million.  (Lipman, The Record)



State asks for federal recognition of improved air quality

The state has asked for federal recognition that it has improved its air-quality standards, a move that was praised by the Chemistry Council of New Jersey.

The Department of Environmental Protection filed several revisions to its plan implementing air-quality standards, including an effort to continue to push emissions down through 2025. The filing would allow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to revise the state’s status under the federal Clean Air Act.

Chemistry Council spokesman Elvin Montero said it’s important the state has attained its new status, allowing necessary regulatory changes. He said the filing is a formality, but that it’s significant that the state has improved its air quality.  (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)



Lautenberg to offer gun control amendment next week

Sen. Frank Lautenberg says he will offer an amendment to ban high-capacity magazines to a cybersecurity bill on the floor next week, despite Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s insistence that he will not allow a vote on measure. 

“We’re gonna continue to have it upfront and forward,” the New Jersey Democrat said. 

But he said he would not offer the measure if Reid asked him not to.

“I couldn’t say no to him,” Lautenberg said.

Senate Democratic leadership aides said there is no chance Lautenberg will win a vote on the amendment and it is clear that party leaders would prefer he not press the issue.  (Friedman, National Journal)



N.J. ‘Death Race’ state trooper to face charges, lawyer says

A New Jersey state trooper who escorted Porsches, Lamborghinis and Ferraris in a high-speed “Death Race” on the Garden State Parkway in March faces criminal charges, according to his attorney.

Sergeant Nadir Nassry will be charged tomorrow, said Charles J. Sciarra, his Clifton-based lawyer, at a news conference in his office today. Sciarra said he didn’t know what the charges will be. Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa, said a news conference is scheduled tomorrow on the charges.

Motorists reported two state-police cruisers on March 30 leading a pack of sports cars in a “Death Race” convoy at speeds of 100 miles (160 kilometers) an hour toward Atlantic City, according to complaints filed with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.   (Young and Feeley, Bloomberg)



Barnegat Bay: No need for special cleanup says state

In a startling move, the state Department of Environmental Protection is proposing to remove portions of Barnegat Bay from an official list of waterways targeted for special cleanup efforts.

The proposal, made earlier this month to the federal Environmental Protection Agency as part of a biennial regulatory process identifying impaired waters in New Jersey, would essentially freeze any action to take steps to clean up the bay, which many people fear is dying, according to environmentalists.

The regulatory move by the DEP is especially troubling to conservationists and other advocates of cleaning up the bay in the wake of a bleak study released earlier this month by the Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences. It concluded overdevelopment and resulting pollution is leading to a long-term decline in the bay’s ecosystem.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Drought spells trouble for U.S. farms, but may present advantage for N.J. growers

While a drought in the nation’s breadbasket has driven down crop supply and pushed up food prices for consumers, New Jersey’s slightly improved climate has yielded more crops in the state, and allowed local farmers selling on the national market to bring in more money, according a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Agriculture
“New Jersey has been fortunate to escape some of the really bad drought conditions centered in the Midwest,” spokesman Jeff Beach said. “We had our spells, and we got to a point where we would have been having a problem, but then we had rain last week and it was enough to keep it from becoming drastic.”  (Eder, NJBIZ)



(Click here to request a free trial)



Daily State House Schedule



Senior Freeze checks mailed

Tax relief checks averaging about $1,200 per person have been mailed to approximately 163,000 seniors and disabled homeowners, the state reported today.

The Senior Freeze checks totaling about $195 million are a property tax reimbursement method available to home owners who are 65 or older with low to moderate incomes, or who are disabled.  (Staff, State Street Wire)



SDA approves Camden middle school HVAC project

The state has OK’d a repair project at a Camden middle school for its heating and ventilation system.

The Schools Development Authority approved a project for East Camden Middle School that it labeled “emergent” due to health or safety issues.  (Staff, State Street Wire)



Cerf: Only Christie knows whether Ruiz’s tenure bill will be signed

Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf said today that he doesn’t know if Gov. Chris Christie will sign Sen. Teresa Ruiz’s tenure reform bill, which unanimously passed both houses of the Legislature.

“The only person who knows that is the governor,” Cerf said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into his nomination. “In the end, it’s his decision.”  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



From the Back Room 



Greenwald sending smoke signals?

Assemblyman Lou Greenwald, whose aspirations for higher office are no secret, may be signaling he’s ready for a statewide run.

For the past year, Greenwald has been quietly paying political consultant Message and Media, the New Brunswick-based consultant that counts several statewide candidates among its stable of clients.   

Campaign finance records show the South Jersey Assemblyman has paid the firm $5,000 per month since July of last year.  (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



Yellow Ribbon comes down from freeholder office

More than 13 months ago, Bergen County Freeholder David L. Ganz (D-Fair Lawn) put a yellow ribbon on his 5th-floor office door located in the county administration building to mark his U.S. Army combat engineer son, Scott H. Ganz, being sent overseas to serve at a forward operating base in Afghanistan. 

“It’s a reminder of the service that Scott has performed  for his country,” said Ganz, who, with 10 years service  is the longest serving Democratic freeholder in the 300-year history of the board, which acts as a county legislature.   (Staff, PolitickerNJ)






New Jersey residency requirements may be destined for the Supreme Court: Part II

Despite a string of legal opinions, the federal courts and the New Jersey courts still do not see eye-to-eye on New Jersey’s residency requirement. Hanging in the balance is the election of Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera.

Most recently, U.S. District Court Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise, the same judge who decided Robertson v. Bartels, again concluded that New Jersey’s state constitutional residency requirement was invalid, at least when it comes to redistricting years. He refused a request from the Attorney General’s Office to vacate the long-standing injunction in its entirety.  (Scarinci for PolitickerNJ)


  Morning News Digest: July 27, 2012