Morning News Digest: July 3, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
The Rev. Jackson is now a bishop
The 49th General Session of the African Methodist Episcopal Church General Conferencee today elected as a bishop the Rev. Reginald T. Jackson, Pastor of St. Matthew A.M.E. Church, Orange, and the Executive Director of The Black Ministers Council of New Jersey.
Rev. Jackson is the 132nd elected bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest Black religious denomination in America. The Consecration Service is scheduled to be held on Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at 9 a.m. at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie issues CV of millionaire’s tax
As he promised, Gov. Chris Christie issued his conditional veto of the millionaire’s tax, A3201, and reworked it into a tax-relief plan for the Legislature to enact.
But the Democratic-controlled Legislature left the Statehouse today without acting on the governor’s call. (Mooney, PolitickerNJ)
AG’s Office files theft charges against former Middlesex PBA Prez
The Attorney General’s Office today filed theft charges against the former president of the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Officers’ Policemen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) Local 165 and a second man who is a former state delegate for the union.
Paul Lucarelli, 46, of South River, former president of PBA Local 165, and Mark Papi, 57, of Edison, a former state PBA union delegate representing PBA Local 165, were each charged by complaint-summons with third-degree theft by unlawful taking. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Christie asks N.J. lawmakers to turn tax increase into cuts
Whether it takes a day, a week or months for New Jersey lawmakers to pass a tax cut, the outcome would be the same: no relief until at least 2013, if then.
Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, conditionally vetoed a measure backed by Democrats to raise the income-tax rate on those earning $1 million or more a year. He sent the bill back and convened a special legislative session yesterday with an appeal to produce a levy rollback.
“A bipartisan tax-cut plan is on all of your desks right now,” Christie said in remarks to lawmakers yesterday. “Let’s show our state we can work together and finish the job before we leave.” Tomorrow is a U.S. holiday, Independence Day. (Dopp and Young, Bloomberg)
Democrats to Christie: Show us the money
In a speech aimed simultaneously at New Jersey legislators and at a national audience via ABC’s Nightline, Gov. Chris Christie yesterday urged immediate passage of a four-year, $1.4 billion income tax cut originally proposed by Democrats to provide relief to middle-income property taxpayers.
“The people of New Jersey deserve a tax cut,” Christie urged in a speech to a joint session of the New Jersey Legislature he had used his constitutional authority to summon.
But Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) and other Democratic legislative leaders made it clear that they would approve no tax cut until the “New Jersey Comeback” Christie proclaimed almost six months ago produces the 7.3 percent revenue growth that the governor has promised — and that vote will not come before December. (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)
Legislature’s special session may not have taken place on the books
It was the special session that wasn’t.
Or was it?
On Saturday, Senate President Stephen (D-Gloucester) directed his Democratic colleagues to attend a special legislative session called by Gov. Chris Christie on Saturday to take up passage of his eagerly sought tax cut.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) issued no such order to Assembly Democrats, leaving them to their own devices. Most eventually made their way to Trenton Monday, though they were not happy about it. (Staff, The Star-Ledger)
Christie speaks warmly of teacher tenure bill
Gov. Chris Christie has said he’s conflicted over whether to sign a bill to overhaul New Jersey’s teacher-tenure laws, but he sounded like he was on board with it during a speech Monday before the Legislature.
Christie cited the law passed unanimously by the Legislature last month as a symbol of bipartisan agreement — but didn’t say he would sign it.
Over the past week, Christie has talked several times about feeling conflicted. (Associated Press)
Schools get a fraction of anti-bullying money they asked for
A one-year state fund to combat bullying offered far fewer dollars than districts wanted and its allocation had some unexpected outcomes: The entire Englewood school district got less than $200, for example, while a single charter school in Paterson was given more than $9,000.
Districts sought nearly $5 million in grants — or five times the money in the pot. The state decided to give each district about 20 percent of whatever eligible expenses it requested.
In Haledon, Superintendent Richard Ney figured he could maybe buy some pens and pencils with his district’s $36. (Brody, The Record)
Lesniak angry at Christie veto of affordable housing bill
After building support among Realtors, developers, banks and housing advocates in New Jersey for legislation to transform foreclosed homes into affordable housing, Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) was angered — but not at all surprised — when Gov. Chris Christie took a veto pen to his measure on Friday.
“Foreclosed homes are a huge drag on economic development and job growth. Everybody knows that, but not (Christie),” Lesniak said. “We put in a lot of effort and had a lot of support behind this, and he just dismissed it with a stroke of a pen. He’s not coming up with any ideas. I’m gonna try to come up with something else, but it’s not gonna matter if the governor doesn’t care.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
Lautenberg wants federal probe of halfway houses
Sen. Frank Lautenberg wants the federal Bureau of Prisons to review its contracts with halfway houses in the wake of an investigation by The New York Times that highlighted escapes and other problems and caused some political embarassment to Gov. Chris Christie.
One Times article spotlighted David Goodell, who was serving parole at a Newark halfway house and was charged with murdering his ex-girlfriend, Viviana Tulli of Garfield, just a few hours after escaping.
Lautenberg, D-N.J., said in a letter to Charles E. Samuels Jr., director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, that he had “deep concerns about the security at halfway houses and similar residential re-entry facilities across the United States.” (Jackson, The Record)
Garrett to Christie: Say ‘no’ to Obamacare
Rep. Scott Garrett is among 83 House and Senate members who signed a letter to all 50 governors urging them “to oppose any creation of a state health care exchange mandated under the President’s discredited health care law.”
The law that the Supreme Court upheld last week requires states to create exchanges where individuals and small businesses could use combined purchasing power to get what is supposed to be affordable insurance from private insurers, with subsidies available depending on income levels.
People in states that do not set up exchanges will be able to buy coverage through an exchange set up by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Jackson, The Record)
Republicans begin phone campaign in blue districts, criticizing Democrat lawmakers for millionaires tax
The state Republican Party is hitting Democrats in their legislative districts for not immediately voting for an income tax cut.
The party began running automated phone calls in three Democrats districts today, criticizing them for trying to reinstate the so-called millionaires tax and for fighting Gov. Chris Christie’s attempts to cut them.
The lawmakers targeted are state Sens. Richard Codey (D-Essex), Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) and Bob Gordon (D-Bergen). (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
‘Nightline’ to air interview with Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday
Gov. Chris Christie had an extra set of cameras capturing the stroll from his office to Assembly chambers for today’s joint session.
Turns out a crew from ABC News was filming material to go with an interview Jake Tapper taped with the sought-after Republican governor, said Maria Comella, Christie’s deputy chief of staff for communications. The Nightline sit-down is set to air Tuesday. (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
Latest victim of Gov. Christie’s sharp tongue says ‘idiot’ comment didn’t leave a mark
He asked an off-topic question, and got an off-color response.
Chris Harris, the Record of Woodland Park reporter who was called an “idiot” by Gov. Chris Christie over the weekend, joins a fast-growing list of people besmirched by the mercurial governor.
Christie, who calls more people onto the carpet than Aladdin, has bestowed Assemblyman Reed Gusciora with “numbnuts,” ex-Navy SEAL William Brown with “jerk,” budget analyst David Rosen with “Dr. Kevorkian of the numbers,” state Sen. Paul Sarlo with “arrogant SOB,” and has told reporters to “take the bat” to state Sen. Loretta Weinberg. (Frassinelli, The Star-Ledger)
Hospitals group offers ACA penalty calculator for employers
While the individual mandate received the most attention while the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 was under Supreme Court review, the clauses making up the “employer mandate” are forcing employers to make difficult decisions about benefits.
To help with these complex decisions about offering coverage to employees, the New Jersey Hospital Association launched a new tool on Monday called RIPE – Reform Insurance Penalty Estimator – to help employers determine if they are at risk for penalties.
Under the law, by 2014, employers with more than 50 employees who do not offer insurance will face a penalty. Employers who do provide insurance but not meet federal requirements of affordability and “essential” coverage can also face penalties. (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
Gift card provider will return to N.J. market after change in law
A major gift card provider, InComm, announced Monday it would immediately return its gift cards, including Visa and MasterCard gift cards, to the Garden State.
“We plan to continue selling gift cards in New Jersey indefinitely as long as there is no requirement to collect consumer data at the point of sale,” said Brooks Smith, president and CEO of InComm, in the company’s announcement. “InComm intends to spend the next four years working to have any such data collection requirement permanently removed from the law.” (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
Charter school leases struck down in Newark, for now
The Newark public schools uneasy relationship with the city’s charter schools stirred more debate last night, as the district’s advisory board rejected leases to share space with the alternative schools. Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson, however, appeared poised to overrule and let the leases proceed.
The proposed leases of five district buildings to charter school operators for next year has been the latest source of friction in a long run of contentious community meetings surrounding the state-run schools.
Unable to make a decision last week, the district advisory board met in a special meeting last night to further consider them. The state has a deadline for issuing its final charters for next fall by July 15. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Ambitious program to reduce diesel pollution racks up one retrofit
A much-touted pilot program to reduce harmful pollution from off-road construction vehicles only has retrofitted one of hundreds of pieces of equipment targeted for upgrades, according to the Office of the State Auditor.
The audit of a range of programs initiated by the state Department of Environmental Protection found, by and large, a diesel retrofit program targeting school buses, waste-hauling vehicles, and commercial buses was working reasonably well.
But the eight-page audit suggested improvements should be made to the verification of the retrofitted off-road equipment, which, according to the governor’s office, accounts for one-third of toxic mobile source diesel particulate emissions in New Jersey. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Key figure in ‘Bid Rig III’ money-laundering takedown to be sentenced today
One of the key money-laundering figures swept up in the biggest federal sting in New Jersey history — the now-famous “Bid Rig III” takedown, in which undercover informant Solomon Dwek helped federal agents nab more than 40 people, including politicians charged with corruption and numerous rabbis charged with money laundering — is set to be sentenced at 10 a.m. today in federal court in Trenton.
Mordchai Fish, a 59-year-old Orthodox rabbi from Brooklyn pleaded guilty in April of last year to a money-laundering scheme that used religious charities to hide nearly $1 million in funds that he thought had come out of a massive bank fraud and a counterfeit-designer-handbag operation. (Grant, The Star-Ledger)
Delaware River Port Authority urged to enact reforms and policy changes
John Matheussen, chief executive of the Delaware River Port Authority, said Monday that he was not seeking sole authority over the DRPA’s new inspector genera
Matheussen was responding to a report in The Inquirer about a letter he recently received from Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner, also a DRPA commissioner.
The letter urged faster action on reforms at the agency and told Matheussen to make sure that Inspector General Thomas Raftery had both “the independence and the resources” needed to “prevent waste, fraud, and abuse of authority resources.” (Nussbaum, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
N.J. fines casinos $200K for numerous violations
Two Atlantic City casinos were fined nearly $200,000 for violations including using unshuffled cards and not having enough security on hand, state casino regulators announced Monday.
Bally’s Atlantic City was fined $105,000 for allowing people on the self-exclusion list to gamble, letting an underage patron gamble and not fully staffing required security positions.
The Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort was fined more than $91,000 for using unshuffled cards for 3½ hours in games of mini-baccarat.
The state also confiscated more than $4,000 won by self-excluded gamblers at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. (Parry, Associated Press)
Assembly Democrats…Christie’s call for immediate tax cut is theater
It doesn’t appear Democrats in the Assembly are willing to heed Gov. Chris Christie’s requests for tax relief anytime soon let alone before the upcoming 4th of July holiday weekend.
Speaker Sheila Oliver, (D-34), of East Orange, and Assemblyman Lou Greenwald, (D-6), of Voorhees, said Monday that Christie sent a message during the special session to basically give credence to the fact that revenue collections have been falling short of expectations. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Gov. Chris Christie’s speech serves as a GOP audition
Who would have guessed that Gov. Chris Christie, the most openly belligerent governor in the history of the world, would make his mark as the prophet of compromise?
His speech Monday was not really about taxes. He said nothing new on that front, and he knew Democrats weren’t buying it.
This speech was an audition for a spot in the national leadership of the Republican Party, and Christie did it with a gutsy pitch that openly embraced compromise as the essential lubricant in a democracy.
That is a truth that no one in the party’s Washington leadership has had the courage to speak since the Tea Party surged to power in 2010 on a tidal wave of anger at President Obama. And in typical Christie fashion, his pitch was full-throated, with no hedging. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
After 9th District defeat, N.J. congressman considers his next step
It is early 2009. He sits in a booth at an eatery here, near his apartment by the convention center.
Steve Rothman, congressman from New Jersey’s 9th District, mostly Bergen County, takes a pen and, on a napkin, lists the circumstances that could make him a United States senator. A district stretching over three populous, Democratic, counties — Bergen, Hudson and Passaic. His ties with the state’s most powerful Democrats. His ability to raise money. Even something of a foreign policy record because of his closeness to the Israelis and their supporters. And, yes, of course, his position on the House Appropriations Committee. (Braun, The Star-Ledger)
In calling reporter ‘idiot,’ Christie shocks everyone except reporters
Attention family, friends and others who texted, called and emailed today: I was not the reporter whom Gov. Christie called an idiot and questioned the intelligence of on Saturday. (And that is unfortunate, because it would have totally given me a bounce in my Twitter numbers.)
On Saturday, Gov. Christie did two things. First, he used his extraordinary constitutional powers to command the Legislature to return to the Statehouse on Monday and vote on his plan to cut taxes. A few hours later, he held a press conference in Monmouth County about a