Morning News Digest: July 30, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Winners and Losers: Week of July 23rd
Who needs Barack Obama and MItt Romney when we have Kirk Cameron and Garden State Equality?
To find out who got the better of that tussle and other such scraps, see below… (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Renaissance School proposed
A consortium headed by South Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross has submitted a proposal for the state’s first renaissance school.
The school, called the KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy, will be built in Camden, one of three cities statewide approved for the schools under the Urban Hope Act signed by the governor in January.
If approved, the school will eventually serve 2,840 Camden students in grades pre-K through 12 and provide guaranteed enrollment for children in the Lanning Square neighborhood. The first class of kindergarten students would begin in 2014. It will offer a college preparatory curriculum , with the goal of at least doubling the number of Camden students who attain a four-year college degree by 2030, according to an announcement from the group. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
AG announces trooper charges; says license plates were covered over
The state’s Attorney General announced criminal charges today against two of the New Jersey State Troopers involved in an “unauthorized” state police escort of high-speed sports cars.
Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa announced the charges against the two troopers involved in the caravan and disciplinary charges against four other state troopers connected to the incident. The two troopers who took part in the escort, and who could face time behind bars if convicted, are accused of altering their license plates to conceal their identities during the high-speed caravan escort.
“What they did was absolutely wrong,” Chiesa said, explaing his office alleges the men used black electrical tape to change the numbers on their license plates. (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
Christie will speak at conference for GOP governors
Governor Christie will travel to Colorado next week to speak at the Aspen Institute and participate in the Republican Governors Association quarterly meeting.
Christie will be among five GOP governors featured in the Aspen Institute’s McCloskey Speaker Series on Wednesday night. He will be joined by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
All five of the governors have been mentioned as possible running mates for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. (Hayes, The Record)
N.J. public employees retiring at slower pace, records show
After two years in which teachers, cops, firefighters and other public workers headed for the exits in record numbers as Trenton took aim at their pensions and benefits, the pace of retirements has slowed drastically, the latest records show.
A total of 13,865 local and state public workers are expected to call it quits this year, significantly fewer than the 19,585 who retired last year, when Gov. Chris Christie and lawmakers forced them to pick up a greater share of their health and pension costs, according to figures released by the Treasury Department. (Renshaw, The Star-Ledger)
Study: N.J. wealthy flourishing, gap between rich and poor largest since Great Depression
The rich really did get richer in New Jersey over the past 10 years, and the gulf between the wealthiest and poorest residents is the widest it’s been since the Great Depression, a new study has found.
And as most New Jerseyans were hit hard during a decade that ended in recession — with hundreds of thousands out of work, take-home pay sapped and lifestyles curbed for the poor and middle class — the bad times barely touched the wealthiest Garden Staters, the Legal Services of New Jersey study concluded. (Livio, The Star-Ledger)
Despite, or before of, Christie’s brash ways, N.J. voters still approve
He talks smack to hecklers, reporters, political opponents, constituents, and at least one Navy SEAL.
His state’s leading liberal blog, Blue Jersey, published an article analyzing whether he was a “sociopath.” The same blog matter-of-factly described him with a seven-letter anatomical word as though it were his nickname.
Mainstream media likewise recoil at the personality – although not necessarily the policies – of Chris Christie. Inquirer opinion writers have often pointed out his proclivity to pounce on opponents, while a Courier-Post editorial this month said the governor “represents our state just as poorly as the buffoons on the trashy reality TV shows filmed in the Garden State.” (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Assembly eyes plan to hike judges benefit cost
The Assembly is set to consider a measure that would allow voters to decide whether New Jersey judges should pay more for their pensions and health benefits.
The state Supreme Court ruled last week that judges don’t have to contribute more toward pensions and health care despite a new law requiring them to do so. The court said the law diminishes judges’ salaries, which are protected by state law.
The resolution due to be considered Monday clarifies the Legislature’s authority to deduct benefit contributions from salaries. If it’s passed by both the Assembly and the state Senate, it could go before voters in November. (Associated Press)
A tax break’s cost, benefits are weighed
A New Jersey tax credit gives companies an average of more than $167,000 for every job they create or save from leaving, a program that has become the state’s fastest-growing business subsidy, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.
Considered one of the most generous tax-incentive programs in the nation, New Jersey’s Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit has made awards of nearly $1 billion to 18 companies and developers since 2010, generating or retaining almost 6,000 jobs, according to the state Economic Development Authority, the program’s administrator. (Haddon, The Wall Street Journal)
Medicaid managed behavioral health still in holding pattern
New Jersey’s plans to move more Medicaid patients, including those receiving behavioral health services, into managed care remain on hold pending federal approval of the state’s proposal.
Initially, officials from the state Department of Human Services had hoped to have put out a request for proposals for a firm to oversee the new medical system that would begin January 1. But the state can’t make any changes without approval of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (O’Dea, NJ Spotlight)
Can New Jersey breathe easier?
Is New Jersey’s air getting cleaner? Perhaps so, says the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The state is asking the federal government to find New Jersey in compliance with an important air quality standard, one that aims to prevent premature deaths, increased asthma attacks, and decreased lung functions among residents from exposure to the pollutant.
In a filing with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state DEP said New Jersey is in compliance with an existing federal standard for soot. Under bureaucratic jargon, the pollutant is called fine particulate matter, which the federal agency blames for causing tens of thousands of premature deaths each year. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Senator Beck uses strong stretch run to win $60,000 Desert Vixen Stakes at Monmouth Park
Senator Beck rallied from last place in the stretch and overtook Peace Preserver in the closing strides for a half-length victory in the $60,000 Desert Vixen Stakes at Monmouth Park on Saturday.
Ridden by Paco Lopez and trained by Tim Hills, the 3-year-old filly ran 1 1/16 miles over the firm turf course in 1:43.49 and returned $14.20, $4.40 and $2.60. It was the third win in eight career starts for Senator Beck, who has earned $92,254
Peace Preserver, sent off as the betting favorite, returned $3 and $2.20, and Composition paid $2.20 to show. (Associated Press)
Increase in poverty hurts youth in N.J.
A closer look at a recent report on New Jersey’s children shows while the state gets high marks in education and health care, it does so amid pockets of chronic poverty and some of the highest housing costs in the country.
The annual Kids Count Data Book ranked New Jersey 4th overall when it averaged all indicators — economic well-being, education, family and community and health.
But the state ranked a dismal 19th in the economic category. That indicator includes percentage of children in poverty, median family income and percentage of households spending a large part of income on rent. (Mitchell, Asbury Park Press)
Survey finds growing number of female partners at largest law firms
In a survey of the 250 largest law firms by headcount in the nation, the National Law Review found a slow increase in the number of female partners at these firms.
According to the survey, from 2003 to 2011, the percentage of women at these firms who are partners increased from 16 percent to 18 percent, while the percentage of female equity partners has remained at 15 percent.
The review also reported three of the highest-earning large firms in the nation have more than 20 percent of their partner group represented by women, including New York firms Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Willkie, Farr & Gallagher; and Davis, Polk & Wardwell. (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
Insider says eds and meds strategy key to Camden renaissance
With Cooper Health System moving forward on a proposal to develop a public school under the state’s Urban Hope Act and the grand opening of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, the education and health care sectors have become the drivers for redevelopment in Camden, according to an executive of the city’s economic development nonprofit.
“The growth of eds and meds is instrumental, in that they’re people drivers,” said Joseph Myers, vice president and chief operating officer of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, a nonprofit that works to plan and implement redevelopment projects in Camden. (Eder, NJBIZ)
Battle for Solitude House
As a long-settled, populous state, New Jersey has seen many of its historic homes converted into museums. But Solitude House in High Bridge might reverse the process.
Borough officials and nonprofit volunteers agree that the white building on a winding side road in a leafy dell is among New Jersey’s most important structures.
Taking its name from a tract written by William Penn, the house was owned by colonial America’s greatest industrialist, served as a polite political prison during the Revolution, was the birthplace of a Civil War general, and the heart of the continent’s second-oldest continuously operated business. (Tyrrell, NJ Spotlight)
Halfway house follow-up review planned; Buono applauds Comptroller
The State Comptroller’s Office plans to undertake a “follow-up review” of its original audit on the state’s halfway house program, a Democratic lawmaker announced Friday.
Comptroller Matthew Boxer said he intends to follow up on his office’s audit of the state’s Department of Corrections Residential Community Release Program. Boxer made the statement in a letter to Sen. Barbara Buono, (D-18), Metuchen. (Arco, State Street Wire)
New bills: Hot tub restrictions, moving fire district elections, tobacco machines, sex offender status on social networks
A bill has been introduced to prohibit those under age 17 from using hot tubs in commercial establishments.
Senate President Steve Sweeney introduced S2136, which would assess penalties of $100 for the first offense, $250 for a second offense, and $500 for each subsequent offense. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Random thought on this month in NJ politics
No one really thinks that Barack Obama is going to win New Jersey by the 15 point margin he commanded in 2008. But his current lead among registered voters – 11 points in last week’s Quinnipiac Poll and 13 points in this week’s Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll suggests he might not be far from that mark.
Those results are among registered voters, though. Among likely voters it will be closer. Monmouth’s model has the lead narrowing to 8 points. Voters who cast their ballots in any given election tend to be slightly more Republican than the total registered voter pool. GOP voters are simply more consistent. This difference is usually very small in presidential elections when the vast majority of registered voters show up. (Murray for PolitickerNJ)
Christie spikes Corzine’s football at Cooper Medical School
Gov. Chris Christie has been mentioning his predecessor’s name an awful lot these days.
As the Republican governor tours the state, he repeatedly chides the “Corzine Democrats” for delaying a decision on tax cuts.
But last Tuesday, The Auditor noticed Christie conspicuously failed to mention Jon Corzine’s name even once at the opening of Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden.
Without Corzine, the day would not have been possible. In fact, to borrow a sports metaphor, Christie spiked Corzine’s football. (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)
Cory Booker, Newark’s celebrity mayor, takes flak but scores points
He is the choice property among Democrats in New Jersey, the Rhodes scholar mayor with a long list of undeniable accomplishments, the one person who might have a prayer in a matchup with Gov. Chris Christie.
But Newark Mayor Cory Booker has a problem. Outside the city, everyone seems to love him. But inside Newark, his support is eroding. And it’s not just because he had to kill 1,000 city jobs and raise taxes to make ends meet. He deserves credit for taking that heat. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
Bergen Democrats say PAC is completely aboveboard
The Bergen County Democrats have made an art form out of creating political accounts to bypass campaign finance laws.
First there was the memorable “Ferriero for County Chairman,” a private fund created by the former Chairman Joe Ferriero that raked in more than $195,000 from donors — including county contractors and public employees. The fund was not subject to state campaign disclosure laws because Ferriero was not an elected public official. (Stile, The Record)