Morning News Digest: July 31, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
GOP sources: Christie’s running again, taking it to the bank, but here’s the statewide bench
Despite Democrats’ best efforts to create an aura of inevitability around Gov. Chris Christie’s imminent departure, sources close to the Republican governor say he staunchly sees re-election as a vital component of his record.
n short, GOP sources tell PolitickerNJ.com, whether Mitt Romney wins or loses, Christie plans to stick to New Jersey, an infuriating fact for ego-bruised golf course Dems trying to get rid of him.
They have persisted on two fronts, first suggesting as often as possible that Christie desperately wants a VP slot.
Their other oft-kick-started rumor is that the governor wants to head to Fox News to make money, craving the bully pulpit of a TV studio to fulminate about society and sock the money he never made as U.S. Attorney. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Assembly advances constitutional amendment on judicial pensions 62-3
The New Jersey Assembly – as expected – signed off on a proposal that will let voters decide whether judges should contribute more to their pensions.
Assembly lawmakers took to the lower chamber floor shortly after Senate lawmakers passed the measure, SCR110, by a unanimous vote.
The move to attempt to change the Constitution was spurred by the state Supreme Court ruling a week ago that said it is unconstitutional to tamper with salaries of sitting judges, and that the state’s 2011 overhaul of pensions and benefits for public employees can’t be used to force judges to contribute higher amounts to their pensions. (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
Christie applauds Legislature’s vote on judicial pensions, says judicial branch is ‘dead wrong’
Gov. Chris Christie applauded the Legislature Monday for following through with their promise to send the question of judicial pension to New Jersey voters.
“Rarely has the public seen such unanimity between the legislative and executive branches that the judicial branch was dead wrong,” Christie said in a statement.
“I congratulate the Legislature for their decisive, bipartisan action that lives up to the promise of our historical pension and benefit reform by making sure everyone is treated fairly,” he said. “I pledge to do all I can this fall to ensure passage of this amendment to our Constitution and truly believe that New Jersey voters will deliver the same message of fairness to the judiciary as well.” (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
Sweeney goes after FOX’s Bill O’Reilly
Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) today savaged Bill O’Reilly, throwing an ironworker’s gauntlet down in front of the deskbound FOX News personality.
“It’s obvious Bill O’Reilly doesn’t truly care about giving his viewers the facts on the causes he supposedly cares about, he only cares about his ratings and hawking more of his books,” said Sweeney in response to last Thursday night’s Talking Points segment, when O’Reilly misrepresented Sweeney’s position on protecting children from pedophiles. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Legislature hands down speedy verdict: Judges should pay
Move over, NJEA. The New Jersey Supreme Court is now Public Enemy No. 1 and could remain so for the next few months.
Infuriated by a Supreme Court ruling that the New Jersey Constitution barred the governor and legislature from requiring judges to pay more for their pension and health care, the state Senate and Assembly took less than an hour yesterday to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would overturn that decision.
“Rarely has the public seen such unanimity between the legislative and executive branches that the judicial branch was dead wrong,” said Republican Christie, who has increasingly focused his wrath on the Supreme Court for its “liberal” bias and “judicial activism” in recent months. (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)
Cerf goes his own way on proposed charter regulations
The Christie administration is moving ahead with new regulations for charter schools, jumping ahead of the Legislature and its plans to take up the issue — and maybe a whole new law — in the fall.
The state Board of Education will hear on Wednesday the latest version of the administration’s proposed regulations that have come under criticism for expanding the size and scope of charters in the state.
The proposal had been going before the board last month and was delayed for further review. In that time, the new version released yesterday does make changes that appeared to address some of the criticism. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Time running short for Christie to act on bills
Governor Christie has only about two weeks left to decide whether to sign dozens of bills passed by the Legislature late last month.
The bills sitting on his desk include the high-profile — the restructuring of the state’s higher education system and new tenure rules for public school teachers — and the obscure, such one that fights the illegal trade in tiger body parts.
Christie’s office declined to comment on the governor’s plans for individual bills. The potential laws are all “undergoing their usual thorough review in counsel’s office,” said Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak. “The governor will take action on each within the time allotted for review.” (Linhorst, The Record)
Gov. Christie to speak before large Jewish organization
Gov. Chris Christie is expected to speak Tuesday night at the official launch of the newly formed Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, serving Essex, Morris, Sussex, Union and parts of Somerset counties.
The event marks the creation of what the federation is calling the state’s largest philanthropy, which provides career counseling and job development, disability and domestic violence services, Israel advocacy and Jewish education. It’s set for 6 p.m. at the Alex Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus at 901 Rt. 10 in Whippany.
The merger of the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest, based in the Whippany section of Hanover Township, and the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, in Scotch Plains, was announced last month. (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
Christie tops potential vice presidential nominees for media mentions
If the contest for Republican vice presidential candidate were based on media mentions alone, Governor Christie would have the nomination in the bag, according to an online research company.
HighBeam Research, a company that compiles newspaper articles, journals, magazine articles, transcripts and reference titles, has Christie leading Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan 3,810 to 3,176. Florida Senator Marco Rubio takes third with 2,220.
“We researched the media attention each potential candidate has received over the past year to determine who was the most popular,” HighBeam said in a news release detailing its findings. (Hayes, The Record)
Changes announced for N.J.’s government-documents agency
The Christie administration announced changes Monday to the operations of an agency that handles requests for government documents, six weeks after The Inquirer detailed the agency’s lack of transparency.
The Government Records Council (GRC) adjudicates appeals when local and state government officials deny requests for public information. Although it is supposed to be the state’s final arbiter on what is public information – from political information to police reports – it has acted in a manner far less public than other governmental bodies.
In 2010, Gov. Christie’s office rejected a request from The Inquirer about the governor’s e-mails and travel records. The newspaper appealed to the GRC, and the case was heard in spring 2012. As documented in a first-person article last month, an Inquirer reporter wasn’t given advance notice about the hearing. (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Report finds urban schools losing talented teachers because of poor conditions, pay
Urban schools nationwide lose tens of thousands of their best teachers yearly because of poor working conditions and seniority-dominated salary systems that don’t pay the most talented teachers what they’re worth, said a report released Monday by a national non-profit.
Called “The Irreplaceables,” the report was released by the TNTP, formerly known as The New Teacher Project, with the support of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. It is likely to generate considerable attention; the group’s 2009 study called “The Widget Effect,” which called for more meaningful, data-driven evaluations, was quoted widely during debates over tenure reform in New Jersey and elsewhere. (Brody, The Record)
NY, NJ lawmakers want online, mail-order ammunition sales restricted after Colorado massacre
Ten days after the Colorado movie theater massacre, federal lawmakers introduced a bill that would effectively ban people like suspect James Holmes from buying thousands of rounds of ammunition by mail or online.
“It’s time to close the loophole that’s allowing killers — deranged, insane — and even terrorists to buy ammunition online,” said U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey.
He was joined Monday on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan by U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York to announce the Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act. (Associated Press)
Port Authority delays release of second audit report
The anticipated second audit report of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s $25.1 billion, 10-year-capital program won’t be released at the bi-state agency’s board meeting on Wednesday.
The second phase of a report, ordered by Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a condition of approving the Port Authority’s toll and PATH fare increases last summer, had been promised in the June-July time frame by Patrick Foye, executive director, in earlier interviews.
The release of the report is likely to be sometime in the next month, said Steve Coleman, authority spokesman. (Higgs, Asbury Park Press)
West Virginia senator’s letter rip Port Authority executive
A senior Port Authority executive “failed to meet the basic standards of civility and decorum” during a dust-up with U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg in April, the chairman of a powerful Senate committee wrote in a letter to agency officials on Monday.
The unusually testy exchange between the Port Authority’s deputy executive director, Bill Baroni, and Lautenberg at a congressional hearing in April — and the agency’s incomplete responses to subsequent written questions — “shows a lack of respect for legitimate congressional oversight,” U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, a Democrat, wrote. A copy of the letter, which was co-signed by Lautenberg, was obtained by The Record. (Boburg, The Record)
Google offers web services to NJ businesses
Small businesses can get free websites for a year, including hosting and support, to put them where customers are searching.
Google believes more than half of New Jersey’s businesses are invisible online — and the state is giving the corporation an unprecedented publicity boost to close that gap.
Hooking new business with a “first year free” offer, the search engine giant last week offered any small business in New Jersey a basic website with hosting and support, free for one year.
After that, businesses would have to pay to keep the site going. (Fletcher, The Record)
Elected to serve far away
Alfredo Rodriguez is looking forward to his upcoming stint as an elected official—even though the commute from his Bergen County home is brutal.
Mr. Rodriguez is one of three area Dominicans elected to be the equivalent of congressmen in the Dominican Republic. All three men, who are New Jersey residents, will be sworn in next month as part of the first group of expats serving in the country’s government, demonstrating the powerful clout of the island nation’s close-knit diaspora.
“We have been trying for this for 15 years,” said Mr. Rodriguez, a 51-year-old businessman who owns Xtra Supermarket in Newark. “Finally the new Constitution permitted it.” (Reddy, The Wall Street Journal)
Trenton mayor talks about probe
Mayor Tony Mack emerged in public Monday for the first time in nearly two weeks and said he was under questioning by the FBI.
However, Mack deflected questions about what the FBI is trying to learn and whether he believes he could be charged with any crime.
City Hall and the homes of Mack, his brother, and a campaign donor were raided this month. Documents obtained by the Trenton Times showed investigators were trying to find evidence dealing with fraud, extortion, money laundering, and city contracts.
Just after the raids, Mack vanished. He later said he was on vacation. (Associated Press)
Trying to find a fair price for consumer power
The state wants to slice a proposed $90 million rate increase sought by Atlantic City Electric in half, recommending the utility increase its revenues by only $45 million.
In a filing made last Friday with an administrative law court judge, the staff of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities also suggested the utility’s return on equity be reduced from the 10.75 percent it sought in its original filing, made back in August 2011.
The agency’s stance comes at a time when the Christie administration has made a top priority of holding back, and even reducing electric bills in New Jersey, which consistently rank among the top 10 most expensive in the nation. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Newark nonprofit launches $4M loan fund to bolster business
While the goal of Brick City Development Corp. is to leverage financing from a variety of private- and public-sector sources to attract, retain and grow businesses in Newark, an executive with the nonprofit said many companies are still hitting a wall in trying to obtain funds.
“We get approached quite often by companies that want to be in the city, but have been denied access to capital,” said Ruben Gomez, senior vice president of business attraction for BCDC. “More often than not, applicants have been declined by a traditional lender or government funding source, so we find that there’s still a need for a specific fund to provide assistance to a company and fill that niche for small and medium-sized business retention and attraction.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
Corzine wasn’t too close with CFTC chief, review finds
They crossed paths at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), the U.S. Senate, New Jersey campaign events and Princeton University. One man once borrowed the other’s number in the New York Marathon.
Still, Jon S. Corzine, the former chairman and chief executive officer of failed brokerage MF Global Holdings Ltd. (MFGLQ), and Gary Gensler, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, didn’t have a close relationship, an internal analysis by CFTC lawyers found. They didn’t attend each other’s weddings, Corzine didn’t go to the bat mitzvahs of Gensler’s daughters and they haven’t socialized together in 14 years. (Brush, Bloomberg)
Giants, Jets lawsuit still a roadblock as American Dream permits are approved
A court hearing on the controversial American Dream Meadowlands project is still a week away, but the legal clash between its developer and New Jersey’s two NFL teams has been simmering for weeks.
The latest salvo was fired on Friday when attorneys for the would-be developer, Triple Five, filed a brief in state Superior Court. The filing once again called for a judge to dismiss the five-week-old lawsuit by the New York Giants and New York Jets, which have moved to stop the project from being expanded because of traffic concerns. (Burd, NJBIZ)
EDA OKs school construction bond measure
The Economic Development Authority approved the issuance of approximately $425 million in school construction bonds today.
EDA approved two series of bonds, one not to exceed $161.8 million, and the other not to exceed $238.1 million. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
McKeon: Battle for RGGI not over
Assemblyman John McKeon is not giving up the fight to keep New Jersey in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
McKeon, (D-27), West Orange, said over the weekend he still had hopes of pushing for an attempt to override the governor’s veto last week of a bill that would have kept the state in RGGI. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Step right up and hear the governor speak of saving your state
Like a thunderhead blown in off Barnegat Bay, Gov. Chris Christie slides out of a black sport utility vehicle and strides into a sandy parking lot crowded with bathing suit- and Hawaiian-shirt-clad admirers.
He tugs at his pink tie, loosens his collar and grabs a microphone. With a knowing grin, he reminds the crowd of the hell they escaped when they elected him.
“From 2000 to 2009, you had zero private sector job growth. An entire lost decade for New Jersey!” (Powell, The New York Times)
Christie deserves a margarita on the house
Well, count my Mom among those thrilled hear the news that Jimmy Buffett is bringing his Margaritaville resort to Atlantic City. I think she and my father have visited nearly every Margaritaville in the Caribbean. I even went with her to visit one in Connecticut, the last place I’d expect to see palm trees and sandy beaches.
Atlantic City is a perfect fit for the easygoing brand and its throng of parrot head followers. And it’s a great move for Atlantic City towards Gov. Christie’s vision of the struggling gambling destination reborn as a tourist resort on the level of Las Vegas. (Tornoe, Newsworks)
Bergen GOP Chairman Bob Yudin looking to get even
Bergen County Republican Organization Chairman Bob Yudin hasn’t taken a victory lap following June’s bruising chairman’s fight.
He’s on what could best be described as a “Settling of Scores Tour 2012.”
Yudin says he may not give the coveted “line” — preferred ballot position, and the BCRO official endorsement — to the District 40 Republican incumbents, Sen. Kevin O’Toole of Cedar Grove and Assemblymen David Russo of Ridgewood and Scott Rumana of Wayne, in the 2013 legislative races. If Yudin makes good on his threat, that could open the door to a potentially costly primary in seven northwest Bergen towns during a possible Chris Christie reelection campaign. (Stile, The Record)