Morning News Digest: August 10, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
WNY Mayor Roque and son indicted
A federal grand jury in Newark returned an indictment today charging West New York, N.J., Mayor Felix Roque, 55, and his son, Joseph Roque, 22, with allegedly scheming to hack into an e-mail account and website associated with a movement to recall the mayor.
The two defendants were arrested and charged by Criminal Complaint on May 24. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Voter registration bills advance
New Jersey voters could register to vote from their home computers under a proposal released from a Senate panel today.
The Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee released several bills that relate to voter registration and the dissemination of sample ballots. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Yudin fires back in Bergen County
Bergen County Republican Chairman Bob Yudin responded to attacks from Freeholders Maura DeNicola and Rob Hermansen.
“I ran for freeholder in 2006,” said the GOP chair. “Go back to the Bergen Record‘s editorial from October of that year. The Bergen Record endorsed me. Specifically, they mentioned that Bob Yudin has good ideas about how to merge the county police department with the sheriff’s office. I have always favored merging the departments. It’s nothing new. My position has been well known.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Republicans Hermansen and DeNicola attack Bergen GOP, denounce party bossism
Two GOP freeholders today alleged a serious violation of public trust in the formulation of a Bergen County proposal to restructure the county police department, calling out Bergen County Republican Chairman Bob Yudin, state Sen. Gerry Cardinale (R-39), Freeholder Chairman John Mitchell, and their respective attorneys.
“We removed ourselves because of our concern that we were being used as pawns in a political backroom deal that is not in the best interests of the taxpayers we were elected to represent,” Freeholder Maura DeNicola said, explaining hers and Freeholder Rob Hermansen’s decision to shut down a vote on the proposed referendum at last week’s freeholder meeting. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie approves expansion of transit hub tax credit
Governor Christie has approved the expansion of the Urban Transit Hub tax credit by $250 million, further supporting a state commitment to fund growth around public transportation routes.
This latest action expands the program’s cap of available tax credits to a total of $1.75 billion, meaning developers can again seek incentives through the Economic Development Authority if they make capital investments in nine cities near major public transit lines.
The deadline for applications is also extended to July 2014, bringing it in line with the separate Grow New Jersey assistance program, which rewards job creation. Hub credits were due to expire by late summer.
Lawmakers originally envisioned a $1 billion increase, but that was reduced after Republican opposition in June. GOP lawmakers publicly said that figure was too high, and in private said they believed the governor would not go for it and would veto the increase. (Fletcher, The Record)
Obama picks at Christie, other possible Romney VP choices
President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies aren’t waiting for Republican Mitt Romney to reveal his vice presidential choice. They’re already trying to scuff up those considered by political insiders to be most likely to join the GOP ticket.
The president’s campaign started swinging at the potential Republican running mates this week while urging home-state Democrats to chime in about the shortcomings that — as emails to donors and supporters put it — “Americans need to know.” The pre-emptive strikes are an effort to define a possible No. 2 in a negative light and reflect a sense that time is precious to sway opinion in a stubbornly close presidential race dashing quickly toward November. (Associated Press)
Bill to speed foreclosures of abandoned properties advances
A bill that could cut the time it takes to foreclose on an abandoned property by more than a year advanced out of a state Senate committee today.
The bill, S-2156, would allow lenders to bring actions to foreclose mortgages on vacant and abandoned residential property. Judges would be authorized to issue summary foreclosure judgments if they find the properties were abandoned.
Timothy J. Touhey, CEO and executive vice president of the New Jersey Builders Association, said it’s important to act on abandoned properties quickly, as the state faces an overall increase in the number of foreclosure actions. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
Weinberg criticizes Christie for vetoing hospital bill
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg accused Governor Christie of hypocrisy at a press conference this afternoon for vetoing a bill that would have required for-profit hospitals to publicly disclose certain financial information
“In fact, he doesn’t really believe in transparency – but he’s looking for excuses,” the Teaneck Democrat said of Christie, who came into office pledging to increase openness in government.
Christie, in his veto message, said the hospital bill needed six months of further study by the state Department of Health to assess its impact on the for-profit hospital industry, which currently numbers 72. (Campisi, The Record)
Christie actions to approve hub funds, veto hospital disclosures praised by industries
Gov. Chris Christie took different actions on bills affecting two different industries Tuesday, but in both cases, his moves won praise from business advocates.
Christie signed a bill providing $250 million in additional money for Urban Transit Hub tax credits, and conditionally vetoed a bill that would require financial disclosures by hospitals, according to a statement issued by his office Wednesday afternoon.
The Urban Transit Hub expansion was a downsized version of a $1 billion increase included in the original version of the bill. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
Questioning the Governor’s commitment to transparency
Gov. Chris Christie’s conditional veto of a financial disclosure bill for hospitals has healthcare advocates up in arms — and doubting his public stand on transparency. They say the proposed transparency requirements are necessary to ensure that for-profit hospitals do not operate under a veil of secrecy that could endanger patients and workers by putting profit before both.
But officials from the New Jersey Hospital Association, who opposed the bill, said Christie was right to call for a six-month study of the bill’s impact, arguing that the legislation could deter for-profit hospital companies from considering purchasing failing facilities in New Jersey. (Kalet, NJ Spotlight)
Monmouth County senator calls for more N.J. tenure reform
Days after Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation overhauling the state’s teacher tenure laws, a state senator from Monmouth County has proposed a bill that would further remake the job protection.
State Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) wants to end a practice known as last-in, first-out, which prevents veteran teachers from being laid off before their more junior colleagues when districts are faced with budget cuts. Kyrillos’ bill would also allow teachers to earn merit pay and give principals greater autonomy to make staffing decisions.
“By coming together to achieve landmark tenure reforms, this legislature proved to New Jerseyans that it can indeed put students at the forefront,” said Kyrillos, who is campaigning to join the United States Senate. “My new bill accomplishes full tenure overhaul, which is our best effort to both improve public education and lower property taxes.” (Calefati, The Star-Ledger)
Sierra Club: NJ gov failing to protect Highlands
A New Jersey environmental group that’s often at odds with the Christie administration has given the governor a failing grade for his policies on the Highlands region.
The state chapter of the Sierra Club said Thursday the governor has failed to make progress protecting the Highlands against threats. The 415,000-acre region in Sussex, Morris, Warren, Bergen, Hunterdon, Passaic and Somerset counties contains a significant portion of the state’s drinking water.
The annual report card was issued on the eighth anniversary of the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
Cerf to Camden schools: Clean up your act
Camden public schools got their latest marching orders from the state yesterday, this time with a bit of an “or else.”
In a strongly worded letter hand-delivered by state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, the Camden interim superintendent and school board president were given specific recommendations for starting to rebuild the long-troubled district.
The recommendations were part of a 32-page of the district by a team of nearly 40 state and other officials who cited its low achievement and dysfunctional management.
The recommendations included the hiring of a qualified new superintendent, the overhaul of personnel procedures, and support for charter schools and Renaissance Schools in the city. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Port Authority employee union trying to jumpstart contract talks with pressure of public campaign
A Port Authority employee union is trying to pressure the agency into restarting long-stalled contract negotiations through a public campaign that includes a series of pointed billboard advertisements at the Lincoln Tunnel.
The scrolling messages on a digital billboard near the tunnel’s eastbound entrance admonish the Port Authority for its “attack on workers” and accuse agency management of refusing to negotiate. The advertisements, and a rally planned outside the Port Authority’s headquarters later this month, illustrate the 183-member electrician union’s mounting frustration about working under a contract that expired more than six years ago. (Boburg, The Record)
NJ judge tells Giants, Jets it’s too early for lawsuit over Meadowlands megamall
A judge on Thursday dismissed part of a lawsuit filed by the New York Giants and New York Jets to halt a megamall in New Jersey’s Meadowlands, although the teams can still file legal challenges.
The teams filed suit in June against the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and Triple Five Group, developer of the proposed American Dream complex near MetLife Stadium, where the Giants and Jets play home games.
The teams claim the sports authority violated a 2006 agreement when it allowed Triple Five Group to expand the complex beyond its initial design without the teams’ approval. They say the complex will cause massive parking and traffic problems on game days. (Associated Press)
Developers hope academic construction policy helps rebuild project pipelines
A new state law allowing private-sector investment to fund academic construction projects at New Jersey colleges will entice more development and stimulate employment growth, a developer said.
“Colleges in the state today — given their tax situation and funding situation — don’t have the ability to take money and throw it into improvements for the college. They need to be careful with whatever funds they have,” said Greg Lentine, vice president of West Long Branch-based PRC Group, which is developing a housing and retail center at The College of New Jersey through a public-private partnership. “Before, they would either have to use bonds or come up with the money themselves, and that would take away from other projects they needed to get done. This partnership allows companies like ours to go in and take on the financial risk for them.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
Fine Print: Cleaner cars by the numbers
What it is: The Obama administration is expected to announce new fuel efficiency and carbon standards for cars and light trucks at the end of this month, according to Environment New Jersey
Why it is significant: The new standards will cover cars and light trucks in model years 2017 through 2025, and are expected to require the average new car and light truck to hit a 54.5-mpg standard by 2025, roughly double the fuel efficiency standard of today’s cars and trucks. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Battle wages over battleship’s future
The most decorated battleship in naval history will not berth in Liberty State Park, Bayonne, or anywhere else in North Jersey, insist its owners. This certainty comes despite an ongoing attempt by some supporters of the decommissioned Battleship New Jersey to move it from its permanent home on the Camden Waterfront.
Since being donated in 2000 by the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to the nonprofit Home Port Alliance (HPA), which operates it as an interactive museum and memorial, the World War II-era battleship has been the target of a campaign to shift it to a North Jersey site that’s more visible to tourists. (Nurin, NJ Spotlight)
Special education advocates present ideas to committee
Two advocates made some recommendations today on how to improve special education.
Robert Titus, of Autism New Jersey, called for increasing access to programs such as behavior analysis and evidence-based teaching. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Cable TV notification bill held
The Senate Economic Growth Committee held A753/S2145 at the request of its sponsor, Steve Oroho, (R-24), Franklin.
Under this bill, a cable TV company would have to post on its web site information about its rates and terms. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Direct deposit bill held
State employees would be required to be paid by direct deposit under a proposal discussed by a Senate panel today.
The Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee held legislation that would make direct deposit mandatory – not optional – for state workers. (Arco, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Washington state Dems welcome Christie
Washington State Democrats laid out the welcome mat for Gov. Chris Christie and his trip to the Evergreen State Thursday in the form of a video.
The state’s Democratic Party likened Christie’s sometimes rough around the edges approach to reporters and certain outspoken town hall attendees to the state’s GOP gubernatorial hopeful, Rob McKenna.
“Rob McKenna’s relationship with the media is a little rough,” reads text on the video. “A problem he shares with other members of his party.” (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
Report: DuHaime to RNC
POLITICO reports that Christie consigliere Mike DuHaime will work as a consultant to the political department of the Republican National Committee for the remainder of the cycle.
A former RNC political director, DuHaime was Christie’s chief campaign strategist in 2009. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Christie calls anti-Muslim conservatives “bigots”
The following video hasn’t gotten any attention in the mainstream press, but it has lit a fire on right-wing web sites.
The shaky, grainy 16-minute speech was shot by an attendee during an Iftar dinner – the evening meal during Ramadan – at the governor’s mansion two weeks ago.
“In many publications around this country I’m now called an Islamist,” Christie told the crowd of New Jersey Muslims. “Ya know, listen, I’ve been called worse things — usually on the boardwalk on Seaside Heights. Y’all saw my reaction to that.” (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Christie does tenure
Chris Christie is calling the teacher tenure reform bill he signed Monday “historic,” “sweeping” and “revolutionary,” among other self-encomiums, and he still seems to be working through his Roget’s. The New Jersey Governor might be right about all that, though only by the denuded standards of modern public education.
Which is to say: There’s no doubt the Christie plan, which passed with a big bipartisan majority, is progress. After two years of debate, the Garden State is scrapping the country’s oldest tenure law—enacted in 1909—and for the first time tying tenure to merit. But ponder the status quo ante: If a school is going to hire someone for life, shouldn’t it have been, you know, considering details like skill, talent and work ethic all along? (The Wall Street Journal)