Morning News Digest: August 13, 2012


Morning News Digest: August 13, 2012

By Missy Rebovich



Winners and Losers: Week of August 6th

Can you feel the energy and excitement out there in America?

Can… you… feel… it? 

It’s inspiring to know those engaged in politics have little to gain individually in the way of public jobs and public contracts in this November election.

Everyone feels truly invested.

This is about the public good this time, a circumstance epitomized by the intellectual rigor of two heavyweight contenders seeking the presidency, two men at odds with the politics of demonization.

New Jersey is such a power player in this cycle that we’re sending our two biggest stars, Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, into other states to campaign for Romney and Obama respectively.

We have an exportable model here in New Jersey, a template for good government where ideas and issues matter more than name calling, grandstanding, ethereal tweeting and cash cow fundraisers closed to the press.

Yeah, McKayla, we know what you mean, kid.  (Staff, PolitickerNJ)



MCIA vendors contributed heavily to executive director Pucci, other Middlesex County Dems

Vendors holding contracts with the Middlesex County Improvement Authority have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to county and local Democratic organizations and to a web of political action committees, all with political ties to the agency’s executive director, Monroe Township Mayor Richard Pucci.

Since 2007, a dozen MCIA contractors have donated more than $560,000 to five PACS operating inside Middlesex County and to the Monroe Township Democratic Organization, of which Pucci is chairman.

Those same six committees that received the vendor money donated $67,3000 to Pucci’s campaign coffers during his 2011 run for office and another $48,5000 during his 2007 bid.   (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)



Sweeney says Ryan might have been great for Bain

State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) derided U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as maybe a good prospect for an asset management company but bad for the country.

“Whether it’s making $10,000 bets or looking awkward pushing a shopping cart, just when you thought Mitt Romney couldn’t be more out of touch with the American people, he selects Congressman Ryan as his running mate,” said Sweeney in a statement. “Mr. Ryan not only proposed to partially privatize social security, not only proposed cuts to programs that help the middle class and working poor, but he also proposed to end Medicare as we know it.

“That kind of cold, methodical calculating might have been great if Ryan was looking for a spot at Bain Capital. But it is not what the American people need in a vice president. With his selection today, Mitt Romney continues to show that he has the wrong vision for America.”  (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)



Romney’s VP choice limits Christie’s options, shapes governor’s race

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s decision to choose Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate limits Christie’s options for a future presidential run and immediately shifts the focus in New Jersey to Christie’s 2013 gubernatorial reelection campaign.

Privately, Republican Party leaders in New Jersey were relieved by Ryan’s selection, knowing that Christie’s consistently high poll ratings make him a solid favorite for reelection, while any other GOP candidate would automatically start out as a 10-point underdog. With Democrats firmly in control of both houses of the Legislature, Democratic recapture of the governorship would make the GOP in New Jersey virtually irrelevant.   (Magyar, NJ Spotlight)



Christie quiet while other GOP politicians push ticket

Governor Christie was in New Jersey Sunday but not talking to the press while at least one other Republican mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick was on national television promoting Mitt Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan for the job.

Christie does not often have a public schedule on Sundays, so that alone is not unusual.

But after making repeated comments throughout the year about speculation, he continued to let a two-sentence statement released Saturday be his only comment, while Romney and Ryan dominate another news cycle.

Christie, who learned of Romney’s decision on Friday, is still expected to be named the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention. That announcement is likely in the next few days.  (Jackson, The Record)



For Christie, the guessing game is over

Back to town halls in Piscataway; forget about national debates in prime time. Back to defending criticism from the likes of Loretta Weinberg, senator from Bergen County; forget about high-profile attacks from the leader of the free world.

Gov. Christie’s star fell back to earth Saturday after a year of speculation about whether he would run for national office.

In the fall, Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, told Christie he should be president. Nancy Reagan escorted him onto a California stage for a speech that prognosticators thought was an audition for his candidacy.

When he finally told America he wasn’t running, at least not yet, what followed were questions, ad infinitum, about whether he was going to run for vice president.  (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



The power to appoint

Being governor of New Jersey means you have $30 billion or so to spend each year. It means the Lincoln Tunnel closes when you need to get to New York, a mansion in Princeton is open for parties, and a Shore house at Island Beach State Park is free for your swimming pleasure.

And then there’s this: You get to appoint six people to the Perfusionists Advisory Committee and nine to the Noise Control Council.

The perfusionists (heart-lung machine operators) and the noise-control people (it’s an environmental thing) are not part of Gov. Christie’s inner circle, but they represent a vast gubernatorial power.

The state has at least 6,235 appointable seats, some of which are controlled by legislative leaders but many of which are the responsibility of the governor. The appointees are mostly anonymous people attending occasional meetings of mostly anonymous boards, task forces, and authorities. Governors also pick their own staffs, cabinet members, and midlevel officials. They could probably get your son a job at the Department of Transportation, too.  (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



How Romney picked Paul Ryan for VP candidate, over Christie and others

The day after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney named Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, the question becomes: why?

Why did Romney choose Ryan, and how did he make the decision? And why did he pass over other candidates, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was inundated with questions and speculation since he endorsed Romney in October.

The New York Post reports Christie was high on the list, but refused to resign his governor job to run.

Christie could be announced as the keynote speaker for the GOP convention later this month in Tampa this month, according to the Post report.  (DeMarco, The Star-Ledger)



Christie continues to lie low after VP pick

Governor Christie is continuing to lie low today, with no public schedule, after presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney chose U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as his running mate.

The normally outspoken governor has been quietly spending time with his family since learning he wasn’t going to be Romney’s choice, releasing a short statement through the Romney campaign.

Still, losing out to Ryan shouldn’t hurt Christie politically. Expect him to be a coveted Republican fundraiser in the upcoming presidential campaign. And as Charlie Stile wrote over the weekend, his position in national Republican circles may perfectly position Christie to be his party’s standard bearer in 2016, should Romney lose. Christie is expected to be announced as the keynote speaker at the Republican convention, which will only burnish his national reputation.  (Campisi, The Record)



Christie in demand to raise cash for the GOP

Gov. Chris Christie has become a money machine for Mitt Romney and other Republicans, raising millions at more than 50 fundraisers from coast to coast in less than two years.

A precise amount isn’t available. Nor is a hard answer on what Christie wants in return. But it doesn’t take a political insider to understand the back-scratching nature of politics: At some point, perhaps next year or in 2016, he will surely want those favors to be returned.

Christie has been so busy traveling that he was in California for Romney last week when Romney met donors in Lakewood and Rumson. He’s visited 31 states since winning election, including 11 for Romney and 20 others to support different candidates or speak at colleges, conferences, companies and think tanks — elevating his profile as he goes and collecting political IOUs for whatever his future may bring.  (Symons, Asbury Park Press)



Housing funds decision draws applause from League of Municipalities

The N.J. League of Municipalities expressed its pleasure with today’s court ruling that towns’ affordable housing money can’t be taken by the state just yet.

Executive Director Bill Dressel said, “We are absolutely delighted and pleased with the court’s decision. 

“It reaffirms what we’ve been saying all along that only COAH (Council on Affordable Housing) could make those decisions. A clear reading of the law was not being followed.”  (Hassan, State Street Wire)



Tenure reform law: the debates ahead

Much of the attention on New Jersey’s new teacher tenure law signed by Gov. Chris Christie last week has been on its new rules regarding teacher tenure, its focus on student achievement and evaluations for judging teachers, and its streamlined legal proceedings for removing the weakest.

Getting less press, however, have been some of the critical details that make up the bulk of the 18-page law, not to mention the 49 pages of proposed regulations put forward by the Christie administration last week concerning the teacher evaluation piece of it.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



As $750M college bond issue heads to voters, academic officials roll up sleeves

Gov. Chris Christie’s decision this week to sign off on allowing voters to decide in November whether the state should spend $750 million on New Jersey colleges and universities was welcome news for higher education institutions, but now the work really begins.  (Arco, State Street Wire)



Christie veto of gestational carrier bill unlikely to affect surrogate parents

While reaction to Gov. Chris Christie’s recent veto of a bill that would have authorized gestational carrier agreements was strong on both sides — pro and con — in the short term legal experts say it is likely to have little impact on surrogate parenting in New Jersey.

The bill, S-1599, known as the “New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act,” would have authorized written contracts in which a woman agrees to carry and give birth to a child with whom she has no genetic relationship. The legislation sets out the circumstances when a child is created, using “assisted reproduction” on behalf of an intended parent. According to the legislation, after the child is born, the intended parent becomes the legal parent of the child and the gestational carrier would have no parental rights. This differs from traditional surrogacy where a woman is artificially inseminated with the semen of the intended father and gives birth to a child through the use of her own egg. Gestational surrogacy is now possible due to advancements in reproductive technology.   (Vecchione, NJ Spotlight)



Fracking fight intensifies as sides await Christie action on bill banning practice

Debate among industry and environmental groups on hydraulic fracturing in New Jersey is heating up, as a bill to ban the practice remains on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk after he signed a flurry of legislation earlier this week.

“New Jersey has one of the highest concentrations of natural gas in the United States, and it’s really had a tremendous growth that many industry experts thought was impossible,” said Jim Benton, executive director of the New Jersey Petroleum Council. “What we really need is the cheaper energy prices that can come from this practice, because you can’t have a successful economic recovery without solid energy growth and competitive energy costs.”  (Eder, NJBIZ)



N.J. lawmakers want to remove tax hurdle for Olympic medalists

Three state lawmakers are drafting a measure that would exempt New Jersey’s Olympic medal winners from paying income taxes on their winnings.

Under current law, Olympians are taxed on cash prizes they receive when they medal in an event, according to the bill’s would-be sponsors, Assembly Republicans Donna Simon, Jay Webber and Ronald S. Dancer. The honorarium is subject to state and federal taxes, and federal legislators have touted similar proposals in recent weeks.

This year’s Olympics in London end this weekend. Through this morning, 10 New Jersey athletes have won medals, while three others were still in contention, according to a news release from the lawmakers.  (Burd, NJBIZ)



NJ jobless are running out of unemployment checks

Cheryl Butts knew her unemployment benefits weren’t supposed to last forever, but when she received notice last month that she would abruptly be cut off, an alarm went off.

Gone in a flash was $533 a week, with little to fall back on and few expenses left to cut.

With unemployment benefits, “I was able to manage,” Butts, 67, of Neptune, said. “It wasn’t as much as I made when I was working, but it paid for rent, car insurance and the car note. You scrimp and save and manage to get through, but that was twenty-something hundred dollars a month I don’t have.”

Butts could be a sign of things to come. Thousands of New Jersey residents are at risk of losing unemployment benefits through programs that were extended during the Great Recession. With the job market still sluggish, they have taken sometimes drastic steps. And they are nervous about what’s in store.  (Diamond, Asbury Park Press)



N.J. anti-abortion activists happy about Ryan pick, while Planned Parenthood criticizes

Mitt Romney’s pick of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan for his running mate enthused anti-abortion rights advocates in New Jersey, who gained some ground in the traditionally-moderate Garden State when Gov. Chris Christie took office in January 2010 and stopped funding family planning centers.

“In announcing Paul Ryan as his choice for Vice President, Mitt Romney has made good on his promise to pick a pro-life candidate,” said Marie Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life.  

“Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan offer a stark contrast to the Obama-Biden team whose disastrous, big government anti-life policies are unprecedentedly forcing Americans to pay for abortions in national healthcare and stripping us of our first amendment right to freedom of conscience and religious liberty,” she said.   (Livio, The Star-Ledger)



State seeks to modify rules governing offshore wind farms

The state is proposing to readopt rules that will establish a framework for approving projects to build wind farms off the Jersey coast. But it still must resolve questions on how to finance the ventures.

In a rule proposal to be published in the New Jersey Register later this month, the state Board of Public Utilities modifies somewhat previously adopted regulations aimed at creating a process for approving offshore wind farms. The state hopes to develop 1,100 megawatts of electricity from a series of wind farms off New Jersey’s coast.

The measure, however, does not address what is emerging as one of the biggest hurdles to achieving that goal — how developers will be compensated for the electricity their turbines produce. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



Health regulations may save $9B with electronic fund transfers

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced new health care reform regulations to encourage $9 billion in savings over 10 years through electronic records.

The rules standardize online enrollment in electronic fund transfers, reducing administrative costs and speeding the time it takes to reconcile accounts. There is a time limit on when payers must transfer funds to providers.

The goal is to move doctors and hospitals away from paper checks and hand-entered balance sheet reconciliations to a more automated process.  (Caliendo, NJBIZ)$9B-with-electronic-fund-transfers



Experts: N.J. sports betting challenge no slam dunk

Some legal experts are questioning New Jersey’s strategy to defy the federal government and bring sports betting to the state.

The official plans haven’t been unveiled, but Gov. Chris Christie suggested last week it’s unconstitutional for the government to let Nevada and three other states have sports betting and not others.

That’s what a 2009 federal lawsuit filed by Democratic state Sen. Raymond Lesniak claimed. The suit was dismissed as premature because the state had no sports-betting program at the time. Christie said in May that New Jersey will defy the federal ban and allow sports betting this fall.  (Associated Press)



N.J.’s legal strategy in its sports-betting plan

Under pressure to revive Atlantic City and boost state revenue, New Jersey officials appear to be basing the launching of a planned sports-betting program on a speculative legal theory that has never been tested by the courts, legal experts say.

The state has not officially unveiled its legal strategy, but in a news conference last week, Gov. Christie suggested that the federal government had no basis under the U.S. Constitution for banning betting on major professional and collegiate sports in New Jersey while permitting a handful of other states to have it.

The model for the state’s legal initiative appears to be a 2009 federal lawsuit filed by State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D., Union) and various gambling interests against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, citing constitutional arguments for overturning the federal ban on sports betting in New Jersey and most other states. The lawsuit was dismissed a short time later on procedural grounds.  (Mondics, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



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Daily State House Schedule



Weekly Advance: Week of August 13th



Weekly Roundup: Week of August 6th






Romney’s Paul Ryan choice and the Electoral College math

In my recent columns on Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate selection, I said the following regarding Paul Ryan:

“As for Paul Ryan, I have tremendous admiration for his courage and integrity, and I actually find great merit in his proposed changes to Social Security and Medicare. Yet Social Security and Medicare together still constitute the third rail of American politics, and Ryan’s presence on the ticket could constitute political suicide for Mitt Romney.”

I certainly hope I am wrong.  I have been wrong before.  Just ask Chris Christie about my columns during his 2009 campaign criticizing his campaign strategy.  (Steinberg for PolitickerNJ)



Tenure victory shows what’s possible

One of the biggest reasons it is easy to criticize government is because it seems to be pretty rare when the legislative and the executive branch can come together, along with key special interest groups, and actually do something that makes sense—create sound public policy that will hopefully improve things.  When that happens, we in the media have a responsibility to shine a light on that success and let the public know that the public’s business is being done in a reasonable and credible fashion.  This is exactly what took place this past Monday when very significant tenure reform legislation was signed into law by Governor Chris Christie.  This reform will change the way school systems deal with teachers who are not performing in the classroom and no longer deserve to be in front of our kids.   (Adubato for PolitickerNJ)



For the NJ gov, it wasn’t his time

Back to town halls in Piscataway and Parsippany; forget about national debates on prime time. Back to defending criticism from the likes of Loretta Weinberg, senator from Bergen County; forget about high profile attacks from the leader of the free world.

Gov. Christie’s star fell back to earth Saturday after nearly a year of speculation about whether he would be in national office as early as January.

Last fall, Henry Kissinger, the iconic former secretary of state, told him he should be president, while Nancy Reagan escorted him onto the stage for a major speech that prognosticators thought was an audition for his candidacy.  (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)



Chris Christie’s failed state capitalism

In a case study showing that not all bipartisanship is good, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, has worked with his Democratic legislature to get his state invested in not one but two troubled real-estate megaprojects.

One is American Dream Meadowlands, a partly-built mega-mall just outside New York City that boasts an indoor ski slope. American Dream is more widely known by its former name, “Xanadu,” but that name became so tainted by the project’s troubles that rebranding was needed.

Construction on American Dream has been off and on since 2004, and in 2011, New Jersey put up $200 million to allow the $3 billion project to be completed. If and when the mall opens in 2014, we’ll see whether Christie is right that state’s investment will lead to job creation and robust sales.  (Barro, Bloomberg)



Romney’s risky romance with the right leaves Christie out in the cold

Gov. Chris Christie is weeping inside today, no matter how he tries to spin it. This was his shot, his chance to jump to the front of the line, and he missed it.

Maybe it was the video of him picking a fight on the boardwalk, as if he were one of Snooki’s crew. Maybe it was his own admission that he’s not ready to be president. Maybe the focus groups didn’t like his girth.

The scary answer is that he may be too rational for his party, that his preachings for Reagan-style compromise fell flat at a time when the base wants to crush Democrats into submission, even if that produces nothing but gridlock. It is no doubt hard for New Jerseyans to believe, but Christie may be too soft and cuddly for his national party.  (Moran, The Star-Legder)



What made Sen. Robert Menendez mad?

Few lawmakers expressed any qualms about pushing through a resolution to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to make judges and justices ante up more of their paychecks for pension and health benefits.

But The Auditor has learned that U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who is up for re-election this year, was annoyed at Democratic lawmakers for giving Gov. Chris Christie an issue to campaign on, and he let them know it.

Menendez is facing a longtime friend of the governor, state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth).

Menendez called Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) to complain, The Auditor was told, although the details of the conversations were sketchy.  (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)



Looking past Schroeder to see who’s on the GOP sideline

Assemblyman Robert Schroeder, R-Washington Township, insists he has no intention of resigning his 39th District seat despite his Aug. 3 arrest for allegedly writing almost $400,000 in bad checks.

Yet, his determination to fight the charges and hold onto his seat has not stopped Bergen politicos from speculating about possible replacements if he is indicted by a state grand jury or if further revelations about his business dealings make it politically untenable for him to remain in office.

At this point, the two prominent Bergen Republicans who are most likely to broach the subject with Schroeder say they have not and have no intention of doing so in the foreseeable future.  (Stile, The Record)



Christie too moderate for today’s national GOP

The once-hyped Chris Christie, supposed darling of the right, got left at the altar on Saturday when Mitt Romney decided to name Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate.

The choice left me with a lot of questions — is Romney going to run on Ryan’s budget? Will Ayn Rand be mentioned in this campaign as much as Bill Ayres was in the last? How many years of tax returns will Paul Ryan be releasing? 

Drawing political cartoons in New Jersey, I’m keenly aware of the missed comedic opportunity of Christie not being selected as Romney’s VP.  (Tornoe, Newsworks)


  Morning News Digest: August 13, 2012