Morning News Digest: August 22, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Torricelli on Akin: ‘It’s so dumb, I don’t even want to be associated with it’
Amid the furor surrounding U.S. Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-Missouri) comments and calls for him to quit the Missouri Senate race, one person refrained from giving an opinion, either moral or political or otherwise.
Former Sen. Bob Torricelli (D-NJ) knows something about mistakes (his) and unforgiving nations (this one).
“It’s so dumb I don’t even want to be associated with it,” Torricelli said of Akin’s quote that “’legitimate rape’ doesn’t generally result in pregnancy,” and the Missouri GOP Senate candidate’s subsequent juggling act to stay on his feet in a maelstrom of demands that he retreat from his challenge of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskell (D-Missouri). (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
School Choice program eyes expansion
The state Education Department has proposed changes to the popular Interdistrict School Choice Program, including allowing more public schools to participate.
It would also accept “non-public school students.” Such students, according to the proposal, could “enroll in choice schools if the choice school district chooses to admit the student and seats are available after all eligible public school students have been admitted.” (Hassan, State Street Wire)
NJ unemployment 1976 to now
For anyone interested in where the state’s 9.8 percent unemployment rate ranks over the past 36 years, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has a handy dandy chart to track that information. Keep in mind the 9.8 percent rate announced last week is preliminary and could be revised up or down when the final numbers are compiled. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Governor Christie to sign bill today expanding Rutgers University
Governor Christie is expected to sign a bill later today that will give Rutgers University coveted medical and dental schools, substantially increasing the size and stature of the state university.
The bill, which passed the Legislature earlier this summer, will merge most of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey into Rutgers. The medical university’s campuses in Newark and New Brunswick/Piscataway will be taken over by Rutgers by July 2013.
The governor and other proponents of the move say it will shore up the struggling medical university and elevate Rutgers – enabling the state to attract more medical research dollars. (Alex, The Record)
Gov. Christie sends plea to defeat Sen. Menendez
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wants to defeat a home state politician he describes in a fundraising solicitation as one of ”President Obama’s most loyal allies.”
The targeted incumbent, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, is facing the governor’s close friend and ally. As the Journal reported Tuesday, the race is fraught with personal resonance that extends beyond partisan politics: Joe Kyrillos, the challenger, rose through Republican Party ranks with the future governor, while Menendez and Christie have feuded since 2006.
The fundraising letter, sent out last month “from the desk of Governor Chris Christie,” asks 35,000 supporters to help Kyrillos’s uphill campaign with donations of up to $2,5000. Menendez has about five times the cash on hand and an early lead in polls. (Haddon, The Wall Street Journal)
Poll: NJ supports Christie in sports betting push
Many New Jerseyans say the state should offer legal sports betting, regardless of whether the federal government bans it.
A new Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll released Tuesday shows 45 percent of respondents favor allowing sports betting at casinos and horse tracks despite a federal law making it illegal in New Jersey.
Gov. Chris Christie said earlier this year that’s what he plans to do.
The poll found 38 percent opposed to that approach.
When the question of a federal ban was eliminated, 58 percent of respondents said New Jersey should allow sports betting. A year ago, 53 percent of respondents felt that way.
The NCAA and the four major professional sports leagues are suing New Jersey to block the plan, saying it threatens the “character and integrity” of sporting events. (Associated Press)
1,200-bed halfway house in Newark is operating illegally, suit says
New Jersey’s largest private halfway house has operated for over a decade without legal authority and should be shut down, a union representing corrections officers claims in a lawsuit.
The suit, filed on Monday in Superior Court in Essex County, argues that county officials are improperly sending inmates to Delaney Hall, a 1,200-bed facility in Newark. It is run by Community Education Centers, a company that dominates the state’s halfway-house system and has close ties to Gov. Chris Christie and Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr., the Essex County executive. New Jersey law allows for state inmates finishing their prison sentences to be sent to halfway houses, all of which in the state are privately run, but Delaney Hall primarily holds hundreds of county inmates awaiting trial, a population that the lawsuit contends cannot legally be held in private facilities. (Dolnick, The New York Times)
Super PAC donates $500,000 to Rabi Boteach’s 9th District Congressional bid
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife have donated the first super PAC funds in a New Jersey congressional race, contributing $500,000 to a committee that supports Englewood Republican Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s campaign in the heavily Democratic 9th District.
The donations are an indicator of the celebrity rabbi’s personal relationship with the GOP’s most prolific donor this year and the attention he has garnered within the national GOP.
But political handicappers say the money by itself is unlikely to make a difference as Boteach tries to unseat Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. in the nation’s most expensive media market. (Ensslin and Jackson, The Record)
Federal appeals court strikes down rule aimed at curbing power plant pollution
A federal environmental rule designed to curb power plant pollution that fouls the air in downwind states like New Jersey was struck down on Tuesday by a federal appeals court.
The 2-1 decision said that the Environmental Protection Agency’s cross-state air pollution rule exceeded the agency’s statutory authority. The ruling has significance for North Jersey, whose air is polluted with so much smog and soot from out-of-state sources that it fails to meet federal standards.
“The court’s ruling jeopardizes important efforts to stop out-of-state polluters from fouling our air,” U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, said. “We must continue fighting for clean air standards that keep pollution from other states from hurting New Jersey children and families.” (Fallon, The Record)
A $650 million expansion of Port Newark spurs interest in its environs
In Newark’s Ironbound district, a developer broke ground last month on a $50 million warehouse without a committed tenant — a bold move and a sign of how much faith there is in the potential for growth in the state’s industrial sector and specifically in its ports.
Morris Companies, a developer based in Rutherford, N.J., is banking on the site’s proximity to Port Newark, which is in the midst of a $650 million expansion, and to New York City to lure prospective tenants to the 337,000-square-foot facility that will be completed next year.
The Port of New York and New Jersey, the third-largest in the country, is a vital industry in the region, supporting nearly 280,0000 jobs. And developers say they believe it is poised for significant growth, thanks to an expansion of the Panama Canal that is scheduled to be done in 2015. The expansion will allow much larger ships to enter New York Harbor, carrying substantially more cargo. (Kaysen, The New York Times)
NJ students top national benchmarks in ACT scores
New Jersey students topped the national benchmarks for average scores on the ACT exam for the high school class of 2012.
Nationally, overall readiness scores remain much lower in science and math compared to English and reading. Just 46 percent of students of the record 1.66 million who took the exam met the national benchmark in math, as did 31 percent in science, compared to 67 percent in English and 52 percent in reading.
In New Jersey, 67 percent of students who took the exam met the national benchmark in math, as did 43 percent in science. Eighty-one percent met the benchmark in English, while 67 percent made it in reading. (Associated Press)
Top exec in N.J.’s F1 race to step down
One of the top executives behind next summer’s inaugural Formula One race in Hudson County is stepping down, according to the event’s organizers.
Tom Cotter, the current president of Formula One Grand Prix of America, said Monday he will step down at month’s end after less than a year on the job. The longtime auto racing and marketing executive said he will return to North Carolina to teach, write and run his businesses.
“Over the last eight months I’ve had the good fortune to lead a group of professionals in bringing Formula One racing to the New Jersey and New York region,” Cotter said in a statement issued by the race promoters. He said the group has moved the project forward rapidly, “but now, it’s time to return home to North Carolina.” (Burd, NJBIZ)
Norcross: Scrap metal theft problem necessitates statewide solution
Sen. Donald Norcross, (D-5), Camden has seen the problem of metal theft rise in this rough economy and believes a statewide solution is needed.
Camden wanted to enact a local ordinance to address the problem, but Norcross said that would merely push offenders across borders into other towns or across the Delaware River into Philadelphia. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Bill would afford immunity to rescue, first-aid squads
Bills involving first-responder squads, eye drop prescriptions, and government contract fraud have been introduced. (Mooney, State Street Wire)