Morning News Digest: August 3, 2012

Morning News Digest: August 3, 2012 By Missy Rebovich       Governor Christie assails Obama’s leadership in campaign appearance


Morning News Digest: August 3, 2012

By Missy Rebovich




Governor Christie assails Obama’s leadership in campaign appearance for Mitt Romney

Governor Christie told an energetic crowd in a high school gymnasium near Aspen, Colo., Thursday that America needs a president who will help create jobs and turn around the economy and Mitt Romney will do that if given the chance.

He criticized President Obama saying his greatest failure is an inability to lead, an attack the Republican governor has frequently leveled against the Democrat.

“Leading is looking at problems and solving them for the people that gave you the job in the first place,” Christie said.

Christie was one of 11 Republican governors who spoke at the Romney campaign event, before he headed to Aspen for a fundraiser for the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.  (Hayes, The Record)



N.J.’s deputy education commissioner is stepping down

Almost as soon as New Jersey’s Department of Education got an official leader in the No. 1 spot, it lost its No. 2.

Deputy Commissioner Andy Smarick said Thursday he is stepping down next week to join Bellweather Education Partners, a non-profit group that aims to improve outcomes for low-income students. His announcement came days after his boss, Chris Cerf, was confirmed as commissioner after serving in that role on an acting basis for 18 months.  (Brody, The Record)



State Sen. Ray Lesniak turns down award from Boy Scouts because of organization’s ban on gay members

State Sen. Raymond Lesniak turned down an honorary award from a North Jersey Boy Scouts group because of the national organization’s refusal to allow openly gay people to become members or leaders.

Lesniak (D-Union) was tapped by a corporate sponsor for an honorary award from the Patriots Path Council, a regional Boy Scouts of America organization that includes Morris, Sussex, Somerset and Union counties. The award dinner is scheduled for October in Jersey City and honors labor and government leaders, Lesniak said.

“I cannot accept. I don’t intend to discount all the good works of the Boy Scouts, but their misguided policy of not allowing LGBT people is very troubling to me,” Lesniak said in a letter to the corporate sponsor that was posted on Facebook by a New Jersey-based gay rights organization. LGBT is an widely used acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.   (Renshaw, The Star-Ledger)



Ruiz puts special education at top of her next agenda

Fresh from winning unprecedented passage of a new tenure reform bill for New Jersey, state Sen. Teresa Ruiz is next taking on an issue that is no less vexed: special education.

Ruiz will hold a hearing next Thursday before the Senate education committee that she chairs, asking educators, advocates, and policy makers to discuss the system that now serves 200,000 children with disabilities in virtually every school in the state.

It’s a massive topic that spans everything from parental rights to racial segregation, and from classroom practices to taxpayer funding. And Ruiz said yesterday she wanted to learn as much as she can from the more than dozen guests she has invited.  (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)



NJEA says Gov. Christie is misleading on tenure bill

Gov. Chris Christie has yet to sign the hard-fought teacher tenure reform bill that sits on his desk, but the state’s largest teachers union says he’s already claiming all the credit for historic change.

“He’s taking full credit for it when in fact this bill doesn’t reflect what he wanted to do,” said Steve Wollmer, spokesman for the New Jersey Teachers Association. “He wanted to basically eliminate all due process laws for teachers. What’s the old saying? When you’re being run out of town you pretend you’re leading a parade.”

The NJEA is reacting to comments the Republican governor made last night during a panel organized by the Aspen Institute. Christie is in town for meetings of the Republican Governors Association, of which he is vice chair.   (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)



N.J. allows utilities to impose special rate hikes that target leaky pipes

The state has made it easier for water utilities to raise their rates so they can repair thousands of miles of leaky, aging pipes across New Jersey that lose billions of gallons of treated drinking water each year.

“People get upset about rates going up, but we have some very old infrastructure and you’ve got to maintain it,” said Stefanie Brand, head of the state’s Division of Rate Counsel, which advocates for utility ratepayers. “It’s a very difficult issue.”

New Jersey’s water utilities have some of the oldest pipes in the country – some date back more than 100 years — and many are riddled with leaks. The federal Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that in New Jersey alone, $4.7 billion needs to be spent on the water transmission and distribution infrastructure over the next two decades.  (O’Neill, The Record)



‘When it rains, it [really does] pour,’ according to study of extreme weather

If it seems like when it rains, it pours these days, it apparently is more often the case.

At least that is the conclusion of a new study by Environment New Jersey, which analyzed reams of state data from the National Climatic Data Center dating back to 1948 through 2011.

The new report found that heavy downpours that used to happen every 12 months on average in New Jersey now occur every nine months on average. Moreover, the biggest storms are getting bigger. The largest annual storms in New Jersey now produce 22 percent more precipitation, on average than they did 65 years ago, according to the study.  (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)



The senior switch: Services move to Department of Health

Services for New Jersey seniors have moved, and no one seems to have noticed — which is a good thing. Recent legislation transferred the state’s programs for seniors from the Department of Health and Senior Services to the Department of Human Services. The change took effect July 1.

“We are now the Department of Health,” said Donna Leusner, a spokeswoman for the department.

Two divisions under the umbrella of health moved: aging and community services, which coordinates community-based programs for senior citizens, and senior benefits and utilization management, which oversees two prescription drug assistance programs.   (O’Dea, NJ Spotlight)



Bike lanes, ferry terminal improvements among $2.5 M in federal transportation grants for N.J.

Bike lanes along a proposed greenway in Passaic County. Pedestrian and bicycle links across an interstate in Essex County. Ferry terminal improvements in Cape May County.

Millions of dollars in federal grants were announced today for New Jersey and elsewhere to pay for a wide range of highway improvement projects.  (Frassinelli, The Star-Ledger)



Business Action Center expands expertise to Spanish language

While the New Jersey Business Action Center’s call center has assisted more than 43,000 business owners since its inception to help the state grow, retain and attract businesses and jobs, its lack of Spanish-speaking staff has prevented the state’s 68,377 Latino-owned businesses from accessing the center’s resources and services.

To break through the language barrier and provide answers to these business owners, the BAC has begun to supply Spanish-speaking representatives at its call center.

“It is imperative to our economy that these business owners have full access to the valuable resources we offer,” Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said in a statement, noting Latino-owned companies in New Jersey currently earn a combined $10.1 billion in revenue. “The addition of a dedicated Spanish language service ensures that our commitment to counseling all New Jersey business owners is fulfilled.”  (Eder, NJBIZ)



N.J. teens stymied in attempt to start a conversation about presidential debates

A small phalanx of media people stood outside the Commission on Presidential Debates on New Hampshire Avenue NW this week, while a bored-looking security guard watched from the front steps.

Suddenly, camera shutters began sounding off as Sammi Siegel, 15, and Elena Tsemberis and Emma Axelrod, both 16, walked up, carrying cardboard boxes emblazoned with “It’s time for equality in the 2012 debates.”

Their cause?

The three rising New Jersey high school juniors think it’s wrong that no woman has moderated a presidential debate since Carole Simpson of ABC presided over a 1992 exchange featuring Bill Clinton, incumbent George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot. (For those of you about to go to Wikipedia, those were vice presidential debates that Gwen Ifill moderated in 2004 and 2008, not presidential debates.)  (Obaro, The Washington Post)



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Playing politics—politicizing the High Court

When I started covering New Jersey politics and government, in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, we didn’t ask what political party a state Supreme Court Justice belonged to. The person was a Justice; that’s what counted.

Today, anyone who follows the state scene can probably tell you that Stuart Rabner and Barry Albin are Democrats, Helen Hoens and Anne Patterson are Republicans, and Jaynee LaVecchia is an independent. Over the past decade or so, the Court has become politicized.

What does that mean exactly? To me it means two things: 1) we think of the justices more in terms of their party affiliation, at least as it existed in their backgrounds, and 2) we think that justices who have not yet achieved “lifetime” tenure are more likely to shy away from a particular position for fear of offending the governor or legislators and thus jeopardizing that tenure.  (Aron for NJ Spotlight)


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