Morning News Digest: September 10, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Winners and Losers: Post Charlotte Edition
They talk about that smoke-filled backroom where you picture guys like the late Tip O’Neill and Lyndon Johnson and character actors resembling Simon Oakland all crunched together over cards and cocktails and fingering the lives of the people who don’t occupy that room like checkerboard pieces.
George Bellows paints the keepsake picture – the political version of “Stag at Sharkeys.”
But at the Renaissance Hotel this week – and this from sources sitting at the bar or getting on and off the elevator – those political jam ups occurred in the open, with – at any moment – glimpses of Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-6) or Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19) or Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage shuffling among any number of party chairmen and power players.
You know them by now.
Norcross. Menendez. Stellato. Currie. DeFilippo. Thigpen.
Maneuvering through it all and armed with staffers practically pushing wheelbarrows filled with self promotional souvenirs was the man of the hour… (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Kevin Frechette, public relations executive, former prominent statehouse aide, has died
Kevin Frechette, 52, of Howell, died peacefully at his home on September 5.
Mr. Frechette, who leaves behind a beloved son, Kyle Frechette, also of Howell, a student at Ramapo College, was a Senior Vice President and General Manager at MWW, one of the top ten global independent public relations firms, with offices across the nation including a headquarters in East Rutherford and office in Trenton, NJ. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Christie will be stumping for GOP
Governor Christie is hitting the campaign trail for two Republican gubernatorial candidates next week in hopes of helping his party pick up more state leadership positions this fall.
The trips to North Carolina, where he will campaign for Pat McCrory, and Indiana, on behalf of Mike Pence, are the first of many Christie will make over the next two months for state and national candidates including presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
“I’m going to be going and focusing a lot on those states with important gubernatorial elections,” Christie said following a State House news conference Wednesday. (Hayes, The Record)
Gov’s payroll up 14% since ‘10
More people are working in Gov. Chris Christie’s executive office now than early in his term two years ago, and total payroll has jumped 14 percent, to nearly $9.9 million annually, based on records supplied by the administration.
That has upped the number of people working for Christie to 134, 18 more than in April 2010, but administration officials say it’s been necessary to make hires.
Christie took office in January 2010.
“The growth is reasonable when you consider the administration was new in April 2010 and growth would be expected as we set out constituting our organization,” said Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak. (Jordan, Asbury Park Press)
N.J. schools step up teacher evaluations
Now that it really counts, school districts across New Jersey have to figure out how they are going to evaluate their teachers — and fast.
It’s a complicated question. And under a state law signed last month to make tenure harder to get and easier to lose for educators, districts need to find answers by the 2013-14 school year. The most vexing issue is expected to be determining exactly how standardized test results should fit into the picture.
District officials and teachers unions alike wonder whether that gives most schools enough time to make such big changes. (Associated Press)
NJ lawmakers begin study of online education in charter schools
Online education in charter schools — in all its different and controversial forms — will get the first of what could be several Statehouse hearings this week, as legislators start to sort out what is growing to be one of the state’s more contentious issues.
The Joint Committee on the Public Schools will host the hearing on Wednesday morning, at 11 a.m., with presentations by three national proponents of online education.
The three are Susan Patrick of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning; Michael Horn of the Education of Innosight Institute; and Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education reform.
The new co-chairman of the joint committee, state Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-Bergen), said she wants the first hearing to be devoted to defining the issue, one that has become easily confused with a host of different terms for the different kinds of programs. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Jerry Brown to Christie: Bring it on
California Gov. Jerry Brown isn’t backing down on his chin-ups-and-push-ups challenge to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The two men got in a tit-for-tat recently when Christie initially called Brown, 74, an “old retread” who won the Garden State’s Democratic presidential primary when Christie was merely 14 years old.
Brown then challenged Christie to a fitness duel – and he reiterated that during an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“Yes, well, I’m 74,” Brown said. “I’ll be 74 1/2 next month. And but here I am. You know, there is some experience. Hopefully, there’s some wisdom. So I got kind of warmed up and went on my speech and I said, OK, Christie, I challenge you to a three-mile race. Try some chin-ups maybe and some pushups.” (Kim, Politico)
Is Booker headed toward Christie contest?
New Jersey’s two brightest political stars enjoyed parallel weeks at their parties’ political conventions — big-spotlight podium speeches, delegate breakfast tours, a bit of controversy.
The question now is whether those paths morph into a collision course for Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker in the 2013 governor’s race.
Monmouth University political scientist Patrick Murray says it now appears likelier it will.
“I think what’s happened is (Booker) realized that he needs a statewide office if he’s going to further his political career,” Murray said. “The governorship may be his best chance of at least getting his name out there. Even if he loses, a strong loss against Chris Christie would position him for a run in the future, as well.” (Symons, Asbury Park Press)
Booker backs Obama, dodges question about a run for governor during TV appearance
Newark Mayor Cory Booker returned to the Sunday political shows this morning for the first time since a disastrous May outing on Meet The Press when he derided President Obama’s attacks on Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.
But on This Week with George Stephanopoulos today, Booker stayed firmly on message, to the undoubted relief of the Obama campaign. (Giambusso, The Star-Ledger)
Coming soon to a TV near you: N.J. battle for the U.S. Senate
Now that the national political conventions are over, New Jersey voters will soon get a daily dose of the only statewide race on this year’s ballot: the battle for U.S. Senate.
In between the expected onslaught of commercials for the presidential candidates, the airwaves will be bombarded with spots for Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and Republican challenger state Sen. Joe Kyrillos.
And both candidates will be taking a different approach to how they’ll align themselves with their own parties.
Menendez is pushing himself as an Obama Democrat and tying himself to the national party. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Labor reports another weak month of job growth
U.S. nonfarm private-sector employers maintained a sluggish hiring pace in August by adding 103,000 jobs, though the national unemployment rate nudged down to 8.1 percent as more people stopped looking for work, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
According to Labor, 7,000 government jobs were lost in August, dropping the total increase in nonfarm employment to 96,000 jobs. Dismal job numbers from the previous two months were revised down even further, as 41,000 fewer jobs were created in July and June than Labor first reported. (Eder, NJBIZ)
State’s short-staffed Supreme Court poised to take on controversial cases in new session
As the political drama swirls over replenishing its ranks, the state Supreme Court opens a new session today poised to take on cases that could test the powers of the governor, determine the future of beach replenishment projects and clarify whether new technology in crime-fighting may violate privacy rights.
As the political drama swirls over replenishing its ranks, the state Supreme Court opens a new session today poised to take on cases that could test the powers of the governor, determine the future of beach replenishment projects and clarify whether new technology in crime-fighting may violate privacy rights. (Spoto, The Star-Ledger)
Civil trials finally resuming in north NJ county
Three months after they were put on hold due to a shortage of judges, civil trials are resuming in one northern New Jersey county.
However, The Star-Ledger reports that the civil trial calendar in Union County will likely be slow moving, since there are hundreds of backlogged cases and only four judges — two full-time and two part-time — are assigned to its civil division.
The judicial shortage forced court officials to temporarily suspend all civil trial in early June. On Monday, 31 cases will be on the trial list, including an auto negligence case that is 3½ years old. (Associated Press)
N.J.’s long-neglected State House getting a makeover
New Jersey’s State House is an amalgam of architectural styles and additions pieced together through centuries. But with peeling paint, rusting fire escapes and leaking roofs, it is also falling apart.
The only recent repairs in the executive portion of the building have been “Band-Aids,” said Al Porroni, the executive director of the state’s Office of Legislative Services, and they were “just enough to patch the leaks in the roof, trying to do what you could for fire safety, but nothing really.”
But under a bill that passed the Legislature recently, the executive portion of the State House — the oldest part of the complex — will undergo a nearly $40 million restoration project. (Linhorst, The Record)
Rutgers revamp could save Roche jobs
Could Rutgers University’s medical higher-education shake-up help keep Roche in New Jersey?
The timing of a state push to integrate medical higher-education facilities at three state schools has coincided with pharmaceutical giant Roche’s announced closure of its Nutley plant, costing 1,000 jobs.
But Roche also says it is planning a new 200-staff clinical research center, and state officials are aggressively lobbying the company to put it within reach of a newly expanded Rutgers.
“It was one of the pitches we made,” Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said in an interview on Thursday. “We are in there, fighting for those jobs.” (Fletcher, The Record)
N.J. AG: Spots Leagues don’t have legal standing in sports betting suit
The sports leagues suing to try to stop New Jersey from implementing sports betting at state racetracks and casinos should have their federal lawsuit dismissed because they lack legal standing, state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa asserted Friday.
In the motion to U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp, Chiesa also pointedly questioned the leagues’ claim that allowing New Jersey to join Nevada in offering such wagering would undermine the public’s faith in the integrity of those sports.
The Leagues’ claim of injury echoes Captain Renault’s exclamation in Casablanca that he was ‘shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here,’” Chiesa wrote. “The Leagues are well aware that there has been widespread gambling on their matches for decades.” (Brennan, The Record)
At panel, N.J. economic experts say hiring on hold until economy rebounds
Many midsize New Jersey businesses have been resilient in the face of a slow recovery and the fiscal and political dysfunction in Washington, and they are looking for more consistent positive signals from the economy before making the commitment to hire more workers to fuel growth.
That was one view that emerged from a roundtable discussion of New Jersey business trends hosted by the accounting and consulting firm Deloitte today at its Parsippany office.
Participant Tom Bracken, president of the state Chamber of Commerce, said companies have maintained profits by reducing their work forces, and “when top-line revenue growth comes, I think you’ll see an increase in the employment base — but we’re not there yet.” (Fitzgerald, NJBIZ)
N.J. medical marijuana patients say finding a doctor can be difficult
The state’s first medical marijuana dispensary is scheduled to open in Montclair this month, but some physicians registered with the program aren’t participating or won’t accept new patients.
Statewide, 165 doctors have registered and 134 patients have signed up or are in the process of becoming eligible for prescriptions to ease the pain associated with cancer, multiple sclerosis and other serious or terminal illnesses, state health officials said.
The Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair will open as soon as it receives final approvals from local authorities and the state, which it expects within two weeks, said Joseph Stevens, the center’s president and chief executive officer. The dispensary will open on Bloomfield Avenue, a bustling hub of restaurants, a concert venue and women’s health center. (Layton, The Record)
Persistent raids on clean energy fund set back CHP timetable
The state’s repeated raids on funds meant to spur the building of plants is threatening to undermine an ambitious goal in the to develop cleaner and more efficient ways of producing electricity, according to industry advocates.
If so, New Jersey will lose an opportunity to reduce some of the highest electric bills in the country, numerous speakers told commissioners of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities at a hearing Friday in Trenton on a revised clean energy spending plan.
The hearing reflected the increasing frustration among business lobbyists over the high cost of the clean energy program, the majority of which is raised by surcharges on commercial and industrial customers. The business community also is unhappy about spending priorities, saying not enough funds are allocated to projects that could reduce their electric and gas bills. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Observers hope Merck’s embracement of health reform effort leads to wider adoption
While Merck & Co. isn’t the first corporation to promote the benefits of patient-centered medical homes on a national scale, an early implementer of the health care model said the pharmaceutical firm’s efforts to internalize the message will encourage more primary-care doctors in New Jersey to take the leap in transforming their practices
“Even with the known benefits of reducing costs and improving care, primary-care practices have been reluctant to invest in this model because of their economic situations,” said Dr. Alfred F. Tallia, chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “The fact that a very large employer in this state — regardless of it being in a health-related industry — is promoting this and telling its employees, ‘Look for these kinds of practices for your next doctor’s visit,’ will motivate more practices to adopt this model.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
Big jump in home sales reason for optimism, expert says
The number of purchase contracts signed by New Jersey homebuyers in July increased 24 percent from last year, according to a recent report by Otteau Valuation Group Inc.
The increase continues a positive and growing trend for the state’s housing market, the East Brunswick appraisal and consulting firm found. July marked the 10th consecutive month that pending sales have grown, and year-to-date purchase activity through the month was up 23 percent from the same period in 2011. (Burd, NJBIZ)
New Jersey struggles to capitalize on its historic past
When officials gathered last month in an attempt to get more attention for a Revolutionary War site, they were swimming against the tide of recent history.
Despite the lingering effects of the recession, tourism remains big business in New Jersey. The Garden State accounted for $38 billion of the nation’s $1.2 trillion tourism revenues last year, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
That total made tourism New Jersey’s third-largest industry, behind pharmaceuticals and chemicals. With more than 900,000 tourists, New Jersey was America’s ninth most-visited state, according to the World Travel Association.
Even before the economic downturn, though, many involved with “heritage tourism” were concerned about some trends in how travelers view art and history. (Tyrrell, NJ Spotlight)
Conventions passé, but they still inspire
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are now officially the nominees of their parties to run for president of the United States this year.
Of that fact, there was little doubt even before the back-to-back political conventions, which concluded Thursday night in Charlotte, N.C.
Republican Romney and Democrat Obama, however, rallied their faithful anyway. Along the way, they had help from numerous politicians delivering speeches of varying quality that either made the case for their candidate or tore down the opponent. (Schoonejongen, Asbury Park Press)
Are Cory Booker and Gov. Christie friends or foes?
Shortly after Gov. Chris Christie won election in 2009, he drove to Newark to meet with Mayor Cory Booker late at night, and the two men made a deal. They both knew that someday, somehow, they were likely to bang heads in a political fight that only one of them could win.
But not yet. The deal was a peace treaty. No political games. No cheap shots. They would play fair and cooperate whenever possible. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews was ‘stupid’ to challenge Lautenberg, he says
U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews’ decision to challenge U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg in the 2008 Democratic primary was stupid.
That’s not The Auditor’s opinion. Ask Rob Andrews.
The South Jersey congressman made the admission in an interview with lawyers from the Office of Congressional Ethics in March as they questioned him about his family’s campaign-financed trip to a wedding in Scotland last year. The report — including the transcript of the Andrews interview — was released a week ago. (The Auditor, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. delegate may be only 18, but Democrats wanted him
He has a card, a business card, not so unusual a thing for a guy his age. But at the bottom, it reads, “Years of Experience in All Levels of Democratic Politics.”
Years of experience.
Ed O’Brien is 18 and, well, he’s probably been active for maybe three years, or as he tells it, ever since he got into trouble at Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta for arguing for a woman’s right to choose an abortion. (Braun, The Star-Ledger)