Morning News Digest: September 12, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Gun violence worries poll respondents
Gun violence is a major worry for many N.J. registered voters, a new poll shows.
Two-thirds are “very concerned” about the scope of gun violence in America, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released today.
The poll, taken before and after the Aug. 24 Empire State Building shooting, found that 65 percent of voters think gun control is more important than protecting gun owner rights.
Voters are split, however, on whether America has become more violent (42 percent) or if violence is simply more visible in the news (48 percent), the poll found.
Among the 22 percent of respondents with a gun in their household, a majority (53 percent) is very concerned over gun violence, while 41 percent agree that controlling ownership is more important than gun owner rights.
Nearly half of voters think New Jersey guns laws should be made stricter, though only 28 percent in households with guns are on board with tightening state laws; a plurality (40 percent) of these voters prefer gun laws remain unchanged. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Kean and Hamilton issue statement on 9/11 anniversary
Former 9/11 Commission Chair and Vice Chair Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Homeland Security Project, released the following statement today on the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks:
“Today marks eleven years since the 9/11 attacks on our country. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims and survivors of that tragic day. We commend the progress our government has made in reforming and strengthening the institutions that protect us. We commend the sustained commitment and dedication of the tens of thousands of military, federal, state, and local officials, law enforcement and first responders who have done so much to keep us safe.” (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Report slams Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit program as ‘a corporate giveaway’
New Jersey is one of four states whose attempts to reduce workers’ travel time by providing economic development subsidies has had little effect on transit ridership, land use patterns or site location decisions, according to a nonprofit agency report.
Good Jobs First, based in Washington, D.C., said attempts by officials in California, Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey to make job subsidies location-efficient have failed. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Christie offers prayers for families, communities who lost loved ones on 9/11
Flags are flying at half-staff at all state buildings today in recognition of the lives lost in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Governor Christie, who is at the Ground Zero memorial this morning, signed an executive order lowering the flags and issued a proclamation marking today as “Patriot Day” and a “National Day of Service and Remembrance” throughout the state.
Christie also issued a statement… (Hayes, The Record)
Chris Christie to join Steve King at Iowa fundraiser
Christie to Join King at Iowa Fundraiser
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be the keynote speaker at a fundraising luncheon Sept. 20 in Sioux City, Iowa, on behalf of Republican Rep. Steve King, who is facing a tough challenge for reelection.
King said in a press release Monday that Christie and the governor’s wife are great friends. Christie also appeared on the Iowa congressman’s behalf at a fundraising event last year, and he was a keynote speaker at the recent Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. (Petroski, Des Moines Register)
NJ jobless waiting months for unemployment benefits appeals
State Senator Ray Lesniak and Assembly members Joe Cryan and Annette Quijano are blasting the Christie Administration over a backlog for out-of-work New Jerseyans appealing the denial of unemployment benefits.
They say for some the wait can be up to six months
“The difference between being able to provide for your family or being forced out your home is sometimes a matter of days, not months,” says Cryan. “When deserved unemployment benefits are being unfairly denied, every day that goes by is a step further into the economic abyss. That the administration, in this economic climate, can’t provide people with the right to a fair and swift hearing is cold and callous. It’s inexcusable, and it needs to be corrected immediately.” (McArdle, New Jersey 101.5)
Democrats say heavily Republican 7th Congressional District could go either way
With the national party conventions over, the focus turns to congressional races, and the election season has already delivered one surprise to New Jersey.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has put the 7th District, currently represented by Republican Leonard Lance, on its list of 20 “emerging races” across the country, meaning it is one that the DCCC believes has the potential to become competitive.
That move came as a surprise, because there are about 30,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats in the sprawling district, which covers Hunterdon County and portions of Essex, Morris, Somerset, Union, and Warren counties. What’s more, Lance, seeking his third term, won in 2010 with nearly 60 percent of the vote. (O’Dea, NJ Spotlight)
Andrews used wife to vet use of campaign funds on trip
When New Jersey Rep. Rob Andrews used campaign funds to pay for a family trip to Scotland, an unusual compliance officer signed off: his wife.
Camille Andrews, a lawyer and associate dean at the Rutgers-Camden law school, also oversees legal questions about Andrews’ political spending.
So when the Democratic congressman decided in 2011 that the couple and their two daughters should fly to Edinburgh and stay in a five-star hotel for a wedding, he relied on her judgment that they could use campaign accounts to cover the $30,115 tab, according to statements in a recently unveiled ethics investigation. (Tamari, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Runyan looks to shore up support for Lockheed Martin
While Republican and Democratic supporters were engrossed in the aftermath of their parties’ primaries, members of Congress with defense industries in their home districts worried about coming steps toward a potential January budget crunch.
In New Jersey, that includes the Lockheed Martin campus in Moorestown, which employs 3,000 in support of the Navy’s Aegis missile defense system. On Friday, Rep. Jon Runyan, R-NJ, hosted a visit with Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Strategic Forces.
During the next two weeks, sessions in Congress will deal with the potential impacts of budget sequestration, the cost-cutting deal that if left in place will bring massive cuts to defense and discretionary spending come January, Runyan said. (Moore, Asbury Park Press)
Motor-fleet reduction bill faces committee hearing
A Senate panel is poised to take up proposed legislation that would require certain state agencies with state-owned vehicles to reduce their motor fleet by 10 percent each year for five years.
The legislation, S1983, would reduce the number of state vehicles in the Garden State’s executive branch over the next five years. The Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee is slated to discuss the bill Thursday. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Animal safety proposals before Senate committee
Bills dealing with animal care will highlight Thursday’s hearing of the Senate Economic Growth Committee.
S1303, also known as Patrick’s Law, will increase criminal punishment and civil penalties for abusing an animal or depriving it of food. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
NJ schools prepare to implement new teacher evaluations
New Jersey’s plans for having a statewide teacher evaluation system in place by 2013-2014 goes full throttle this year, with every school district in the state being required to start putting the key pieces in place.
Much of the attention has been on the more than two dozen districts that have signed on to be pilots of the new program, 11 last year and another 10 this year. An additional 14 districts are also piloting a new principal evaluation system.
But the balance of the state’s nearly 600 districts are hardly off the hook, as the state has begun rolling out that they will need to follow in preparation for having the statewide system ready by next year.
It will start with every district and school putting together the teams of administrators and teachers who will decide on the process for their districts, as well as the choice of the eventual (Mooney, NJ Spotlight) to be used to judge their teachers’ performances.
Chicago teachers strike: Could it happen in New Jersey?
Teachers are walking picket lines in Chicago over job security, compensation and evaluations, the very issues that have been in the forefront of efforts to improve New Jersey schools.
At the heart of the walkout this week by 26,000 Chicago teachers are issues tied to broader efforts to bolster education across the country and make sure children get quality teachers. Indeed, New Jersey’s new tenure law, signed by Governor Christie in August, reflected long, complex negotiations with the state’s largest teachers union over how a teacher’s job performance should be judged and how those ratings should affect job protections. (Brody, The Record)
Democrats risk no female governor, first time in 17 years
Whether she wins or loses in the November general election to become New Hampshire’s next governor, Democrat Maggie Hassan will make history.
If Hassan, who won the party’s primary yesterday, according to the Associated Press, is victorious on Nov. 6, she’ll become only the second woman elected to lead the state. A loss to her Republican challenger, Ovide Lamontagne, would leave Democrats without a female governor for the first time in 17 years.
The Democratic Party has billed itself as the champion of women, accusing Republicans of waging a war on the gender with attempts to restrict access to health care like contraception and abortion. Democrats and women’s groups say the lack of a female state chief executive in their ranks would deprive the nation of a feminine voice to help shape those debates. (Deprez, Bloomberg)
Disputes over senior housing keep properties off the market
A rush to build housing for senior citizens in the early part of the past decade stalled when the housing market collapsed in 2008, leaving behind a glut of unfinished, and unsold properties. In fact, some of the projects never got past the planning stage.
Those houses still stand empty. And new owners won’t be moving in until lawsuits that pit private developers and the state of New Jersey against local municipalities are resolved.
The developers want to convert these residences and neighborhoods — originally permitted exclusively for senior housing — into more saleable general-market housing. The dispute can be traced back to a law that then-governor Jon Corzine signed in 2009. Hoping to revise the state’s sagging economy, the legislation forced local zoning boards to approve conversion applications, as long as certain conditions were met. (Nurin, NJ Spotlight)
NJ company places $8.8 million bet on fledgling onshore wind market
NJR Clean Energy Ventures is investing in the onshore wind market, even though it’s uncertain whether a valuable production tax credit for wind farms will be renewed by the end of the year by Congress.
The subsidiary of Wall Township-based New Jersey Resources announced yesterday an $8.8 million investment to acquire an approximately 20 percent ownership position in OwnEnergy Inc., a developer of midsized and community wind projects.
Brooklyn-based OwnEnergy has developed and sold three projects in Texas, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania and has in the pipeline more than 1,300 megawatts of wind projects. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Atlantic City sees more visitors in August
After months of disappointing tourism and gaming numbers in Atlantic City during the peak summer season, the spike in tourist interest on the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority’s Web, mobile and social media platforms in June and July finally translated to more visitors to the Boardwalk in August.
“In my mind, it’s been a more pent-up demand thing, with people checking out our website in the past few months but saying, ‘I can’t get away until September, so as soon as I have the opportunity, I’m going to get to Atlantic City,’ ” said Jeff Vasser, president of the agency. “If you look at the numbers this month, we saw an increase in actual visitors to the welcome center and not as big of a growth in visits to the Web. I think we’re only starting to convert Web visits to actual visitors … because we’re anticipating the ‘Do AC’ campaign will keep Atlantic City on top of people’s minds.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
DEP permits move Margaritaville complex forward
A major beachfront project in Atlantic City is one step closer to reality.
The state Department of Environmental Protection today announced the issuance of a required land-use permit for the Margaritaville complex on the soon-to-be rebuilt Steeplechase Pier.
The permit was issued to Resorts Casino Hotel, which plans a 16,000-square-foot Landshark Bar & Grill, as well as retail shops, a beach bar, coffee shop and other amenities as part of the complex. (Kaltwasser, NJBIZ)
From the Back Room
For Christie’s town halls, what’s in a name?
Gov. Chris Christie is scheduled to host his 90th town hall meeting in Howell Wednesday and it appears the regular affair is getting a bit of a facelift.
Or, at the very least, a name change.
The Howell town hall is being dubbed the governor’s “middle-class reform agenda,” according to an e-mail release announcing Christie’s schedule.
The new “Christie Middle-Class Reform Agenda” banner announcing the event differs from the old logo that use to be attached to the announcements, which read: “The Jersey Comeback has begun.” (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Christie’s ‘Comeback’ slogan has come and gone
Governor Christie’s “Jersey Comeback” banner has been officially stashed away in storage.
In its place is “Christie Middle-Class Reform Agenda,” a full mouthful unveiled Tuesday to kick off the governor’s fall campaign of lambasting Democrats who refuse to pass his proposed income tax cut.
The new theme, etched in a leafy brown hue, had its premiere stretched across a late-afternoon news release promoting a town hall event in Monmouth County. It’s brimming with buzzwords: “Tax relief,” “Closing loopholes,” “Efficiency,” “Sick pay,” “Good government,” “Shared services,” “Fighting for families”
(Stile, The Record)
Christie’s anger issues continue to flare up
If Gov. Chris Christie wants to be president, he needs to get therapy and start working on that personality of his.
Yes, he can be hilarious. He is a natural performer. And he is willing to bang his head into brick walls to get things done. That’s all good.
But what about the anger issues? We saw that flare up on video when he tried to pick a fight on the boardwalk this summer, even at grave risk to that ice cream cone.
And we saw it again this week when he launched a bizarre attack on David Rosen, the most mild-mannered man in Trenton, the guy who crunches budget numbers for the Legislature. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)