Morning News Digest: September 13, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
N.J.’s national profile rising, says Christie
Gov. Chris Christie says New Jersey should “be proud of ourselves again,” saying his administration has gone without a scandal or accusation of political corruption.
During a town hall here today, the governor said New Jersey is “no longer the state that’s the butt of jokes” on late-night comedy shows, rather it’s a state others are looking to for an example of leadership.
During a town hall here today, the governor said New Jersey is “no longer the state that’s the butt of jokes” on late-night comedy shows, rather it’s a state others are looking to for an example of leadership. (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
Christie on keynote: Make case for GOP governors
Gov. Chris Christie gave residents a little insight today into why he chose to give the keynote address he chose to deliver.
The governor defended his speech following some claims that he didn’t spend enough time attacking President Barack Obama during his Republican National Convention keynote address in Tampa.
Christie was asked by a resident during a town hall meeting why he didn’t tell Obama to “get the hell out of the White House,” using Christie’s widely known “get the hell off the beach” comment the governor made during Hurricane Irene last year. (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
Kwon/Harris rejections ‘unacceptable,’ Christie says
Gov. Chris Christie told a Howell crowd Wednesday that his failed bid to get his judicial nominees to serve on the state Supreme Court has been one of the most frustrating moments of his tenure.
The governor said the Democrat-controlled state Senate Judiciary Committee’s decision to block his nominees to New Jersey’s high court is unacceptable, and promised to keep fighting to find other qualified candidates for the two open positions.
However, Christie promised he wouldn’t nominate someone just to nominate them; rather he plans to wait until the right person for the job comes along. (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
Pascrell for Congress announces debate schedule
Pascrell for Congress campaign manager David Parano today announced the dates and locations for the new 9th Congressional District debates.
“Congressman Pascrell has shown time and again his eagerness to engage in debates to discuss the important issues facing middle class taxpayers across northern New Jersey,” said Parano. “The Congressman has embraced the opportunity to engage in a series of debates while also holding Town Hall meetings and maintaining regular open office hours for constituents across the District. He believes these debates are another opportunity to have a real discussion about the impact of tax cuts for the super-rich, the effect of outsourcing jobs overseas and the fight to protect Medicare and Social Security.” (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Adler ad uses football metaphor to tackle Runyan on Medicare
In the 3rd Congressional District, Democrat Shelley Adler’s campaign released a new television advertisement that links U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan’s (R-3) political career with his career as a professional football player.
“Wrap Up Show” focuses on Runyan’s votes in Washington, most notably on Medicare.
As soon as Mitt Romney picked U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his running mate, Adler began pounding on Runyan’s support for the Ryan budget.
Dismantling Medicare and replacing it with a voucher program stands as the cornerstone of the freshman Republican congressman’s agenda, Adler said. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie’s 90th town hall highlights new slogan
Governor Christie abandoned the “New Jersey Comeback,” replacing his signature slogan with one pitching “middle-class reform” as unemployment hovers at record highs and questions mount about his robust economic predictions.
While the governor has changed his message and banners at his town hall appearances numerous times – this was his 90th – it’s the first time this year he’s cast aside the “Jersey Comeback” slogan at a town hall-style event this year.
Christie first announced the “New Jersey Comeback has begun” in his January state-of-the state address, highlighting the tens of thousands of private sector jobs created since he took office and calling on the Senate and Assembly to approve a 10 percent income tax cut to be phased in over three years. The declaration appears on the front page of the budget he presented to the Legislature in February and the slogan was displayed on banners at events across the state this year until he re-branded his campaign the “Endless Summer Tax Relief Tour” and hit the beach in July. (Hayes, The Record)
At town hall, Christie pushes for ethics deal
Gov. Christie kicked off a new round of town-hall meetings Wednesday by urging the Legislature to pass the ethics-overhaul package he proposed two years ago.
Christie discussed his policy priorities and took questions in a packed gym during a meeting that lasted more than 90 minutes in this Monmouth County township.
The ethics changes include prohibiting public employees from holding multiple jobs.
The Republican governor cited North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, who also is a Democratic state senator and assistant superintendent of schools.
“Where does he find the time?” Christie asked, adding that the mayor was one of many people statewide who had more than one public job. (Zezima, Associated Press)
N.J. tax credits pushed for small businesses
With the jobless rate at a 35-year high, Senate President Steve Sweeney is proposing a new tax credit for small businesses that hire unemployed workers – the first of several proposals he said he plans to unveil to fight unemployment.
The credit would reimburse businesses for the federal and state taxes they pay on new employees who had been out of a job for at least a month.
“All the taxes that you pay on that employee you get refunded to you,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “The focus is getting people off of unemployment.”
The bill has not been introduced yet, but Sweeney said Wednesday he wants it passed by the end of the year. If it is passed and signed into law that quickly, small businesses – those with fewer than 100 employees — would be able to start claiming the credit in the 2013 tax year. (Linhorst, The Record)
Christie to stump for Pat McGrory in North Carolina
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be in North Carolina tomorrow for a pair of events stumping for gubernatorial hopeful Pat McCrory.
Christie will speak at a Catawba College rally Thursday afternoon, as well as meet with top volunteers from the McCrory campaign. That evening, he’ll speak at a fundraiser for the former mayor of Charlotte.
McCrory has been polling ahead of Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton throughout the race to fill the seat to be vacated by retiring Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue. Still, the state is a key battleground, where Republicans want to not only win the governor’s office, but key house races and the state’s electoral college votes. (Rosche, Politico)
Boss’ daughter urges gov to end killing horses for food
Gov. Chris Christie can’t seem to make his musical hero Bruce Springsteen happy, but he has a chance to impress the singer’s daughter.
Jessica Springsteen, 20, an accomplished equestrian, is among those urging Christie to sign a bill that would prohibit the slaughter of horses and the sale of horse flesh for human consumption, as well as transporting a horse to slaughter for the same purpose.
“I have spent my life with horses and they are our partners and companions,” Springsteen said through the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which released an advocacy letter it sent to Christie last week. “I believe that horses deserve to be treated with respect, and their lives should not end with the horrors of a slaughterhouse.” (Symons, Asbury Park Press)
PACs playing a bigger role
Politicians running for the state Legislature have become more dependent on special interest political action committees for their campaign funding, the executive director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission said Wednesday.
More than one out of every three dollars raised for 2011 legislative campaigns came from PACs, according to a new ELEC analysis.
All 120 seats in the state Senate and Assembly were up for election in 2011. More than $33 million was raised for those races, not counting transfers between legislative committees, and $12.1 million, about 37 percent of that total, came from PACs.
But that money was not evenly distributed. Incumbents collected 89 percent of PAC contributions, with their challengers receiving the remaining 11 percent. Democrats, who control the Legislature and many local governing bodies, accounted for 78 percent of the PAC money, according to ELEC. (Linhorst, The Record)
Independent groups making political contributions tougher to measure
While a growing pool of special interest political action committees has increased contributions to New Jersey candidates since the state enacted pay-to-play laws in 2006, New Jersey’s campaign finance watchdog commission said PAC spending may decline leading up to the 2013 gubernatorial election — though that’s only because another donor subset is beginning to exploit a loophole in the state’s reporting rules.
“Unlike PACs, which are required to register and disclose their activities with us on a quarterly basis and stay within our set contribution limits, independent-only groups are not required to register or disclose anything or limit their activity … as long as they don’t use the magic words: ‘We vote for or against a candidate,'” said Jeffrey Brindle, executive director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. “It’s really hard to predict what’s going to happen with campaign spending next year, because we may be seeing more independent committee expenditures that we have no control over.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews named one of ‘most corrupt’ members of Congress
A watchdog group has named Rep. Rob Andrews one of the 12 “most corrupt” members of Congress in a new report, based mainly on allegations that the congressman used his campaign fund to pay for personal expenses.
“A federal campaign account is not a personal piggy bank,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). “It seems clear Rep. Andrews (D-1st Dist.) has been using the generosity of his donors to finance his lifestyle. It is time for the Federal Election Commission and the House Ethics Committee to hold Rep. Andrews accountable for his conduct.” (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Poverty rate in N.J. rises for 4th straight year
New Jerseyans fared worse that the rest of the country last year on several key financial measures, as incomes continued to drop, poverty increased and health insurance coverage showed below-average improvement.
Data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that New Jersey’s median household income decreased by 4 percent from 2010 to 2011, after accounting for inflation. It marked the fourth year in the last five in which the spending power of households in the state dipped, following a pre-recession high in 2006.
While New Jersey’s median household income of $62,300 remains one of the country’s highest, last year’s decline outpaced a drop of 1.5 percent nationwide. (Sheingold, The Record)
Lawmakers start to hammer out details of NJ health insurance exchange
Strict conflict-of-interest rules are dividing stakeholders in New Jersey’s healthcare community as a federal deadline looms for creating a state health insurance exchange.
Consumer advocates and representatives of medical professionals back a Democratic bill that of a proposed state health-exchange board from working for or serving on the board of healthcare companies, brokers, trade groups, medical facilities, or other related entities. Representatives of the small business community, the insurance industry, and hospitals say such a ban would limit access to necessary expertise.
Bill (Kalet, NJ Spotlight), introduced in the state Senate on June 28 by Senators Nia Gill (D-Essex) and Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), would set up an exchange and an eight-member board of directors appointed by the state Legislature.
Medicare spending cuts will imperil N.J. health care employment, industry warns
Though health care has been one of the few industry sectors showing significant job growth amid disappointing employment data, a report released today by three national health associations said New Jersey stands to lose nearly 22,000 health care jobs by 2021 from a proposed 2 percent cut in federal Medicare spending enacted to balance the nation’s budget.
“These cuts would have a significant impact on the well-being of our hospitals, their patients, their communities and the entire Garden State economy,” said Betsy Ryan, president and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association, in a statement. “The health care community recognizes the importance of reducing the nation’s deficit, but hospitals have already been forced to absorb billions (of dollars) in Medicare cuts.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
N.J. hospitals spent less to treat uninsured last year, but reported amounts very
New Jersey hospitals reported spending $33.5 million less to treat the uninsured last year — a first in at least five years — but the amount North Jersey facilities reported varied widely, a report released Wednesday by the state reveals.
The data trigger more questions than answers: were fewer patients treated or are the declines in documented care attributed to changes in Medicaid funding or other factors? No clear patterns have emerged, experts say.
“A lot of people were expecting either a continued increase or at least a leveling off,” said Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd. “The data will cause a lot of confusion and concern. That’s why we’re looking at a five-year trend.” (Layton, The Record)
N.J. regulators review report on utilities’ storm response
State energy regulators met Wednesday to sort through a raft of recommendations on how the state’s utility companies could prevent or limit power outages caused by major storms.
But members of the Board of Public Utilities left the hearing late in the afternoon with no apparent consensus on how far they should go in implementing the 143 recommendations contained in a report on the companies’ response to last year’s two big storms.
Hurricane Irene in August and the late October snowstorm each left 1.9 million New Jerseyans without power for up to a week. (Fletcher, The Record)
For NJ legislators, a crash course on e-learning
Legislators got a crash course on online education yesterday, from virtual schools to “blended” ones, and how far other states and countries have gone with the technology.
But this could take a while, and few on the Joint Committee for the Public Schools appeared to have their minds changed much — for or against — after at least this first class.
The committee held the special session to discuss the various models, as the Christie administration has moved ahead in approving charter schools employing the technology in levels not seen before in the state.
While countless traditional schools offer some online classes, two charter schools have been approved that would be entirely online, with students taking class from home or other remote locations. They have been postponed a year. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Ruling will make it more difficult to try juveniles as adults
New Jersey teens charged with crimes will have greater protections from prosecutors who want them tried as adults, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday, requiring a judicial review and proof that the move will deter further crimes.
Child advocates hailed the 3-2 decision, arguing it would result in better outcomes for teens who have a brush with the law.
“The decision to transfer a juvenile to adult court can have lifelong implications for a youth and should be subject to judicial review,” Nancy Paraello, a spokeswoman for Advocates for Children of New Jersey, said in a statement. (Campisi, The Record)
Christie says he’ll check into teacher’s phys-ed funding question
Gov. Chris Christie promised a New Jersey teacher today he will check with the state’s education commissioner to see whether the state has trimmed funding for physical education.
The governor was prodded by a health education teacher of nearly two decades regarding why his administration has turned its back on physical and health education. (Arco, State Street Wire)
$11.4M in grants for transportation-related work
Twenty-five grants totaling $11.4 million have been awarded to towns, airports and railroads for infrastructure improvements, the administration announced.
Fourteen municipalities, three airports and eight freight railroads will share in the monies to support a wide variety of projects throughout the state, the Transportation Department said. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Gambling legislation addressing conflicts in-state, out-of-state
Whether it was trying to find innovative ways to gamble, changing the state’s horse racing industry, or sprucing up a hard-hit resort town, gaming made up a big part of the last legislative year. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Governor Christie once again blames the messenger
After preaching political civility on a national stage, Governor Christie reverted to form this week, publicly flaying — again — a State House analyst who had the nerve to suggest that Christie’s rosy outlook for the New Jersey economy doesn’t match reality.
“I mean, this guy can’t get it right,” Christie said Monday, referring to David J. Rosen, the chief budget analyst for the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services. Rosen reported that the state closed out the fiscal year that ended in June with about $253 million less than the administration had predicted.
It’s bad news for Christie, because it casts further doubt on his promise to deliver an income tax cut early next year. So, as he sometimes does when cornered with bad news, he attacked the messenger. (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)
Chris Christie vs. the world (or, at least, Democratic governors)
Chris Christie likes to mix it up; this much we know.
But increasingly, the pugilistic New Jersey governor isn’t just going at it with reporters or hecklers, but also with fellow governors. And in a way that governors historically have avoided.
A spat with California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) in recent days has quickly devolved into the kind of war of words you might see in a second-grade schoolyard. And it’s just the latest example of Christie openly feuding with another governor of the opposite party. (Blake, The Washington Post)