Morning News Digest: September 14, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Assembly Budget Comm. wants to hear from treasurer and OLS budget officer
Democratic lawmakers have invited the state Treasurer to appear before the Assembly Budget Committee next week and give the Legislature an update on state revenues.
Assembly Democrats issued a release Thursday announcing Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff is being asked to appear before the committee along with the Office of Legislative Service’s budget and finance office, David Rosen, to give a year-end review of the state’s revenues.
The committee-called meeting comes after OLS recently announced it expects New Jersey’s Fiscal Year 2012 revenues to miss the governor’s projections by about $254 million.
An Assembly Democrat spokesman, Tom Hester, didn’t immediately say whether Sidamon-Eristoff agreed to appear before the committee. Hester said Assembly Democrats e-mailed and called the Treasurer’s office and invited him to speak to lawmakers. (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
NJ’s Christie rallies for McCrory in Salisbury
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie brought his no-nonsense style to North Carolina on Thursday to rally supporters of fellow Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory at McCrory’s alma mater and help refill the campaign coffers of the former Charlotte mayor.
Speaking to more than 200 McCrory boosters in the lobby of the Catawba College gymnasium in Salisbury, the rising star within the national GOP said McCrory can restore confidence to North Carolina’s economy and put the state’s fiscal house in order like he’s done in his state if elected this November. He planned to attend a private McCrory campaign fundraiser Thursday evening at a Charlotte home.
Christie took it hard to McCrory’s rival in the fall campaign, accusing Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton of learning how to run state government at the feet of outgoing Gov. Beverly Perdue, who decided not to run again. (Robertson, Associated Press)
Christie won’t use video made for the Republican National Convention at New Jersey events
Governor Christie’s office will no longer used a highlight video produced for the Republican National Convention at New Jersey events.
The 2 minute and 58 second video was used to introduce Christie just before he walked out on stage to deliver the keynote address last month.
It was used again Wednesday to open Christie’s town hall-style event in Howell.
The video highlights Christie’s successful prosecutions when he was U.S. Attorney for seven years, including the conviction of former Newark Mayor Sharpe James. As governor it shows him meeting with troops, handing out food at a soup kitchen and speaking before the Legislature.
The brief flick doesn’t seem much different than others that are regularly shown at his town hall-style events across the state. But this one is. (Hayes, The Record)
Poll: Obama leads Romney by 14 percent in N.J.
President Obama holds a 14 point lead over GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in New Jersey, according to a new Fairleigh Dickinson University PubilcMind poll.
Fifty-two percent of the 706 likely voters surveyed say they’re backing Obama, while 38 percent support Romney.
“Obviously this is good news for the president,” said poll director Krista Jenkins. “Even though he remains saddled with the perception among almost half of all likely New Jersey voters that the country is on the wrong track, he remains favored by double digits in the state.” (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
US Attorneys’ offices with the most corruption convictions
The Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section has published its latest accounting of corruption cases in the 93 U.S. attorneys’ offices. The data is current through 2011. We ranked the offices by the number of corruption convictions over the past decade. See the Top 19 above.
New Jersey’s U.S. attorney’s office wears the crown, with 429 corruption convictions under its belt since 2002. Remember Operation Bid Rig in 2009 — one of the largest political corruption sweeps in history? Forty four New Jersey politicians, public officials, and rabbis were arrested on corruption charges. Trenton Mayor Tony Mack was arrested this week, on charges that he agreed to accept bribes in return for a proposed parking garage. Mr. Mack has denied the allegations. (Palazzio, The Wall Street Journal)
Bill offers tax credit for hiring those out of work over 30 days
Employers would receive an incentive to hire people out of work for more than 30 days under a proposed bill introduced today.
Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), West Deptford, and Sen. Bob Gordon, (D-28), Fair Lawn, introduced the measure that is designed to encourage small businesses to hire such people. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Lesniak/Quijano bill would set 60-day deadline on jobless benefits cases
The backlog in dealing with appeals in jobless benefits cases has led to proposed legislation.
Sen. Ray Lesniak and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano said today they submitted legislation that would require a case to be ruled on within 60 days. If that deadline is not met, then the applicant would receive the unemployment benefits being sought. (Staff, State Street Wire)
N.J. bill to reduce car fleet on hold
New Jersey lawmakers put the brakes on a bill Thursday that would require a drastic reduction in the number of motor vehicles in the state fleet , a retreat from what has become a major campaign to cut government costs.
The state Senate Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee decided that it needs more information before it can take action on the bill.
During a hearing, the legislation drew criticism from the state’s largest public employees union and from a lawmaker from each party.
It stalled not long after the committee advanced another government money-saver. That bill would require state employees to get direct deposits rather than paychecks starting in 2014 and would allow local governments, which are trying to deal with a 2 percent cap on annual property tax growth, to institute the same requirement. (Mulvihill, Associated Press)
Senate committee advances direct deposit requirement
A Senate committee advanced a bill Thursday that would require the state to pay its employees by direct deposit.
The measure aims to save money by no longer paying employees with paper checks. An analysis conducted for the Assembly, which has already passed a version of the bill, estimated the state save about $540,000 in fiscal year 2015, the first year the state would see the full benefits of the requirement.
“On its own, the savings may appear small, but every penny government can save in administrative overhead is a penny that can be either reinvested in vital programs or returned to taxpayers,” bill sponsor Sen. Bob Gordon, D-Fair Lawn, said in a statement. “We should never be afraid to make business-wise decisions because we think they save too little. Every savings we find, no matter how small, adds up.” (Linhorst, The Record)
NJ needs tougher domestic violence laws, says senators
Here are some shocking statistics from State Senator Barbara Buono; one in four women and one in seven men will become the victim of domestic violence at some time during their lifetime.
In 2010, there were over 74,000 domestic violence offenses reported by the police in the State of New Jersey and 38 of them culminated in a murder. Buono and other Senators are joining domestic violence prevention advocates in calling for adoption of three bills to modernize domestic violence laws in the Garden State.
“Domestic Violence Awareness Month may be coming in October, but domestic violence is an issue New Jersey residents face every single day,” says Buono. “We’re renewing the fight for stronger anti-domestic violence laws now so that as we turn the page to October, New Jersey can move toward becoming a safer place for the victims of domestic violence.” (McArdle, New Jersey 101.5)
N.J. bill to allow state agencies to sell website advertising space is withdrawn
A bill that would allow several state agencies to sell advertising space on their websites was withdrawn from consideration today after the head of the New Jersey Press Association expressed concern about the measure.
“I’m just going to give them the courtesy of hearing from them and what their concerns might be,” said state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), the sponsor of the measure (S1531).
Under the terms of the legislation, the Economic Development Authority, NJ Transit and the New Jersey Lottery would begin a two-year pilot program in which they would write guidelines to make sure the advertisements are related to their mission and would publish disclaimers with the advertisements emphasizing that they did not imply a state endorsement. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Assemblyman Dancer to push ‘Snookiville Law’
For the last four years, talk of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” has become fodder for water cooler conversations. Soon, chatter about reality television could reach the floor of the Statehouse.
Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, R-Ocean, is set to introduce a bill Sept. 24 that would give local officials more power to regulate reality shows, like the “Jersey Shore,” when production teams arrive to shoot in their towns.
The proposed bill, which Dancer nicknamed the “Snookiville Law,” would allow municipalities that choose to adopt licensing ordinances to impose conditions such as requiring the crew to pay for additional police, if needed. (Huba, Asbury Park Press)
New Jersey lawmakers working on bill to protect stalking victims from GPS technology
There’s a new effort underway in New Jersey to offer victims of stalking or domestic abuse an added layer of protection.
Several lawmakers have backed three bills that would require cell phone providers to provide directions on how to turn off the GPS feature built in to many smartphones.
“Provide a step-by-step process by which they can deactivate their GPS tracking system,” State Sen. Joseph Vitale told WCBS 880′s Levon Putney. (CBS New York)
EDA to offer $100M more in Urban Transit Hub Tax Credits
The Economic Development Authority has agreed to provide $100 million more in Urban Transit Hub Tax Credits to eligible municipalities to help complete various residential projects that are ready to go.
“Staff is recommending that the EDA issue a competitive solicitation for up to $100 million of UTHTCs for residential projects,” EDA documents state. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Fine Print: Proposed teacher professional development rules
What it is: The Christie administration last week presented its , with more than 400 recommendations for streamlining and eliminating requirements on school districts. Among the changes is a rewriting of the state’s rule that every teacher have 100 hours of professional development every five years, instead proposing more individualized plans less driven by clock hours.
What it means: The development of the state’s existing rules a decade ago was months, if not years, in the making. Among the first of the code changes that the administration is proposing this time around, revisions are sure to take some time — and considerable debate. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Medicare and Social Security: Fighting words in South Jersey’s 3rd
Medicare and Social Security are among the defining issues in this year’s elections — not just at the top of the ticket but in the Congressional races as well.
Democrat Shelley Adler wants to make sure those two topics stay in the spotlight. Yesterday she picked up the endorsement of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare in her quest to unseat U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan in South Jersey’s 3rd District.
Medicare was one of the most often cited “extremely important” issues by New Jerseyans surveyed in the latest (O’Dea, NJ Spotlight)
http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/12/0913/2318/. It was named by 44 percent of likely voters, behind the economy, healthcare, taxes, and the budget deficit.
EDA approves $40 million incentive for Honeywell
Honeywell International Inc. was awarded a $40 million grant to stay at its Morris Township headquarters, two years after the state tried to retain the company with a smaller incentive.
At its meeting today, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority board approved the Grow New Jersey award, as well as another $40 million Grow New Jersey award for Dotcom Distribution and a $50.3 million Urban Transit Hub tax credit for a supermarket project in Camden.
The board also designated $100 million in Urban Transit Hub funds for residential development and approved incentives to other businesses. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
Backers of Scotch Plains-Fanwood merger take key step forward
A resident-driven effort to study a merger between Scotch Plains and Fanwood cleared a major hurdle Wednesday when the state Department of Community Affairs’ Local Finance Board granted it approval to form a study commission, but the group’s organizer said there’s still a long road to travel before the towns are consolidated.
“Some people want to do things quickly, and other people don’t,” said Fred Lange, of Scotch Plains, who spearheaded the formation of the group called Courage to Re-Connect. “We’re getting a lot of leads now for independent consultants to do the study, but we still need to appoint commissioners from both towns to move forward — and to do that, we’ll have to have a meeting with the two mayors to discuss what they’re going to do.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
Ruling limits legal actions of public employees
Public employees who litigate disciplinary issues before administrative forums cannot get “a second bite at the apple” by filing a subsequent whistleblower lawsuit in court, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
The 5-1 decision explicitly puts public employees on notice, stating, “It is unseemly to have juries second-guessing major public employee discipline imposed after litigation is completed before [an administrative venue.]”
The ruling comes in the case of Steven Winters, an ex-firefighter who sued his former employer, the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue. (Tat and Markos, The Record)
Food policy councils: A new model for fighting hunger and disease
A handful of antihunger advocates in New Jersey have decided that it’s time for a new model when it comes to addressing issues of food security.
They are pushing for a more comprehensive approach that includes not only feeding the hungry, but also finding ways to ensure that healthy food is available in communities where the cheapest alternatives have tended to be high-fat, high-sugar fast food or processed products distributed by large corporations.
Food policy councils have been formed or are forming in five New Jersey communities — Camden, Newark and New Brunswick and Mercer and Passaic counties — with the goal of lowering the cost of fresh, local food and making sure that residents of the state’s urban areas have the same options available to those in the suburbs. (Kalet, NJ Spotlight)
With warmer weather, NJ spends less on energy bills for low-income families
For the first time in several years, the state’s spending to help low-income families pay their energy bills is dropping.
The state Board of Public Utilities yesterday approved new budgets for the both of which dipped slightly after steadily rising in past years as the economy weakened.
The USF, which ensures low-income households pay no more than 6 percent of household income on utility bills, fell to $230 million, down from $242.4 million the previous year, according to Kristi Izzo, secretary to the BPU. At the same time, it adopted a $65.7 million budget for the Lifeline program, which offers senior citizens and the disabled with a $225 energy benefit. It cost $71 million the previous year. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Voter form violation that cost councilman his seat is not uncommon, officials say
For the average voter, filling out a registration form with a wrong address means the slight inconvenience of showing identification at the polls. For Paterson Councilman Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, it cost him his elected office.
On Thursday, the former 2nd Ward councilman said he was mulling his options while his neighbors had mixed responses to the court ruling.
What officials describe as a not-uncommon error was enough to persuade a judge Wednesday to throw out the May election that put North Jersey’s first Bangladeshi-American politician in local office — a reversal that his lawyer said singled out his client for a “curable defect.” (Patberg, The Record)
Farmingdale appointments only temporary
Gov. Chris Christie appointed five members to the Borough Council last Friday, but the positions will only be good for a couple of months.
The appointees had until 4:30 p.m. Thursday to file their petitions to run in the November election.
All five Republicans appointees — George Dyevoich, Michael Burke, Michael Romano, Patricia Linszky and Joseph Hultmark — were able to meet the deadline and will appear on November’s ballot.
On the Democrat side, Richard Geffken, Jan Zientek, Lorelei Rouvrais and Carly Immen will be on the ballot, said Bertha Sumick, of Monmouth County Board of Elections. (Columbus, Asbury Park Press)
The voter ID law controversy
Election questions always rear their head as we begin the Fall campaign season. One of those issues this season involves the voter identification laws passed in several states around the nation. New Jersey does not have an ID requirement, but, 33 states now require identification to cast a ballot, with five mandating specific forms of picture ID.
The debate around voter ID laws is actually fairly simple. Proponents of requiring voters to provide identification argue that such rules are needed to deter voting fraud. They cite the integrity of the voting process as one of the most important parts of our democratic process. (Scarinci for PolitickerNJ)