Morning News Digest: September 21, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
State economist questions validity of jobless data
The state’s chief economist today cast doubts on recent unemployment numbers, calling into question the methodology used to collect the data.
Economist Charles Steindel said the unemployment numbers gathered through the household survey do not jibe with other data collected on state employment, including numbers from the payroll survey, which questions employers on the number of people on the payroll and was more optimistic on the job market.
“We think history shows pretty clearly that the payroll survey is right,” Steindel said, pointing out that the margin of error on the payroll survey is half what it is on the household survey. “This has been an issue over the past year, but it’s really in the past few months that we have seen the yawning chasm occur.”
Other elected officials, including those in Connecticut and New York City, have complained about the unemployment numbers, Steindel said. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Wisniewski slams Christie for campaigning out of state as unemployment rises
The State Democratic Chairman seized on an uptick in New Jersey unemployment to criticize Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to campaign out of state.
The state’s unemployment now stands at 9.9%, numbers announced while Christie campaigns for conservative Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa.
“Once again, Governor Christie is out of town campaigning today while New Jersey grapples with the news of record 9.9% unemployment,” said Party Chairman John Wisniewski. “No surprise here, as that’s what he was doing frequently last month as our unemployment rate continued to rise. During the month of August, Governor Christie spent 11 days campaigning out of state, days he could have spent here getting New Jerseyans back to work. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Mercer Dems Chair wants AG to investigate how GOP selected freeholder candidates
Mercer County Democratic Chair Elizabeth Muoio today sent a letter to the state attorney general’s office requesting an investgation into the Mercer County GOP’s process for replacing freeholder candidates.
Muoio sent the letter to Donna Kelly, assistant attorney general, questioning how Republicans supplanted former candidates Jim Castelize and Joe D’Angelo.
The Democratic chair said she doubts Mercer County Republican Chairman Rich Levesque’s accounting of how the party picked replacements, based on a news report. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie’s return may signal concern for McKenna
Washington Republicans: Don’t say Chris Christie didn’t warn you.
At an August fundraiser for Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna’s gubernatorial campaign, Christie warned attendees that if he didn’t see the election going “very well,” he would hold them personally responsible. “Don’t make me come back here,” he joked with the crowd. But on October 4 Christie will do just that, holding fundraisers for McKenna in Lynwood and Kennewick.
Joke or no, Christie’s return trip could be a sign of concern: With just two months to go before election day, McKenna is running roughly as far behind former Democratic Rep. Jay Inslee as he did in the August 7 primary. (Mimms, National Journal)
Washington GOP gubernatorial candidate using Christie to recruit volunteers
For just $10 the National Republican Congressional Committee was entering donors into a raffle for a lunch with Governor Christie. Now for just 10 volunteer hours Washington gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna’s campaign is offering a meet-and-greet with the tough talking New Jersey governor.
The promotion appears on McKenna’s campaign website accompanied by a photo of Christie pointing with the text “I want you!” superimposed over it. The site explains that volunteers who log 10 hours by Oct. 2 will have a chance to attend an event with Christie and get a photo with him when he’s in town campaigning for McKenna on Oct. 4. (Hates, The Record)
Lt. Gov. Guadagno’s chief of staff set to take Christie’s head of appointments job
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s chief of staff will take over as Gov. Chris Christie’s head of appointments.
Matthew McDermott on Oct. 1 will replace Michele Brown, a former federal prosecutor who was appointed chief operating officer for the Economic Development Authority, according to Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak. In his new post, McDermott will be responsible for finding and vetting judicial and other administration nominees.
Trenton lobbying firm Capital Impact Group first posted the hire this afternoon on its Facebook page. (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
Why is the NJ unemployment rate rising while the state gains jobs?
Another increase in New Jersey’s unemployment rate — this time to 9.9 percent — prompted the Christie administration Thursday to wonder aloud if there was something wrong with the survey itself.
Charles Steindel, chief economist for the state Department of Treasury, said the jobless rate told a story that was 180-degrees different from another survey that showed the state added 5,300 jobs in August.
If the unemployment rate is accurate, “this would mean we were losing 600 jobs a day in August, including weekends,” Steindel said in a conference call with reporters. “It didn’t happen.” (Diamond, Asbury Park Press)
N.J. Democrats focusing on health, pay for women
Senate Democratic leaders said they will focus on issues important to women in the coming months, “an emphasis that will include designing a health insurance exchange program and ensuring pay equity legislation becomes law.
The Democrats made the announcement at a news conference Thursday where they mostly criticized Governor Christie’s policies. Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, said the governor’s decisions have amounted to an “assault on women.”
“We’re serving notice to the residents – who, I think, will join us in this fight – that we are fighting back,” Weinberg said. She added that the Democrats wanted to “signal our commitment for standing up for women and for their families.” (Linhorst, The Record)
Analysis: New Jersey’s struggle to keep pharma firms reflected in Roche’s exit
Ultimately, New York made Roche an offer it couldn’t refuse.
New Jersey officials lobbied hard to convince the pharmaceutical company to select New Brunswick for the site of its new clinical research facility. Luring that center would have helped ease the sting of Roche’s plans to close its former U.S. headquarters, located on a 119-acre campus on Route 3 that straddles Nutley and Clifton.
But it would have been hard to beat the package proffered by New York City, New York State and Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc., a public company that pioneered creating “life science” or “lab space” developments. (Moss and Fletcher, The Record)
Senate panel moves first responder surviving spouses bill
Surviving spouses of certain first responders who die in the line of duty will be eligible for worker compensation benefits regardless of whether they remarry, according to proposed legislation that cleared a Senate panel.
The bill, S1469, would permit surviving spouses to remarry and still collect worker compensation benefits they are currently entitled to following the death of their spouse. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Court hears arguments on superintendent salary caps
Gov. Chris Christie’s caps on school superintendent salaries have drawn plenty of questions as to whether they are fair and fitting for schools, and their leadership –as well as to taxpayers.
Yesterday in an 11th floor courtroom in the Essex County Courthouse in Newark an even more fundamental question was debated: are the caps that have roiled school districts statewide legal?
Almost two years after the caps were put in place, lawyers for the state and for administrators faced off before a three-judge state appellate court panel hearing challenges to the limits. Basically, most district superintendents earn between $120,000 and $175,000, depending on student enrollment. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Bill advanced by N.J. Senate committee would bring more services to areas with many elderly residents
Seniors could have an easier time living in their homes under a bill advanced by a Senate committee Thursday.
The law would identify “naturally occurring retirement communities” – buildings or neighborhoods with high concentrations of elderly residents – and bring them health care, mental health and social services, as well as support services like transportation and shopping assistance.
The services are intended to allow seniors to stay in their homes, giving them an alternative to moving into special housing for the elderly. (Linhorst, The Record)
Legislation to help keep some low-level crimes off permanent record clears Senate committee
Senate lawmakers moved legislation that would keep certain disorderly persons crimes from remaining on low-level offenders’ permanent records.
The bills, A3096 and S2169, establish a conditional dismissal program in Municipal Court for certain disorderly offenses. The program allows the court to suspend proceedings against certain offenders, which the bill’s sponsors say gives one-time offenders a second chance. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Doggie seat belts loom in N.J. as budget challenges grow
New Jersey’s unemployment rate is the highest in more than three decades. Revenue trails Governor Chris Christie’s projections by $100 million. And its assembly is considering making the state the first in the U.S. to require drivers to restrain pets in their vehicles.
Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer, a Newark Democrat who owns a Pomeranian named A.J. along with five cats and a rabbit, has introduced a bill to require motorists to secure dogs and felines with a seatbelt-like harness if they’re not being transported in crates. Violators would get a $25 ticket that might escalate to an animal-cruelty charge with a fine of as much as $1,000 in extreme cases, such as having an unrestrained pet in the bed of a pickup. (Dopp, Bloomberg)
Parents troubled by bill to tighten up immunization exemptions
Legislation that would clarify what constitutes a legal exemption under the New Jersey’s school immunization law was approved by the state Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Thursday after nearly three-hours of contentious testimony. The bill now goes to the full Senate for a floor vote.
The legislation, (Kalet, NJ Spotlight)
http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/12/09/21/parents-troubled-by-bill-to-tighten-up-immunization-exemptions/, with amendments, was approved by 6-2 vote after about a dozen people spoke, mostly against the bill saying parents have a right to opt out of child immunization. The law would require documentation when a parent wants to exempt a student from mandatory immunizations for either medical or religious reasons. The bill to strengthen New Jersey’s existing immunization policy was introduced after an outbreak of whooping cough this year.
Jessica Lunsford Act clears Senate committee
A Senate panel unanimously released two bills revising the state’s sentencing standards of certain sex offenders and people who harbor them.
The legislation, dubbed the Jessica Lunsford Act, calls for mandatory minimum sentences of 25 years to life of certain sex offenders and requires electronic monitoring for sex offenders who prey on minors if the offender has been released on bail or from incarceration. (Arco, State Street Wire)
Facebook bill advances without employer-backed amendment
A bill that would bar employers from asking employees for information about their accounts on social media sites like Facebook was released by a Senate committee today.
While employer groups back much of the bill, they were unsuccessful in convincing the committee to remove a provision allowing workers to sue employers for violations. The committee also passed a similar bill barring colleges from requiring students to provide their social media passwords.
The bill affecting employers was passed by the Senate Labor Committee by a 4-0 vote, with Sen. Anthony R. Bucco (R-Denville) abstaining
Business groups said creating a new cause of action to bring lawsuits against employers would prove costly even in cases where the employer did nothing wrong. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
Teleconference lets Republican hopeful reach out and touch 2,000 potential voters
Wearing jeans, an open-collared shirt, and a superfluous windbreaker, U.S. Senate challenger Joe Kyrillos sat at a folding table in his second-floor campaign office in Middletown and spoke to 1,700 people.
Politicians around the nation are trying new ways of reaching voters. Many, especially underdogs like Kyrillos, have turned to teleconferencing. As a state senator, Republican Kyrillos has used the approach several times in his Monmouth County district.
But last night, as he watched names pop up on his laptop and asked for their questions, the Kyrillos campaign was trying for a much bigger haul of listeners and votes. Automated calls soliciting participants were going out to 69,000 households in Bergen County, according to Chapin Fay, Kyrillos’ campaign manager. (Tyrrell, NJ Spotlight)
N.J. Supreme Court reverses course on trying juveniles as adults
Last week, the New Jersey Supreme Court gave teens more protection when prosecutors seek to try them as adults.
But in a case the high court decided Thursday, the justices tilted the scale in the other direction, reducing the discretion judges have in deciding whether such cases should be tried in adult courts.
A four-justice majority ruled that a Middlesex County family court judge had “disregarded” the prosecution’s theory in the case of a complex family dispute in Woodbridge and that the teens should be tried as adults.
In the 2009 shooting, prosecutors argue that two teenagers contacted the father of one of them – an alleged leader of the Latin Kings street gang – and conspired with him to kill the other teen’s uncle. Though the uncle survived, another of the teen’s uncles was killed and his mother seriously wounded. (Campisi, The Record)
N.J. expands secure prescription disposal program
Bergen County residents now have a secure place to drop off unused medications at any time throughout the year: the Paramus police station.
The borough is one of 20 new drop off sites that have been added to the state’s “Project Medicine Drop” program run by the state Division of Consumer Affairs.
Announcing the program’s expansion outside Paramus police headquarters Thursday, state Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said a total of 27 boxes will be installed by the month’s end with at least one in each county. The Little Falls police department in Passaic County has participated since the program’s launch last November. (Sudol and Lipman, The Record)
Authority eyes A.C. airport
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is considering taking over operation of Atlantic City International Airport to help reduce air traffic congestion at New York-area airports, officials said Thursday.
The agency said Thursday that it had authorized $3 million for a feasibility study that will look at financial, legal, and environmental issues.
The Port Authority operates the New York area’s three major airports – Newark Liberty, John F. Kennedy, and LaGuardia – in addition to Teterboro Airport in North Jersey and Stewart Airport in Newburgh, N.Y.
Newark, JFK, and LaGuardia annually handle more than 100 million passengers. Delays at any often have a ripple effect on air travel throughout the United States.
Legislation in 2007 in both New York and New Jersey empowered the Port Authority to establish an additional air terminal in each state. The Port Authority acquired an interest in Stewart in 2007. (Porter, Associated Press)
Tough questions drive the discussion about alternative-fuel vehicles
In New Jersey last year, 236 electric vehicles were sold, a seemingly huge increase over the previous year when consumers bought only six plug-in cars.
It may sound encouraging, but the numbers aren’t thrilling automotive retailers. They face increasingly tough mandates to sell so-called zero emission vehicles, a requirement they say will be difficult to meet unless the state puts in place the infrastructure necessary to spur consumers to switch to alternative fuel.
But what type of infrastructure should that be? To power plug-in electric vehicles? Vehicles running on compressed natural gas? Cars and light trucks running on propane? What about vehicles powered by fuel cells? (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
South Jersey manufacturers still seeing declines
South Jersey manufacturing firms reported a fifth consecutive monthly contraction of production activity in September, though outlook for completing new orders and shipments in the months ahead was more optimistic than in previous forecasts.
According to the regional Business Outlook survey today released by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, nearly 23 percent of manufacturers indicated declines in business activity through Sept. 18 — down from 30 percent of firms reporting a decrease in August, yet exceeding the 20.7 percent reporting increases this month. (Eder, NJBIZ)
From the Back Room
Gordon campaigns for Kyrillos is Bergen
Gail Gordon – the wife of Democratic state Sen. Bob Gordon – welcomed Sen. Joe Kyrillos to Fair Lawn today for a campaign stop.
Gordon appeared with Kyrillos in a local diner, where the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate did the meet and greet with local patrons. That Gail Gordon shepherded a Republican around town comes as little surprise as she was a devoted fundraiser for Gov. Chris Christie. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Former lawmaker sentenced to 5 years in jail
A former state lawmaker and Hackensack police chief was sentenced Thursday to serve five years behind bars for insurance fraud and official misconduct.
Charles “Ken” Zisa was sentenced in Bergen Superior Court following being convicted of official misconduct after he reportedly removed his then-girlfriend, Kathleen Tiernan, from an accident scene in 2008, according to published reports. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Another judge refuses to rubber stamp FTC settlement
Another Federal Judge has refused to rubber stamp a Federal Trade Commission settlement that allows the defendant to settle without admitting to any of the allegations lodged by the agency. Recent scrutiny of neither admit nor deny settlement clauses suggests that they may be losing favor with federal court judges.
In the most recent case, U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb offered a creative solution. She will sign the consent decree so long as the FTC creates a website informing the public about the allegations against the company. (Scarinci for PolitickerNJ)
Christie backs ‘bigot’ and ‘right-wing zealot,’ Dems charge
Gov. Christie is on the road, continuing an on-again, off-again fall tour to lend his national name and fundraising prowess to senatorial and gubernatorial candidates in several states.
And Democrats see an opening to pin Christie as a friend of the far right in a dogged pursuit of the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Today, the gov is in Iowa fundraising for senatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Steve King — described by Christie nemesis and Democratic New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg as “a bigot through and through.” (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)