Morning News Digest: October 25, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
PolitickerNJ’s 2012 Power List
Welcome to PolitickerNJ.com’s 2012 Power List, this year’s installment of the 100 most powerful political players in New Jersey.
This list is subjective and ever-evolving. The Presidential election is sure to usher in some new players and dampen the careers of some old ones. Please keep in mind that, as usual, the list does not include elected officials, judges, or former governors.
As always, we gave special consideration to the power associated with the office of governor, one of the most constitutionally powerful governorships in the country. This sitting governor, Chris Christie, has a particularly acute sense of how to wield power, making use of the channels of government to get much of what he wants. That explains the dominance on the list of Christie confidantes and cabinet members. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Assembly committees hear of bureaucracy, understaffing in foreclosure assistance process
While the state brags it has allocated more resources, the people at the “frontlines” of the foreclosure loan application process said they need more help.
While the Department of Community Affairs has hired more than 40 people to handle the loan application process, the first stretch of the often-long bureaucratic road is handled by various foreclosure counseling groups that help applicants navigate through administrative matters. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
At TCNJ, a glimpse into how bond issue can help higher-ed, economy
State lawmakers, college administrators and business leaders conducted a daylong push Wednesday on behalf of the $750 million bond issue question that voters will face in November.
There is a concern that in a tough economy voters may turn back the first statewide bond issue for public higher education since 1988. To combat that, state leaders are in the midst of a full-court press to convince voters of the necessity of the bond issue. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Christie headed to Warren County to host 98th town hall-style event
Back from Massachusetts and New Hampshire and before jetting off to North Carolina, Governor Christie will make a stop in Warren County for his 98th town hall-style event Thursday morning.
Christie will continue to discuss his “Middle-Class Reform Agenda” at the event at Warren County Technical School in Washington Township.
Since unveiling his latest theme, Christie has been using the events to push Democrats to enact a tax cut, while calling them out on several spending bills being considered by the Legislature. He’s also called for ethics reforms, that would strengthen the financial disclosure forms members of the Assembly and Senate file with the state. As part of his ethics package, Christie has called for an end to dual office holding – legislators who held two offices before the state law changed after Christie took office are able to stay in both posts – and a ban on more than one public job. (Hayes, The Record)
Christie adds Romney fundraisers, North Carolina events to travel schedule
With less than two weeks until the election, Governor Christie will be helping raise money for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney who is in a close race with President Obama.
Christie, who has campaigned in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire already this week, will headline fundraisers for Romney in New York City Thursday night and North Carolina on Friday.
Before the Romney event Thursday, Christie will also raise money for the National Republican Senatorial Committee at a New York City event.
Friday afternoon, he’ll raise money for Romney in Greensboro, N.C. before heading to Raleigh to raise money for North Carolina GOP gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory.
Christie will also headline a rally for McCrory at the Central Tobacco Exchange in Smithfield, N.C. This marks the third time Christie has traveled to North Carolina to assist McCrory, the former Charlotte mayor who is in running against Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton. (Hayes, The Record)
Christie ‘completely rejects’ Indiana Senate candidate’s comments on rape, abortion
Governor Christie “completely rejects” comments on rape and abortion made by an Indiana U.S. Senate candidate supported by the popular Republican, the governor’s spokesman said today.
The statement came after Democrats said Christie should call on Republican Richard Mourdock to drop out of the race. Christie is out of state campaigning in Massachusetts and New Hampshire today, but his spokesman, Michael Drewniak, said the governor disagrees with Mourdock’s view that abortion is wrong even in cases of rape.
“Governor Christie has always been clear about his position, and that includes exceptions in cases of rape, incest and life of a mother,” Drewniak said. “He completely rejects Richard Mourdock’s beliefs and views on this issue as expressed in last night’s debate.” (Hayes, The Record)
Christie administration acknowledges foreclosure lapses
The Christie administration Wednesday acknowledged failure in managing $300 million in federal money to help struggling homeowners but declared that the problems had been fixed and an increasing number of homeowners were being saved from foreclosure.
“Listen, it’s indefensible; the program was not being run well,” said Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard E. Constable III, who inherited the issues after he assumed his post in January. “We did a disservice to the folks that we were supposed to serve.”
But Democrats, who called a joint hearing of two Assembly committees to ask Constable about the problems with the program, framed the issue as reflective of Republican Gov. Christie’s continued disregard for struggling homeowners. (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
NJ’s Christie stumps in support of Lamontagne
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called on New Hampshire voters to support fellow Republican Ovide Lamontagne in the race for governor and described challenger Maggie Hassan as a “New Jersey Democrat.”
The famously outspoken Christie was the headliner for a night of stump speeches in front of a standing-room only crowd of about 300 at the Old Town Hall on Wednesday.
Former Republican governors of New Hampshire, John Sununu, Craig Benson, and Stephen Merrill, delivered brief opening remarks, and all reminded the crowd that the race for president and governor are very close and only 13 days remained to convince undecided voters. (Morrison, Associated Press)
N.J. Senate set to vote on bill that would ban employer demands for social media access
The state Senate is set to vote Thursday on a bill that would prevent employers from asking employees and job candidates for access to their social media accounts.
Sponsors of the bill and privacy advocates say the proposal creates privacy safeguards for employees and jobseekers who might be forced to trade their privacy rights for a paycheck.
“This is no different from asking for a person’s diary notes,” said state Sen. Kevin O’Toole, a Republican from Wayne who co-sponsored the bill. “These things are meant to be private, and jobseekers don’t have to decide whether they want the job or they go along with this invasion of privacy.”
Opponents of the bill, meanwhile, say the practice of demanding access to employees’ social-media accounts is not so widespread as to require new legislation. They argue that the bill is, at best, an overreaction to a few cases that received bad publicity. At worst, it can have the effect of increasing litigation by permitting employees and jobseekers to sue employers. (Markos, The Record)
Sen. Richard Codey: Bergen County lurings call for legislative crackdown
Amid an uptick in attempted child luring cases reported throughout the state, State Sen. Richard Codey is calling for tougher penalties for those convicted in attempted abductions.
“With spike in child luring reports, especially in Bergen County, I’m introducing legislation to strengthen the law and increase penalties,” Codey (D-Essex) wrote on Twitter Wednesday evening.
There have been more than a dozen reported possible child abductions around the state in the past two weeks — most of them in Bergen County. (Sullivan, NJ.com)
Incumbent Congressman backs Obama on jobs, economy, health care
Ask Jose Arango and Mark Smith to name the main issue in New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District and they give the same answer: jobs.
Their agreement may seem surprising, considering that Arango is chairman of Hudson County’s Republican Party and Smith is the head of the Democratic organization.
But there’s no ignoring the hard times the weak economy has brought to Hudson County, where federal labor statistics put the unemployment rate at 11 percent for August, with 34,616 people looking for work and unable to find it.
Of course, Arango and Smith offer different solutions to the county’s jobs shortage. Arango says it’s time to get rid of the Democratic incumbents – from President Barak Obama on down to Sen. Robert Menendez and Rep. Albio Sires. (Malinconico, NJ Spotlight)
Tuition at N.J.’s public colleges, universities third highest in the nation
Tuition at New Jersey’s public colleges and universities is the third highest in the nation, averaging $12,399, according to a report from the College Board released Wednesday
That price tag — $3,744 above the national average — is up 13 percent over the past five years, as is tuition at the state’s community colleges, which now averages $4,218, according to the report, titled “Trends in College Pricing 2012-2013.”
A high cost of living and a relative lack of state support for public colleges and universities help make New Jersey’s schools expensive for students, experts say. The state ranks 32nd in per-capita spending on higher education, according to the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities. (Alex, The Record)
Judge rules against parents in Camden case, kids to remain in district schools
An administrative law judge yesterday ruled against three Camden parents hoping to yank their kids from public schools on the grounds that they were failing to provide a “through and efficient” education.
The court’s decision in adds to the state’s never-ending debate over constitutional rights to a quality education.
Essentially, the parents filed a class-action complaint with the state arguing that their children should be entitled to attend another district or even private school on the public’s dime because they were for every day they stayed in the Camden system.
As part of the case filed with state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, the three petitioners sought immediate emergent — or emergency — relief to flee what is arguably the lowest-performing district in the state. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Jeers and cheers greet Newark teachers contract agreement
The agreement with Newark teachers that would establish the state’s first large-scale performance bonuses may not be a done deal after all.
In the aftermath of a raucous membership meeting Tuesday night that saw teachers openly criticizing their union leaders, the president of the Newark Teachers Union was making no guarantees yesterday that the deal would win ratification in a day-long vote on Monday.
The vote will be held at the union’s Broad Street headquarters from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“It’s in the hands of the members at this point,” said Joseph Del Grosso, the longtime NTU president, “The way that meeting went, all I’ll say it’s in the hands of the members.” (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Reducing energy comes at a cost—to the state’s clean energy fund
A little-noticed bill passed in the lame-duck Legislature last January could potentially cripple New Jersey’s clean energy efforts, and have an adverse effect on its low-income energy assistance program.
Those issues arose yesterday as the state Board of Public Utilities convened its first stakeholders meeting to implement the law (), a measure designed to spur commercial and industrial energy customers to invest in projects that reduce their energy consumption.
Under the bill, commercial and industrial customers would be entitled to recoup all of the money they pay into a special surcharge on gas and electric bills, which funds not only clean energy programs, but also low-income energy assistance and other initiatives. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
N.J.’s alternatives to juvenile incarceration are dropping rates
The number of juveniles jailed across New Jersey in the last eight years declined significantly, saving the state millions of dollars, according to a report released Wednesday by a nonprofit children’s public policy and advocacy group.
The Kids Count Special Report compares the number of juveniles jailed in 2011 to 2004, when five counties joined a national initiative offering alternatives to detention. The report showed a 60 percent decrease, partly from using electronic monitoring and reporting mandates.
Detention costs $136,000 a year per youth; the 60 percent decrease has saved $16 million a year, according to the report.
“For years, New Jersey locked up thousands of juveniles, often for minor, nonviolent crimes, warehousing them in overcrowded, unsafe detention centers,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, which released the report. (Boyer, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Justices divided on a parental rights law
A sharply split New Jersey Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a parental rights law that a couple claimed discriminates against infertile women.
New Jersey law holds that an infertile man whose wife is artificially inseminated with his permission is the baby’s father. But it doesn’t give parental rights to an infertile woman whose husband’s sperm is used to impregnate another woman, even if the wife gives permission.
The Camden County couple used a surrogate, identified as A.F., to carry their child. The eggs were from an anonymous donor, and the surrogate hasn’t sought parental rights.
But under Wednesday’s ruling, the wife will have to apply to adopt the child, now 3 years old. (Porter, Associated Press)
Report: N.J. hospitals increased spending, income taxes in 2011
The New Jersey Hospital Association’s annual economic impact report showed the state’s hospitals increased both spending and income taxes paid in 2011. Employment stayed relatively stable compared to 2010.
According to the NJHA, hospitals increased their overall contribution to the state’s economy by $900 million, from $18.6 billion in 2010 to $19.5 billion last year. They purchased more than $850 million worth of pharmaceuticals and more than $1.2 billion on contracted labor.
In terms of tax contributions, hospital employees paid $435 million in state income taxes, and the hospitals themselves paid $132 million in taxes, fees and assessments. (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
Impact of Dow Chemical cuts on N.J. not yet known
Responding to weak product demand and falling revenues, the country’s largest chemical manufacturer said late Tuesday it will lay off thousands of workers and close a number of plants worldwide to cut costs, though it’s not yet known if its New Jersey employees and operations will be affected.
In its latest filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Michigan-based Dow Chemical Co. said it will cut approximately 3,000 jobs and shut about 20 manufacturing facilities by the end of 2014, which it estimates will result in nearly $500 million in annual cost savings. Paired with slashed capital spending and other cost-cutting measures, Dow expects to save about $2.5 billion within two years. (Eder, NJBIZ)
Menendez staff worker accused of removing GOP freeholder signs in Mahwah
Campaigns were in overdrive Wednesday as Democrats complained that Republican Senate candidate Joe Kyrillos was running a misleading TV commercial while Kyrillos’ campaign called an aide to Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez who was arrested for taking down campaign signs a “thug.”
David M. Gins, 27 of Washington, D.C., was working for the Democratic organization to get votes out for candidates statewide when he was arrested Tuesday in Mahwah.
Gins, who according to public records is paid about $31,000 a year, was on leave from his position as assistant to Menendez’s chief of staff, said Paul Brubaker, a campaign spokesman.
He was charged with theft after two Mahwah police officers allegedly saw him remove a campaign sign for Republican Bergen County freeholder candidates Rob Hermansen and Peg Watkins near Mountainside Avenue and Route 17 south. (Jackson and Pries, The Record)
Tony, liberal NYC suburb is mellow about opening of New Jersey’s first pot dispensary
It’s no surprise that the town of Montclair is on the verge of being the first New Jersey community with a legal medical marijuana dispensary.
The famously liberal New York City suburb of 38,000 is sometimes called “the Upper West Side of New Jersey.” But it also has the feel of other well-heeled bohemian spots such as Boulder, Colo., and Berkeley, Calif., where medical marijuana has long been available.
People who live and work in Montclair have been very mellow about the prospect of a pot dispensary. It’s going to open in the middle of the main drag, next door to an abortion clinic and three doors from a smoke shop. (Associated Press)
From the Back Room
Mourdock gives a gift to Dems
Democrats today jumped on Gov. Chris Christie for campaigning on behalf of Indiana U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, and called on Christie to use the GOP bully pulpit to nudge Mourdock out of the competitive race.
Last week, Christie campaigned for Mourdock. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
A tie—and a Romney-Biden administration—is more than a remote possibility
On June 18, 2012, I wrote a column for PolitickerNJ.com entitled “Election 2012: Romney elected President and Biden elected Vice President? A real possibility.” In that column, I explained that if Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each received 269 electoral votes, the result would almost certainly be a Mitt Romney-Joe Biden administration. (Steinberg for PolitickerNJ)
Election 2012 Primer: Voter eligibility
The right to vote is firmly grounded in the founding of our country. However, the affirmative right to vote is not expressly granted in the U.S. Constitution. As the U.S. Supreme Court noted in the landmark case of Bush v. Gore, “The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States.” (Scarinci for PolitickerNJ)
Fallout from Senate candidate’s abortion stance could burn Governor Christie
Last week, Governor Christie hailed Indiana U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock as a hero, calling him one of those rare politicians who never veers from his principled “compass.”
On Wednesday, Mourdock quickly became a headache after his compass led him into the minefield of abortion politics.
“I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” Mourdock said during a debate Tuesday, explaining that “the only exception that I have, to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother.” (Stile, The Record)