Morning News Digest: Nov. 26, 2012

New Jersey email voting a casualty in Sandy’s wake

Storm-battered New Jersey’s first-in-the-nation decision to accept ballots by email is shaping up to be a model for how not to conduct Internet-based voting.

The problems that arose — confusing rules, a laborious verification process and an ongoing tabulation headache — could invalidate many of the more than 10,000 ballots from people who believe they voted electronically.

 “My email began to run off the charts all day that Sunday, Monday and Tuesday,” Ocean County Clerk Scott Colabella said. “We were getting so many requests, we could not open them quickly enough, print out the applications and have our staff answer them all.”

(Steve Friess; Politico)


 FEMA pays out nearly $248 million since Superstorm Sandy struck N.J.

TRENTON — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has paid out nearly $248 million one month since Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey.

FEMA says 230,162 residents have registered for assistance.

There are 33 disaster recovery centers open in the state.

FEMA says it has completed inspecting 96 percent of the homes that it was requested to check

(The Associated Press)


Poll: Christie’s approval rating rises sharply after Sandy, especially among Democrats

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie’s approval rating jumped 21 points among a small panel of New Jersey voters interviewed before and after Hurricane Sandy hit, a new poll finds.

Before the storm hit, 56 percent of 241 registered voters interviewed said they approved of his job performance. Afterwards, among those same voters, that number soared to 77 percent.

“Governor Christie’s presence before, during, and after the storm was clearly received well by Garden State voters,” said political science professor Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind. “A situation like this gives politicians an opportunity to put partisan politics aside. Governor Christie’s post-Sandy bounce suggests he was successful in capitalizing on this moment.”

(Matt Friedman, The Star-Ledger)



Storm deepens revenue hole for Atlantic City casinos

The wind-driven floods of superstorm Sandy may have spared Atlantic City the knockout punch it landed elsewhere at the Jersey Shore, but it may yet hit the gambling mecca hard.

Increasing competition from gambling halls in neighboring states, plus a downturn in the economy for the past several years, already had the city’s casino industry reeling. And then Sandy barreled ashore late last month, forcing the casinos to close for five to seven days.

Although residential neighborhoods were flooded, the casinos were largely spared. But widespread misperceptions about how much damage was done to the fabled Boardwalk have kept people away, to say nothing of the fact that a significant segment of the

customer base is hardly in a mood to live it up at a casino


(John Brennan; The Record)



Cyber Monday retailers peel back prices for big shopping day

Bye-bye Black Friday. So long Small Business Saturday. Now, it’s Cyber Monday’s turn.

Cyber Monday, coined in 2005 by a shopping trade group that noticed online sales spiked on the Monday following Thanksgiving, is the next in a series of days that stores are counting on to jumpstart the holiday shopping season.

It’s estimated that this year’s Cyber Monday will be the biggest online shopping day of the year for the third year in a row: According to research firm comScore, Americans are expected to spend $1.5 billion, up 20 percent from last year on Cyber Monday, as retailers have ramped up their deals to get shoppers to click on their websites.

(The Associated Press)


Bill would let Lottery winners’ names be kept private for a year

New Jersey Lottery winners expect instant riches. But along with their money comes the attention, sometimes unwanted, of newfound friends and companies that say they want to help manage all that cash.

Each year, for-profit companies make an average of 70 records requests to the New Jersey Lottery, seeking the names and contact information for lottery winners, according to a review of the document requests by The Record. The lottery is obliged to hand over the information, which is a public record.

The companies say some people find the lump-sum payments or financial advice they offer helpful.

But now, against the backdrop of a record-breaking $425 million Powerball jackpot this week, one assemblyman has raised the question: Should these winners be shielded from the public?

Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, is sponsoring legislation to let lottery winners stay anonymous for a year after winning.

“A person, if they have the good fortune of winning, should be able to shield themselves for a time,” he said, adding that his bill would help winners “give some thought to what they want to do.”

(Michael Lindorst; The Record)


Storm fixes could dictate development, some say

Some advocates fear that rebuilding efforts could take shape on New Jersey’s storm-devastated shore before thoughtful decisions can be made about just how the area should be rebuilt.

The federal government brought thousands of tons of stone, sand and riprap to repair an inlet that the storm ripped open, reconnecting the bay and ocean in a narrow section of barrier island in Mantoloking. The state is repairing Route 35 where it was washed away by that breach and two others nearby.

Also, state action has also made it easier to rebuild damaged infrastructure such as roads and water pipes.

(Geoff Mulvihill: The Associated Press)




Detectives in Casey Anthony case overlooked Google search

ORLANDO, FLA. — The Florida sheriff’s office that investigated the disappearance of Casey Anthony’s 2-year-old daughter overlooked evidence that someone in their home did a Google search for “fool-proof” suffocation methods on the day the girl was last seen alive.

Orange County sheriff’s Capt. Angelo Nieves said Sunday that the office’s computer investigator missed the June 16, 2008, search. The agency’s admission was first reported by Orlando television station WKMG. It’s not known who performed the search. The station reported it was done on a browser primarily used by the 2-year-old’s mother, Casey Anthony, who was acquitted of the girl’s murder in 2011.

Anthony’s attorneys argued during trial that Casey Anthony helped her father, George Anthony, cover up the girl’s drowning in the family pool.

(The Associated Press)|mostpopular|text|NJNEWS


Consumers would spend less if “fiscal cliff” taxes rise, White House says

A White House report says that if that Congress allows taxes to go up on middle-class families, consumers will spend $200 billion less in 2013.

The report by the White House’s National Economic Council and Council of Economic Advisers, released on Monday, was the latest salvo by President Barack Obama to encourage lawmakers to extend tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 a year and fix a tax aimed at making sure wealthy people pay a minimum amount.

The newly re-elected Democratic president is negotiating with Republicans in Congress over the “fiscal cliff” – a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that would go into effect next year if the two sides do not reach a deal to stop it.

(Jeff Mason; Reuters)




Jersey City taxpayers paid $15M for public employees longevity pay When Jersey City resident Kirsten Green stood before the Board of Education at its Aug. 30 meeting, she had a simple question.

“What is longevity pay?”

Green had perused a proposed new contract for a top school district administrator, and was puzzled at the mention of this little-known perk.

Green is likely not the only one.

A long-standing tradition among public employees, longevity pay costs some public entities millions of dollars a year, and yet it receives scant attention, with foes of government waste focused more on sick time benefits or overtime payouts.

Longevity pay comes in the form of bonuses to employees for continued employment with a public entity. The longer an employee works, the larger the longevity bonus is.

In total, Jersey City taxpayers last year paid out $15,089,184 in longevity pay to employees of the city, the school district and five of the city’s seven autonomous agencies, according to records reviewed by The Jersey Journal

(Terrence McDonald; The Jersey Journal)



MVC extends deadline for motorists affected by Sandy

TRENTON — Motorists affected by Superstorm Sandy will get a break from the state.

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission announced that residents whose driver’s license, registration or vehicle inspection was up for renewal last month have been given a 30-day extension.

“Rather than having these customers make a special trip to FEMA’s centers just for a motor vehicle issue, our entire staff is ready to assist at any one of our 39 agencies statewide,” said Raymond P. Martinez, commission chairman and chief administrator. “We’ve implemented temporary service measures in our agencies to help those with special circumstances caused by Sandy.”

Under the administrative order, anyone who is the holder of a valid New Jersey driver’s license or permit that was due to expire between Oct. 29 and Oct. 31 and was not renewed can continue to exercise his or her driving privileges until Nov. 30. Renewals of vehicle registrations and inspections due that same time period are also extended until Nov. 30.

 (Todd McHale; The Philadelphia Inquirer)


New Jersey files brief regarding sports betting

A federal sports-betting ban “commandeers” New Jersey’s lawmaking ability by requiring it to prohibit the activity, rather than directly banning people from wagering, New Jersey lawyers argue in court documents challenging the ban.

The brief filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Trenton was the the first time New Jersey formalized its intent to challenge the constitutionality of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, arguing that the federal law violates the 10th Amendment.

“PASPA does not seek to curtail sports wagering by directly prohibiting such activity in some or all states,” New Jersey’s lawyers wrote in the brief. “Instead, it mandates that certain states not ‘authorize by law or compact’ sports wagering and thereby requires those same states to maintain and enforce their pre-existing bans on sports wagering. The Tenth Amendment, under established precedent, does not permit the federal government to ‘commandeer’ state legislative and enforcement functions in such a manner.”

(Nguyen; Press of Atlantic City) Morning News Digest: Nov. 26, 2012