Morning News Digest: Nov. 29, 2012

Sen. Allen to seek re-election

Veteran Burlington County Republican state Sen. Diane Allen (R-7), Edgewater, wants another term in the Legislature.

“I’m definitely running again,” Allen told

The senator consistently fights off Democratic challengers to her seat but has yet to put together a legislative ticket with sufficient coattails to successfully carry her running mates across the finish line.

(Max Pizarro;


Christie’s positive rating soars, Eagleton says


Polls released over the last week show Gov. Chris Christie with one of the highest approval ratings ever recorded for a New Jersey governor. Analysis from the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll says the reason is voters are much more likely to see him as a smart, effective leader than they were before Superstorm Sandy.

Christie’s leadership and bipartisan embrace of President Obama after Sandy earned strong approval from residents, leading nearly two-thirds to say “smart” and “strong leader” are the two traits that best describe the governor. More than half also call him “effective” and “independent.” These positive traits are up sharply from a March 2012 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, the last time they were asked.





Sandy damage now at $36.9 B

Governor Chris Christie today announced a total assessment of the damage sustained from Hurricane Sandy to the State of New Jersey, which places the total cost at $36.9 billion. This total accounts for the unprecedented and widespread damage caused by Hurricane Sandy to personal property, businesses, transportation and utilities infrastructure, the impact on the state’s tourism industry, mitigation and prevention costs, and is inclusive of aid received to date and anticipated from federal sources including FEMA and the Small Business Administration. The total assessment includes $29.4 billion in repair, response and restoration costs previously released, plus $7.4 billion in mitigation and prevention costs that have since been determined.

“I’ve called this experience New Jersey’s Katrina because the damage to our state is nothing that we’ve experienced ever before. Our top-down assessment of overall damage, destruction, and costs bears out the results of this devastation, with a cumulative total of $36.9 billion in damage,” said Governor Christie. “We have a long way to go to rebuild and restore our communities, but the people of New Jersey have already shown that we are ready to meet the challenge. This assessment will help guide the way as we work to continue making steady progress for the people of our state.”




The Back Room


Christie gets first endorsement

Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election campaign is off and running.

The governor, who declared his intent to seek another term earlier this week, received the first endorsement of his still young campaign.

The Republican State Committee voted unanimously tonight to endorse Christie. The vote comes as no surprise as Christie is riding the wave of approval ratings in the 70s.

No Democratic opponent has yet emerged and some in the party are champing at the bit for the race to begin. All eyes are on Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who most politicos feel gives the Democrats their best shot at unseating Christie. Booker has said he will make his decision before the end of the year.

(Darryl Isherwood;



State Street Wire


Sweeney and Doherty want free beach access

MONROE – Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), West Deptford and Sen. Mike Doherty, (R-30), Washington Township – two lawmakers not often on the same page politically – agree on this: Beaches should be free.

Doherty said earlier this month he will submit legislation that would make access to beaches free during the massive rebuilding that will be necessary in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.

(Minhaj Hassan; State Street Wire)


Gas station generator legislation is wrong-headed, Senate leaders say

MONROE- Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) of West Deptford and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean (R-21) of Westfield may not always be in lockstep, but both agree that legislation requiring gas stations to have generators is not a good idea.

Several legislators on both sides of the aisle including Sen. Barbara Buono, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo and the Republican lawmakers from the 10th legislative district have introduced legislation intended to get gas stations to have the devices. Snake-like lines formed outside some of the few gas stations that were open in central and North Jersey in the days after Superstorm Sandy.

(Minhaj Hassan; State Street Wire)



Sandy will affect taxpayers of undamaged homes

WEST WINDSOR – While many New Jersey residents struggle to pick up the pieces following the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy, local officials are scrambling for answers to many of the critical questions looming in the wake of the devastation.

Municipal officials gathered under one roof Wednesday to discuss what the unprecedented storm means for state and local officials. The seminar, which was hosted by the New Jersey League of Municipalities, focused largely in part on two serious concerns of local officials post-Sandy – tax assessment and municipal budgeting.

(Matthew Arco; State Street Wire)


Christie taps another prosecutor to oversee Sandy rebuilding efforts

TRENTON – New Jersey suffered approximately $36.8 billion in damage from Superstorm Sandy, according to the latest estimates by the administration.

Gov. Chris Christie also said today he named Marc Ferzan, formerly with the Attorney General and U.S. Attorney’s office, to oversee New Jersey’s rebuilding from the hurricane.

Ferzan, a Lawrenceville resident who left PricewaterhouseCoopers to take on this task, will be the governor’s go-to person in charge of the state’s rebuilding process.

(Bill Mooney; State Street Wire)


Protesters rally statewide over Christie’s fracking waste veto

Members of environmental and community groups took a bus tour and held rallies around the state today, including here, in an effort to build support from legislators to override Gov. Christie’s veto earlier this year of legislation known as the Fracking Waste Ban bill.

Rallies were held outside eight legislative offices in Bergen, Monmouth, Ocean, Passaic and Union counties, including the office of Sen. Tom Kean Jr. on North Avenue East in Westfield. Kean, who is a Republican, had voted in favor of the bill.

“I don’t think anyone in the state would say it makes sense to dump toxic fracking waste in our waterways,” said Doug O’Malley, the interim director of Environment New Jersey. “It’s really important, especially for Republicans like Senator Kean and the others that joined him, to stand up to the governor and stand up for New Jersey’s waterways.”

(Frank Mustac; Independent Press)


Christie unsure if Guadagno will join him again at lt. gov.

Gov. Chris Christie said today he’s unsure whether Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno will be his running mate once again next year.

He said he plans to sit down with her in about a week to discuss the future.

“I don’t know what she wants, so we’ll talk,” Christie said. “But I’ll say this, I’ve been very happy with what she has done with the job.”

Christie announced Monday that he’s seeking reelection. He also said today that he’s undecided on whether he’ll accept public financing.

(Jarret Renshaw; The Star-Ledger)



10 more businesses accused of post-Sandy price gouging

Seven hotels are among 10 businesses that altogether committed more than 1,000 instances of price-gouging in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, according to Christie administration officials, who today announced a second round of lawsuits against companies that raised prices in excess of that allowed during a state of emergency.

In one instance, a Phillipsburg hotel, America’s Best Value Inn on Route 22, is accused of raising prices more than 200 percent, far more than the 10 percent price hikes allowed by the state’s price-gouging law

(Richard Khavkine; The Star-Ledger)


Sweeney to run for governor if Booker declines, sources say

Senate President Stephen Sweeney has told Democrats he will run for governor if Newark Mayor Cory Booker doesn’t jump into the race, The Star-Ledger has learned.

Three sources, all Democrats, said Sweeney recently told them directly of his plans. They asked to remain anonymous in recounting their private conversations with the senate president.

(Jarrett Renshaw and Matt Friedman; The Star-Ledger)


Senate to vote on minimum wage bill today

In its first and only meeting this month, the state Senate this afternoon is scheduled to vote on raising the state’s minimum wage.

The upper house will consider two pieces of legislation on the raise.

One is a bill (S3) that would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 and tie future automatic increases to inflation. The Assembly passed it six months ago, though they’ll have to take the legislation up again when they meet Monday because it has changed slightly since then.

(Matt Friedman; The Star-Ledger)

Gov., legislative leaders have had no talks on minimum wage

TRENTON – So much for a minimum-wage compromise bill from Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic lawmakers. The two sides can’t even agree on whether they’ve talked about a deal.

Christie on Wednesday said ranking Democrats have never spoken to him on upping the basic hourly rate from the current $7.25 per hour.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney said he was surprised to hear that.

“That’s absolutely not true. He and I have had discussions on the minimum wage and he’s been very honest with me. He does not support the cost of living increase. He told me he could never support a bill with a CPI (consumer price index increases) in it. I can’t be mad at him for stating his position and being honest with me,” Sweeney said.

(Bob Jordan; Asbury Park Press)

Solar traffic lights sought to avoid chaos following storms

A Monmouth County lawmaker wants FEMA to replace storm-damaged traffic lights with solar-powered signals to avoid the chaos that resulted after superstorm Sandy left major intersections without traffic control due to power outages.



Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, R-Monmouth, backed by seven Monmouth County mayors, asked FEMA to finance solar-powered traffic lights in preparation for the next storm that could leave the area without power.

(Larry Higgs; Asbury Park Press)


Sweeney blasts lack of action on wind energy

Lawmakers and an environmental group today said New Jersey stands to make significant environmental and economic gains from the development of offshore wind, but only if state and federal officials act soon.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Cranbury) today joined the group Environment New Jersey as it unveiled a new report tallying the impacts of wind energy.

(Jared Kaltweiser; NJBiz)


Age-restricted housing can open doors to younger storm victims

Younger New Jerseyans displaced by superstorm Sandy have a new option as they look for temporary housing — vacant units in developments usually reserved for senior citizens or early retirees.

The state Department of Community Affairs announced this week that it would accept newly issued federal guidelines for allowing so-called age-restricted housing developments to offer vacant apartments, condos or town houses to storm evacuees of all ages.

Under the Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995, designated age-restricted communities must have at least 80 percent of its residents be over the age of 55 to be exempted from the federal prohibition against discriminating against families with young children.

(Colleen Diskin; The Record)


DRPA proposal: Cut watchdog’s clout, but give him raise

Several board members of the Delaware River Port Authority are pushing to reduce the powers of the agency’s internal watchdog even as they aim to increase his pay.

The proposed changes would, among other things, prevent DRPA Inspector General Thomas Raftery 3d from immediately reporting suspected crimes to federal, state, or local law-enforcement officials. He would be required instead to report the allegations to top DRPA officials.

The rethinking of the power of the inspector general, a position created this year, has prompted fireworks among board members, with a scathing memo from one and the abrupt cancellation of a meeting scheduled to consider the matter.

(Paul Nussbaum;

Fiscal cliff is about more than just taxes

If you’re just tuning in to the “fiscal cliff” debate, you’re excused for thinking that all that’s up for discussion is whether to extend the Bush tax cuts for all Americans or just those making less than $250,000 a year. But there’s another major part of the “cliff” that, while a big part of the debate during the presidential campaign, hasn’t been talked about much since: the sequester.

As a refresher, the sequester is a series of across-the-board automatic spending cuts totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years set to go into effect on January 2. It was created by Congress last year as a result of negotiations to lift the debt ceiling. It’s a law no one likes – but that was the point. Its purpose was to provide incentive for Congress to agree to deficit reduction measures, something they failed to do. Therefore the spending cuts will shave a little off many government programs, even the popular ones.

(Leigh Ann Caldwell; CBS News) Morning News Digest: Nov. 29, 2012