Morning News Digest: Nov. 30, 2012

Senate clears bill to hike minimum wage

TRENTON – Senate lawmakers largely cleared the way for the state to raise its minimum wage Thursday and set the stage for Gov. Chris Christie to decide whether to sign the proposal into law or possibly be prepared to let voters to decide the issue during the next election.

Senate lawmakers voted 23-16 to release a bill that would increase the state’s minimum wage after a lengthy debate where Republican lawmakers argued that now is not the right time to have an increase. They cited the devastation of Superstorm Sandy and argued the state should spare businesses extra expenses.

(Matthew Arco;

Essex County Democratic organization not ripped

NEWARK – As Newark Mayor Cory Booker resurfaces in polls on the losing end of a matchup with incumbent Gov. Chris Christie, local Democrats here in Essex County don’t appear in unified gear-up mode for gubernatorial gladiatorial games.

“He hasn’t said anything to me about it,” said Phil Thigpen, chairman of the Essex County Democratic Committee, referring to a potential Booker run for governor. “I hear he’s talking to chairmen but he hasn’t talked to the chairman of Essex County. I’m not sure what’s going on. This could be a dress rehearsal for 2016, for all I know. I have to be an interested observer like everyone else. We’ll just wait and see.”

(Max Pizarro;

From State Street Wire

TRENTON – The Senate passed a bill championed by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) of West Deptford, that provides towns incentives to share services to pare costs and ultimately save money for taxpayers, or risk losing funds.

The bill, S2, would encourage municipalities to share services, according to recommendations from the state Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission (LUARCC), which is part of the Department of Community Affairs. If not agreed to, the town refusing to share services with another town would be penalized by having their state aid withheld, the bill states

(Minhaj Hassan; State Street Wire)

Several bills passed by Senate

TRENTON – The Senate passed bills dealing with dissolution of libraries, fire equipment purchases, mobile gaming regulations, and much more.

S82: Passed 39-0. This bill revises the imposition of motor vehicle penalty points for operating a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner.

The bill mandates that after a third conviction for unsafe operation of a vehicle, penalty points are to be assessed only if the subsequent offense occurs within five years of the third offense or, in the case of an offender with more than three previous convictions, within five years of the immediately preceding conviction.

(State Street Wire staff)


DeAngelo calls for creating storm commission

TRENTON – An Assembly lawmaker says he intends to introduce legislation that would establish a commission charged with finding ways to strengthen energy delivery systems to customers.

Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo, (D-14), Hamilton, announced Thursday his plans to introduce a bill next week that would establish a 20-member commission made up state and local representatives, as well as private citizens.

(State Street Wire staff)


From the Back Room

A new telephone poll in the field pits state Sen. Barbara Buono against Newark Mayor Cory Booker in a head to head gubernatorial match-up.

A source who received the call said the poll asked several questions about issues affecting the state and asked respondents to rate potential gubernatorial candidates. The poll then matches Buono and Booker with no addiitonal information on either. According to the source, respondents were then given a short bio of Buono before being asked to choose between Booker and Buono again.


Buono has all but declared her intent to run in the Democratic primary, but the conventional wisdom on the race says Booker clears the field should he decide to run. But the poll indicates that Buono may not back down even if Booker does jump into the race.

(Darryl Isherwood;


Port Authority tolls to go up again Saturday

Just when the fiscal pain of last year’s toll hike at Port Authority bridges and tunnels might have been wearing off, the second phase of the increase will bite a bit deeper into your wallet starting Saturday.

Part two of the toll hike package approved in August 2011 takes effect Dec. 1, again raising tolls at the bistate agency’s bridges and tunnels across the Hudson River and at three Staten Island crossings.

Cash tolls for cars and passenger vehicles will rise from $12 to $13. E-ZPass rates for those vehicles will go from $9.50 to $10.25 during peak commuting hours and from $7.50 to $8.25 during off-peak hours.

(Larry Higgs; Asbury Park Press)|topnews|text|

Politics may cloud rebuilding

WASHINGTON – The long rebuilding after Sandy may have a new complication: Congress’ gnarled politics.

Lawmakers from New Jersey and elsewhere are seeking support for a massive aid package to help the East Coast recover from the storm just as Washington focuses on cutting the national deficit.

One after another Thursday, legislators from hard-hit states urged that disaster aid that may reach $100 billion be considered apart from charged talks about the fiscal cliff.

“I hope it doesn’t get caught up” in that debate, said Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, a North Jersey lawmaker on the House Ways and Means Committee. “That would be very dangerous.”

(Jonathan Tamari; Philadelphia Inquirer)


Sandy debate looms large in Washington

Even as members of Congress waited for the details behind Governor Christie’s $37 billion damage estimate from superstorm Sandy, discussions intensified on Capitol Hill about whether Washington will do more than just help New Jersey and other battered states return to the status quo.

“We need … to make sure that we’re stronger for the next storm, so we make sure we don’t have this type of devastation again,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. said at a Senate hearing where lawmakers from Maryland to Rhode Island shared stories of Sandy’s rampage.

(Herb Jackson and Melissa Hayes; the Record)



Assembly lawmakers get firsthand look at Sandy devastation


SEASIDE HEIGHTS — New Jersey lawmakers got a firsthand look Thursday at storm-wrecked coastal towns from Seaside Heights to Mantoloking that remain uninhabitable a month after Superstorm Sandy, as they heard from local officials about what it will take for the most severely damaged towns to recover.

The Assembly lawmakers asked to see the damage up close as they set to work on rebuilding and storm protection issues.

Gov. Chris Christie has requested $36.8 billion in federal storm aid for New Jersey. But mayors said they will face other, sometimes daunting costs.


(Associated Press)



Cory Booker to live on food stamps starting Tuesday


NEWARK — Mayor Cory Booker said he will live on food stamps for a week starting Tuesday.

Booker told The Associated Press on Thursday that he will honor the challenge he made to a Twitter follower earlier this month and try living on the monetary equivalent of food stamps for at least a week

(Associated Press)|newswell|text|Frontpage|s



Secret Santa helps Sandy victims with $100 bills

A wealthy Missouri man posing as “Secret Santa” stunned New Yorkers and New Jerseyans today, handing $100 bills to many residents who had lost everything to Hurricane Sandy.

The Kansas City businessman is giving away $100,000 this holiday season, and spent the day in New Jersey and New York giving away thousands. But he says money is not the issue.

(Associated Press)




State officials warn fiscal safety net is shrinking

The Christie administration warned Wall Street earlier this week that its fiscal safety net is shrinking thanks to lackluster revenue collections, unexpected increases in spending and a failure to realize savings in several areas as it anticipated, according to a filing connected with the sale of notes.

The administration also advised Wall Street that the governor’s office and treasury officials began talking about contingency plans for the current budget last month, even before Hurricane Sandy barreled through the state, the filing shows.

Gov. Chris Christie projected the state would finish the current fiscal year with $648.1 million in reserves, less than two percent of the state’s $31.7 billion budget.

(Jarrett Renshaw; the Star-Ledger)




Boehner rejects President Obama’s ‘fiscal cliff’ plan

House Speaker John Boehner flatly rejected a $4 trillion Obama administration plan to avoid going over the fiscal cliff that was presented by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Thursday in a private meeting.

Publicly, Boehner said he is “disappointed” with the offer, but he offered no details. Privately, three Republican congressional aides familiar with the president’s offer cast it as an “outrageous” proposal that surprised the speaker and has set back negotiations on how to avoid the “fiscal cliff” coming at the end of the year, when all of the Bush-era tax rates expire and the first of $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years are triggered.

The combined effect of the two — without action by Washington — threaten to push the U.S economy back into a recession.

(USA Today)


Human Services manager suspended

The state Department of Human Services has suspended and intends to fire a senior manager at Hunterdon Developmental Center in Clinton for allegedly feeding feces to a disabled person under his care more than three decades ago.

Assistant Superintendent Donald Eckel faces charges he physically and mentally abused a client, made false and intentionally misleading misstatements, and engaged in conduct unbecoming a public official, among other administrative offenses, department spokeswoman Nicole Brossoie said. Eckel was a Human Services assistant — an entry-level position — when the incident allegedly occurred in 1977 or 1978.


(Susan K. Livio; the Star-Ledger)



Newark Beth Israel CEO to remain in New Jersey


A hospital spokeswoman has confirmed Dr. John Brennan has decided not to leave his role as president and CEO of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.

It was announced earlier this month that Brennan was taking the helm at MetroHealth, in Cleveland, but spokeswoman Tracy Munford said today Brennan will remain in Newark.

The announcement of Brennan joining MetroHealth was still on the front page of that health system’s website this morning.

(Melinda Caliendo)’ll-stay-in-NJ

  Morning News Digest: Nov. 30, 2012