Morning News Digest: April 3, 2013

2013 Battleground: An introductory overview of competitive legislative contests, Pt. 2

LD 14, 17, 18 and 20 (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

AG appeals order allowing Birdsall to use $1.6M to pay workers


TRENTON – The state is fighting Monday’s ruling allowing embattled engineering firm Birdsall to pay its workers.

The state Office of the Attorney General said it filed an appeal in the U.S. District Court regarding the interim order issued by Judge Michael Kaplan Monday regarding the $1.6 million to be used to meet two weeks’ worth of payroll. (Hassan/PolitickerNJ)

Birdsall was heavy donor to web of Middlesex PACs

Birdsall Services Group, the firm at the center of a sweeping pay to play investigation, has been circumventing laws banning campaign donations from contractors for years, according to indictments of nearly a dozen former executives of the firm.

And while the investigation centers on reimbursements the company made in the form of bonuses to employees who donated money to local and state elected officials, the firm also was deeply enmeshed in another systematic circumventing of pay to play laws. (Isherwood/PolitickerNJ)

Singer: ‘No problem’ returning Birdsall donation

TRENTON – Birdsall Services Group has been charged with violating the state’s pay-to-play laws. Over the years, the large engineering firm has served as an equal-opportunity campaign funds contributor.

Campaign finance records show several lawmakers and campaign committees – Republican and Democrat – receiving thousands of dollars in the nearly three decades for which records are available. (Hassan/PolitickerNJ)

2013 Battleground: An introductory overview of competitive legislative contests, Pt. 1


LD 1, 2, 3, and 7. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)


Newark’s problems weigh on Cory Booker’s potential Senate bid


NEWARK — Cory Booker has become one of the most famous mayors in the nation with the help of a careful political campaign that cast him as a unique talent willing to forgo better opportunities to save this crime-ridden and poverty-plagued city.

His story has been enhanced by tales of derring-do: chasing down criminals on foot, extracting a neighbor from a burning building and rescuing shivering dogs stranded in the snow. The “cult of Cory” has produced a windfall of investment in a city that has been dubbed the carjacking capital of the United States, and a bonanza of publicity for the 43-year-old mayor. (Henderson/Washington Post)

Donor says he sought Menendez on Medicare without breaking law

NEWARK  — Salomon Melgen, the Florida political donor at the center of a criminal probe, said he and Sen. Robert Menendez are “like brothers” who spoke weekly, but his companies never benefited and he broke no laws.

“I don’t have any business interests at all that have been helped by any politicians,” Melgen, an ophthalmologist, said at his office in Port St. Lucie on Florida’s east coast. (Voreacos/Bloomberg)

Christie plans on using Passaic River settlement to balance budget

How confident is Gov. Chris Christie that he will settle a stubborn, years-old lawsuit involving the contamination of the Passaic River?

If you look at his budget proposal, he considers it a slam dunk.

Christie is banking on $52 million in revenue from a possible settlement with towns and companies that line the Passaic River to help balance his upcoming budget. The settlement — which still faces many legal and political hurdles — would help clear the way for the state to pursue a much larger award against the major companies state officials believe are ultimately responsible. (Renshaw/Star-Ledger)

N.J. Assembly candidate would be state’s first openly gay Republican lawmaker

Steve Cook doesn’t want to make it the centerpiece of his campaign. There are, he says, weightier issues to take up in Trenton.

But since Cook — a Republican Assembly candidate in Central Jersey’s 14th District — plans to campaign on government transparency, he figured he’d start with his personal life. (Friedman/Star-Ledger)

Christie challenger Barbara Buono to focus on social issues

New Jersey state Sen. Barbara Buono, a Democrat, made clear that she would focus on social issues ahead of November’s election in an attempt to unseat the popular governor incumbent, Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

“He is not a social moderate, and we will hold him accountable,” she said. “All you need to do is look at his record on marriage equality, he’s anti-choice, and he has refused tens of millions of federal dollars to support Planned Parenthood resulting in a number of them closing across the state.” (Alexander/MSNBC)

Christie Says Rutgers Needs to Show Why Coach Rice Wasn’t Fired

Rutgers University Athletic Director Tim Pernetti must explain why he didn’t fire Mike Rice after being shown video of the men’s basketball coach lashing out at players physically and verbally during team practices, a spokesman for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said.

Rice was shown in a video on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” program today grabbing and kicking players, throwing balls at their heads and shouting expletive-laden gay slurs during practices between 2010 and 2012,. (Eichelberger/Bloomberg)

Deep Concern Over Camden Schools Evident at Public Forum

The sense of unease among Camden residents and teachers over the recent announcement of a state takeover of the local school system was almost palpable yesterday, at a public forum hosted by NJ Spotlight. Many voiced suspicion and dismay that their city faces a future with more charters than public schools, leaving only those with the greatest needs or fewest options in neighborhood schools.

Nevertheless, almost all of the nearly 200 attendees agreed that the city’s public schools are in a bad way, with money wasted on technology that is never implemented, and what they termed a recent no-show superintendent and a general lack of leadership in the district.  (Nurin/NJSpotlight)

Hospital’s Plight Spurs Advocates of Greater Fiscal Oversight

Advocates of requiring more financial transparency by for-profit hospitals say tax liens placed on Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center by the Internal Revenue Service are proving their point.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) said the state must learn more about the financial health of hospitals like Meadowlands, whose owner — MHA LLC — faces $4.46 million in federal tax liens after failing to pay unemployment and payroll taxes to the IRS. (Kitchenman/NJSpotlight)


Efficient, Clean, Reliable — But Can CHP Be Built Without Subsidies?

The state wants to expand the role more efficient and less-polluting power plants play in both ensuring the reliability of electric service and hardening the power grid in the likelihood of more extreme weather, such as Hurricane Sandy.

The emerging policy from the Office of Clean Energy, however, still has many unanswered questions — particularly when comes to providing the financial incentives to attain that goal. (Johnson/NJSpotlight)

Sandy victims get another extension to register for federal aid

Once again, New Jersey residents and business owners have been given an extension to register for disaster assistance for damages incurred during Hurricane Sandy.

Those affected by the storm had been facing a March 1 deadline, but it has now been extended twice as the Small Business Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency work to get more people to apply for aid. The new deadline to register is May 1. (Bourbeau/NJBIZ)

Christie vetoes bill allowing employer deductions of intern wages 

Gov. Chris Christie this week conditionally vetoed legislation that would have allowed businesses to deduct the wages of interns against their tax liabilities, saying the bill’s costs outweigh its unproven benefits. 

Christie recommended further study before reconsidering the bill, which is touted as a way of improving skills and job prospects for young workers and has not been a hotly contested issue among business advocates. (Zanki/NJBIZ)

From the Back Room

Fulop competes for Jersey City Democratic Org seats

Mayoral challenger Councilman Steve Fulop is also contesting 252 committee seats in the Jersey City Democratic Organization (JCDO).

“Our volunteers have been in just about every corner of Jersey City gathering signatures to get our committee candidates on the ballot,” John Thieroff, the campaign manager for Team Fulop, said. “In every neighborhood, we’ve been welcomed by residents who are tired of politics as usual and want a Democratic Party in Jersey City that is about public service – not self service.” (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)



Is gay marriage ripe for a straight scam?: Editorial

Gay marriage has the potential to be a scam for straight people to get benefits they don’t deserve. (Star-Ledger) Morning News Digest: April 3, 2013