Morning News Digest: June 26, 2013
By Matthew Arco
North Bergen had been paying “no-work” attorney for years, audit finds
North Bergen had been employing an attorney in a “no-work” job for years and pays its municipal counsel more than double what some of the state’s largest cities pay their attorneys, according to report released today by the state comptroller’s office.
The findings were part of an audit conducted of five local governments and school districts to determine whether oversight of legal fees exists at the local level. (Isherwood/PolitickerNJ)
Booker goes up on TV
Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s U.S. Senate campaign will launch its first television commercial tomorrow. In the spot, which will run statewide on cable outlets and is titled “Run,” Booker talks about why he’s running.
“I’ve spent my career not running from challenges, but toward them,” Booker says in the ad. “I’ve proven that by bringing people together, even with big problems, we can make big progress and improve people’s lives.” (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)
Elections lawyer critical of Supreme Court ruling on voting rights
TRENTON – A New Jersey lawyer well versed in elections law criticized the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday after it ruled that a key provision of the Voting Rights Act cannot be implemented because it’s reliant on data so old it doesn’t reflect the advancement of race relations that has taken place in the past few decades.
However, the highest court also said that Congress has the obligation to devise an updated formula to determine which voting districts require federal monitoring, a provision known as advance approval requirement. (Hassan/PolitickerNJ)
Christie shrugs off open letter from Buono’s daughter
MOUNT LAUREL – Gov. Chris Christie had little to say Tuesday about an open letter his opponent’s daughter recently penned, but he made it clear he never expected to get her vote anyway.
The governor responded to a fundraising e-mail written earlier this week by Tessa Bitterman, the 23-year-old daughter of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. Barbara Buono. Bitterman told supporters she is gay and criticized the Republican governor for having been “a giant roadblock to New Jersey achieving equality for all.” (Arco/PolitickerNJ)
Holt trumpets agreement with Obama on climate change
Rep. Rush Holt (D-12), a candidate for the U.S. Senate, attended President Barack Obama’s global climate change speech at Georgetown University today and immediately threw his support behind the President.
“I commend President Obama for his leadership today in outlining a comprehensive plan to reduce carbon pollution and mitigate the threats of global climate change,” said Holt. “The crisis is not waning. President Obama should do all he can administratively while Congress fiddles. We have to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.” (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)
Christie: No line-item veto, budget will be signed within days
MOUNT LAUREL – Gov. Chris Christie says he’s “not going to double cross” legislative leaders by brandishing his line-item veto pen this year, rather the governor intends to sign the budget as is within the next few days.
Christie told reporters the nearly $33 billion budget plan lawmakers sent to the governor’s desk Monday is “a good budget for the state,” saying the proposal accounts for about everything the governor wanted in a package when he gave his budget address earlier this year. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)
In wake of Comptroller report, Christie targets Sacco
MOUNT LAUREL – A state Comptroller audit released Tuesday that alleges improper spending in North Bergen spurred Gov. Chris Christie to lash out against a familiar target.
The governor blasted North Bergen’s mayor, state Sen. Nicholas Sacco, (D-32), following the release of an audit that found the township employed an attorney in a “no-work” job for years and paid its municipal counsel more than double what some of the state’s largest cities pay their attorneys. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)
Spicuzzo pleads guilty to bribes for jobs scheme
Former Middlesex County Sherriff Joe Spicuzzo pleaded guilty today to accepting bribes for jobs.
Spicuzzo, 67, of Helmetta, pleaded guilty to a second-degree charge of bribery after he collected about $112,000 from employees and prospective employees looking for jobs and promotions. (Isherwood/PolitickerNJ)
Renters: Hurricane Sandy’s Invisible Victims
Steven Zitz moved to Sayreville when he was in high school and had lived in the Sayreville-South River area for the past 20 years. He had his own business as a house painter and had been working regularly despite the stagnant economy.
Superstorm Sandy changed all that. (Kalet/NJSpotlight)
Can President’s New Climate Change Policy Help NJ Breathe Easier?
President Barack Obama’s new initiative to combat climate change could help New Jersey achieve its aggressive goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, even as some of the state’s programs to deal with the problem have been curtailed in recent years, according to environmentalists.
In a major policy announcement yesterday, the president outlined steps to require reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, to curb greenhouse gas emissions from heavy trucks, and to develop more energy efficiency standards for appliances and buildings. (Johnson/NJSpotlight)
Christie says he will campaign on tax cut plan
Governor Christie said he expects to sign the $33 billion state budget approved by the Legislature in the coming days even though it doesn’t set aside funding for his tax-credit or school-voucher programs.
“I feel confident that it’s a good budget, a good budget for the people of the state, but that means you’re not going to get everything you want if you negotiate a budget,” he said. (Hayes/The Record)
Citing Birdsall case, Christie calls for campaign-finance overhaul
Governor Christie said Tuesday that an engineering firm’s admission this month that it illegally concealed hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions is a sign that the state needs to overhaul its campaign finance laws.
Christie said he has tried to talk to Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, about updating the state’s campaign finance laws, including a requirement that only contributions over $300 be reported. (Hayes/The Record)
Report: Feds planning to sue Corzine
Federal regulators are preparing to sue former New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine over the collapse of a brokerage firm he headed after leaving office and its misuse of customer funds, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
The newspaper said the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is expected to approve the lawsuit this week. (Inquirer)
N.J. lawmakers will delay vote on bill creating a hospital tax
State lawmakers temporarily pulled the plug today on controversial legislation that would allow a handful of cities and counties to tax their local hospitals, according to the president of an urban hospital group lobbying for the bill’s passage.
But Suzanne Ianni of the Hospital Alliance of New Jersey, the urban hospital group, said she remained “hopeful” the bill would be revived by the end of the year. (Livio/Star-Ledger)
Riven by strife, New Jersey Democrats plan ‘unity breakfast’
After months of internal strife, the New Jersey Democratic State Committee plans a “unity breakfast” Saturday.
An invitation to the breakfast, which will take place Saturday at 8:30am at The Heldrich in New Brunswick, was emailed to Democrats this afternoon. (Friedman/Star-Ledger)
Christie says voucher program was a sticking point in N.J. budget
Gov. Chris Christie said today that his $2 million vouchers pilot program was a major sticking point in the state’s budget plan, which he plans to sign this week with no changes.
“It was either agree to let it go, or close government,” Christie said during a news conference. “(Democrats) absolutely would refuse to even consider it.” (Portnoy/Star-Ledger)
From the Back Room
Unity in the community
The State Democratic Committee will host a “unity breakfast” Saturday, featuring gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono and several party leaders.
Among the featured attendees is South Jersey power broker George Norcross III. (Isherwood/PolitickerNJ)
Democrats do Buono no favors with budget proposal
It took the Democrats four years to learn that fighting over the budget with the executive branch — especially this administration under Gov. Chris Christie — doesn’t often work out the way you want it.
Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, admitted as much before the vote on the $33 billion spending plan, scheduled to take effect on July 1. (Schoonejongen/APP)