Weekly Roundup: Week of July 15

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie spent the better part of the week taking on the issues that brought out his leadership style—providing recovery assistance to towns hard hit by Sandy.

On Tuesday, he was in hard-hit South River, where it was announced that 70-plus homes will be bought out with the help of FEMA money. Christie made clear the program is voluntary, but urged members in neighborhoods to make it a goal for all to agree in order to enable entire neighborhoods to be converted to floodplains and passive recreation.

Later in the week, he was in Toms River, where additional federal assistance will be provided to the state’s fourth largest municipality in terms of aid to critical services such as police. Without the aid layoffs and tax hikes would have been in store.  

The governor also took the opportunity this week to blast the Legislature for dragging its feet on reforming the system that allows public workers to be compensated for unused sick days, and for not passing the Economic Opportunity Act.

Free lunch, anybody

The state Comptroller’s Office released a report detailing rampant abuse by public workers of the national free lunch program. Its investigation revealed that 109 public workers and/or family members fraudulently reported their income in order to qualify for free lunch for their kids.

Comptroller Matthew Boxer recommended that the program be reformed so information submitted that shows some of the lowest reported incomes can be checked. Presently, school districts can only verify applications that are closest to the income limit.

Grades issued

The N.J. Environmental Federation released its 2010-2013 score card and Democrats were once again hailed as the environmental “heroes.’’ Democrats Assemblyman John McKeon received the highest score of 102; Sen. Bob Smith was at 101; and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora was at 101.

Predictably, Republicans didn’t perform as well, but one GOP senator, Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman, whose Somerset-Hunterdon counties district is big on open space, did receive a decent score of 82.

Open space

A proposal to use sales tax money, about $200 million a year, to fund historic preservation, open space preservation and other related causes advanced in a Senate committee, with Sen. Bob Smith calling on advocates to get in touch with lawmakers and leadership to call the Assembly and Senate back from summer recess.

The proposal has to advance through the Legislature basically by Aug. 1 in order to get on the ballot this November.

Weekly Roundup: Week of July 15