Morning Digest: Nov. 13, 2013

 Update LD2 Assembly Race: Amodeo leading by 77

 Following provisional ballot counting in Atlantic City and Northfield into early Wednesday morning, Assemblyman John Amodeo (R-2) lstill eads Democratic challenger Vincent Mazzeo by 77 votes.

The rest of the district remains to be counted, or roughly half the provisionals, which should occur today.

On the machine totals last Tuesday night, Mazzeo trailed Amodeo by fewer than 400 votes. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)





Fulop: Jersey City will sue Port Authority for $400M in taxes, economic harm

It’s pile-on time at the beleaguered Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Days after two senators pledged to seek subpoena power to investigate a controversial bridge lane closing earlier this year, the mayor of Jersey City has announced a lawsuit seeking $400 million will be brought against the Authority for missed tax payments and other alleged harms.

First-term Mayor Steven Fulop,  who some Democrats consider a rising star politically and possible gubernatorial candidate next time around, said Tuesday that the city will file suit against the bi-state agency for the harm he said his city has suffered.

“This legal action is the result of economic damages caused by the Port Authority’s unfair and outdated tax agreements with the City that has resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of tax dollars over several decades,” Fulop said in a release announcing the pending suit.

“The Port Authority has repeatedly failed to fulfill their legal obligations, which has caused a severe negative impact on the Jersey City taxpayers.” (Mooney/PolitickerNJ)





N.J. mayors push for in-state tuition for illegal immigrants

Mayors of 10 New Jersey cities have signed a letter supporting legislation that would allow some students in the United States illegally to be eligible for in-state tuition and scholarship aid at public colleges and universities.

The letter is addressed to state lawmakers and was made public on Tuesday by a group pushing for passage of the proposed law.

The state Senate’s Budget Committee is scheduled to discuss a bill Thursday that would provide for so-called tuition equality and state aid for the students, many of whom were brought here by their parents as children and have graduated from New Jersey high schools.

Now, they pay out-of-state tuition, which is generally double what New Jersey residents pay. Because they are not legal residents, they also are not eligible for state or federal financial aid or loans. (Alex/The Record) 





Christie thanks his cabinet staff got helping him win second term

Governor Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno began their first post-election cabinet meeting by thanking the staff who they credit with winning them a second term.

Governor Christie meeting with Cabinet members and senior staff Tuesday.

Cabinet meetings are closed to the press, but photographers and members of the media were allowed to capture images of the meeting and hear a portion of Christie’s opening remarks Tuesday afternoon in the State House.

Christie defeated Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono in a landslide, 60.5 percent to 38 percent. He also won 51 percent of the Latino vote statewide and a majority of female voters.

“Kim and I both know that we’re only as good as the people around us and you should know how much we appreciate all that you’ve done for us but also for the people of the state,” Christie said. (Hayes/The Record) 





States Moving Beyond U.S. Minimum Wage as Congress Stalls

President Barack Obama is pushing to raise the U.S. minimum wage higher than $7.25 an hour — the rate it’s been for four years.

Half of the U.S. population won’t have to wait: They live in places where the bottom rate is already higher than that.

Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C., have raised the lowest legal hourly wage above the rate set by Congress, with New Jersey voters joining the list last week and campaigns under way to do the same in at least five other states. (Selway and Efstathiou/Bloomberg) 




Obama’s Approval Rating Drops to Lowest Point Ever

President Barack Obama’s approval rating is down to its “lowest point ever,” according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday.

Just 39 percent of American voters approve of Obama’s job performance, down from 45 percent at the beginning of October. Fifty-four percent now disapprove.

For the first time, a majority thinks Obama is not “honest and trustworthy” — just 44 percent say he is, while 52 percent say he is not. Voters are about evenly split as to whether he has strong leadership qualities, and as to whether he “cares about the needs and problems of people like you.”

Trust in the federal government as a whole is also tied for a record low, with just 15 percent saying they trust politicians in Washington to do what is right most of the time or almost all of the time. (Edwards-Levy/Huffington Post)






Sarah Palin Comments On Christie’s ‘Extreme’ Physical Appearance, ‘Liberal’ Pope Francis

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s physical appearance is an issue only because it’s “extreme.”

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Palin discussed her experience with sexism, saying former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has experienced the same. Palin said Clinton “was mistreated when it came to appearances,” dealing with “petty, superficial things that men don’t ever seem to hear much about, but a woman candidate will.”

When Tapper pointed out that Christie’s appearance is regularly scrutinized, Palin argued he’s a special case.

“[I]t’s been extreme, so it’s hard for some people not to comment on it,” Palin said.

Palin also discussed Pope Francis in her interview with Tapper, voicing concern over his more “liberal” statements. (Lavender/Huffington Post) 




Will Federal Healthcare Reform Help Put New Jersey Drugmakers ‘In the Money’?

More insured people buying more medicine: the math is deceptively simple, but drug companies say the numbers don’t necessarily add up

Discussions about the Affordable Care Act dominate the airwaves, as pundits and politicians weigh in on the continuing saga of the federal health insurance marketplace. But lost in all this chatter is the fact that Obamacare may have a profound — though rarely discussed — effect on New Jersey’s economy by increasing the amount of prescription medication that’s likely to be consumed.

The law is expected to expand the number of insured Americans by an estimated 32 million people and, consequently, play a key role in boosting pharmaceutical industry revenue by 33 percent by the end of the decade — to $476 billion by 2020, up from $359 billion last year, according to GlobalData, a market research firm.

In other words, more people with health insurance can be expected to purchase more medicines, which presumably should ring registers for the pharmaceutical industry for the foreseeable future. Yet drugmakers say they are uncertain about the extent to which they will benefit from the larger pool of insured patients, or when that benefit will be realized. (Silverman/NJSpotlight) 





Democrat Proposes $5 Million Fund to Foster Innovation in NJ Schools

State Senate bill revives Christie administration proposal rejected by Legislature this summer

Once rejected by the Legislature, the Christie administration’s attempt to set up a competitive grant program for school innovation is getting a second life in the lame-duck session – this time with the help of a prominent Democrat.

State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) has filed a bill to be heard on Thursday that would create an Innovation Fund and appropriate $5 million in its first year to help schools trying new programs in scheduling, technology and other areas.

The proposal is a mirror image of the fund that Gov. Chris Christie included in his fiscal 2014 state budget, but which was cut out of the final spending plan by the Democrat-controlled Legislature. (Mooney/NJSpotlight) 





Hawaii Senate approves same-sex marriage measure

HONOLULU — The state Senate passed a bill Tuesday legalizing gay marriage, putting Hawaii a signature away from becoming a same-sex wedding destination.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who called lawmakers to a special session for the bill and has vocally supported gay marriage, has said he would sign the measure. It will allow thousands of gay couples living in Hawaii and even more tourists to marry in the state starting Dec. 2.

Senators passed the bill 19-4 with two lawmakers excused. Cheers erupted inside and outside the gallery when the vote was taken, with a smattering of boos. Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, who voted against the bill, banged her gavel and told members of the public to quiet down.

“This is nothing more than the expansion of aloha in Hawaii,” said Sen. J. Kalani English, a Democrat from Maui.(Associated Press) 





Senate votes to advance measure to regulate compounding industry

WASHINGTON — It’s been a busy first week for New Jersey’s newest WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Tuesday to advance a bill designed to tighten government oversight of pharmacies that custom-mix prescription drugs, in the wake of last year’s deadly meningitis outbreak tied to contaminated pain injections.

The bill cleared a parliamentary hurdle on a 97-1 vote, indicating its overwhelming support in the Senate. The legislation, passed by the House in September, also creates a national system for tracking prescription drugs from manufacturers to retail pharmacies. Final passage sending it to President Barack Obama for his signature could come as early as today.

The lone vote against the measure came from Sen. David Vitter. The Louisiana Republican is championing a measure to make lawmakers disclose which of their aides are enrolling in the president’s new health care program as part of an ongoing effort to discredit “Obamacare.”

The compounding pharmacy bill is intended to prevent a repeat of last year’s fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people and sickened more than 750 others across the U.S. The sickness was traced to a now-closed pharmacy in Massachusetts, the New England Compounding Center, where inspectors found mold, standing water and other unsterile conditions. (Perrone/Associated Press) 





Texting at a stoplight? N.J. bill would ban it

TRENTON — Hey, you at the stoplight. Yeah you, reading this article on your cell phone. Put down the phone.

State Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex) is looking to expand the state’s law against talking and text messaging while driving to include drivers who are temporarily stopped in traffic jams, at red lights or stop signs.

Codey proposed the legislation (S3057) last week. It would also require the written driver’s license test to include questions on distracted driving.

“Under the current driving law, if you’re at a red light and you’re drunk, you’re DUI,” Codey said.

The real aim, Codey said, is to put New Jersey in line with federal standards for the Distracted Driving Grant Program, so the state can get federal money to combat distracted driving. Because the state’s current law does not include them, it would not currently be eligible for the grant. (Friedman/Star-Ledger) 




Princeton University 4th largest producer of U.S. Presidents, vice presidents

Two U.S. presidents and three vice presidents have graduated from Princeton University, making it the fourth largest producer of commander-in-chiefs and veeps.

James Madison and Woodrow Wilson are the two presidents to graduate from Princeton University. John F. Kennedy also attended Princeton for a brief period before he withdrew due to illness. Kennedy later graduated from Harvard, ranked first on the list, in the class of 1940.

The three vice presidents to graduate from Princeton are George M. Dallas (serving under James K. Polk), John C. Breckinridge (serving under James Buchanan) and Aaron Burr (serving under Thomas Jefferson).

Princeton ranks higher than West Point, but is below Yale University, College of William and Mary and Harvard University. (Napoliello/ 





Most Federal Storm Aid Still Undistributed in New Jersey

As the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy approached, the Christie administration had distributed only about a quarter of the $1.2 billion that the federal government had awarded to help New Jersey homeowners and renters recover from the storm.

The numbers were included in documents released in October to housing advocacy groups that have sued the administration in an effort to understand how the state awarded the recovery grants, and why so many residents have complained that they were promised disaster relief money but still have not seen it.

They add to other complaints about heavy bureaucracy and a lack of transparency in Gov. Chris Christie’s efforts to help the state recover from the storm, which he frequently describes as his “mission.”

A spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Community Affairs responded that the amount of money that had been distributed was slightly higher than the figures in the documents, and she attributed delays to the federalDepartment of Housing and Urban Development.

But Staci Berger, executive director of the Community Development Network of New Jersey, said the slowness seemed excessive, given that the federal department had signed off on the state’s plan on how to spend the money more than six months ago, and released the $1.6 billion to the state in May. (Zernike/New York Times) 




 From the Back Room



The Return of Chaneyfield Jenkins 

Former Newark Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins had a fundraiser tonight toward her bid for a Central Ward council seat.

One-hundred and twenty-five people showed up, among them former Newark Mayor Sharpe James and state Sen. Dick Codey (D-27). (PolitickerNJ)  





Rice keynote speaker at National Black Caucus event

Sen. Ronald L. Rice, chairman of the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus, will be the keynote speaker at the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials luncheon and awards ceremony Thursday at the Congress of Cities in Seattle.

“I am honored to have been invited to be the keynote speaker at the NBC-LEO Luncheon in Seattle,”   Rice, (D-28), Newark. “As a former board member of NBC-LEO and chairman of the National League of Cities’ subcommittee on energy during my tenure as a Newark City Council member, this is like a homecoming to me.”

The event will be hosted by NBC-LEO President and East Orange Councilwoman Jacquelyn E. Johnson. (PolitickerNJ)










Kean cools on Chris Christie

Former Gov. Thomas H. Kean has taken great pride in watching Chris Christie, his onetime 14-year-old campaign volunteer, rise to become what Republicans like Kean are now calling the party’s best hope of reclaiming the White House.

But this week, the typical Kean praise for his protégé was gone. In its place was a sharp critique of Christie, tinged with bitterness.

As Christie basked in a crescendo of praise from establishment Republicans prodding him to run for president in 2016, Kean, one of the nation’s most respected GOP moderates, co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission and venerated elder statesman of New Jersey politics, was no longer cheering.

Kean now says only that Christie would “presumably be an able candidate.” (Stile/The Record) Morning Digest: Nov. 13, 2013