Morning Digest: Nov. 14, 2013

BREAKING: Amodeo finishes provisional vote tally with razor-thin lead over Mazzeo, but Dems aren’t done

Following an exhausting and contentious two-day provisional ballot count in Atlantic County, Assemblyman John Amodeo (R-2) held onto his lead over Democratic challenger Northfield Mayor Vincent Mazzeo.

But Democrats, furious with the process, aren’t giving up.

Atlantic County GOP Chairman Keith Davis said Amodeo finished the night up by ten votes. Democratic Chairman Jim Schroeder said Amodeo is up by just two – and feels good about a challenge. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)





LD2 Flashpoint: Davis on Schroeder: ‘He is on the losing end of the stick’

Atlantic County GOP Chairman Keith Davis chewed out his Democratic counterpart when learning of Democratic Chairman Jim Schroeder’s determination to take LD2 ballot counting to court for a resolution.

“My chief concern is the mayor’s race,” said Davis, who speculated that Schroeder wants to recoup the stunning loss suffered by incumbent Democratic Mayor Lorenzo Langford. “They are going to be looking at votes cast in Atlantic City and what we need now in Atlantic City is stability and predictability. The last thing we need is to have Atlantic City in doubt.

“Jim Schroeder has lost the Democrats’ most significant Democratic bastion,” Davis added. “A town that has a 12-1 Democratic advantage – because of failed Democratic Party leadership. These Democrats need to get out of the way now and let these election results stand. For him to challenge the results now before all the provisional ballots have been counted tells me that he is on the losing end of the stick.” (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)





Student Test Scores Remain Steady, Despite Changes to Core Curriculum

New Jersey students face a world of differences, not just in what they need to study but in the way they’ll be tested

Over the years, New Jersey’s annual rollout of school test scores has often come with a broader message: Students are doing better. Students are doing worse. The achievement gap is widening. The achievement gap is closing.

Yesterday, as the Christie administration announced that there was little change in the 2012-2013 test scores for New Jersey’s 2,500 schools, the message appeared to be more about the state itself as it embarks on some big changes in testing and standards. (Mooney/NJSpotlight) 





Fate of Atlantic City Wind Farm Could Rest With Feds, Not NJ

If Congress doesn’t renew lucrative tax credit, Fishermen’s Energy may not be able to finance offshore initiative

The state will take another look late this year at a pilot offshore wind farm project proposed to be built 2.8 miles off Atlantic City, but its prospects now largely hinge on action at the federal level, and not what regulators here in New Jersey decide.

The Fishermen’s Energy offshore wind initiative has been shrouded in uncertainty for months, mostly because the state Board of Public Utilities tabled a proposed settlement this past July between the developer and New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, which urged approval of the project.

In an announcement posted on its website yesterday, the BPU tentatively scheduled hearings on either December 19 or December 20. The agency is slated to hold its last monthly meeting of the year on December 18, making it improbable that the project could be approved prior to 2014. (Johnson/NJSpotlight) 





Rand Paul: Sandy cash spurred Chris Christie win

Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday knocked Gov. Chris Christie’s reelection win and said the New Jersey Republican scored his decisive victory thanks to the federal aid money the state received after Hurricane Sandy.

The Kentucky Republican told Philadelphia radio host Dom Giordano that Christie’s win came down to one major factor: disaster dollars. The discussion about Christie’s reelection kicked off when Giordano noted that Paul had called Christie a “moderate.”

“What do you base that on?” the host asked.

“Well, you know I think that his victory was in large form based on that he got a lot of federal money for his state,” Paul told CBS Radio. “The problem is, is that there were some of us who said, ‘Yeah, we do have federal funds available for disasters, but really we ought to probably spend it one year at a time and if we have to increase the budget for disasters we ought to take it from somewhere else.’”

“Unlimited spending is sort of a – you could call it moderate, or even liberal, to think that there’s unlimited amount of money, even for good causes,” he added.

Paul also once again criticized Christie for his Hurricane Sandy TV ads, saying that “it should be against the law for any politician to put their image on TV at taxpayer expense.” (Weinger/Politico)




Takeaways: Obamacare by the numbers

There was no way the early Obamacare enrollment numbers were going to look good — and they sure didn’t.

And once you get beyond the White House’s sales pitch, it only gets worse.

The Obama administration did everything possible to dress up the ugliness of the first month of Obamacare enrollment numbers — adding in people who haven’t even paid and throwing in figures that have nothing to do with actual signups.

But perception has a way of becoming reality — and what most Americans will hear is that the 106,000 people who selected health plans in the first month is a long, long way from the goal of 7 million Americans covered in the first year. If that’s all that people hear, the Obama administration will have to work extra hard to get young and healthy people to sign up — if they haven’t all been chased away by now. (Nather/Politico)





Mount Holly settles high-profile housing bias lawsuit

MOUNT HOLLY — The town council in a New Jersey community has approved a settlement in a high-profile housing discrimination lawsuit that had been heading for the U.S. Supreme Court.

A group of residents of the Mount Holly Gardens neighborhood had sued Mount Holly over a redevelopment plan that would have forced them to move. The group alleged discrimination because most of them are minorities.

Under the settlement, some residents will get homes in the new neighborhood to be built on the site of Mount Holly Gardens. Others will receive money instead.

The town has not admitted wrongdoing.

The settlement means the nation’s top court can cancel arguments that had been scheduled for Dec. 4. (Associated Press) 





Immigrant tuition bill up for hearing in New Jersey

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie, a likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate whose inroads among Hispanics helped him to a landslide re-election victory, could soon be handed an immigration bill that grants in-state tuition to students illegally brought to the U.S. as children.

The legislation is up for a Senate committee hearing Thursday. A similar bill passed a Democrat-led Assembly panel in June. The proposal would make New Jersey the 13th state granting in-state tuition to students who lack status for legal residence because of illegal immigration.

Though neither house has scheduled final votes, Senate President Stephen Sweeney told The Associated Press a proposal would be delivered to Christie’s desk before the Legislature reorganizes in mid-January. There is already speculation over whether the governor would sign it. (Associated Press) 






Frelinghuysen to lead defense subcommittee

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen was named chairman Wednesday of the subcommittee that writes the Pentagon’s budget, a powerful post that shapes military policy and helps direct two-thirds of all discretionary spending.

A veteran appropriator in the House, Frelinghuysen, R-Harding, sponsored a $34 billion piece of the Superstorm Sandy recovery package, which included federal grants for benefits not covered by standard disaster aid or insurance and projects to make beaches and transportation systems better able to withstand future storms.

He had been chairman of the Energy and Water Development appropriations subcommittee, which oversees the Army Corps of Engineers, but will give up that post to become chairman of the defense subcommittee.

“The security and budget challenges we face are real and dramatic,” Frelinghuysen said in a statement.

“The job before us is to provide for a strong national defense and support the men and women who provide for that defense each and every day.”

A Vietnam veteran and 10-term member of Congress, Frelinghuysen is part of a New Jersey political dynasty that reaches back to the American Revolution.

His district includes parts of Essex, Morris, Sussex and Passaic counties, including Little FallsWayne andWoodland Park. (Jackson/The Record)  




Plan to protect NJ Transit cars from flooding not ready yet

NEWARK – More than a year after Superstorm Sandy flooded nearly 400 NJ Transit railroad cars and locomotives that were left in low-lying yards, the Christie administration has not yet put forth a new plan for protecting millions of dollars in transit equipment from future storms.

NJ Transit Executive Director Jim Weinstein said earlier this year that the agency was working on a new hurricane rail plan. The existing plan, which was in effect during Sandy, is three and a half pages long and lean on details, unlike the extensive preparation plans used by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which suffered very little damage from the Oct. 29, 2012, storm.

Following NJ Transit’s board meeting on Wednesday, Weinstein said the new plan has not been released because it has not been completed.

He declined to answer repeated questions about when the plan would be made public. His repeated response was that “when it’s done it will be made public.”  But he did not say when.

The damaged rail cars and locomotives had been left in low-lying rail yards in the Meadowlands and Hoboken. There were also 39 out-of-service rail cars that were flooded in Bay Head. (Rouse/The Record) 





Tom Kean Sr. speaks out about Christie’s attempt to oust his son

TRRENTON — Former Gov. Tom Kean isn’t saying he’s angry at Gov. Chris Christie, who has described him as a mentor, for trying to oust his son from a leadership position.

He’s just disappointed.

Kean said today that he was surprised the popular Republican governor did not call him to tell him he planned to move against his son, state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union).

“The governor and I have been pretty friendly over the years, and I’m surprised he’d do this without even calling me,” Kean, a Republican who served as governor from 1982 to 1990, said.

Kean – who was the first major Republican to endorse Christie in 2009 — made what may have been his first ever critical public comments about Christie in an interview with The Record columnist Charles Stile. In a follow-up interview with The Star-Ledger today, Kean defended his son and questioned why the governor would seek to oust him as minority leader.

Christie last week beat Democratic challenger Barbara Buono by more than 20 points. But Republicans failed to pick up a single seat in the state Senate in an effort led by Kean Jr., The Democrats have a 24-16 majority.

On Thursday, Christie backed state Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Essex), a key ally in the Legislature, over Kean. But in an unprecedented display of independence, Republican senators bucked the governor, and 10 out of 16 of them stuck with Kean, who has held the post for six years. (Friedman/Star-Ledger) 





Gov. Chris Christie cancels Thursday appearance before Philadelphia group

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie has canceled a scheduled appearance Thursday at the Annual Breakfast of the Committee of Seventy in Philadelphia, the event’s organizers said tonight.

The organization, a nonpartisan government watchdog and voter advocacy group, said in a news release the governor’s staff told them Christie was “just not feeling well at all.”

”Obviously we are very sorry for any inconvenience that results from this cancellation and we hope Governor Christie is better soon,” Zack Stalberg, the president and chief executive of Seventy, said in a statement. (Baxter/Star-Ledger) 





Obamacare in N.J.: 23,021 applications submitted; 741 have picked a health plan 

TRENTON — WASHINGTON — Putting a statistic on disappointment, the Obama administration revealed today that fewer than 27,000 people signed up for private health insurance last month in the 36 states relying on a problem-filled federal website.

The number includes just 741 in New Jersey, according to figures released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Another 22,000 New Jersey families completed applications between Oct. 1 and Nov. 2, but they did not get far enough to select a plan. It’s unclear whether they stopped to compare plans or were unable to complete the process because of snags with the website. (Livio/Star-Ledger) 





 From the Back Room


Hoboken meets South Jersey in AC


In an apparent slap at home county golden boy Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, financially well-heeled Hoboken Councilwoman Beth Mason will host a dessert reception for South Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) at next week’s League of Municipalities in Atlantic City. (PolitickerNJ)











Hiring N.J. veterans to assist with troubles Affordable Care Act rollout is sound investment


The snafus that could have, should have, been worked out before its launch have aggravated, frustrated and flummoxed every poor soul who has tried to shop for coverage online.

Federal officials are expected to release statistics this week on the number of subscribers who have been able to sign up for health insurance via

There is no Champagne on ice awaiting that announcement.

All of that technical bumbling, however, makes a new initiative of the New Jersey Hospital Association to hire U.S. military veterans as certified navigators for the Affordable Care Act options seem all the more brilliant.

The one-year program addresses the unemployment rate for veterans, which is hovering around 10 percent in New Jersey, and the plethora of questions about the new insurance marketplace and the best way to access it.

With that nexus in place, the veterans will help individuals and families through the process of enrolling for coverage, Times staffer Mike Davis reported this week. They also will assist in reaching out to the estimated 900,000 New Jersey residents in need of insurance.

The veterans are uniquely qualified for their new assignment, says Betsy Ryan, New Jersey Hospital Association president and CEO.

“These men and women bring a wonderful skill set with them and a commitment to serve that makes them well-suited for this new mission,” Ryan said. “They’re our boots on the ground helping more uninsured Americans gain access to health benefits.”

The project is funded through a $1.8 million grant from New Jersey Health Initiatives, an arm of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (The Times of Trenton Editorial Board) 

Morning Digest: Nov. 14, 2013