Morning Digest: Nov. 19, 2013

Mazzeo beats Amodeo in LD2

TRENTON – As expected following a judge’s order to count provisional ballots in Pleasantville and Atlantic City, Northfield Mayor Vincent Mazzeo prevailed today in his challenge of Assemblyman John Amodeo (R-2).

The result is unofficial, but sources expected Mazzeo, down by two votes to Amodeo as the candidates headed to court last Friday, to win once the judge put the 115 ballots in play in the two heavily Democratic towns.

He did as Board of Elections workers considered the formerly rejected ballots this afternoon in Atlantic City and put Mazzeo up by 33 votes, the candidate said.

“I’m just glad the election’s over and I look forward to going to Trenton to serve the people of the 2nd District,” Mazzeo told (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)





Fernandez-Vina approved in Senate for Supreme Court

TRENTON – The full Senate passed the state Supreme Court nomination of Judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina Monday. The vote was 38-0.

That sets the stage for the first nominee of Gov. Chris Christie’s to ascend to the higher court after Senate Democrats rejected two earlier nominees and have held two other nominees in limbo without a Judiciary hearing.

Fernandez-Vina is the Superior Court Assignment Judge in Camden County. Christie announced his intention to nominate Fernandez-Vina on Aug. 12 when he also said he would not renominate Justice Helen Hoens because, he said, Democrats had indicated her reappointment would draw opposition. (Mooney/PolitickerNJ)





Chris Christie: D.C. lacks ‘human relationships’

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie criticized President Barack Obama and lawmakers on Monday for not having better working relationships, deploying what is by now a familiar attack in unpopular Washington.

The Republican, who is thought to be preparing to run for president in 2016, contrasted his assessment with his own experience working with a Democratic state legislature.

“It’s about human relationships,” Christie said at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council in Washington. “The fact of the matter is that nobody in this city talks to each other anymore.” The president is to blame, he said.

 “If you’re the executive, you’re the person who is in charge of making that happen,” Christie said. “Members of Congress, members of a state legislature, they don‘t have a responsibility to lead and they always have an excuse if you let them.” (Titus/Politico)




Obama to insurers: no bailout

President Barack Obama had some bad news for the insurance company CEOs who met him at the White House: his “fix” might cost them.

Obama asked the CEOs to reinstate millions of Americans’ health insurance plans that were cancelled because they fell short of coverage requirements under the law, according to two executives who attended the session Friday.

The president offered the execs some sweeteners, but admitted they won’t necessarily add up to enough to cover the full brunt of added costs that the changes to the insurance market could create.

The president’s proposed “fix” to the wave of plan cancellations was to allow insurance companies to extend the plans for a year, but those extensions are voluntary, so he needs the industry to buy in.

Obama’s frank talk with the CEOs raises the stakes for the short-term solution and is a reminder that as much as the health care law is the president’s signature achievement, he still needs industry buy-in for it to succeed in the long run. (Cheney and Haberkorn/Politico)





Biodeisel Blend Could Mean Cleaner Heating Oil for NJ Winters

Assembly panel moves measure, but questions about costs and consumer savings remain unanswered

Biodiesel fuel may soon play a bigger role in New Jersey’s energy future, potentially enabling homeowners to use a cleaner product to heat their homes each winter.

In a bill divisive to the oil industry, the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee yesterday advanced a measure (A-3161) that would require increasing the amount of renewable biofuels to be blended into home heating oil sold in New Jersey.

To its advocates, the legislation would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the performance of oil-burning furnaces. The big question is whether it will lower heating costs for consumers, an issue disputed by lobbyists for oil refiners and the petroleum industry.

The use of biodiesel as a fuel to power motor vehicles has been growing in the United States, climbing from about 25 million gallons in the early 2000s to almost 1.1 billion gallons in 2012, according to National Biodiesel Board, an industry trade organization. (Johnson/NJSpotlight) 




Legislators Look to Smart-Card Technology to Help Cut Medicaid Fraud

Proposed ID cards would be able to authenticate patients and providers at point of transaction

State legislators are considering a new Medicaid smart card intended to reduce the amount of fraud in the joint state and federal program.

A bill, A-4062/S-2894, released by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee yesterday, would create a pilot in which Medicaid recipients would have an identification card that can be inserted into a computer’s USB port, allowing healthcare providers to access their records instantly. Patient information is stored on a flash drive.

The state has explored other ID cards, but a program that used swipe cards didn’t reduce fraud because doctor’s offices rarely had the equipment to read the cards.

State officials have cited Medicaid fraud as a major concern. State Comptroller Matthew Boxer’s office recovered $122.8 million in improper Medicaid spending in the fiscal year that ended in June, while the attorney general’s office has an entire unit devoted to the problem. (Kitchenman/NJSpotlight) 





Christie addresses Obamacare, potential 2016 run in Washington Speech

Governor Christie boasted about his battles with teachers unions and slammed President Obama’s leadership Monday, but he also criticized the political world for treating Obama as a lame duck because it limits his effectiveness as an executive.

Appearing at the opening dinner of the Wall Street Journal CEO Council in Washington, Christie again said he didn’t know if he would run for president or when he would decide. Still, he faced questions about what Republicans needed to change to win, and how he would choose his Cabinet. (Jackson/The Record)  




Senate Oks in-state tuition rate for N.J. students living in U.S. illegally

New Jersey could soon give in-state tuition to college students who grew up in the Garden State but are living in the country illegally.

In a 25-12 vote Monday, the state Senate approved a measure that would grant what supporters call “tuition equality.”

Monday’s vote comes after supporters were encouraged by an apparent shift from Governor Christie, who previously opposed in-state tuition for immigrants without legal permission to live in New Jersey because, he said, the state could not afford it. But last month, during his reelection campaign, the Republican governor said the economy had improved and he planned to take up the issue with the state Legislature. 
Democrats said the bill is a matter of fairness.

“These are New Jerseyans, and they want to go to school here,” Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said ahead of the vote. “They deserve a right to have the same educational opportunities as every other student in this state.” (Linhorst/The Record)   





N.J. Legislature addresses suspect mugshot legislation

TRENTON — The New Jersey Legislature has two competing bills intended to affect when police photos of arrested suspects would be made public. The proposal that would generate greater restrictions — by keeping the mugshots of suspects confidential if they have not yet been convicted — was approved by an Assembly panel Monday.

Bill sponsors at a public hearing said A-3906 is needed to protect reputations of those who have not been found guilty of crimes. But Thomas Cafferty, general counsel for the New Jersey Press Association, told the Law and Public Safety Committee the change would not serve the public interest.

“What we should not be doing is removing from public access important information about people who have been arrested,” Cafferty said.

The measure was approved in a 9-0 vote and heads to the full Assembly for consideration. (Jordan/Asbury Park Press) 




Princeton University to Use Foreign Vaccine

Princeton University plans to offer students a meningitis vaccine not usually approved for use in the United States in an attempt to prevent an outbreak at the school from spreading, officials said on Monday.

The vaccine, which has been approved in Europe and Australia, is expected to be available on campus at no cost in early December, university officials said. It is recommended for all undergraduates, graduate students living in dormitories and students with some specific health conditions.

Students and faculty were notified of the decision in an email on Monday.

Six students at the university who were hospitalized with the disease earlier this year have recovered; a seventh, who was found to have it earlier this month, is being treated. University officials have encouraged students to stop sharing drinks and to avoid kissing. (The New York Times) 




Chris Christie Rips GOP for ‘Bad Decision-Making And A Loss of Courage’

WASHINGTON — New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie slammed the national Republican Party Monday night, telling a group of CEOs that the GOP’s electoral woes stem from “bad decision-making and a loss of courage.”

Speaking at the Wall Street Journal’s annual CEO Council, Christie said that “everyone down here in D.C. has failed” to lead the nation. What’s wrong with Washington, Christie said, “primarily is the people.”

“What we have in Washington now are absolutists,” said the governor, in a speech rife with the kind of zingers that helped him win reelection this month by a wide margin in Democratic-leaning New Jersey. The recent government shutdown, Christie said, “was a train wreck everybody saw coming for months.”

Christie avoided naming names, including lightning-rod conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who, like Christie, who may harbor presidential ambitions in 2016. But he attacked the Republican Party’s reliance on grassroots voters in recent elections instead of creating a “big-tent” campaign capable of appealing to growing numbers of independent and Hispanic voters.

As for his own presidential aspirations, Christie played coy, saying he would announce his plans for 2016 “when I have to.” (Wilkie/Huffington Post) 





Iowa or bust? Senate stalls on attempt to override Christie hog farming vetoe

TRENTON — State Senate Republicans flirted with independence from Gov. Chris Christie less than two weeks ago, but they’re not going hog wild.

An attempt to override Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a bill (S1921) that would ban farmers from keeping pregnant pigs in crates stalled today, after several Republicans reversed their previous votes.

Even though the bill had passed 29-4 in May, the vote reversals deprived Senate Democrats of the 27 ayes they needed for a successful override. Seeing just 25 yes votes on the board and knowing the attempt would fail, state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), the bill’s sponsor, requested the bill be pulled and said he’d try again when the Senate meets next month.  (Friedman/Star-Ledger) 




Democrats may pick up an assembly seat in district 2

With all votes counted, Democrat Vince Mazzeo leads his
District 2 Assembly race by 32 votes, according to campaign consultant Derek

The District 2 race might be headed for a recount, at least of some votes, but if the total stands it would amount to a stunning turnaround from the Election Night results, which showed Republican incumbent John Amodeo up by just under 400 votes.

Amodeo said Monday he does no expect to call for a district wide recount, however his team may ask for a recount of a specific machine that was reportedly malfunctioning on Election Day.

The additional votes for Mazzeo have come in the form of provisional ballots, which are filed on Election Day when a voter is in the wrong polling spot or when a name doesn’t show up on the polling location’s rolls or if a voter is unable to use the electronic voting machinges.

After the provisional were largely counted, 116 ballots were in limbo as election officials were split on whether to include them.  A judge ruled Friday that the vast majority would be counted.

“In my heart I believe this thing was stolen,” Amodeo said.  “115 of those provisional should have been struck down the way the statute is worded, but the judge was very lenient in allowing them,” he said. (Isherwood/ 





 From the Back Room


Newark Council picks Mildred Crump as council president

The Newark City Council tonight selected veteran Councilwoman Mildred Crump as the governing body’s president.

The council as a whole nominated her and voiced its unanimous support.

It marks a return to power for Crump, who served as council president from 2006-2010. (PolitickerNJ) 




Fernandez-Vina to be sworm in Tuesday  

Judge Faustino Fernandez-Vina is scheduled to be sworn in as a state Supreme Court justice in a private ceremony Tuesday, the Judiciary announced this afternoon.

Fernandez-Vina, who was approved by the full Senate this afternoon, will take his oath at 10 a.m. and then is expected to take part in oral arguments in the Supreme Court Courtroom of the Hughes Justice Complex, 25 Market St., Trenton. (Mooney/PolitickerNJ)




Sweeney gives impassioned speech in support of DREAM Act

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) signed on as a prime sponsor of the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition and be eligible for financial aid at state schools, and today he put an exclamation point on his support.

Backing up state Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29), the bill’s prime sponsor, Sweeney made an impassioned speech in support of the legislation.

“Education is the greatest equalizer in this world. …They have every right to get a quality education,” he said of undocumented students. “We don’t have a problem seeing someone clean up a table when we say they have a job Americans won’t do.” (PolitickerNJ)









Christie wants to stay out of the mid with pig farm vetoe

The animal rights activists who flocked to the State House on Monday had high hopes that the Senate would vote to outlaw the practice of keeping pregnant pigs in metal crates.

But the army of mothers and children in pink T-shirts soon learned that the “Elephant in the Room” — as Time magazine called Governor Christie on its cover two weeks ago — had not yet left for the 2016 presidential campaign. Christie was still in Trenton, wielding power and control, and doing it quite successfully.

The governor averted a second post-election embarrassment Monday when the Senate failed to override his veto of legislation that would have banned the use of pig gestation crates under most circumstances.

Christie was rescued by Republican senators, who only two weeks ago rebelled at his attempt to oust Sen. Thomas H. Kean Jr., as the Senate minority leader. Six of the eight Republicans who originally supported the ban this spring refused to join the majority Democrats, leaving the override two votes shy of the required 27.

Kean was among those who changed his vote, saying he wants to find a compromise.

“I think it’s very clear that Governor Christie put a lot of pressure on the [Republican] caucus,’’ said Matt Dominguez, a spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States. “We will live to fight another day. We will continue to reach out the constituents on the merits. … Nobody supports this cruel practice.” (Stile/The Record)

Morning Digest: Nov. 19, 2013