Morning Digest: Nov. 20, 2013

Sweeney shows dominance of Municipalities party

ATLANTIC CITY – It was chest-thumping heaven for Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), a potential successor to Gov. Chris Christie. whose party tonight backed up pedestrian traffic down the escalator and 100 deep at One Atlantic. 

“He needed a ballroom,” one insider griped after catching a close-quarters elbow in the crowd. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)





Prez 2016: Christie and the Female Factor

TRENTON – The race is over and in the books.

With Gov. Chris Christie’s 2013 romp to a second term two weeks ago comes increased speculation of New Jersey’s governor mounting a presidential bid. And there’s good reason to think that, say political observers, who suggest a closer look at some of Christie’s winning numbers.

The governor’s wide margin of victory in the November election against Democratic challenger Sen. Barbara Buono was helped in no small part by his ability to grab nearly every voting demographic in the state aside from Democrats, liberals, African Americans and young voters ages 18 to 29, according to exit polls. In his more than 20-point re-election, the popular incumbent even picked up the female vote 57 percent to 42 percent against his rival, who ran on the state’s first-ever all female ticket with Lt. Gov. hopeful Milly Silva. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)




2026 New York poll: Chris Christie beats Andrew Cuomo

In a 2016 presidential matchup, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo would lose to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on his own turf, according to a new poll of New York voters.

The Republican Garden State governor leads Cuomo 47 to 42 percent among New York voters, a Siena College surveyreleased Monday shows. Siena College also notes that Christie fares well with Democrats who give him a 57 percent approval rating and independents with whom he has a 67 percent approval rating. (McCalmont/Politico)   




Hopes growing for budget deal

They’ve been written off as a doomed-to-fail duo: Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray, the congressional budget leaders who are on an uphill quest to reach any kind of fiscal deal.

But an agreement may not be so elusive after all

Hopes are growing that Ryan and Murray could reach a narrow deal to replace a portion of the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, according to lawmakers and senior aides involved in the discussions. The changing dynamics are the result of several factors: The fears among GOP defense hawks of deep Pentagon cuts in the new fiscal year; the desire of Republican leaders to avoid another disastrous shutdown fight; and the willingness of Democrats to consider other revenue raisers besides tax increases. (Raju and Sherman/Politico)





Obama Pens Letter Commemorating Gettysburg Address On 150th Anniversary of Remarks 

On Tuesday, the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, President Barack Obama penned a letter commemorating the historic speech.

In the letter, which was published on the White House website, Obama wrote that “the accumulated toil and sacrifice of ordinary men and women” serve as the foundation of our nation, and the basis of the preservation of freedom.

Obama’s letter is 272 words long — the same length as the Gettysburg Address. (Alman/Huffington Post) 





All eyes on N.J. Supreme Court’s newest justice

The state Supreme Court’s newest justice, Faustino Fernandez-Vina, heard oral arguments in three cases on Tuesday, joining the court as Republicans and Democrats remain strongly divided on issues like affordable housing and school funding — questions frequently decided in the courts and likely to come before them again.

Fernandez-Vina’s nomination was approved in a unanimous vote by the state Senate on Monday. Going forward, some Democrats, including those who voted for him, said it was difficult to predict how he might rule on major cases.

“We don’t know what his position is on the law other than he did come out very strong on adhering to precedent,” said Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, adding that the court had a lot of leeway to change school funding and the affordable-housing law.

About half an hour before oral arguments were scheduled to start at 10 a.m., Fernandez-Vina, 61, took the oath of office in a private ceremony in the court’s conference room. (Phillis/The Record)   





12 Republican senators ask for more details on new NJ Common Core

Twelve Republican state senators asked Education Commissioner Chris Cerf on Tuesday for more details on the Common Core, a new set of guidelines for what students should learn in math and language arts in every grade.

In a letter released by Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Morris, the group asked Cerf to explain the rationale behind the guidelines, their cost, the method for tracking student performance and the assurance of privacy for student data. Pennacchio said he was not hostile to the Common Core but sought answers to questions that parents and teachers have asked.

Cerf gave presentations recently to the New Jersey Education Association and the state Board of Education on the Common Core. Adopted by New Jersey in 2010, it has the support of Governor Christie, many school leaders and the NJEA, but the union has charged that its implementation has been too fast. (Brody/The Record)   




NJ Gov. Chris Christie to attend Fallin fundraiser

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie plans a trip to Oklahoma next month for a campaign fundraiser for fellow Republican Gov. Mary Fallin.

Fallin’s campaign announced Tuesday that Christie would attend a “birthday celebration” for Fallin, who is running for her second term as Oklahoma governor next year. The event is set for Dec. 5 in Oklahoma City, four days before Fallin’s birthday.

Tickets start at $125 per person for the campaign fundraiser.

Fallin announced her re-election campaign last month. R.J. Harris has filed to run as a Democrat in the race, though he’s previously run for office as a Republican and an independent.

Christie, who was easily re-elected governor this month, is widely viewed as a likely 2016 presidential candidate. (Oklahoman) 





10 things to know about New Jersey’s minimum wage increase

Sure, New Jersey voters in November approved an increase in the state’s minimum wage. But what does it mean? And when will it take effect?

We answer those questions, plus eight more, to get you up to speed on how the new minimum wage affects you: (Symons/Asbury Park Press) 





Christie’s 2016 Rolodex to Expand With Cash-Giveaway Job

Chris Christie’s connections to wealthy individual and corporate donors are about to expand exponentially as he assumes the chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association later this week.

The assignment also will allow the New Jersey governor to boost his national profile and collect political favors while running ads for and delivering RGA checks to candidates campaigning for governor in 2014 — including those in states with early presidential primary contests.

“Essentially, the RGA is a large bank and the chairman of the RGA is the CEO of the bank and that brings you into contact with a lot of Republican donors around the country,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, an aide to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney when he was RGA chairman in 2006 and during his two presidential campaigns. “Those connections are invaluable, if you later plan to become a national candidate.”

They don’t come without downsides. The fundraising schedule the job demands will provide opponents with ammunition to claim Christie is ignoring New Jersey as he contemplates a 2016 White House bid. (McCormick/Bloomberg) 




New Jersey Tops Country in Prescribing Brand-Name Drug

Overuse of brand-name medications vs. generics costs Medicare Part D billions annually

likely to be prescribed brand-name drugs than their counterparts anywhere else in the country, putting the Garden State at the forefront of a national trend of what some say is a wasteful overprescribing of brand-name medication.

The public-interest watchdog ProPublica published an article on Monday detailing how Medicare fails to rein in prescribers’ overuse of brand names compared with generic drugs, which can be equally effective. That leads to higher costs, which are borne by federal taxpayers, who subsidize the Medicare program. (Kithcenman/NJSpotlight) 




Critics Blast Plan to Ship Fracking Wastewater on Delaware River

With 15 million people depending on river for drinking water, ‘green groups’ warn of disastrous impact of spills, accidents

The U.S. Coast Guard’s proposal to allow shale-gas wastewater to be shipped on barges along the nation’s waterways, including the Delaware River, came under fire yesterday from a number of prominent environmental organizations.

The draft proposal, unveiled late last month by the Coast Guard, is the latest measure related to using hydraulic fracturing to recover natural gas from huge deposits in the Marcellus Shale formations in parts of the Northeast to draw criticism from environmentalists.

The technology, dubbed “fracking,” is opposed by environmentalists because they fear it could end up polluting drinking water tapped from the Delaware River, the source for 15 million residents in the region. The drilling operation injects huge amounts of water, along with smaller traces of toxic chemicals, into the shale formations to recover the natural gas trapped there.

While no drilling for natural gas has occurred in New Jersey, the issue is still controversial here. Last year, the state Legislature passed a law banning the treatment of fracking waste, which sometimes contains radioactive substances, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill. (Johnson/NJSpotlight) 




Hospitals boosted N.J. economy by $20.4 billion, repot says

TRENTON — New Jersey’s 72 hospitals last year pumped $20.4 billion into the state’s economy, with 40 percent of that spent to employ 144,000 people, according to a report released today by the New Jersey Hospital Association.

Despite a slow recovery from the recession, hospitals contributed more to the economy than ever in any of the six years the association has measured the industry’s impact, said the report by the trade and lobbying group.

“New Jersey hospitals remain a strong and reliable source of jobs, salaries and spending, demonstrating that they are bedrocks of our state and local economies,” said the association’s president and CEO Betsy Ryan. “In addi­tion, New Jersey hospitals and the dedicated professionals who work in them provide valu­able healthcare ser­vices to the patients and communities they serve.”

The annual report typically comes out at the end of the year, when the governor begins preparing the state budget for the following fiscal year. New Jersey hospitals this year received $675 million in charity care funds to offset the $1.25 billion spent treating uninsured patients, according to the report. (Livio/Star-Ledger) 




Christie to deliver keynote address at ‘Walk to Washington’ dinner

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie will once again deliver the keynote address at the dinner that caps the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s “Walk to Washington” — one of the marquee events of the state’s political calendar.

The 77th annual dinner will be held Feb. 13 at the Washington Marriott at Wardman Park. It was moved two weeks after its usual date because New Jersey is hosting the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.

The “walk” is really a train ride. Every year, New Jersey’s business leaders, politicians and lobbyists load onto an Amtrak train and take the four-hour trip to Washington, walking up and down the aisles to mingle and talk shop along the way. Some call it the “schmooze cruise.” (Johnson/Star-Ledger)  




After-School Fee Ban is Focus of NJ Bill

A New Jersey legislator has re-introduced a measure to prohibit school boards from charging extracurricular activity fees to students, their parents, or legal guardians.

“Recently, it again has presented itself where a couple of school boards were considering requiring parents to pay more than they’re already paying with their property taxes,” said Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-West Deptford). “If we start to allow these fees to be imposed, there are going to be some parents that can pay and some that can’t.”

Burzichelli wants to make sure that what’s now a small problem in the Garden State doesn’t become a widespread one. He acknowledged most schools have resisted charging the fees, and some backed off the idea after parents learned about it.

“If these programs are valuable to a student’s well-rounded public education, then they should be available to all without an extra charge, because parents are paying enough as it is,” said Burzichelli. “We’re talking about extracurricular activities, and that goes from theater to band to football to badminton.”

Imposing these fees, according to Burzichelli, is tantamount to an a la carte charge for parents — one which makes public education unequal for some. (McArdle/NJ101.5) 





 From the Back Room



Donnelly back to work for Sweeney 

Senate President Steve Sweeney’s former chief spokesman is back on the job.

Chris Donnelly, who took a leave of absence from the Senate president’s office to serve as the communications director for New Jersey United for Marriage, returned to his former position this week as press secretary for Sweeney. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)




Jersey City checkpoints produce Port Authority gridlock

The tension levels surrounding the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey continue to rise.

The Jersey Journal reported today about Jersey City police checkpoints at the Authority-owned marine terminal that produced gridlock and over 50 tickets.

The city reported the checkpoints were unrelated to the mayor’s recent threat to sue the Authority over alleged economic harm. (PolitickerNJ)






New Jersey schools Wyoming on tolerance

In Wyoming, where voters oppose gay marriage by a 2-1 margin, Liz Cheney decided this week to throw her gay sister under the bus by coming out against marriage equality. We have no quarrel with that. This is America, and politicians have the Constitutional right to be wrong.

But let’s hear it for New Jersey, which offered up a story this week as inspiring as Cheney’s move was nauseating.

It started when a lesbian waitress at an Asian bistro in Bridgewater, who happens to be a former Marine, was stiffed by a pin-headed customer who decided to stiff her. In the space where the tip would have been left, the customer left a message expressing disapproval of her lifestyle. (Star-Ledger Editorial) 

Morning Digest: Nov. 20, 2013