Morning Digest: Nov. 21, 2013

The strangest alliances in NJ Politics

ATLANTIC CITY – Joe DiVincenzo backing Chris Christie is one thing, but a pairing of Christie and Charlotte DeFilippo hardly suggests lovable political allies.

Yet Angela Garretson may have a harder runoff election than expected as the Hillside councilwoman confronts the strangest alliance in New Jersey politics.

The 2013 mayor’s election started out as a three-way race among Hillside Mayor Joe Menza, Councilman Jorge Batista and Garretson. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)





Fulop: ‘I’m not in a Democratic primary’

ATLANTIC CITY – In a packed room that lacked the presence of Trenton elected officials seen at other events but no shortage of guests, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop shook hands with admirers and well wishers.

The Democratic mayor has been a staple at gatherings during his year’s League of Municipalities annual conference and was front and center on the fifth floor inside the Chelsea Hotel Wednesday night. The mayor was only elected to office all of six months ago, but is already rumored to be a potential gubernatorial candidate in the next race for the governor’s mansion. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)





Scott Walker: Chris Christie no moderate

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker stuck up for Chris Christie on Wednesday, defending the New Jersey governor against claims that he isn’t conservative enough for a national electorate.

“I look at that and kind of chuckle,” Walker told POLITICO in a phone interview. “He’s in a state where there are 750,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. There might be an issue here or there … but I don’t buy the argument that some say, perhaps for self-serving reasons, that he’s a moderate.”

It’s the latest twist in a very public bromance between the two Republican stars, considered potential contenders for the GOP presidential nod in 2016. The pair took in a Packers-Giants game together on Sunday and, according to Walker, talked about life, family and Christie’s imminent ascension to the top of the Republican Governors Association. (Cheney/Politico)





Debt ceiling deadline pushed back

Members of Congress received word Wednesday that they will have some breathing room next year on raising the debt limit.

Though Congress agreed in October to hike the nation’s borrowing authority through Feb. 7, the Treasury Department’s use of extraordinary measures will likely give lawmakers an additional month to haggle over a deal to raise the debt ceiling above $17.1 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. (Everett/Politico)




Christie Todd Whitman, NJ Women lead Monmouth University forum on equal pay

WEST LONG BRANCH — In 1963, when President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, women made 59 cents for every $1 men made for the same jobs.

A half-century later — despite other efforts at legislation and the U.S. Supreme Court weighing in — women now make 77 cents for every $1 men make for the same work, according to Peter S. Reinhart, director of Monmouth University’s Kislak Real Estate Institute.

A seminar led by former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, with help from four other successful women, took place Monday at the university to inspire the next generation to continue the fight toward parity. (Williams/Asbury Park Press) 




NJ Obamacare: NO decision yet on whether canceled health insurance can be renewed

Hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans whose health insurance carriers canceled their policies still don’t know whether they’ll have a chance to keep their old health insurance plans.

That’s because health insurers continued to await word Wednesday on whether New Jersey regulators would allow them to sell insurance policies that don’t meet the standards set by the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare.

And the state said they’ll have to wait some more.

The delay prompted brokers to warn individuals that even if the state allows them to purchase their old policies again, the prices still might be higher. And it prompted small-business owners to discover a way to delay the impact of new insurance plans at least for another year.

“I don’t believe there’s going to be a way to back out of (the initial requirements),” said David Oscar, a benefits consultant with Altigro, a financial services firm in Fairfield and a former president of the New Jersey Association of Health Underwriters trade group.

The issue is the latest flare-up in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. It involves an estimated 800,000 New Jerseyans who are insured through policies sold either on the individual market or the small-employer market — about 10 percent of the state’s population. (Diamond/Politico) 




NJ Health Commissioner Details Plans to Seek National Accreditation

O’Dowd lays out to local officials long-term statewide goals to improve health services

New Jersey is seeking to become the third state in the country to have a nationally accredited health department, part of an effort to continually improve health services.

Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd said the state will see several benefits from accreditation, which has already led state health officials to develop a strategic plan for the future. She offered details of that plan at a gathering yesterday of county and municipal health officials during the annual New Jersey League of Municipalities conference.

The strategic plan includes initiatives to improve the health of newborn babies, increase residents’ access to primary care and boost the rate of childhood immunization, as well as efforts to stem rising problems with heart disease and obesity. (Kitchenman/NJSpotlight)  




Christie Administration reflects on Sandy Recovery Progress and Challenges

Top state officials look back at ‘one hell of a year’ of working to rebuild homes and rebuild lives

When Sandy made landfall last October, displacing 120,000 from their homes, NJ Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable said his department took immediate action to provide shelters and assist towns with their budgetary problems. State Department of Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson called all hands on deck to repair roads and make them passable in what he said was record time. And Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said the DEP worked long hours to remove millions of cubic yards of debris and begin securing easements from coastal property owners to rebuild beaches.

“It’s been one hell of a year for all of us,” said Martin, summing up the feeling in the room from his fellow panelists at the Atlantic City Convention Center yesterday.

Martin, Simpson, Constable and Board of Public Utilities Commissioner Mary-Anna Holden spoke at the annual conference of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, attended by more than 18,000 elected officials and exhibitors from throughout the state. The panel was a chance for members of Governor Chris Christie’s cabinet who rarely make public comments about the Sandy process to share the administration’s perspective on where the recovery stands, one year later, and what challenges remain for their agencies. (Gurian/NJSpotlight) 





Christie extends national reach, ascending to helm of GOP governors group

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Since cruising to a victory this month, Governor Christie has deflected speculation that he’s gearing up for a 2016 presidential run, saying he’s fully focused on governing his home state.

“I’m the governor of New Jersey,” he said on ABC’s “This Week” last Sunday. “That’s my job. And that’s why I asked for four more years. And that’s what I intend to do.”

But he spent Wednesday in private finance meetings in Arizona, and this afternoon he will become chairman of the Republican Governors Association. That means he’ll be crisscrossing the country next year, campaigning for Republicans in the 36 states with gubernatorial races.

And when Christie is on the road, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno will be the acting governor. That will be her role today when she delivers the keynote address at the New Jersey State League of Municipalities convention in Atlantic City. Christie delivered the speech as governor-elect in 2009 and again in 2011. Last year’s league meeting was canceled following Superstorm Sandy.

If Christie spends a significant amount of time outside New Jersey, it could give Guadagno more name recognition and a platform should she decide to run for governor if that opportunity opens up. His out-of-state travels have already afforded her the ability to sign bills into law. (Hayes/The Record)  




Sweeney, Kean Jr. put aside dispute for panel discussion in Atlantic City

The top two leaders of the state Senate, whose personal disputes have regularly spilled into the public in recent months, scaled back their rhetoric on Wednesday during a panel discussion in Atlantic City.

It was the first time Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Republican Leader Tom Kean, Jr. shared a stage since Kean narrowly survived attempts by Sweeney and Governor Christie to push him from his leadership position earlier this month.

Sweeney, who began publicly referring to Kean as “Junior” in the days after the Nov. 5 election – in which Christie, a Republican, won by 22 percentage points but Republicans in the Senate failed to pick up a single seat – avoided using that moniker on Wednesday. And Kean, as he was leaving the stage at the end of the panel, even patted Sweeney on the back.

After the election, Christie pushed to get rid of Kean as minority leader, reportedly because he was upset with Kean’s failure to take any seats from the Democrats. Christie campaigned for Republican candidates in three swing districts, while Kean scattered his resources more widely, focusing on five districts. Democrats have a 24 to 16 majority in the Senate. (Linhorst/The Record)  




Christie to revive 10% Income Tax-Cut Plan, Adviser Grady Says

Chris Christie’s second-term economic agenda includes reviving his proposal for a 10 percent across-the board income-tax cut, said Robert Grady, chairman of the New Jersey governor’s Council of Economic Advisors.

The Republican governor, who won re-election on Nov. 5, also plans to complete the phase-in of business-tax cuts, Grady said today at an economic forum in Trenton. Christie also plans to push for an expansion of school choice, merit pay and charter schools, and for passage of the rest of a 20-bill “tool kit” aimed at helping municipalities control property-tax growth, Grady said.

“We’re at the point where the economy has stabilized enough and is healthy enough that it really is time to consider giving tax relief across the board — not only to improve our standing, but it will help our competitiveness and actually assist in both job creation, business retention and business attraction,” Grady told the audience at Thomas Edison State College. (Young/Bloomberg) 




Immigration reform can be a winning issue for Republicans

As the Republican Governors Association meets in Scottsdale this week, state GOP leaders should celebrate and reaffirm their call for broad immigration reform that will help all Americans.

Doing so would be no departure for many Republican governors, who see both the effects of our broken immigration system and a need for Congress to create a better process.

The lesson of recent elections is that immigration reform and honoring our tradition as a nation of immigrants is not just good policy but good politics. Look no further than Gov. Chris Christie’s landslide 60-38 win in November — including majority support among Hispanic voters.

“What Congress needs to do is get to work, working with each other and the president, to fix a broken system that is not serving our economy well, that is not serving our country well,” Christie said this month.

Republican members of the House of Representatives should take encouragement from Gov. Christie’s win and from recent polling that shows broad support among their supportive voters. Immigration reform is a winning issue. (Gutierrez/Arizona Central News) 





As New Jersey Prepares To Launch Internet Gambling, Congress Has Plan To Tax The Industry

“Gambling is the finest thing a person can do; IF he is good at it.”

Krusty the Klown’s lawyer, lamenting his client’s decision to bet on the Washington Generals against the Harlem Globetrotters because, as Krusty put it, they were “due.”

Growing up in New Jersey, sports gambling was a way of life from the time you were old enough to hoard some allowance and operate a rotary phone. Every town had their local bookie, and inevitably, someone would vouch for you, you’d give the book a call, and promptly throw away fifty bucks you didn’t have on the Chiefs +7.

In the early aughts, the game changed. Online casinos began popping up overseas, from Costa Rice to the Netherlands Antilles, (slightly) legitimizing the wagering process by allowing a gambler to open up an account with a credit card so they could promptly blow one hundred bucks they didn’t have on the Chiefs +7.

The U.S., however, was slow to embrace internet gambling, and in fact, took a hard stance against offshore wagering. But in 2011, the tide began to turn when the Department of Justice issued a ruling making online gambling legal provided it was permitted by state law. This renewed flexibility extended only to casino games; online sports gambling will never be allowed in the U.S., thank-you-very-much-Tim-Donaghy.

Since that time, Nevada, Delaware, and effective next week, New Jersey, have legalized online gambling, and other states are weighing the issue (read: potential revenue). And while I would think that casino games would be less than appealing in an online format, given that, you know…it’s an inanimate object flipping a virtual deck of cards, apparently there is a huge market for internet wagering among more financially reckless trusting users. In fact, Morgan Stanley predicts that by 2020, online gambling in the U.S. will produce the same amount of revenue as Las Vegas and Atlantic City markets combined, or $9.3 billion. (Nitti/Forbes) 






Ohio governor on Chris Christie: ‘People like him’


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A celebrity, a friend and a teddy bear.

That’s what Gov. John Kasich of Ohio called Gov. Chris Christie tonight during the first full day of meetings of the Republican Governors Association’s two-day conference.

Kasich, who is up for re-election next year, recalled when Christie campaigned for him a few years ago.

“People just loved him,” he told reporters. “He said, ‘If you don’t elect this guy, I’m coming back here New Jersey style.’ They liked it. People like him.” (Portnoy/Star-Ledger)  





New Atlantic City mayor says ‘chapter of casinos as a monopoly is over’

With a new mayor set to take office in just over a month,
Atlantic City’s government will find itself with new partnerships at the state
level, Senate President Steve Sweeney said today.

Sweeney held a lunch meeting with incoming Republican Mayor Don Guardian, who defeated Democratic incumbent Lorenzo Langford earlier this month.

“I’ve had more meetings with the incoming mayor than I had with the other mayor in my entire four years as Senate President,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney said he and Guardian met with Gov. Chris Christie Monday in an effort to foster a positive relationship.  Christie also had a poor relationship with Langford, to the point where he described himself as “relieved” when Langford was defeated.

Asked how the state can make good on its promise to revitalize the city amid shrinking revenue and a recently downgraded bond rating, Sweeney said the recent announcement that United Airlines will now fly direct routes into Atlantic City Airport is huge for the city as it will bring visitors from out of state in addition to the locals who frequent the city.

Sweeney also pointed to Internet gambling, which he said will be a huge addition to the city and said he believes sports betting will one day be allowed in New Jersey as well. (Isherwood/ 




 From the Back Room



LD2: Amodeo demands a recount 

Assemblyman John Amodeo (R-2) wants a recount.

He lost his re-election by 38 votes to Democratic challenger Vincent Mazzeo, the mayor of Northfield.

But “from election day and up to today, the Board of Elections has issued wrong vote totals in this election, leading to confusion followed by corrections,” Atlantic County GOP Chairman Keith Davis said. To ensure that this election is accurate and has been properly handled, Assemblyman John Amodeo has rightfully requested a recount today.” (PolitickerNJ)





Happy Birthday to DiFrancesco 

The assembly of five former N.J. governors began this morning with a singing of Happy Birthday to Donald DiFrancesco, born on this day in 1944.

The ex-governors gathered at the N.J. League of Municipalities conference in Atlantic City to assess the re-election win of Gov. Chris Christie. (PolitickerNJ)





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.

Donnelly took the leave in August to work for the organization that was pushing for the legalization of same-sex marriages in New Jersey. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)






Christie’s new GOP role puts millions in donations at his disposal

Governor Christie took aim Monday at one of his favorite targets, accusing the New Jersey Education Association of using teachers’ dues solely for political purposes.

“It’s essentially a $140 million slush fund to reward friends and punish enemies,” he told a group of corporate leaders in Washington, D.C.

Yet, when Christie is formally named chairman of the Republican Governors Association today in Scottsdale, Ariz., he will become the caretaker of an enormous fund that will be used to reward friends and punish enemies.

Christie’s swipe at the NJEA demonstrates his skill at deflecting focus away from him and onto his enemies.

Christie was also delivering a dose of red meat to his corporate fans who have no love for organized labor.

But his attack on the union, one he has made several times, also raises the potential for charges of hypocrisy and the potential for increased scrutiny of himself as he takes over a powerful, deeply funded and loosely regulated political machine.

Like all political machines, the governors association depends heavily on money, large sums supplied mostly by corporations, ranging from the mom-and-pop to the multinational. It raised nearly $24 million in the first six months of the year, with nearly $1.6 million of it coming from contributors based in New Jersey, records show. (Stile/The Record)  

Morning Digest: Nov. 21, 2013