Morning Digest: Nov. 27, 2013


Randolph Township Mayor Tom MacArthur pursuing CD3 run

The pool of Republican candidates pursuing CD3 is getting larger.

Randolph Township Mayor Tom MacArthur told PolitickerNJ he’s actively pursuing a run to fill the federal seat slated to be vacated by U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan (R-3).

“I’m actively pursuing this. I’m more than interested,” MacArthur said. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)





Dressel convicted of embezzling union funds     

A court today convicted a former union officer from Local 164 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) of embezzling funds by ensuring his then-girlfriend got paid by the union for unauthorized and unnecessary work, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Richard “Buzzy” Dressel, 64, of Montvale, took hits on one count each of conspiracy to embezzle and embezzlement from the union, the first two counts of the indictment against him. (Pizarro.PolitickerNJ)





Extending Insurance May Help Small Businesses, But Not Most Individual Plans

Horizon indicates that remaining federal regulations still make bare-bones health coverage plans nonviable.

While state officials agreed yesterday to allow recently cancelled health insurance plans to be extended for a year, the move may not make much difference to most individual plan holders.

A spokesman for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, the state’s largest individual plan insurer, said that extending the most popular individual plans won’t be “viable” because they would still have to be altered to comply with other requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

As a result, it appears likely that most individual plan holders will still have to pay higher monthly premiums starting in January. (Kitchenman/NJSpotlight) 




BPU Decides Not to Tinker With Traditional Power-Auction Model

Agency defends three-year rolling supply contracts as delivering best deals for consumers, small businesses in deregulated market. 

If it’s not broke, why fix it?

New Jersey Board of Public Utilities commissioners and staff echoed that sentiment last week in deciding to essentially retain its 12-year-old system of deciding how the state’s four electric utilities go about purchasing the power they need to supply customers who don’t shop around for a better deal elsewhere.

The system is viewed by some as a model for how states with deregulated energy markets should go about procuring electricity to supply customers. Others, however, say the process dampens competition and deprives utility customers of potential savings when fuel prices are declining. (Johnson/NJSpotlight) 






State successes show health law can work

With all the waves of bad news about the Obamacare website and the canceled policies, it would be easy to conclude that nothing in this law will ever work — that it’s just too big and complicated and messy.

But that’s not the complete picture of the Affordable Care Act rollout. There are a few bright spots — just enough to suggest that, for all the early disasters, the law’s fate isn’t final yet. (Nather/Politico)





New Jersey’s interim senator Jeffrey Chiesa rejoins law firm  

After a four-month stint as a U.S. senator, Jeffrey Chiesa has returned to his old law firm.

Chiesa, whom Governor Christie appointed in June to temporarily fill the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s seat, is back at Wolff & Samson practicing in the litigation, corporate internal investigations and monitoring and white collar criminal defense groups.

Chiesa and the firm’s founding member, David Samson, accompanied Christie to the Republican Governors Association’s annual meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., last week. Chiesa and Samson, whom the governor appointed to the Port Authority Board of Commissioners, headed Christie’s transition team when he defeated Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009. (Hayes/The Record)    





Largest N.J. insurer axes minimal health plans  

Ninety thousand New Jersey residents next year will lose their low-cost bare-bones health plans issued by the state’s largest insurer – forcing them to purchase new Obamacare policies, possibly with subsidies, or pay a fine.

The announcement by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey came just 90 minutes after Governor Christie said he would leave the decision about whether to renew all kinds of canceled health policies to the insurers, which President Obama said earlier this month they could do with state approval.

Calling the Affordable Care Act “a mess,” Christie said, “New Jersey has decided to let the free market dictate the way forward.”

The most popular type of coverage for people who buy their own insurance — a so-called basic and essential plan — would have to be redesigned to do away with its $600 annual limit on preventive care, $700 limit on visits to doctors for illness and $500 limit on outpatient testing, according to the state Insurance Department. (Washburn/The Record)   





Study examines oversight of Sandy disaster relief funds

WASHINGTON — The $50 billion the federal government approved for Hurricane Sandy disaster relief is at high risk for being spent improperly, according to a new report.

Under legislation enacted in January, the 19 federal agencies responsible for the 61 programs receiving Sandy funding were required to submit plans to the Office of Management and Budget by March 31 detailing how they planned to ensure the funds were spent as promised.

The agencies were to explain their strategies for tracking improper payments, unspent grant money and other trends.

But a report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office found that the agencies’ accountability plans varied widely in quality. Some provided most of the required information while others provided no information on certain programs. (Herman/Asbury Park Press) 




Supreme Court will take up new health law dispute

Supreme Court has agreed to referee another dispute over President Barack Obama’s troubled health care law, whether businesses can use religious objections to escape a requirement to cover birth control for employees.

The justices said Tuesday they will take up an issue that has divided the lower courts in the face of roughly 40 lawsuits from for-profit companies asking to be spared from having to cover some or all forms of contraception.

The court will consider two cases. One involves Hobby Lobby Inc., an arts and crafts chain with 13,000 full-time employees. Hobby Lobby won in the lower courts.

The other case is an appeal from Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a company that employs 950 people in making wood cabinets. Lower courts rejected the company’s claims. (Sherman/Associated Press) 





Supporters of N.J. DREAM Act puzzled by Christie’s comments

Supporters of a bill to allow in-state tuition for certain immigrants in the country illegally are puzzled by Gov. Chris Christie’s claim Monday night that the state Senate’s version of the “DREAM Act” goes beyond a federal bill on immigration 





From the Back Room


Loretta Weinberg’s 2013 Power List  

“There continues to be an under-representation of women in positions  of power and inadequate recognition of those women who have achieved power and influence,” Senate Majority Leader Weinberg said. I want to give these women the credit they deserve and the recognition they too often fail to receive. In alphabetical order, here is  my list of the 75 most powerful and influential women in New Jersey civic affairs.”  (PolitickerNJ)






A question of fairness?


Monday was a busy day for the people who make and remake New Jersey’s transportation laws. It should have been a big day, too, for those of us who have to live with changes proposed by the state Assembly Transportation Committee.

But few of us learned of the panel’s big ideas, such as endorsing a plan to bring driverless vehicles to New Jersey, extending a Queens rail line to our shores and adding more restrictions to distracted-driving laws. Some routine plans got upstaged, too, including a measure to keep headlights on while passing construction sites and a potential change that remained in committee. It would have allowed siblings to ride with their brothers or sisters in the first year after they get their licenses – a practice banned in 2010. (Cichowski/The Record)   

Morning Digest: Nov. 27, 2013