Weekly Roundup: Week of Nov. 25

TRENTON – The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey lane closure mess from September ensnarled Statehouse corridors this week.

The thought had been that no one from the embattled Authority would show up as requested by the Assembly Transportation Authority on Monday.

Surprise.  Like an unexpected guest walking on-stage from behind the curtain to surprise a talk show host, Authority Deputy Executive Director – and former state Sen. – Bill Baroni strode into the hearing room just as the session was scheduled to start.

He came armed with posterboard-sized photos of the traffic situation and was prepared to talk about the need for traffic studies and the inequity of host town Fort Lee having three dedicated lanes while the other 95 percent of bridge users are crammed together.

But Chair Assemblyman John Wisniewski grabbed the steering wheel and was determined to keep the conversation about accountability: Who made the call to shut lanes down, why those days, why those hours? Why was no one notified ahead of time?

Wisniewski (not a fan of the Authority to begin with) and Baroni jousted  for well over an hour, with other committee members chiming in as well.

Clearly dissatisfied with the results, on Wednesday Wisniewski issued a subpoena for the top man, Executive Director Patrick Foye, to appear before the committee on Monday, Dec. 9.

He issued a subpoena for Foye to bring along an Encyclopaedia Britannica’s worth of documents in the attempt to drill down for details.

The ball now is in the Authority’s court, so expect lawyers to earn their keep between now and Dec. 9.

 

With the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act presenting one snafu after another, on Wednesday the Christie administration washed its hands of another aspect of the troubled health insurance reformation.

The state will leave it up to individual insurers to decide whether to honor or cancel some 800,000 policies that would be in violation of Obamacare starting next year.

 The Obama administration had offered the retention option as a stop-gap but on Wednesday the state decided it would not mandate insurers comply, but would leave it up to their own executives to make the calls.

 

During the campaign, tuition equality backers were sure they heard Gov. Chris Christie throw his weight behind the so-called DREAM Act. He obtained strong Latino endorsements in part because of that stance.

That was then. This is now.

This past week it became clear Christie will not support the bill winding its way through the Legislature. It offers in-state tuition to undocumented college students as well as access to financial aid, but now Christie says the state proposal would exceed what federal provisions allow and he won’t go for it.

Sen. Teresa Ruiz, who has been a champion of this cause, said the changes that Christie appears to want essentially would gut the bill.

Ruiz and other supporters marshaled their efforts this week to express their disappointment in Christie’s remarks.

“I asked him directly if he was supporting the tuition equality bill [and] he told me he was and that he was working with Sen. Ruiz on the bill,” said Karol Ruiz, a legal intern and student advocate with Wind of the Spirit, an immigration resource center based in Morristown.

“For him to now say that he is not working with Sen. Ruiz or that the bill has somehow changed is erroneous and it is deceiving,” she said, referring to a conversation she had with Christie when he campaigned for re-election in Dover.

Expect this debate to become more intense.

 

The list of Republicans who want the Third Congressional District seat being vacated by Jon Runyan continued to grow this week.

The roster includes state Assemblyman David Wolfe; Steve Lonegan, who just got finished losing to Cory Booker in the U.S. Senate race; Berkeley Council President James Byrnes, and Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur.

Some of these folks, including Lonegan, don’t even live in the district yet but have professed interest in relocating.

 

 

  Weekly Roundup: Week of Nov. 25