Morning Digest: Dec. 2, 2013

Cory Booker shuns spotlight

Cory Booker had just cast the most controversial vote of his young Senate career to gut the chamber’s filibuster rules.

But as he walked out of the chamber, he held his tongue.

“I got a lot of thoughts,” he told POLITICO, “but I’m not going to share them right now.”

Booker is staying unusually quiet in his early days as a senator. During his first month in Washington, he avoided news conferences, TV appearances or saying much of anything that could generate ink in the national press — and his aides predict that will become the New Jersey Democrat’s style on Capitol Hill. (Raju and Burgess/Politico)




Brown: ‘vast majority’ of interview was him showing ‘appreciation for the governor’

Assemblyman Chris Brown (R-2) says he never intended to suggest Gov. Chris Christie cut any sort of deal with South Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross III ahead of the recent statewide election.

The state lawmaker said he has nothing but appreciation for the Republican governor and that comments he made on the radio Wednesday morning about Christie not doing enough to help South Jersey legislative candidates in the election were misinterpreted.

“I have not listened to the hour-long interview but that is certainly not what I meant,” Brown told PolitickerNJ.

“I know during the majority of the interview I expressed my appreciation of the governor and his efforts to revitalize Atlantic City and how he changed the dialogue in Trenton,” he said. “And that’s it.” (Arco/PolitickerNJ)





Republican lawmaker says Christie worked with Norcross ahead of election

A South Jersey Republican accused Gov. Chris Christie of cutting a deal of sorts with Democratic power broker George Norcross III in the recent statewide elections.

Assemblyman Chris A. Brown (R-2) said over the airwaves Wednesday morning that the popular Republican governor and the South Jersey Democratic power broker had an understanding ahead of the recent election. Brown said the incumbent governor who sailed to re-election in November did little to help raise money for South Jersey Republicans.

The assemblyman made the comments during an hour-long interview on the morning talk radio show Hurley in the Morning on WPG Talk Radio 1450 AM, hosted by Harry Hurley.

“What he said was that Gov. Christie made a deal with George Norcross and the Democrats and that he did not raise money for the Atlantic County candidates,” Hurley told PolitickerNJ following the interview. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)




2016 poll: Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton still king

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are the top picks for their party’s tickets in 2016, a new poll shows.

Twenty-four percent of Republicans and independents who lean Republican, say they would likely support Christie for the GOP nomination, according to a CNN poll released Friday. 

CNN reports support for Christie, who won reelection in a landslide victory earlier this month, is up 7 percentage points from September. (McCalmont/Politico)





No one in N.J. GOP is stepping up to challenge Booker in 2014

It could be election fatigue, or maybe everyone is waiting for Governor Christie to anoint someone.

But no New Jersey Republican has jumped into the race for U.S. Senate next year, despite all the talk in October about how Democrat Cory Booker will be vulnerable because he “only” won by 11 percentage points, instead of the 20 points some polls showed.

Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick of Union County and state Sen. Michael Doherty of Warren County are thinking about it. Assemblyman Jay Webber of Morris Plains is a possibility.

All three are conservative Republicans, though Bramnick is more mainstream. They were easily reelected in heavily Republican districts to the Legislature in November, but every week they wait to decide about 2014 is a week no one is raising the significant amount of money needed to run statewide. (Jackson/The Record) 




North Jersey community groups ready to test today

As federal officials touted’s latest fixes this weekend, two North Jersey community groups were crossing their fingers for an improvement over the paper applications they’ve been using for the last month.

That could happen today. Based on assurances from the White House, locals are hopeful that they’ll be able to ditch the paper for the website.

“This is really a wait and see,” said Mary Garner, chief executive of the Paterson Community Center, the only organization in Passaic County to receive funds to help residents apply for insurance. “What has to be done is not in our hands to be done. We can’t make an online system. If the whole federal government with all of its money and all of its power and all the pieces of the mosaic that have to be put together to make it work, if they can’t do it, a little tiny community health center doesn’t have the wherewithal.”

The website — — was supposed to let consumers shop easily for health insurance, required by the Affordable Care Act when it was launched Oct. 1. The continued technical problems of President Obama’s signature domestic initiative have been a political disaster for him and fellow Democrats. (Dazio/The Record) 





A crossroads in Delaware for Christie, Biden

They walked the same halls at the University of Delaware as students, shared the same mentor and still root heartily for the football team, sometimes seeing each other at home games in Newark.

Vice President Joe Biden and Gov. Chris Christie, whose time in Newark, Del., was separated by 20 years, are both defined by their outsized personas and keen political skills — skills that might bring them together once again for another kind of matchup.

Instead of being spectators together at Delaware Stadium, Biden, 71, and Christie, 51, could face off to become the next president of the United States, if the blue-and-gold gods have any say. (Cormier/Asbury Park Press) 




Mantoloking could borrow money to build new borough hall

Borough officials said Tuesday that they must now consider borrowing money to rebuild the flooded-out structure because their insurance will not cover the cost for a new facility. The borough hall, located on Downer Avenue, was in disrepair after superstorm Sandy left more than 4 feet of water in the building.

The borough received approximately $347,000 from the joint insurance fund and $3,000 from Federal Emergency Management Agency for the damage. The insurance fund, which is comprised of 31 municipalities, was put together to insure property in each town.

“The municipality has never had a bond, there has never been a debate on it,” said Mayor George Nebel. “We’ve always tried to pay as we go. We believe that is the right way to go. If we have to build a new town hall, it’s something that we might have to look at.”

Building a new borough hall would be cheaper than renovating the borough’s existing headquarters, officials said. According to an October report by engineering firm Hatch Mott MacDonald, making repairs to the borough’s facility, including raising the building 14 feet to meet federal flood code standards, would cost about $2.3 million. No price tag has been put on the new building, officials said. (Huba/Asbury Park Press) 




Justice Hoens takes pension hit after Christie removes her from top N.J. court

TRENTON — When Gov. Chris Christie removed Justice Helen Hoens from the state Supreme Court this year, he not only cut short her judicial career by a decade — he also halved Hoens’ pension.

Denied tenure by Christie in August, Hoens departed the high court after 19 years and seven months as a state judge. With 20 years on the bench, she would have been eligible for a pension of nearly $140,000 a year.

Instead, Hoens’ pension will yield nearly $73,000 annually once she turns 60 next year, according to the state Treasury Department.

Hoens declined an interview request, and a spokeswoman for the court declined to comment on Hoens’ pension. (Rizzo/Star-Ledger) 




N.J. Senate committee to discuss Chris Christie’s Obamacare decision on policy renewals

TRENTON — The chairwoman of the state Senate Commerce committee has scheduled a hearing next week to discuss the Christie administration’s decision to let insurance companies choose whether to renew 800,000 policies that would have been canceled in 2014 for not meeting Obamacare’s minimum requirements.

Chairwoman Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) invited Banking and Insurance Commissioner Kenneth Kobylowski to address her committee on Thursday in Trenton to explain how the department reached its decision.

“We expect that the commissioner will come before the committee to discuss this new policy,” Gill said today. “Hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans will be affected. The public should have the opportunity to hear in detail what this means for their healthcare, so that everyone is aware of its implications.”

President Obama asked governors and state insurance commissioners on Nov. 14 to preserve for a year policies 5 million people across the country were expected to lose because the benefits did not meet the federal law’s minimum standards. (Livio/Star-Ledger) 




Obamacare Website On Track To Work For ‘Vast Majority’ Of People, Administration Says is greatly improved after more than a month of intense repair work, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama said Sunday.

Software and hardware upgrades put in place since late October have been effective, said Jeffrey Zients, the Obama aide overseeing the repair effort to the online portal for health insurance enrollment in more than 30 states.

“ on Dec. 1 is night and day from where it was on Oct. 1,” when the health insurance exchanges debuted, Zients said during a conference call with reporters Sunday. “While we still have work to do, we’ve made significant progress with working smoothly for the vast majority of consumers.” The website can now handle 50,000 users at a time, which was the original goal, and 800,000 visitors a day, he said.

The early consumer experience of Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges was characterized by crashes, error messages, long wait times and faulty information, threatening the rollout of Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.

December could now prove a crucial month for the first year of enrollment via the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplaces. Consumers who want health coverage in effect on Jan. 1 have until just Dec. 23 to select a health plan via the exchanges — including many whose current policies don’t meet Obamacare standards and can’t be renewed for next year. (Young/Huffington Post) 




Patients Call for Advance of NJ’s Death With Dignity Act

This past February, a state Assembly panel approved legislation known as the New Jersey Death with Dignity Act, which would allow voters to decide if New Jersey should create a process for terminally ill patients who wish to be given medicinal help to end their lives.

That measure has been stalled ever since, and many of those patients are now calling on lawmakers to move the legislation.

The bill defines a “terminal disease” as an incurable, irreversible, medically confirmed diagnosis that will, within reasonable judgment, result in a patient’s death within six months. Under the measure, the patient would have to self-administer the lethal dose of drugs.

If approved, the bill would require those patients to first verbally request a prescription from their attending physician, followed by a second verbal request at least 15 days later, and one request in writing signed by two witnesses. (McArdle/NJ101.5) 




With Interim Mayor, Newark Gets Shift in Style From Cory Booker

NEWARK—U.S. Sen. Cory Booker has advice for the residents of the city he once led: There is a new guy to call about garbage pickup and pothole repairs.

“Please talk to Luis,” said Mr. Booker, appearing next to this city’s interim mayor, Luis Quintana, at an award ceremony Tuesday.

After being at the helm of New Jersey’s largest city for seven years, Mr. Booker won a special Senate election and resigned as mayor in October. Mr. Quintana was sworn in on Nov. 12 and is serving for seven months until an election is held for a full four-year term in May. He has said he won’t run.

Mr. Quintana, 53 years old, is the city’s first Latino mayor and represents a shift in style and substance from Mr. Booker, a fellow Democrat. The former Municipal Council member is an ally of Mr. Booker’s adversary, former Mayor Sharpe James, and he fired several key members of the Booker administration on Wednesday. (Haddon/Wall Street Journal) 




Metro-North Train Derails in NYC, Killing Four

New York’s Metro-North Railroad is shut down along the Hudson River after a train derailment caused the first passenger fatalities in the line’s 30-year history, renewing scrutiny of safety on one of the city’s major mass-transit arteries. 

Four people were killed and 63 injured in the accident today in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. Red and silver railcars flipped onto their sides, with the lead car coming to rest on the bank of the Harlem River. The crash marked the third time in a year that service to New York on the railroad, which provided 83 million rail rides in 2012, has been forced to shut down because of an accident. 

“We realize that this is a very important railway for commuters in the New York area,” U.S. National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener said at a briefing at the rail site, where the team will look for more victims once it rights the toppled railcars. “Our mission is to understand not just what happened but how it happened with the intent to keep it from happening again.”

The NTSB, which is investigating two other Metro-North accidents from earlier this year, will be on site for seven to 10 days for this probe, Weener said. Investigators will look at the track, signals, train equipment, brakes, personnel and event-data recorders as they figure out what caused the wreck. (Keane, Green, and Deprez/Bloomberg) 




$40M steel sea wall project could start next year

MANTOLOKING, N.J. (AP) – Construction of a steel sea wall could start early next year in one of the Jersey shore towns hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy.

Bob Mainberger, Mantoloking’s municipal engineer, tells the Asbury Park Press ( that the bidding process to find a contractor for the $40 million project could get under way later this month. If that happens, construction work could start by mid-January and be completed sometime in June.

Officials have said the wall will run for the entire length of Mantoloking and neighboring Brick Township. The two Ocean County communities have received federal and state approval for the wall that will be covered by sand and form the base of a makeshift dune system.

The steel sea wall is meant as a short-term protective measure, to be complemented by an extensive beach widening and dune construction project being planned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The federal government will pay 80 percent of the wall’s cost, with the state paying the remainder. The towns’ only expense will be to keep it covered with sand.

The work is desperately needed in Mantoloking, a wealthy seaside enclave which saw every one of its 521 homes damaged or destroyed in the storm that hit on Oct. 29, 2012. (New Jersey Herald) 




 From the Back Room


Brown doesn’t want to be confused with Brown 

The backlash has been swift from fellow Republicans following Assemblyman Chris Brown’s comments on the airwaves Wednesday morning.

Assemblyman Chris Brown’s (R-2) comments on Hurley in the Morning on WPG Talk Radio stirred controversy and spurred another Republican assemblyman with the same name to attempt to set the record straight.

“This is Chris Brown of the 8th [legislative district],” Brown wrote to PolitickerNJ. “Ask Chris Brown of the 2nd to stop bad mouthing [Gov. Chris Christie]. It’s my name too.” (Arco/PolitickerNJ)





CD2 Update: LoBo reaching out to GOP financial power players

U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2) continues to contact powerful financial allies in the party to tell them he plans to count on their support toward another term in Congress.

Sources say the veteran congressman is about a month or two ahead of his normal fundraising intensification schedule heading into a re-election year. 

He’s not panicking or even overly-concerned, just doing his due dilligence, a source told

Attorney Bill Hughes, son of the former congressman of the same name, has already declared his CD2 candidacy. A Democrat, Hughes was at the League of Municipalities conference in Atlantic City last week trying to drum up support for his challenge of LoBiondo. (PolitickerNJ)







Require pay sick leave for all of N.J.

From the folks who brought us voter suppression laws and “stand your ground,” there’s a new movement that paints a target on the little guy: The American Legislative Exchange Council, better known as ALEC, is behind several new laws across the country that ban cities and towns from requiring paid sick leavefor their private-sector workers.

So far this year, seven states have adopted the pre-emptive paid sick leave bans, bringing the nationwide total to 10. Fourteen other states are considering one. Pennsylvania lawmakers began working on an ALEC-written sick leave ban just last month.

New Jersey has a chance to push back by requiring sick time for every worker in the state. At the moment, public momentum favors workers. In October, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop won mandatory paid sick days in his city. Newark’s city council is considering it. No lawmaker has proposed ALEC’s sick-leave ban in New Jersey — and it’s not likely the bill would get far if they did.

Moreover, New Jersey voters on Election Day overwhelmingly supported raising the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour. The pendulum is swinging toward workers’ rights, not against them. (Star-Ledger Editorial Board)  

Morning Digest: Dec. 2, 2013