Morning Digest: Dec. 26, 2013

N.J. prepares to cope with minimum wage increase

TRENTON – The minimum wage hike does not kick in for another few days, but both sides in the debate are still weighing in with opinions about the consequences.

Maybe a year from now pundits will be able to look back and make clear-eyed assessments of how it played out. But for now, both sides are convinced of their respective points of view.

The folks at N.J. Policy Perspective, who admittedly take a more liberal view of such matters, believe that the boost from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour – with a cost of living provision constitutionally mandated – will help New Jersey’s economy in the long run.

NJPP issued an analysis this week in which they used the most recent Census Bureau data to conclude that the increase in the minimum wage will generate more than $173 million in economic growth in 2014.

In addition, they predicted that possibly 1,300 jobs will be created as businesses expand.

Whatever figures NJPP is looking at, they are not the numbers the folks at the N.J. Business and Industry Association are seeing. (Mooney/PolitickerNJ)





Trenton Dems invite new SDA head to tour TCHS

TRENTON – The state legislators representing Trenton have extended an invitation to the incoming head of the Schools Development Authority to tour the dilapidated Trenton Central High School in hopes of accelerating repairs there.

Sen. Shirley Turner and Assembly members Reed Gusciora and Bonnie Watson Coleman want SDA appointee Charles McKenna to see firsthand conditions at the school, which include a condemned auditorium, a crumbling infrastructure, leaks, odors and more problems.

Gusciora told PolitickerNJ last week that he would invite McKenna. The trio of Democrats hope a change at the top of SDA means a change in philosophy, although they expressed caution overall that the Christie administration might not speed up repairs.

“No student should have to endure the conditions that students at Trenton Central High face day in and day out,” Turner said in a release announcing the invitation. 

“The perpetual neglect that has led to this deteriorating state is shameful.  It’s my hope that the incoming SDA chief will be far more sympathetic to their plight and receptive to our pleas for action. 

“A simple tour can be a real eye-opener.  Each day delayed is another day that we compromise student safety and their overall chances for long-term success.”

The state earlier this year OK’d a $3 million predesign contract but the lawmakers said that was much too little and more needs to be done. (Mooney/PolitickerNJ)






HHS offers help for people who miss Obamacare deadline

People who can’t finish the online signup for Obamacare health insurance by midnight Tuesday because of problems with and a surge of last-minute shoppers can seek extra time to finalize their application and still get covered by Jan. 1, the Obama administration said Tuesday afternoon.

It’s the latest in a series of extensions granted by the administration, which is making a final push to enroll people in coverage taking effect next week.’’

Officials have repeatedly delayed deadlines and announced extra accommodations to maximize enrollment, but the moves also risk increased confusion among consumers. They also expose the administration to further criticism from Obamacare opponents, who say all the last minute changes are indications of the law’s failure. (Kenen and Millman/Politico)





Report: Official knew of town’s GWB traffic woes

FORT LEE — Records show a northern New Jersey mayor pleaded for help in easing gridlock at the George Washington Bridge, a request made three years before two of the bridge’s approach lanes were suddenly blocked.

Citing documents it obtained from Fort Lee through a public-records request, The Record reports borough Mayor Mark Sokolich sought help in a letter sent to Bill Baroni in November 2010.

At the time, Baroni was the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s deputy executive director. But he and another Port Authority executive, David Wildstein, recently resigned their posts amid investigations into how and why the lanes were closed in September.

Democrats claim the closures were political payback for a Democratic mayor who would not endorse Gov. Chris Christie for re-election, which Christie has denied. (Associated Press) 




Court to head arguments on Christie’s removal of state from greenhouse gas program

 An appellate panel will soon grapple with whether Governor Christie illegally removed New Jersey from a multistate program designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Oral arguments are expected to be heard before a three-judge panel in Trenton on Jan. 8, nearly 20 months after two environmental groups sued Christie. They claim the governor violated state law by not seeking any public comment before pulling New Jersey out of the program in 2011.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, is a cap-and-trade program adopted by nine Eastern states in which power companies like Public Service Electric and Gas Co. must purchase credits through public auctions for every ton of carbon their plants emit while generating electricity. Revenue from the sale of credits goes to the states to invest in renewable energy programs.

Whether the lawsuit could reinstall New Jersey back into RGGI, even temporarily, remains to be seen. But the battle is essentially over whether Christie had the right to take New Jersey out of the pact unilaterally. (Fallon/The Record)   






Claim brought by NJ Tent City founder rejected

 TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) — A claim of civil rights violations filed by the founder of a homeless encampment near the Jersey shore has been rejected.

The Asbury Park Press reported ( ) Monday that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has rejected claims that officials in Lakewood were taking actions to purposefully make life at the camp difficult.

The claim was filed by the Rev. Steve Brigham of the Lakewood Outreach Ministries, who is a founder and resident of the so-called “Tent City” in Lakewood.

Brigham filed a housing discrimination claim in May 2012 arguing the town wrongfully removed 14 structures from Tent City and had taking various steps to try and harass and evict the campers.

HUD said in a Nov. 20 letter to the township that the claims are unfounded. (Associated Press)   






N.J. state senator calls for state to investigate Target credit card thefts

TRENTON — An Essex County lawmaker wants the state to investigate the massive theft of customers’ credit card information from Target.

State Sen. Kevin O’Toole, a Republican, said he was spurred to act by a report that credit card numbers from the theft were being sold on the black market. He wrote a letter to Acting Attorney General John Hoffman requesting the investigation today.

“While I am sure the seriousness of the news is not lost upon you , and there are reports that the U.S. Department of Justice is conducting its own investigation, I ask that your office open an investigation into this matter to ensure that citizens of New Jersey are protected,” O’Toole wrote. “We can not sit idly by as the hard working New Jerseyans face the prospect of having their accounts raided, identities stolen and credit ratings destroyed.”

Target, the second largest discount retail chain in the nation, last week announced that hackers stole credit and debit card information for 40 million customers. The breach has been described as the second largest ever.

Attorneys general from several states, including New York, have sharply questioned Target about the breach. And customers have already begun filing class-action lawsuits against the retail giant. (Friedman/Star-Ledger) 





Cory Booker, Rand Paul, and a Festivus miracle

 U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Rand Paul had a Festivus exchange yesterday that could one day lead to drug policy and sentencing reforms.

It began with Paul’s “airing of the grievances,” a tradition that is part of Festivus, the fictional Dec. 23 holiday created by Frank Costanza, George Costanza’s father on the wildly popular 1990s sitcom “Seinfeld.”

Among the grievances aired by Paul on his Twitter feed was one about New Jersey’s newest senator, former Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

“One more Festivus grievance about bi-partisanship: @CoryBooker doesn’t RT me enough,” Paul tweeted referring to the famously Twitter-savvy Booker’s failure to retweet him regularly enough for the Kentucky senator’s liking.

Not to be outdone on his social medium of choice, Booker jumped into the fray.

” U, me & “feats of strength:” Senate floor, name the time,” Booker tweeted referring to a second Festivus tradition, the feats of strength.

Paul took the opportunity to bait Booker on a policy issue that both men believe in. Drug and sentencing reforms.  (Isherwood/ 



From the Back Room


Leadership funding amount breakdown

The usual pre-holiday Statehouse lull was shattered Monday with news about changes to the level of legislative leadership funding.

Senate President Steve Sweeney cut the funding amount Republican lawmakers would receive in 2014 from $330,000 to $188,000. Also, the top Democratic lawmaker slashed funding to Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. and his allies, while simultaneously increasing funding to the Senate lawmakers who challenged him over his leadership position.

However, if Kean got his way, the lawmaker who challenged him and the state senator who originally agreed to support Kean but later voted to install Sen. Kevin O’Toole as minority leader would have received cuts over 2013 funding levels. (PolitickerNJ) Morning Digest: Dec. 26, 2013