Morning Digest: Dec. 30, 2013

Wrongful imprisonment compensation bill signed


TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation Friday dealing with compensation for wrongful imprisonment and deadlines for school board candidates’ nominating petitions:


S-1219wGR/ACS for A-1640, 3066 (Codey, Lesniak/Watson Coleman, Johnson) – Increases compensation for wrongful imprisonment

S-2086/A-3424 (Whelan/Greenwald, Singleton) – Changes deadline for filing nominating petitions for school board candidates to last Monday in July; revises procedure for filing school board candidate vacancy; and revises certain other election procedures

In regards to the compensation bill, S1219 had been conditionally vetoed and then won concurrence by the Legislature. Christie struck a provision that would have allowed compensation even in cases in which someone had given a false confession, contributing to their own imprisonment.

The bill ups the compensation from $20,000 a year or twice a person’s income (whichever is greater), to $50,000.

“This law had not been updated for 16 years, so it was past time that we did so to ensure people who endured this real-life nightmare get the help they need,” said one of the sponsors, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, in a release. (Mooney/PolitickerNJ)





Stender urges Christie to expand medical marijuana access


TRENTON – One of the lawmakers pushing an effort to expand medical marijuana in New Jersey reacted today to the news that one of the families at the heart of the matter is leaving the state.

Assemblywoman Linda Stender, (D-22), Scotch Plains, called on the governor to allow for expanded access to medical marijuana after it was reported that one of the families, located in her district, will move to Colorado in order to have access to the medicinal pot their daughter needs.

The Wilson family, whose daughter Vivian, suffers from a severe form of epilepsy, has been unable to obtain the type of medical marijuana needed for her condition.

The family said it would move to Colorado, where the medical pot is available in edible form. (Mooney/PolitickerNJ)






’14 starts ominously for NJ casinos as gov watches


ATLANTIC CITY — The new year is a crucial one for Atlantic City’s future, and 2014 won’t start auspiciously.

This is the fourth year of a five-year grace period New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has given the seaside gambling resort to turn around its struggling fortunes before considering expanding casinos to other parts of the state — something casino executives fear will decimate the already wobbly market.

And it will begin with the closing of one of the city’s 12 casinos, the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, which is shutting its doors on Jan. 13, the victim of a takedown in bankruptcy court. Two national gambling companies with casinos in Atlantic City, Tropicana Entertainment and Caesars Entertainment, are paying a combined $23.4 million for the business, and the right to strip it for parts and close it down. (Associated Press) 




79,000 in N.J. lose jobless benefits


TRENTON — New Jersey will be hard hit when federal emergency jobless benefits end this weekend.

The U.S. Department of Labor said Friday that about 79,000 New Jerseyans will be cut off as of today. Earlier estimates had put the number slightly higher.

Nationally about 1.3 million people are losing their extended benefits.

The U.S. Senate’s top Democrat has said the chamber would vote in early January on a benefit extension for the long-term unemployed. Majority Leader Harry Reid promised a vote no later than Jan. 7 on a measure to extend the assistance for three months.

Republicans controlling the House have opposed an effort to renew the emergency program, in place since 2008, which gives federally paid benefits to jobless people after their 26 weeks of state benefits run out. (Associated Press) 



Emails show Port Authority officials were warned of hardships[s caused by GWB lane closures

Hours after unannounced lane closures went into effect at the George Washington Bridge on a Monday morning in September, Governor Christie’s top two executives at the Port Authority received an email indicating that the resulting traffic jams were posing problems that carried potential life-and-death consequences.

Fort Lee police and medical personnel had been delayed while responding to a report of a missing child and a cardiac arrest, according to an email sent to the pair from a lower-ranking Port Authority employee.

Despite that warning — laid out in one of three internal agency emails obtained by The Record — the two Christie executives, who had quietly decided only days earlier to divert local lanes leading to the bridge, ignored the pleas of Fort Lee’s police and mayor, local officials have said. The lane diversions continued for four days until Pat Foye, the Port Authority’s executive director and an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, found out about them and angrily reversed the decision, which he called “abusive” and potentially illegal. (Boburg/The Record)   






NJ toll collectors fighting to keep jobs on Turnpike, GSP


TRENTON — Working in a metal booth in the middle of a highway — while traffic zooms by and choking exhaust fumes fill the air — may not sound like an ideal job to most people.

But the unions representing toll collectors on the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike are fighting to protect those jobs as technology cuts into the work force and plans for privatization become more intense.

Union leaders are worried that toll takers may disappear altogether unless they are able to stop the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, the parkway and turnpike’s operating agency, from privatizing the fare-collection system on both roads.

“It’s just a shame what is being done. They’re in constant fear of losing their jobs,” Kevin McCarthy, president of Local 194 of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, told The Press of Atlantic City. The union represents the turnpike’s toll collectors.

The turnpike authority has decided to accept bids for a private company to oversee toll collection, including the human toll takers and the automated E-ZPass system. The authority believes it may save millions of dollars by making the switch. The same issue was debated in 2011, but privatization was avoided then because the unions agreed to accept salary cuts and other concessions.

“At the time, our toll collectors were making about $65,000 a year. That was 50 percent higher than the median salary at other tolling agencies,” said Tom Feeney, a spokesman for the turnpike authority. (Wittkowski/Associated Press)   






Chris Christie on track to break his own record for vetoes


TRENTON — The legislative session that wraps up in two weeks could be the least fruitful in recent memory, with the fewest bills signed into law in at least 25 years.

That’s in part because Gov. Chris Christie is on track to break his own record for vetoing bills that he set just two years ago.

“This governor has more power than any other governor in the nation, and he uses every inch of it,” said Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester).

Since the current two-year session began in January 2012, Christie has signed 270 of the bills placed on his desk by the Democratic Legislature and taken his veto pen to 92 bills — striking down 49 outright and conditionally vetoing 43.

At this point in the last legislative session, Christie had struck down only 32 bills outright. That number grew to 80 by the end of the session, along with 48 conditional vetoes. In all, Christie signed 371 bills that session — the fewest of any governor since at least 1988. (Friedman/Star-Ledger) 




PolitiFact N.J.: Assemblyman David Rible claims Chris Christie hasn’t raised taxes

Some political sound bites just never go away, particularly when it comes to Gov. Chris Christie’s record on taxes in New Jersey.

Assemblyman David Rible (R-Monmouth) took up that issue during a Nov. 30 appearance on NJTV’s ‘On The Record with Michael Aron’ program, where he claimed the governor has produced continual balanced budgets and hasn’t raised taxes.

Christie himself has made the same claims multiple times. But are both Rible and the governor correct? Find out at and then join the conversation about our ruling at (Shinske/ 




From the Back Room


Carney appointed to NJ Casino Fund Advisory Commission

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) appointed James A. Carney of Egg Harbor Township to the New Jersey Casino Revenue Fund Advisory Commission.

“Jim has a wealth of business and governmental experience that will serve the Commission well,” said Senator  Jim Whelan (D-2), who announced the appointment. “I know he will be a strong voice for seniors and the disabled who benefit from programs paid for by the Casino Revenue Fund.”

Eight percent of yearly casino gross receipts are deposited into the Casino Revenue Fund to provide crucial funding for health care, transportation, and housing services for New Jersey’s seniors and disabled. The 2014 Casino Revenue Fund budget is $435.8 million. (PolitickerNJ)

Morning Digest: Dec. 30, 2013