Morning Digest: May 20, 2014

Smith backers organizing in Bayonne for Part 2 with Davis

It only looked like a staging area for a meticulous reenactment of the Battle of the Somme.

What it was, in fact, was a meeting of the backers of incumbent Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith, who right now faces the task of trying to assemble a more motley array of dog solders to stare down Jimmy Davis in the June 10th runoff election.

Smith backers organizing in Bayonne for Part 2 with Davis | Politicker NJ





Payne “not waiting to see what happens” following Baraka victory in Newark mayor’s race

NEWARK – One of the critical moments of the recently concluded Newark mayoral race occurred in March, when U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-10) endorsed former state Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries over rival Ras Baraka. 

Payne’s endorsement was seen through the prism of old-time Newark politics. The Payne family has had a decades-long rivalry with the Baraka family. The Paynes and Barakas, two Newark political dynasties that share the same South Ward fiefdom, were in direct conflict following Payne’s endorsement of Jeffries. 

At the time of his endorsement, Payne noted that he had communications with famed poet and activist Amiri Baraka, the politician’s father, during the poet’s fatal illness, and admired Ras Baraka personally. But Payne stood by his decision to back Jeffries instead of Baraka in the May municipal election.

“This is about issues,” Payne said. “This is not about personalities.” (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Payne “not waiting to see what happens” following Baraka victory in Newark mayor’s race | Politicker NJ






Sources: Fulop cannot escape Bayonne’s Smith

My God, Bayonne.

What started as a local barge brawl, funny to those observers witnessing the fisticuffs from afar, in the span of a week has turned into a crisis threatening to drag asunder and severely muddy politicians from beyond the three ward perimeter of this maritime city best known for giving birth to boxing underdog icon Chuck Wepner.

Some of the biggest brand names in Hudson County Democratic Party politics, starting with Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, feel suddenly as though they not only must pay attention to Bayonne’s June 10th runoff election – but be doubly on guard not to look weak as a consequence of the outcome.

Those closest to incumbent Mayor Mark Smith are the most jittery, for the three-way race for mayor last Tuesday left Smith improbably clinging to a one-percent lead over challenger Jimmy Davis, a local police captain.

The fact that Smith staggered into the runoff has old establishment enemies surfacing and looking to propel Davis to victory past what some in the Hudson firmament see as Bayonne’s hulking political carcass in office, who also happens to wear a badge for living.

The irony is that Smith’s biggest local ally now is also the man who has to stand beside him for the sake of political continuity and for the sake of a mutual pal union leader, and that’s Fulop.

A year ago, Smith – who then was serving as the chairman of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) – was trying to eradicate the upstart councilman turned mayoral candidate from Jersey City. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Sources: Fulop cannot escape Bayonne’s Smith | Politicker NJ





Republicans call on N.J. legislative panel to suspend GWB probe

 The legislative panel investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closures will again turn its attention to Governor Christie’s campaign and the unit in his state office responsible for working with mayors and local officials.

Matt Mowers is scheduled to appear before the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation to field questions about the lane closures on Tuesday. Mowers spent nearly two and a half years working as a regional director in the governor’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs before leaving last April to join Christie’s re-election campaign as a regional political director.

It was during his time as a state employee that Mowers spoke twice to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, the alleged target of the lane closures, about endorsing Christie. However, in an interview with a team of internal investigators hired by Christie, Mowers maintained that it was the mayor who first raised the topic and that after he left to work for the campaign he did not seek Sokolich’s support.

Republicans on Monday again called for an end to the hearings and said the committee should instead focus its attention on reforming the Port Authority.

“I would hope that legislators begin to legislate and not simply investigate,” said Assembly Minority Leader John Bramnick, R-Union, during a State House news conference Monday. Aside from reforming the Port Authority, Bramnick said lawmakers should focus their energy on job creation.

But Democrats say Mowers and others hold information that is key to getting to the heart of the issue – how a top aide in Christie’s office was apparently able to order a Port Authority official to close the access lanes to the bridge. (Hayes/The Recor) 





Superstorm Sandy lawsuit deadline in dispute

It’s just one rule within a massive federal plan that lays out how flood insurance is administered throughout the country.

But how that rule is being interpreted could make the difference for many New Jersey residents whose homes were devastated by Superstorm Sandy.

The National Flood Insurance Act says policyholders who receive a written denial, or partial denial, of a claim have one year to sue their insurers. That rule has been incorporated into the National Flood Insurance Plan, which is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

But there is disagreement over when the clock starts ticking.

“We disagree with FEMA’s interpretation of the statute of limitations,” said Christopher W. Gerold, an attorney with Wolff & Samson, a law firm representing some Sandy victims who have filed suit against their insurers. “The question is not when was there a denial, but when there was a claim made.”

Nearly 1,000 lawsuits have been filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey since the Oct. 29, 2012, storm, prompting Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle to establish a plan to resolve the cases in a timely manner. The judge has said he anticipates handling 2,000 cases by next year.

The cases were filed against some of the nearly 90 private insurance companies that work with FEMA to provide flood insurance to homeowners, renters and business owners. (Sudol/The Record) 




Bill Would Extend Tobacco Tax Beyond E-Cigarettes to Cigars, Other Products

egislators are interested in expanding Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal to tax electronic cigarettes at the same level as conventional cigarettes to other tobacco products, like cigars and smokeless tobacco.

The bill (S-1867), is drawing strong opposition from e-cigarette and tobacco producers, wholesalers, and retailers, as well as consumers who say they use e-cigarettes to quit smoking.

But public health advocates say boosting the tax would both discourage use of harmful products and raise revenue for smoking cessation programs.

Both sides of the debate are trying to use uncertainty about e-cigarettes to their advantage. Supporters of the bill say that some harmful effects are already known and others could be found. Bill opponents say they’re clearly less harmful than regular cigarettes.

State officials say that Christie’s proposed tax increase just on e-cigarettes would yield $35 million in the budget year starting on July 1, a number that’s disputed by tax opponents.

But the bill, sponsored by Sen. Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex) and Sen. Richard J. Codey (D-Essex and Morris), would extend the tax to other tobacco products. This is expected to generate $22 million, which would be dedicated to smoking control, cessation and prevention programs; drug abuse treatment and prevention; and cancer research.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered and use heat to vaporize a liquid solution that generally includes nicotine and flavoring. State Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd has said that the tax would be an effective way to reduce e-cigarette use, particularly among children.

It’s not clear whether the tax will make it through the budget process, however. While the state is in dire need of closing the budget deficit, several Democratic legislators have questioned the value of the proposal. (Kitchenman/NJSpotlight) 




Critics Accuse Christie of Trying to Remake Pinelands Panel in His Own Image

Gov. Chris Christie yesterday nominated two new members of the Pinelands Commission, a move that some environmentalists believe could more closely align the agency with the administration’s policies.

The nominations of two new public members would, if approved, replace two Pinelands commissioners who voted against a controversial 22-mile natural gas pipeline through the heart of the more than 1-million-acre reserve to allow the former B.L. England Plant in Cape May to convert to that fuel.

The $90 million project would allow the plant, now owned by Rockland Capital, to remain open, providing needed electricity to a region where power supplies to ensure reliability of the grid are in question, according to proponents.

But critics had a different view.

“This is alarming,’’ said Carleton Montgomery, executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, which opposed the project. “The only inference I can draw given the timing and what’s been happening is this is going to help Rockland Capital get their pipeline.’’

The two nominees are Dennis Roohr from Cookstown, the Republican mayor of New Hanover Township, and Robert Barr of Ocean City, the board director of the Ocean City Community Association. They would replace D’Arcy Green and Robert Jackson, who were among the seven Pineland commissioners who opposed the project in a 7-7 vote in January.

Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for Christie, defended the nominations, saying they were two objectively qualified individuals who have deep roots and extensive service in their communities. (Johnson/NJSpotlight) 






Bill requiring Port Authorty to use American steel approved by Senate panel

TRENTON — With billions of dollars in Port Authority of New York and New Jersey construction contracts to be award in the next decade, a state Senate panel today approved a bill mandating that the agency require domestic steel to be used in its capital projects.

The measure, which is part of a package of bills that would impose the same requirement on New Jersey-Pennsylvania bi-state agencies, was introduced by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, an iron worker and union official.

Sweeney, (D-Gloucester), said he crafted the requirement after reading in The Star-Ledger last fall that a $1.2 billion project by the Port Authority to raise the Bayonne Bridge roadway would use imported steel, though the agency said a $1.5 billion replacement of the Goethals Bridge would use only domestic steel, a requirement of projects that receive federal funds.

Earlier last year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York drew criticism for permitting a contractor to use steel plates made in China on a Verrazano-Narrows Bridge project. (Strunsky/Star-Ledger) 





Christie-backed constitutional amendment to allow NJ judges to deny bail advances

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to make major changes to the state’s bail system — first proposed more than two years ago — is finally gaining steam in the state Legislature.

The state Senate budget committee today advanced a measure that would ask voters to amend the state constitution so judges would be allowed to deny bail to defendants who pose a risk to public safety or may flee.

New Jersey used to deny bail only to defendants charged with offenses punishable by the death penalty. But when the state eliminated capital punishment in 2007, all defendants became eligible for bail.

“You constantly see prosecutors arguing a defendant is a risk to the public,” said state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), a sponsor, who is also a municipal prosecutor. “There’s a big need. I’ve had a lot of meetings with criminal judges as well. They all agree it’s time we need to make a change.”

Christie first proposed the amendment in 2012, when he also called for expanding the drug court program with the aim of avoiding jail time for all first-time drug offenders. Although the Legislature quickly took up the drug court bill, the bail resolution stalled until this year. (Friedman/Star-Ledger)   





From the Back Room


Christie files nominations

Governor Chris Christie filed the following nominations with the State Senate…



Public Members

Nominate for appointment the Honorable Dennis Roohr (Cookstown, Burlington)

Nominate for appointment Robert S. Barr (Ocean City, Cape May)


Read the full article by clicking the link below…


Christie files nominations | Politicker NJ






Fulop and The Fix

The Washington Post’s The Fix put together a 40 rising political stars under the age of 40, and there is a recognizable face from North Jersey representing the Garden State.

Take a look at the list here.

Fulop and The Fix | Politicker NJ






Currie’s state party appointments 

New Jersey Democratic Committee Chairman John Currie selected four deputy vice chairs for the state party.

The chair’s picks are: Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal, Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-34), Garden State Equality founder Steven Goldstein, and Atlantic County Freeholder Colin Bell. 

Currie’s state party appointments | Politicker NJ Morning Digest: May 20, 2014