Morning Digest: May, 28, 2014

Newark student protesters leave meeting with Anderson, Hespe feeling “utter disrespect,” say demonstrations will continue

NEWARK – Ten Newark public high school students met with acting New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner David Hespe and Newark School Superintendent Cami Anderson on Tuesday to express their concerns following a series of protests regarding the future of Newark’s schools, including an overnight sit-in last week. The students left their 45-minute meeting, arranged after the sit-in, with the same feelings that led them to an act of civil disobedience: dissatisfaction, disrespect and disgust. 

“Through the meeting, there was a lot of dialogue, and we were able to get out the most important thing – how are students are being affected by the One Newark plan,” said Kristin Towkaniuk, president of the Newark Students Union, at a press conference in Newark following the meeting, which was also attended by Rashon Hasan, the chair of the Newark school advisory board. “From there, we were able to have a conversation about our demands. Our demands included the immediate removal of [Newark School] Superintendent Cami Anderson, the halt of the One Newark plan, the implementation of the Newark Promise plan and to be on the transition committee to pick the new superintendent.

“Our demands were not responded to. They were kind of brushed to the side,” Towkaniuk added. “It’s really important in the community that everybody knows that the Newark Students Union will not give up. Because our demands were not met this time doesn’t mean that we won’t continue to have protests. That doesn’t mean that we won’t continue to have conversations like we did with Commissioner Hespe. We look forward to continuing this fight until we reach a point in Newark’s public schools where we feel satisfied.”  (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Newark student protesters leave meeting with Anderson, Hespe feeling “utter disrespect,” say demonstrations will continue | Politicker NJ







Palin endorses Lonegan in CD 3 GOP primary battle

LAVALLETTE – Former Alaska Governor and Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin announced on Tuesday that she endorsed Steve Lonegan’s bid to be the GOP’s candidate in New Jersey’s Third Congressional District. 

“Steve is the type of conservative leader we need,” said Palin, who served as Alaska’s governor from 2006 to 2009 and was the GOP’s vice-presidential candidate in a losing 2008 effort against the Democrats, in a written statement. “He believes in the free market principles this country was founded on because he has seen first hand how they can lead to success. In Washington, he will be a dedicated fighter for lower taxes, balanced budgets, and lessening the burdens of regulations on small businesses.”

“It’s truly an honor to receive Governor Palin’s endorsement,” said Lonegan, the former Bogota mayor who lost to former Newark Mayor Cory Booker in last year’s special U.S. Senate election to succeed the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). “This race is about a clear choice to elect a liberal like Tom MacArthur or a conservative who has fought for lower taxes, smaller government, less waste in Washington, and the repeal of Obamacare.” (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Palin endorses Lonegan in CD 3 GOP primary battle | Politicker NJ







Newark Mayor-elect Baraka endorses Watson Coleman in CD 12 Democratic primary fight 

EWING – Exactly two weeks after his win in the Newark mayoral race, Newark Mayor-elect Ras Baraka endorsed state Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15) today for the Democratic nomination in New Jersey’s Twelfth Congressional District primary to be held on June 3.

Baraka, who will be sworn in as Newark’s next mayor on June 30, praised Watson Coleman for her leadership in the legislature and long-standing dedication to communities throughout her district and across the state.  Baraka will also headline a fundraiser for Watson Coleman along with Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes on May 28 in Ewing, the Watson Coleman campaign announced. 

“Bonnie Watson Coleman has been a tireless advocate for civil rights in New Jersey and has never wavered from that fight,” Baraka said in a written statement. “Bonnie is not a politician who makes decisions based on polls and focus groups, she fights for the things she believes in without hesitation. She would bring that same determination with her to Washington, so I know Bonnie would be first in line to stand against the Tea Party and fiercely advocate to pass stronger gun laws, protect Social Security and Medicare, strengthen equal pay laws and improve access to affordable health care. On June 3, voters in the Twelfth Congressional District need to make their voices heard and elect Bonnie Watson Coleman to be the first African-American woman representative in New Jersey history so she can stand side by side with President Obama and Democrats in Congress and fight for our shared values.” 

Watson Coleman thanked Baraka for his support. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Newark Mayor-elect Baraka endorses Watson Coleman in CD 12 Democratic primary fight | Politicker NJ






Christie sets up exit from greenhouse gases pact

Under court order, Governor Christie has set up a formal process to withdraw New Jersey from a multistate program designed to reduce greenhouse gases.

In a letter released Tuesday, attorneys for the state told court officials they would formally announce on July 7 a repeal of rules that allowed New Jersey to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. They would then set up a 60-day comment period.

The pact, often called RGGI, was formed more than a decade ago by 10 Eastern states to cut the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by dozens of power companies. The companies purchase credits for every ton of carbon their plants emit while generating electricity.

The program has generated almost $1.7 billion to the states from the sale of credits.

Christie pulled the state out of RGGI at the end of 2011 despite New Jersey’s collecting about $113 million from the program. Christie had called the program an unfair tax on business that would only result in higher electricity rates.

After the Christie administration was sued by advocacy groups, a state appellate panel said he had improperly pulled the state out of the pact. The court ordered the Department of Environmental Protection to formally repeal the regulations that secured membership in the program. (Fallon/The Record) 






A limit to pension investing oversight as political donations from executives can go unchecked

Last year, nearly 2,000 businesses doing $6.4 billion in public work reported — as required by state law — that they made $10.1 million in contributions to New Jersey’s various political parties and candidates.

But when it comes to New Jersey’s pension fund — and the increasing share of the nearly $77 billion in assets going to hedge funds, private equity and venture capital funds — such disclosures aren’t so clear-cut.

The pay-to-play law makes it clear that executives and their employees working on the state’s pension fund investments cannot make political contributions to New Jersey candidates and political committees. But those venture capital firms and hedge funds often take the state pension dollars and invest them in other companies whose executives do not have to disclose their political donations.

Now the pension fund’s directors are putting more money into those alternative investments. The complex nature of those investments, the inability of the pay-to-play law to cover all their financial relationships and the lack of any accompanying public database like the one for state contractors make tracking political connections difficult. That comes as Governor Christie has built a national fundraising network that includes donors with backgrounds in the finance industry.

And the state Department of Treasury relies on the investment firms themselves to determine which employees are covered by the law, and to disclose any political contributions made by them. The Election Law Enforcement Commission, which regulates other businesses with state contracts, also relies on companies to self-report contributions. But the commission also maintains a public database of campaign donations and state contractors that allows for increased scrutiny of the donors doing public business.

The council that oversees the state’s investments will meet today for the first time since Christie announced last week that he would cut nearly $900 million from this year’s pension payment to close a budget gap.

The New Jersey State Investment Council, which manages the $76.76 billion pension system, is set to discuss three alternative investment proposals and get an update on its plan for the coming fiscal year. The meeting comes as questions have been raised over the legality of Christie’s scaled-back pension payments and amid claims that the state awarded investments to campaign contributors who support the governor. (Hayes and Reitmeyer/The Record) 






Christie Administration Looks to Roll Back Limits on Power-Plant Emissions

n a response to a court ruling, the Christie administration plans to repeal regulations to control climate-changing pollution from power plants.

The decision, announced without any fanfare last week, addresses an appeals court ruling in March, which found the administration failed to follow the law when it unilaterally ended New Jersey’s participation in a multi-state initiative to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

By repealing the regulations, the administration would comply with the court’s decision that said the state failed to follow proper procedures in pulling out of the program, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Environmental groups contested the administration’s action, saying it could no do so without going through a new rulemaking process and public hearings, a stance endorsed by the appeals court.

The action by the administration comes as no surprise. Gov. Chris Christie has often criticized the RGGI program as ineffective and merely another tax on utility customers.

Still, the decision angered environmentalists who note two recent reports documented the threats posed by global climate change, including one released by the Obama administration. It found that New Jersey and the rest of the nation already are experiencing the effects of climate change and can expect more downpours, floods, and storms in the future. (Johnson/NJSpotlight) 







Legislation Would Ban Lighting Up at New Jersey’s Beaches, Parks

For many New Jersey residents, there are few things more relaxing than enjoying the state’s beaches and parks. Lawmakers are deciding whether to make that experience even more enjoyable for nonsmokers – but more stressful for smokers — by banning lighting up on beaches and in parks.

The bill, S-1772 and A-1080, would expand the Smoke-Free Air Act to include state, county and municipal parks and beaches — but it would allow towns and counties to designate up to 20 percent of that land as smoking areas.

That amendment has drawn opposition from the Sierra Club, which said allowing designated smoking areas amounted to “gutting” the original proposal.

Bill sponsors noted that the ban will still be total, barring action taken by local governments.

They also said the bill wouldn’t have advanced in the Legislature without the amendment.

Sponsor Sen. Shirley K. Turner (D-Hunterdon and Mercer) said she proposed the bill both for health reasons, to protect people from second-hand smoke; for safety reasons, to reduce the risk of forest fires; and for the sake of tourism, to help beautify the beaches.

“We’ve done a pretty good job of providing no smoking in our enclosed areas and this takes a step to the out-of-doors,” said Turner, who paraphrased Smokey Bear’s warning that “only you can prevent wildfires.”  (Kitchenman/NJSpotlight) 








Christie signs law allowing adoptees access to birth certificates in 2017

TRENTON — After 34 years of publicly sharing their deepest feelings and most painful experiences, adoption activists celebrated today as Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill that will enable them to obtain their original birth records, beginning in 2017.

As it turns out, the issue was personal for the governor too.

Three years ago, Catholic and anti-abortion rights leaders convinced Christie to veto the legislation because they said it would harm mothers who gave their babies up for adoption and wanted to remain anonymous. But he said the “extremely persistent” yet “respectful” advocates for the bill wouldn’t give up, and asked him to consider the human rights of the adoptee.

Christie today revealed he sought advice from his sister, Dawn, who was 2 when his parents adopted her. Christie was 11 and his brother, Todd, was 9 at the time.

“I often was uncomfortable with discussing this publicly because I had to identify my sister as adopted. You see, in our family, once she joined us 4th of July weekend in 1973, she was my sister, not my adopted sister,” Christie told a group of adoption rights advocates who gathered outside the Statehouse for the bill signing ceremony. “And for people who. . .referred to her as my adopted sister, we would always stop them short. She’s our sister.”

“The issue is even more complicated for her,” Christie added. “The father of her four children is also adopted. The lack of knowledge and information they can pass on to their own children has been a cause of great concern and stress for them over the years.”

The new law requires birth mothers to complete a form identifying medical conditions they and other family members had suffered, alerting adoptees to what kinds of illnesses they may someday face.  (Livio/Star-Ledger) 








Sweeney to tour NJ again, this time to celebrate minimum wage increase

TRENTON — State Senate President Stephen Sweeney is kicking off a tour of small businesses on Thursday to celebrate raising the minimum wage in New Jersey.

Sweeney (D-Gloucester) sponsored a constitutional amendment that was approved by voters in November to raise the wage from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour. The minimum wage will continue to increase every year based on the Consumer Price Index, which roughly tracks inflation.

“Increasing the minimum wage is a perfect example of what happens when we actually help working people in this state,” Sweeney said in a statement. “We hope the governor will take note that when you give a boost to the working poor and middle class in New Jersey, everyone benefits. Our economy cannot grow by giving tax breaks to the so called ‘job creators’ alone.”

Sweeney’s first stop will be at Foodtown, a supermarket in New Brunswick, on Thursday morning. In the afternoon, Sweeney plans to stop at Sahil Clothing in Iselin. The purpose of the visit will be to “highlight the success of raising New Jersey’s minimum wage,” according to a press release from his office. (Friedman/Star-Ledger) 






From the Back Room



Latino group to endorse Perez in Trenton mayor’s race, Chivukula in CD 12 Democratic primary race today

A Latino business and community group based in Trenton will make two June election endorsements today on the steps of Trenton’s City Hall. 

The group, known as the Latino Business and Community Leaders Panel of Trenton, will endorse Paul Perez in the June 10 Trenton mayoral runoff election and will back state Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-17) in the June 3 Twelfth Congressional District Democratic primary. 

“Both [Perez] and [Chivukula] respected us enough to come talk to us,” said Manny Segura, former Trenton councilman and 2010 mayoral candidate, who is the Latino group’s chairperson. “They engaged us.” 

The endorsements will take place at Trenton City Hall, 319 East State Street, at 5:30 p.m.  (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Latino group to endorse Perez in Trenton mayor’s race, Chivukula in CD 12 Democratic primary race today | Politicker NJ






Report: Norcross outbid for newspapers’ ownership

South Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross III lost his piece of the ownership of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News today, according to a report in NJBIZ.

Report: Norcross outbid for newspapers’ ownership | Politicker NJ








FEC $: CD12

Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15) has outraised state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14) $271,327 to $238,453 in total contributions in their CD12 Democratic Primary, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

Greenstein reported more cash-on-hand ($159,400) in her May 14th filing, according to the FEC; compared to $94,263 for Watson Coleman.

Considered a long-shot in the contest by virtue of limited Democratic Party organization support, Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-17) raised the second highest amount in the contest ($260,134), and reported $45,909 cash-on-hand.

FEC $: CD12 | Politicker NJ








Find, end bloat in N.J. government staffs

There are no good choices as New Jersey heads into its final month of budget planning some $800 million in the hole.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie set off a firestorm when he opted to slash state payments for public workers’ pensions, which were finally getting on track, by $2.43 million over the next two years. Democrats and public employee unions are in revolt over the idea, but partially stiffing the pension funds is a lot less hurtful to the public than slashing school aid, hospital payments or property tax rebates. 

What we’re hearing little about, though, is state government at its core. Aren’t there still too many workers in jobs that don’t matter?

School districts and towns took a fairly big employee-count hit when state aid cuts fell on those entities in 2010 and 2011. The state itself was down to 141,000 workers in 2011, from a 10-year-high of 157,000 in 2008. But has the needle moved much since then?

Actually, Christie took credit in his 2013 budget message for having 5,200 fewer state workers than when he took office — which could suggest a modest increase once the first wave of state financial distress ebbed.

If Bridgegate has shown us nothing else, it highlights a fair number of “Christie aides” who seemingly had little to do in 2013 but advise state departments not to talk to this mayor, or to work with this other mayor — based on the mayors’ backing for the governor’s re-election. Whether or not the aides were strictly politicking on “company” time, they obviously were not doing anything constructive for the people.

So who needs them?

It’s the same with legislative staffs, and here the Democrat majority is the bigger offender: We’re sick of email press releases from state lawmakers who “applaud” something the lawmaker had nothing to do with, or that offer prepared statements on every nuance of state, national and international developments. 

Sounds like too much time on their hands.

We don’t need to lay off corrections officers or child-abuse caseworkers. Now is the time to end waste in the ranks of mid-level bureaucrats. If there’s going to be budget pain, let’s start there.  (South Jersey Times Editorial Board)   Morning Digest: May, 28, 2014