Morning Digest: June 5, 2014

Bonnie Watson Coleman and Mercer County’s ‘fantastic job turning out voters’

Most Garden State political observes would agree the state’s most recent primary election produced few surprises.

Of course, if there was at least one, it was Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman’s margin of victory in the CD 12 Democratic primary over state Sen. Linda Greenstein.

(Quick recap with unofficial election results numbers provided by the Associated Press: 35,457 Democrats voted in the primary to nominate a candidate to succeed outgoing U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12). Coleman garnered 15,121 votes; Greenstein received 9,974; Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula garnered 7,775; and Andrew Zwicker received 2,587.)

In short, Watson Coleman’s nearly 43 percent victory over Greenstein’s 28 percent wasn’t a squeaker.

Bonnie Watson Coleman and Mercer County’s ‘fantastic job turning out voters’ | Politicker NJ







Christie chief of staff O’Dowd called to testify before GWB panel

The legislative panel investigating the Port Authority is turning its attention to Governor Christie’s chief of staff, one of two men assigned to question employees in the governor’s office about their involvement in the George Washington Bridge lane closures.

It was Kevin O’Dowd who repeatedly asked Bridget Anne Kelly, the former deputy chief of staff at the heart of the scandal, whether she was involved with closing the lanes after members of the administration were told in December that she might have knowledge of the incident.  (Hayes/The Record) 








Booker campaign ready for another battle; challenger Bell says right issue can spur an upset

Democrat Cory Booker made a strategic decision before last year’s special U.S. Senate election not to engage his Republican opponent Steve Lonegan, and the conservative firebrand savaged the carefully polished image Booker had built during two terms as Newark’s mayor.

Though Booker won by 11 percentage points, the margin was seen as a disappointment.

This year will be different, Booker’s campaign manager, Brendan Gill, said Wednesday.

“We don’t want to just win, want to win decisively,” Gill said. “We want to make sure, as we have been, that Cory is paying close attention to issues in the state and spending lots of time in |the state.”  (Jackson and Phillis/The Record) 







New Jersey’s warning for New York

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has faced heavy criticism since he announced that he’s deferring payments to the state’s pension system to balance his budget. But so far no one’s offering a real way out of Jersey’s pension dilemma. 

Democrats blasted Christie for reneging on reforms passed in 2010 and 2011 to address the state’s massively underfunded pensions.

But they volunteer no reasonable alternatives to Jersey’s pension problems: Even more taxes on the rich don’t come near to fixing the mess.

Getting Jersey’s retirement system healthy is impossible without new ways of thinking about government in the Garden State — something that few in Trenton acknowledge.

Independent analysts rate the system as among the nation’s worst-funded, thanks to mismanagement and politically motivated self-dealing among politicians and union leaders dating back to the early 1990s. 

The actual cost of beginning to pay down the state’s pension debt requires annual contributions of about $5 billion. But Jersey only collects about $32 billion a year in revenues.  (Malanga/New York Post) 







Alleging Fraud, State Moves Against Three Alternative Energy Solutions

The state yesterday sought to crack down on unscrupulous alternative energy suppliers who allegedly defrauded customers by telling them they would save money if they switched from their utilities only to see their electric and gas bills skyrocket.

In three separate civil complaints filed by the Attorney General’s Office, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, and the state Board of Public Utilities, three third-party suppliers were accused of using misleading and deceptive marketing to urge customers to switch suppliers by offering guaranteed savings.  (Johnson/NJSpotlight) 





Jersey City’s Experience Offers Cautionary Tale for Newark, Paterson

While Newark and Paterson yesterday won some additional control over their schools, a more lasting lesson may be found in the fate of the nation’s grandfather of state-controlled districts: Jersey City.

The nation’s first school district to be seized by a state, back in 1988, Jersey City has for the last decade sat in limbo of state control, winning back key powers pertaining to budgets and governance that allowed it in 2012 to appoint its own school superintendent, Marcia Lyles.  (Mooney/NJSpotlight) 





Assembly panel to debate, vote on assisted suicide bill today

TRENTON — A bill giving terminally ill patients the legal authority to obtain a prescription to end their lives will be the subject of an Assembly Health Committee hearing in Trenton today.

The same committee approved the bill in the last legislative session but it never gained momentum amid opposition from physician groups, hospice providers and the New Jersey Catholic Conference. Many of the same opponents say they will be back to testify against the bill.

New Jersey patients diagnosed with a terminal illness and expecting to die within six months would be permitted to obtain medication they could self-administer to kill themselves “in a humane and dignified manner,” according to the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act, (A2270), sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester).

The patient’s doctor would have to attest to the terminal diagnosis, and the patient would have to prove he or she “voluntarily expressed a wish to die,” according to the bill. The diagnosis must be made by the patient’s treating doctor and affirmed by a consulting physician. Before the prescription is filled, two witnesses, including one person who is not a relative and would not be in line for an inheritance, must attest in writing the patient is capable of making the decision.

Compassion and Choices of Denver, a national nonprofit advocating for the passage right to die laws, will testify in favor of the bill, along with a nurse and an activist on senior citizen issues. “With polls showing that 62 percent of New Jersey residents support death with dignity, committee members have the opportunity to take the next step toward bringing aid in dying to the people of New Jersey,” according to a statement from Compassion and Choices.

Right-to-die laws are in effect in Washington, Oregon and Montana.  (Livio/Star-Ledger) 





Tesla recharged: Assembly panel to take up bill to allow sales in NJ stores

TRENTON — A bill to allow Tesla to once again sell its electric cars from New Jersey stores is scheduled for a hearing today.

The Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee this morning plans to vote on the measure (A3216) that would allow manufacturers of zero-emission vehicles – like Tesla – to sell them at up to four stores in New Jersey.

Under the bill, Tesla – or any other company that goes into the business – would have to open up at least one service center in the state as well.

Tesla has two locations in New Jersey, in Paramus and Short Hills, but it was forced to stop selling cars directly from them in April when the Motor Vehicles Commission — made up of cabinet officials of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration and appointees — passed a rule requiring car companies sell cars through dealers, which is contrary to Tesla’s sales model.

Tesla appealed the rule change.

Christie defended the decision, saying the commission was merely following state law by requiring Tesla to go through dealers, and that it’s up to the Legislature to change it.

Jim Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, said he plans to have a statement on the bill tomorrow but that his group has yet to take a stance on it.

New Jersey customers who want to buy a car from Tesla can still purchase it online on in other states’ showrooms.  (Friedman/Star-Ledger) 





Christie’s troubling appointment to the Port Authority board

Gov. Chris Christie this week named a veteran labor leader to fill one of two vacancies on the Port Authority board of commissioners. At first glance, George Laufenberg’s nomination might seem consistent with post-Bridgegate calls for board members to be more politically independent.

After all, the carpenters group he heads declined to endorse Christie last year.

But not so fast. No matter who the appointee is or what his union’s latest alliances are, the practice of putting union leaders on the Port Authority board is inherently fraught with politics. They can be partisan on labor issues and exercise too much power.

Now, thanks to Christie, two of New Jersey’s six commissioners are labor leaders from the building trades. This could inhibit the Port Authority from asking for concessions from labor on its projects. The PA has also had plenty of other problems with union leaders in the past.  (Star-Ledger Editorial Board) 






As Jersey Shore continues Sandy recovery, transparency in funds is vital

The same forces of nature that conspired to launch the calamity of Superstorm Sandy harmonized to bless the Shore with picture-perfect weather over the Memorial Day weekend.

After the most arduous winter in recent memory, visitors flocked to the Shore to delight in the sun, sand and surf. Business was brisk along the restored boardwalks. And owners of renovated shops and restaurants are optimistic that this summer season will reinvigorate the depressed economy in the towns that bore the brunt of Sandy.

Restoration of that sense of normalcy would not have been possible without the massive efforts to rebuild the foundations of summer at the Shore — the beaches, boardwalks, amusements. And while those investments are bound to pay off for the region, the flip side of the coin tells a different tale.  (Times of Trenton Editorial Board)  

Morning Digest: June 5, 2014