PolitickerNJ News Digest: Dec. 15th

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Good morning, it’s Tuesday in New Jersey, where everyone is wondering how Gov. Chris Christie will perform in tonight’s GOP debate, where Democrats are announcing programs designed to improve the state economy and some Republican lawmakers are standing firm against raising the gas tax.

Quote of the Day: “As far as the presidential politics on the Republican side, I have been wrong on everything I have predicted in this election cycle so I really have no idea about that side of the political aisle,” – Democratic U.S. Senator Cory Booker, on the GOP primary race.

Sweeney Trots out ‘New Jersey – Investing in You’ with Key Senators
They came bearing gifts in the Christmas season, – $174 million’s worth, to be precise – state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and his colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus, the statehouse cough-up of seven weeks-worth of round table visits around New Jersey in the respective districts of the senators who now stood sedately at attention with Sweeney.
Max Pizarro, PolitickerNJ Read more

Senate Republicans Weigh in Against Gas Tax, AC’S 49% in Gaming Expansion
Senators Jennifer Beck (R-11) and Mike Doherty (R-23) came out to defend Republicans’ funding plan for the flagging Transportation Trust Fund Monday, calling Democrats’ plan to raise the gas tax potentially damaging and opposing Senate President Steve Sweeney’s parallel amendments for requiring quarterly payments into the public pension fund and for allowing new casinos in North Jersey.
JT Aregood, PolitickerNJ Read more

On Board for Hillary: NJ Supporters Plan NH Bus Trip
A busload of Hillary Clinton supporters from the Garden State will make their way to New Hampshire on Saturday to canvas ahead of that evening’s DNC debate.
Alyana Alfaro, PolitickerNJ Read more

Whelan to Brown on Casino Expansion: ‘Let’s Stop Posturing’
Following the release last week of a proposal to amend the state constitution and allow gaming outside of Atlantic City, Assemblyman Chris Brown (R-2) lashed out at Senator Jim Whelan (D-2) in a public letter asking that Whelan refuse to post the bill as chair of the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism, and Historic Preservation Committee committee. JT Aregood, PolitickerNJ Read more

Booker: GOP Prez Race ‘Fascinating to Watch’
As the tides keep shifting in the 2016 presidential race among the packed Republican presidential field, U.S. Senator Cory Booker is watching just as closely as the rest of us.
Alyana Alfaro, PolitickerNJ Read more

War Vet Cantor to Run for Sheriff Against Golden in Monmouth County
A colonel in the United States Army Reserves with years of experience in country in Iraq and the Middle East, Marlboro Twp. Councilman Jeffrey Cantor, a Democrat, will run against incumbent Republican Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden in 2016.
Max Pizarro, PolitickerNJ Read more

Toe-To-Toe for Votes in Paterson’s Six Ward: Sayegh V. Abdel-Aziz
When elected officials convened on Friday to speak out against extremism on all sides against a feverish national political backdrop, Paterson Ward 6 Councilman Andre Sayegh and his challenger, teacher and local Democratic leader Al Abdel-Aziz, avidly worked the hands of Muslim worshipers.
Max Pizarro, PolitickerNJ Read more

Diegnan and Barnes Shy Away from Acknowledging Senate Bid and Judgeship
Deflecting but not refuting questions about their intentions, Senator Peter Barnes (D-18) and Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-18) would not say whether Barnes is headed for a judgeship and Diegnan for his seat.
JT Aregood, PolitickerNJ Read more

NJ Senators, Congressmen Push Superfund Site Cleanup
What is now a nondescript paved lot on Clark Street in Garfield was once the site of the E.C. Electroplating plant. In 1983, a chemical storage tank failure dumped three tons of carcinogenic chromium into the ground, leaving some residents unable to enter their basements even to this day. While the site has made significant progress—the building was torn down and 14 feet of contaminated soil was replaced with clean soil and then paved over—the fight still isn’t over as the EPA fights to resolve groundwater issues caused by the more than 30-year-old spill and subsequent environmental damage.
Alyana Alfaro, PolitickerNJ Read more

Rival bill lets outsiders seek 1 of 2 North Jersey casinos
Companies that do not already own an Atlantic City casino would be able to vie for one of two new casinos to be built in northern New Jersey under a plan unveiled Monday by the state Assembly.
Wayne Parry, Associated Press Read more

5 steps that put Christie en route to win the GOP nomination
It was Nov. 5, and official word came down that Gov. Chris Christie had been cut from the prime-time Republican presidential debate on Fox Business Network the following week. He would be banished to the “kiddie table” because polls showed he lacked support among voters nationwide and wasn’t a serious contender for the White House.
Jim Miller and Jim Namiotka, NJ.com Read more

NJ bill would let drivers use pre-treatment photos on licenses
New Jersey residents undergoing medical care for an illness that changes their appearance could extend the use of pre-treatment photos on their driver’s licenses under a bill lawmakers are considering.
Associated Press Read more

Sweeney defends need to up N.J. pension payments
Senate President Stephen Sweeney on Monday defended his proposal to amend New Jersey’s constitution to require the state to ramp up contributions to the public-employee pension system, declaring that the proposal was not fueled by political ambitions.
Andrew Seidman, Inquirer, Read more 

State: Blame N.J. local officials for ending aid for 3K homeless
Responding to criticism over the decision to let homeless prevention programs that paid the rent for 3,000 people lapse, Acting Human Services Commissioner Elizabeth Connolly Monday accused local and county welfare directors of not making “any serious effort” to help their clients find permanent housing.
Susan K. Livio, NJ.com Read more

After terror attacks, Christie renews debate over who can see your phone records
Gov. Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor who has tried to make the war on terrorism a centerpiece of his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, is seeking to reopen the debate over how much data the National Security Agency can collect on Americans.
Jonathan D. Salant, NJ.com Read more

N.J. lawmakers advance expansion of Joan’s Law, inspired by murdered Hillsdale girl
Lawmakers on Monday advanced the expansion Joan’s Law, a measure inspired by the murder four decades ago of a Hillsdale Girl Scout.
Dustin Racioppi, The Record Read more

5 things you should know about Trump gaining even more in polls before GOP debate
On the eve of the fifth Republican presidential debate, businessman Donald Trump cemented his front-runner status, receiving 41 percent in a Monmouth University poll released Monday.
Jonathan D. Salant, NJ.com Read more

N.J. congressman joins fight to block gun sales to people on no-fly list
As U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross’ colleagues in Congress prepare to wrap up business for the year ahead of the holidays, the freshman N.J. representative from the 1st District has one Christmas gift he doesn’t want to leave D.C. without — the closure of a loophole that allows individuals on the federal No-Fly list to purchase guns.
Michelle Caffrey, NJ.com Read more

Trio of Proposed Ballot Questions Could Reshape NJ’s Financial Future
New Jersey voters could play a big role next year in determining what the state’s fiscal landscape will look like for the next several decades, thanks to a flurry of proposed ballot questions that Democratic legislative leaders have introduced.
NJ Spotlight, Read more

PolitickerNJ News Digest: Dec. 15th