NJ Politics Digest: Frelinghuysen’s Quandary—Cater to Constituents or Conference?

Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen is the chair of the House Appropriations Committee. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

It’s the end of a long week for commuters in the Garden State, as transit officials say schedules could return to normal today following the Penn Station derailment and politicians fight over who is responsible for the accident and the sad state of New Jersey’s transit system.
In Washington, there’s a report that U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen is taking heat from conservative members of the House Appropriations Committee who say he violated a pledge to support their agenda in return for being named to head the committee when he spoke out against efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Those GOP efforts are highly unpopular in Frelinghuysen’s home state, so the question is how will the long-time lawmaker from a moderate district come down on the issue in the future.
There was more bad news for a convicted Bridgegate defendant Thursday, while Gov. Chris Christie, the target of ire from angry commuters, is continuing efforts to rehabilitate his image with an appearance in a new substance abuse ad. It’s not clear if that will win him any new fans among local residents, who still pay the highest property taxes in the nation, according to a new report. Ten of those residents in financially troubled Atlantic City will have a tougher time paying their taxes, as state and federal officials are kicking some craft vendors out of their small shops at Historic Gardner’s Basin based on an interpretation of strings attached to grants used to redevelop the spot.

Quote of the Day: “One of the things we had discussed going into this, when he wanted to take the chairmanship, was that at the end of the day he understood that when he was negotiating these bills he’d be negotiating on behalf of his conference, as opposed to his own philosophy. He’s in a very difficult situation in his district, no doubt, because his district is more out of sync with the rest of the conference,” – U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama, on the deal U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen made with fellow Republicans to win chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee.

Report: GOP heat on Frelinghuysen over health insurance
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen apologized to fellow Republicans for calling the health insurance overhaul crafted by the White House and Speaker Paul Ryan’s office “unacceptable” last month, and he is facing new scrutiny from conservatives in his role as House Appropriations Committee chairman, according to a report by the National Journal.
Herb Jackson, The Record Read more

Baroni law license suspended in wake of Bridgegate conviction
A week after his sentencing for conspiracy and fraud in the Bridgegate scandal, former Port Authority deputy executive director Bill Baroni has lost his law license.
Ted Sherman, NJ.com
N.J. had highest property taxes in nation in 2016 (again), study finds
Once again, New Jersey had the highest property taxes in the nation last year.
Jeff Goldman, NJ.com Read more

Making taxpayers ill: $1B+ for unused sick leave
Near the end of his career, the former head of the Long Branch public schools took home not only a yearly salary of $240,800, but a little-noticed bonus: $600,000 in payouts for unused sick and vacation time.
Bob Jordan, Asbury Park Press Read more

N.J. election watchdog: state needs pay-to-play reform
Political contributions made by New Jersey’s public contractors declined in 2016 for the third year in a row, but the state’s election watchdog remains concerned about the role of groups that can skirt pay-to-play laws.
Nicholas Pugliese, The Record Read more

Christie Lies Low, but Can’t Avoid Wrath of Commuters
As train delays, cancellations and gridlock set off by a small derailment at Pennsylvania Station stretched into a third day on Wednesday, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey remained largely silent while his constituents screamed. In fact, the governor was far from where the chaos was unfolding, choosing to go to Atlantic City to celebrate the opening of a casino while travelers vented their frustration on social media, on radio call-in shows and on packed platforms.
New York Times Read more

State Funding of NJ Transit: Scudder Says Appropriate, Lawmakers Say Inadequate
As thousands of commuters spent another hellish day dealing with long delays and crowded trains traveling between New Jersey and Manhattan yesterday, lawmakers in Trenton peppered a key member of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration with questions about whether the state is doing a good enough job funding mass transit.
John Reitmeyer, NJSpotlight Read more

Multiple backups highlight NJ’s vulnerable roads, transportation system
Your smooth commute to work — if that’s even a possibility in New Jersey — can be thrown completely out of whack when just one thing doesn’t fall in place, even if the issue is dozens of miles away.
Dino Flammia, NJ101.5 Read more

NJ Transit nightmare spills into 4th day, but full service could return Friday
An almost week-long commuting nightmare for NJ Transit train commuters may be over on Friday when Amtrak officials say they expect to complete repairs to track damage from Monday’s train derailment in Penn Station New York.
Larry Higgs, NJ.com Read more

Amtrak responds to Christie criticism of maintenance
Amtrak’s president and chief executive, Wick Moorman, said Thursday that the agency had been aware that the track where an NJ Transit train derailed earlier this week had been in need of maintenance, but that it had not realized an issue was ‘imminent.’
Dustin Racioppi and Andrew Wyrich, The Record Read more

Christie asks N.J. congressional delegation for Amtrak hearings
Gov. Chris Christie, angered over ongoing NJ Transit delays, called on Congress to investigate what he said was Amtrak’s failure to adequately maintain its tracks.
Jonathan D. Salant, NJ.com Read more

Enrollment inched up for Horizon’s controversial health plans
Demand for the OMNIA health plans remained steady in 2016 with 238,000 people enrolled in Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey’s newest and most talked-about insurance policies, the company announced Thursday.
Susan K. Livio, NJ.com Read more

Watch the new anti-drug ads that feature Christie
Gov. Chris Christie’s office on Thursday unveiled the newest in a string of opioid abuse ads that the administration is prepared to spend up to $15 million to fund in its ongoing anti-drug campaign.
Matt Arco, NJ.com Read more

Proposal to boost N.J. pensions with lottery could happen this year, treasurer says
The state treasurer said Thursday that Gov. Chris Christie’s proposal to use lottery ticket proceeds to bolster the government worker pension fund could be finalized by the June 30 end of the fiscal year.
Samantha Marcus, NJ.com Read more

Will programs take hit if pension funds take over NJ Lottery?
State lawmakers seem willing to act on Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to prop up public workers’ pension funds by handing over the New Jersey Lottery to them, though they’re still anxious for more details.
Michael Symons, NJ101.5 Read more

Rutgers lands Big Ten veteran to lead New Brunswick campus
Rutgers University has hired a veteran Big Ten college administrator as the chancellor of its New Brunswick campus, the university announced Thursday.
Adam Clark, NJ.com Read more

What Trump EPA cuts will mean for the Shore
The Trump administration’s plan to roll back federal spending on environmental protection by nearly one-third has endangered a handful of programs that are especially valuable to New Jersey families.
Russ Zimmer, Asbury Park Press Read more

Deadline Looms For PennEast Pipeline
With a crucial federal decision looming as early as tomorrow, opponents of the PennEast natural gas pipeline stepped up pleas yesterday to the Christie administration to block the project.
Tom Johnson, NJSpotlight Read more

Great Adventure: Where is the promised growth?
Tommy’s Inn at Millstone, a log cabin of a building across Route 537 from Six Flags Great Adventure, isn’t really an inn, but it doesn’t stop the theme park’s visitors from calling the restaurant in search of a place to stay.
Michael L. Diamond, Asbury Park Press Read more

Community Care for Disabled Adults to Continue
The federal government has given New Jersey the go-ahead to expand and reform work it has done over the past 45 years to provide community-based services to adults with serious disabilities to help them avoid institutional living.
Lilo H. Stainton, NJSpotlight Read more

Officials: No danger from E. coli in Ridgewood water
Residents of Ridgewood face no danger from the E. coli that was detected in a groundwater sample on April 5, town officials announced Thursday.
Mark Krulish and Kaitlyn Kanzler, The Record Read more

State bailout will keep South Jersey Education Center open
The state-created Educational Information and Resource Center, which threatened to close last month, has received a state bailout to keep operating.
Melanie Burney, Inquirer Read more

Asbury Park may crackdown on Airbnb, short-term rentals
With summer in sight, Asbury Park is eyeing new regulations on short-term rentals like the ones marketed on Airbnb and VRBO.
Austin Bogues, Asbury Park Press Read more

‘A million little pieces:’ National Park Service, state lower boom on Atlantic City crafter village
Sometimes it seems the little people in Atlantic City can never get a break, especially the ones who run little businesses.
Amy S. Rosenberg, Inquirer Read more

Wayne gets behind affordable housing Assembly bills
Township Council voted to support two state Assembly bills that impose a moratorium on affordable housing litigation and set up a new commission to determine a town’s true housing obligation.
Jessica Presinzano, The Record Read more

A.C. firefighter cuts can go forward, appellate judges rule
The state can cut city firefighters’ pay and benefits while a legal case against a state takeover of the city advances, an appellate panel ruled Thursday.
Nicholas Huba, Press of Atlantic City Read more

Morris chamber hosting public policy events
The Morris County Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a number of public policy events in April and May, all open to both members and non-members of the chamber.
Daily Record Read more

Paterson ready to move on $1.5M Hinchliffe renovation
The first phase of the renovation of historic Hinchliffe Stadium would take place this summer under a $1.5 million contract scheduled for approval next week, according to city officials.
Joe Malinconico, Paterson Press Read more

Ramsey pool panel members resign in protest
More than half of the borough’s seven-member Pool Commission resigned at a meeting this week, claiming a lack of transparency in the borough’s plan for a $2 million community-senior center at the local pool property.
Tom Nobile, The Record Read more

EDITORIAL: Stop the pipeline proliferation
New Jersey has no need for the PennEast pipeline, a proposed 118-mile boondoggle that would cut across hundreds of waterways, preserved lands and other environmentally sensitive areas from Luzerne County, Pa., through Hunterdon County into Mercer County.
Asbury Park Press Read more

NJ Politics Digest: Frelinghuysen’s Quandary—Cater to Constituents or Conference?