Morning News Digest: March 16, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Yudin plans to run for re-election
The freeholder ticket he wanted to win tonight didn’t win.
But Bergen County Republican Organization (BCRO) said he does not intend to submit.
“I’m running again,” said Yudin, referring to the June reorganization meeting when he must again face county committee members for another term as chairman. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Hermansen and Watkins win Bergen GOP line
Freeholder Rob Hermansen won the backing of the Bergen County Republican Organization (BCRO) tonight.
He will have the line with Peg Watkins.
The victory represernted one each from a divided party, with members usually denying publicly but siding behind the scenes with either Bergen County Executive Kathe Donovan or BCRO Chairman Bob Yudin. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Rothman defeats Pascrell in Bergen: 329 to 72
Home county favorite U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) beat U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) for the Bergen Democratic Party line tonight.
The votes totaled 329 for Rothman and 72 for Pascrell.
The Passaic-based Pascrell reveled in putting points on the board in Rothman’s backyard. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
NJ Gov. Christie to host Romney rally in Illinois
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will return to the stump for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Friday.
Christie will host a lunchtime “Romney for President” rally at Elmhurst College in Illinois.
The popular GOP governor endorsed Romney after deciding not to enter the presidential race himself. Christie is consistently rumored to be on Romney’s short list for vice president. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
Reversal of Christie plan kills $200M in savings
The combination of a governor who used his executive power up to and beyond its legal limit and legislators who went along with him has put a potential $200 million hole in next year’s state budget.
Governor Christie made an aggressive push last year to reorganize state government using a tool that allows governors to add or remove responsibilities from state departments. But when Christie abolished the Council on Affordable Housing, an independent body created by the Legislature, housing advocates immediately argued it was unconstitutional and won their challenge in court. (Fletcher, The Record)
Union City must rework pay-to-play law before receiving transitional aid, N.J. officials say
A month after Union City passed a long-awaited pay-to-play law to qualify for $12 million in special aid from Trenton, the state is telling local officials to give it another try.
The Department of Community Affairs is withholding Union City’s transitional aid funding — meant to keep struggling cities afloat — until it reworks its pay-to-play law to make it as tough as the one the state requires as a condition for the aid. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Assembly votes: lawmakers given power to subpoena Port Authority officials, documents
The Assembly Thursday voted 44 to 30 with two abstentions to grant its Transportation Committee subpoena power to investigate Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spending practices.
The resolution, which does not require further approval, was prompted by reports and what Democratic lawmakers see as questionable decisions by the Port Authority during recent months. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Bill that would give $1M to schools for anti-bullying program passes in Assembly, Senate
Both houses of the state Legislature today swiftly passed a bill aimed at rescuing New Jersey’s new anti bullying law, which a state panel said forces mandates on schools without providing state funds to pay for them.
Instead of leaving school districts on their own to meet the strict new requirements for handling bullying cases, the bill (S1879) would appropriate $1 million that school districts would apply for to fund anti-bullying programs. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Bill requiring N.J. towns to approve charter schools get approved by state Assembly
The Assembly has passed a measure that would require local approval of charter schools, even after they’ve been given the green light by the state commissioner of education.
Under the bill (A1877), which last year passed the Assembly but never made it through the Senate, either a school district’s voters or the local board of school estimate – school boards that are appointed by a town’s governing body — would have to grant final approval to the school. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Long debated, Legislature revives talk of charter school vouchers
After a winter hiatus, a trimmed-down Opportunity Scholarship Act proposal is back in the legislature with a prominent new sponsor in the state Assembly but the loss of another in the Senate.
State Assemblyman Angel Fuentes (D-Camden) yesterday said he filed a new bill that would include just seven districts as part of the pilot to provide scholarships — or vouchers — to low-income students to go to schools of their choice, public or private. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
New Jersey health exchange bill is on its way to the governor’s desk
The legislature on Thursday passed a bill creating a New Jersey health insurance exchange, an online marketplace where consumers and small businesses will comparison shop for health coverage in 2014, as mandated by the federal Affordable Care Act.
The bill passed the upper house 22-13; the vote in the lower chamber was 42-35. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
Legislature OKs road-rage bill
A road-rage bill was given clear sailing by both houses of the Legislature Thursday on its way to Gov. Chris Christie so he can sign it into law.
In a 39-0 vote in the Senate and an 80-0 vote in the Assembly Thursday, legislation named for Jessica Rogers that would upgrade assault by auto or road rage that causes serious bodily injury to a third-degree offense was approved. (Jordan, Gannett)
N.J. legislators act on a flurry of bills
New Jersey lawmakers will set aside $1 million to help school districts implement an anti-bullying law passed last year, a fix worked out by Republican Gov. Christie and Democrats after a state panel in January declared the law an unfunded mandate.
The bill, approved by both chambers Thursday, now heads to Christie’s desk. (Farrell, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Republican Bateman breaks ranks, votes to rejoin greenhouse gas initiative
As is his style, Sen. Kip Bateman didn’t have much to say about a bill () narrowly approved by the Senate yesterday in a party-line vote — except for his.
His “yes” vote, however, spoke volumes.
For the past two months, the Republican from Somerset County has been the focus of a conservative group’s intense campaign blitz. He has been hammered in thousands of robocalls to constituents, in direct mailings to his district, and in ads on New Jersey and New York radio stations. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Amazon’s tax break uncertain as lawmakers head to voting sessions
More than two dozen bills affecting businesses are up for votes in the Legislature this afternoon, including some businesses have been fighting for years.
However, while the Assembly will be voting on a pair of bills affecting which online retailers — potentially including Amazon.com — collect sales taxes, the Senate is not taking up the measures. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
State incentives, investments and bond refundings approved by EDA
A shopping center in Egg Harbor Township will receive up to $11.4 million in state incentives as part of series of incentives, investments and bond refundings approved by the Economic Development Authority’s board today.
The EDA board approved the Economic Redevelopment and Growth grant to the 270,000-square foot Gravelly Run Square shopping center’s developer, Benderson Development Co.‘s Buffalo Pike Associates holding company. ERG allows the project to apply expected future taxes toward financing the development. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
In blow to builders, permit extensions delayed in Legislature
A key vote on one of the top priorities of builders in the state has been delayed.
The state Senate will not vote on a two-year addition to the Permit Extension Act on Thursday, despite being previously scheduled to vote on the bill. The delay was confirmed by a spokesman for the Senate Democrats. (Kitchenman and Burd, NJBIZ)
Ban on shark fin sales proposed in Legislature
A national campaign to ban the sale of shark fins came to the Statehouse Thursday, as shark conservationists and animal welfare activists talked up new legislation that would pull fins out of the seafood trade and Asian restaurants that serve shark fin soup.
“We’re not trying to change or damage a culture, we’re just trying to change a practice that endangers wildlife,” said Steve Nagiewicz, chairman of the Shark Research Institute and a longtime diver and captain from Brick. (Moore, Gannett)
Runyan addresses veterans’ needs, health care, drilling
Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J., says most of his accomplishments as a first-term member of Congress “are directly centered on veterans.”
His focus comes from the 60,000 veterans living in the 3rd District, which is home to the 42,000-acre Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, the state’s second-largest employer with more than 40,000 people assigned to its multiple commands. (Shelly, Gannett)
Highlands chief fired in 9-5 vote; opponents blame Christie
The Highlands Council voted 9-5 Thursday evening to remove Executive Director Eileen Swan, after a meeting that included protests by environmental advocacy groups and a council member alleging that actions leading to the vote may have violated sunshine laws.
The council did not offer a reason for removing Swan. No permanent successor was named at the meeting. Instead, Deputy Director Thomas Borden was named interim director — but he resigned shortly after the meeting ended. (Koloff, Gannett)
Sports authority will take lead on tourism, marketing for N.J.
The New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority will become the state’s lead tourism and marketing agency, as it absorbs the Division of Travel and Tourism and the Motion Picture & Television Commission, under a plan unveiled today. (Burd, NJBIZ)
Citizen groups voice protests in Trenton
It was last call for New Jersey residents to vent concerns ranging from pollution to the proposed folding of Rutgers University’s Camden campus into Rowan University.
Even concerns about the trading of shark fins were on the minds of those crowded into the halls of the Statehouse Thursday.
A half-dozen citizen groups staged demonstrations outside the Statehouse and lobbied legislators inside the building on a number of different causes Thursday, trying to win influence before the Legislature starts its annual six-week budget break. (Jordan, Gannett)
Rowan excluded some SAT scores in Rutgers merger fact sheet
Rowan University, a public college in southern New Jersey, said it erroneously excluded some SAT scores in a fact sheet about a proposed merger with the Camden branch of the state’s flagship Rutgers University.
Governor Chris Christie proposed in January folding the Rutgers-Camden campus into Glassboro-based Rowan, which would also gain control of Rutgers’s law school in Camden. Rowan reported its first-time freshman regular-admission students as having an average SAT score of about 1,170, higher than it would have been if “special admits students” were included, Joe Cardona, a Rowan spokesman, said in an interview. (Lorin and Dopp, Bloomberg)
Sale of hospital won’t mean windfall for Burlco
The Burlington County Board of Freeholders has agreed to sell Buttonwood Hospital for $15 million to help taxpayers, but the county budget will get only a roughly $7 million bump after the facility’s debt is paid off.
The 100-year-old county institution is expected to be turned over by June to Ocean Healthcare, a Lakewood, N.J., nursing-home rehabilitation chain. But first the county will have to retire more than $8 million in improvement bonds, Ralph Shrom, a board spokesman, said Thursday. (Hefler, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Freeholder defends constituent contestant
A Camden County freeholder on Thursday came to the defense of a South Jersey singer who was booted from “American Idol” due to his arrest record.
Freeholder Jeffrey Nash blasted the show’s producers for their treatment of Jermaine Jones, a 25-year-old vocal instructor from Pine Hill. Jones was ousted from the show after being confronted on camera over his arrests and outstanding warrants. (Walsh, Gannett)
Assembly passes health exchange bill
The Assembly passed the health insurance bill to provide coverage for low-income residents. It passed 42-35 and mirrors the version passed earlier today in the Senate.
A2171/S1319, sponsored by Herb Conaway Jr., (D-7), Delran; Troy Singleton, (D-7), Mount Laurel, is designated as the “New Jersey Health Benefit Exchange Act,” and creates a statewide health insurance exchange pursuant to the federal “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” (Mooney, State Steet Wire)
Casinos able to simulcast more popular out-of-state horse races under passed Assembly bill
Casinos in New Jersey can negotiate to simulcast bigger and more popular horse races hosted by out-of-state racetracks, according to a bill that passed in the Assembly today by a 77-0 vote.
Existing law limits the amount a casino may pay an out-of-state racetrack for transmission of a simulcast horse race to no more than 3.5 percent of the betting pool on each race or, in the case of not more than 28 races per calendar year and for races run annually at the Breeders’ Cup World Cup Championships, 6 percent of the betting pool on each race. (Smith, State Street Wire)
Charter school referendum bill passes Assembly
The Assembly approved a bill this afternoon to enable voters to determine whether or not a charter school should be set up in a particular district by way of a public referendum.
The bill (A1877), sponsored by Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. (D-18), South Plainfield, passed by a 45-27 vote, with four abstentions. (Smith, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
A tax by any other name
Democrats from both houses of the Legislature met this week at the Trenton Marriott to discuss a recent poll fielded by the party and its impact on their message for the coming year.
According to sources familiar with the meeting, much of the talk centered on the party’s tax cut plan and its popularity among potential voters. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Adler makes it “On the List”
Shelley Adler, the widow of former U.S. Rep. John Adler, who is seeking to regain the 3rd District seat her husband lost last year before his untimely death, has been placed ”On the List” by EMILY’s List, which will be a key fundraising boost for the Democrat.
The group supports Democratic pro-choice woman candidates. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
A humble funeral for a ‘simple and principled’ congressman
Donald Payne, they said often, was a good man who rarely spoke ill of others. So he had the right sort of funeral Wednesday in Newark, because it created a space and a moment that allowed for contradictions to go uncorrected, harsh political rivals to express love for him and each other, for lofty visions to be left unchallenged by hard reality. (Braun, The Star-Ledger)
Remembering the man whose roots grew from Newark
The first time I heard Donald M. Payne Sr.’s name, I was in a conversation with someone who talked about how profoundly his life was influenced by Payne and the programs Payne ran at the Newark YM-YWCA, downtown on Broad Street. (Whitlow, The Star-Ledger)
If Santorum wins in Illinois, he becomes the new favorite to win the nomination
Forget about the present delegate count among the GOP presidential candidates. If Rick Santorum wins the Illinois GOP primary next Tuesday, March 20, he will have enough momentum to thereafter decisively defeat Mitt Romney in delegate-rich Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, and California. (Steinberg for PolitickerNJ)