Morning News Digest: March 2, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Mayors to Christie: Time to give us our money back
The lobbyist for the state’s 566 municipalities is calling on the Christie Administration to hand over more than $700 million in revenue they say legally belongs to local governments.
The State League of Municipalities has been in talks with the administration over Christie’s use of energy tax receipts to balance the state budget. League officials say the money is by law the property of the municipalities. The state merely collects it on their behalf, officials say, before paying it out each year as one of two pools of state aid. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
NJEA jumps on comptroller’s report: Don’t attack collective bargaining
The state’s largest teachers union weighed in today on a recent comptroller’s report advocating transfer into the state run health plan, saying the report may be a veiled attempt to circumvent collective bargaining rights.
“While the report acknowledges that changes in coverage often must await the expiration of current collective bargaining agreements, Comptroller Boxer’s public statements seem to indicate that savings could be realized right away,” said New Jersey Education Association President Barbara Keshishian. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Soliman to run Menendez reelection bid
Michael Soliman will be stepping down as state director for Sen. Bob Menendez to manage Menendez’s re-election effort.
Soliman has been an advisor to a number of state campaigns including Menendez’s 2006 campaign, Senator Frank Lautenberg’s 2008 campaign and Congressman Steve Rothman’s 2004 campaign. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Bateman cites Quinnipiac poll in pushing for same-sex marriage referendum
Sponsor of a bill that would put the same-sex marriage question on the November ballot, Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman, (R-16), Branchburg, said today’s Quinnipiac University poll demonstrates that the legislature must let New Jerseyans decide for themselves.
“We do the best service to our residents by eliminating politics from this decision and allowing the people of this state to define their society and culture,” Bateman said. “We wouldn’t be the first state to provide such justice.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie blasts NYPD spying
New York City’s Police Department is facing mounting criticism of its secret surveillance of Muslims across the Northeast, with ACLU chapters and other groups demanding an investigation and Gov. Christie accusing the NYPD of arrogantly acting as if “their jurisdiction is the world.”
The intelligence-gathering was detailed recently in a series of Associated Press stories that reported that police monitored mosques and Muslims around the metropolitan area and kept tabs on Muslim student groups at the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers, and other schools in Upstate New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
NJ gov: Drug treatment, not jail needed for many
Most nonviolent drug offenders in New Jersey would be ordered into treatment, rather than jail, under a plan Gov. Chris Christie announced Thursday.
Christie said requiring treatment for most nonviolent drug offenders would free up jail space for more serious criminals, save the state money by stopping the cycle of warehousing people with drug problems and give people a second chance.
“This is about reclaiming lives,” Christie said. “I think we have to step up to the plate and admit that in certain instances our efforts, from a law enforcement perspective and from a societal perspective, on dealing with this issue have been a failure. A well-intentioned failure, but a failure nonetheless.” (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
Christie going to Romney rally in Cleveland on Friday
Gov. Chris Christie Friday will make his sixth out-of-state trip on behalf of Mitt Romney’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination bid.
The governor will join Romney at Cleveland State University in Cleveland for a rally set for 7 p.m.
Romney needs a victory Tuesday in the Ohio GOP primary to bolster his campaign. Ohio is a critical for candidates seeking the presidency. Nine other states have also set their primaries for “Super Tuesday.” (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
New Jersey’s Christie would weigh Romney request to run for vice president
Chris Christie, New Jersey’s first- term Republican governor, said he’d consider a request from Mitt Romney to become his vice presidential running mate, if the former chief executive of Massachusetts were to ask.
Christie, 49, said voters in his party are “shopping around” for the best challenger to face President Barack Obama in the U.S. general election in November. His comments came in response to questions about the primary race between Romney, 64, and challengers including Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. (Young, Bloomberg)
In TV interview, Christie talks about health care, medical marijuana, other topics
Gov. Chris Christie touched on a variety of human services issues tonight during an hour-long interview with Steve Adubato.
The Republican governor said he remained skeptical that the U.S. Supreme Court would uphold President Barack Obama’s health care law. Until then, the state is preparing, but not spending more taxpayer dollars than necessary.
“We’re not making any huge investments in it until we know it’s constitutional,” Christie said on Adubato’s “On The Line” program. “If it’s not, we’re all going to have to go back to the drawing board. If it is, New Jersey’s positioned to meet the law if we need to.” (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
Christie may be mistaken about rules prolonging Republican race
Republicans who blame party rules for a protracted primary race may be mistaken.
A rule requiring early-voting states to award delegates on a proportional basis “was the dumbest idea anybody ever had,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said Feb. 23 on Fox News. Christie, supporting former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, disparaged the rule because Republicans are running against President Barack Obama, who won’t face a primary challenge, and Republican presidential hopefuls will “beat each other up even longer.” (Giroux, Bloomberg)
Conflicting views over State’s strategic growth plan
Hearing sharply divergent views, the state last night concluded a series of six public hearings on its draft strategic investment plan, a blueprint for targeting where growth should occur in the future in New Jersey and where development should be discouraged.
The plan, unveiled last October by the Christie administration, overhauls and replaces a State Plan and Redevelopment Plan put in place a decade ago, which even its advocates acknowledge failed to achieve its objectives.
The 41-page plan emphasizes economic growth instead of environmental preservation by establishing geographic industry clusters where the state will direct investments and resources to bolster high-growth sectors, such as finance, healthcare, and the ports. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Reinventing Atlantic City
A massive white sphere resembling a golf ball sits atop the newly built Revel casino, arousing the curiosity of anyone who sees it. When asked, company officials were coy, saying only that it would be used to represent their brand and that it would not roll off the top of the building. But people may have to wait for Revel’s grand opening Memorial Day weekend to see just what the ball will do.
They aren’t the only ones watching Revel. Investors are anxiously waiting to see how the casino, will fare — because most say as goes Revel, so goes Atlantic City. The gambling mecca is trying to reinvent itself as a seaside resort, and developer Revel Entertainment Group LLC’s $2.4 billion project, Atlantic City’s first new casino in nine years, is widely viewed as the barometer of whether that concept will work. (Chesler, NJ Spotlight)
Who decided to give away Rutgers-Camden?
Those looking for insights into how the committee that recommended Gov. Chris Christie give Rutgers University’s Camden campus to Rowan University made its decisions are out of luck.
Apparently, the only written records of the UMDNJ Advisory Committee are its preliminary and final reports. And 21 of the final report’s 57 pages are the preliminary report, with six of those pages repeated twice.
The only data in the report is contained in four pages of appendices, and they only present enrollments, faculty and staff sizes at the affected schools and employee and patient statistics for University Hospital in Newark. (O’Dea, NJ Spotlight)
Addiction treatment providers could expand under Christie proposal
Addiction treatment providers would see a major expansion in their services under a proposal by Gov. Chris Christie to require drug treatment for nonviolent drug-addicted offenders.
Christie has proposed a $2.5 million program for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that would allow 1,000 to 1,500 people who are currently incarcerated to be released voluntarily to addiction treatment centers.
In 2013-14, Christie would begin to mandate a year of treatment for all nonviolent offenders who are addicted. The governor announced details of the proposal at the Rescue Mission of Trenton, a nonprofit that provides action treatment. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
Burlco hospital auction brings $15M bid
After about a minute of cajoling, an auctioneer in Mount Holly gave up Thursday and declared Burlington County’s 100-year-old Buttonwood Hospital “gone” to the lone bidder that offered $15 million for the 200-bed geriatric and psychiatric facility.
Ocean Healthcare, a Lakewood, N.J., company that owns and operates 15 nursing home-rehabilitation centers across New Jersey, offered only the minimum acceptable bid set by the county freeholders. A second prequalified bidder remained quiet during the auction. (Hefler, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Newark’s Booker says no plans for firings in first in 3 years
Mayor Cory Booker said his budget for the coming year won’t call for significant employee firings or unpaid time off for the first time in three years.
Booker, whose city coped with rising crime last year after a 2010 cut in state aid led to dismissals in the police department, said he plans to rehire some officers, though he didn’t say how many or where the money would come from.
“Today we are stronger than we were two years ago,” Booker said yesterday in his sixth State of the City speech. “Times are still tough, but we as a city are getting better.” (Dopp, Bloomberg)
State prepares record-low mortgage rate to spur home sales
A record low mortgage interest rate introduced today by the Department of Community Affairs and the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency will boost the state’s real estate market and drive economic recovery in time for the spring homebuying season, agency officials and industry leaders said.
According to HMFA executive director Anthony Marchetta, the agency will lend $170 million at a 30-year term fixed interest rate of 3.75 percent, reduced from 4.25 percent, to fund approximately 1,000 mortgages. (Eder, NJBIZ)
Guadagno pays visit to Perth Amboy
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno’s efforts to foster productive dialogue with the state’s job creators took her to Perth Amboy, where she visited Tropical Cheese, one of the leading producers and distributors of Latino-targeted dairy products on the East Coast.
Guadagno visited the Fayette Street plant to stress the importance of passing Gov. Chris Christie’s Fiscal Year 2013 Budget and continue the New Jersey comeback. The visit was part of the ongoing effort to build on the momentum from last year’s statewide “100 Business Initiatives” to advance the state’s economic development strategy. (Staff, Gannett)
Duffy says he may end run for Congress
Passaic County Freeholder Director Terry Duffy said Thursday that he will end his run for Congress if television personality Jim McQueeny enters the race and secures the endorsement of the Bergen County Democratic Committee.
Duffy, who lives in West Milford, said he continues to collect signatures for the April 2 primary filing deadline and has not officially ended his bid for the Democratic nomination against Republican Rep. Scott Garrett of Wantage. (Jennings, New Jersey Herald)
Senate candidate to host ‘meet and greet’
Bader Qarmout of Green Township, who is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, will visit a local restaurant March 9 for a “meet and greet” with potential voters.
The event at Little Anthony’s Pizza, located on Route 515, is being organized by Juston Annunziata, a Vernon Township High School student volunteering on the campaign. (Staff, New Jersey Herald)
Hunts Point Market: A little bit of Bronx in New Jersey?
At one point, it was considered to be one of the largest food distribution facilities in the world covering 329 acres. The Hunts Point Market, situated on the southern peninsula of the South Bronx, was often referred to as the “Red Light District” for its crime and prostitution that kept police at the 41st Precinct busy at night.
In 2005, Hunts Point became the site for New York City’s new Fulton Fish Market, which replaced the 180 year old fish market that was formerly located on the Lower East Side in Downtown Manhattan.
More than 800 industrial businesses, employing over 25,000 workers, are located on the peninsula. A large concentration of food wholesalers, distributors, and food processing businesses are in the industrial business zoned park. (Sammarco, New Jersey Newsroom)
$21M in FEMA funding for hurricane-ravaged areas
New Jersey will receive $21.6 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding to acquire and elevate properties in flood-ravaged areas in the northern and central part of the state.
The areas were hit hard as a result of Hurricane Irene Aug. 27 to Sept. 5 last year. (Staff, State Street Wire)
EPA proposes $16M plan to clean up E. Rutherford Superfund site
The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a $16.4 million plan to clean up a Superfund site in East Rutherford.
EPA announced today a plan to clean up contaminated soil and debris in streams near lagoons in which industrial wastewater was stored at Universal Oil Products. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Poll showing mixed messages on gay marriage is more reason for referendum, Christie says
Gov. Chris Christie said a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday morning showing a majority of residents shows “a divided society” exists in New Jersey about same-sex marriage.
He added that the same poll showed people supported his move to veto the bill. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
‘Lisa’s Law’ before Appropriations panel
An Assembly bill that would allow law enforcement officers to place certain domestic violence offenders under electronic monitoring is scheduled to be addressed on Monday during an Assembly Appropriations Committee meeting.
Lisa’s Law, A321, is sponsored by Assembly members Ronald Dancer, (R-12), of Cream Ridge, Troy Singleton, (D-7), of Delran, Daniel Benson, (D-14), of Hamilton Square, and Deputy Majority Leader Thomas Giblin, (D-34), of Clifton. (Smith, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Booker’s speech chills two council people
When Newark Mayor Cory Booker went after city council perks in his state of the city speech tonight, he sent two city council people trooping off the New Jersey Performing Arts Center stage in protest. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Reith lands with Mercer County
Former state Adjutant General Glenn Rieth, who resigned late last year amid allegations that he had a sexual encounter with an employee, has been hired by the Mercer County Parks Commission as deputy director. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
South Jersey political boss Norcross mum about Rowan University merger plan
Even for a laconic personality like George Norcross, the message was cryptic. Simply the letters “FYI” attached to an e-mail statement written by someone else. Norcross has declined to elaborate, but it was clear the South Jersey political boss was endorsing some or all of the message from Wendell Pritchett, the chancellor of the Camden campus of Rutgers University.
Pritchett opposes the plan, pushed by both Norcross, a Democrat, and Republican Gov. Chris Christie, to allow Rowan University, a former state teachers’ college now saddled with a very expensive medical school, to swallow the Camden assets of what has been New Jersey’s only real state university — Rutgers. (Braun, The Star-Ledger)