Morning News Digest: October 5, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Menendez versus Kyrillos in Montclair
State Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-13) presented himself as the embodiment of change in his NJTV debate with U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) tonight, while the incumbent Democrat sought to paint his challenger as a return to disastrous economic policies.
“If you think things are okay, you’ll choose my opponent. But if you think unemployment and the national debt doubling are unacceptable then you’ll choose me,” said Kyrillos as part of his opening statement in this NJTV/Bergen Record/Montclair University-sponsored clash.
“The middle class is not doing very well at all,” the Republican added. “I read the press releases you put out, but I don’t hear any action items about how we’re going to do it better. More of the same means the same outcome. Let’s do some things differently.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie makes appointments, nominations
Today, Governor Christie filed the following nomination, direct appointments and departmental appointments subject to the Governor’s approval with the State Senate and Secretary of State’s Office. The Governor’s nomination is subject to the advice and consent of the State Senate. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Sweeney, Doherty clash over override bid
A heated exchange on the Senate floor ensued today between Senate President Steve Sweeney and Republican Sen. Michael Doherty.
The exchange took place while lawmakers were discussing a veto override attempt, which failed to pass out of the upper chamber.
Doherty, who originally supported the proposal regarding increased transparency at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was speaking on the Senate floor when he began to veer off and discuss ways the Senate already has oversight over the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Sweeney asked Doherty to keep his comments germane to the subject. (Arco, PolitickerNJ)
Stockton Poll: Runyan leads Adler 49-39%
The Stockton Polling Institute today released a poll of the 3rd Congressional District showing Republican incumbent Jon Runyan leading Democratic challenger Shelley Adler by a margin of 49 percent to 39 percent among likely voters.
These polling results are from the first independent poll made public in this district,” said Daniel J. Douglas, Director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy. “With 12 percent of voters undecided, candidate Adler still has an opportunity to close the lead on Runyan, though Runyan is clearly in a better position.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Senate candidates face off in first three debates
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and his Republican challenger, state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, had little trouble keeping to their campaign scripts in the first of three scheduled debates held Thursday night in Montclair.
Before about 110 people in an auditorium at Montclair State University’s Cali School of Music, talked of “fighting back for the middle class,” while insisted, “We can do better.”
Although the hour-long event included wide-ranging questions from moderator Mick Schneider of NJTV, four panelists and one who submitted taped questions, they seldom ruffled either candidate.
Well into the debate,Kyrillos momentarily put Menendez on the defensive when discussing unsuccessful efforts to keep Fort Monmouth’s operations from being shifted to Maryland. “I’m not sure where you were in that fight, Bob,” Kyrillos said, one of a number of times he addressed his opponent directly as they stood at side-by-side podiums. (Tyrrell, NJ Spotlight)
Senate passes health exchange bill
A key part of New Jersey’s response to President Obama’s federal health care overhaul cleared the state Senate on Thursday, but its chances of becoming law remain uncertain.
The bill, which passed the Senate with no Republican support, would create an online marketplace to help small businesses and some consumers buy health insurance coverage.
New Jersey has until Nov. 16 to declare whether it will create its own statewide marketplace or will join a federal program instead.
The bill will next be considered by the Assembly. But to become law, it must be signed by Governor Christie, who previously vetoed a similar bill and has not expressed support for the legislation.
Christie vetoed the previous bill in May. He called it “premature,” arguing that the state should not create an exchange until the U.S. Supreme Court decided whether the Affordable Care Act was constitutional. (Linhorst, The Record)
Waiver approval clears way for massive Medicaid reform in New Jersey
The federal government has New Jersey’s request for a complete overhaul of its Medicaid program, a move that will give the state more flexibility in delivering Medicaid, as well as the opportunity to maintain or improve patient care at lower costs.
The changes to the program will have not just for poor families eligible for Medicaid, but also for seniors facing the prospect of nursing home; those that obtain behavioral health or addiction services from the state; and New Jersey residents with .
It also changes the formula that Medicaid uses to compensate hospitals and other healthcare institutions. (Keough, NJ Spotlight)
Medicaid oversight saved taxpayers $500M, N.J. comptroller says
New Jersey’s state comptroller’s office said Thursday that it helped save more than $500 million in taxpayer funds through close oversight of the Medicaid program.
An annual report released by state Comptroller Matthew Boxer detailed how fraud-prevention efforts kept $402 million from being paid out and how the agency worked to get another $102 million in improperly paid Medicaid funds returned to the state and federal governments.
Another highlight from the report was the $3 million in savings that came in response to the agency’s recommendation that eliminate clothing allowances for state workers who are not required to wear a uniform to work. (Reitmeyer, The Record)
N.J. voters back $750 million bond for colleges, poll says
Most New Jersey voters support a referendum authorizing a $750 million bond sale to fund capital projects at colleges and universities, a poll shows.
Sixty-two percent back the ballot initiative, compared with 56 percent a month ago, according to the Rutgers-Eagleton survey released today. The referendum endorsed by Republican Governor Chris Christie earmarks the money to build classrooms and upgrade technology.
Voters also backed a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would allow Christie and lawmakers to require judges to pay more toward pensions and benefits. Seventy percent backed that measure.
The state has 31 public colleges, including three research institutions: Rutgers University, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Combined, they have a full- and part-time enrollment of almost 358,700 students, according to state figures. (Dopp, Bloomberg)
Poll: Most N.J. voters favor ballot questions that would force judges to pay more for benefits
New Jersey voters overwhelmingly favor Election Day ballot measures to borrow money to finance higher education institutions and to require Superior Court judges and state Supreme Court justices to pay more toward their pensions and benefits, a new poll released today shows.
The Rutgers-Eagleton poll found 70 percent of likely voters support a state constitutional amendment on judicial pay, and only 18 percent are opposed.
The issue arose after the state Supreme Court ruled that sitting judges are exempt from a new state law requiring public workers to pay more because the constitution forbids cutting their salaries.
The proposed amendment clarifies that the Legislature has the authority to increase the pension and benefit payments of sitting judges. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. Senate passes bill creating online marketplace for health insurance
A bill that creates an online marketplace for people to shop for health insurance in 2014, when the federal health care law takes effect, passed the state Senate today.
The health exchange legislation creates a 10-member volunteer board, appointed by the governor and legislature, that would approve health plans offered to hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans shopping for health coverage. The exchange also creates a Small Businesses Health Options Program allowing these employers to pool their purchasing power to buy coverage for their workers, according to the bill. (Livio, The Star-Ledger)
The Senate passed several resolutions, including measures regarding veterans’ education benefits. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Special liquor license bill clears Senate floor
Senate lawmakers approved legislation that would permit a special liquor license for certain economic development areas in the state.
The bill, S1904, would allow a liquor license to be granted for a site that generally would not meet the conditions for having one. The bill targets the redevelopment area established by the N.J. Meadowlands Commission. (Arco, State Street Wire)
N.J. Senate passes stiffer terms for child sex
The New Jersey Senate approved a bill Thursday that would lock up certain child sex offenders for a minimum of 25 years. The measure had languished for years and drew the attention last summer of conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly.
The Jessica Lunsford Act, named for a 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a registered sex offender in 2005, would punish those convicted of aggravated sexual assault against a child under 13 with a 25-years-to-life prison sentence. The bill also would sentence anyone who harbored such an offender to a minimum of six months in jail and impose up to $10,000 in fines.
The Senate, ruled by Democrats, voted 31-0 in favor. In the Assembly, the bill remains in committee. (Farrell, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
N.J. Senate approves bill allowing more dropped charges in municipal court
More people would be eligible for having charges dropped against them in municipal court under a bill approved today by the Senate.
The municipal court version of pretrial intervention _ known as conditional dismissal _ had been available for first-time offenders charged with certain drug offenses, but the new bill (S2169) extends the program to those with non-drug offenses.
The program would not be available for those who already participated in a conditional discharge or dismissal or a supervisory treatment program such as pretrial intervention. It would also not be extended to those charge with organized criminal or gang activity; a continuing criminal business enterprise; a breach of the public trust by a public officer or employee; domestic violence; an offense against the elderly, disabled or minor; an motor vehicle offense involving alcohol or drugs; animal cruelty and certain disorderly persons offense. (Spoto, The Star-Ledger)
New law keeps farmland free of oversized solar project
The Christie administration has made it clear that it wants to steer large grid-supply solar projects away from farmland, but developers haven’t gotten the message.
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has received at least 65 applications seeking approval to be “grandfathered in’’ as qualifying for solar credits for the electricity their systems would produce on agricultural land, a designation crucial to making those projects economically viable.
Only 50 applications have been deemed by the state to qualify for consideration under a solar law enacted this past summer. But the total capacity of those projects, if all were built, would top 500 megawatts. That amounts to more than 40 percent of the capacity built in New Jersey over the past decade. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Rules for N.J. medical marijuana dispensaries upheld by court
A three-judge panel has upheld state Health Department rules limiting the number of medical marijuana dispensaries and requirements that they all be run by non-profits.
Natural Medical Inc., a for-profit company formed by Nir Shalit in 2010 to open a dispensary, argued that the department had illegally restricted the number of licensed dispensaries in the state to six.
Thursday’s ruling comes as the licensed dispensaries – two each for North, Central and South Jersey – have run into intense local opposition.
None are up and running nearly three years after former Gov. Jon Corzine signed the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, which set up the state’s medical marijuana system for patients with certain debilitating medical conditions. (Campisi, The Record)
DOE rescinds administrative leave, reinstates ousted Perth Amboy super
The Christie administration’s role in the state’s larger urban districts like Newark and Camden has been well-chronicled, but its aggressive intervention in a smaller district like Perth Amboy is becoming just as controversial.
Yesterday, the state Department of Education reinstated for a second time the superintendent of Perth Amboy schools, Janine Caffrey, counter to the ruling of an administrative law judge who had upheld her suspension by the local board.
The (Mooney, NJ Spotlight) was not a final decision, with state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf still to make a ruling on the judge’s recommendation in the next month.
State releases new LCAPP numbers
The financial implications of a state program designed to spur new power plant construction became clearer Wednesday, as the Board of Public Utilities released new financial details about the program.
The new numbers lay out the prices the BPU guaranteed to NRG Energy in exchange for the company building a power plant in Old Bridge. The price guarantees are part of the controversial Long-Term Capacity Agreement pilot program, which sought to solve what the board sees as a dearth of new power plant construction in New Jersey by providing financial certainty to developers. In addition to NRG, Hess Corp. and Competitive Power Ventures also are participating in the program, which could bring a total of nearly 2,000 megawatts of new natural gas-fueled generation to the state. (Kaltwasser, NJBIZ)
State outreach to Latino-owned business reaps rewards
Goya Foods President Robert Unanue gives New Jersey state officials credit for clearing the way for his company to remain in New Jersey when it had a chance to leave.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and “the whole administration from top to bottom have been very cooperative,” particularly in helping the company locate at a Jersey City site with a rail siding, Unanue said.
Goya is one of the several Latino-owned businesses being highlighted by state officials, including Guadagno, as New Jersey marks Hispanic Heritage Month, which lasts from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. (Kaltwasser, NJBIZ)