Weekly Roundup: Nov. 30, 2012

TRENTON – Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) of West Deptford,  and his bills took up much of the limelight this past week, discussing both policy and the political climate.

But his two bills calling for minimum wage hikes and sharing services between municipalities are likely to receive mixed reaction by Gov. Chris Christie.

While Christie seems to be fine with shared services bill, another showdown may take place between him and Sweeney, if the governor vetoes the minimum wage bill,S3. The bill calls for not only hiking the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50, but  also calls for increases in future years to keep up with the rate of inflation.

Sweeney has warned if the governor vetoes the bill, S3, which the Senate passed largely along party lines on Thursday, the measure will be voted on by the voters through a public question seeking to amend the constitution.  Christie has called the idea “stupid.”

On the purely political front, Sweeney said this past week that Gov. Christie is not a shoo-in for re-election, despite his sky-high approval ratings, saying there’s a long time between today and the date voters gets to make their decision on who they want as their state’s chief executive.

The popular governor, whose approval rating has reached as high as 77 percent,  made it official Monday afternoon during a press conference in Port Monmouth he will seek re-election, a move that could help bolster his aspirations for even higher office.

Post-Sandy policy

Town officials gathered in two separate events to talk discuss the financial hardships in the wake of the superstorm Sandy.

At a committee hearing in Toms River, several mayors of Jersey Shore communities said the federal government needs to do as much as possible to help in the rebuilding process.

A couple days later at a League of Municipalities event , tax assessors said they residents of undamaged homes could probably expect taxes to go up as well to cover the rebuilding effort.

Christie said a few weeks ago residents living in storm-wrecked communities should expect their property taxes to go up, given that hikes to cover disasters are one of the exceptions allowed under the 2 percent property tax cap.

State assembly members and senators still tried introducing legislation to address the various needs the storm made obvious.

They include bills by Robert Singer, who like previous lawmakers, has legislation that would encourage businesses to have generators and impose fines on utilities if they don’t to do restoration work quickly enough.

While generators at gas stations may seem like a good idea, both Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean said mandating they have them would be hurt small businesses, if not be cost prohibitive. They agreed however that more needs to be done to make them generator-ready.  

Red-light cameras

The department of Transportation released a study saying the red light cameras have contributed to an increase in the number of rear-end collisions at intersections, but has lead to a corresponding decrease in the number of citations issued.

The report provides ammunition to the arguments frequently posed by both proponents and opponents of the program.

OLS figures

As predicted, the state saw a shortfall in its revenues in the wake of superstorm Sandy, the Office of Legislative Services said earlier this week.

While there was 3.4 percent revenue growth, it badly trailed the 8.4 percent projection by the administration.

The OLS said in the report that revenues will need to grow 9/9 percent to keep pace.

"Historically, the media has had two caricatures of Republicans. We are either stupid or evil."
—U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)