Morning News Digest: October 12, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Poll: Menendez up 14
With less than four weeks until Election Day, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez leads challenger Joe Kyrillos by 14 points among likely voters according to new poll released Thursday.
The Philadelphia Inquirer poll of 604 likely voters gives Menendez a 49 percent to 25 percent margin with just 16 percent of respondents undecided.
Menendez is viewed favorably by 43 percent of voters against 25 percent who hold an unfavorable view of the Democrat. The poll showed Kyrillos continues to struggle with name recognition as 17 percent hold a favorable view of the Republican state senator against 13 percent who hold an unfavorable view.Menendez has made strides with unaffiliated voters, with 51% in favor of the incumbent, and 31% favoring Kyrillos. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Christie casts doubt on jobless figures and methodology of reporting
Gov. Chris Christie cast doubt on how jobless rate figures are derived.
During his Q&A portion of a town hall here today, he sounded skeptical about how the state’s jobless rate could climb while it still is adding more jobs.
He told about 750 people here that every month there are jobs-created figures that come directly from payroll reports, while the unemployment rate is derived from a poll of about 60,000 households in which questions are asked: Are you working, and are you looking for work.
Christie said that in order for the state’s jobless rate of 9.9 percent to be accurate even though it has added 20,000 jobs, they would have had to lose 603 jobs a day. “There is something screwy with the unemployment rate,’’ he said. (Mooney, PolitickerNJ)
Christie: Renewed call for ending user fees exceptions, sick leave payouts
Gov. Chris Christie renewed his call today for ending sick leave payouts to public workers and for stopping towns from getting around the 2 percent tax cap by instituting so-called user fees on services such as trash collection.
At his 96th town hall at the YMCA here, Christie told a crowd of more than 750 people that these are two key items that need to be addressed, especially if the Assembly would act on the user fee bill.
He told the audience that New Jersey faces $880 million in unpaid sick leave liability, and that had he signed a bill sent to him that would have granted workers $7,500 more each that would have added $3.2 billion more to the problem.
“Zero means zero,’’ he reiterated for the crowd. (Mooney, PolitickerNJ)
DLCC names LD16 an essential race
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has named the 16Th Legislative District as one of its 60 "essential races" after candidate Marie Corfield received the highest number of grassroots nominations.
"This race received the most grassroots nominations of any in the country, demonstrating an extremely high level of grassroots interest in this race," the DLCC said in a statement announcing the essential races.
The committee named 50 races to the list and the final 10, including Corfield's, were named through a nominating process.
Corfield is facing off against Republican Donna Simon, who assumed the seat last year after the death of incumbent Republican Peter Biondi. The raced is a special election to fill the final year of the term. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Christie says he went ‘too far’ in calling Navy SEAL an ‘idiot’
Gov. Christie shouldn't have called a Navy SEAL an idiot.
So says the governor himself, in a rare moment of quasi-contrition.
Esquire magazine today published an interview with Christie in which he speaks of the town hall meeting in Florence Township when he got into an argument with a Navy SEAL about the Rutgers-Rowan merger -- and ultimately called that Navy SEAL an idiot. (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Christie, back from campaign trail, reopens criticism of Democrats at town-hall meeting
State Sen. Diane Allen (R., Burlington) was backstage Thursday afternoon with Gov. Christie as he made his way into the gymnasium of the Mount Laurel YMCA for the 96th town hall of his term.
"She saw the dazed look in my eyes. She goes, 'Governor, it's Thursday, and you're in New Jersey,' " Christie recounted in his opening remarks on stage.
The Republican governor had just returned to the business of gritty New Jersey politics after a two-day swing through Ohio for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and six weeks of on-again, off-again campaigning for U.S. Senate and gubernatorial candidates in eight other states.
Before he got down to the task of making fun of Democrats and Supreme Court justices, he told the crowd of more than 600 people about his travels. (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Christie says campaign trips out of state have been ‘crazy’
Governor Christie started off his first town hall-style event since returning from a series of out-of-state campaign trips, by joking that he had to be reminded where he is.
“It’s been a little crazy,” he said adding jokingly that state Sen. Diane Allen, R-Burlington County, told him what day of the week it is and that he’s back in New Jersey.
Christie spent Tuesday and Wednesday traveling around Ohio campaigning with GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. That came after spending Thursday, Friday and Saturday raising funds and attending rallies for Republican gubernatorial and Congressional candidates.
Christie, who was considered a presidential contender, said the trip reaffirmed he made the right decision to stay in New Jersey. (Hayes, The Record)
N.J. pension fund gains 4.5 percent for quarter to $71.8 billion
New Jersey’s pension-fund assets grew an estimated 4.5 percent for the first quarter of the fiscal year, to $71.8 billion, according to a state investment council report.
Global-growth assets gained 6.1 percent, followed by income assets, which increased 3 percent. Risk mitigation was the worst-performing category, gaining 0.3 percent.
New Jersey’s fund managers said they expect higher returns when assets in the police and firefighters system, which lag behind the others, are added to the results.
The funds are managed by the state investment division, which oversees seven benefit pools for more than 780,000 current and future retirees. (Young, Bloomberg)
In CD 3, Runyan and Adler meet each other for their first public debate forum
They had the questions beforehand but that didn't prevent this sedately appointed congressional forum from turning into a brawl.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan (R-3) sees his challenger, attorney Shelley Adler, as a tax and spend Dem, anathema in this climate - a climate characterized by "uncertainty," Runyan repeatedly told the crowd assembled at this Burlington County Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event.
In a South Jersey military-dominant congressional district, freshman Congressman Runyan panned "sequestration," an effort by the administration and the senate to threaten to empty $1.2 trillion from defense to plug the federal budget. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Frelinghuysen insists he’s a moderate
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen described himself as a moderate Republican on Thursday, saying he supports spending on passenger rail lines and is cautious about making changes to Social Security.
Frelinghuysen, a longtime Morris County resident who is seeking a 10th term, is running against former Roseland mayor John Arvanites in the redesigned 11th Congressional District, which now includes Wayne, Woodland Park and Little Falls.
In the two years since Republicans took control of the House, Frelinghuysen's opponents have charged that he fell in line with the conservative Tea Party movement. His opponent's campaign manager, for example, said he "toes the line of Republican leadership." (Linhorst, The Record)
Race in new-look 6th Congressional District features familiar foes
For most voters in the 6th Congressional District, 2012 looks a lot like 2010, even though redistricting has altered the shape of the district.
ncumbent Frank Pallone, a Democrat, is once again being challenged by Republican Anna Little. Libertarian Len Flynn, Herbert L. Tarbous of the Reform Party and independents Mac Dara Lyden and Karen Zaletel join them on the ballot. All are at least occasional candidates, having run for state or federal office, or both, in the past.
Both major party candidates say the November election is important for the nation’s future. Little, a Middletown native who lives in Highlands, says she is running because the “nation is in crisis.”
In a written response to a questionnaire, Little said, “Our economy is on the brink of destruction" and “elected officials have lost touch with the people.” (Kalet, NJ Spotlight)
Assembly committee OKs health exchange bill over business objections
While New Jersey's business groups support the idea of a health insurance exchange, they oppose an Assembly committee's attempt to create it, citing measures in the proposed legislation to increase regulatory burdens and limit health plan options for small businesses.
At a committee hearing today on the Health Benefit Exchange Act, A-3186, Christine Stearns, vice president of health and legal affairs for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said the health exchange advisory board and board of directors included in the bill would lack representation for small-business health plan purchasers "who have experience with shopping for coverage and making choices," as well as have the power to block insurance plans from entering the market — including those already meeting state and federal standards under the Affordable Care Act. (Eder, NJBIZ)
Bill limits NJ legislators’ unexcused absences
A Republican-sponsored bill that seeks to cut the number of unexcused absences New Jersey legislators are allowed before vacating their office was approved by a Senate committee on Thursday.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Kean Jr. cuts the number of unexcused absences to five before a lawmaker's seat is declared vacant. Lawmakers now are allowed 10 unexplained absences.
Kean says the change would help ensure that citizens are represented without interruption and discourage lawmakers from skipping sessions to avoid casting certain votes.
Sen. James Whalen says the bill needs to be amended before it's finally enacted to clarify whether lawmakers should be penalized for missing days on which no bills are being voted on.
The bill also was designed to discourage legislators from leaving the state during the session. (Associated Press)
NJ approves portable horse bets, lottery anonymity
New Jersey lawmakers have approved bills that allow the use of portable betting devices at horse racing tracks, and allow lottery winners to remain anonymous for a year.
A state Senate committee Thursday approved a measure allowing betting on wireless devices at race tracks. A similar bill authorizing the use of such devices at Atlantic City's casinos has already been approved.
Like that bill, the horse track bill requires that the devices only work on the grounds of the state's four horse tracks, and provide safeguards to keep children from gambling.
The committee also approved a bill to let lottery winners remain anonymous for one year from the time they win their prize. (Parry, Associated Press)
Rate hike notification bill released by Assembly utilities committee
The Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee released bill A3038, which would require public water utilities, even those that are privately owned, to provide notice to customers of any hearing that will take place before the Board of Public Utilities if they are seeking rate hikes.
The bill’s sponsor, Herb Conaway, (D-7), of Haddonfield, said he had the bill written after rate hikes took place in his county (Burlington County) by New Jersey American Water. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
PCP penalties bill released by law committee
The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee released bill S2204, which increases penalties for distribution of phencyclidine, better known as PCP, or its street name, “wet.”
The bill, according to sponsor, Sen. Donald Norcross (D-5) of Camden, establishes criminal liability for drug dealers under certain circumstances. It also imposes civil and criminal penalties for combinations of controlled dangerous substances. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Pascrell defends initial decision to support naming Clifton park after Grabowski
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. on Thursday defended his decision initially to support naming a Clifton park after Chester Grabowski before retracting his endorsement after learning of allegations of racist and anti-semitic writing by the late Polish-American newspaper publisher.
“I never heard a foul word out of his mouth about anything. He was totally involved in helping the Polish people,” Pascrell said during a wide-ranging 90-minute interview with The Record editorial board.
“I wasn’t trying to redeem Chester’s name,” Pascrell added. “I had no other purpose other than to be supportive to the family.” (Ensslin, The Record)
Principal evaluation mandate will put administrators under microscope
As New Jersey schools begin to rethink how they evaluate their teachers, districts are also getting a getting a crash course in assessing an equally important group of employees: school principals.
Fourteen districts have been chosen to participate in a trial run of a principal evaluation system that the state hopes to put in place next fall.
At the same time, New Jersey's remaining 500-plus districts are being asked to choose the system they will use next year to evaluate their principals.
The effort involved in this task has led to some concern among school leaders, who are already revamping their teacher evaluation systems under the state’s new tenure law. And those jobs don't include preparing for new testing and curriculum in the coming years as well. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Will New Jersey Formula One race help local economy?
The Grand Prix race scheduled to zoom through two waterfront towns next summer is expected to attract legions of fans, generate millions of tourist dollars and deliver the heart-stopping spectacle of sleek cars flying past each other at speeds greater than 200 miles per hour.
Meanwhile, West New York and Weehawken are seeing more prosaic benefits: better roads and a boost to their bottom lines.
Formula One is transforming a 3.2 mile-loop through the towns into a course capable of hosting 24 cars racing at top speeds. To do that, the company is spending millions of dollars to resurface public streets, including the only waterfront access road in Weehawken that hasn’t been modernized. (Haddon and Adarlo, The Wall Street Journal)
Officials discuss homeland security issues in N.J. at conference
More than 400 law enforcement and emergency management officials met Thursday at Monmouth University in West Long Branch for an annual statewide conference on homeland security issues ranging from cyber threats to natural disasters.
North Jersey is home to several sites that federal authorities consider potential terrorist targets, including reservoirs, financial hubs and malls. Passaic County was also among the hardest hit areas last year by Hurricane Irene.
The conference theme this year is “Changing Environments in Homeland Security.”
“Cyber security – that’s the new battleground,” said New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa. “There’s never a time when you can take a breath.” (Patberg, The Record)
Grid operator, incumbent power suppliers, attempt end-run around consumers
In a step angering officials in New Jersey and Maryland, the regional operator of the nation’s largest power grid is moving to adopt rules that the states say will make it tougher for them to subsidize the new power plants needed to increase reliability and lower costs for consumers.
The action by PJM Interconnection and a consortium of incumbent power plants is especially galling because, as it unfolded over the past few weeks, it excluded states and consumer advocates, according to officials in both states.
“It was done under a cloak of secrecy,’’ said Stefanie Brand, director of the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel. “It’s very, very disturbing.’’
The brouhaha is the latest development in an ongoing dispute between the states, PJM, and incumbent power suppliers over efforts by New Jersey and others to bring down high electric bills for businesses and homeowners by offering subsidies to incent new power plant construction. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Advanced practice nurses, easing the burden on New Jersey’s primary care physicians
“Where will they go?” Susan Hassmiller, senior adviser for nursing at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, asked rhetorically. “There’s not enough doctors, they’re not going into primary care.”
The answer, experts say, is allowing advanced practice nurses to provide more care.
Patricia A. Barnett, chief executive officer of the New Jersey State Nurses Association & Institute for Nursing, believes there will be enough primary care providers, if the more than 3,000 advanced practice nurses (APNs) in New Jersey are allowed to make use of the full extent of their education and licensure. (Lehren, NJ Spotlight)
Watchdog: First-aiders wary EMS plan may cost you $2G
In communities like Berkeley Township, where 26,000 senior citizens live, residents rely on volunteer first-aiders to get them to the hospitals in emergencies.
But what if they suddenly were charged $2,000 for every trip?
That’s what some volunteers fear may happen. They say that a new bill designed to regulate emergency services could result in them being squeezed out by paid paramedics — and they say a free service that residents rely on could now cost them money.
“Paid service companies want to come in because it’s a cash cow in the senior communities,” Berkeley Township Councilwoman Judy Noonan said. “Anybody who believes differently is kidding themselves.” (Jordan, Asbury Park Press)
From the Back Room
Anyone see the irony here? Anyone?
Today, Trenton Mayor Tony Mack issued the following statement calling for an end to crime in the city... (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Presidential Debate Communication
Last week’s Presidential debate offered some important lessons for professionals of all stripes on how to communicate and comport yourself when engaging an opponent with a different point of view in a very public setting.
Politics and ideology aside, President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney had a job to do that involved their ability to communicate effectively, present concisely and carry themselves with executive presence and likeability that would have a great impact on people’s perceptions of them as human beings. Making a human connection, whether in person or via television, still matters a great deal regardless of the venue. (Adubato for PolitickerNJ)
This afternoon, PolitickerNJ will be posting the results of our exclusive poll of Republican primary voters in CD3.Read More >
Days Since Last Christie Press Conference (Jan. 9)
FDU Poll: Christie plummets 20 points Gov. Chris Christie's job approval took a 20 point drop in three plus months, according to this morning's Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind Poll. Christie’s post Bridgegate job approval rating stands at 41% (with 44% who disapprove), down from 61% last November. Currently about...
BY JEFF BRINDLE Anytime now, the U.S. Supreme Court will render a decision in McCutcheon v. FEC. And while reformists may not like it, the high court is likely to allow national parties to raise far more money. That could strengthen them... Read More >
“Unfortunately for the governor, the investigation appears to be turning him into a more polarizing figure. As recently as late last year, his approval numbers were consistently bigger than his disapproves - by a pretty big margin - and more voters liked everything about him than disliked everything about him. One of the defining characteristics of the governor that makes him a nationally sought after Republican is his widespread appeal in a Democratic state. Bridgegate continues to erode that asset.” - FDU Poll Director Krista Jenkins.- PolitickerNJ.com
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