Morning News Digest: January 29, 2013
By Matthew Arco
NORTH HALEDON – The going statewide narrative hardly puts state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18) on the same war footing as incumbent GOP Gov. Chris Christie, but the Passaic County Democratic Organization welcomes the role of underdog.
“At this time last year, he met his (rival) right here,” Chairman John Currie said of U.S. Rep. Pascrell (D-9) in the sprawling ballroom of the Tides. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)
Obama: I will sign Sandy aid bill 'as soon as it hits my desk'
President Barack Obama signaled Monday evening he plans to sign off on tens of billions of dollars in federal disaster aid for states affected by Superstorm Sandy as soon as it hits his desk.
Obama issued a statement shortly after the U.S. Senate gave final approval on a $50.5 billion aid package. The action prompted the president to announce he would sign it “as soon as it hits [his] desk.” (Arco/PolitickerNJ)
TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie announced conditionally vetoing several bills Monday evening, including a proposal that would help transform foreclosed properties into affordable housing.
The governor sent back to the Legislature a bill, S1415 and A2014 that would have established the New Jersey Residential Foreclosure Transformation Act, which would give the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency the ability to purchase foreclosed homes and dedicate them as affordable housing units. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)
The U.S. Senate approved a $50.5 billion aid package that will deliver federal disaster relief funds to states devastated by Superstorm Sandy.
New Jersey and other states are poised to receive tens of billions in aid after Senate lawmakers approved the package by a 62-36 vote. The Monday evening vote came about two weeks after members of the House of Representatives signed off on the package. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)
East Orange Mayor Bob Bowser is running for reelection, the veteran politico told PolitickerNJ tonight. (Isherwood/PolitickerNJ)
Embroiled in the Jersey City mayoral race, incumbent Mayor Jerry Healy today formally backed Democratic gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18), Metuchen. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)
Christie awards second contract for Sandy cleanup to influential firm
TRENTON — A Florida-based company that has been criticized for charging towns top rates to dig out from Hurricane Sandy has been awarded a second contract by the Christie administration, largely for future work, despite prices that are significantly steeper than its competitors.
AshBritt of Pompano Beach was one of four companies the Christie administration awarded a debris-removal contract earlier this month, after a weekslong bidding process, according to Treasury Department records. The firm was granted its first contract on a no-bid basis days after the storm. (Renshaw/Star-Ledger)
Bergen and Passaic counties among recipients of open space funds
Communities in Bergen and Passaic counties will share a chunk of state funding for historic sites, urban parks, greenways and flood-prone properties.
Governor Christie was traveling out-of-state Monday, but his office announced that he signed three bills that release land preservation funds through programs aimed at preserving land for open space and recreation, and for buying flood-prone properties. (Hayes & Reitmeye/The Record)
At N.J. Supreme Court, lawyers argue over Christie's power on affordable housing
TRENTON — A landmark battle on the limits of Gov. Chris Christie's power reached the state Supreme Court today, where lawyers argued for more than an hour over whether the governor can scrap an agency charged with building affordable housing in New Jersey.
If Christie wins, several justices said a chain reaction could break out across the state government -- potentially bringing all of New Jersey's independent groups and commissions under the governor's thumb, including public defenders and the state's lobbying and campaign-finance watchdog. (Rizzo/Star-Ledger)
Battle Over Governor’s Powers Underscores Importance of Upcoming Supreme Court Fight
With a partisan Senate fight looming over Gov. Chris Christie’s two latest Supreme Court nominees, the administration yesterday argued that it has the right to unilaterally abolish the Council on Affordable Housing -- and thus has the power to seize more than $140 million originally earmarked for low-cost housing to balance the state budget.
While oral arguments before the Supreme Court yesterday focused on narrow constitutional and legal issues pertaining to gubernatorial powers under the 40-year-old Reorganization Act, the case underscored the importance of the ongoing struggle between Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) over the partisan makeup of the state’s highest court. (Magyar/NJSpotlight)
Is New Jersey Missing Its Offshore-Wind Opportunity?
To some, the state’s efforts to develop offshore wind farms is a win-win proposition. It is a way of producing cleaner electricity, a means of spurring a green economy, and a step in reducing New Jersey’s greenhouse gas emissions.
But 30 months after a bill to promote offshore wind farms was enacted, a legislative committee yesterday focused on why that has yet to happen. But the agency most responsible for pushing offshore wind ahead failed to show up to answer questions about what is slowing down the process. (Johnson/NJSpotlight)
Cerf's Visit to Education Committee Raises Question About Budget Balance of Power
The Christie administration and Senate Democrats continued their tug of war over the details of state aid to schools yesterday. But it took a Republican to raise an important question as to how much say the Legislature will have in the distribution of the final amount for next year.
State Education Commissioner Chris Cerf yesterday before the Senate Education Committee, with much of his visit taken up defending the administration’s latest proposal in his for adjusting some weights in the state’s school-funding formula. (Mooney/NJSpotlight)
When the Building Our Future Bond Act passed with voters on Election Day last year, most schools knew what they wanted to build using the funding, but few were far along in having the details.
At William Paterson University, though, the $750 million bond issue came at a time when administrators already were planning a facility expansion. (Callendo/NJBIZ)
From the Back Room
According to a source close to the Buono campaign the Morris County Democrats are set to endorse Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono.
The Morris Dems are the latest county part to endorse Barbara, who looks to be the only candidate in the race. (Isherwood/PolitickerNJ)
Christie veto on minimum wage another blow to the working poor: Editorial
In a move that took no one by surprise, Gov. Chris Christie yesterday again disregarded the pressing needs of the working poor, this time by vetoing a bill to increase in the minimum wage.
That fits a pattern. His first budget effectively raised income taxes on low-wage families by scaling back the earned-income tax credit. He has also ended health care coverage for thousands of low-wage families, closed down Planned Parenthood clinics that served them, and tried his best to raid huge sums of money from a trust fund set aside for affordable housing. In each case, the target is the working poor. (Star-Ledger)
The Mount Laurel Doctrine
The New Jersey Supreme Court’s 1983 ruling in the Mount Laurel fair-housing case is rightly regarded as one of the most important civil rights decisions of modern times. The ruling, which greatly influenced fair-housing policy across the nation, limited the use of exclusionary zoning as a means of preventing the construction of affordable housing in wealthy communities. (NY Times)
Stile: Democrats' hopes for savior from Christie unfulfilled
Monday should have been Barbara Buono’s triumphant moment as the Democratic Party started to coalesce around her candidacy for governor.
A cascade of endorsements minted her as the party’s genuine standard-bearer. It was time for the feisty, 59-year-old Metuchen lawyer to bask in the aura of inevitability. Yet the pledges of loyalty and support did not dispel the ambivalence the Democratic Party has about her quest to unseat Governor Christie in November. (Stile/The Record)
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"That's state money and the speaker has never raised an objection to that, and now all of a sudden she objects to her own bill. She's objecting on a basis she hasn't objected before on the TAG Grant program. Let's face it everybody, this is just politics. It's election year and it's politics." - Gov. Chris Christie, on Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34).- PolitickerNJ.com
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