Good Thursday morning!
The state Senate today will swear in its newest member: Anthony Bucco, who replaces Anthony Bucco.
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At last week’s uncontested 25th District GOP convention, Bucco was selected to fill his late father’s Senate seat, which creates a very odd situation for New Jersey voters.
Bucco remains on the ballot for Assembly in the November election. But at around 10 a.m. today he’ll become a senator. So Republicans are in the odd position of asking voters to vote for Bucco to occupy a seat he won’t sit in. And if he wins the Assembly election, the seat will go to an as-yet unselected Republican — chosen by county committee members from the district — until a special election next year.
It’s a very bizarre situation, and there’s little, if any, precedent for it. You can understand why some Republicans had serious qualms about this arrangement, even if they wouldn’t go on record to say that. This is a competitive district, after all. And Democrats are happy to embrace it, as the swearing-in is the only thing on the Senate’s agenda today.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “When are you going to legalize the reefer?” — A River Line rider surprised to see Gov. Phil Murphy on the train Tuesday. Murphy responded “I’m trying, man.”
WHERE’S MURPHY?: No public schedule
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Pollster Patrick Murray, former Ponzio’s owner Chris Fifis, Nature Conservancy’s Stacy McCormack
THE YEAR OF THE MAIL-IN BALLOT — Democrats benefiting from early surge in vote-by-mail ballots, by POLITICO’s Matt Friedman: New Jersey saw its lowest election turnout ever in 2015, when just 22 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. But turnout will likely be a lot higher this year — a similar election with the Assembly at the top of the ticket. One reason, political operatives and academics say, is that Donald Trump’s polarizing presidency has led to a new level of political engagement. But there’s another huge factor: New Jersey’s new vote-by-mail law is generating votes from people who would be less likely to go to the polls in low-key election years like this. The new law is reversing decades of dwindling voter engagement — and is so far benefiting Democrats, who authored it. “We’re going to see record level vote by mail for any odd-year election, not just an off year. It’s just the amount of ballots that are out there,” said Michael Muller, chief executive officer for the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee. According to figures Muller provided from state elections officials, 154,213 mail-in ballots had been returned statewide as of Oct. 21. That’s about 50 percent more than the total number cast in 2015, the most directly comparable election year.
YOU CAN STILL PAY TO SIT IN THE PARKING LOT IF YOU WANT — “American Dream mall still has no certificate of occupancy 2 days before opening,” by NJ Advance Media’s Ted Sherman: “Less than 48 hours before the much-anticipated ribbon cutting for American Dream, the state has yet to issue a certificate of occupancy that would allow the long-delayed amusement and retail complex to open on Friday. The state Department of Community Affairs (DCA) on Wednesday said it is still reviewing the permits of the sprawling entertainment venue and has not signed off on all the inspections. ‘The American Dream facility does not have a certificate of occupancy at the present time’ DCA spokeswoman Lisa Ryan confirmed. ‘Inspection teams from DCA’s Division of Codes and Standards are at American Dream every day conducting inspections to make sure it is fully complying with all applicable fire, life safety, and building regulations required under the NJ Uniform Construction Code.’ Ryan said the division conducts inspections upon receiving requests from the American Dream developer, adding that the division was up to date on all permit applications it has received, and “continues to work with the developer to schedule and perform inspections as quickly as possible.’”
ONLY 1,000 MASTROS — “Treasury’s update on tax incentives — State on hook for $2B less than previously reported,” by NJ Spotlight’s John Reitmeyer: “More than $2 billion in state tax breaks that were awarded to companies through controversial programs are now not going to be paid out due to cancellations or other project changes, according to new figures from Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration. The economic-development tax incentives have faced increased scrutiny during Murphy’s tenure. The new figures suggest the state is no longer on the hook for a grand total of $11 billion in tax breaks, a figure that was highlighted in an audit released at the beginning of the year by the Office of State Comptroller. Instead, the state is now projected to pay out a little more than $9 billion in incentives.”
—Murphy, still apart from lawmakers, agrees to some tax incentive changes, by POLITICO’s Katherine Landergan and Ryan Hutchins: Gov. Phil Murphy has agreed to make several amendments to his previously proposed bill overhauling New Jersey tax incentive programs, a response to discussions with current and former lawmakers, according to copies of bills obtained by POLITICO. The changes — which range from awarding tax breaks to support grocery stores in food deserts to stronger incentives in specific cities — appear unlikely on their own to bridge the gap between the governor and legislative leaders, particularly Senate President Steve Sweeney. However, they indicate some progress has been made in recent months.
SWEENJEA — Greenwald optimistic health benefits reform bill will pass during lame duck, by POLITICO’s Carly Sitrin: Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald said Wednesday he’s anticipating the Legislature will have a compromise bill overhauling the state’s School Employees’ Health Benefits Program done by the end of the lame duck session in January. During a panel discussion at the New Jersey School Boards Association conference in Atlantic City, Greenwald praised Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin for getting Senate President Steve Sweeney and the New Jersey Education Association to sit down and discuss the issue. Sweeney and the union have clashed on a number of issues. “We’re excited about where this is,” Greenwald (D-Camden) said. “The Senate and Assembly are communicating on this and the speaker is constantly engaged with the front office on this.”
YOU’RE OVERREDACTING — “A year after Wanaque deaths, NJ still refuses to release documents showing its response,” by The Record’s Scott Fallon and Lindy Washburn: “A year after one of New Jersey’s deadliest viral outbreaks claimed the lives of 11 medically fragile children at a Wanaque long-term care facility, the public is no closer to knowing how health officials responded to the 76-day crisis. The New Jersey Department of Health has spent almost a year fighting NorthJersey.com and the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey to avoid release of documents showing internal and external communication among government officials as they grappled with the outbreak. NorthJersey.com filed a lawsuit against the department in December after it refused access to the documents. Since then, the agency has slowly released more than 1,400 pages of emails, status reports and other communication that are either irrelevant or contain so many redactions that it is impossible to determine what the state government was doing during the height of the crisis.”
‘2 OUT OF 119 AIN’T BAD’ — MEATLOAF SONG — “NJ lawmakers demanded Trump reveal his tax returns, so we asked for theirs. We got 2 out of 119,” by The Record’s Stacy Barchenger and Ashley Balcerzak: “Nearly all state lawmakers who for three years taunted President Donald Trump to show his tax returns refused to show their own tax returns to the public when asked. … It’s almost impossible for the public to clearly see a New Jersey lawmaker’s income or understand the extent of his or her financial interests due to the state’s skimpy disclosure statements. … The Network asked all 119 current state lawmakers for copies of their federal and state tax returns for the last five years, documents that good government groups and even some lawmakers agree provide a clear picture of financial interests and possible influences. Only two New Jersey lawmakers, state Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, and Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex, agreed to allow reporters to view their tax filings.”
THEY DON’T GET ALONG — “I really do get along with other top N.J. Dems, Murphy says,” by NJ Advance Media’s Matt Arco: “Speaking in the backyard of New Jersey’s top state lawmakers with whom he most often locks horns, Gov. Phil Murphy told a crowded room Tuesday night not to believe an ‘insider narrative’ that he doesn’t get along with Democrats in the Legislature. ‘Do we agree on everything? No,’ Murphy said at Rowan University in Glassboro, which is represented by state Senate President Stephen Sweeney. ‘(But) don’t fall into this insider narrative that we don’t get into the room together … that we don’t get along,’ Murphy said. ‘It’s just not true.’”
PATH TO PROGRESS — “PATH plans to add longer trains to ease commuter rush crush,” by NJ Advance Media’s Larry Higgs: “PATH officials are making good on a promised piece of an ambitious Improvement Program to improve Grove Street and other stations to allow longer 9-car trains on the busy Newark-World Trade Center line. PATH General Manager Clarelle DeGraffe gave NJ Advance Media a sneak peak of the details and schedule of the project that will add capacity and ease overcrowding on station platforms. ‘We’re very excited. One of the high points for us is to put some dollars behind capacity (projects) and addressing a major concern for riders, which is increasing capacity,’ DeGraffe said in an interview. Commuters now complain the system is so crowded, they have to let several trains go by before they can squeeze on during rush hours. Riders also expressed concerns that station platforms are dangerously overcrowded during the commuting rush.”
CAPS FOR FAIL — Senate rejects Democrats’ bid to weaken SALT deduction cap, by POLITICO’s Brian Faler: “The Senate [Wednesday] shot down a bid by Democrats to weaken a controversial and much-debated $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions. Lawmakers voted mostly along party lines to turn aside a proposal that would have allowed states like New York and New Jersey to reinstate workarounds — blocked by the IRS — that would have allowed their citizens to evade the cap. The vote was 43-52, with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) siding with Republicans to uphold the cap. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was the only Republican to back Democrats. It’s the latest disappointment for Democrats who have long complained about the cap imposed as part of the 2017 tax overhaul, but have struggled to do much about it.”
BREAKOUT MOMENT? — “Trump cries ‘lynching,’ Booker tries to break out from pack decrying latest outrage,” by The Record’s Charles Stile: “President Donald Trump, desperate to defuse the impeachment inquiry that is quickly gathering steam, resorted to a familiar self-preservation tactic Tuesday: He cast himself as a victim. Yet the attempt backfired into another self-ignited firestorm Tuesday as he claimed on Twitter that he’s the target of a Democratic Party ‘lynching.’ … But even though Booker took an early lead in the Senate on the very issue of lynching, he was just one voice in a chorus of outrage on Tuesday. If anything, that served as reminder of the struggle Booker has had in breaking through the crowded field for the Democratic nomination in 2020.”
THE ONLY QUESTION IS WHETHER IT WILL BE CALLED HARROKEN OR HORRISON —“Harrison, N.J.: The Next Hoboken?” by The New York Times’ Jill P. Capuzzo: “Tucked into an elbow of the Passaic River across from Newark, this 1.2-square-mile town was home to large manufacturers like RCA, the Edison Lamp Company, Otis Elevator and the Hartz Mountain Corporation for much of the 20th century. But the factories that made all those radio tubes, light bulbs and pet products have been replaced in recent years by high-end apartment buildings and hotels. Now residents, builders and investors are predicting that Harrison — just one PATH stop beyond the Journal Square station in Jersey City — will be the next Jersey City or Hoboken: an urban setting offering millennials an easy commute into the city.”
BUT DON’T VET ON IT — “Vineland, Rowan consider veterinary school idea, filling a void in N.J.,” by The Vineland Daily Journal’s Joseph P. Smith: “New Jersey does not have a veterinary school, despite its population of about 9 million as well as a large agricultural industry. The closest such school founded in 1884 at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Vineland and Rowan University are entering an agreement to determine the feasibility of establishing a school in the city.”
LITERALLY FOR THE BIRDS — “Freeholders approve county buying land for airport birds,” by The Press of Atlantic City’s Michelle Brunetti Post: “Atlantic County freeholders on Tuesday approved an agreement to purchase at least 65 acres for the South Jersey Transportation Authority to replace habitat for grassland birds at Atlantic City International Airport. The SJTA got permission earlier this year from the state Pinelands Commission to stop maintaining grassland it managed for 15 years at the airport for the state-threatened grasslands sparrow and state-endangered upland sandpiper, because of safety concerns of the Federal Aviation Administration.”
BRICK — “Brick shooting: Petition calls on mayor to announce a combat plan,” by The Asbury Park Press’ Keith Schubert: “Less than 24 hours after a shooting near Brick Memorial High School rattled parents, a petition calling on the Township’s mayor to restore safety has gathered more than 1,500 signatures — and rising. The petition was started shortly after a boy was shot near Brick Memorial High School, and cites that incident and another shooting last week as the reason behind its call to action from Brick Mayor John G. Ducey.”
CLICK BAIT — “At lonely Atlantic City bait shop, Noel Feliciano is an urban fisherman’s maestro,” by The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Amy S. Rosenberg: “Heck no, Noel Feliciano is not walking the plank to get to the jetties. The plank is not even a foot wide. It has been balanced on a steep diagonal from the Absecon Inlet seawall down to the rocks, because in true Atlantic City fashion, the magnificent jetty system that has created this unheralded paradise of urban saltwater fishing is, shall we say, a little hard to get to. … It’s a few minutes before sunrise. Having just unlocked his tiny bait shop, One Stop Bait & Tackle, a few blocks away at 416 Atlantic Ave., he has triaged a few minor fishing emergencies, like restringing the rod of Manny Serrano, who drove down from North Philly, rod in his trunk. Feliciano is now in his Boardwalk pulpit, ready to let the world, or at least his Facebook followers, in on a little secret: Atlantic City … Bass Pro got $11 million in tax breaks, but somehow didn’t put One Stop Bait & Tackle under water.”
‘PAGAN’S’ WORST CRIME IS AGAINST GRAMMAR WITH MISPLACED APOSTROPHE — “The Pagan’s Motorcycle Club is expanding in record numbers. Here’s why N.J. officials are worried,” by NJ Advance Media’s Alex Napoliello: “The Pagan’s Motorcycle Club, under the command of a new national president, is undergoing a major expansion in New Jersey. There is an increase in violent clashes between the Pagan’s and rival motorcycle clubs. The public is facing a growing safety threat. Those were the alarming takeaways from a public hearing held Wednesday by the State Commission of Investigation, an independent state watchdog formed in the late 1960s to investigate public corruption and organized crime. … In perhaps the most dramatic moment of the hearing, three-high ranking members of the Pagans, including the vice president of the national organization, Hugo Nieves, were subpoenaed to testify. Peppered by commissioners with accusations of illegal activity, including drug distribution, the members each invoked their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.”
FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS — “Nonstop flights from Newark airport to New Zealand to start next year,” by NJ Advance Media’s Anthony G. Attrino: “Air New Zealand plans to begin flying nonstop from Newark Liberty International Airport to Auckland next year in what will be the airline’s longest route, the company announced. … The flights from Auckland to Newark are expected to begin in October 2020 and will be available three times a week, year-round, McDowall said.”
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