Good Tuesday morning!
It’s time for the governor’s second State of the State address, and POLITICO can tell you that the governor will call for a new ethics reform package.
“In the coming weeks, I will propose a series of ethics reforms to, among other things, strengthen financial disclosures, tighten pay-to-play requirements, expand transparency, and increase awareness to the goings-on here in Trenton,” Murphy is expected to say.
That statement is vague, but it’s clear to me he’s targeting these at the Legislature. Financial disclosures? The forms state lawmakers fill out are far less specific than the executive branch’s. The pay-to-play law doesn’t apply to individual legislative campaigns. And while a call to “expand transparency” is extremely vague, note that the governor very recently said the Legislature should end the Open Public Records Act exemption on a vast array of legislative records.
This isn’t new. Former Gov. Chris Christie as far back as 2010 sought to make legislative financial disclosures more detailed. Obviously, he did not succeed.
BOOKING IT — Sen. Cory Booker dropped his presidential campaign yesterday. Now we get to speculate for months whether Booker will be the eventual nominee’s running mate.
This has implications in New Jersey. Booker’s campaign allowed all of the state’s major political figures to back his candidacy and put off making more difficult decisions in a crowded field with no prohibitive favorite. That time is over, and so far no one is making the leap to another candidate.
From what I’m hearing, the safest bet is that the bulk of the state’s Democratic establishment, including the governor, backs Joe Biden. But this isn’t an easy decision. Much of Murphy’s support is from the progressive base, many of whom will likely back Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.
Michael Bloomberg’s campaign has hired Michael Muller, one of the state’s top Democratic campaign workers, as his state director. (Bloomberg is hiring a lot of staffers in late primary states). Should we take this as a sign that the South Jersey Democrats are getting behind Bloomberg and setting up a showdown with Murphy’s choice? Naa. I’m told South Jersey Democrats are more likely to be in Biden’s camp, too.
Whatever choices the party bosses make, there’s a very good chance the Democratic primary remains competitive by the time New Jersey’s primary comes around. And that could mean a lot of interesting races, with off-the-line Democratic primary challengers bracketing with non-establishment-endorsed presidential candidates.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Our campaign has reached the point where we need more money to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win — money we don’t have, and money that is harder to raise because I won’t be on the next debate stage and because the urgent business of impeachment will rightly be keeping me in Washington.” — Sen. Cory Booker
TWEET OF THE DAY: @RealDonaldTrump: Really Big Breaking News (Kidding): Booker, who was in zero polling territory, just dropped out of the Democrat Presidential Primary Race. Now I can rest easy tonight. I was sooo concerned that I would someday have to go head to head with him!
DAYS MURPHY HAS SPENT OUT OF STATE SINCE BECOMING DGA CHAIR: 11
WHERE’S MURPHY?: In Trenton to delivering the State of the State address at 3 p.m.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Missed Monday: NJ Apartment Association’s Nicole LoPresti
VAXXUOUS — “Last ditch effort to move amended vaccine bill collapses amid protests” by POLITICO’s Sam Sutton: Lawmakers in the state Senate failed Monday in their second attempt to pass a bill that would eliminate the religious exemption for mandatory childhood vaccinations, scuttling hopes that new amendments introduced last week would be enough to push the measure to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk before the end of the legislative session. We’re going to start attacking this issue a helluva lot different,” Senate President Steve Sweeney told reporters after the voting session concluded Monday evening, pledging to reintroduce the bill when the next legislative session begins Tuesday.
SUFFOCATED — Plastic bag ban dies, along with other environmental bills, by POLITICO’s Samantha Maldonado: What would have been the nation’s strictest limit on single-use plastic is officially dead. The much-anticipated bill would have banned plastic and paper bags, as well as polystyrene food containers, and limited the availability of plastic straws. It’s one of several pieces of environmental legislation that met their ends on Monday and would need to be re-introduced in the next legislative session.
BUSTING A CAP — Murphy vetoes bill to lift 2 percent cap on school property taxes for some districts, by POLITICO’s Carly Sitrin: Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday vetoed legislation that would partially lift the 2 percent cap on school property tax increases for some New Jersey districts. The measure would have affected about 40 districts that have seen a decline in state support and remain below state-determined spending adequacy levels as a result of funding changes enacted last year under NJ S2 (18R), the landmark state aid bill Senate President Steve Sweeney spearheaded. Sweeney blasted the action by the governor. “It is the height of hypocrisy for the Governor to play politics with the lives of schoolchildren by calling for passage of the millionaire’s tax when he knows — or should know — that not one penny from the millionaire’s tax could legally go to any of the Adjustment Aid districts that would have been helped by this legislation,” Sweeney said in a statement.
—Murphy slams lawmakers as he signs bills inspired by Katie Brennan scandal, by POLITICO’s Ryan Hutchins: Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday signed a series of bills inspired by the scandal surrounding the sexual assault allegations against former state official Al Alvarez, but issued a statement chastising lawmakers for failing to incorporate amendments that would have applied the same provisions to the legislative branch. The five bills Murphy signed make changes including to how allegations of workplace discrimination are investigated, add funding for background checks on gubernatorial transitions and set personnel file retention requirements.
THE SCANDAL THAT GAVE US THE MASTRO — Corruption case law in jeopardy as Supreme Court hears ‘Bridgegate’, by Ryan: Six years ago last week, a cache of messages exchanged between several allies of then Gov. Chris Christie landed in the inboxes of reporters who had been looking into a series of strange, traffic-snarling lane closures that occurred four months earlier at the George Washington Bridge. The documents — including the smoking gun email, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” — blew up claims the incident was anything but what it seemed: An effort to punish a mayor who refused to endorse Christie’s re-election campaign, and one the perpetrators went to extraordinary lengths to cover up. More than half a decade later, with Christie’s career felled by the ensuing scandal and his allies still facing time in prison, the surreal, only-in-Jersey conspiracy will now be fodder for the nation’s highest court, offering a fresh test of where dirty politics ends and criminal corruption begins. The Supreme Court, set to hear arguments in the case Tuesday morning, must mull over the validity of a core underpinning of the case: That the defendants misapplied public property and, in doing so, committed fraud.
SPOTTED: Chris Christie on the same Washington-bound Amtrak train Monday as Bridget Anne Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff who sent the infamous “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email. Kelly and her Bridgegate co-defendant, Bill Baroni, are set to argue their case before the Supreme Court today.
KELLY FINDS HOPE: Kelly, in Washington for the hearing, spoke to Ryan last night about the case and her life since she was fired by Christie. Kelly said she’s been on a six-year “emotional rollercoaster” that’s finally ending. “I think the biggest thing for me is hope, which we hadn’t had for a long time. When the Supreme Court granted cert back in June, we were all a little shocked,” she said. “They get 10,000 requests a year, and they take 75. The fact that this is where we are now gives me more hope than I’ve had a very, very long time.”
Kelly says she’s starting to think about life after the Bridegate and she’s eager to get back to working. She says she still has more to say, and still has Christie on her mind, even if she doesn’t want him there. “I was in state government for 16 years before Chris Christie. Unfortunately, I’ve been defined by this issue,” she said. “Do I think about him? Yes. Do I think about the fact that I trust people I shouldn’t have trusted? Yes. So the loss of the ability to trust ordinary friends and people, that’s a hard thing.”
SWEELING — “Source: Sweeney reeling after Joe D. endorsement,” by InsiderNJ’s Max Pizarro: “A South Jersey source, irritated by Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo’s endorsement of Governor Phil Murphy, couldn’t help but see it as a nail in the statewide Democratic Primary coffin of state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3). The source had nursed hopes of DiVincenzo holding out and thereby leaving open the possibility of support in Essex for the South Jersey ironworker turned senate prez with gubernatorial aspirations. ‘Sweeney is done with the Joe D endorsement,’ the source said.”
MIS-LEADING — “Despite promises, NJ lawmakers have just one law about lead in water. They proposed 30,” by The Record’s Stacy Barchenger: “New Jersey lawmakers who pledged to quickly address the threat of lead in water systems have just one new law to show for the last three months of work. And now, the Legislature hits the reset button Tuesday, when it convenes for a new session. Unfinished business — including 30 bills that would mandate removing lead pipes and more broadly address the threat of lead in water, soil and paint — needs to be reintroduced by lawmakers, ultimately delaying any decisive action.”
MAN WHO HAS ANNOUNCED CANDIDACY TO ANNOUNCE CANDIDACY — “Ciattarelli to seek GOP gubernatorial nomination,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “Former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli will announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination for Governor on January 21, the New Jersey Globe has learned. He will become the first announced candidate for the 2021 gubernatorial race.”
JOCKEYING — Bill to extend special Camden law dies in Assembly, by POLITICO’s Matt Friedman: A bill to extend special treatment the state gives New Jersey’s poorest city for five more years died Monday night, when the Assembly adjourned without voting on it. The bill, NJ S4272 (18R), would have extended portions of the 2002 Municipal Rehabilitation and Economic Recovery Act — which applies only to Camden. An Assembly source called the bill a “casualty” of negotiations between Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Steve Sweeney, though Coughlin’s rationale for holding it up wasn’t clear. Asked about the bill not moving, Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester) said there were “jockeying interests” involved but declined to elaborate.
KEAN JR. ATTENDANCE MAY DEPEND ON WHETHER THERE ARE ELEVATORS — “Trump’s rally in Wildwood scares off NJ GOP moderates, but not Tom Kean Jr.,” by The Record’s Charles Stile: “State Sen. Thomas H. Kean Jr. is planning to trek to Wildwood later this month to join the MAGA-hat wearing faithful at a rally for President Donald J. Trump. That’s assuming, of course, Kean doesn’t get snagged in bumper-to-bumper traffic along the way. It’s a reasonable concern … In 2006, Kean, then a U.S. Senate candidate, missed a 6 p.m. appearance at a Newark fundraiser with then-Vice President Dick Cheney. Asked why he was late, Kean had offered one of the great eye-rolling excuses in New Jersey political history. After wrapping up a voting session in Trenton at 4 p.m., Kean said he drove to Newark on Route 1 with its interminable series of traffic lights, instead of bolting north up the New Jersey Turnpike … Yet, Kean, who is running for Congress in the 7th Congressional District this year, offered an emphatic ‘yes’ when asked if he was attending the Jan. 28 Trump rally in the Wildwood Convention Center. But Kean was not eager last week to take questions about his decision to go, questions like this one: Why would go through such contortions to avoid a photo-op with Dick Cheney yet risk appearing at a red-meat Trump rally?”
A HALF-STEINHARDTED ENDORSEMENT — “Steinhardt backs Van Drew,” by New Jersey Globe’s Nikita Biryukov: “New Jersey Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt endorsed Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) for re-election Monday. ‘He is the incumbent congressman, and we’re here to be supportive,’ Steinhardt said. ‘That’s our job, that’s what we do.’”
NOT TUCKERED OUT — “Kiburi Tucker, Newark political scion, ally of Mayor Baraka, restarts life after prison,” by TAPIntoNewark’s Mark Bonamo: “Kiburi Tucker, scion of one of Newark’s most prominent political families and longtime friend of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, has re-entered the city after completing his sentence in federal prison. He’s living in a halfway house on Frelinghuysen Avenue not far from his home and the childcare center he admitted to defrauding. He’s landed a job, working for a friend in the private sector … While Tucker’s legal troubles are coming to a close, he was not forthcoming about the nature of his current job. ‘I don’t want to go there. I’m not ashamed, but people are giving me an opportunity,’ Tucker said. ‘I don’t believe that anybody is going to bother me. I just don’t want it to be an issue where I work.’” Tucker’s future has yet to be determined. But he has determined that a potential part of his future will include the piece defined by family and friendship. ‘Being involved with politics, that’s probably going to be a part of my life forever, because that’s where I come from.’”
A NEW LOWE — “Erik Lowe, ex-Paterson MUA chief, going to federal prison for kickbacks,” by The Paterson Press’ Joe Malinconico: “A federal judge on Monday sentenced former municipal official Erik Lowe to 35 months in prison for taking kickbacks from contractors whom he paid $250,000 in public funds for bogus work. Lowe, who had been chairman of the now-defunct Paterson Municipal Utilities Authority, pleaded guilty to charges that he signed off on $100,000 in payments to a fence contractor, Anthony Cacciola, from 2012 to 2014, for work that was never done or done at inflated prices.”
CAMDEN FALLING — “Camden sees crime drop over past decade,” by TAPIntoCamden’s Steven Rodas: “Fast-forward to 2020 and city officials recently boasted a notable improvement— 42% less violent crimes since 2012. But a bigger and similar picture could be drawn about the overall crime rate in the last decade. Since 2010, the city has had a roughly 41% reduction among the seven major categories — murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, and larceny. ‘As far as the change that has taken place, the number one difference is resources,’ Camden County Police Chief Joe Wysocki told TAPinto Camden.”
BOUND BROOK — “Bound Brook fire nearly wiped out block of homes. Investigation could take months, officials say,” by NJ Advance Media’s Jenna Wise, Katie Kausch and Anthony G. Attrino: “The seven-alarm fire that decimated a pair of apartment buildings under construction in downtown Bound Brook Sunday night came dangerously close to spreading to nearby homes and will likely be under investigation for months, officials said Monday as firefighters continued to douse the smoldering wreckage.”
HATE CRIME — “Jersey City shooters planned ‘greater acts of mayhem,’ authorities say,” by The Record’s Terrence T. McDonald and Anthony Zurita: “The couple responsible for what authorities have called a deadly anti-Semitic attack at a kosher market in Jersey City last month planned ‘greater acts of mayhem’ on Jewish people and law enforcement, authorities said Monday. The shooters searched Google for information on a Jewish community center in Bayonne and left behind a note referring to anti-cop remarks featured in a 1990 documentary called ‘The FBI’s War on Black America,’ authorities said. Federal and state officials revealed the information about the Dec. 10 attack during a press conference in Newark.”
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