Good Wednesday morning!
Yesterday I found what appeared to be one of those only-in-lame-duck bills. A year and a half after Assemblyman John McKeon withdrew a bill to allow some politicians to beef up their pensions — specifically, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Essex), but likely some others as well — Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker introduced that very same bill.
There was apparently a last-minute push to try once again to pass the bill. But within minutes of me seeing the bill, it had disappeared from the Legislature’s website. And Caputo told me that the bill was being withdrawn. It’s dead, he said. For now and for the future. Read about it here.
This raises a question. Has the level of animosity between Gov. Murphy and the legislative leadership made it harder to quickly shove bills through that lawmakers hope nobody notices? I think it has, because compared to the Christie era, we’ve seen less of this. Either that or I and the rest of the New Jersey press corps are falling down on the job and failing to notice them.
Of course, there have major been lame duck legislative moves that are politically difficult. For instance, the new law to allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses, passed shortly after the November election. But that — a major but politically difficult piece of policy — is different than the types of bills that are there for the sole benefit of the politically connected.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “After I looked into it, I’m not so sure it really is a good idea because of safety and security of the numbers.” — state Sen. Jim Beach on allowing boards of elections to start counting mail-in ballots a week early before the 2020 primary.
TWEET OF THE DAY: “Thank you @rosannascotto — you caught me a little off guard on the weed conversation asking me when did I smoke last — in any event appreciate the interview and to talk #JerseyCity” — @StevenFulop on his interview with Good Day New York
DAYS MURPHY HAS SPENT OUT OF STATE SINCE BECOMING DGA CHAIR: 11
WHERE’S MURPHY?: In Washington Township (Warren County) for an opioid crisis roundtable at 12 p.m., followed by a Passaic County freeholder swearing-in at 5:30 p.m. in Wayne and an appearance on WBGO’s “Ask Gov. Murphy” at 7 p.m.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rutgers Laws’ Frank Askin, Progressive activist Bertin Lefkovic, Covenant House’s Kevin Ryan
YOU CAN’T GET DRUNK FROM BEER OR WINE — “No hard alcohol will be allowed on ‘chamber train’ following NJ.com report on sexual harassment,” by NJ Advance Media’s Susan K. Livio and Kelly Heyboer: “The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce has banned ‘hard alcohol’ aboard its annual Walk to Washington lobbying event in response to a recent report that quoted women saying they do not feel safe attending the important affair for politicians and lobbyists. The Chamber also said it will hire more security officers and establish a direct phone line that would ‘immediately and discreetly’ report an incident of harassment directly to security personnel and the organizers, according to a statement from Chamber President Tom Bracken. ‘The phone number will be printed on the name badges given to all registered guests and be available on the smartphone event guide which all attendees can access,’ the statement said.”
NO WAY JOSE — “N.J. needs incentives soon, or else, Lozano warns; Choose N.J. CEO says state could lose thousands of jobs,” by ROI-NJ’s Tom Bergeron: “Choose New Jersey CEO Jose Lozano said the lack of tax incentive programs in the state is beginning to take a toll on the state’s ability to recruit companies. If the situation continues, Lozano said it could mean the loss of thousands of jobs — as well as untold reputational damage to the state. ‘It is a bit of a reputational challenge, because we keep saying we are not only business-friendly, but we really want you here — but they’re seeing something else come out of New Jersey,’ Lozano told ROI-NJ. ‘Folks like me have been telling companies we fully anticipate and expect something before the end of the calendar year. And here we are in the early part of January, and we don’t have anything.’”
BARNEGAT NOT AMONG THEM — “NJ schools get early start on LGBTQ history lessons, soon to be required by law,” by The Record’s Hannan Adely: “Twelve New Jersey schools will begin piloting a new LGBTQ-focused curriculum this month, the first wave of a new requirement that will soon be mandated across the state, bringing another front in the culture wars straight into Garden State classroom … including schools in Hackensack, Morristown, Newark and Asbury Park … The instruction, approved by the state last year, will be a requirement for all of New Jersey’s public schools starting in the fall … Among the topics are gay victims of the Holocaust, who were forced to wear pink triangles, and whose stories have often been overlooked, according to a review of the proposed curriculum. Another lesson would include discussions about the memoir of a boy forced into gay ‘conversion therapy’ and grammar lessons about using pronouns that reflect identity.”
89 MASTROS — “Big week for NJ’s debt: State to issue $800M+ in bonds for transit, libraries, schools, more,” by NJ Spotlight’s John Reitmeyer: “New Jersey’s already hefty credit card bill is about to get bigger, with Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration planning to issue more than $800 million in new debt this week. … Already one of the most indebted states in the country, New Jersey is carrying roughly $45 billion in long-term bonded debt as of the latest official accounting released by the Department of Treasury last year. New Jersey’s bonded debt is fourth highest among all states when measured as a percentage of gross domestic product and per capita, according to figures from Moody’s Investors Service. And that doesn’t factor in the state’s long-term obligations to retired workers, including at least $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.”
AS IN INEXPERIENCED? — League of Conservation Voters labels Murphy ‘Greenest Governor in America’ by POLITICO’s Samantha Maldonado: The New Jersey League of Conservation Voters likes the job Gov. Phil Murphy is doing on the environment. The league’s annual assessment, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO, gives Murphy an “A” for his environmental achievements in 2019, citing a “strong series” of policies to combat climate change, including more than doubling New Jersey’s offshore wind goal to 7500 megawatts by 2035 and releasing a draft Energy Master Plan to get the state to 100 percent renewable energy by 2020.
MEDIA MOVES — @SStirling: “Super excited to announce that starting tomorrow I’ll be doing a year-long stint at Columbia University Investigations. I’ll be serving as project editor on an investigation into voting access across the country ahead of the 2020 election.”
VAN NEW — From POLITICO’s Melanie Zanona: New year, new Rep. Jeff Van Drew. The New Jersey freshman — who was a Democrat up until late last month — signed a GOP discharge petition Tuesday to circumvent leadership and force a floor vote on anti-abortion legislation if it gets 218 signatures, his office confirmed to Huddle. His name brought the total number of signatures to 204. The move was one of Van Drew’s first legislative acts since he officially joined the Republican Party. There have been a lot of questions about whether — and how — Van Drew would fit in with the GOP, since he has overwhelmingly voted with Democrats since being elected to Congress, including on abortion rights. The ‘Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act’ — which would require infants who survive attempted abortions to receive medical care — has three Democratic cosponsors, but Van Drew was not one of them.
— “NJ Democrats gave thousands to Jeff Van Drew before he switched parties. Now they’re mad,” by The Record’s Charles Stile: “Princeton businesswoman Michelle Pirone Lambros opened her summer home on Long Beach Island in August 2018 to congressional candidate Jeff Van Drew so that local Democrats could open up their wallets … Van Drew talked about the need to defeat his Republican opponent, Seth Grossman, who had been shunned by the state and national party over racially charged remarks, she said. But Van Drew also touched on the elephant-in-the-room issue that was stoking Democratic Party fury: Donald Trump … To many Democrats, Van Drew’s party switch goes far beyond the rank opportunism that often prompts such a move. Van Drew is now propping up a reckless president who poses as an existential threat to democracy itself, they argue. And he’s aiding and abetting Trump with their donations, they say.”
HUNDREDS OF YEARS OF HISTORY TRUMPED —“Kean, Jr.’s quest to abide where Lance and Frelinghuysen could not,” by InsiderNJ’s Max Pizarro: “Especially given the wreckage around him of other genteel family legacies turned to Revolutionary War-era stone, Kean faces the prospect — amid the preponderance of issues aimed by this administration at New Jersey (overridingly on Gateway and SALT), presumably out of political spite — of running against himself, or against his father, by occupying the same lane as the president.”
GOOD WILL CUNNING — Will Cunningham, who in 2018 unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination against Jeff Van Drew, is officially running, joining a huge field of Democrats who now want to take on the newly-minuted Republican Van Drew. “I ran against Jeff Van Drew two years ago. I knew then he was a fake Democrat,” Cunningham says in an announcement video. “He abandoned his oath of office and betrayed our community — all to gain access to Donald Trump. He must be held accountable.”
NOT THE ONION — “GOP Senate candidate aims to beat Cory Booker in 2020: ‘We are going to remove him from politics’” by Fox News’ Nick Givas: “Republican Senate candidate Hirsh Singh says he can easily defeat incumbent Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., in 2020 by appealing to disillusioned minority voters, and exposing the vast web of corruption and damage the former mayor of Newark has left behind.”
WHAT CHEFF COOKED UP — “Eighth Paterson cop arrested in FBI corruption probe, sources say,” by The Paterson Press’ Joe Malinconico: “Federal authorities allege that Paterson Police Sgt. Michael Cheff routinely took a share of the ill-gotten money stolen by patrol officers he supervised from citizens who were illegally stopped and searched. In one instance, while a suspect was handcuffed inside a police car in November 2017, Cheff and two other officers went inside the man’s apartment and found a safe containing drugs and money, according to the United States Attorney’s Office. Cheff submitted some of the drugs and money as evidence, but split the rest with the other crooked cops — all of whom already have pleaded guilty in the FBI case, authorities said.”
JERSEY CITY — “Elected school boards rarely change to appointed boards but Jersey City could be next,” by The Jersey Journal’s Joshua Rosario: “If Jersey City voters opt to convert their school board to an appointed body, it would be the first time in 16 years that a New Jersey school district makes such a change. Today, just 14 of the state’s 600-plus school boards have members who are appointed by mayors, rather than elected by voters. The Jersey City Council will consider a resolution Wednesday adding a public question to November’s ballot asking voters whether the nine members of the Board of Education should continue to be elected by the public or be appointed by the mayor with council approval … The last time voters gave up the right to elect a school board was in 2004 in Rockleigh Township.”
“Why the Jersey City official who called local Jews ‘brutes’ has not resigned,” by JTA’s Ben Sales: “In the days after a local official responded to the Jersey City shooting by calling local Jews ‘brutes’ and expressing sympathy for the shooters, it appeared that pressure was quickly mounting for her to resign … Three weeks later, Board of Education member Joan Terrell-Paige is still in her post and it doesn’t look like she’s going anywhere. Terrell-Paige’s staying power comes from a mix of neighborhood support and circumstance. Local politicians and residents have spoken out in her defense, while her opponents are powerless to oust her as an elected official. At its meeting last week, the board took no action to remove her. Her term runs through the end of the year.”
EAST RUTHERFORD — “GOP drops challenge in East Rutherford,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “The race for mayor in East Rutherford is over, giving Democrats control of the mayoralty for the first time since 1970. Republican Sergio Segalini is dropping his challenge of the 2019 general election, which he lost to Democrat Jeffrey Lahullier by just five votes. The GOP was only able to prove four votes were invalid for miscounted, the New Jersey Globe has learned.”
MASS SHOOTINGS — “NJ gave Texas church gunman plea deal that wiped out gun felony,” by NJ 101.5’s Sergio Bichao: “The gunman who killed two congregants at a Texas church last month had been charged years earlier with a felony gun offense in New Jersey, where prosecutors later downgraded the crime to a low-level misdemeanor that had nothing to do with firearms. Since the Dec. 29 shootout at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, much has come out about Keith Thomas Kinnunen’s criminal record, which seems to follow a pattern: He would get charged with serious, sometimes violent crimes, which later were pleaded down to less-consequential offenses. While plea deals are common in the criminal justice system in New Jersey and elsewhere, this case raises questions about the effectiveness of laws meant to bar certain people from buying or possessing guns.”
THE POWDER IS MADE FROM FORMER HOBOKEN MAYOR PETER CAMMARANO’S POLITICAL ENEMIES — “The future of American skiing may be inside a New Jersey mall,” by The Washington Post’s Karen Heller: “At first glance, Big Snow appears to be a head-slapping, refrigerated folly. It’s a lot of white stuff piled into a warehouse, dotted with trees and ersatz Alpinery. Mall skiing is an endeavor no one was asking for, akin to building a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark, which Americans have also done, in Kentucky — and, by the way, is equally jaw-dropping … So why sink $110 million into Jersey mall skiing? Because it may revolutionize the sport, expanding and diversifying its base. Still, do we want to take away the majestic glory of mountain snow sports by plunking them in a 16-story steel-and-concrete container?”
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