Category Archives: NJspotlight

A Good Night for the Democrats; The Dems pick up one seat in the Assembly, while the Republicans lose all key races, despite Christie’s campaigning

While it wasn’t such a good night for being a Democrat in Middletown or a candidate for state office in Monmouth County, Democrats did increase their majorities in Trenton and a consolidation vote between two Princeton towns to merge into one municipality to save on property taxes is looked at as an anomaly rather than the next wave of the future as many would hope for.

NJspotlight has a pretty good wrap up of last nights events worth reading today:

Despite tough, nasty contests in a few races and more than $25 million spent, very little changed in the New Jersey legislature on election night. The Democrats gained one seat in the Assembly and still control both legislative houses. The Republicans lost all the key races that they targeted and where Gov. Chris Christie campaigned.

In the most hotly contested races, Democratic incumbents James Whelan in South Jersey’s 2nd District and Robert Gordon in North Jersey’s 38th won by relatively comfortable margins.

And Richard Codey, the incumbent Democratic senator in the 27th, prevailed. Some had predicted he would run into trouble given that redistricting had shifted several Morris County municipalities into his home territory.

The Democrats also picked up one Assembly seat in the 4th.

Two ballot questions, one statewide and one local, also won.

About two-thirds of New Jersey voters approved the one question on the ballot: to allow sports betting in New Jersey should Congress give other states besides the four already approved the OK at a future date. And voters in Princeton and Princeton Township also approved a momentous merger question. It would be the first time in more than half a century that two New Jersey communities of any real size agreed to merge.

Democrats gloated over the gain of one Assembly seat.

“Chris Christie is all coat and no tail,” proclaimed John Wisniewski, chairman of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee and an Assemblyman, to cheering crowds at the Bergen County Democrats’ celebration. “Chris Christie kept saying if he didn’t lose any seats, this would be an historic election for Republicans. Well, there’s one more Democrat going to Trenton.”

Christie tried to set low expectations for the Republicans’ chances, saying governors almost always lose seats in midterm elections.

Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, said the circumstances this year were vastly different.

“It is a very disappointing night for Gov. Christie,” said Dworkin, adding the GOP should have gained as many as six seats. “He outraised the Democrats by millions of dollars. He put his high approval rating and his personal reputation on the line by going on network television in New York and Philadelphia. And in the end, he wasn’t able to even keep the status quo in the legislature, much less win the several seats that Republicans might have expected given his efforts.”

When the state legislative seats top the ballot, turnout in New Jersey’s midterm elections is notoriously low. In 2007, the last time the Senate led the ballot, 32 percent of voters turned out statewide. Most counties reported voter turnout hovering between 20 and 30 percent — Cape May had a high of 38 percent — despite a beautifully warm, sunny day.

Although most voters don’t see these races as important, the stakes were high.

With a 24-16 majority in the Senate, the Democrats went into the night only three seats shy of a veto-proof majority in the upper house. They needed those 27 votes back in July when they sought to override Gov. Chris Christie’s line-item vetoes of more than a dozen spending items cut from the state budget. They didn’t think that would happen and, at least, defended all their seats.

However, if the Republicans could pick up five seats, a scenario most saw as unlikely, they would give Christie at least one house to help advance his agenda.

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Filed under consolidation of services, election results, Gov. Chris Christie, Middletown, Monmouth County, NJ election results, NJspotlight, Princeton Boro, Princeton Township, State Legislative Races

Profiles Of The 13th District Race Online At The APP and NJ Spotlight

The both the Asbury Park Press and NJ Spotlight have race profiles online for the NJ 13th Legislative District races featuring the issues and candidates in those races.

In the 13th race for State Assembly Democrats Kevin Lavan of Hazlet and Patrick Short of Middletown are running against Republicans and current members of the State Assembly Amy Handlin 0f Middletown and Declan O’Scanlon.
This race also features two other candidates running together for the State Assembly William Lawton and Frank Cottone, as members of the Constitution Party.
In the 13th race for State Senate Democrat Christopher Cullen of Hazlet is running against current State Senator Joe Kyrillos of Middletown.

The candidates for Monmouth County Surrogate race have also been posted online at the APP website. In this race Democrat Michael Steinhorn from Rumson is looking to unseat Middletowner Rosemary Peters. The APP headline “Monmouth County surrogate race not drawing attention” is an understatement, which is a shame because Steinhorn is an extremely capable and affable guy, who deserves more attention.

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Filed under 13th Legisaltive District, Amy Handlin, Asbury Park Press, Chris Cullen, Declan O'Scanlon, Joe Kyrillos, Kevin Lavan, Michael Steinhorn, monmouth County Surrogate, NJspotlight, Patrick Short

>Fine Print: Senate Bill No. 2937 Proposed legislation would dictate sweeping changes to public employees’ pensions and healthcare benefits

>By John Mooney – NJSPOTLIGHT.com

Synopsis: “An act concerning public employee pension and health care benefits, and amending and supplementing various parts of the statutory law and repealing P.L.1999, c.96 and P.L.1985, c.414. Makes various changes to pension and healthcare benefits for public employees”

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Senate Bill No. 2937

Primary sponsor: Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester)

What it means: The 120-page bill makes sweeping changes to public employees’ contributions to their pension and health benefit plans, and to the rules that dictate those benefits. Pensions and benefits have been at the center of debate between Gov. Chris Christie and the legislature since Christie took office, and the apparent agreement on this bill — at least for now — has consumed Trenton for much of the last week and likely for the next.

It’s all in the details: The new bill, introduced yesterday, would require public employees pay up to an additional 2.5 percent of their salaries toward their pensions, and up to 30 percent of their healthcare premiums. But how the law meets those thresholds represents the key differences between what Christie has sought and what Sweeney now proposes, with the Democratic leader phasing in some of the increases and also scaling the healthcare contribution, depending on salary. Low-paid public workers will barely make any contribution at all.

Riding off into the sunset clause: Sweeney struck a deal with Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) in introducing the bill to also include Oliver’s proposal that the health benefits changes would have a “sunset clause” and revert to being a subject of collective bargaining in 2014. Christie has not yet commented on the proposed sunset, but has appeared reluctant to back any reforms that have a limited shelf life.

What’s next: The Senate budget committee is set to hold a hearing on the bill tomorrow, with the Assembly budget committee slated to hold its own hearing on the companion bill on Monday.

The reaction: Needless to say, public employees unions aren’t taking too well to the ideas, and have big protests planned tomorrow for the Statehouse and maybe legislators’ homes. The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) is also holding a press conference today to point out what it calls the false assumptions and savings in the proposals.

Will it pass? That of course, is the bottom line. It’s as close as ever to passage, to be sure, but it faces lots of questions both in substance and politics. Sweeney has said he will push it through, even if it means defying some of his Democratic caucus. Oliver has been less willing, and has indicated she may not post it for final vote without consent of her members.

In the end, it will require what was once unfathomable: a sizable number of Democrats going against organized labor during an election year. But these are remarkable times, with similar measures passing in other states with Democratic support.

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Filed under Gov. Chris Christie, health benefits and pension reform, NJEA, NJspotlight, public unions, senate bill 2937, Sheila Oliver, Stephen Sweeney

>Survey Confirms that New Jersey is a Solar Power; Two Garden State utilities finish in the top 10 nationwide when it comes to adding solar capacity

>If you are a proponent of green and clean energy and think that solar energy is the best way to go, then the following article posted on NJspotlight will be of great interest to you. Our great state of New Jersey is among the leaders of the nation when it comes to installing solar panels that generate electrical power for both the general public, individuals and industry.

561 megawatts of electricity were added last year through solar panels around the state, which represents a 300% increase over what was reported in 2009.

The road forward in solar energy production may be changing in the near future however, if proposed changes by the Christie administration move forward.

In another indication of the fast-paced growth of New Jersey’s solar market, two of the state’s four electric utilities ranked in the top 10 nationally in adding solar power in the past year, according to a new survey.

Newark Schools Partner with PSE&G to Create Green Curriculum

Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G) and Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) ranked third and ninth, respectively, in the amount of solar capacity added in 2010 according to a survey by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA). Atlantic City Electric, ranked 12th in new solar capacity, but broke into the top 10 at ninth in solar watts per customer, which is a measure of the utility’s new solar capacity divided by number of customers. PSE&G finished second in that category.

The annual survey, the fourth one done by the association, reflects the growing trend of utilities to incorporate solar power into their energy portfolios. All told, the nation’s utilities integrated 561 megawatts of solar electricity into their deliveries, a 100 percent increase over the previous year, the association said.

Christie’s Changes
The findings come at a time when Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday recommended sweeping changes in New Jersey’s solar program, which is second to only California’s in the number of systems that have been installed. The Governor’s overhauled Energy Master Plan recommends steering most of the state’s efforts in developing solar away from residential installations to commercial and industrial applications, where, it argues, the state will get a bigger bang for its buck.

It is unclear how the changes will affect the electric utilities in the state, all of whom have programs geared to encouraging residential solar installations. But Al Matos, a vice president for PSE&G, said the utility will tailor its program to conform to the new recommendations….

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Filed under Christie Administration, Gov. Chris Christie, megawatts of power, New Jersey, NJspotlight, PSEG, solar energy