Saturday, April 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

27%

POSTED: Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 5:05 AM

With both houses of the state Legislature and the governor’s office up for grabs in the past election, it should come as little surprise that contributions from public contractors rose $2 million to $10.1 million in 2013.

The two biggest beneficiaries of this largesse were groups tied to Gov. Chris Christie. The Republican Governors Association received $235,000 from New Jersey contractors, and Christie’s reelection campaign received $210,250. Christie’s challenger, Barbara Buono, only received $33,100 from these groups.

Jeffrey Brindle, executive director of the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, noted that while there was a surge in contributions last year by public contractors, in general, contributions have been down since the state instituted Pay-to-Play laws. These laws require all businesses that have received $50,000 in total public contracts to report their contributions to ELEC each spring. And with a few exceptions, most are barred from contributing more than $300 to each candidate.

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POSTED: Monday, April 7, 2014, 5:15 AM

Gov. Chris Christie took a major political and legal gamble with his decision to ask Randy Mastro and a team of Gibbon Dunn lawyers to conduct an internal inquiry into the Bridgegate and Hoboken allegations in the face of a pair of ongoing probes by a federal grand jury and a legislative committee armed with subpoena power.

Politically, there is no question that the embattled Christie needed the controversial Mastro report exonerating him and his top aides of any wrongdoing in Bridgegate and attacking Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s veracity. The release of the report revived his 2016 presidential hopes, protected his chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association, reinvigorated his governorship, and rallied Republican legislators.

Christie’s ebullient personality and forceful tell-it-like-it-is rhetorical style are his greatest political assets. He needed to confront the press and the public if he wanted to stop the continuing skid in his popularity and credibility ratings that followed the January 8 release of Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly’s explosive “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” email and his 10-week self-imposed bunker strategy.

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POSTED: Monday, April 7, 2014, 5:14 AM

With hearings on a Public Service Electric & Gas proposal to spend $2.6 billion on its infrastructure over the next five years ended, it appears the parties in the case are no closer to settlement -- even as a last-ditch effort to resolve the issue was unexpectedly extended late last week.

The case, involving the Newark utility’s need to harden its electric and gas infrastructure, has been pending before state regulators for more than a year and has generated both widespread support and opposition.

The outcome of the dispute will be closely scrutinized both in New Jersey and elsewhere because it could signal just how far regulators will go to tell utilities how much they can spend to avert the kind of extensive outages that occurred during Hurricane Sandy -- and at what cost to their customers.

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POSTED: Monday, April 7, 2014, 5:13 AM

The growing amount of data being collected about New Jersey’s healthcare system could be a vital asset to help solve existing problems and address future needs.

But healthcare researchers are frustrated that state government has been slow to provide information needed to conduct studies and analyze patient behavior.

Dr. Jeffrey Brenner, a leader in coordinating healthcare initiatives in Camden, said legislation is needed to make data more easily accessible to researchers, who can spend years trying to access the information they need. Layers of security protect data, under federal privacy laws, and the fact that data for individual patients is kept by several different state agencies complicates efforts to improve access.

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POSTED: Monday, April 7, 2014, 5:12 AM

In Newark schools, they are talking 400 layoffs of teachers and other staff next year, and the state-appointed superintendent is itching to waive seniority requirements.

Camden’s layoff total may hit 400, too, while the district also sees a new influx of charter networks that will draw both students and dollars from the district.

And while Paterson and Jersey City are calmer on the budget front, there is still a great deal to resolve, such as a lapsed teachers contract in Paterson that's been gathering dust for four years.

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POSTED: Monday, April 7, 2014, 5:11 AM

In 2013, New Jersey’s healthcare system geared up for the Affordable Care Act, lobbying legislators and state officials over a wide variety of state-level policy initiatives.

The result: Healthcare industries were among the top 10 special interests that spent the most on lobbying last year, including hospitals (1st), insurers (3rd), pharmaceutical companies (4th), and miscellaneous healthcare-related organizations (10th). Hospitals alone spent $4.5 million.

The following list focuses on the top spenders among hospitals and insurers, but doesn’t include all of the special interests that shelled out on healthcare lobbying. For example, AARP New Jersey spent more than any of these organizations -- $717,148 -- but healthcare is only one of AARP’s interests, along with energy policy and other concerns.

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POSTED: Monday, April 7, 2014, 5:10 AM

An increase in the minimum wage for workers who rely on tips to $5.93 -- which would make New Jersey’s minimum wage for tip-earners one of the nation’s highest -- -- is being considered by the state Legislature

New Jersey law currently allows tip workers to be paid $2.13 an hour, but requires employers to pay additional compensation if the employee’s hourly wage and tips do not at least equal the general minimum wage. The federal tip wage is $2.13 and has not been increased since 1993.

The legislation,

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3

POSTED: Monday, April 7, 2014, 5:05 AM

It should come as no surprise to those of us living in the Soprano state, but a study of consumer calls to businesses by the Marchex Institute, a division of a mobile technology company, shows New Jerseyans have potty mouths. New Jersey ranked third, after Ohio and Maryland, in the frequency of using curses.

States that were least likely to curse? Washington, Massachusetts and Arizona.

Conversely, New Jersey ranked pretty well when it came to courteousness. The study looked at the frequency of the use of “please” and “thank you” in the call. South Carolina, North Carolina, and Maryland were the top three in politeness, but New Jersey was ranked in the top “very courteous” category (as opposed to usually courteous or not courteous).

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