Thursday, November 26, 2015

POSTED: Thursday, November 12, 2015, 7:12 PM

In a move that disappointed advocates, Gov. Chris Christie is recommending a program to help finance clean-energy projects and resiliency improvements be scaled back dramatically before it becomes law.

The legislation, similar to programs now in place in 31 states and the District of Columbia, would allow property owners to obtain private finance through special assessments on their property without any upfront costs to pay for the projects.

Backers of the bill touted it as a way for building owners and homeowners to make their structures more energy efficient and use cleaner sources of energy like solar panels a goal that would reduce emissions contributing to climate change and reduce utility bills.

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POSTED: Thursday, November 12, 2015, 7:11 PM

Gov. Chris Christie took time out of his hectic schedule campaigning for the GOP presidential nomination this week to head back to the Garden State, where a stack of pending legislation -- 64 bills in all -- awaited his attention. The governor signed 39 bills into law, but gave his veto pen almost as strenuous a workout, vetoing or conditionally vetoing 25 measures -- leaving his critics understandably unhappy.

Among the legislation that Christie rejected outright was the “Democracy Act,” which would streamline voter registration and simplify the voter process itself -- a seemingly smart move following a general election in which voter turnout barely broke 20 percent.

The governor is back on the campaign trail, leaving lawmakers on both sides of the aisle -- and New Jersey residents -- to deal with his decisions.

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POSTED: Thursday, November 12, 2015, 7:10 PM

Advocates for clean water in the Highlands and elsewhere in New Jersey are mobilizing against the Christie administration’s plan to give counties and municipalities more control over where to build wastewater plants, saying the changes would open up more sensitive lands to developers.

Opponents of changes to the Water Quality Management Planning rule say the overhaul would loosen state control over water quality and open up remaining undeveloped areas that currently protect water sources used by millions of people.

At the first of three public meetings on the rule, critics accused the Department of Environmental Protection of laying the groundwork for more commercial pressure on remaining undeveloped land.

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POSTED: Thursday, November 12, 2015, 7:09 PM

The relatively speedy and smooth sale of East Orange General Hospital has been in stark contrast to the prolonged and controversial process involving Saint Michael’s Medical Center -- until yesterday.

Just two weeks after receiving approval from a judge to complete a sale to Prospect Medical Holdings, East Orange General Hospital joined Saint Michael’s in declaring bankruptcy.

East Orange General executives say the sale to the California-based for-profit chain is still on, but that remains to be seen. Prospect representatives also said that the company remains interested in the hospital despite its bankruptcy filing.

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POSTED: Thursday, November 12, 2015, 7:05 PM

A recent survey of 600 New Jersey African-American voters by the Black Alliance for Educational Options indicates that black voters support school vouchers (65 percent), options for charter schools (65 percent), assessment testing (65 percent), and more educational choices in local school districts (75 percent).

According to a statement by the organization, the survey demonstrated clear support for greater freedom in the K-12 educational system, as well as widespread recognition for the need for better-quality schools. Indeed, 94 percent of respondents said they look at a candidate’s views on education before they vote.

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POSTED: Wednesday, November 11, 2015, 7:15 PM

In Tuesday's debate, Gov. Chris Christie argued that as a Republican from a blue state he's uniquely qualified to "prosecute the case against Hillary Clinton." But within hours of uttering those words, lawyers for the two Bridgegate defendants filed papers in federal court that could undermine his effort to make such a case.

Christie's legal team is inappropriately hiding thousands of documents related to the Bridgegate scandal, the two defense lawyers argued in briefs filed late Tuesday. Among the hidden documents, the lawyers say, are emails to and from the governor's personal and work email accounts and a calendar entry from the week when an order was delivered to close lanes at the George Washington Bridge in 2013.

All told, Christie's taxpayer-funded attorneys at the Gibson Dunn law firm have withheld or redacted 9,428 emails and other documents. The reasons given include "campaign strategy" and "press strategy."

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POSTED: Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 5:15 AM

The federal government yesterday awarded two leases to build wind farms off the Jersey coast, a step that could lead to harnessing ocean winds to provide power to as many as 1.2 million homes.

In an auction held by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the agency selected RES America Inc. and U.S. Wind Inc. as provisional winners who paid $880,715 and $1,006,240, respectively, for the leases.

The lease sale follow years of inaction on developing wind farms off the coast, delays that frustrated clean-energy advocates, wind developers, and lawmakers. New Jersey hoped to have 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2020, a goal it will not meet given the lack of movement.

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POSTED: Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 5:14 AM

Roughly two in 10 New Jersey voters participated in an election last week that saw all 80 state Assembly seats on the ballot, one of the poorest voter turnouts in state history. But yesterday, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed legislation sent to him over the summer that sought to improve voter participation by making sweeping changes to the state’s election laws.

Christie, a Republican, painted the proposals put forward by Democrats who control the state Legislature -- including expanded early voting and automatic voter-registration -- as attempts by the Democrats to create a bigger political advantage in New Jersey.

Right now, Democrats maintain an edge of nearly 700,000 registered voters over Republicans. He said the state’s current election system is reliable and cost-efficient.

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