Sunday, December 21, 2014

POSTED: Monday, December 8, 2014, 5:13 AM

The issue: How much should private companies compensate New Jersey for leasing private rights-of-way on state-owned lands that was purchased with taxpayers’ dollars. It has become a source of controversy as transmission lines and gas pipelines increasingly crisscross environmentally sensitive lands.

Why it is important: For several years, environmentalists and some lawmakers have been unhappy with leases granted to pipeline companies and others to build new projects on state-owned lands. They argue the leases fail to fairly compensate the state for the land the projects acquire at a much cheaper cost than if they had to purchase private property.

What is being done: The Senate Environment and Energy Committee is expected to consider a bill (S-570) today, sponsored by its chairman Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), that could force corporations to pay more if they divert public land from recreational use. The bill, similar to one in the last legislative session that never became law, would require the state to consider how much revenue a project would generate when completed, a process proponents argued would deliver more value to taxpayers who paid for preservation of the land.

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POSTED: Monday, December 8, 2014, 5:12 AM

After nine months as New Jersey’s acting education commissioner, David Hespe is finally coming before the state Senate for confirmation on Thursday.

His confirmation is all but assured, despite the lengthy delay. Why it took so long is not clear, although it likely represents another instance of the occasional political tugs-of-war between Gov. Chris Christie and the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

One thing for certain is that Hespe will face questioning from the Senate judiciary committee about the many tough issues facing public education in the state, from charter schools to standardized testing to finances.

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POSTED: Monday, December 8, 2014, 5:11 AM

Two years ago, Horizon NJ Health cut reimbursements to home health providers by 10 percent, leaving those agencies fuming -- and alleging that the cuts would affect their ability to attract and retain workers to what were already low-wage positions.

In fact, the home health agencies say Horizon wouldn’t meet with them to discuss the reductions. That’s one reason why they’re supporting a bill that would require Medicaid managed-care organizations (MCOs) -- large insurers like Horizon that oversee long-term care for Medicaid recipients -- to discuss cuts at least three months before implementing them.

It’s the second attempt at a legislative solution to the problem, after Gov. Chris Christie vetoed an earlier bill that would have required state approval for reimbursement cuts.

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POSTED: Monday, December 8, 2014, 5:10 AM

Last week, Chris Cerf penned a piece defending Newark’s schools superintendent, Cami Anderson, and her so-called One Newark plan. But ultimately, and unfortunately, his defense missed the mark. The One Newark plan was created by a district administration under state authority -- with minimal inclusion of or approval by the locally elected school board, community members, parents, and most important, students. As a result, educators, families, and the community have no confidence in the state-imposed leadership of Anderson, and they definitely don’t believe in the feasibility of the One Newark plan. Their opposition can be summed up in three words: blindsided, buses, and books.

A Community Blindsided

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POSTED: Monday, December 8, 2014, 5:05 AM

New Jersey commuters to New York will pay $14 in cash to cross the Hudson River using any connecting bridge or tunnel. This includes the George Washington Bridge, Lincoln Tunnel, and Holland Tunnel.

The same rate applies to other New Jersey-to-New York crossings: the Bayonne Bridge, Goethals Bridge, and Outerbridge crossing.

Drivers with E-ZPass get a discount to $11.75.

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POSTED: Friday, December 5, 2014, 5:15 AM

Big changes could be ahead for the Meadowlands District regional planning area if state lawmakers pass a bill to merge two quasi-governmental agencies and redesign the way the district supports its sparsely developed communities.

Under a bill announced yesterday by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Secaucus), the New Jersey Sports and Expo Authority (NJSEA) would effectively be subsumed by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.

Hotels in the district would collect an additional 3 percent nightly tax that would allow the district’s densely developed cities and towns to stop sharing their property tax revenue with those zoned for lighter development. The new hotel tax would raise the total to 18 percent, one of the highest rates in the nation.

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POSTED: Friday, December 5, 2014, 5:14 AM

Income continued to rebound from the recession in most New Jersey communities, but housing costs also rose and home values continued to fall, the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows.

Yesterday, Census officials released 2013 American Community Survey results, including information about municipalities and other smaller areas. The report covers a broad range of 40 topics including demographics, family relationships, education, work and housing. The data is based on an average of five years of information -- covering 2009 through 2013 -- to account for smaller sample sizes. As a result, comparisons with prior years can be skewed because the years of data overlap in the prior samples -- for instance, 2009 data is included in both the 2013 estimates and the 2009 estimates.

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POSTED: Friday, December 5, 2014, 5:13 AM
(Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)

One of the state’s top legislators want to safeguard nursing-home residents by giving them and their families the right to install video cameras and audio recorders in their rooms to help prevent instances of abuse and theft by staff members.

While the measure has drawn support from AARP, it has drawn strong opposition from nursing home operators and a union representing nursing home workers, who see the measure as undermining trust and potentially violating privacy rights. They say there are alternatives for protecting residents.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Bergen and Hudson) introduced the bill, A-3883, last month. It is advancing swiftly through the Assembly.

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