Sunday, November 29, 2015

POSTED: Friday, November 13, 2015, 7:11 PM

On the presidential campaign trail, Chris Christie boasts that he was a no-nonsense prosecutor above politics.

“The fact is that this Justice Department under this president has been a political Justice Department,” said Christie during last month’s debate on CNBC. If elected, he promised to nominate “an attorney general who will enforce the law and make justice more than just a word.”

But back in New Jersey, the Christie administration appears to be burying a corruption case involving Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, his second-in-command. An alleged $245,000 pension fraud occurred when Guadagno was Monmouth County sheriff in 2008, the year before she first ran for lieutenant governor as Christie’s running mate.

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POSTED: Friday, November 13, 2015, 7:10 PM

How would you like to able to see your doctor – without actually seeing your doctor, except perhaps on computer screen?

Telemedicine could expand swiftly in New Jersey with the help of new legislation.

But it is controversial, as supporters and doubters clash over an array of issues including questions related to licensing, fees and whether it can be as effective as traditional doctor-patient consultations.

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POSTED: Friday, November 13, 2015, 7:09 PM

The state acted correctly when it rejected a plan to build a large solar facility on a former apple orchard, a New Jersey appeals court ruled yesterday.

In a 10-page decision, the court affirmed the Board of Public Utilities’ decision two years ago to reject the applicant’s contention it should qualify for ratepayer subsidies for the project as a so-called brownfield.

The ruling essentially upholds a policy decision by the Christie administration to steer big solar projects away from building on farmland and open space, and instead target former industrial sites and closed garbage dumps lying fallow because of contaminated soil and other pollution problems.

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POSTED: Friday, November 13, 2015, 7:08 PM

If you want to see steam come out of the heads of some self-proclaimed environmentalists, tell them that fracking is good for the environment.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, has been in use for more than 60 years. The process is used by many oil and natural-gas companies to harvest fuel from shale (fine-grained sedimentary rocks). Oil and gas have seen a boom in recent years as the technology to harvest these fuels through fracking has advanced and resulted in a more affordable process to explore areas previously deemed too expensive.

One of the positive outcomes of the oil and gas boom has been a dramatic shift in how we power and heat our homes and businesses. We have seen an increase in cleaner power plants and clean-burning energy-efficient appliances such as heaters, air conditioners, and refrigeration systems that run off these fuels, resulting in lower energy costs and a healthier environment.

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POSTED: Friday, November 13, 2015, 7:05 PM

Statewide, last week’s election had the lowest turnout in New Jersey’s history -- an estimate of about 19 percent. Yet even the two most competitive districts in the state -- Districts 1 and 2 in South Jersey -- had an abysmal turnout of about 25 percent.

This despite the two major parties spending millions, much of it on advertising. The result was a net gain of one Democratic seat across the two districts that span Cape May, Atlantic, and Cumberland counties..

When asked by a poll from the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University why they hadn’t voted, 26 percent said they lacked information about the election. The next most-commonly cited reason was being too busy (20 percent); followed by lack of interest (14 percent). Only 13 percent said they didn’t like the candidates, and 9 percent said they voted only in major elections.

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POSTED: Thursday, November 12, 2015, 7:15 PM

Yesterday’s settlement of Morristown’s long-running property-tax battle with Morristown Medical Center is already drawing attention, hardly surprising given that it follows a judge’s decision that could affect nonprofit hospitals coast to coast.

Under the terms of the agreement, medical center owner Atlantic Health System will pay the town $15.5 million, including $10 million upfront. That part of the settlement covers the years 2006 to 2015 and includes $5.5 million in penalties and interest that will be paid over the next five years.

But what has really grabbed the attention of healthcare and tax experts, legislators, hospital executives, and municipal officials is this: Morristown Medical Center has agreed to pay taxes on 24 percent of its currently untaxed property. The portions that will be taxed include: space leased to private doctors, restaurants, and shops; spaces used by private doctors to deliver emergency services, as well as radiology, anesthesiology, and pathology; and hospital garages.

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POSTED: Thursday, November 12, 2015, 7:14 PM

As arguments over the state’s participation in PARCC rage on, it appears as if New Jersey’s reliance on the standardized tests is making it increasingly isolated.

New Jersey is now just one of seven states, along with Washington, D.C., that is slated to give at least some version of the PARCC language arts and math in the 2015-2016 school year, according to a new state-by-state survey conducted by the Education Commission of the States, a Colorado-based policy organization.

Those numbers are down from as many as 20 states initially in the PARCC testing consortium when New Jersey joined 2011, picking from two such multistate partnerships that had emerged in the country to develop new tests.

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POSTED: Thursday, November 12, 2015, 7:13 PM

Overshadowed by Gov. Chris Christie’s actions on several higher-profile pieces of legislation earlier this week was his rejection of a measure that would have required the state to include net property taxes after the Homestead property tax relief when it compares annual taxes online.

The Christie administration had stopped including this information in its comparative tax information, helping to conceal what was, in effect, an increase in the property tax because of drastic cuts in the Homestead program.

When the Homestead property tax relief figures were included, the numbers showed that net average property taxes for Homestead recipients had actually increased more under Christie in some years than before his administration.

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