Monday, January 26, 2015

POSTED: Tuesday, January 13, 2015, 11:16 PM

Gov. Chris Christie, who appears to be on the verge of announcing a run for president, told the New Jersey Legislature on Tuesday that his leadership of the state is an unqualified success.  He said he has lowered costs and improved the state's economy. And he said the pension fund crisis is not his fault. Before delivering the annual State of the State address, Christie met with national reporters, leaving little doubt that his ambitions lie outside the Garden State. Matt Katz talked over the speech with Amy Eddings on All Things Considered.

What did Christie have to say to the national media today before the speech?

I wouldn't know. I wasn't invited to this off-the-record session. None of the local reporters were. In fact, the governor hasn't held a press conference in New Jersey since Oct. 9. This session with national reporters was seen by the local press as a reflection of who he intended his audience to be for this speech. And that's the 200 or so party leaders and Republican campaign bundlers who collect donations from individuals and funnel them to candidates. Christie is already holding weekly phone calls with these folks, and he's having meetings in New York, South Carolina, Massachusetts and Connecticut with other possible donors. Today was just his fourth day in state in 2015, and he'll be in Iowa, home to the first Republican presidential caucus, twice in the next 2 weeks. He's reportedly already hired a finance chairman for his still-not-announced campaign. And now that Mitt Romney is talking about running again, I'm told he and Christie are supposed to meet up soon to hash out any awkwardness considering Christie was such a major Romney backer in 2012.

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POSTED: Tuesday, January 13, 2015, 12:50 PM

Live stream of Christie's State of State Address starts at 2:00 p.m.

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POSTED: Tuesday, January 13, 2015, 12:33 PM

Governor Chris Christie wasn't in New Jersey a whole lot last year, but when he was, he could be found in the inner city.

Most of Christie's public events last year involved the state’s most diverse populations. The trips to Camden, Newark and Trenton were ways to highlight his efforts at education and public safety reform. But they also served as soft-focused rehabilitation tour for Christie in the aftermath of the Bridgegate scandal, which broke wide open one year ago last week. The events, with minsters, recovery drug addicts and impoverished children, were redemptive in tone and spirit. Rarely did Christie announce news, or take questions from the media.

What the events did do was create made-for-YouTube content. His social media team in the governor's office cut and edited clips from his visits to schools, drug addiction centers and churches. Those clips were then compiled into a new video where Christie is surrounded by children, almost all of whom are African American, Latino and Asian.

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POSTED: Tuesday, January 13, 2015, 5:15 AM

Compared with many other states, New Jersey has a relatively modest abundance of drinking water -- ample surface water and groundwater supplies, and enough rainfall each year to usually avoid droughts.

But for all that, the state faces serious challenges. They range from shrinking groundwater supplies in some locations, potential water deficits in others, and an aging water infrastructure that needs billions of dollars of investment.

Still, the state has not revised its water supply master plan since 1996, a failure that has drawn sharp criticism from environmentalists and others worried that New Jersey’s economic growth could be hamstrung by uncertainty about water.

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POSTED: Tuesday, January 13, 2015, 5:14 AM

Despite housing the main campus of Rutgers University and serving as the seat of Middlesex County, New Brunswick spent the late decades of the past century battling the same sorts of challenges that confronted many American cities: a rise in immigrant populations, declining property values, and relative neglect.

But in 1975, Johnson & Johnson made a major commitment to remain in the city, and that decision renewed investors’ confidence in New Brunswick’s stability and potential. Unlike most aging urban areas, New Brunswick began to rebound in the early to mid-1980s.

But progress has been painstakingly slow. Though downtown boasts its share of notable restaurants and entertainment options, it’s still full of low-rent retailers.

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POSTED: Tuesday, January 13, 2015, 5:13 AM

Although the details are still to be worked out, a package of bills to improve teacher preparation and induction in the state will be among the priorities in the Assembly this spring, said the Democrats’ top legislator on education.

State Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex), chairman of the Assembly‘s education committee, said he hoped to have a package passed by the summer. He said the specifics are still being discussed, but they were along the lines of a proposal unveiled this fall by a coalition of groups led by the state’s teachers union that sought to tighten requirements on teacher training and support once on the job.

One bill already on the docket and up for discussion before Diegnan’s committee on Thursday would create new tier of “teacher leaders.” The measure, sponsored by Diegnan and state Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex), would provide a career step for teachers short of leaving the classroom.

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POSTED: Tuesday, January 13, 2015, 5:12 AM

Patients covered by managed-care insurance plans generally have fewer doctors to choose from. Hospital officials argue that this often makes it easier and sometimes even necessary for them to seek otherwise routine medical care at hospital emergency rooms.

Increased state oversight would help make sure managed-care plans have enough doctors in their networks, according to supporters of new legislation, while insurance-industry advocates argue more regulation would simply create more red tape – and that the real problem is doctors who balk at treating Medicaid patients because reimbursements are low.

A bill advancing in the state Assembly, A-1922/S-1211, would require insurers to hire outside firms to conduct two "audits" to determine whether their health-provider networks are adequate. In addition, the state auditor would perform a separate review of insurers that operate managed care organizations serving Medicaid patients.

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POSTED: Tuesday, January 13, 2015, 5:11 AM

One more vestige of Atlantic City’s once-thriving past is disappearing.

The landmark Atlantic City Race Course, which opened nearly 70 years ago in the resort city, will close Friday, the victim of changes in the horse-racing industry and competition from tracks in neighboring states.

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