Presented by the New Jersey Education Association
Good Friday morning!
The New Jersey GOP has found a cause to rally around in its opposition to Gov. Phil Murphy’s multi-billion dollar borrowing plan, which passed the Assembly along party lines yesterday.
Naturally, this plays into the already-brewing Republican primary to challenge Murphy.
Former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, who’s been formally seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination since January, last week vowed to sue Murphy to stop the borrowing plan if it becomes law. Yesterday, right around when the Assembly passed the borrowing bill, two of Ciattarelli’s potential primary opponents — Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Union) and Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt — vowed that they would also sue Murphy to stop it.
This isn’t just me reading gubernatorial politics into the situation: A person close to Ciattarelli brought it to my attention, too.
I asked Bramnick and Steinhardt about this, and they said it was about presenting a unified front, that they had been discussing this prospect for weeks, and that Ciattarelli was welcome to join them if and when it comes time to file suit.
“He’s a candidate for governor. He’s not presently holding office,” said Bramnick, who added that he felt it would look less blatantly political to have legislative leaders team up with the party leader for a lawsuit. “A candidate versus the two caucuses and the chairman of the party: From an appearance standpoint it would appear, possibly, to be less political.”
I tried to ask Ciattarelli about this yesterday but he didn’t get back to me.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "My apologies... My wife is outside being handcuffed and she's in a police car for being disorderly." — Red Bank Council President Michael Ballard during a council meeting, after his wife, Parks and Recreation Committee Chair Rose Sesito, intervened in a traffic stop outside their house involving one of her relatives.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Casino Control Commission’s Alisa Cooper, University Hospital’s Shereef Elnahal, Coughlin aide Dan Harris, Montclair entrepreneur Charles Rosen. Saturday for Cherry Hill Councilwoman Sangeeta Doshi, Millstone Mayor Raymond Heck. Sunday for state Sen. Linda Grenstein, former Burlington County Times reporter Gianluca D'Elia
WHERE’S MURPHY? — In Trenton for his daily press conference at 1 p.m.
CORONAVIRUS TRACKER — 603 newly-diagnosed cases for a total of 162,530. 92 more deaths attributed to the virus for a total of 11,970.
MC UH-OHS — Report: New Jersey's Department of Human Services failed to ensure managed care orgs were monitoring nursing home residents, by POLITICO’s Sam Sutton: Managed care organizations overseeing Medicaid plans for New Jersey’s nursing home residents were frequently deficient in delivering on beneficiaries’ personalized care plans, often failing to coordinate, monitor and document residents’ health, according to a federal audit. The audit by the Department of Human Services’ inspector general of 2016 Medicaid data also found that state officials had limited ability to monitor managed care organizations (MCOs) to ensure they had met their contractual obligations. The audit comes as New Jersey officials deal with deep-rooted problems in their oversight of the state’s long-term care industry, which has seen tens of thousands of coronavirus cases and more than 5,200 deaths over the last three months. That includes coming to terms with how the state compensates those facilities through its Medicaid program. The HHS audit estimates poor oversight may have resulted in New Jersey paying out more than $720 million to MCOs that hadn’t adequately managed care. The federal share of those payments, which were made in 2016, totals roughly $386 million. DHS disputed that estimate, arguing it was based on a flawed interpretation of how the state compensates its MCOs.
#METOO — “N.J. legislative aide accused of rape resigns though investigation found no proof of wrongdoing, sources say,” by NJ Advance Media’s Susan K. Livio and Kelly Heyboer: “A staff member in the state Assembly accused of raping a female lobbyist is stepping down from his job after a multi-month internal investigation, sources close to the investigation said. No charges are expected to be filed against the man, however, after an internal investigation initiated by the state Legislature did not find enough evidence to prove the sexual assault claim, according to three sources with knowledge of the investigation. The alleged victim in the case has appealed the ruling and the case is ongoing. Two sources who know about the resignation did not say why the Assembly aide chose leave his job later this month. He was not employed by the Assembly when the alleged rape occurred.”
‘I WORKED THE COVIDS’ — “Murphy takes page from Christie's damage-control playbook in health official's firing,” by The Record’s Charles Stile: “The Murphy administration abruptly fired Christopher Neuwirth, an assistant health commissioner who was in charge of overseeing the state's emergency preparedness. Murphy has offered little insight about Neuwirth's dismissal. At one point, Murphy suggested he is too busy to be micromanaging personnel matters — even though Neuwirth had a top job in the administration's pandemic response team and occasionally sat at Murphy's side at coronavirus briefings. ‘Sixty-four thousand people, I believe, work for me, not counting the authorities,’ Murphy said May 29… Murphy's reply echoed the vast-workforce excuse Christie cited in his marathon, Jan. 9., 2014, press conference after The Record first published the infamous ‘Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee’ email from Bridget Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff, to David Wildstein, a top official at the Port Authority. The Bridgegate scandal was in full bloom. ‘In the end, I have 65,000 people working for me every day,'’ Christie said at the time..”
DEATH TOLL — “Data analysis puts state’s COVID-19 death toll at 15,000 or more,” by NJ Spotlight’s Colleen O’Dea: “It’s impossible to say how many more, but an NJ Spotlight analysis of New Jersey Department of Health death data from 2015 through May 31 indicates that the total death toll from the novel coronavirus first diagnosed in Bergen County on March 4 could be 15,000 or more. That’s based on the dramatically higher number of deaths logged so far by state officials during the past three months, compared with the average for each month over the past five years.”
YOUR BILL HAS BEEN CANCELED — “Efforts to get dedicated funding for NJ Transit stall as coronavirus upends budget process,” by The Record’s Colleen Wilson: “The country's largest statewide transportation agency seemed on track to finally receive a dedicated state source of funding this year. But then coronavirus brought that progress to a grinding halt. Before the region was shook by the deadly pandemic this spring, monthly hearings had been taking place since November by a select committee of senators to investigate NJ Transit, the challenges it faces, where it needs improvement and how to create a more reliable funding pot. The hearings were expected to continue into March, but it never happened as stay-at-home orders were put in place and the legislature began conducting its business virtually, passing emergency legislation to combat coronavirus. Now it seems the legislative effort to create a dedicated funding source will be pushed back another year — or longer.”
WHEN MURPHY SAID ‘DATA DETERMINES DATES’ HE WAS REFERRING TO HIS CONSULTATIONS WITH BRENT SPINER — “Is Gov. Phil Murphy putting faith before science when it comes to re-opening New Jersey?” by The Trentonian’s Jeff Edelstein: “All this time, I’ve thought Murphy must be in consultation with the top minds on this thing. I’ve thought he’s tapping anyone and everyone who knows what they’re talking about. I’ve thought Murphy, and his methodical re-opening of New Jersey, was getting guidance based in science. According to these whistleblowers, he ain’t. I’m not ready to believe the whistleblowers at face value, but 20-plus years in this business has taught me that smoke often does indicate fire. Murphy has been acting like he’s got both hands on the wheel. I want to believe that’s true.”
THAT’S A LOT FOR SOME PEOPLE — “Arrests for having up to 1 pound of weed would be banned in N.J. under new bill,” by NJ Advance Media’s Amanda Hoover: “New Jersey lawmakers have introduced a bill that would decrease punishments for marijuana possession from arrests to fines, reviving a years-long effort as the nation grapples with racial bias and brutality in policing. The new bill, S2535, introduced to the state Senate Thursday afternoon, would decriminalize possession and distribution of less than one pound of weed, but would not make marijuana legal. Violators would receive a written warning for a first offense and a face fines of $25 for second and subsequent offenses … Currently, possessing from one ounce to five pounds is an offense punishable by three to five years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine. Under the new bill, anyone caught with more than one pound of weed would receive a disorderly persons offense, punishable by six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.”
BREAKING: MURPHY DID SOMETHING DIFFERENTLY THAN CUOMO — “N.J. National Guard Deployment Draws Fire,” by InsiderNJ’s Bob Hennelly: “In a split with other Governors in the mid-Atlantic region, Gov. Phil Murphy acquiesced to President Trump’s request for states to send units of their National Guard in response to civil unrest sparked in the nation’s capital over the weekend in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in police custody … In a statement in response to a query from Insider NJ, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg wrote she understood “the pressures the governor is under in order to try to get additional federal help for our New Jersey residents. But now is not the time to acquiesce to a flawed president who wishes to militarize our own National Guard against America’s own citizens peacefully protesting.”
PATRI...ARCHAL KENNEDY — “Patrick Kennedy says he’s not going to allow South Jersey machine to smear his wife,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “Former Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-Rhode Island) strongly pushed back on criticism that he was funding a super PAC to help his wife, Amy Kennedy, win the Democratic nomination for Congress in New Jersey’s 2nd district. ‘In South Jersey we’re dominated by a machine that doesn’t give anyone else a fair shot, but Amy does have a shot because her last name is Kennedy,’ he told the New Jersey Globe. ‘They use scurrilous material to attack her. There’s no way my wife is going to fall victim to that kind of a smear.’”
TOMMY USED TO WORK EXPEDITING DOCS — “Bertoli’s lawyers speak out: ‘He strenuously denies’ evading taxes & interfering with IRS law,” by Hudson County View’s John Heinis: “The two lawyers representing longtime Hudson County political fixer and operative Tom Bertoli are speaking out in light of tax charges brought against him by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, indicating that he didn’t evade taxes or interfere with IRS law. ‘Mr. Bertoli has been candid, truthful and forthcoming with federal authorities concerning his tax liabilities since he first learned of this investigation three years ago in June 2017,’ Jack Arseneault and Greg Jones, both of Chatham-based law firm Arseneault & Fassett, LLP, said in a joint statement. ‘Following the Great Recession in 2009, he struggled, as countless others struggled, to support his family. Today, however, he has filed all returns for all years and has been slowly paying his back taxes owed, as well as interest and penalties. He strenuously denies that any of his actions were done with the intent to evade the assessment of any tax or to interfere with the administration of IRS laws.’”
MAY THE FORCE NOT BE USED AGAINST YOU — “The city that remade its police department,” by Bloomberg’s Sarah Holder: “While many departments define “reasonable” force in the line of duty vaguely, Camden’s definition is much clearer. The department adopted an 18-page use-of-force policy in 2019, developed with New York University’s Policing Project. The rules emphasize that de-escalation has to come first. Deadly force—such as a chokehold or firing a gun—can only be used in certain situations, once every other tactic has been exhausted. ‘It requires that force is not only reasonable and necessary, but that it’s proportionate,’ says Farhang Heydari, executive director of the Policing Project. Most important, ‘they’re requirements. They’re not suggestions.’”
LUDACRIS ON MURPHY’S SHORTLIST FOR EDUCATION COMMISSIONER — “Toms River school board president to Murphy: Your graduation rules are 'ludicrous',” by The Asbury Park Press’ Jean Mikle: “In a letter sent to Murphy, Board of Education President Anna Polozzo said that while the governor has permitted outdoor graduations to go forward after July 6, the state's restrictions on the number of people who can gather in one place make holding outdoor ceremonies in Toms River impractical … Outdoor gatherings in New Jersey are limited to 25 people, although it's possible that number could be increased in the coming weeks. Polozzo's May 30 letter notes that county superintendents have made it clear that any outdoor ceremonies must comply with state rules, which include the 25-person restriction. That would include graduates, their relatives, and staff.”
FOR A BUNCH OF COMMUNISTS THEY SURE ACT LIKE CAPITALISTS — “Multiple bids, exhausted brokers: A look at Montclair's 'crazy' pandemic housing market,” by The Record’s Julia Martin: “What a difference a month has made in the Montclair real estate market. After a moribund March and April due to COVID-19, it bounced back in a big way in May. ‘It's been absolutely crazy, just an unbelievable explosion,’ says Leslie Kunkin, a broker and founder of West of Hudson Realty Group. Houses are routinely selling within five days of going on the market with prices bid up as much as $150,000 over the asking price, agents say. Erin Crawford of Keller Williams said she sold three Montclair homes in May with more than ten offers each. The reason for the soaring market? Chalk it up to shutdown-weary New Yorkers fleeing the city for more space.”
JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS WITH LITTLE EVIDENCE IS ALWAYS A SMART MOVE — “County freeholders condemn attacks at, near sheriff’s home,” by NJ Herald’s Lori Comstock: “The Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders are condemning what they say was a two-fold attack on county Sheriff Mike Strada early Monday morning – a report of gunshots near his home and a road sign grafittied with the initials of the Black Lives Matter movement. While State Police so far have not connected the two incidents, Freeholder Joshua Hertzberg, on behalf of the five-member freeholder board, issued a statement saying both targeted the sheriff. ‘The Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders expresses our full support of Sheriff Michael Strada; we condemn this violent, senseless attack on his home and family,’ Hertzberg said. ‘As elected officials, public criticism comes with the territory, but attacks that threaten the physical safety of individuals and their families are unacceptable.’”
ALTERNATE HEADLINE: CONDITIONS GOOD FOR KIDS IN ONE OF NATION’S RICHEST COUNTIES — “Hunterdon is the safest county in America to raise a child, report says,” by The Courier News’ Bob Makin: “Civic leaders said they’re happy to hear Hunterdon County is the safest place in America to raise a child, according to a ranking released by Save the Children. Based on per-capita deaths before age 18, per-capita teen pregnancies, food insecurity and the high school dropout rate, the Connecticut-based relief organization put Hunterdon at the top of its safest counties for children within the U.S. portion of its Global Childhood Report. ‘It’s probably one of the best feelings in the world,’ Clinton Mayor Janice Kovach said.”
IS THE FOOTBALL COACH OK? — “Rutgers 'choosing to fire the most vulnerable campus workers': unions,” by The The Courier-News’ Bob Makin: “Amid national health and economic crises and during nationwide demonstrations against racial injustice, Rutgers University is choosing to fire its most vulnerable campus workers, a coalition of 19 campus unions said in a statement. The workers are disproportionately people of color, according to the coalition, which several days ago proposed furloughs through July that would save jobs, protect the income and health benefits of all union members and save the university as much as $100 million. ‘Rutgers management has terminated our Memorandum of Understanding, having only put one idea on the table in the past month: a two-year suspension of our July 1 raises,’ said Todd Wolfson, president of AAUP-AFT, the union representing full-time faculty and graduate employees.”