Good Thursday morning! It snowed.
I’ve gotta give points to Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small for a creative way to raise money for a good cause.
Small is going to auction off the opportunity to press the button that brings down Trump Plaza, turning the hulking tower that has for years sat vacant and derelict along the boardwalk into a pile of rubble.
If you’re the literary type, you might see some symbolism in this. Subtle, I know.
Small hopes to raise around $1 million through the auction to benefit the Boys & Girls Club, according to The AP and The Press of Atlantic City. Bidders are already lining up.
While imploding the building on Jan. 20 at noon would make more of a statement, the event scheduled for nine days later. Also, the president’s name no longer adorns the building. I’m guessing they’d be able to raise even more money if they promise to put a big “TRUMP” banner on it first.
WHERE’S MURPHY? In Fords for a 9 a.m. storm press conference (it snowed). Then in New Brunswick at 10 a.m. for a visit to RWJ’s vaccine clinic.
CORONAVIRUS TRACKER: 5,803 newly-reported cases for a total of 415,075. 91 more deaths for a total of 16,095 (and 1,908 probable deaths). 3,672 in the hospital, 721 in intensive care.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This message isn’t for everyone. It’s for all those people who refuse to wear a mask.” — Former Gov. Chris Christie in a PSA telling people to cover their face.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Excellent mother-in-law Pat Helck, Rep. Donald Payne Jr., former Menendez state director Paul Brubaker, Republican campaign staffer Abraham Lopez, former pensions director Fred Beaver
PHIL MURPHCROSS — Murphy, lawmakers fast-tracking tax incentive bill, angering progressives, by POLITICO’s Matt Friedman and Katherine Landergan: Gov. Phil Murphy and Democrats who control the state Legislature are fast-tracking a bill to revamp New Jersey’s controversial tax incentive programs, giving the public just days to review the 200-page proposal. The two sides announced late Tuesday that they‘d reached an agreement to renew the programs, which expired last year. The bill, the text of which was provided to POLITICO Wednesday afternoon, is scheduled to be heard in committee on Friday, then voted on in both chambers on Monday. The agreement includes annual caps — up to $11.5 billion over six years for all the programs, including $2.5 billion for “transformative“ projects — a key point of contention in the negotiations. Administration officials said Wednesday that most of what’s in the legislation has been discussed publicly, including in bill drafts, and that safeguards have been included to prevent abuses similar to those a task force appointed by Murphy uncovered over the last two years. Progressive advocates, who are among Murphy’s closest allies, are fuming over the speed at which the bill is moving. “If this bill is so fabulous, why can’t we go through a whole slate of hearings after the new year?” said Sue Altman, state director of New Jersey Working Families Alliance and a fierce critic of the lapsed programs.
HORIZON BILL DOESN’T CHANGE RULES AND REGULATIONS EXCEPT WHEN IT DOES — Horizon bill guts law that was central to ending 2017 shutdown, by POLITICO’s Sam Sutton: Three years ago, New Jersey shut down its government because of a fight over its largest health insurance company’s reserve fund. On Thursday, lawmakers will likely to send to Gov. Phil Murphy a bill that would undo a key element of a compromise measure that ended the 2017 shutdown and capped the amount Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey can hold in its coffers. Buried in arcane and controversial legislation that would pave the way for Horizon’s reorganization as a mutual holding company is a clause that eliminates the ceiling New Jersey had placed on the nonprofit’s reserves. Under the current law, if Horizon’s reserves exceed the cap, which is linked to a measure known as the risk-based capital ratio, it has to develop a plan with the state’s insurance regulator to send back the excess to its ratepayers. Both Horizon and lawmakers supporting the bill insist the reorganization wouldn’t amount to any meaningful change for the roughly 3.5 million residents whose health care is covered or administered by the firm, including huge swaths of public employees covered through state and local health benefit plans. The bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Nellie Pou (D-Passaic), said during a Senate Commerce Committee earlier this week that the measure “does not change the rules and regulations that Horizon would be subject to.”
WIDGET THE WEED WATCHER — Scutari: Marijuana legalization bill likely to barely pass Senate, by POLITICO’s Matt Friedman: The state Senate on Thursday is expected to have just enough votes to pass enabling legislation that will legalize recreational marijuana in New Jersey, according to the bill’s lead sponsor, even though voters overwhelmingly approved legalization last month. “We’re still going to barely pass it even though it passed by 67 percent [among voters],” Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) said in an interview. Scutari said he “may have 22” votes in favor of the bill, which sets a legal and regulatory framework for the drug. A bill needs 21 votes to pass the 40-member Senate.
THE LAW FIRM OF SMITH & WESSON — “Gun Maker Smith & Wesson Sues New Jersey to Block Subpoena,” by The Wall Street Journal’s Zusha Elinson: “Smith & Wesson Brands Inc. one the nation’s largest gun makers, filed suit Tuesday to block a subpoena from the New Jersey attorney general seeking information about its advertising practices. The subpoena, which was issued on October 13 according to the suit, is part of a broader legal push by gun-control advocates targeting the gun industry over its marketing practices. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who previously sued companies that sell parts used to make untraceable firearms called ‘ghost guns,’ wants Smith & Wesson to turn over a swath of internal documents related to advertising guns in the state.”
HUGIN DIDN’T HAVE HUGE WIN — “Nine takeaways on the race for GOP State Chairman,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “Steinhardt’s run for governor had been widely anticipated for more than a year. It was no surprise that he would step down as state GOP chairman to run, triggering a special election to fill the post. The timing was worked well for Steinhardt. He called a state committee meeting on Thursday, accommodating a bylaws requirement for a five-day notice, and then announced his candidacy for governor on Friday. That allowed Lavery to quickly launch his own campaign. Several state committee members cited the late start of Hugin’s campaign. Had Hugin launched his campaign earlier, saying that he wanted the job if it opened so that he could begin raising money for the general election — in his speech on Tuesday evening, he promised to raise $1 million for county and local campaigns next year — the outcome might easily have been different.”
— Stile: “Phil Murphy’s reelection hinges on COVID. Will the vaccine help? Can it hurt?”
— “N.J. hair stylists, barbers, nail salons could bring their services to you soon under new bill”
— Egea: “What some ‘blue state’ ballot questions could portend for N.J. in 2021”
— “When will other coronavirus vaccines in the pipeline come to N.J.?”
WHY NOT DO IT AT NOON ON JAN. 20TH? — “City to auction spot to push demolish button on Trump casino,” by The AP’s Wanye Parry: “One of President Donald Trump’s former Atlantic City casinos will be blown up next month, and for the right amount of money, you could be the one to press the button that brings it down. The demolition of the former Trump Plaza casino will become a fundraiser to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City that the mayor hopes will raise in excess of $1 million Opened in 1984, Trump’s former casino was closed in 2014 and has fallen into such a state of disrepair that demolition work began earlier this year. The remainder of the structure will be dynamited on Jan. 29. ‘Some of Atlantic City’s iconic moments happened there, but on his way out, Donald Trump openly mocked Atlantic City, saying he made a lot of money and then got out,’ said Mayor Marty Small. ‘I wanted to use the demolition of this place to raise money for charity.’”
DANIEL’S LAW — “Rand Paul blocks federal Daniel’s Law,” by New Jersey Globe’s Nikita Biryukov: “U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) blocked a bill that would prevent data brokers from selling or otherwise trading in the personal identifying information of federal judges spurred by the attempted assassination of U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas. Rand sought to amend the bill — dubbed Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act after Salas’s son, who was slain during the attack — to include similar protections for members of Congress. Mark Anderl, Salas’s husband, was wounded in the attack but has since recovered. ‘I really think that this is important that we protect addresses for our judges, but it’s also important that we do this for our elected officials,’ he said, citing the attempted assassinations of Reps. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) in 2011 and Steve Scalise (R-La.) in 2017 … The Republican’s amendment included other provisions that U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-North Bergen), the bill’s prime sponsor in the chamber, said were a poison pill. ‘Without the threat of some damages, there’s little incentive for a data broker to remove the personally identifying information of a judge and his or her family,’ Menendez said.”
ALEXANDER THE NOT GREAT — ‘We want them infected’: Trump appointee demanded ‘herd immunity’ strategy, emails reveal, by POLITICO’s Dan Diamond: A top Trump appointee repeatedly urged top health officials to adopt a « herd immunity » approach to Covid-19 and allow millions of Americans to be infected by the virus, according to internal emails obtained by a House watchdog and shared with POLITICO. “There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about allowing the non-high risk groups expose themselves to the virus. PERIOD, » then-science adviser Paul Alexander wrote on July 4 to his boss, Health and Human Services assistant secretary for public affairs Michael Caputo, and six other senior officials. « Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk… so we use them to develop herd… we want them infected… » Alexander added … Alexander acknowledges in a May 30 email that a draft statement from the CDC about how Covid-19 was disproportionately affecting minority populations was « very accurate, » but he warned HHS and CDC communications officials that « in this election cycle that is the kind of statement coming from CDC that the media and Democrat [sic] antagonists will use against the president. » The problems were « due to decades of democrat neglect, » Alexander alleged.
— Stimulus talks drag on as leaders say deal is close
… But there’s no money for states: ‘It is madness’: Governors rage over stimulus snub
PROTESTS — “From city hall to front porch steps: NJ officials concerned as protests move closer to home,” by The Record’s Terrence T. McDonald and Katie Sobko: “When Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton’s house was vandalized with anti-ICE graffiti, Cureton joined the growing list of New Jersey pols whose homes are becoming protest sites. In recent weeks, demonstrators have assembled outside Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise’s home in Jersey City multiple times and attempted to gather outside Gov. Phil Murphy’s mansion on the Navesink River waterfront. Meanwhile, an Englewood Cliffs councilman resigned from the governing body this month, apparently in part because of protests in front of his house earlier this fall. This all comes as demonstrators nationwide increasingly use the tactic to pressure an array of public officials, from Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to Idaho board of health members. ‘It’s happening all over,’ said John Davenport, a philosophy professor and director of peace and justice studies at Fordham University. ‘It’s a trend in American society to think we can get what we want faster with social pressure.’”
— “Hackensack mayor condemns harassment of priest by ICE protesters outside Bergen jail”
IN SALARY NEGOTIATIONS, FORMICA COUNTERED — “Levinson hires Formica as Atlantic County shared services coordinator,” by WPG’s Harry Hurley: “Former Atlantic County Freeholder Board Chairman Frank Formica has been hired as the new Atlantic County Shared Services Coordinator. The position has never existed before now. The salary appears to be set at $ 40,000. It’s a one year position with full taxpayer-paid fringe benefits. The Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders has approved the hiring. The vote was unanimous. But, only after a lot of conversation and deep concerns. The Formica hiring wasn’t placed on an earlier agenda. It violated the County’s 12-day rule with respect to advanced notice to the public. More about this later.”
— “Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik: Claims of political retaliation ‘frivolous’”
ENGLEWOOD ALWAYS UP TO NO GOOD — “Bergen County Prosecutor taking over N.J. police department’s internal affairs unit,” by NJ Advance Media’s Rodrigo Torrejon: “The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office is taking over Englewood Police Department’s internal affairs unit for at least the next six months, citing a months-long investigation into the unit. Starting this week, the Prosecutor’s Office will enter into a monitoring agreement with the Englewood Police department to take complete control over the department’s internal affairs unit, Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella said in a statement. The agreement will temporarily override Police Chief Larry Suffern’s authority over the unit for at least six months, with the potential to extend the time period for longer, according to the agreement.”
IF NEGOTIATING A PLEA BARGAIN SENTENCE, DON’T TELL THE JUDGE YOU WANT TO ‘JEW IT DOWN’ — “Trenton council prez Kathy McBride’s attorney says warrant recalled on charges,” by The Trentonian’s Isaac Avilucea: “City council president Kathy McBride was a wanted woman, but her attorney says that’s been handled. McBride had a warrant out for her arrest on charges of harassment and simple assault but it was recalled after the newspaper inquired about it, her attorney told The Trentonian Wednesday afternoon. Defense attorney John Hartmann, who represented McBride in a separate harassment and simple assault case from 2015 that was dismissed, explained his client was never noticed about the 2009 charges. ‘That’s why it’s never been addressed,’ Hartmann said. ‘It’s not like she blew court off.’ McBride has a new court date of Jan. 12 to answer to the charges, Hartmann said.”
— “A stark and bloody milestone in Paterson: Fatal shooting sets 30-year homicide record”
— “Lakewood banquet hall doesn’t follow COVID rules, zoning law either: Lawsuit”
— “Three South Jersey towns have made a list of the top 10 hottest neighborhoods in the U.S.”
— “Manalapan faced choice pitting wetlands against warehouse jobs. Which finished on top?”
— “Flemington’s downtown revitalization project is underway. What we know.”
BLACK FARMERS — “Where are the Garden State’s Black farmers?’ by The Vineland Daily Journal’s Joseph P. Smith: “Four decades in Atlantic County as a Rutgers Cooperative Extension agent has allowed Rick VanVranken to learn a lot about farming across the region and state. But one piece of information has eluded him: why are Black farmers running commercial grade operations so rare in the Garden State? New Jersey officially had 9,800-odd farms in the last Census report, collectively generating more than a billion dollars per year. The same report put the number of all African American “producers” at 76, versus 248 Asian producers. ‘I have no idea why that is, other than just the general way this area was settled with Italian and Jewish and other immigrants,’ VanVranken said. ‘I don’t know where the Black population went to, other than they went off the farm into the urban centers.’”