Sunday, August 19, 2012
With seven bills pending, advocates press for ban and fees on plastic grocery bags.
Sunday, August 19, 2012
By Tom Johnson, NJSpotlight.com When you go into a supermarket, you are usually given a choice: Paper or plastic bags to cart your groceries home, unless you are carrying in your own reusable grocery bag. In some states, the choice you make could cost you a few pennies more, including in New Jersey if bills pending in the Legislature are enacted into law. What decision you make, however, is subject to a lot of debate as whether which one is better for the environment. In what may be shaping up as a big battle in the fall legislative session, environmental groups and clean ocean advocates are pushing lawmakers to either ban single-use plastic bags or impose a fee on consumers who choose to opt for that choice. The issue emerged as a …
Thursday, August 16, 2012
In the wake of Christie signing new law, questions as to how evaluations and arbitrators will work - and who will pay for them.
Much of the attention on New Jersey’s new teacher tenure law signed by Gov. Chris Christie last week has been on its new rules regarding teacher tenure, its focus on student achievement and evaluations for judging teachers, and its streamlined legal proceedings for removing the weakest. Getting less press, however, have been some of the critical details that make up the bulk of the 18-page law, not to mention the 49 pages of proposed regulations put forward by the Christie administration last week concerning the teacher evaluation piece of it. Central to the new law -- the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey ACT (TEACH NJ) -- is an improved evaluation system for teachers, one that will be based on …
Saturday, August 11, 2012
With first public hearing set, Education Task Force begins study of NJ’s school funding formula.
It’s been quiet since they were first appointed, but Gov. Chris Christie’s Education Funding Task Force will make its first public appearance with a hearing next week in Fort Lee. The seven-member task force was created by executive order in March in the aftermath of Christie’s state budget proposal for fiscal 2013 with the task of studying the state’s school funding formula. It specifically was charged with studying how the state measures poverty as part of the formula by districts’ and schools’ enrollment of children in federal subsidized lunch programs. It is a critical -- and controversial -- topic given the heavier weight in funding for children from low-income families. It became especially charged last winter with allegations that …
Monday, August 6, 2012
TEACH-NJ is landmark legislation, but signing brings questions -- like who will be on hand?
More than a month after the Legislature approved the tenure reform bill without a single dissenting vote, Gov. Chris Christie will sign Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACH NJ) into law today. Christie's office announced the scheduled signing late yesterday, after weeks of speculation of when and even if he would sign the sweeping measure. He always indicated he would, but questions mounted as to whether he would be adding any new proposals. The signing will take place at the Von E. Mauger Middle School in Middesex at 10:50 a.m., following by a press conference. Christie also plans to meet with students beforehand. But even with the fundamental uncertainty resolved, that doesn’t end all the …
Monday, July 16, 2012
Quirk in filing deadlines or reluctance to share the ballot with partisan races?
When the Legislature last year allowed school elections to move to November, one of the worries was that people would be reluctant to run for the typically nonpartisan jobs on the same ballot as partisan races like the presidency. Now that some early results are in, it looks as if a few of those fears may have been realized -- although not to the degree expected. In fact, the slight dip may have more to do with a quirk in the filing deadlines than anything else. Nearly 1,900 candidates filed by June 5 for the November races in a total of 468 districts, representing about 1.2 candidates for every open seat, according to the New Jersey School Boards Association. That was down from a ratio of nearly 1.4 candidates for each open seat in 2011, …
Saturday, July 14, 2012
Rutgers seminar helps officials understand New Jersey's economic problems, but offers little in the way of fixes -- quick or otherwise.
New Jersey has fared worse than the country at large during the three-year economic recovery, a trend not expected to change anytime soon, making the future challenging for municipal governments. That’s the message municipal officials heard yesterday at a forum sponsored by the New Jersey State League of Municipalities Educational Foundation. The half-day seminar, held at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Public Policy at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, was designed to help officials understand the economic landscape and consider options for dealing with slow growth. But speakers offered more bad news than solutions. "More people in New Jersey believe in the tooth fairy than that the economic recovery exists," said James Hughes, dean …
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Governor downplays what didn't go his way, teacher seniority and closer ties to student test scores
Gov. Chris Christie is sounding more and more like a man who will sign New Jersey’s tenure reform bill. A week after it landed on his desk, however, the questions remain when and with what adds he may have. The governor’s office has been quiet on what happens next to the bill that unanimously passed both the Senate and the Assembly in the waning days of June, his staff only saying he continues to review it. But few doubt he’ll sign it, especially since the governor himself has been touting the bill as a model of bipartisanship, most recently before a national audience on Monday at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. “For the first time in 100 years, we have reform to our teacher tenure laws,” he said at the liberal-leaning think …
Monday, July 9, 2012
Ambitious and strict, the state's new anti-bullying law is also out of funds.
The deal was announced in the governor’s office in early March, a bipartisan agreement to save New Jersey’s anti-bullying law with an infusion of cash and a promise to take a harder look at ways the state can support school districts. Four months later, the cash for last year has been spent, none is appropriated for the next, and the task force created to examine the law and its impact is still to meet. Such has been the checkered history of the new law, considered one of the toughest in the country for its strict rules to investigate and closely track accusations of bullying. But from the start, some schools have bristled at several of the requirements, with a few bringing a legal challenge against the state claiming that it was creating …
Monday, June 25, 2012
One-shot revenues, tax cuts, pension debt, and borrowing blow $2.5 billion hole in FY2014 budget.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Article written by Mark J. Magyar for NJSpotlight.com. If the Legislature approves the proposed $31.7 billion FY13 budget and the tax cut that Gov. Chris Christie is demanding, New Jersey will face a built-in $2.5 billion hole in the following year’s FY14 budget – a gap almost twice as large as the combined increase in income, sales, and corporate taxes that Christie is projecting for the year ahead, a NJ Spotlight analysis shows. Even if the Democratic-controlled Legislature decides next year that the state cannot afford the controversial tax cut, the state would still need to come up with $2 billion in revenue growth in Fiscal Year 2014 just to cover the required increases in pension costs, transportation borrowing and already-approved …
Friday, June 22, 2012
Three-judge panel affirms 1999 BPU decision to award utility so-called stranded costs
A state appellate court yesterday rejected attempts to recover more than $2.9 billion in costs customers paid Public Service Electric & Gas in a case stemming from the deregulation of the energy industry. According to a unanimous ruling by the three-judge panel, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities acted properly to dismiss a petition seeking to recover so-called stranded costs from the state’s largest utility, which were believed to be incurred by the breakup of its monopoly. The 19-page ruling hardly was surprising, given that courts, including the New Jersey Supreme Court, have repeatedly upheld the state agency’s original order in 1999 allowing the utility to recover from ratepayers the costs for losing its monopoly and having to …