Deal with unions doesn’t end health benefits fight

Good Thursday morning!

As late as yesterday afternoon, it appeared protests by the public labor unions against state health insurance rate increases had failed. The State Health Benefits Commission signed off on the hikes, seemingly putting an end to the matter.

Then, not much later, several state workers unionsannounced a deal with the Murphy administration in which tens of thousands of workers would only see a 3 percent increase, as opposed to the planned 18 percent — with the state taking on the financial burden for the difference. As part of the deal, state workers on the plan will pay more for urgent care and specialist visits, which lowered the overall rate hikes by a little under 1 percent.

But that deal applies only to state workers that negotiate with the executive branch — not a local workers — and the New Jersey Association of Counties is recommending that their members leave the State Health Benefits Plan if possible.

“It’s disheartening to see that the administration is just willing to throw half the people in the state health benefits [program] back to the wolves and let us negotiate with the towns. Some of these members are looking at $2,000 to $2,500 increases,” NJ PBA President Pat Colligan told Daniel Han, adding that local governments should leave the program. “These are insane increases.”

And the deal doesn’t include teachers, who are facing a recommended 15 percent rate hike for their health insurance. So this fight likely isn’t over, and expect some blow back from local governments.


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HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Former Assemblymember Valerie Vainieri Huttle, ILA’s Michael McCarthy, Delran Councilmember Tyler Burrell, Jasey COS Mary Theroux

WHERE’S MURPHY? In Newark’s Branch Brook Park for an announcement

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Here, the danger posed by a plate of sizzling hot food was self-evident.” — A 2015 decision by Appellate Judges Douglas Fasciale, now a Supreme Court nominee, and Joseph Yannotti. They ruled against a customer who filed suit after claiming to have sustained burns while praying over a sizzling fajita platter.

MURPHY TOTALLY DOESN’T SOUND LIKE HE’S RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT — Murphy nominates Fasciale to fill seat on New Jersey Supreme Court, by POLITICO’s Matt Friedman: Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday nominated Appellate Judge Doug Fasciale, a Republican from Westfield, for a seven-year term on the New Jersey Supreme Court. Fasciale, 61, is already sitting on the state’s highest court in a temporary capacity, having been elevated earlier this month by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner to fill one of an unprecedented three vacancies … ‘We are seeing across the nation too many of our core democratic institutions losing credibility, and none have done more so more tragically than the United States Supreme Court,’ ’Murphy said. ‘When Americans see that something as random as that can have a major impact on our constitutional rights, they rightly sense that something is amiss. Well, here in New Jersey, I’m happy to say, we do things differently.’”

CURALEAF TO SPONSOR BUS ROUTE 420 — “BetMGM signs $3M deal to sponsor NJ Transit’s MetLife Stadium rail line,” by NJ Advance Media’s Larry Higgs: “Online sports betting giant BetMGM has signed an agreement with NJ Transit to get its message out to riders and sports fans, becoming the only corporate sponsor of a rail line in the nation. NJ Transit’s rail line to MetLife Stadium and the Meadowlands sports complex now carries the name of the Jersey City-based sports betting company under a three-year, $3 million deal announced in the Secaucus Junction rail station Wednesday. Signs were already up in the station with the new name BetMGM Meadowlands Rail Line, in addition to ads and massive banners for the company, including some ads on track level proclaiming the company as the official sports betting app of NJ Transit.”

CO-HUH? — “Towns across NJ are suing Murphy over affordable housing. Here’s why,” by The Record’s Ashley Balcerzak: “Mahwah, Montvale and 11 other municipalities spanning New Jersey have sued Gov. Phil Murphy, alleging he violated the Fair Housing Act and demanding the administration bring back the defunct Council on Affordable Housing, which they said would protect towns from ‘runaway development’ and speed creation of affordable units. But affordable housing advocates said it was odd for the towns to want to revive an entity that they often stonewalled, prompting lawsuits to get them to meet their housing obligations.”

UNWARRANTED — “Proposal to put open arrest warrants online sparks privacy, racism concerns,” by New Jersey Monitor’s Dana DiFilppo: “People would be able to check outstanding arrest warrants in a public database under a bill that has some criminal justice watchers worried about potential misuse. The bill, introduced by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), is intended to help people who aren’t aware they have an arrest warrant until a law enforcement officer arrests them. Legislators will consider it at a Thursday committee hearing. But some worry such a database would have unintended privacy implications, such as employers checking up on employees, landlords investigating tenants, and neighbors spying on each other. ‘This can even open the door for, in extreme cases, vigilantism,’ said Michael B. Mitchell Jr., assistant professor of African American studies and criminology at The College of New Jersey.”

THAT’S WHAT CAMPAIGN ACCOUNTS ARE FOR — “State Park police officer stole $160K from his own unions, AG says,” by NJ Advance Media’s S.P. Sullivan: “A state park police officer has been indicted on charges he raided the coffers of two unions he ran to fund plane tickets and lavish dinners in New York and Philadelphia, authorities said. Chris Smith, 48, is accused of stealing at least $160,000 from the unions over a seven-year period. That is more than double the $75,000 state prosecutors said he stole when he was charged in June 2021. He faces a single charge of theft by unlawful taking … Authorities say Smith, a Hope resident, was president of the New Jersey PBA Local 222 from 2012 to 2018 … During that period, prosecutors say, he used union bank cards to pay for his personal internet service and meals “at the now-shuttered 1930s-era speakeasy ‘21′ in Midtown Manhattan.””

—“Legislature’s return creates bill signing deadlines for Governor Murphy” 

— “N.J. is one of the last states to license police. Will it stop misconduct?

—Opinion: “People in New Jersey are losing their homes, and they can’t afford rent. They need relief

—”Sauickie will take Assembly seat on Thursday” 

AND IRAN, IRAN’S SO FAR AWAY — U.S. indicts Iranian hackers for attacks on critical infrastructure, including in New Jersey, by POLITICO’s Maggie Miller and Ry Rivard: The Justice Department on Wednesday announced charges against three Iranian individuals alleged to have launched cyberattacks against U.S. and global critical infrastructure. A senior Justice Department official told reporters that the individuals — Mansur Ahmadi, Ahmad Khatibi and Amir Hossein Nickaein — are alleged to have carried out attacks against hundreds of computers in both the United States, Russia, Israel, the United Kingdom and organizations in Iran beginning at least in October 2020. Groups impacted included health care, transportation and utility companies, along with a domestic violence shelter and state and county governments. … Victims in the U.S. listed in the indictment include an unnamed township and accounting firm in New Jersey.

RAIL STRIKE — Some Amtrak, commuter lines to shutter if freight rail network shuts down, by POLITICO’s Alex Daughtrey: Amtrak said Wednesday that it will shut down all long distance trains starting Thursday, and commuter rail lines around the country are bracing for their own potential shutdowns starting Friday if contentious negotiations between freight rail companies and their unions lead to a work stoppage … Philadelphia’s SEPTA network and New Jersey Transit confirmed that their commuter rail services will not be affected by a potential strike … ‘We have been working closely with Conrail and have assurances that they will have mitigation measures in place at the appropriate areas on the Raritan Valley Line and the Atlantic City Rail Line to ensure there are no impacts,’ NJ Transit said in a statement.”

CHRISTIE FINDS AN OPEN LANE— “Chris Christie is leaning into his antiabortion creds,” by The Washington Post’s Rachel Roubein: “In the months before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, prominent antiabortion leader Marjorie Dannenfelser started meeting with Republican governors to talk through how the aftermath of the court’s decision might play out. She was joined in many of those meetings by an unlikely ally: former New Jersey governor Chris Christie … His work with a leading antiabortion group could help Christie score points with social conservatives, who play a major role in Republican primary politics. … The pair spoke with at least eight Republican governors across the country in the months before the court struck down Roe to help prepare states to defend antiabortion laws already on the books, answer questions and discuss the impact of a potential ruling overturning the nearly half-century-old constitutional right to an abortion. Dannenfelser has spoken with many more on her own — at least 22 in total. Christie said in an interview last month that he hadn’t spoken with governors about abortion recently, but didn’t rule out getting involved in those discussions again.”

—“Gottheimer endorsed by several North Jersey Republicans” 

—“Court ruling may jeopardize preventive care” 

—“Rendo, ’17 Lt. governor nominee, backs DeSantis for president” 

—“Rematch in 9th District pits Pascrell against Prempeh,”


JERSEY CITY MAKE IT THEIRS —  State Board of Education votes to return full local control to Jersey City Public Schools, by POLITICO’s Carly Sitrin: The New Jersey State Board of Education on Wednesday voted unanimously to return Jersey City Public Schools to full local control after more than 30 years of state oversight. … The state assumed control of the Jersey City school district in 1989, making it the first district seized under the state’s takeover law. Newark, Paterson and Camden soon followed. In the past two years, both Newark and Paterson have been returned to local control, leaving Camden as the last district under state control.

MIDDLESEX COUNTY — “N.J. county settles case for $750K after woman says she was shackled during labor,” by NJ Advance Media’s Joe Atmonavage: “A lawsuit filed by a woman incarcerated at a New Jersey jail, who alleged authorities shackled her during her pregnancy and throughout labor and delivery, settled for $750,000 earlier this month, according to the woman’s attorneys. The settlement comes after the woman, identified as ‘Jane Doe,’ filed a federal lawsuit in July 2020. She alleged that while pregnant and incarcerated at Middlesex County Jail in 2018 on non-violent drug charges, county officers and supervisors routinely shackled her wrists, ankles, and waist during prenatal visits, as she was transported to the hospital and during labor and childbirth. The woman died during litigation from causes unrelated to the case, but her family continued the lawsuit, hoping to inform ‘pregnant women of their rights.’”

LOOKING FOR THE NEXT PHILIP ROTH… ERR, MAYBE NOT  — “America’s next great author starring Newark, NJ,” by Arielle Eckstut for The Star-Ledger: “After spending over 30 years as an agent and writer in the book publishing business, I co-created a reality TV show called America’s Next Great Author. Instead of filming it in Manhattan, the heart of the book business, my partners and I chose to film the pilot for the show in Newark. Just twenty minutes from the four biggest publishers in the United States, it might as well be a million miles away from the gatekeepers to big book deals. ‘Why Newark?’ many of our writing and publishing friends have asked. The answer is simple. Our mission for the show is to find great writers who aren’t normally given a seat at the publishing table.”

WHY WOULDN’T YOU TRUST A JACKAL?  — “With NJ Jackals coming, Paterson board of education seeks answers about Hinchliffe plan,” by The Paterson Press’ Joe Malinconico: “The president of the Paterson school board — which owns Hinchliffe Stadium — said he deliberately stayed away from Wednesday’s news conference about the New Jersey Jackals’ plans to make the historic ballpark their new home. Board president Kenneth Simmons said he opted not to attend the event because of his uncertainty over how the Jackals’ arrival would affect the district’s access to the stadium for local high school sports. ‘We don’t have enough details yet,’ Simmons said in a phone interview immediately after the ceremony. Paterson Schools Superintendent Eileen Shafer also did not attend the news conference … On Tuesday, Shafer’s spokesman, Paul Brubaker, issued a statement saying the developers rebuilding the stadium made ‘design alterations’ to accommodate a minor league baseball team. ‘Clearly, the leaders of the stadium’s renovation have their own priorities and they do not include the interests of the students and families we serve,’ read the statement.”

—“Hamilton teacher charged for ‘inappropriate’ relationship released with conditions” 

—“[Phillipsburg] to enforce 10 o’clock curfew for kids under 18 with ‘zero tolerance policy’” 

—“Slow down! Hoboken’s 20 mph speed limit now in effect” 

JULIO GOES DOWN TO THE SCHOOLYARD — “Retired judge Mendez joins Stockton’s Hughes Center as contributing analyst,” by The Press of Atlantic City’s Eric Conklin: “Retired Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez has joined the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University as a senior contributing analyst. Mendez will produce written analyses and columns on important issues, according to a news release from the school. Those pieces will be published online and be offered to New Jersey news outlets. He also will lead discussions with students of all majors and mentor those studying pre-law and interested in a legal career”

—“[FrancisMedical Center in Trenton] to close under proposed deal. Some services would move to another medical center” 

—“Stockton to unveil South Jersey Holocaust survivors archive” 

—“Five takeaways from the 2022 Jersey Shore summer season” 

—“Husband and wife bosses of Moorestown pharmaceutical tech firm resign under pressure” 

—“Survey finds North Jersey Catholics back female priests, LGBTQ rights, more diversity