Weekly Newswatch – Sept. 24, 2010

Week in Review

$100 Million Donation

Governor Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker will make a surprise appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show to announce an unprecedented restructuring of Newark’s school system and the gift of $100 million from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Christie and Booker will proclaim that the long-troubled Newark schools, which have been under state control for 15 years, are going to be placed under Booker’s authority. Together, Booker and the school system will embark on a massive program of educational change long opposed by teachers unions. It will include an expansion of charter schools, new achievement standards and methods for judging which schools and teachers are effective, two officials with direct knowledge of the plan told The Star-Ledger.

NJN’s Future

Lawmakers held the last of three public meetings of the bipartisan Legislative Task Force on Public Broadcasting to hear from invited speakers and the public on the future of New Jersey Network Public Television and Radio (NJN). The final report will be submitted to the Governor and the Legislature by October 15th.

NJN Bill by Senator Kyrillos

Senator Joe Kyrillos, the ranking Republican member on the Senate Economic Growth Committee, introduced legislation that would transform The New Jersey Network (NJN) from a publicly supported television and radio network into an independent, not-for-profit entity.

ARC Tunnel Project Suspension

The Assembly Transportation, Public Works, and Independent Authorities Committee met to hear testimony from Jim Weinstein, the Executive Director of NJ Transit, on the thirty day suspension and review of the ARC tunnel project. Mr. Weinstein says that the audit, which started September 10th, is to review costs and possible project alternatives; he testified that the idea of using some of the funding to furnish the Transportation Trust Fund has been on the table, although no decisions have been made to date. Mr. Weinstein also stressed that he does not believe Governor Christie has changed in his commitment to the project.

Family Planning Override

An attempt to override Governor Chris Christie’s veto of $7.5 million in family planning funds was defeated in the state Senate, but the Democrats behind the effort vowed to fight on for pared down funding for the program.

Subpoena Power

The Senate did not vote on Senator Barbara Buono’s Resolution granting subpoena power for the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee that was designated for investigating New Jersey’s failure to obtain Federal Race to the Top funding. The Christie administration agreed to turn over previously requested documents.

State Auditor

S1145 a bill which revises and expands duties and responsibilities of State Auditor in performance of certain audits and reviews passed out of the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation.

Week Ahead

Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Cmte.

This week The Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee received testimony on the State’s education mandates. Chairman McKeon noted that the Committee will meet Monday, September 27, 2010 at 10am to take action on several pieces of legislation that will revamp the current commission on mandates. Further, the Committee will discuss the issue of consolidation at the conclusion of next week’s meeting, which is also a part of the Committee’s charge from the Speaker.