There’s a lot to report today, folks.
- Environmental protection commissioner Lisa Jackson yesterday revealed plans to do a complete overhaul of Our Fair State’s $60 million cleanup program. Changes will include prioritizing the sites for cleanup, starting a licensing program for environmental consultants, and adopting programs with incentives for cleaning up sites quickly. The department is trying to fix the system after the high-profile closing of a daycare in Gloucester County which was located on contaminated soil.
- Children and Families Commissioner Kevin Ryan reported to the Assembly Human Services Committee yesterday that new child welfare workers are getting their training but re-training existing workers is taking longer. Also, the number of kids in foster care who receive physical and psychological examinations has increased, but an overhaul of the health care system for foster children is needed and will be proposed.
- As expected, the State Senate unanimously approved Associate Justice James Zazzali as Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court yesterday, and Judge Helen Hoens was approved to fill the associate position.
- State Senator Ellen Karcher’s bill to curb political contributions from redevelopment contractors and professionals has received bipartisan support. Even with such support the bill may not pass, because of other ethics reform legislation being proposed.
- State Senator Stephen Sweeney has been under fire from labor groups about his proposal to cut the benefits and pay of unionized state workers. Sweeney met with the president of the AFL-CIO earlier this month and has been defending his proposals.
- The Legislative ethics panel met yesterday, selecting Raymond Bramucci as chairman. The panel put off a decision to investigate Wayne Bryant and his “job” at UMDNJ, citing two ongoing criminal investigations by the US and State Attorneys’ General offices.
- Rutgers announced yesterday the formation of the Rutgers Energy Institute, which will bring together all energy-focused projects under one banner. The Institute’s long-term goal is to help break American dependence on fossil fuels, particularly those from foreign sources.
- Speaking of alternative power sources, more residents of Our Fair State favor the use of offshore wind power than oppose them, and even more are in favor if the turbines are further away. Woo-hoo!
- Viola Thomas-Hughes is feeling little support in her run against Frank LoBiondo. Until last week, she had received no financial support, from Dem organizations in Gloucester and Cumberland counties. In the last week Cape May Democrats and Cumberland County Dem organization have donated, with the Gloucester County Dems promising some as well. Visit her site if you can help, too.
- New Jersey is a tough place for military recruiters; only Connecticut and Rhode Island have lower recruiting percentages. Officials and researchers blame the lack of interaction between military folks and civilians in Our Fair State, while some recruiters directly blame the Iraq war.
Open Thread: What’s on your mind today, Blue Jersey?