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Archive for the ‘Dick Codey’ Category

Wow. What a political football this BPU thing is fast becoming.

As you now know there is a plan to move the Board of Public Utilities to Trenton  ( see earlier post…”Hey, Remember the BPU?” ).

The Christie Administration’s aim is save money. The Gateway Center in Newark ( where the BPU is currently housed ) is prime real estate. And by “prime” I mean…you guessed it – “expensive.”

In addition Republicans have approached me and pointed out that Democrats increased the staff by roughly 50 employees a few years ago during the McGreevey Administration ( you guys remember McGreevey, right??? Because I think by now the good people of Alpha Centauri know who he is ). Anyway, as it was told to me, the new hires were mostly “political hacks” from the McGreevey campaign who needed patronage jobs. Moreover the ( high rent ) office space was expanded to accommodate 350 employees. And as we now know , obviously all those folks were not needed to make the BPU run right since there are 100 fewer people there today. Here is that authentic 2003 memo asking for the increase in Full Time Employees.

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Democrats from that era counter that the McGreevey transition reports spelled out a need to hire more people since the drop-off rate on customer service lines was 40% – people were waiting too long to get to an operator, and more workers were needed to build the clean energy program which had been spelled out in state mandates.

Anyway, what is even more interesting is the political intrigue. Last time there was an attempt to move the BPU outta Newark, Mayor Sharpe James and Dick Codey jumped all over it and said ‘no way.’ The union leaders in this latest round reached out to Mayor Cory Booker this Spring and were told he is a bit tied up with the election. Fair enough, although Booker did seem to have time right after the election to fly to LA and do Bill Maher’s show…I’m just sayin’.

Anyway, the Mayor ( who was recently criticized for refusing to speak out against Christie cuts and the Wallace flap ) did issue the following statement through his spokeswoman:

“Newark has long been the BPU’s home and the headquarters location for key New Jersey utilities. During these tough economic times, we understand that the BPU’s goal is to reduce costs. We’re hoping that the BPU will consider more affordable office space options right here in Newark before they move to another town in search of savings. We look forward to exploring the Newark-based options with the BPU and the state.”

So, with that…I pose this hypothetical question: If cost savings can be found within the city, does the board really need to move out of Newark?

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It’s that time of the year again. The New Jersey Press Association presents the Legislative Correspondent’s Club annual show.

Basically, the state’s  ( now dwindling ) press corps performs a series of skits and songs that mock the political and media elite of the Garden State. It is often quite funny replete with costumes, wigs and other flamboyant accessories that would make even Elton John blush.

As for my role…well, I am El Presidente this year. That means I don’t actually have to sing ( which is not my strong suit ). I have to deliver the introductory speech which is supposed to be funny and slightly mean spirited. Well, I don’t know how funny it shall be, although I’m working on it. It will most certainly be biting, and of course familiar.

Then of course, after the show is over, people get to stand around and hang out in a cocktail party-type atmosphere which is even more fun. And the whole evening is off the record. So, if you are remotely interested, I urge you to purchase tickets. Proceeds go to charity.

Contact Peg Stephan 609-406-0600 ext. 14. or pastephan@njpa.org

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“The system worked.”

Those words by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano raised more than a few eyebrows shortly after a Nigerian man tried to take down an airplane over Detroit on Christmas day.

Dick Codey took it upon himself to call for the Secretary’s resignation. He did so with a letter that he signed “Acting Governor, Dick Codey” since he was serving in that capacity last week while Governor Corzine was away.

Let me begin by saying he may very well be right. “The system worked,” is not exactly what a frightened public wanted to hear from the President’s Cabinet Officer charged with our safety so soon after an incident. But when Codey said what he said as Acting Governor it rubbed some people the wrong way.

Governor Corzine was said to be “appalled.” He was trying to contact Napolitano by phone ( although I hear she is a tad busy ), so now the office of the actual Governor is drafting a letter of apology. Napolitano’s staff was blindsided by the letter, and immediately reached out to their contacts in New Jersey to ask about it.

Another person who was reportedly “livid” was Richard Canas who heads the NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. He too knew nothing about Codey’s letter, described as a “breach”, until he heard from the Secretary’s office.

Canas and Napolitano go back 20 years. He was the FBI’s Special Agent in Charge for Arizona while The Secretary served as Attorney General there and then Governor. So a letter like that on behalf of the Governor of New Jersey which by extension represents the cabinet level offices and the people of New Jersey, probably didn’t sit well with the local leaders here.  Especially someone like Canas who goes way back with the Secretary.

Morever, critics say there are practical considerations. New Jersey shared in nearly $80 million worth of federal homeland security grants this year. Money that is very much needed ( because as we saw on Christmas day…the threat is still out there ). Why offend the Secretary? She is certainly not going to step down because the Acting Governor of New Jersey told her to.

Finally, should New Jersey’s Acting Governor be piling on a Democratic President’s Administration? Most people I spoke with said no. Sure, Obama took a black eye on this one…but he doesn’t need an additional  kick in the face from a state that voted overwhelmingly for him in 2008. And the same logic applies here: NJ is going to need the Federal Government these next few years when it comes time to dole out resources.

Hence the letter.

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It’s like one of those movies…just when you think the protagonist has escaped danger, a new threat emerges. Sometimes, the danger is not “new” at all, but just the same old threat which never really went away.

For weeks, “uncertainty about its fate” has been the easiest way to describe gay marriage legislation. As the obituaries were being written yet again this week, Senate President Dick Codey announces that he will post the bill for a full Senate vote on January 7th.

What has changed since the bill’s chief sponsors asked the Senate not to vote on it last month because there weren’t enough votes to get it passed? It’s hard to say. Perhaps nothing. Although incoming Senate President Stephen Sweeney left the door slightly ajar when Claire Heininger of the Star-Ledger and I grabbed him after Dana Redd’s swearing in ceremony Tuesday afternoon in Camden.

Sweeney  ( who had been on stage for roughly two hours during the Redd ceremony ) seemed slightly caught off guard when we told him that Codey had made the announcement via press release slightly after 2 pm. He did however, refer to gay marriage as a “civil rights issue,” but declined to say how he would vote. Opponents of the bill once seemed pretty sure that Sweeney was in their camp…and perhaps he still is. Sweeney went on to say that many Democrats are struggling with this one. true dat.

Codey, does not seem real intent on easing that suffering. His surprise announcement puts a lot of conservative Democrats in a position they were hoping not to be in. This, as the progressive wing of the party threatens to unseat them for voting “no.”

Coupla points here…first of all, the right wing of the Republican party has been playing this game for years. Particularly at the national level. It’s not that they vote Democrat when they don’t get what they want, it’s that they either support a primary challenger or simply don’t vote on election day. In fact, it was the conservative wing of the party here in NJ that  pressured Repubs who who were leaning towards voting for gay marriage. But the left wing of the Dem party often seems less inclined to play that kind of hard ball. They are threatening to do so now, and it sounds like they are serious. Can they muster enough strength to force some hands? That remains to be seen in the next few election cycles.

Also coming into play here is the Sweeney-Codey struggle from this past Fall ( see earlier posts ).

Finally, There was another fairly significant development in the last few days. 120 clergy members from across the state representing 19 different faiths and denominations sent a letter to Codey, Roberts and Corzine urging a vote on gay marriage. Among the signatories was Chuck Rush, Corzine’s personal pastor  from Summit.

Religious leaders – notably Catholic Bishops and Hasidic Rabbis have come out strongly against gay marriage. But it’s now at least a toss up over whether more clergy support this bill than oppose it here in NJ.

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It’s kinda the final piece of the puzzle for the Democrats. Who will succeed Joe Cryan as Chairman of the Democratic State Committee in January. Cryan will likely have his hands full as Majority Leader and all signs point to someone new taking over what many have described as a “thankless job.”

There are a 113 seats on the committee although there are only 110 votes since there are some vacancies. Also, some members have only half votes ( don’t ask ).

We have already heard of two potential candidates – Assemblyman John Wisniewski from Middlesex who currently chairs Transportation and Assembywoman Nellie Pou from Paterson ( who is apparently not interested in primary-ing Senator John Girgenti despite threats from the left because he voted against gay marriage on Senate Judiciary December 7 ).

But here is a radical idea – will Codey make a bid for the Chairmanship? There are a lot reasons why this theory makes sense including the obvious one that Codey wouldn’t simply be slipping back into a 1 of 23 roll within the party’s Senate majority. He would be taking the reigns of an organization that helps call the shots for the party particularly during campaign season. And he will most certainly be playing an out-sized role in redrawing the map after the 2010 census.

But like with many things, it might come down to dollars. ( Remember HL Mencken’s famous line – “Anytime somebody tells you it’s not about the money…it’s about the money.” ) Both Pou and Wisniewski had Candidate Committees, fundraising arms, they established to run for Assembly. Pou hasn’t spent all of it, and the cash on hand in that account is said to be just south of $200,000 ( I don’t have an exact figure because a certain ELEC website has been down ). Wisniewski’s comparable committee had $360,304.68, according to the 20-day post election filing. The point however is not who has more between these two candidates. Because if they were to transfer those dollars to the DSC and give the organization a welcomed cash infusion they would be limited to $25,000 each. Those are the rules, folks…I don’t make ’em.

Codey on the other hand currently holds the keys to the Senate Democratic Majority Legislative Leadership PAC. And guess how much was in there as of October 15 ( the last filing )??? $967,869.51. That’s a lot-o-cash. And guess what the limit is on contributions to the DSC. You guessed it – NONE.

So, here it is. Codey could take over the DSC Chairmanship and transfer nearly a million over. As of Ocober 15 the DSC account had $373,882.54 and no doubt it was depleted further since the election was 18 days after that filing. So, the long and short of it is nearly a million bucks would make Codey a very attractive partner for the DSC. In other words, Codey would still be sought after and needed by people, including those who may have spurned him.

Will he do it???? Hard to say. But armed with all that, it might be hard for anyone to say no if he wants to.

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We all believe in second and third acts, and when it comes to the fate of legislation it can sometimes be a bit of a bumpy ride. Just as opponents appeared to have won the debate over gay marriage which would have prevented the bill from even coming up for a vote, it looks now as though the proponents of gay marriage will indeed get their day. Maybe.

An insider tells me that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo has sent a draft schedule to the Senate President’s office for next Monday which includes the bill S1967. That is the bill legalizing marriage between same sex couples in New Jersey. The Senate President must approve the bills that will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 7th. So for now, it is up to Dick Codey. Should he greenlight it, that bill will finally get it’s long awaited hearing.

This is tricky for some lawmakers who were more than happy to see it die from lack of oxygen. However, some advocates would like to know which legislators may have been talking outta both sides of their mouths on this one – telling the gay rights groups they would vote for it, while promising the church they would not. Once that vote is on the record it will be a day a reckoning as they say in the game of Life ( I mean that literally…”Life” is a board game ).

The word is that the Assembly would not take up it’s version of the bill without the Senate going first. However, the evolving nature of this emotional legislation comes as more than 200 people sign a petition asking for a hearing. Who signed it? certainly some big names you’ve heard of like Congressmen Frank Pallone and Steve Rothman, but also Democratic staffers who have worked in both politics and government. These are the people who are household names to insiders but are not neccesarily well known outside the State House. They are however, the backbone and dare I even say the soul of the Democratic party.

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There are 17 Republicans in the state senate, and it takes 21 votes to become Senate President. Republicans have said on the record that they will be voting unanimously as a bloc come January. But it’s what Repubs and insiders are willing to entertain privately that’s even more interesting.

Apparently, last week the Codey camp did reach out to Republican leader Tom Kean about a power sharing arrangement that would retain Codey as Prez. On the table were committee chairmanships ( not co-chairmanships but full chairs ) of about half the Senate’s committees. One insider said it would actually be more like a 60-40 split favoring the Dems.

Republicans are entertaining the offer. Of course they are…why wouldn’t they??!! But insiders say there is some resistance to getting into bed with Codey. Years of being in the minority under his reign have been tough and painful for the Repubs, and even left a bitter taste that some will not soon forget. There is even some distrust about whether Codey would uphold his end of the bargain.

That said, this is not about making friends. It’s about the Republicans doing what they can to ensure that some of their legislative priorities get addressed.

There is also some disagreement ( i know, shocker ) within the Republican party about how to proceed in this tricky environment. Some of the older guys ( who have memories of the way we were ) are angling to make a deal, even if it’s with Codey that would once again return them to the table. Some of the younger guys, particularly those who joined the club in 2007, are a bit more wary of making such a deal, but are certainly willing to entertain the possibility.

So, here is the really radical proposal. What if the Democrats can’t get it together. Meaning a handful of  Senators are unhappy enough at the chasm within their own party that they are willing to throw the chamber to a bi-partisan split. that means a consensus candidate could emerge along the lines of Tom Kean.

Obviously, this is not a likely scenario, but you have some very powerful forces within the Democratic party pulling people from both ends. Kean ( assuming he were ready to deal ) might look like a sane alternative. Remember…if the Repubs can deliver a unified 17 votes, that could be the difference. It’s possible that not even Sweeney could deliver that many.

So, could Kean step in and fill the void?? That would be something, wouldn’t it?

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