** It is Conference Season! The Jaffe Briefing is Away Beginning Monday, May 15, Returning Tuesday, May 30**
OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY
TRENTON - So, here's the way Gov. Chris Christie is sidestepping the state Legislature to fund a $300 million (or much more) renovation of the Statehouse: Use an unelected, obscure body known as the "State Capitol Joint Management Commission" to lease the Statehouse to the state Economic Development Authority (EDA) for $1. Then, the EDA, also comprised of unelected members, subleases it back to the commission. The state's rent payments to the EDA then pays for the project work, NJ.com reports. See? No Legislature. Yet hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Sheer genius. And an added perk for Christie: The next governor - likely a Democrat - is booted from the distinguished governor's office on the ground floor of the Statehouse, as the renovation work drags on.
TRENTON - Another interesting concept: Use state proceeds from gambling to fund other state gambling. Gov. Chris Christie wants to shift the state lottery's revenue to shore up the state's pension fund for teachers, cops and firefighters, the Press of AC reports. Under the plan, it would immediately reduce the unfunded obligations by $13.5 billion and provide $37 billion over 30 years. Simple, right? Well, uh, no. Lottery revenue currently funds stuff like: The School Nutrition Program, Tuition Aid Grants, Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship (NJ Stars), the Marie H. Katzenbach School for the Deaf, centers for developmentally disabled, state psychiatric hospitals and homes for New Jersey's disabled soldiers. Under the plan, those programs, apparently and hopefully, will be funded in the state budget.
ON THE RAILS - Gov. Chris Christie and NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo don't seem to agree on much, but both think it's time for a professional, private operator to take over NY Penn Station, the nation's busiest rail station. That's because of all these recent train derailments, power failures, and signal issues delays and all the other issues driving commuters crazy. The dynamic duo of governors is telling Amtrak to find a private operator and - oh, by the way - they also want the right to approve whoever that may be.
NEWARK - Dozens of residents have been kicked out of a Clinton Avenue apartment building because the property owner refused to pay $17,000 or so in water bills. The good news is that these people no longer have to live in a crappy building with raw waste in the basement, awful plumbing and a bunch of other gross violations. WNBC reports the city is helping to find some decent, safe place for the people who actually paid rent. There were also plenty of squatters, who have probably already snuck back in. The landlord is set to explain himself in court on May 17.
PERTH AMBOY - Welcome home, Mayor Joe Vas. The former mayor maxed out his jail sentence yesterday, after pleading guilty in 2011 to official misconduct, theft and money laundering, the Home News Tribune reports. Prosecutors said Vas and an aide solicited an illegal payment from a city vendor and used straw donors to fund Vas' political campaign.
IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS
IN COURT - It's splitsville for two personal injury law partners whose catchy commercial jingle - "Don't Wait, Call 8" - made them household names. That's right. Cellino & Barnes are heading for "a business divorce," WGRZ-TV reports. Ross M. Cellino Jr. has filed court papers in Upstate New York to dissolve the firm he's shared for three decades with Stephen Barnes. The break-up isn't exactly amicable. Barnes is demanding a May 19 court hearing to dispute splitting up the firm's assets. The bigger question: Who gets custody rights to that jingle?
ON THE AIRWAVES - President Trump has just given Stephen Colbert a huge gift: Commenting on his blistering monologue from last week, Trump called the late night host a "no-talent guy" who has "nothing funny" to say and what he does say is "filthy." Trump told TIME: "The guy was dying. By the way they were going to take him off television, then he started attacking me and he started doing better. But his show was dying." (We call the slam Trump's "Schwarzenegger Maneuver.") Colbert's likely response: "Thank you, Mr. President, for another week of nightly material."
THIS DAY IN HISTORY
It was this day in 1963 that Bob Dylan walked off the set of the highest-ranking show, The Ed Sullivan Show, when network censors rejected the song he planned on performing, "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues." It mocks the ultra-conservative John Birch Society and its tendency to see Communists lurking behind every tree.
WORD OF THE DAY
Grok - [GRAHK] - verb
Definition: to understand profoundly and intuitively
Example: I still must grok the role of a minivan owner.
WEATHER IN A WORD
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