Gopal gets a super PAC

Presented by AARP New Jersey

Good Wednesday morning!

You’ve probably heard of GOPAC. Now, there’s GOPALPAC.

Well, not exactly. Kevin Starkey, a Democratic lawyer from Brielle, didn’t consult me on the name when he decided to start a super PAC that I’m told is designed to help his friend, state Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth). It’s called NJ Grassroots Coalition. Based on the 2021 election, which he won by about four points but his Assembly running mates lost, Gopal is vulnerable in 2023.

“I know that there are folks out there who like the work that I’m doing and if they want to help, they can,” Gopal told me. “But I have no involvement in any of those entities out there.”

Gopal now joins a long list of New Jersey politicians supported by a super PAC that they (wink, wink) have nothing at all to do with. But it’s not purely about preservation. As is usually the case with super PACs, the group’s filing with the FEC reveals virtually nothing about it. But people I spoke to in the general region already knew about it. And they said the effort is not just about helping Gopal get reelected, but about also helping with any future ambitions he has. Like a run for governor in 2025, maybe? I mean, everyone else is running, so why not him?


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WHERE’S MURPHY? In Trenton for a “major announcement” at 2:45 p.m., presumably the nomination of Judge Doug Fasciale to the Supreme Court

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Tom is a fierce defender of the sanctity of life, fighting every step of the way to protect the unborn from egregious abortion laws proposed in New Jersey, and will continue to do so in Congress.” — A passage from Republican congressional candidate Tom Kean’s campaign website left over from the primary that was recently highlighted by U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski to challenge Kean’s claim that he supports abortion rights.


THE SHBP HITS THE FAN — Unions rally ahead of SHBP Commission meeting to protest proposed health insurance rate hikes, by POLITICO’s Daniel Han: Unions representing hundreds of thousands of public sector workers and retirees rallied at the Statehouse on Tuesday to protest proposed rate increases for public workers' health insurance on the State Health Benefits Program, reiterating their calls that Wednesday's vote on the plan tp be delayed. “There's no reason to rush this vote,” Jim McAsey, a Communications Workers of America official who serves on the committee that approves changes, said during the rally. “Give us time to work out an agreement. It makes no sense to rush this process.” The rates for health insurance on the SHBP are expected to increase by around 20 percent for active state and local workers; some retirees could see increases of around 13 percent. School employees, who are under a separate plan, are could see increases of around 15 percent.

BAG MEDICINE — “N.J. weighs bringing back paper bags as unwanted reusable bags pile up,” by NJ Advance Media’s Steven Rodas: “[M]any Garden State residents … since May 4 are finding they have a glut of reusable bags — either from shopping in-person or online orders — that they don’t quite know what to do with … New Jersey’s law bars grocery stores in the state from using any kind of single-use bags, be it paper or plastic … businesses like Wegmans, Kings, Aldi, Key Foods, and Save A Lot — package online orders in a fresh set of reusable bags every time, either providing them at no cost or charging for them with each order. ‘The only glitch so far that we’ve had (during the ban) is the fact that the home delivery of groceries has been interpreted to mean you have to do it in a reusable bag and what’s happening is the number of these bags are accumulating with customers,’ state Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, co-sponsor of the bill to ban plastic bags, said over the phone. ‘We know it’s a problem. We agree it’s a problem.’ Smith said a solution could be to amend the law to allow grocery delivery services in New Jersey to use paper bags or cardboard boxes for online orders … Smith, chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, told NJ Advance Media that a bill will likely soon be introduced to address the issue. “

—“These charities want your mountain of clean, reusable grocery bags

UI-BER — “Uber pays $100 million resolving New Jersey driver status claims,” by Bloomberg Law’s Chris Marr: “Uber Technologies Inc. paid over $100 million to New Jersey to resolve allegations of misclassifying its drivers and failing to pay unemployment insurance taxes, the state’s labor department said Tuesday morning. The payment is a fraction of the more than $600 million in assessments levied against Uber and its New Jersey subsidiary Rasier LLC that Bloomberg Law first reported in 2019. The department said Tuesday that [the] initial figure was a rough estimate based on incomplete information. But the $100 million figure is still the largest ever back payment into the state’s UI fund, the department said in its announcement … The deal doesn’t require Uber to change the way it classifies its drivers or to begin paying into the state’s UI trust fund going forward. The payment covers unemployment taxes for nearly 300,000 drivers for the years 2014 to 2018 for Uber and a subsidiary Rasier LLC. Although not previously made public, the state initially assessed more than $1 billion against the companies”

HOUSING — “Cranford joins 12 towns in affordable housing lawsuit against Murphy,” by Patch’s Remy Samuels: “The Township of Cranford, as well as 12 other New Jersey municipalities, have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Phil Murphy for "violating the Fair Housing Act." The aim of the lawsuit is to compel the governor to reconstitute New Jersey's Council on Affordable Housing (COAH). According to the lawsuit, the towns argue that the Murphy administration has failed to appoint members to the COAH Board, which is in violation of the Fair Housing Act. As a result, Cranford’s and New Jersey’s residents, including the very families who need affordable housing, have been left at the mercy of an over-burdened court system that real estate developers exploit to push through large over-sized projects’ a press release by Mayor Kathleen Miller Prunty states.”

A JOB SHE’S SUITED FOR IN TERMS OF PHILOSOPHY — “Education advocate returns to N.J. to fight for all students,” by NJ Advance Media’s Tina Kelly: “JerseyCAN, a statewide student advocacy nonprofit, announced Tuesday that Paula White is its new executive director. The group, based in Cranford, trains parents in advocating for students, trains teachers in public policy, and produces research reports on topics such as instruction, the educator workforce, and school facilities … In 2018 the New Jersey Board of Education confirmed White to be the assistant commissioner of education. The job was rescinded hours later, in a move that sparked speculation around possible teachers union opposition to White’s work with Democrats for Education Reform, a group that supports public school choice, including charter schools. Gov. Phil Murphy later said the union had not asked him to dismiss White and that she was ‘not suited for the job in terms of philosophy.’ The Governor’s office declined to comment Monday on White’s new job.”

SCHOOL FORFEITS CHANCE AT MONEY FOR USING ‘RIGHT-SIZING’ JARGON — “Financially stressed NJCU needs state money now to avoid running out of cash, CFO says,” by The Jersey Journal’s Joshua Rosario: “Leaders at cash-strapped New Jersey City University painted a grim financial picture Monday when they provided details of a ‘right-sizing’ plan that includes asking for all its state budget funding up front and an exit from the Fort Monmouth campus. School officials, speaking at the regular Board of Trustees meeting, also said part of the second phase of the austerity plan entails asking the state for an addition $35 million in American Rescue Plan funding, on top of the $10 million it has requested in additional state aid”

STILL SMOKING —“Panel siscussion on Atlantic City casino smoking Is scrapped,” by The AP’s Wayne Parry: “Whether casinos should continue to allow smoking is a contentious issue in numerous states, particularly New Jersey, where the governor and more than half the state Legislature supports a bill to ban indoor smoking in gambling halls. now-cancelled discussion between a casino executive and smoking foes was shaping up to be a highlight of a major gambling conference later this month in Atlantic City, and would've been the first detailed public airing of the issue. But the casino executive, Resorts Casino President Mark Giannantonio — who has since become head of the Atlantic City casinos’ trade association, which vehemently opposes a smoking ban — pulled out of the session. It's the latest indication of how thorny this dispute has become, and how difficult it will be to find a resolution that will satisfy everyone.”

—“No women or minorities now run Atlantic City casinos” 

—“Judges should be allowed to keep dying inmates in prison, prosecutors tell NJ Supreme Court

—“Thieves attempt to break in, steal Land Rover from garage of Gov. Murphy's next-door neighbor, police say

—“Murphy administration faces fight over new rule to combat climate change” 

—“Lawmakers to weigh extending online wagering to 2033” 

—“Murphy to host DGA policy conference in Jersey City this week” 


TRADES — “These 97 members of Congress reported trades in companies influenced by their committees,” by The New York Times’ Alicia Parlapiano, Adam Playford and Kate Kelly: “At least 97 current members of Congress bought or sold stock, bonds or other financial assets that intersected with their congressional work or reported similar transactions by their spouse or a dependent child, an analysis by The New York Times has found … Mr. Malinowski shorted — or bet on a decline in the shares of — Carnival Corporation, Ferrari and Tesla in 2019 and 2020 while sitting on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure … Mr. Pallone, the longtime ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, reported in August 2021 that his wife had sold all of her shares in two energy companies. His office did not respond to requests for comment … Ms. Sherrill reported both buying and selling shares of several defense contractors while she was a member of the House Armed Services Committee. She also sold shares of Alphabet and Meta in 2019 while she was the chairwoman of the oversight subcommittee of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, which has held hearings about online disinformation.”

MOWERS MOWED — @Redistrict“I've seen enough: pro-MAGA Karoline Leavitt (R), 24, wins the GOP primary in #NH01, defeating 2020 nominee Matt Mowers (R) and others. That's probably good news for Rep. Chris Pappas (D), but for now #NH01 (PVI EVEN) is staying in Toss Up at @CookPolitical .”

—“These N.J. companies failed to support American democracy, group says” 

—“Will Mikie Sherrill get a third go-round in 11th District?” 

—“Pascrell presses FAA for answers, solutions on helicopters whirring above NJ residents” 


THAT’S ALMOST AN EIGHTH OF THE RUTGERS FOOTBALL COACH’S ANNUAL SALARY — “Here's what early voting cost in Bergen County and how it may look going forward,” by The Record’s Kristie Cattafi: “Early in-person voting turnout has been low with a high price tag, but officials believe New Jersey's newest way to vote is just gaining momentum. Bergen County, for example, spent over $500,000 last November for fewer than 15,000 ballots cast as voters and election officials alike adjust to early voting … Across the state, 207,863 voters casts their ballots in-person early in the 2021 general election. That's 3.2% of the state's 6.5 million registered voters but, it was 8% of the 2.6 million total voters who turned out in that election, Micah Rasmussen, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, said. ‘There's no question that the number of people using in-person early voting so far is light, but this is what we saw with the adoption of voting by mail,’ Rasmussen said. ‘So although it's a small piece of the pie, it is a piece of it.’ Rasmussen believes the state is about five years out from seeing in-person early voting numbers really improve.”

IN FIRING POLICE CHIEF, SAYEGH ADMITS TO ADA VIOLATION —“Paterson mayor: Fired police chief had ‘no plan, no vision, no strategy’,” by The Paterson Press’ Joe Malinconico: “Mayor Andre Sayegh on Tuesday filed termination papers for Paterson Police Chief Ibrahim Baycora, saying he was “beyond disappointed” in the job performance of a man he appointed 32 months ago. Speaking at a City Hall press conference, Sayegh said Baycora failed to respond to Paterson’s surge in homicides during the past two years, would fall asleep at mayor's Cabinet meetings and proved to be ‘an absentee chief.’ ‘The chief goes radio-silent,’ Sayegh said of Baycora’s response to killings in Paterson. ‘No plan, no vision, no strategy.’ Baycora on Friday filed a lawsuit against Sayegh and the city, accusing the mayor of creating a hostile work environment and trying to force him out of the job by ‘badmouthing him’ to Police Department subordinates and community leaders.”

—“How Paterson lured a minor league baseball team to Hinchliffe Stadium” 

— “Paramus administrator faces probe over auto repairs

—“Atlantic City looks to weed to spark up economy” 

—“Hackensack teacher says he was passed over for promotions due to his race and disability” 

—“Gloucester County administrator lived with his employee, the county fire marshal, until two weeks before dog’s death

—“Holmdel cops who muted audio during DUI arrest named in malicious prosecution suit” 

—“Proposed warehouse at historic former Freeway Golf site in Gloucester draws opposition” 

—“Jersey City school leaders ponder how to spend $89 million windfall” 

—“Harsimus Cove Association calls on Jersey City Councilwoman DeGise to step down” 

—“Cresskill school district, ravaged by Ida, now faces departure of superintendent” 


HEALTH CARE — “Racism pervades this N.J. hospital, former exec says. She was forced out because of it, she claims,” by NJ Advance Meedia’s Elizabeth Llorente: “University Hospital’s former diversity and inclusion officer says her efforts to eliminate bias were demeaned and she was pushed out of her position due to racism, which pervades New Jersey’s only public acute-care facility. Dr. Chris Pernell … who is Black, told NJ Advance Media that University Hospital officials hampered diversity efforts, scrutinized her more than other administrators and retaliated against her for expressing interest in the open CEO position. She said her decisions — including employee hiring — were constantly questioned, she was accused by a male executive of lying about her COVID-19 community vaccination efforts and the hospital launched two “baseless” noncompliance investigations into her conduct in two years. At the heart of the investigations was the insinuation, ‘How dare you, as a Black woman, aspire to that [CEO] role? How dare you get out of place?’ she told NJ Advance Media”

Faculty union demands more transparency on Rutgers-RWJBarnabas spending

—“More than 6,000 New Jersey buildings will be engulfed by seawater by 2050, study predicts

—“‘Presidential visits to New Jersey’ – a new history by Peter Zablocki

—”​N.J. librarian who fought book banning co-creates app to help others do the same”