2018 Closeout Edition

NorthStar Strategies TrueNorth Insights

NJ TRANSIT meets critical PTC goals

New Jersey got an early Christmas present when NJ TRANSIT announced on December 17 that it had met a critical milestone toward the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) mandate to install Positive Train Control (PTC). Meeting the goal allows NJ TRANSIT to work with FRA on a schedule to have PTC fully operational by 2020.

The accomplishment is significant for a number of reasons. First, it was unclear (and many would say unlikely) that NJ TRANSIT would meet this goal when 2018 began. Only a small amount of progress had been made before the Murphy Administration took office; under the leadership of Executive Director Kevin Corbett and Board Chair Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, the organization completed four years worth of work in under a year. Second, Governor Phil Murphy has made turning around NJ TRANSIT a top priority and the accomplishment gives Murphy a big year-1 win. Third, NJ TRANSIT customers endured a rough ride in 2018 including service disruptions associated with PTC work; that pain at least resulted in something positive.

NJ TRANSIT reform bill signed into law

On the heels of the Murphy Administration’s PTC announcement, the Governor gathered legislative leaders and transit advocates to sign legislation reforming NJ TRANSIT. The new law represents the first comprehensive reform of the organization’s governance in many years and is designed to improve operations, efficiency and the customer experience at the transit operating corporation. The new law:

  • Reforms NJ TRANSIT’s Board of Directors to make it more responsive to commuter concerns;
  • Increases oversight by the public and the New Jersey Legislature;
  • Requires disclosure of accident and safety performance reports;
  • Strengthens whistleblower protections;
  • Establishes leadership positions within NJ TRANSIT, including a new Customer Advocate and a Chief Ethics Officer.

While the new law is a feather in the Governor’s hat, it is a significant victory and accomplishment for a group of legislators that had been pushing hard for reforms, namely bill sponsors Senators Loretta Weinberg, Tom Kean and Linda Greenstein, and Assembly Members John McKeon, Dan Benson and Patricia Egan Jones. Former Senator Bob Gordon, now a Commissioner of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, was also a driving force behind the bill before departing the Senate.

BPU solicits for offshore wind

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) has closed its first solicitation for offshore wind projects after receiving several bids from developers. BPU began accepting applications in September in furtherance of Governor Phil Murphy’s ambitious goal of 3,500 megawatts by 2030. BPU plans to make a final selection by the Summer of 2019. BPU has been one of Murphy’s most active cabinet agencies thus far, taking action on a number of the Governor’s key priorities.

Senate Committee Changes

Senate President Steve Sweeney announced two new committee chairs following Senator Jeff Van Drew’s departure for Congress last week. Van Drew was elected in November to succeed longtime South Jersey Congressman Frank LoBiondo who retired.

Senator Troy Singleton replaces Van Drew as Chairman of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee. Senator Vin Gopal receives his first chairmanship, taking over for Singleton at the helm of the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

On the Republican side of the aisle, Minority Leader Tom Kean announced that Senator Steve Oroho will serve as the Republican Budget Officer for 2019. Oroho replaces Senator Tony Bucco, who moves over to become the Republican Conference Leader.

NorthStar and its clients congratulate the Senators and look forward to working closely with them in their new capacities.

ICYMI: Cammarano Departing

Governor Phil Murphy announced that Chief of Staff Pete Cammarano plans to resign his position in early 2019. Murphy characterized Cammarano as a “strong captain” during his first year in office.

Cammarano’s tenure included some of Murphy’s key year-one victories, including the beginning of NJ TRANSIT’s turnaround, discussed above, aggressive action on gun control spearheaded by AG Gurbir Grewal, and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities’ early actions in support of solar and offshore wind energy.

Pete is a friend and a consummate pro and the entire NorthStar team congratulates him on a solid run.