Morning News Digest: March 23, 2009

In election year, N.J. Republicans gear up to oppose Justice Barry Albin

Slim, slight and studious, Barry Albin can walk down just about any street in New Jersey without being recognized. But that may soon change. Albin, one of seven justices on the New Jersey Supreme Court, is about to become a lightning rod in what promises to be a tough gubernatorial campaign. (Margolin, Star-Ledger)

Can Corzine survive fiscal woes?

The stock market was soaring in 2005 when Jon Corzine ran for governor and vowed to put New Jersey on sound fiscal footing after two decades of questionable budget moves by governors of both parties. The Wall Street veteran pitched property tax relief as a prelude to tax reform. He said he would tackle state debt. He declared the road to sound finances was paved with full payments into New Jersey’s massive pension system. And he swore off the tradition of using one-shot moves and budget “gimmicks” to balance the books. (Margolin and Heininger, Star-Ledger)

Codey doesn’t feel programs cuts are personal

It was a budget cut, not a political swipe. That is how Senate President Dick Codey of West Orange interprets a proposed $500,000 cut to the state’s Postpartum Education Program in Governor Corzine’s proposed fiscal year 2010 budget. (Stile, Record)

Capital Games

REP. BILL Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, hosted a meeting last week at the Capitol, where members of Congress spoke with Desmond Tutu, the archbishop whose battle against apartheid in South Africa earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. “It was an honor to host such a legendary humanitarian in the Capitol today,” stated Pascrell afterward. (Jackson, Record)

A push to strengthen Internet-safety laws

Sex offenders would be forced to provide their Internet screen names to New Jersey officials under a package of bills moving through the Legislature. The bills, part of Attorney General Anne Milgram’s Internet-safety initiative, also aim to strengthen the state’s “luring and enticing” laws. (Queally, Inquirer)

Assembly bill targets “doughnut-hole’ towns

Merger efforts target “doughnut-hole” towns A bill introduced by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (below), D-Mercer, would affect 12 towns in Monmouth and Ocean counties: Freehold and Freehold Township, Farmingdale and Howell, Englishtown and Manalapan, Lakehurst and Manchester, Tuckerton and Little Egg Harbor, and Lavallette and Toms River. The bill, introduced Feb. 5, would require “doughnut-hole” municipalities either to consolidate with the towns that surround them or enter into shared services agreements for all their major municipal services and functions. Towns would have to comply within 10 years after the bill takes effect. (Predham, Asbury Park Press)

Debate simmers over Cumberland tech school’s future

DEERFIELD TOWNSHIP — A half-dozen teens gathered in a classroom Friday and complained about school. The catch: They complained they didn’t get enough time in class. And they were wearing firefighting gear. “We’re learning a job that is going to save people’s lives or going to kill them,” said Michael Vargas, a Vineland student. “I had to go Millville Rescue Squad because there isn’t enough time. There’s never enough time. We need more time.” (Walsh, Press of Atlantic City)

Republican Kurtz enters Atlantic City mayoral race

Mayor says ’09 budget may be ready by April WASHINGTON TWP. Mayor Matthew Lyons said he’s on track to present a 2009 budget to the township council during its first meeting in April the earliest the council has gotten a budget in at least the past four years. (Beym, Gloucester County Times)

Bernards school board awaits word on request to exceed state spending cap

BERNARDS — The township Board of Education has scheduled a meeting for 7 p.m. Monday, March 23, to introduce next year’s school budget — but the meeting won’t be held unless the district receives a long-awaited answer from the state Department of Education . (Sadlouskos, Courier News)

Parents paid by districts to transport their kids

By 8:45 a.m. Alison Torres has her three young boys dressed, fed and ready for the school bus. But in the Torres home, she is the bus driver — sort of. The Winslow Township School District pays Torres $75 daily to transport her children to and from school because the district could not get there on time due to routing conflicts. (Gidjunis, Courier-Post)

Corzine makes his AC pitch

EGG HARBOR – In a muscle-flexing exercise intertwining biography and budgeting during what the polls show to be a foundering tenure, Gov. Jon Corzine tore into Atlantic County on Sunday night and barked out strained-voice stanzas to Democratic Party troops. “I need four more years to get the job done,” cried Corzine, building on the populist, polls-be-damned, tough guy address he delivered in Middlesex on Wednesday and again in Mercer yesterday to collect party support in both counties. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

N.J. bill to prevent ID theft by crime suspects

WOODBURY HEIGHTS — Donna Judson has been cited for soliciting a trucker for sex at a Travelodge hotel, driving with stolen license plates, and attempting to buy drugs. She’s been summoned to court several times, and was once handcuffed and hauled away in a police cruiser. (Segall, AP)

Republican Kurtz enters Atlantic City mayoral race

ATLANTIC CITY Assembling what he said was the first fully Republican ticket in the city in almost a century, Jesse O. Kurtz promised to bring lower taxes and more transparency to the resort if elected — and if not, he’ll gladly help the voters recall him. Kurtz, an Atlantic City resident for all of his 24 years, announced his candidacy at a Saturday morning press conference at the Thanh Lan Cafe on California Avenue. (Lemongello, Press of Atlantic City)

With lawsuit against N.J., little-known Indian group is thrust into spotlight

The story of the Sand Hill Indians and the $1 trillion lawsuit be gins on a wooded slope in Monmouth County. Rising in Neptune Township, Sand Hill was settled 132 years ago by Lenape and Cherokee Indians who raised cows and chickens and helped build Victorian houses in nearby Asbury Park. Some of their descendants, who say they are more extended family than tribe, still gather for reunions near the ancestral hill. (Ryan, Star-Ledger)

Urban charter schools in New Jersey are excelling

One recent morning in a vast open room at Discovery Charter School in Newark, Barbara Weiland was teaching a reading lesson while perched high on a platform and using a microphone. The 75 students, in grades four through eight, were spread throughout an eclectic space dominated by fish tanks, bookcases, looms and brightly colored desks, tables and dividers, studiously following along. The smell of lunch wafted in from the nearby kitchen. (Chambers, Star-Ledger)

N.J. help line drawing more calls

Jeanne Kiefner was lost in a vast bureaucracy. Her husband died in February 2006, which she dutifully noted on her tax forms. As a result, her Homestead Rebate check was delayed – hung up in red tape when New Jersey asked for proof of her husband’s death. (Hannan, Inquirer)

Federal grants aid fire houses

WASHINGTON South Jersey’s fire departments received $1.3 million under a federal grant program last year, more than most regions of the state. Firefighters in the 2nd Congressional District, which includes all of Salem and Cumberland counties and part of Gloucester County, are using the money to pay for needed equipment, which some say they would not have been able to purchase without the federal aid. (Coomes, Gloucester County Times)

Morning News Digest: March 23, 2009