Rabner nomination hits more bumps, Child Advocate accused of lobbying for children's hospital, new budget has less pork, complete list of budget requests not released, high court ruling weakens eminent domain, McGreevey fires back at ex-wife, Healy becomes new HCDO Chairman
REMEMBER NED PARSEKIAN?
“Several African-American lawmakers raised questions on Wednesday about the nomination of New Jersey’s attorney general to lead the state’s Supreme Court, saying that Gov. Jon S. Corzine should have consulted more widely among them and given minority candidates more consideration.
It was the first sign of opposition to the nomination of Stuart Rabner, a former federal prosecutor whose appointment had been expected to proceed smoothly. Confirmation hearings were scheduled for next week for Mr. Rabner and the woman Mr. Corzine tapped to succeed him as attorney general, Anne Milgram.
“They didn’t give us the courtesy of a call,” Ronald L. Rice, an Essex County Democrat and a state senator, said of Mr. Corzine’s decision to name Mr. Rabner, his former counsel, as chief justice. Mr. Rabner would replace James R. Zazzali, who is retiring.
Senator Shirley K. Turner, a Democrat from Mercer County, said, “We don’t just rubber-stamp these things.” (Jones, New York Times)
"I expect (Rabner) to be confirmed. I feel quite confident that there are very few people who can meet the same levels of preparation, character, intellect and respect for the rule of law that Stuart Rabner can carry. That's been overwhelmingly recognized by the community at large," Corzine told reporters after a speech to the state AFL-CIO. "There's one individual that doesn't hold that view and we will try to change that opinion”………….
During a luncheon speech to a business and law enforcement group in West Windsor, Christie lauded his former colleague and criticized both Corzine and Gill.
"It's absolutely appalling and I am angry and you should be angry too," Christie said of Gill's use of senatorial courtesy. "You should have had it up to your ears with the petty politics of Trenton, with the failure of the people that we elect to represent us … It's petty and small and all that's wrong with politics in this state."
ASSELTA GETS AFL-CIO
“Republican State Sen. Nicholas Asselta received the unanimous endorsement of the New Jersey AFL-CIO on Wednesday, a key labor group traditionally aligned with Democrats.
Asselta — who is running against Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew in a 1st District race that is expected to be among the most competitive in the state — received the AFL-CIO's support at a conference in Atlantic City. Contacted by phone, Asselta said the endorsement was the result of a 13-year commitment to the labor movement demonstrated by creating jobs and fighting privatization. The 1st District includes Cape May County and part of Atlantic and Cumberland counties.” (McAleer, Star-Ledger)
IT COULD BE WORSE… IT COULD BE DEANNA MINUS-VINCENT
“The state ethics commission is investigating claims that the Child Advocate lobbied for public funds on behalf of her former employer, Saint Peter's University Medical Center and the child abuse treatment center it operates, state records and officials confirmed yesterday.
The accusation against Child Advocate E. Susan Hodgson comes from the Department of Children and Families — the state agency Hodgson is responsible for monitoring and critiquing………..
Yesterday, Hodgson unequivocally denied she did any lobbying for her former employer. "I have never done that while I have been here in the role of Child Advocate," she said.” (Livio, Star-Ledger)
A BUDGET WITH LESS PORK
“New Jersey lawmakers boosted the proposed state budget by $189.2 million yesterday, adding millions of dollars for pet projects like the Paper Mill Playhouse and an oyster cultivation program and setting the stage for unprecedented public hearings on the budget.
Shadowed by an ongoing federal criminal investigation into the budget add-ons made in closed-door, late-night sessions in years past, lawmakers for the first time posted their proposed budget changes online and scheduled public hearings on the completed spending plan, which is now $33.5 billion.
"This is a clear departure from the old way of doing business," Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex) said. "For the first time, the public will have a chance to fully examine these requests and the end result will be a dramatic reduction from previous years.” (McNichol and Donohue, Star-Ledger)
“Amid a federal inquiry into whether New Jersey legislators personally benefited from last-minute state budget grants, legislative leaders placed few into this year's spending plan. A budget summary released last night showed about $15 million in grants that could readily be connected to local causes, although Senate President Richard J. Codey put the amount about $10 million………….
No matter how the grants are counted, the number is far less than in past years. Legislators added $1.3 billion in grants to the budget during the previous five years, including $350 million last year.
"Most of them you're going to see are not district specific but more general in nature," Codey (D., Essex) said of this year's grants.” (Hester, AP)
“This is open, and there is nothing that is going to be happening behind a closed door at 4 in the morning,” said Senate President Richard J. Codey, a Democrat.
NOT EXACTLY TRANSPARENT
“State lawmakers promised a new era of openness this year, in the shadow of the federal investigation into legislative pork. This time, they vowed, all requests for funding would be signed and made public.
It didn't quite happen that way, though.
Democratic leaders opted not to release the complete list of budget requests Wednesday, posting only an abridged version on the Internet, with an unknown number of the original requests excised. Legislators withdrew many of the original requests when told that Governor Corzine and top Democrats wouldn't approve them.
"Nobody's trying to hide anything here," said Senate President Richard J. Codey, who said the Legislature had no intention of releasing the complete list, which he said he has not seen.
"There's no reason why," Codey said. "We told legislators, when they submitted, these are local or whatever and it's not going to happen, and they said forget it, then.” (Lu and Gohlke, Herald News)
STATE WILL HAVE A HARDER TIME BULLDOZING YOUR HOUSE
“In a ruling that places stricter limits on New Jersey towns seeking to seize property for redevelopment, the state Supreme Court yesterday sided with a Paulsboro landowner who argued the borough could not take his land merely because it was "not fully productive."
The high court ruled unanimously that in order for land to be seized, it must be negatively affecting surrounding properties – not simply underutilized.
Therefore, it invalidated Paulsboro's decision to include the disputed 63 acres of vacant land in its redevelopment zone, which is a first step to eminent domain. The borough wanted the land to be part of a deepwater port project.” (Ung, Philadelphia Inquirer)
PROPERTY OWNERS REJOICE
“For years, property owners have protested at the Statehouse and complained about being robbed of their land by developers and local politicians pushing redevelopment.
Yesterday, reacting to a state Supreme Court decision limiting towns' use of eminent domain, they felt as if someone was listening.
"This is a great thing for our case," said George Mytrowitz, a downtown Newark auto body shop owner who is fighting the city's "blight" designation of the area where his business is situated, along with 20 or so other property owners. "Now there's a chance the abuses will stop." (Patterson, Star-Ledger)
SOAP OPERA DIGEST
“Former Gov. James E. McGreevey contends in a six-page letter to the family court judge handling his divorce that he is not to blame for his estranged wife's poor book sales.
Dull writing, poor fashion sense and her implausible claim that she didn't know he was gay should instead be the cause, McGreevey said.
"Instead of blaming the failure of her book on her awful appearance on the Oprah Show … or blaming the fact that her book is poorly written … (or) the unbelievable assertion that she did not know her husband was gay," she blamed him, McGreevey wrote in his vitriolic letter……………
Matos McGreevey has argued that her estranged husband's characterization of her caused her to lose potential readers in the gay community and the public at large. For that, McGreevey should have to pay her damages, she has argued in court papers.” (Lucas, Star-Ledger)
“Committee members of the Hudson County Democratic Organization unanimously elected Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy as the group's chairman last night at Ferris High School in Jersey City.
"I didn't really expect opposition," said Healy, who is succeeding state Senate Majority Leader Bernard Kenny of Hoboken in the prestigious political party county post.
As chairman, he will determine who runs on the HCDO ballot line, which in Hudson County once almost guaranteed victory in a county that is a Democratic Party stronghold.
"I want to make the HCDO better, and I'm ready and willing," Healy said.” (Torres and Saleh, Jersey Journal)
NOT ALL GOOD NEWS FOR HEALEY
“With his disorderly persons trial scheduled to start Monday in Bradley Beach, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy is apparently making a last-ditch attempt to get it postponed.
Healy's attorneys plan to seek a delay until an appeal they are pursuing on a related matter is resolved, a Bradley Beach court official said yesterday……….
The Healy case stems from an incident that took place in Bradley Beach last June 17 about 2 a.m. outside a tavern owned by Healy's sister and brother-in-law.
Healy, who owns a home in Bradley Beach, claims he was trying to help police sort out a dispute between a couple when Police Officer Terry Browning unnecessarily pushed him to the ground, handcuffed him, and pepper-sprayed him in both eyes. Browning also shoved his wife, Healy said.
Police maintain Healy was abusive and disruptive and refused to keep out of a police matter even though he was politely asked to do so several times.” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)
BY THE SKIN OF HER TEETH
“After the count of the provisional ballots yesterday, Dawn Zimmer declared herself the winner in Hoboken's 4th Ward runoff election for a City Council seat.
"It's a victory for the people of the 4th Ward," Zimmer said. "It was an extremely fair process.
But incumbent Councilman Christopher Campos, who narrowed the gap between Zimmer and himself by just one vote with the counting of the provisional ballots, refused to concede.
Yesterday, Campos got 23 more votes and Zimmer 22, after three Board of Elections commissioners counted qualifying provisional ballots at the County Administration Building on Newark Avenue in Jersey City. Zimmer had led by seven votes after machine votes and absentee ballots were counted Tuesday night. The final tally is 892 for Zimmer, 886 for Campos" (Hack, Jersey Journal)
IS RALPH IZZO ONE OF THE 400
“One down, eight to go.
Seema Singh, the Democratic candidate to represent parts of Middlesex and Mercer counties in the state Senate, said yesterday she has raised the 400 contributions of $10 each needed to start collecting state funding under an experimental "clean elections" program.
Under the law setting up the pilot program, half of the 18 major party candidates in the three districts where it is being tried must qualify for public funding for it to be deemed a "success."
To get the maximum amount of public financing for their campaigns, candidates must collect $10 contributions from 800 people, but they can begin receiving state funds after raising half that amount.
Singh's campaign manager, John Duthie, said she has submitted the names of 422 registered voters living in the district who have contributed $10 each to her campaign.
"As far as I know, she's the first to file with 400," Duthie said.” (Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)
WILD BILL’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE
“Superior Court Judge Bill Mathesius has set tongues wagging in the legal community after authoring a lengthy essay taking his high court superiors to task.
Never shy about his predilections, the judge, who gained the nickname "Wild Bill" while serving as Mercer County executive in the 1980s, may have authored his own swan song with his sarcastic and scathing "reflections" in New Jersey Lawyer's online newsletter last week.
The essay was a response to the court's decision to suspend him without pay for 30 days in December after finding that he had behaved in an intemperate manner in several incidents inside and outside the courtroom and in a ruling that attacked the way New Jersey handles the death penalty.” (Stein, Trenton Times)
ED GILLESPIE GOES TO THE WHITE HOUSE
“Ed Gillespie, a South Jersey native who started his political career parking cars for congressmen, was named to a top White House post Wednesday.
Gillespie, 46, a former chairman of the national GOP, will serve as counselor to President Bush. In that job, he will help develop and implement policy and oversee communications for the White House…………
Gillespie most recently has run a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm. He joins the White House staff at a challenging time, when Bush faces low public-approval ratings and a Democratic-controlled Congress.
"He views this as, "When the president asks you to do something, you serve your president, you serve the country,' " John Gillespie said.” (Walsh, Courier-Post)
THE MONEY HAS TO COME FROM SOMEWHERE
“Lawmakers scouring the budget for ways to meet needs at hospitals and eliminate additional costs for Medicaid recipients, as well as fund a few pet projects without raising taxes, found $65 million by raiding a program that helps pay for senior citizens' prescription drugs.
They also plan to slice $10 million from a rental assistance program and nearly $44 million from school construction and renovation projects, according to budget documents released Wednesday.
The money will be redirected to causes such as increasing aid for adults seeking high school diplomas ($10 million), charter schools ($4.7 million), open space preservation ($25 million) and cancer research ($24 million). Hospitals will get an additional $129 million in reimbursements for treating the uninsured and for graduate medical education.” (Tamari, Gannett)
NEW JERSEY – STEM CELL POWERHOUSE?
“New Jersey voters will be asked in November to approve borrowing $450 million to fund stem-cell research in the state for 10 years under an agreement reached between top legislators and Gov. Corzine, a leading stem-cell research advocate said yesterday.
Assemblyman Neil Cohen said the plan, if approved, would make New Jersey a global leader in stem-cell research, hailed by scientists as key to therapies that could help people who are paralyzed or have illnesses ranging from diabetes to Parkinson's disease…………
Corzine said yesterday's announcement of funding for the institute was "an important first step in our growing partnership with private industry to fund this promising and potentially life-saving science."
"At a time when the Bush administration is pursuing a misguided policy on stem cells, I am proud that New Jersey is leading the way in promoting this life-saving research," he said…………..
Marie Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, which opposes embryonic stem-cell research, expressed dismay at the plans. "The taxpayers should be outraged," she said.” (Hester, AP)
“PAID ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE PENDING HIS RETIREMENT”
“The top administrator for the Camden campus of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey has been removed from office amid a federal investigation, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Paul Mehne, 59, is on "paid administrative leave pending his retirement, which goes into effect at the end of the month," UMDNJ spokeswoman Anna Farneski said.” (Walsh, Courier-Post)
FAA SUPERVISOR NOT FLYING HIGH
“A former supervisor at the Federal Aviation Administration's William J. Hughes Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township pleaded guilty Wednesday in connection with a fraud scheme.
Darrell Woods received about $159,000 in corrupt payments for steering government contracts to a company headed by a former FAA employee, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie said…………
He also told the judge that the payments were for the procurement of numerous FAA contracts worth millions of dollars to a company headed by a contractor who is a former FAA employee. Woods admitted that his official duties as an FAA employee included participating in the development, testing, evaluation and deployment of computer systems by the FAA. Woods also participated in contracting with private contractors for services related to those duties, Christie said.” (Vitale, Press of Atlantic City)
DID RASINSI DRIVE?
“Gov. Jon Corzine told labor leaders yesterday he wants the state Legislature to deliver by the end of the month a bill requiring New Jersey businesses to provide paid "family leave" for employees who need to tend to a new child or a sick relative.
Speaking to the AFL-CIO's annual political convention in Atlantic City, Corzine drew hearty applause when he called for passage of the measure, which is sponsored by Sen. Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), a building trades union leader, and championed by AFL-CIO president Charles Wowkanech.” (Howlett, Star-Ledger)
” Former City Council President Craig Callaway filed paperwork recently that sought to overturn his federal prison sentence, saying he was wrongly denied his plea agreement. U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez sentenced Callaway on March 13 to 40 months in prison and three years of supervised release after he admitted taking thousands of dollars in bribes while in office.
But Callaway's June 6 habeas petition suggests that when he and his rowdy entourage walked into Camden's federal court for sentencing, they expected he would serve just 12 months.” (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)
“A bill being considered today to extend the state takeover of Camden's government for another five years is drawing lukewarm support from some local officials because it provides no extra money to help America's poorest city.
City Council President Angel Fuentes said he has "mixed feelings" about the proposal because it will keep Camden under the control of a state-appointed chief operating officer, which Fuentes called "another layer of bureaucracy”……………..
Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, D-Camden, is sponsoring the bill being debated today. While he said he supports keeping Davis in the job, Roberts also explained why his bill does not provide more money or staff to help Davis do his job.
"I think some real progress has been made in the city in the past number of years," Roberts said. "But I'm not prepared yet to ask the Legislature to authorize any additional resources under this legislation until a better case can be made that real progress has been achieved." (Guenther, Courier-Post)
NEW DOE REGS
“As more schools weigh random drug testing for students, educators and others fear the state's proposed guidelines would make the tests too costly and cumbersome and could lead some districts to eliminate the programs.
The regulations proposed by the Department of Education would require schools to use state-licensed clinical labs to collect and test urine samples for a variety of so-called recreational drugs. The tests are now typically conducted by a school nurse at a cost of about $10 each.” (McCarron, Star-Ledger)
FAIELLA WINS THIS ROUND
“A federal bankruptcy judge ruled yesterday that claims that former Newark Deputy Mayor Alfred Faiella conspired with his ex-wife to conceal considerable assets were unsubstantiated.
The ruling thwarts efforts by Faiella's largest creditor, C. Stewart and Estelle Smith, to collect on a $3.4 million judgment from a soured real estate deal between the two parties.” (Shearn, Star-Ledger)
“News reporters who share confidential information with law enforcement officials or attorneys give up the right to keep that material private under New Jersey's Shield Law, the state Supreme Court ruled yesterday.
"A reporter cannot play peek-a- boo with the privilege" of protecting sources and confidential information, Justice Barry Albin wrote for the court. "The Shield Law does not grant reporters the power to selectively and arbitrarily invoke the privilege after making disclo sures outside of the newsgathering and news reporting process." (Hester, Star-Ledger)
SAW THAT COMING
“The "wish list" submitted by 3rd District legislators to fund projects in Salem, Gloucester and Cumberland counties was just that a wish list.
The legislators pulled more than $50 million in individual projects for their towns from funding consideration in the proposed state budget after getting word from the governor's office that they had no chance for approval.
"We were very clearly told that no individual municipal projects would be granted," said Sen. Stephen Sweeney, D-3, of West Deptford.
The move comes as legislative leadership has vowed this year's budget process would be transparent and would limit funding for pet projects now under scrutiny by the U.S. Attorney's Office from past administrations.” (Graber, Gloucester County Times)
IN ONE OF THE WASHINGTON TOWNSHIPS
“Lewis Koushel is tired of people asking him, "Which Washington Township?"
He's tired of his furniture orders being sent to addresses in Trenton or even farther away, such as Washington Township in Warren County.
Sick and tired of the confusion over his Washington Township, not the one in Bergen, Burlington, Gloucester, Morris or Warren counties, Koushel is leading an effort to change the town's name to Robbinsville Township.
Now, the matter will be up to voters in November as a referendum.
Koushel gathered almost 1,500 signatures supporting the name change and filed the petition with the township last week.” (Egan, Trenton Times)
“Linden's city attorney is taking on another role –chairman of the local Democratic Committee — triggering concerns about potential conflicts of interest. Edward Kologi has been the city's lawyer for 20 years, and was always an active party member in a city historically dominated by Democrats.
While he is not the first party official to also work for the city, the political landscape in Linden is changing.” (Murray, Star-Ledger)
IN SCOTCH PLAINS
“A Scotch Plains Democrat who lost his bid for town council last year has filed a defamation suit against the town's Republican mayor and former police chief for public comments they made about him during the campaign.
In a lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Elizabeth on May 24, former Scotch Plains police Lt. Neal LeStrange accused Mayor Martin Marks and Thomas F. O'Brien of characterizing him as racist.” (Rothman, Star-Ledger)