Today’s News from

Rabner confirmed, Milgram confirmed, budget passed, dual officeholding ban passed, Belleville official arrested, former Harrison pleads guilty to theft and official misconduct, former Fairfield Township official indicted, stem cell measure passed, monetization shelved.


“The state Senate yesterday approved a new chief justice who may now lead New Jersey's Supreme Court for a generation.

The upper house voted 36-1 to confirm Stuart Rabner, 46, as head of the seven-member court. It also easily approved Anne Milgram's nomination to replace Rabner as state attorney general………..

Rabner will be the youngest chief justice in modern New Jersey history.

"I am so humbled and honored. I will do all that I can to live up to the confidence you and the governor have placed in me," he said in a short address to the Senate after the vote.

While Rabner received overwhelming support when the votes were cast yesterday, his confirmation came after several tumultuous days during which Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) refused to sign off on his nomination………………….

"We don't know your judicial philosophy," she said. "This is the first time in the history of the Supreme Court to have a chief who has not practiced law in the state."” (Coscarelli, Star-Ledger)

“Gill complained that lawmakers had been given just seven days to scrutinize a man who could potentially lead the Supreme Court – deemed one of the most thoughtful and progressive in the nation – for a generation.

That was why, she said, she didn't immediately sign off on bringing him before the committee – a move that prompted reports that she was using "senatorial courtesy" to block his nomination. Under the unwritten tradition, senators from a nominee's home county can hold up the confirmation process.

Gill said yesterday that she had been waiting to get more information on Rabner, so she didn't sign on to advancing his nomination until after the pair had a chance to meet on Tuesday.

Even after that meeting, she said, she still had reservations about Rabner's suitability. She voiced them in committee yesterday, questioning Rabner's experience to run the state court system, one of the chief justice's duties.” (Moroz, Star-Ledger)

Mr. Rabner said during the hearing that his lack of experience on the bench was not necessarily an indication of whether he would be an able justice. He said that the court had counted among its members both those who had been lower court judges and newcomers to the bench………….

Lilo H. Stainton, a spokeswoman for Mr. Corzine, said: “Stu Rabner and Anne Milgram are outstanding public servants and lawyers with a commitment to high standards of excellence and integrity. I know they will make the state proud with their future service.” (Jones, New York Times)



“Career prosecutor Anne Milgram, who pursued crooks into the streets of New York and human-traffickers into the back alleys of the world, won confirmation Thursday as the state's new attorney general.

"Great," said Milgram after the 11-0 vote by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent her nomination by Gov. Jon S. Corzine to the full Senate where she got a 36-0 approval……………

She listed her priorities as public corruption — "a top priority of this administration" she said — then gangs, consumer protections and homeland security.

"It seems to me the governor has chosen well," said Sen. Joseph Kyrillos Jr., R-Monmouth. "We have a very good nominee before us today.” (Baldwin, Gannett)



“State lawmakers yesterday gave final approval to a $33.5 billion election-year budget that jacks up spending by $2.7 billion to provide fatter rebate checks, heftier state subsidies for hospitals and modest tax cuts for businesses and low-income residents.

Unlike last year, when a squabble over a sales tax increase caused an unprecedented week-long shutdown of state government, the current budget contains no new taxes and won easy passage from the Democratic majority over Republican objections.

In party-line votes, the Senate approved the budget 22-15 with three abstentions, while the Assembly passed it 50-30. Gov. Jon Corzine is expected to sign the new spending plan well before the fiscal year ends June 30. Last year, the budget didn't become law until July 8…………….

"This is the first time in a very long time we passed a budget bill this quickly," said Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex).”………………………..

Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance (R-Hunterdon) said he welcomed the smoother, more open process that led to a budget with no new debt or taxes. He was critical of the fact that it allows a big increase in spending while ignoring a projected $2.5 billion deficit next year.

"For six years we have careened from financial crisis to financial crisis," Lance said during the upper house's 40-minute debate. "Each year new Band-Aids are applied but the bleeding continues because those in power refuse to stand up and address New Jersey's underlying budget difficulties.” (Donohue, Star-Ledger)

“Democrats said the new budget contained only $12 million in legislative requests for local projects. Republicans dispute that figure, pointing out that the Democrats’ budget proposal added nearly $190 million to the governor’s proposal. The previous year’s budget included more than $300 million for local projects, including a new category of spending for social services and hospitals.” (Lu, Bergen Record)

“Some lawmakers also bashed a provision in the budget bill that allows state officials to pay for costs necessary to prepare for putting public assets up for sale. The Corzine administration is studying the idea in hopes of raising more state money.

"The budget starts the process of selling off New Jersey," said Assemblyman Joseph Pennacchio (R., Morris.)” (Ung, Philadelphia Inquirer)

“It was like the Legislature’s version of speed-dating.” (Smothers, New York Times)

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on,” wrote Samuel Beckett, a slogan the GOP would have likely found heartening Thursday, but searching for a metaphor amid the archives of absurdist 20th century drama to apply to the state budget process, Republican Sen. Leonard Lance instead selected Beckett’s most famous – and disturbing – play.

“It’s like ‘Waiting for Godot’,” the minority leader told the senate chamber, “as school districts cry out for a new schools funding formula.” (Pizarro,

Already through the assembly, a bill banning dual office holding passed in the state senate on Thursday, 33-2.

Upset that the bill grandfathers legislators who currently hold two or more offices, the GOP was circling in the senate chamber, taking bites at the bill when an infuriated Sen. Ron Rice let them have it.

"I’ve been here 21 years and I’m tired of hearing that dual office holding is conflicting," said Rice.

The Newark lawmaker who won re-election earlier this month, said the worse transgression involves public officials greasing their own private interests. "Stop the conflict stuff," Rice railed at the Republicans, "because you know it’s not real." (Pizarro,



“When Sen. Sharpe James (D- Essex) arrived in Trenton in 1999, his first bill was one to ban dual officeholding. It was an unexpected move by James, whose other job, as mayor of Newark, made him the most visible dual officeholder in the state.

"I was even ridiculed, laughed at," James said. "The bill died a terrible death of strangulation."

Yesterday, no longer the mayor and set to retire from the Senate next year, James saw his bill pass with a big push from Gov. Jon Corzine, who demanded an end to lawmakers holding other jobs as mayors, freeholders or councilmen.

The bill would end that practice — in the future. It would make it illegal to be elected to more than one office, beginning in February. Politicians who already hold two elected offices could continue to hold them until they die, retire or are voted out.

Critics called that a major failing. Supporters said the bill represents the beginning of the end of dual officeholding in the state.” (Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)

“Local senators had mixed feelings on the measure, which passed the Senate 33-2, with five abstentions. Sens. Robert Martin, R-Morris/Passaic, and Nicholas Sacco, D-Bergen, voted no.

Sen. Stephen Sweeney, D-3 of West Deptford, also Gloucester County freeholder director, abstained, stating he couldn't vote for it in good faith.

"For me to vote for that bill is hypocritical," he said.

In contrast, Sen. Fred Madden, D-4 of Washington Township, voted for the ban, stating he would have been in favor even if legislation to apply the ban to all elected officials was put forth.” (Graber, Gloucester County Times)



The man accusing Pleasantville Board of Education President James Pressley of threatening him with a gun says the threat came after he revealed to Pressley's girlfriend that the two men were in a relationship.

John Bunch told The Press on Thursday that Pressley's girlfriend, Monique D. Williams, said she had heard that he and Pressley were seeing each other and wanted to know if that was true, but Bunch initially would not say. On Tuesday morning, both Williams and Pressley confronted Bunch in the Back Maryland section of Atlantic City, Bunch said. While Williams and Pressley argued, Williams asked Bunch if the rumors were true, to which Bunch said he replied yes.

After saying yes, Bunch said Pressley lifted his shirt, revealing a handgun in his waistband, and said, “I got you,” before he and Williams drove away.

“He's a liar. That never happened,” Pressley said in response to Bunch's allegations. “Apparently he had some questions about his manhood that he needed to take up with himself. There is no gun, there never was a gun.” (Hardie, Press of Atlantic City)



“Longtime Belleville recreation director Dennis Buckley was arrested and charged with official misconduct last night for allegedly taking activity fees collected for a variety of town-sponsored programs for his own use, authorities said yesterday.

His girlfriend and fellow town employee, Kathy Skinner, 45, was also arrested and charged with official misconduct, said Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the Essex County Prosecutor's Office.

A clerk in the finance department, Skinner allegedly collected water bills from Belleville residents and used the payments for her "personal profit," Loriquet said.” (Addison, Star-Ledger)



“Former Harrison Superintendent of Public Works William Tanski, who was accused of taking nearly $100,000 in coins from the town's parking meters, has pleaded guilty to theft and official misconduct, said Hudson County Assistant Prosecutor Salvatore Rozzi.

Tanski, 46, of Bayville, was arrested on May 1, 2006, and was released after posting $75,000 in bail. He pleaded guilty Wednesday and likely faces three years in prison, said Rozzi.” (Pearson, Jersey Journal)



A grand jury indicted Fairfield Township's former court administrator on charges of stealing money from the Municipal Court.

Karen Smith, of Franklinville, stands charged with official misconduct, falsifying government records and theft, according to an indictment handed down Wednesday and made public Thursday.

Smith is accused of skimming money from court fines paid in Fairfield and Elk townships, along with Newfield. She worked as deputy court administrator in Elk and Newfield from March 2003 to August 2005 before taking a job as lead court administrator in Fairfield, where she stayed from August 2005 to March 2006.” (Walsh, Press of Atlantic City)



“Gov. Corzine's in-box should be full this morning, as the Legislature passed a barrel of bills yesterday in the last voting session until fall.

Several bills would put initiatives on the November ballot, one asking voters to approve the sale of bonds to pay for stem-cell research, and another to dedicate more sales-tax revenue for property-tax relief…………..

Lawmakers also extended the state takeover of Camden government for another five years. The city was put under the administration of a state-appointed chief operation officer in 2002, as part of a bill that sent $175 million to the Camden, but stripped city government of its power.

The 2002 law was crafted by Sen. Wayne Bryant (D., Camden), who is now under federal indictment in a political corruption case. He has announced that he will not seek reelection, but Bryant attended yesterday's session and released a statement on the Camden bill, saying the state takeover should continue.

"Just like the old saying, 'Rome wasn't built in a day,' Camden will not be rebuilt overnight," Bryant said.” (Graham, Philadelphia Inquirer)



“Both houses of the Legislature yesterday approved a measure to invest nearly a half-billion dollars in long-term funding for stem cell research, a move hailed by advocates as an investment in hope.

The $450 million initiative, sponsored by Senate President Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) and Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), caps a critical investment drive by the state of New Jersey, which in December approved a $270 million initiative to fund a world-class stem cell institute and several other biomedical research facilities.

"New Jersey will now be a part of the front line in the search for cures to some of our most obsti nate afflictions," Codey said. "The potential yield on this investment — in terms of lives saved, hope restored, and economies revitalized — is unlimited. With the support of our residents in November, this public investment will be nearly unparalleled in the United States."” (McNichol, Star-Ledger)

“Republican opposition to the measure touched upon moral objections but focused more that a state with economic troubles should not be borrowing more to fund research that will likely benefit private companies.

"The state of New Jersey is in an economic crisis and we should not be, at this point, asking the voters to continue to add to debt we have right now," Assemblyman Guy Gregg, R-Morris, said. "This research can't be done by the private sector unless it appears it will yield results to the private sector."…………..

Marie Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, called the referendum a "corporate welfare boondoggle" and said groups like hers are considering a legal challenge on the grounds the question that will appear before voters is too vague because it does not specify embryonic stem-cell research would be funded.” (Volpe, Gannett)



“Gov. Jon Corzine's grand plan to solve the state's lingering financial crisis by selling the Turnpike and other toll roads to a public corporation has been put on hold until after the November election.

Corzine is concerned that introducing a controversial and complicated "asset monetization" plan in the weeks before a legislative election might foul the political waters for Democratic candidates and jeopardize passage of the plan by the Legislature, administration officials said.

There is also concern, they said, that because the governor has not fully recuperated from his near fatal April 12 accident he wouldn't be able to withstand the rigors of a statewide campaign this summer to sell the plan to citizens.” (Howlett and Donohue, Star-Ledger)



“Gov. Corzine's state police chauffeur will be disciplined for speeding and using police emergency lights in the SUV crash that seriously injured the governor.

Trooper Robert Rasinski's driving was "culpably inefficient" and violated policy with his 91-m.p.h. speed and use of emergency lights when he spun the governor's Chevrolet Suburban into a Garden State Parkway guardrail 10 weeks ago, said the state police superintendent in a letter released yesterday.” (Wood, Philadelphia Inquirer)

"Rasinski did not possess the appropriate level of situational awareness in the moments leading up to the accident," (State Police Superintendent) Fuentes wrote in a three-page letter to Attorney General Stuart Rabner.

The superintendent said he would impose "an appropriate disciplinary sanction" on the trooper but would not discuss the punishment.” (Hepp and Martin, Star-Ledger)



“The defense is up to bat today in the trial in Bradley Beach of Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, and one of the first witnesses will be the mayor himself, his attorney said yesterday.

"Having been unjustly accused of doing something he did not do, he wants to set the record clear as to exactly what happened on the evening in question," said Healy's attorney, Joseph V. Kealy Jr.

Despite the media splash, local pols don't expect Healy's Bradley Beach trial to create waves locally.

"It sounds like much ado about nothing," said Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, a Healy ally. "He was caught in a bad circumstance. It just seems for a little scuffle out of town, there's been an awful lot written about it………..

But Ward E Councilman Steve Fulop, a Healy critic, called the Bradley Beach affair an embarrassment for the city.

"If convicted, politically, it's going to be difficult for him (Healy) to say he's still the law and order guy," Fulop said.” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)



“Assemblyman Craig Stanley filed for a recount yesterday in his narrowly lost 28th District primary bid.

“We went through with some volunteers the votes that were cast. We saw a number of anomalies. We’re certainly encouraged and we certainly think that this recount will bear fruit for us,” said Stanley, who lost his Assembly primary race to Cory Booker-backed Cleopatra Tucker by just 110 votes.” (Friedman,



Sex offenders considered at high risk to commit new crimes would be outfitted with satellite tracking bracelets so authorities can keep tabs on them 24/7 under a bill being forwarded to the governor.

The Senate and Assembly approved a measure unanimously Thursday, making the sex offender tracking program permanent after a two-year trial. It is now up to Gov. Jon S. Corzine to sign the proposal into law.” (AP)



“NEW YORK — Acceding to pressure from the governors of New Jersey and New York, the Port Authority yesterday took preliminary steps to make its operations more open to public scrutiny, after decades of conducting most of its work secretly.

The bistate agency's board of commissioners voted unanimously to change its bylaws to require more disclosure improve ethics policies and increase accountability, with the beefed up rules expected to become permanent next month…………

Among the reforms sought by the governors are: an annual audit of the Port Authority's accounting procedures by an outside firm; an open-meetings policy in line with those required of agencies in both states; and a more stringent process for awarding contracts.

The actions follow an October story by The Sunday Star-Ledger, outlining major financial and policy actions taken by the agency in closed meetings over the past decade. The Port Authority had been able to function this way because of its unique formation in 1921 under a compact by Congress.” (Marsico, Star-Ledger)

“If the Port Authority is going to be responsible for multibillion-dollar projects, people want to be confident how the money is being used,” said Anthony R. Coscia, chairman of the Port Authority.

He added, “People don’t take kindly to the Robert Moses approach,” referring to the former New York City planner who was often accused of dismissing public concerns about his projects. At times, the Port Authority has been the object of similar criticism, partly because it is governed by two states that often have competing agendas. For years, many of its major decisions were also made behind closed doors, and public votes were often little more than rubber-stamp sessions.” (Belson, New York Times)



“New Jersey's lawmakers launched one of the nation's most aggressive attacks on global warming Thursday, approving a crackdown on greenhouse gases that could force changes in everything from how we get power to the cars we drive.

The Assembly and state Senate overwhelmingly passed a measure to cut the state's heat-trapping emissions by 80 percent by mid-century, a target equaled by only one other state so far………

"In the absence of leadership on the federal level, the burden of reducing greenhouse gases has now fallen upon the states," said Lilo Stainton, a spokeswoman for Governor Corzine. "This legislation … will make New Jersey a national leader in combating global warming."………..

"The Earth has warmed up and cooled down hundreds of times. … The debate is not over," Assemblyman Michael J. Doherty, R-Warren, said.” (Nussbaum and Young, Bergen Record)



“Ever since New Jersey enacted its ban on talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving, cops have been allowed to pull over chatting motorists only if they were doing something else wrong, such as speeding or running a red light.

That may change soon. Lawmakers yesterday approved legislation that would allow police officers to pull over drivers solely for using a hand-held cell phone — or for texting — while behind the wheel.” (Hester, Star-Ledger)



“Hospitals would be required to implement an infection prevention program and report all outbreaks to the state health department under two bills that won final legislative approval yesterday.

The bills aim to stem the spread of a common yet antibiotic-resistant staph infection that has contributed to the deaths of 90,000 patients. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports one in 20 patients entering a hospital carries the potentially deadly infection.” (Star-Ledger)



“A package of bills to better the lives of those with autism won legislative approval on Thursday.

The measures — one of which would make millions of dollars available for in-state research — must be signed by Governor Corzine, who has identified autism research and social policy as a priority.” (Young, Bergen Record)



“For now, $200 million in funding to preserve open space has calmed clamoring by legislators and environmentalists across the state who called for Gov. Jon Corzine to support a 30-year funding source for the Garden State Preservation Trust.

But the stop-gap funding approved by both houses of the Legislature Thursday doesn't ensure that the fight won't be revived.” (Graber, Gloucester County Times)



A bill limiting the number of messenger ballots a person can deliver will have to wait until the fall.

As business wound down Thursday night, the state Senate refused to vote on an emergency move that would have brought the bill up for a vote.

The Assembly passed the legislation last week 80-0. Despite the support of Sen. James “Sonny” McCullough, R-Atlantic, other senators worried that the bill would hold down voter turnout.

“It's a way we can avoid voter fraud,” McCullough said, “which we've seen quite a bit in the Atlantic County area.” (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)



The state Senate voted unanimously Thursday to ban smoking on casino gaming floors, adding pressure on the lower house to follow suit before the end of the year……..

State Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, said the original ban unfairly left out the health interests of casino employees.

“Thousands of workers each and every day are exposed to second-hand smoke,” Vitale said. “Why should thousands of casino workers be subject to cancer and emphysema?” (McAleer, Press of Atlantic City)



“A Hunterdon County sheriff's officer appears headed to trial on charges he allegedly raped a woman in Frenchtown, where he was a part-time police officer.

A Somerset County Superior Court judge on Monday threw out Jeremiah Hupka's request to dismiss the indictment against him.” (Eilenberger, Express-Times)



“The partner of a disgraced New Jersey state trooper with ties to a Colombian drug cartel has been indicted for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars worth of seized drugs, moving them on the street with his partner and doctoring police paperwork to cover his tracks.

Brian Holmes, 41, of Elizabeth was charged in a 13-count indictment returned by a Union County grand jury Wednesday with official misconduct, theft, falsifying records, possession of illegal drugs with intent to distribute and distribution of illegal drugs.” (Misseck, Star-Ledger)



“Republican Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson likes to boast about nine years' worth of clean county audits as proof of how well the county's finances are run.

His Democratic opponent in the November election, Atlantic County Sheriff James McGettigan, said it should come as no surprise: The current and one former auditing company made more than $18,000 in contributions over the years to Levinson and the Republican Party.

Now McGettigan wants a ban on campaign contributions from firms hired by the county to perform the annual audits, saying those firms “conveniently overlook the fact that county tax levies and spending continue to increase with no recommended changes…………”

“These audits are supposed to be independent, but when the auditor is in bed with the party in power to the tune of $11,000, there is a clear bias,” McGettigan said. “This is a conflict of interest, and we need to ban campaign contributions from so-called ‘independent' auditors today, and county officials ought to return every dime they took from these firms.”

Levinson called the charges “ridiculous” and “silly,” saying the firms also donated to Democrats over the years.

“It means absolutely nothing,” he said of the contributions.” (Barlas, Press of Atlantic City)



The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey is siding with landlords in a lawsuit seeking to invalidate an ordinance adopted by the township council in December to combat overcrowding.

The lawsuit challenges a provision requiring landlords to turn over the names and Social Security numbers of all tenants. Parsippany also is requiring landlords to provide driver's license numbers, places of employment and phone numbers of tenants.” (Jennings, Daily Record)



Two incumbents and three newcomers make up Mayor Perry Barse's City Council slate for the 2008 election.

Barse, who is seeking a third term, announced his slate on the steps of City Hall on Thursday afternoon. The slate was introduced to supporters at a fundraiser Thursday evening at Merighi's Savoy Inn on Landis Avenue…………

Councilman James Forcinito and Councilwoman Barbara Sheftall will seek third terms with the mayor. They'll be joined by Jacqueline Gavigan, vice president of the city school board, Anthony Gioielli, a former Vineland police captain appointed to council last week to fill the unexpired term of Bob Smith, and Arnaldo Escobar, a Cumberland County sheriff's officer.” (Zatzariny, Daily Journal)



“LAWRENCE — Plainsboro resident Ernest Park was elected last night as governor of Jersey Boys State by the more than 800 high school juniors gathered at Rider University for the weeklong civics conference.

The conference, sponsored by the American Legion Department of New Jersey, teachers male students from across the state about government on the local, county and state levels.

High schools statewide sent some of their best students to participate in the college-level seminars, general assemblies and court sessions. Throughout the week, delegates were organized into different "cities," assigned political parties and expected to organize a government with an elected mayor and council for each city.” (Lord, Trenton Times)



Deputy Mayor Neils Favre said he is resigning July 2 from the Revitalization Committee it was his idea to create.

The committee was formed in 2005 to improve public areas in town, but its first major effort, refurbishing the Washington Street Mall, has faced strong public opposition and met with several roadblocks…………

“I find my plate is overflowing, and I have a lot to do,” Favre said. “I've reached a point where I've reached my own limitations and the time I have.” (Degener, Press of Atlantic City)


BARNEGAT TOWNSHIP — A Board of Education member accused of falsifying his educational background has resigned.

Scott Sarno's resignation was received by board President Linda Mitchell on Wednesday, district spokeswoman Carrie Sterrs said Thursday.

Sarno had been accused by Barnegat resident and former board member Robert Crystal of lying about his education. His biography as posted on the district's Web site said he had earned a bachelor's degree from William Paterson University.

That university's registrar, Mark Evangelista, said June 11 that Sarno did attend the school but a degree was not conferred. Sarno said Thursday that he graduated from the school in 1994 but a hold was placed on his diploma because he did not pay parking tickets………………..

“I never did anything personal to anybody,” he said.

But now that he is no longer a board member, Sarno said, the gloves are off. “I know plenty of dirty secrets already. I'll play the dirty game.” Today’s News from