Today’s news from PoliticsNJ.com

Kenny to undergo surgery today, NJ Senators fight Bush on children’s health insurance program, turning point for Burlington GOP, Colombia President in Hackensack.

KENNY TO HAVE SURGERY

“Scheduled for surgery on his right shoulder today, State Sen. Bernard Kenny, D-Hoboken, spent yesterday “sleeping” and “resting” at the Jersey City Medical Center, according to a legislative aide.

Legislative aide Joe Shine visited Kenny yesterday at the hospital’s surgical intensive care unit, but said the senator remains heavily sedated on pain medication and is only seeing close friends and family members…………..

Kenny initially told police he tripped and fell as he set out for his morning jog, but authorities now believe the severity of Kenny’s multiple injuries was caused by impact with a car.

The senate majority leader still hasn’t been re-interviewed by Hoboken police, Shine said.

Besides a dislocated right shoulder, Kenny has a broken right fibula, four fractures in his pelvis, and a fractured nose. Some time after today’s operation, he will undergo surgery on his right knee to repair extensive ligament damage, said Ed Flora, his law partner. ” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)http://www.nj.com/news/jjournal/index.ssf?/base/news-0/118517233532440.xml&coll=3

BUSH: U.S. HAS GREATEST HEALTH CARE SYSTEM IN THE WORLD

“Two New Jersey lawmakers are on the frontlines of a political fight between Congress and the White House over the future of a popular health insurance program that covers 6 million low-income children nationwide, including 127,000 in New Jersey.

At issue is the five-year renewal of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program after it expires in September. SCHIP is aimed at children whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, the government-run insurer for the poor, but too little to buy private policies if employer-sponsored health coverage is unavailable.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Rep. Frank J. Pallone Jr., D-N.J., have teamed up with congressional Democrats and some Republicans to seek billions more than what the White House says SCHIP needs. They also want New Jersey and some other states to continue covering children and adults from families that earn more than the income levels at which the White House wants to cut off eligibility. President Bush, who says adults shouldn’t receive SCHIP coverage, has threatened a veto…………..

“The administration will battle us every step of the way, and we cannot count on any votes from the other side of the aisle. In order to protect special interests, the administration is mounting an attack on SCHIP,” according to the memo Pallone and three other powerful congressmen wrote. “At a time when 46 million Americans have no coverage, Congress should not be rolling back existing health coverage for children.”

“Some in Washington want to expand the eligibility for . . . SCHIP in some instances up to $80,000 per family,” Bush said in Nashville, Tenn. “Further expansion will really lead to the undermining of the private health care system, which would take the greatest health care system in the world and convert it into a mediocre health care system.” (Chebium, Gannett)http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070723/NEWS/707230347

TAX AFICIONADO

“South Jersey smoke shops are apprehensive about a bill that could increase the federal tax on cigars to as much as $10 per cigar……….

The bill, now before the Senate Finance Committee, is seeking to add $35 billion to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, a fund that helps uninsured children.

While President Bush has stated that he plans to veto the legislation, the plan has local businesses worried.

Burton Weiss and his wife Ruth, who is the treasurer of the Association of Retail Tobacco Stores in New Jersey, own the Sewell Green Tree Tobacco store on 137 Egg Harbor Road in Washington Township.

They say consumers can simply take their business overseas to avoid the high taxes and the proposed bill would only wind up hurting local businesses.

“This is going to hurt little tobacco,” Burton Weiss said. “That’s us, we’re not big tobacco.”” (ORODENKER)http://www.courierpostonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070723/NEWS01/707230352/1006

MAKE OR BREAK YEAR FOR BURLINGTON GOP

“This year’s battle of Burlington will determine whether the county’s powerful Republican machine is in transition or the early stages of decline.

Buoyed by recent incremental victories – the surrogate’s seat, two Assembly seats, and more than a dozen municipal wins – local Democrats are pledging to chip away at the county courthouse in November and capture at least one state Senate seat.

The Republican county committee has taken some hits recently. Its chairman, Mike Warner, resigned amid controversy over losing control of Evesham Township and potential risks to the Eighth District legislative candidates.

With Warner out, vice chair Dawn Lacy took over as acting chair and Bill Layton, a concrete lobbyist with extensive political experience, took over the campaigns.

Layton insists that the party has “never been so united,” and says he expects “the South Jersey Democrats to come at us with everything they have.”

And, they have.” (Burton, Philadelphia Inquirer)http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/nj/20070723_Burlco_GOPs_fate_may_be_on_the_line.html

IT IS NEAR BOGOTA

“Colombia’s president celebrated his country’s independence along with hundreds of locals in Foschini Park in Hackensack on Sunday.

But President Alvaro Uribe’s trip was not all fun and games. He was in this country drumming up support for a free-trade agreement between Colombia and the U.S. Here in Hackensack, his efforts were localized as he spent the morning in the county administration building, meeting with community leaders, freeholders, council members, mayors and Rep. Albio Sires, D-West New York. Just after his Hackensack address, he left for Flushing Meadows Park in Queens to address another festival.

Though Foschini Park was filled with supporters for the president, who won an unprecedented second term in 2006, security precautions hinted at the controversy that he has found himself in more recently………….

Don’t judge Colombia for the narcotrafficking that we are fighting,” Uribe told the cheering crowd in Spanish. “Don’t judge Colombia for the guerrilla warfare that we are combating. Don’t judge Colombia for the paramilitary that we are disarming. Judge Colombia for the majority of hardworking people … [such as those] represented here like … Tomas Padilla, [freeholder chairman in] Bergen County, and Jorge Meneses, mayor of Hackensack.”” (Sangha, Bergen Record)

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BANNED FROM THE DOCKS

“Things have not gone smoothly for the International Longshoremen’s Association in the two years since federal authorities filed a racketeering lawsuit saying organized crime controlled the union.

The ILA’s highest-ranking official from New Jersey pleaded guilty to corruption charges that banned him from the docks. A mobster named in the federal lawsuit ended up dead in the trunk of a car parked at a Union Township diner. And two prominent union leaders had a bitter falling out.

But convictions, corpses and conflicts are nothing new to the waterfront.

ILA leaders seem to be taking those events in stride. In fact, at a July 31 hearing, ILA attorneys will try to convince a federal judge to dismiss the racketeering suit, arguing the charges are based on innuendo rather than facts.

In the meantime, union leaders are in Hollywood, Fla., for two weeks of conventions that wrap up Thursday and likely will produce a new ILA president, whose decisions will affect the 3,600 registered longshoremen working at the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Will the cloud from the racketeering case affect the outcome of the ILA election?” (Malinconinco, Star-Ledger)http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-11/1185165100129720.xml&coll=1

DOGFIGHTING NOT UNUSUAL

“Dogfighting could be happening closer to your home than you realize, occurring in urban areas to central New Jersey farms, according to local animal-rescue agencies.

“It’s about money,” said Matt Stanton, spokesman for the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals. “It’s about being macho: Having the biggest dog on the block. There is no one profile. Money talks to all races in all places.”……………………

Dogfighting is illegal in all 50 states. In New Jersey, Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, wants charge to update and expand laws against the abuse of animals and stiffen penalties. Van Drew said offenders of animal cruelty are sent to municipal court, and judges rarely know what to do because of a “hodgepodge of laws” — many of which were established in 1880.

Van Drew’s proposal has been cleared by an Assembly committee but hasn’t been considered by the full Assembly or the state Senate.

However, fighting rings are notoriously hard to find, Stanton said. It is a transient society that exists on Web sites and through word of mouth.” (Henemway, Gannett)http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070723/NEWS03/707230338/1007

DOG LOVERS BID FAREWELL TO JUSTICE

“VINELAND — More than 200 local animal lovers, along with a dozen canines, assembled Saturday morning to pay their last respects to Justice, the German shepherd found brutally beaten and gutted back in April.

The ceremony — which took place outside the Cumberland County Society for the Prevention Cruelty to Animals building on North Delsea Drive — also served as a kind of rally for stricter animal cruelty laws, with some wearing shirts and holding signs calling for new legislation to protect animals.

The name Justice was given posthumously, as it appears the dog had no owners. Police are still searching for the attackers.

“Whoever did this to Justice should be found and prosecuted as if they had done this to a person,” said Pat Deguenther, of Clayton. “They’re cowards. I just want them to come forward and show their faces.”” (Ladday, Bridgeton News)http://www.nj.com/news/bridgeton/index.ssf?/base/news-1/118516387598200.xml&coll=10

OUTDOOR STRIFE

“STAFFORD — The mounting fines facing Wesley K. Bell for a collection of sinking boats are nothing new for a former mayor who already owes more than $1.2 million to multiple state agencies for past infractions.

The majority of the sum relates to a series of disputes with the Department of

Transportation over billboards owned by his company, Wes Outdoor Advertising Co. Those fines total more than $1 million. Other fines, some involving matters dating back as far as the 1980s, have come from the Department of Environmental Protection and the Division of Taxation.

Bell, 69, is currently being slapped with a $500 daily fine for boats moored in a Beach Haven West lagoon that were deemed an environmental and public health hazard by a Superior Court judge. To date, Bell’s fines related to that case total $16,000.” (Paid, Asbury Park Press)http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070723/NEWS/707230348

NEW ENVIRONMENTAL COMMISSION TAKES ROOT

WESTVILLE With more than enough new volunteers to fill out the ranks of the beleaguered environmental commission, officials say the group is set to get a second life. Mayor Michael Galbraith said he is confident that with the number of well-qualified volunteers stepping forward, the commission will have enough new members to operate efficiently.

“These people seem genuinely interested in serving on the commission,” the mayor said.

An ordinance meant to dissolve the commission was introduced at the borough council’s June 13 meeting. When over 50 people showed up at the July 11 council meeting to protest the proposal, officials tabled the ordinance until the August meeting at which point they will officially decide the fate of both the ordinance as well as the commission.

Joyce Lovell, the commission’s chair and a vocal opponent of the ordinance, said she is happy to see the issue may have a peaceful resolution.

“I didn’t expect (council) to turn around that way, to be very honest. I figured they were so dead set they were going to do it one way or another,” Lovell said. “And I’m very pleased they were able to listen to what people were saying.”” (Counihan, Gloucester County Times)http://www.nj.com/news/gloucester/local/index.ssf?/base/news-6/1185164836130200.xml&coll=8

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT – NEWS FROM THE WEEKEND

REGENA’S BACK

“Eighteen months after her tumultuous tenure in Trenton ended, former Secretary of State Regena Thomas is the centerpiece of a whistle-blower lawsuit that accuses her of ordering subordinates to consider only African-Americans for jobs, grants and loans at a college loan program.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Trenton by the former head of the state’s higher-education loan program, charges Thomas and other top officials in former Gov. James E. McGreevey’s administration with racial discrimination, misuse of federal funds and retaliating against an official who blew the whistle.

Former Higher Education Student Assistance Authority Executive Director Elizabeth Wong contends Thomas disregarded the program’s independence.

“I never imagined that what I viewed as an opportunity of a lifetime would subject me to unthinkable discrimination and eventually result in my wrongful termination and public humiliation — all because I refused to comply,” Wong said in a recent interview at her lawyer’s office.

The state Attorney General’s Office, which is defending the McGreevey administration, said “there is no basis” for the charges, according to spokesman David Wald. He declined further comment.

Thomas, who departed state government in January 2006, said in an interview that she has left her Statehouse life behind as she completes the process of entering the Christian ministry.

Now pastor of Bethel AME Church in Glassboro, Thomas said she only recalls reading Wong’s charges “a long time ago. I’m not familiar with the case, period. I have not been concentrating on it. I don’t even read the newspapers anymore.”” (Margolin, Star-Ledger)http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-7/11850792635220.xml&coll=1

BOOKER WORKED WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT ON JAMES CASE

“For years, Cory Booker and Sharpe James engaged in a political street fight as the two men, a generation apart in age and worlds apart in philosophy, sought to lead New Jersey’s largest city. James, 71, won the first fight by defeating his younger rival in a 2002 mayoral election. But the 38-year-old Booker dealt his longtime foe a knockout blow by providing authorities with the tip that led to James’ indictment last week.

Federal prosecutors allege James, a state senator who’s retiring this year, abused his power as Newark mayor in one of New Jersey’s most brazen cases of government corruption and fraud. Booker was elected mayor last year; James did not seek re-election.

Only a few months after taking office as mayor last summer, Booker suspected something was wrong when he flagged unusual charges on his predecessor’s city-issued credit cards. He alerted authorities, then cooperated with their investigation into James’ alleged misuse of power.

“The information provided by Mayor Booker was critical in sparking this investigation,” said Attorney General Anne Milgram, whose office conducted the probe into James with the U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI.

The indictment, announced July 12, charged James with using city-issued credit cards for personal trips and expenses, and with engineering the cut-rate sale of the properties to Tamika Riley, a 38-year-old woman described by prosecutors as his companion on many of his trips.” (Frankston, AP)http://www.courierpostonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070722/NEWS01/707220378/1006

MAYOR ARRESTED FOR DWI

“Veteran Washington Township Mayor Rudolph Wenzel Jr. was arrested Thursday on drunken-driving charges after police smelled alcohol on his breath and found several beer bottles in the back seat of his car.

River Vale police saw Wenzel, a 66-year-old attorney, driving along Westwood Avenue around 11:30 p.m. with a faulty brake light, Lt. William Giordano said Saturday. Officers pulled over the mayor on Harrington Avenue in Westwood, where they detected a strong odor of alcohol and noticed beer bottles scattered across the floor of the back seat, police said.

Wenzel was unable to produce his registration and insurance cards, and failed a series of field sobriety tests, according to police.

Police also took a breath sample, but Wenzel’s blood-alcohol level was not released. He was charged with driving while intoxicated and given additional summonses for maintenance of lamps, failure to exhibit a document and consumption of an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle. Wenzel’s car was impounded and he was released to the custody of a “responsible adult,” police said.” (Fabiano, Daily Journal)http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk0OSZmZ2JlbDdmN3ZxZWVFRXl5NzE3MjcxOSZ5cmlyeTdmNzE3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTM=

RIVERA-SOTO REBUKED BY HIS OWN COURT

“The New Jersey Supreme Court took the rare step of punishing one of its own members yesterday, ordering the censure of Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto for judicial misconduct.

The rebuke stems from Rivera- Soto’s intervention last year in a dispute between his son and a high school football teammate. The justice filed criminal assault charges against the boy on behalf of his son. The record shows Rivera-Soto also made phone calls to police and prosecutors about the case, doled out home-made business cards and even insulted the other boy’s father over his hairstyle.

The justice “engaged in a course of conduct that created a risk that the prestige and power of his judicial office might influence and advance a private matter, thereby engendering an appearance of impropriety,” the court ruled.

Robert F. Williams, a professor at Rutgers School of Law-Camden, said, “It’s a pretty serious punch, not a slap.”

Justice Rivera-Soto, 53, a Republican from southern New Jersey who was nominated in 2004 by James E. McGreevey, then the governor, could have been suspended or removed from the bench. Censure is the third-most-serious form of discipline.” (Howlett and Coscarelli, Star-Ledger)http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-11/118499310817870.xml&coll=1

CORZINE TAKES A DIP

“Gov. Corzine’s approval rating among voters is slipping, notably among his fellow Democrats, but he has brought his grade back up from a C-minus to a straight C, according to a new poll released today………..

Corzine’s 51 percent approval rating in April has fallen to 46 percent, while 36 percent disapprove of the job Corzine is doing.

“It’s now a year and a half into his term, and Corzine has failed to bowl over the public,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, which shared the undertaking with Gannett New Jersey newspapers.

“The governor may be working hard, but he doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere,” Murray said, noting Corzine’s 51 percent approval rating in April has fallen to 46 percent, while 36 percent disapprove of the job Corzine is doing.

The April score came at a time when Corzine was almost killed in an auto wreck and when he had wrapped up successful contract talks with state unions.

“The decline has come mainly from his fellow partisans,” the pollster said in a written statement, showing that 57 percent of Democrats approve of Corzine’s performance, while 27 percent of Democrats do not; off from an April score of 74 percent of polled Democrats approving, and 14 percent disapproving.” (Baldwin, Gannett)

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ETHICS ON THE ROPES

“Long-promised reform to clean up New Jersey politics is lagging as yet another prominent politician heads to court on corruption charges. Voters already believe that waste, fraud and corruption are the leading cause of high taxes, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll.

Without strict new ethics rules, some say, the burden for North Jersey property owners — historically the highest-taxed in the state — will continue to grow.

Governor Corzine, in his January 2006 inaugural address, proclaimed: “My highest priority will be ethics reform. … We will earn back the people’s confidence and our own self-governance. Old orders and old ways may not pass easily, but the moment has come, the cause is urgent and the will to act is at hand.” He has had mixed results so far.” (Young and Maddox, Bergen Record)http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2MDcmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTcxNzI3MzAmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXky

LAUTENBERG SAYS HE’S IN GREAT SHAPE

“Sen. Frank Lautenberg isn’t surprised some people are questioning whether he’s too old to serve. But New Jersey’s octogenarian senator says he has no intention of calling it quits.

“I’m in excellent health,” says 83-year-old Lautenberg, who still puts in 12-hour days, downhill skis and sneaks in a round of golf when his schedule allows. “It was something that had to come up. To me, the issue is effectiveness — not age. It’s what I’ve done.”

More than half the respondents in a Quinnipiac University poll released this month said Lautenberg is too old to effectively serve another six-year term. In the poll, all voters expressed concern about Lautenberg’s age. Yet, he held a 7-point lead over an unnamed Republican challenger if the election were held now.

People who work with Lautenberg attest to his physical fitness and mental acumen. He and his wife, Bonnie, vacationed in mountainous Machu Picchu, Peru, earlier this year. He participated in Tuesday’s all-night session in the Senate and gave an impassioned speech on Iraq on the Senate floor in the morning.

His staff sometimes has trouble keeping up with him, said Scott Mulhauser, an adviser who joined Lautenberg’s campaign staff in February. If he wins, he would be 90 when his next term expires, in 2014.” (Delli Santi, AP)http://www.courierpostonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070722/NEWS01/707220380/1006

FLAWS FOUND IN ELECTION OVERSIGHT MACHINES

“Computer scientists have identified 33 flaws in three printer models intended to ensure the accuracy of electronic voting machines used across New Jersey. The problems, found by the New Jersey Institute of Technology and posted online yesterday by the state elections division, potentially could compromise voter privacy and election security, according to the experts’ reports.

Vendors of the gear contend the problems are easily fixed and stem largely from NJIT misinterpretations of new state guidelines for the printers.

“They’re all very workable. A lot of things were taken out of context,” said Michelle Shafer, spokesperson for Sequoia Voting Systems.

By January, all electronic voting machines are required by state law to include printers so voters can verify that their ballots are recorded accurately, and so officials have a “paper trail” to recount.

At the state’s request, NJIT has spent several weeks scrutinizing printers for the Sequoia AVC Advantage and Sequoia AVC Edge voting machines, along with a printer for the Vote-Trakker, a machine from Avante International Technology Inc. in Princeton. The printers were tested against criteria devised by the state, and simulated both a 14-hour election day and a 1,200-vote election.

The public can examine the printers during hearings next week, from Tuesday to Friday at the New Jersey National Guard Armory in Lawrenceville. If a state panel rejects the printers, New Jersey could face the costly task of replacing touch-screen voting machines statewide with devices that scan pen-and-ink ballots.” (Coughlin, Star-Ledger)http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-7/118499337617870.xml&coll=1

THE FOIBLES OF FINANCIER GOVERNANCE

To our east, New York’s Midas mayor wants to charge $8 per car for entering crowded central Manhattan.

To the west, the Merlins in the Pennsylvania House passed a bill to convert their state’s 313-mile stretch of Route 80 into a toll road that might yield $1 billion in annual revenue to finance road improvements.

In the middle, on the turf where we live and drive, another Midas — the former Wall Street financier who runs the place — wants to, uh, well, monetize some of our most valuable assets for, uh, maybe $20 billion, to get us out of debt and do, well, nobody’s exactly sure. Sorry for the vagueness, but that’s what happens when a governor says he has a secret plan for bailing his state out of a fiscal mess, then releases just enough secrets to raise dozens of other unanswered questions.” (Cichowski, Bergen Record)http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2MDcmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTcxNzI2NjQmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXky

DOUBLE-DIPPING SARLO

“State Sen. Paul Sarlo believes it’s wrong for public officials to hold two or more elected posts. At least that’s what he seemed to be saying when he voted last month to make the practice illegal.

But his opposition to “double dipping” has its limits. After all, he’s running for reelection this fall to keep his Senate seat and position as Wood-Ridge mayor. And so the ban he voted for will let those who currently double dip keep their spoons.

It doesn’t take effect until 2008. And it isn’t retroactive.” (Stile, Bergen Record)http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2MDcmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTcxNzI2ODgmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXky

PARK AND SLIDE

“The sweeping probe into the management and finances of the Somerset County Park Commission threatens one of the most generous perks given to a select group of 12 employees — homes for little or no rent. In a strongly worded directive, officials last week demanded the commission create a housing policy that includes fair-market rents for the 12 properties, and requires employees living in the homes to start paying all utilities.

Overhauling the housing policy was just one recommendation included in a scathing report by the law firm of Wolff & Samson of West Orange, which highlighted numerous questionable expenses by park commissioners, violations of state public bidding laws, and lack of oversight by county freeholders.

A more explicit housing policy would bring Somerset County in line with most other park systems in New Jersey, which lay out specific conditions for employee housing.

In Monmouth County, the park commission rents homes or apartments to 37 employees. The county policy distinguishes between “‘category one residents,” who are required to live on the park property they manage, and “‘category two residents,” who have no direct management responsibilities for the property they live on. Both types of residents, however, are considered on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on a noncompensatory basis, according to the Monmouth County Board of Recreation Commissioners policy. Employees who have duties on the property where they live are required to notify the park manager of any planned absence in excess of 24 hours.

No such specifications are spelled out in Somerset County. No employees are required to live on park property as a condition of their jobs, said James Dunwiddie, the assistant parks director.” (Rundquist and Abdou, Star-Ledger)http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-7/11850789765220.xml&coll=1

LESNIAK TO COLLEGE PRESIDENTS: “GET YOUR HEADS OUT OF THE SAND”

“Thirteen years after abolishing the Department of Higher Education, an influential group of Trenton lawmakers wants to strengthen state oversight and control over New Jersey’s colleges and universities, threatening the schools’ unprecedented autonomy.

The move follows years of rising tensions between college administrators, who complain that Trenton’s continued budget trimming is proof it does not understand their needs, and lawmakers, who believe colleges could be more efficient. Lawmakers also cite recent scandals at the state medical university and continuing reports of mismanagement as indications it’s time to re-examine the system.

State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), who is sponsoring legislation to give more oversight powers to the largely advisory state Commission on Higher Education, said New Jersey institutions need to better respond to rapidly changing job markets and stem the exodus of graduating high school students. College presidents, he said, “need to get their heads out of the sand.”

College officials are equally staunch — and resentful of the threatened intrusion.

“I wouldn’t want to see any state meddling in the university,” said outgoing Rutgers University board of governors Chairman Al Gamper. “I think history speaks for independence: less politics and more independence.”

The people who ultimately could be most affected are the 385,612 students at two- and four-year institutions in New Jersey, where schools like Rutgers and Montclair are approving another round of tuition hikes.” (Alaya, Star-Ledger)http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-11/11850789555220.xml&coll=1

RABNER FOCUSED ON THE JOB

“Stuart Rabner is not thinking about the enormity of it all. He’s not thinking about being the youngest chief justice in the modern history of the New Jersey Supreme Court, or the gravity of heading one of the nation’s most respected courts. He is definitely not thinking about a tenure that, given his age, could make him the state’s longest-serving chief justice. Better, he says, to stay on the little things for now.

There are pictures to hang in his new office in Trenton. He has to make a speech at his ceremonial swearing-in Wednesday in the state Assembly chamber. (He still hasn’t gotten his robes.) And he is putting together a list, asking everyone he meets for three suggestions to improve the judiciary.

“It’s a little overwhelming right now,” he said Friday in the first interview he has given since taking the oath three weeks ago. “I really do approach it one day at a time and especially at the outset. I will look at small steps.”

It’s easy to see why. When the 47-year-old former prosecutor and state attorney general does talk about what his new job means to him, he still speaks with awe.

“To be a judge is to take it to the next level,” he said, “where there is no side except for trying to evaluate the cases that come before you without looking at the people or their background or their political influence, and making a straight call.”” (Coscarelli, Star-Ledger)http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-11/11850788875220.xml&coll=1

THE MACHINATIONS OF MONETIZATION

“State Treasurer Bradley Abelow sent a letter to all 566 municipalities this week urging local officials to disregard Republican “disinformation” about the administration’s pending plan to tap state assets for billions of dollars, and pleading with them not to pre-judge it.

“Correcting the sins of our past will require bipartisan leadership and cooperation. The old politics of recriminations, partisan bickering and fear-mongering will only ensure more of the same,” said Abelow in the written letter dated Wednesday.

Republicans responded yesterday by denouncing the letter as an attempt to stifle legitimate concerns over the governor’s plans to raise money from the Turnpike, Parkway and other state assets.

“At the very least, it is insulting to you as elected officials and the constituents you represent,” said Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Morris) in a letter of reponse to municipal officials. “You can examine the facts and decide for yourself, without spin or veiled threats by the Corzine Administration.”

William Dressel, executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, dismissed the exchange as “shadowboxing.” He said it was not unusual for state treasurers to communicate with mayors and said he received no complaints about the letter. “The way I’m reading it, both of them have a different viewpoint on the monetization program, which is a work in progress. Each mayor is going to have to decide on his or her own how to react to that,” Dressel said.” (Donohue, Star-Ledger)http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-0/118499321117870.xml&coll=1

CORZINE CONTENDS WITH UPS OVER CIVIL UNIONS

“Gov. Jon Corzine urged the international shipping company United Parcel Service yesterday to recognize New Jersey’s new civil union law and provide health benefits to employees’ partners or risk violating the law.

The letter follows a story in the July 8 edition of The Star-Ledger reporting UPS had denied a Toms River employee’s partner health coverage because state law does not describe same-sex couples as “married.” The company pays benefits to same-sex partners in Massachusetts, where it is legal for gay couples to marry.

Corzine’s letter said the state law intended to bestow all the legal rights of marriage to people who form a civil union. The company’s interpretation of the law creates “inequity at the workplace and (furthers) the inequitable treatment of committed same-sex couples that the New Jersey law intended to eradicate,” according to Corzine’s letter to UPS Chairman and CEO Michael Eskew.

“I urge you to reconsider your company’s reading of its collective bargaining agreement on this point to facilitate implementation of the goals of the civil union law,” the letter said.

UPS spokesman Norman Black said Eskew had “no ability to comment on the letter because the Governor’s office decided to release it to the press” before it was sent to the company’s Atlanta headquarters. The letter was mailed to UPS by the United State Postal Service, Corzine’s spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said. In principle, UPS wants to extend health benefits to partners in civil unions, Black said. The sticking point is that federal labor law says a legally binding contract cannot be changed until both sides agree to a new pact.” (Livio, Star-Ledger)http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-0/118499316417870.xml&coll=1

KENNY’S FALL STARTED BEFORE WEDNESDAY

“It has been a tough year for state Senate Majority Leader Bernard Kenny, of Hoboken, who was found Wednesday morning crumpled like a broken GI Joe action figure between two cars. What can we say about the whole episode? First, the inept way officials tried to explain, or not explain, the accident made one suspicious about what happened to Kenny. What are they hiding?

The collapse of the Hudson County Democratic Organization’s unity came under Kenny’s watch.

Bad things started to happen when Kenny would not step aside for Union City Mayor and Assemblyman Brian P. Stack, who wanted the 33rd District Senate seat. Now there is a political bloodletting with everyone who has held a grudge in the past 20 years beating the war drums. During the primary campaign, at Hoboken’s Memorial Day Parade, Kenny got into an incident with City Councilman Michael Russo, aligned with Stack. Kenny slapped Russo. Russo said he didn’t want to retaliate against an older man and Kenny supporters say that slap was the Hoboken way of expressing affection.” (Torres, Jersey Journal)http://www.nj.com/columns/jjournal/insider/index.ssf?/base/columns-0/1184999194211460.xml&coll=3

RUTGERS STUDENTS TO PAY MORE FOR LESS

“Rutgers University will raise tuition 7.8 percent this year but still won’t be able to restore most of the 800 classes and hundreds of jobs cut during a budget crisis last year. The Rutgers board of governors approved a $1.7 billion operating budget during a meeting yesterday on the New Brunswick campus. One board member voted against the spending plan and others blamed the tuition hike on a shortfall in state funding.

“It remains a very difficult and a tightly constrained budget,” University president Richard McCormick said. “The tuition increases and the fee increases, we regard as a last resort. Tuition and fees at Rutgers are already high compared to many of our peers throughout New Jersey, and we regret that they are going higher still.”

The university received an $18.9 million increase in state operating support this year, but it wasn’t enough to completely recover from the damage of last year’s $66 million cut, McCormick said. The university can begin to fill some open faculty positions, but there will be “missed opportunities” in many areas, he said. Undergraduate tuition for New Jersey residents will increase by $617 to $8,541. Out-of-state students will pay $17,709. Graduate students will pay $515.85 per credit.” (Alaya, Star-Ledger)http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-11/118499330017870.xml&coll=1

PSEG REACTS TO GLOBAL WARMING

“When Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed into law a measure setting caps for greenhouse gas emissions, Public Service Enterprise Group CEO Ralph Izzo stood with him championing the reform to combat global warming. For that day, PSEG was welcomed as a friend by environmentalists.

But at the same time, the company was considering a controversial move that is not sitting well with those same environmental advocates: adding a fourth nuclear reactor at the Artificial Island Nuclear Generating Station in Salem County along with at least 20 other companies looking to cash in on federal incentives.

“It’s just one of the things we’re still thinking about,” said PSEG Nuclear spokesman Skip Sindoni. “There are a lot of companies that are.”

PSEG has committed to reducing emissions at its coal-fired plants in New Jersey, but environmentalists are concerned about the impact of additional nuclear construction.

While nuclear energy emits limited greenhouse gases, the potential threat to citizens through an accident or attack, as well as the impact of radioactive emissions and reported fish kills are among environmentalists’ concerns.

“Being there and supporting the reduction of (carbon dioxide) emissions is significant, but it’s not going to be done in nuclear,” said New Jersey Environmental Federation Program Coordinator Jane Nogaki. “That’s replacing one polluting source with another.”” (Graber, Gloucester County Times)http://www.nj.com/news/gloucester/index.ssf?/base/news-2/118509009962760.xml&coll=8

RILEY UNDER WRAPS TODAY

“This time around, the lawyer for a woman indicted with ex-Newark mayor Sharpe James insists the focus will be on his client’s innocence, not her outfit.

On Monday, Tamika Riley will be in federal court with James. She’s expected to plead not guilty to charges of fraud, stemming from what authorities say was a scheme to profit from the resale of land she purchased from the city at discounted prices. After the July 12 indictment was announced, the 38-year-old Riley showed up at a hearing in federal court wearing black pants and a clingy black tank top with a red bra peeking out.

“She didn’t set out to come to court looking as though she was going to a nightclub,” said her attorney, Gerald Krovatin.

An indictment accused James, 71, of using city-issued credit cards for personal trips and expenses, and with engineering the cut-rate sale of the properties to Riley, described by prosecutors as his companion on many of his trips. Riley was also charged with tax evasion on the money she made by quickly reselling nine parcels for $665,000 when she paid only $46,000 and didn’t redevelop them as required.

Krovatin said his client’s attire was a consequence of her arrest in Jersey City earlier that day.” (Frankston, AP)http://www.courierpostonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070722/NEWS01/707220379/1006

PENSION SYSTEM BURDENS MUNICIPALITIES

“Local governments are grappling to pay for hefty increases in what they owe the state’s public employee pension systems. New cost projections from the state Treasury Department have more than $1 billion in funds from local property taxes paying for pensions in the coming year — a number 20 times larger than what local governments had to pay four years ago.

“This is one of the essential reasons why it’s difficult to control property taxes, when you have these kinds of mandated increases,” William Dressel, executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Saturday newspapers.

The Treasury Department numbers show a $1.056 billion tab, due next April, to support pension benefits for hundreds of thousands of government workers, firefighters and police officers.” (AP)http://www.courierpostonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070722/NEWS01/707220382/1006

MANZO GOES AFTER DOG ABUSERS

“On the heels of NFL star quarterback Michael Vick’s indictment for his alleged role in a dog-fighting operation, state Assemblyman Lou Manzo, D-Jersey City, said yesterday he wants to put more bite in New Jersey’s law prohibiting the gruesome sport. In a letter sent to the Humane Society yesterday, Manzo said he’s directed the Office of Legislative Services to draft a bill that will increase the penalty to a second-degree felony for anyone associated with the practice.

“It is my contention that such a severe penalty is necessary, as dog fighting is beyond savage,” Manzo wrote. “Moreover, a deterrent must be implemented to curb such egregious behavior.”

The bill would upgrade the penalty for breeders, promoters, spectators and gamblers who areassociated with dog fighting, making them eligible for prison terms of up to 10 years. Dog fighting is currently a third-degree felony, punishable by two to four years in jail, Manzo said.” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)http://www.nj.com/news/jjournal/index.ssf?/base/news-4/1184999529211460.xml&coll=3

DAVIS TACKLES CAMDEN

“When Theodore Z. Davis first walked into Camden City Hall to take charge of America’s poorest city, he found chaos everywhere he looked.

But what he found outside City Hall disturbed the 74-year-old retired judge even more. People weren’t only afraid of crime, they were afraid of their government. During the past four years, the city had launched five massive redevelopment projects that targeted a quarter of the city’s population for relocation. About 16,000 people lived in fear that the government was going to take away their homes whether they agreed to sell them or not.

Hired by the governor on Jan. 2 on an interim basis to restore order in the city, the judge rode the creaky, balky elevators to his small office on the 13th floor. Armed with little more than a small bag of Peppermint Patties that he dispenses the same way Ronald Reagan handed out jelly beans, the Republican judge set to work.” (Guenther, Courier-Post)http://www.courierpostonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070722/NEWS01/707220366/1006

FORT NEEDED FOR TERROR FIGHT

“Fort Monmouth cannot be closed until its communications and electronics command’s critical technology and infrastructure — and the specialized work force needed to run and maintain it — are completely duplicated at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., or else the nation’s efforts in the global war on terrorism could be compromised.

But the Army will have difficulty in finding experienced people to fill the new positions and may not be able to replicate the current Fort Monmouth work force for a number of years. Those are the main conclusions of a draft internal memo by Fort Monmouth officials destined for Army brass. The July 11 draft, obtained by the Asbury Park Press, is meant to help Secretary of the Army Pete Geren report to Congress on the impact of closing the fort on the war on terrorism.

As part of its August 2005 decision to close Fort Monmouth and move most of its mission to Aberdeen, the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure commission required that the Army secretary assure Congress in writing that the closure would not adversely affect the war on terrorism.” (Brown and Bowman, Asbury Park Press)http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070722/NEWS/707220383

RIVERSIDE IMMIGRATION BATTLE

“RIVERSIDE — A coalition of local business owners represented by American Civil Liberties Union attorneys has filed a motion in state Superior Court to prevent Riverside from ever enforcing its controversial illegal immigration law.

James Katz, who represents the Riverside Coalition of Business Owners and Landlords on behalf of the ACLU, said the organization filed a motion for a permanent injunction to prohibit the township from enforcing the Riverside Illegal Immigration Relief Act.

“The bottom line is we believe they don’t have the power or right to enforce this ordinance,” Katz said. “It’s our position, as a matter of law, a municipality lacks the power to enforce a law regulating someone’s employment or immigration status.”

He said the township’s response to the motion is due in court this week.” (McHale, Burlington County Times)http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/112-07222007-1381444.html

GOODBYE JOHN HOLLINGSHEAD

“MILLVILLE — John C. Hollingshead Sr. will be remembered as a class act who was loved by everyone who met him. He was a man of few words, but friends recall his sense of humor, something he was rarely without.

Hollingshead, a life-long city resident, died Friday morning at the age of 61. He had been battling cancer since being diagnosed in May.

“I don’t know anyone that didn’t like John,” Mayor Jim Quinn said Friday. “He had a wonderful personality and a great sense of humor. I think the thing I enjoyed the most about John is he had a great sense of humor.”

Quinn said he will remember Hollingshead for his classy attitude and even temper.” (Marine, Bridgeton News)http://www.nj.com/news/bridgeton/index.ssf?/base/news-1/1184991169245200.xml&coll=10

NOISE ORDINANCE SETS OFF ALARMS

“BELMAR — A civil rights lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Trenton last week is poised to challenge how the borough keeps people quiet with its controversial noise ordinance.

Mary Mazzella Struble of Wall is the plaintiff. She owns and operates Creative Experience Tropical Nightclub for Kids and Teens, a small dance hall that caters to private parties for children out of an unostentatious storefront on Main Street.

The suit stems from two separate but similar incidents earlier this year. In one instance, police interrupted a “sweet 16” birthday party at the hall because the celebrants were too loud. The second incident involved a 7-year-old’s party.

Struble, who is deaf in her left ear and hearing-impaired in the other, said she relies on a sound meter to keep her disc-jockey, the music and her partygoers all below 90 decibels, the codified legal limit for entertainment establishments on Belmar’s main drag.” (Larsen, Asbury Park Press)http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070722/NEWS/707220385

BIGGER BOARD UP TO PUBLIC

“WHITE TWP. – The Warren County freeholder board wants to know if residents feel they need more representation at the county level. The board will hold a public hearing Wednesday on a possible ballot question that would expand the board from three to five members. Warren County is the only three-member board left in the state.

Board members have varying views on expansion, but all have said the people should decide. Freeholder John DiMaio introduced the resolution to hold the hearing at the board’s last meeting on July 11.

DiMaio has been an advocate of a five-member board for years. In 2001, DiMaio and then-freeholder Assemblyman Mike Doherty, R-Warren County, voted to put the question on the ballot. Voters rejected the measure by 290 votes. Hunterdon County voters rejected expanding its board in 1997 but approved it a year later. The expansion to five members took effect Jan. 1, 1999, freeholder clerk Denise Doolan said.” (Satullo, Express-Times)http://www.nj.com/news/expresstimes/nj/index.ssf?/base/news-5/1185077314273960.xml&coll=2

VACANCY FILLED FAST

“A local optician and former school board candidate was quickly appointed to fill a vacancy on the Elizabeth board of education Thursday night after board member Kathy Moore abruptly resigned. Some said the appointment came a bit too quickly.

Fernando Nazco, 36, was nominated by newly elected board member Carlos Trujillo and confirmed by a vote of 7 to 1, with board member Jeremiah Grace casting the lone dissenting vote. Nazco was sworn in on the spot and immediately took his seat on the dais.

With the nomination coming just seconds after board President Armando Da Silva announced Moore’s resignation, Grace and several audience members said the appointment seemed orchestrated. After the vote was taken, when Nazco’s photograph flashed on two large projection screens, their objections grew even louder.” (Casiano, Star-Ledger)http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/union/index.ssf?/base/news-2/11850788295220.xml&coll=1

HUB AND SPOKE

“WEST WINDSOR — If a conversation among three members of a five-seat township council constitutes a quorum, would an e-mail “hub and spoke” be a way for township council members to communicate with one another between meetings without violating the Open Public Meetings Act?

West Windsor Township attorney Michael Herbert Sr., whose professional services agreement comes up for a vote again tomorrow night, doesn’t think so. Neither does the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office. But councilman Charles Morgan, who vigorously opposed renewal of Herbert’s remaining contract and was the sole member of the council to vote against it, does.” (Persico, Trenton Times)http://www.nj.com/news/times/regional/index.ssf?/base/news-10/1185077423273930.xml&coll=5

IN PLEASANTVILLE

“PLEASANTVILLE — The Pleasantville Board of Education has cost itself money again by not responding to public-records requests.Superior Court Judge William E. Nugent awarded more than $1,100 in costs and fees Friday to Corporate Employee Benefits, the former insurance broker for the school district, according to CEB attorney George Polis.

CEB filed a complaint against the board after a request for public records the company made under the Open Public Records Act, or OPRA, went disregarded for nearly seven months, Polis said.

CEB made the request in September 2006 for records regarding the termination of its contract with the board, Polis said. When no response was given, CEB made another request for the records in February, which also was ignored, Polis said. CEB then filed a complaint in Atlantic County Civil Court on April 5.

A call to the board’s attorneys, the law firm of Hunt, Hamlin and Ridley, was not returned Friday.” (Hardie, Press of Atlantic City)http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/local/atlantic/story/7492218p-7387875c.html

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