Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com

Little gained from moving primary up, Bergen Record holds Corzine accountable, Littell set to retire, Doblin wonders why voters don’t care about corruption.

SO WHERE’S THAT CRUSH OF CANDIDATES?

When New Jersey moved its presidential primary to Feb. 5, it had visions of candidates shaking hands, kissing babies and stumping hard for votes as they do in Iowa and New Hampshire.

But the Garden State instead finds itself among 22 states holding Feb. 5 presidential primaries, and polls show two candidates from neighboring New York -Republican Rudy Giuliani and Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton — with leads so huge New Jersey’s race might be over.

“So far the goal (of moving up the primary date) does not seem to be met,” said Ingrid Reed of Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics.

“Once again, New Jersey voters will be left behind the door as America chooses its next president,” said Assemblyman Richard Merkt, R-Morris. “It’s sad to see such a good idea botched this badly, but, hey, it’s New Jersey.”

But Democrats who control state government and moved New Jersey’s primary from June to February are confident the move was the correct step. Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed the change into law in April, a day before he endorsed New York U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Corzine spokeswoman Lilo Stainton said the governor’s aim was to make New Jersey a prime-time player in presidential politics.

“The impact of this move can only be measured over time,” Stainton said. “But it is already clear that issues of concern to state residents — expanding access to health care, protecting the environment, improving education and ending the war in Iraq — have taken a front-seat role as these campaigns evolve.”(Hester, AP)

http://www.courierpostonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071231/NEWS01/712310347/1006

 

HOLD ME ACCOUNTABLE

Governor Corzine shut down state government, but he also got the Legislature to come in for a special summer session.

He released the first new school funding formula in a decade and made New Jersey the first state in 40 years to ban the death penalty.

He raised the sales tax and backed down on sweeping ethics reforms. And he stoked his critics by making some questionable personal payments and e-mailing his labor-leader ex-girlfriend during contract negotiations. Nearing the midpoint of his four-year term, Corzine has accomplished some things he said he would and settled for a number of half victories. In many cases, he still has a lot of work to do if he wants to live up to his promises.

Here are the key issues Governor Corzine said he wanted to address as governor and what he’s accomplished during his term so far:

ETHICS REFORM

What he said:

“So I call on all my fellow public servants to join in an historic effort to end the toxic mix of politics, money and public business at every level of New Jersey government. Let us make these reforms permanent in the state’s constitution so that they cannot be ignored in practice, subverted behind closed doors or put aside after the present crisis of confidence subsides.”

— Jan. 17, 2006, inaugural address

What he did:

Signed a dual-office holding ban in 2007, but allowed the Legislature to grandfather existing dual-office holders; enacted tougher financial disclosure rules by executive order; established an appointed state comptroller. He has yet to enact a full ban of pay-to-play campaign financing or fully ban the practice of “wheeling” campaign contributions. (Reitmeyer, Bergen Record)

http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2MDcmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTcyNDAwMTgmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXky

 

YEAR IN REVIEW

For public officials in New Jersey, it was not an auspicious start. The new year was just 8 days old when the former mayor of Brick Township, weeks after leaving office, pleaded guilty to taking bribes from a developer.

Over the next 12 months, a drumbeat of convictions and indictments would follow: small-town mayors, local bureaucrats and some of the most powerful men in the Statehouse.

If it all had an oddly familiar feel to it, so did many of the top New Jersey stories of 2007, from wind-whipped fires in the dry scrub of the Pinelands and the ongoing saga of a disgraced former governor to unspeakable murders and the echoes of a faraway war.

There was, of course, the unexpected. New Jersey almost lost its governor to a high-speed crash on the Garden State Parkway. Don Imus lost his high-wattage radio gig after disparaging members of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team. Antonella Barba lost her dignity on “American Idol.”

It was a year of firsts. New Jersey became the first state to abolish the death penalty since the nation’s top court allowed its reinstatement in 1976, the first state to mandate flu shots for kids in day care and preschool, and the first state to require HIV testing for expectant mothers and babies.

It was a year for goodbyes. Thousands of nostalgic gamblers watched as demolition experts turned one of Atlantic City’s oldest casinos into rubble. Millions watched as “The Sopranos” faded to black. (Sherman, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/base/news-12/1199079334227650.xml&coll=1

 

ROBERT LITTELL SET TO OFFICIALLY RETIRE

Some supporters of state Sen. Robert Littell, R-Franklin, tried to talk him into sitting through a public tribute marking his retirement from the state Legislature next week.

Incoming Sen. Steven Oroho, elected in November to succeed Littell, with Littell’s backing, said it appeared that the longest-serving state lawmaker in New Jersey prefers his departure to be a low-key affair.

“The kind of guy he is, an unassuming guy, he really doesn’t want anything,” said Oroho, who will take Littell’s seat on Jan. 8.

“I hope he does allow us to do something, for the career he’s had. He really deserves it.”

Elected to the state Assembly in 1967 after a stint on the Franklin council, Littell moved to the Senate in 1990.

Littell, 71, who has grappled with hearing loss and other health problems in recent years, was not available for a phone interview last week.

“He has a really hard time on the phone,” explained his wife, Virginia, a former Republican state committee chairwoman.

Relaying some highlights of his career, Virginia Littell recounted his efforts in preserving the Capitol building and in helping to launch a child advocacy center in Newton named after his wife.

“He was really involved and proud of his work with Green Acres and open space. He was one of the pioneers of that,” added Littell’s daughter, Alison McHose, who was elected to the stat
e Assembly in 2003. (Jennings, Daily Record)

 

http://www.dailyrecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071231/COMMUNITIES/712310325/1203/NEWS01

 

THE BIGGEST STORY IS ABOUT THE VOTERS

New Jerseyans should make a New Year’s resolution and keep it: In 2008, we will pay attention when we vote.

Governor Corzine’s near fatal accident in April tops most lists of the biggest state story of 2007. But the big story didn’t involve the governor. Indirectly, it’s linked to U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie. The Republican, who many believe will challenge Corzine in the 2009 gubernatorial race, led a successful charge against public corruption this year.

State Sens. Sharpe James and Wayne Bryant were indicted. State Assemblymen Mims Hackett and Alfred Steele were arrested. Steele has pleaded guilty; the other three men await trials.

Public officials, big and small, were hauled up in Christie’s net like tuna from the sea. But that was not the big story. The big story was: It didn’t matter one bit with voters.

Democrats continue to whine, “Partisan, partisan,” while pointing an accusatory finger at Christie. Christie is unapologetically Republican. But his 100 percent conviction record adds weight to the argument that the fish he hauls in willingly jumped at the hook.

It’s remarkable that despite the notable public corruption cases — involving mostly Democratic officials — there was not a shift of partisan control inside the Legislature. Sitting legislators were not even forced to pass ethics reform affecting themselves. Dual office-holding changes affect only newly elected legislators. (Doblin, Bergen Record)

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IF HE LASTS THAT LONG

ATLANTIC CITY – A little more than a month after Scott Evans was appointed mayor, he has stopped pledging not to run for reelection.

He hasn’t announced his plans yet and subscribes to the old politician’s cliche of “taking it one step at a time,” but the claims he made about only serving one year when he was appointed by the city’s Democratic Committee on Nov. 21 have ceased.

Perhaps it’s the posh surroundings in City Hall’s seventh-floor mayor’s office that have him considering a June primary campaign. Or maybe he’s become infatuated with the power he now wields.

But looking at his past, one thing Evans hasn’t been is complacent. He’s always had his hand in two or three different endeavors at once, be it working in the fire department, working in real estate, selling insurance; the list goes on. Now, he’s found one job that allows him to be involved in every diverse facet of the city, and he’s clearly enjoying the efficiency the job offers. (Clark, Press of Atlantic City)

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/top_three/story/7525309p-7426390c.html

 

PAID FAMILY LEAVE

Robert Serrano praises the support his bosses gave him when his wife was battling cancer.

“My job worked with me,” said Serrano, a clerk at Landis ShopRite in Vineland. “They gave me the opportunity to come in at different times.” Still, nearly two years after Delia Serrano’s death, he harbors one regret: “I would have loved to spend more time with her when she was in the hospital.”

Advocates of New Jersey legislation that would provide paid family leave in such situations say there should be no regrets: Serrano should have had that time. Nice sentiment, say opponents, but not so fast.

“You’d love to be able to give that person extra time,” said Ken Ross, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin Corp. in Moorestown. But New Jersey’s bill is “an answer that doesn’t take the ripple effect into account.”

The “ripple effect” on employers, particularly those with small staffs, and on the ability of the state to attract new businesses are at issue as legislators debate the family-leave policy, which would be paid for through employee payroll deductions.

If it does not pass by Jan. 7, when the legislative session closes, efforts to pass it would have to start from scratch.

“The biggest hurdle is the fear on the part of some legislators that they will be contributing to the decline of the New Jersey business climate,” said Jon Shure, president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a member of the NJ Time to Care Coalition, which is coordinating lobbying efforts on behalf of the bill’s passage.(Stanley, Philadelphia Inquirer)

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/nj/20071231_N_J__family-leave_bill__Compassion_vs__cost.html

 

IF ONLY CORZINE HAD TEMPERED HIS EXPECTATIONS TWO YEARS AGO

It was just before Christmas, and Gov. Jon S. Corzine was having the kind of day he envisioned years earlier when he left Wall Street for politics.

Standing in the Tiny Town children’s play area in the Woodbridge Center Mall, Corzine announced a program that would offer low-cost health insurance to every child in New Jersey, a step toward one of his top priorities, universal health coverage. Dozens of parents paused from their holiday shopping to stop and listen, some snapping photos on their cell phones.

Within days, however, Corzine had to temper his ideals on health care with the reality of New Jersey’s financial woes. Meeting with reporters for a year-end news conference, Corzine made a comment on health insurance that could sum up much of his first two years in office.

“We have relatively finite resources. Matter of fact, I don’t even think we have resources,” Corzine said. He later added, “We have to be cognizant of those things we can afford.”

Corzine heads into 2008 eyeing a flurry of action that will go a long way toward determining what he, and the state, can afford for the rest of his term. After a relatively quiet 2007, policy-wise, Corzine’s handling of these issues in the coming year could go a long way toward determining his political future and the fate of his vision as governor. (Tamari, Gannett)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071231/NEWS0301/712310304/-1/NEWS10

 

 

IN CUMBERLAND COUNTY

After many years of serving as director of the Cumberland County Freeholder Board, Freeholder Doug Rainear is stepping down from the post.

Freeholder Lou Magazzu, chairman of the Cumber
land County Democratic Committee, is expected to take over as director of the board at the board’s annual reorganization meeting on Wednesday.

According to a press release issued Sunday night, Rainear’s decision to give up the position was voluntary and had been a long time coming.

“Rainear said he had been considering not continuing as director for some time, but made the final decision this past Thursday night and asked Magazzu to succeed him,” stated the release, forwarded by Magazzu.

Other members of the freeholder board said Sunday they would support Magazzu as freeholder director.

That includes Freeholder Jeff Trout, the lone Republican on the board.

“I think Lou will do a very good job as director,” he said. “Obviously he’s got the experience and intelligence to do a good job.” (Dunn, Bridgeton News)

http://www.nj.com/news/bridgeton/index.ssf?/base/news-2/1199086811123400.xml&coll=10

 

“WE’RE REALLY TREADING WATER”

The filling of two key vacant positions at the Monmouth County Board of Elections is on hold as board commissioners and county freeholders are stalemated over who has the authority to pick the new hires.

The standoff comes as the board is preparing for New Jersey’s earliest-ever presidential primary on Feb. 5, four months earlier than in the past. Leah Falk, chairwoman and one of four Board of Elections commissioners, said, “We’re really treading water.”

By state statute, county election boards are overseen by four politically connected
commissioners, two Democrats and two Republicans. They are appointed by the governor upon the recommendation of the chairmen of the county parties. The part-time jobs pay between $15,000 and $25,000 annually.

In Monmouth County, the board includes Falk, a Democrat from Aberdeen; Democrat Jo-Ann Dinan of Hazlet and Republicans Norine Kelly of Howell and Karen Haines of Middletown.

Falk said she is awaiting a response from the state Attorney General’s Office for an
opinion on the procedure to hire a board administrator and chief clerk, both full-time
positions. Falk said she expects to receive the opinion this week.

Peter Aseltine, spokesman for Attorney General Anne Milgram, said, “In a request for an opinion, generally we would respond to the agency making the request and would leave it to them to make it public.” (Jordan, Asbury Park Press)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071231/NEWS/712310326&referrer=FRONTPAGECAROUSEL

 

IN WARREN COUNTY

In recent years, nine Warren County Environmental Commission members’ terms have expired leaving only four valid members.

They keep meeting and offering their opinions on environmental issues facing the county, hoping the freeholders will fill the seats. But members said for the past two years the freeholders ignored their requests to fill the vacancies, leaving them without a quorum.

Freeholder Richard Gardner, who serves as commission liaison, says in January the freeholders will start reappointing members.

“I think it’s important for the environmental commission to be the eyes and ears of the freeholder board to alert us to some potential problems on the horizon,” Gardner said. (Satullo, Express-Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/expresstimes/nj/index.ssf?/base/news-6/1199077509168320.xml&coll=2

IN MONROE TOWNSHIP

It won’t be the first time, but a local government advocate is hoping to rid the township of elected officials receiving campaign contributions from recipients of municipal contracts.

Behind the citizen advocacy group called Platform for Progress and Change in Monroe, is a core group of more than a dozen people who plan to bring a model ordinance to the township council in January. If it’s not met with approval by the elected officials, the group is ready to start knocking on doors to collect enough signatures to put the issue on the November ballot as a binding referendum question.

Chris Cugini, a spokesman and leader of the civic group, said a policy change is needed to “level the playing field” and put the elections back into the hands of the voters.

“It’s all about voter apathy,” said Cugini, a resident of Hunter Woods who works as a sales executive for an electrical contractor. (Beym, Gloucester County Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/gloucester/index.ssf?/base/news-3/1199079604240020.xml&coll=8

 

IN WALDWICK

When Russell “Buddy” Litchult is sworn in as the mayor of Waldwick on Tuesday, he will be the borough’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years.

The retired security executive is a familiar face around town. He served seven terms on the Borough Council before taking his service to the Board of Education in 1993. He stepped down, on Dec. 1, as a member of that body.

His resume also boasts membership in the Knights of Columbus, American Legion, VFW and the Waldwick Fire Department.

When Litchult completes his term, he can add another accomplishment to that list: 40 years of service as an elected official in the borough. (Pries, Bergen Record)

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IN SALEM COUNTY

Beginning on Jan. 1, Salem County and its municipalities will reorganize their governing bodies. Some towns will see new faces, others will see familiar ones returning to their seats. Several municipalities will be swearing in or electing new mayors.

Here is a roundup of reorganization meetings for Salem County:

The Salem County Board of Chosen Freeholders will reorganize Tuesday, Jan. 2 at 7 p.m. in the freeholder meeting room of the county courthouse. Democrat Freeholder Director Lee Ware and Republican Freeholder Julie Acton will be sworn in. The board remains 6-1 Democrat. (Today’s Sunbeam)

http://www.nj.com/news/sunbeam/index.ssf?/base/news-3/1199079606239470.xml&coll=9

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT- NEWS FROM THE WEEKEND

NO MORE TAPIOCA

Eight Republicans recently stood outside Democratic Gov. Corzine’s office and made a promise.

“We will be heard,” Assemblyman Kevin O’Toole said.

O’Toole will be among nine new Republican senators sworn in on Jan. 8, and they are promising to play a louder and tougher underdog role.

That’s welcome news to Republicans who believe the party has become too yielding to the Democrats, who will continue to control state government for at least two years. Conservative Republican consultant Rick Shaftan said New Jersey Republicans had come to accept “second-place status.”

“They’ve been pretty passive,” Shaftan said. “That’s an understatement.”

But Republicans now are vowing to stand up to Democratic policies when the new Legislature convenes.

“We’re here to get something done and make a difference,” said Assemblyman Bill Baroni (R., Mercer), another new Republican senator. (Hester, AP)

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/nj/20071229_Republicans_vow_theyll_be_heard.html


FROM FERGUSON TO LANCE

Although he hasn’t yet announced he’s running for Congress, state Sen. Leonard Lance has hired Republican campaign guru Larry Weitzner as his consultant.

“I’m very pleased he is willing to participate. Larry has had many successes,” said Lance, who plans to formally announce his candidacy after the new year. The seat is currently held by Rep. Mike Ferguson, who has decided not to seek re-election.

Lance will face Kate Whitman, the daughter of former Gov. Christie Whitman, in the primary. Whitman, who has never held elective office, also approached Weitzner, who handled her mother’s campaigns.

“I talked to others, but we’re very happy to be working for Leonard,” Weitzner said. (The Auditor, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/columns/ledger/auditor/index.ssf?/base/columns-0/119899290269600.xml&coll=1

LOOK AT THE LAST NAME ON THE LIST

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a potential independent candidate for president, has scheduled a meeting next week with a dozen leading Democrats and Republicans, who will join him in challenging the major-party contenders to spell out their plans for forming a “government of national unity” to end the gridlock in Washington.

Those who will be at the Jan. 7 session at the University of Oklahoma say that if the likely nominees of the two parties do not pledge to “go beyond tokenism” in building an administration that seeks national consensus, they will be prepared to back Bloomberg or someone else in a third-party campaign for president.

Conveners of the meeting include such prominent Democrats as former senators Sam Nunn (Ga.), Charles S. Robb (Va.) and David L. Boren (Okla.), and former presidential candidate Gary Hart. Republican organizers include Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.), former party chairman Bill Brock, former senator John Danforth (Mo.) and former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/29/AR2007122901476.html

BLEE “MADE LITTLE NOISE. YET SOMEHOW HE MADE HIS PRESENCE FELT”

Bluster blows through the halls of New Jersey’s Statehouse as if from a giant fan that never turns off. The extremes on both sides always dominate the floor debates, simplifying complex issues until they become choices between right or wrong, good or bad.

In between the debates – and after – more bluster flies. News conferences. News releases. Whatever grabs attention.

Assemblyman Frank Blee, R-Atlantic, spent 12 years in Trenton and never figured out the drill. He studied legislation and immersed himself in details until constructing a sound bite became impossible. He advocated for those without the political clout to return the favor, from the mentally ill being imprisoned for petty crimes to drug addicts in need of treatment.

Having fallen short in an inner-party fight to replace state Sen. Bill Gormley, Blee will leave the Legislature on Jan. 7 having made little noise. Yet somehow he made his presence felt.

Blee stood out in several ways.

He was the ranking Republican on the budget committee, where he became well-versed in a school funding formula that even educators have a hard time figuring out.

He broke from his party to vote with Democrats on controversial bills, from the state budget to his recent vote to abolish the death penalty. (McAleer, Press of Atlantic City)

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/local/atlantic/story/7525164p-7426277c.html

A JOB BARK WILL SHOW UP FOR

State Sen. Martha Bark said yesterday she will remain in office through the end of her term Jan. 8, despite filing paperwork designating Monday as her retirement date, officials said.

Bark contacted the Burlington County Times yesterday to dispel rampant rumors that she was resigning Monday and would not serve out the last days of her term.

She said she would finish the term and had only filed for retirement by the last day of December due to financial need.

Bark said pension rules mandate that participants can retire only at the end of a month, so waiting until Jan. 8 to retire would mean she would have to wait until March — including time for approval and processing — to receive her first benefit check.

She noted that the last paycheck received by state legislators was in November. “It would have meant three months without any revenue,” Bark said.

State Treasury spokesman Tom Vincz said Bark filed papers that would make her eligible for her pension to begin Jan. 1, but state law permits her to serve out the remainder of her term.(Hayes and Levinsky, Burlington County Times)

http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/112-12292007-1463073.html

 

PAY TO PLAY IS ALIVE AND WELL IN NEW JERSEY

Some of New Jersey’s savviest political donors continue to shovel cash to campaigns — and score no-bid government contracts — despite pay-to-play reforms hailed as the country’s toughest, public records show.

Since 2005, the state has limited how much money contracting businesses can pump into the system. But their employees — and even their partners or owners — retain wide discretion to donate.

Governor Corzine has pledged to curb pay-to-play further in 2008, but it is unclear how much the state can restrict individuals’ giving, a practice that some call a loophole — and others, including the U.S. Supreme Court, call a constitutional right.

“The governor is reviewing all of our pay-to-play laws at all levels to see how they can be improved,” said Lilo Stainton, a spokeswoman.

In the meantime, the donations are piling up. So are the contracts. According to 2006 disclosure forms maintained by the Election Law Enforcement Commission:

· Two principals with the construction firm Joseph J. Jingoli & Son made $255,200 in donations, mostly to Republican and Democratic campaigns at the municipal, county and state levels. The company received $32 million in public contracts.

· CME Associates of Edison, a construction company, reported that five partners made $404,899 in donations. The company received $20 million in public contracts.

· Scarinci & Hollenbeck, a Lyndhurst law firm, reported $6 million in public contracts. Its two partners made $54,650 in donations.(Young, Bergen Record)

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PROPERTY TAXES

As Gov. Corzine sees it, New Jersey’s highest-in-the-nation property taxes took a hard punch this year, but they weren’t knocked out.

“We are making progress,” said Corzine, who made property-tax reduction a hallmark of his Democratic gubernatorial campaign two years ago. “We are not where we want to be.”

Corzine and legislators spent much of 2007 focusing on reducing property taxes, which average $6,330 in New Jersey – double the national figure. Their actions included:

Increasing property-tax rebates by about $700, to an average $1,051.

Capping county, local and school property-tax increases at 4 percent, though tax increases can exceed the limit because certain costs are exempt from the cap.

Revising and reducing health and retirement benefits for state and local public workers to cut the amount that state and local governments pay for the policies.

Creating county school superintendents with power to slice local school spending that drives up property taxes.

Creating a commission to ask voters to merge towns to save money.

Republicans question whether it was enough.

“Democrats may wish to pat each other on the back for having a slightly less dramatic increase in tax bills,” said Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R., Morris) (Hester, AP)

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/local/nj/20071230_Tax_relief_seen_as_unfinished_N_J__business.html

 

STILE’S FAVORITE QUOTES OF 2007

Politicians love to vent in private “background” conversations with reporters, but I’m still surprised by the amount of candor (and clumsiness) expressed in on-the-record interviews. And that’s a good thing for this column — and for readers, too.

The tumultuous political year of 2007 — a year of federal indictments, intra-party battles and a record-setting $69 million campaign for the Legislature — produced a bumper crop of colorful, unscripted Jersey-style political banter.

Here are some outtakes from interviews and public events that I saved for this year’s final column:

Anthony Impreveduto’s Clumsy Comparison: The disgraced former assemblyman from Secaucus saw no problem or irony in resurrecting his political career as a paid lobbyist. I caught up with Impreveduto in the State House — the same night the Assembly was voting on several ethics reform bills.

Impreveduto, who pleaded guilty in 2005 to charges that he spent campaign funds for personal expenses, struggled to find a way to defend his new role. He tried this off-the-cuff analogy:

“The guy who is a burglar who goes back to teach people to protect your house is a similar situation I would suspect,” he said, then quickly retreated. “Hold on, that’s a bad analogy. That’s a horrible analogy.” (Stile, Bergen Record)

http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2MDcmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTcyMzk3NTUmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkz

 

NEW LEGISLATURE, NEW PRIORITIES

After introducing 8,387 bills and attempting to tackle concerns ranging from property taxes to abolishing the death penalty to ethics reform, New Jersey’s Legislature is about to be reshaped.

The 2006-07 legislative session ends at noon on Jan. 8, when the Legislature chosen during the Nov. 6 election convenes. All bills not adopted by then expire, meaning efforts to pass them will have to start anew with the new Legislature.

The Legislature has scheduled hearings and voting sessions for Thursday and Monday to try to complete its work.

Here’s a look at this Legislature and what lies ahead:

Q. What did this Legislature accomplish?

A. It spent much of its time trying to tackle property taxes that are twice the national
average. It adopted numerous laws meant to control the levy, most notably increasing property tax rebate checks and aiming to cap property tax increases at 4 percent.

It also adopted several anti-corruption measures.

Democrats, who control the Legislature, lauded the property tax and ethics reforms, though Republicans contend they’re weak………..

Q. What didn’t it do?

A. It’s yet to decide a new school funding plan, though it will likely do so before the
session ends. It also hasn’t decided whether to make New Jersey the third state to offer people paid leave from work to care for a sick family member or new child. (Hester, AP)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071230/NEWS/71230001/-1/NEWS10

 

PAID FAMILY LEAVE

While the proposal appears stalled, state Sen. Stephen Sweeney said delaying a vote on his controversial paid family leave legislation could actually prove beneficial.

“It gives me an opportunity to go back to leadership and the governor’s office, and see if I can’t negotiate more,” said Sweeney, D-3 of West Deptford.

Sweeney began making concessions on the bill with a focus on getting the measur
e passed by the end of the legislative session.

First, he cut back the number of paid weeks off the proposal would provide workers, from 12 to 10. He then allowed an exemption for small businesses, giving those with 50 or fewer employees the ability to let workers go after they take the leave.

In recent weeks, legislators began discussing scaling back the number of paid weeks off allowed under the proposal even further, to six. (Graber, Gloucester County Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/gloucester/index.ssf?/base/news-3/1199005807150510.xml&coll=8

 

NEPTUNE ABOUT TO GET OPENLY GAY MAYOR

NEPTUNE –Township Committeeman Randy Bishop knows he’s going to become part of New Jersey history Tuesday afternoon, but he’s quick to downplay its significance.

Bishop, who will be sworn in at noon Tuesday for his second three-year term on the committee, is also expected later in the afternoon to be picked as mayor for 2008.

When that happens, Bishop will be one of two openly gay mayors serving this year in New Jersey, and one of only three in the state’s history.

But Bishop, who owns the Melrose Inn in Ocean Grove, doesn’t want his sexuality to be the focus of his tenure as mayor.

“It really is a small piece of what makes me who I am,” he said. “It’s as much a piece of me as owning my own business, or having spent years in corporate America. (Bowman, Asbury Park Press)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071230/NEWS/712300366&referrer=FRONTPAGECAROUSEL

 

“I’M A JUDGE, BRO”

Drunk from downing vodka and tonic at a Roxbury go-go bar, a Morris County municipal judge threatened to use his position to retaliate against police officers who arrested him for driving while intoxicated last month, he admitted yesterday.

George R. Korpita’s guilty pleas to threatening a public servant and DWI cost him his judicial seats in Dover, Rockaway Borough and Victory Gardens and their combined $58,000 annual income. Superior Court Judge Salem Ahto, sitting in Morristown, said the Dover attorney also faces possible disbarment.

Dressed in a blue blazer and khaki pants, Korpita, 48, politely answered most of Ahto’s questions with, “That’s correct, your honor.” In recognition of the defendant’s years as a municipal judge, Ahto said he didn’t need to tell Korpita the penalties for a drunken driving conviction, but then did so.

“It’s a little bit unusual to have a judge sitting here as a defendant,” Morris County Prosecutor Robert A. Bianchi said. (McHugh, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/middlesex/index.ssf?/base/news-3/119890653170800.xml&coll=1

 

IN HAMILTON

Mayor-elect John Bencivengo yesterday announced plans to appoint three high-profile Republicans to key cabinet positions when he takes office next week.

Former township Councilman Michael Angarone will serve as Hamilton’s director of Economic Development and Technology. Robert Warney, a former Hamilton school board president, will serve as director of Engineering, Planning and Inspections. Rounding out the trio is Cathy Tramontana, a former chairwoman of the county Republican Party who will serve as director of Health, Recreation and Senior and Veteran Services in Hamilton.

“I have assembled a team which I believe is stellar and second to none,” Bencivengo said. “Each brings a wealth of business experience that will be invaluable to moving Hamilton in the right direction. I am confident each will shine in their roles and maintain the interests of the citizens of Hamilton first.”

Angarone, a Mercer County Freeholder from 1993 to 1996, last served on the township council in 1994. But he’s played an active role in politics for the past several years, running local GOP campaigns in 2005, 2006 and this year, when he guided Bencivengo to an unexpected victory over Mayor Glen D. Gilmore. (Coryell, Trenton Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/times/regional/index.ssf?/base/news-11/11989047398390.xml&coll=5

 

IN BURLINGTON COUNTY

MOUNT HOLLY — The Burlington County Board of Freeholders yesterday unanimously approved reappointing Republican Priscilla Anderson to the Burlington County Bridge Commission.

The freeholders had delayed reappointing Anderson since her term expired Oct. 22.

Anderson, a Lumberton resident, did not return calls seeking comment.

After the meeting yesterday, Freeholder Aubrey Fenton, who nominated Anderson, said Anderson has worked on several reforms and improvements at the bridge commission.

“She’s a person that has a lot of integrity and she’s an improvement to any institution she’s a part of,” he said.” (Hayes, Burlington County Times)

http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/112-12292007-1463075.html

 

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