Wake-Up Call: Monday, June 16, 2008

With the PolitickerNJ.com Wake-Up Call e-mailed to your inbox, phone, Blackberry or PDA first thing in the morning, you can get a rundown of New Jersey's top political headlines. Sign up to get the Wake-Up Call delivered every morning.

Absolute power

Republican state Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Demarest, accused Bergen County Republican Chairman Rob Ortiz on Friday of fixing the rules of an intraparty election so that Ortiz can remain chairman. (Oshrat Camiel, The Bergen Record)

State budget near completion

Gov. Jon Corzine and legislative leaders expect to nail down a state budget deal tomorrow, clearing the way for a final flurry of bill-passing before the Legislature takes its annual summer break.

"I do think we're relatively close," Corzine said Friday. "Most items are close to resolution." (Joe Donohue and Dunstan McNichol, The Star-Ledger)

Democrats must learn from the past

This year's presidential primary season produced the most exciting and dynamic campaign in recent history. And some Democrats would like to make sure history does not repeat itself anytime soon.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, a key New Jersey Democrat, said this year's campaign exposed serious problems in the Democrats' presidential nominating system. He and others think that it should be changed before the 2012 election. (John Froonjian, The Press of Atlantic City)

Investigation omits crucial report

A consulting firm at the center of a federal investigation did not incorporate in New Jersey or file an affirmative action report, as required by law, according to state officials.

Governmental Grants Consulting also doesn’t show up in a database covering corporate documents from all 50 states. (Michael Gartland, The Bergen Record)

New Jersey looks to alternative energy

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — For centuries, farming has involved plowing the fields and tending to livestock.

Soon, farmers in New Jersey may also be tending to solar panels and windmills.

New Jersey lawmakers are contemplating a bill that defines solar and wind energy generation as agricultural activity. The measure aims to promote alternative energy sources, but has been criticized as a possible danger to farmland preservation efforts. (Tom Hester Jr., Associated Press)

Where was the governor?

Bergen County Democratic Organization Chairman Joe Ferriero used the robo-call to roll over the opposition in his nervous reelection race for chairman last week.

Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, provided a taped testimonial to Ferriero, which was auto-dialed into the homes of BCDO committee members Tuesday. An effort was made to recruit Governor Corzine for a robo-call role, but it never materialized. Did Corzine, who agreed to lend his endorsement to a slick, pro-Ferriero flier, have qualms in taking the extra step in backing the controversial chairman? (Charles Stile, The Record)

Lieutenant Governor battle looms

As Gov. Jon Corzine holds fundraisers with Democratic power brokers and Republicans cross their fingers that U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie will challenge him, another kind of early jockeying has begun for the 2009 governor's race: the battle for second-in-command.

Next year, for the first time, gubernatorial candidates will share the ticket as New Jersey adopts the brand-new post of lieutenant governor. That change is already shaking up the landscape in New Jersey's highest-profile campaign. (Claire Heininger, The Star-Ledger)

The trials of war

ATLANTIC CITY – When former Mayor Lorenzo Langford stares out at the Atlantic from his town's famed Boardwalk, it's not the vastness of the sea that makes his political worries and concern about the future of this gambling resort seem smaller.

Those insights come from a place deeper than the ocean.

Langford, 52, was the victor this month in a bitter Democratic mayoral primary in which all three contenders traded accusations of untrustworthiness and ethical laxity. (Jacqueline Urgo, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Racing to an economic boost

MILLVILLE, N.J. – The acrid fumes from the roadway below, where workers are putting down a final layer of asphalt, don't seem to bother the two men on the bridge.

They are inhaling the sweet smell of success.

On July 5, one of two raceways will open at New Jersey Motorsports Park, about five years after Don Fauerbach, Millville Mayor James Quinn, and others first talked about using 700 city-owned acres for a resort to draw big-spending motor enthusiasts to one of the state's poorest regions. (Karen Langley, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Inside the Straight Talk Express

The Straight Talk Express has a brown-, white- and black-tiled marble floor.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain's well-appointed ride is a far cry from a New Jersey Transit bus.

McCain's coach got its name during his unsuccessful 2000 presidential run, when the candidate would hold informal chats with the people who covered him. (Derek Harper, The Press of Atlantic City)

Appointee benefits preserved

TRENTON — While voting in favor of some long-term changes to the state's public pension plans, a Senate committee also rejected a proposal for a near-term revision that would have trimmed benefits for political appointees.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, proposed more quickly shifting people appointed to paid positions on boards and commissions out of the traditional pension system into a new 401(K)-like plan at the end of their current terms, even if they're reappointed. (Michael Symons, Gannett State Bureau)

Corzine nominates new department head

TRENTON Nearly five months after the Department of Children and Families lost its original chief in the midst of reforming the state's child welfare system, Gov. Jon S. Corzine nominated Kimberly Ricketts to head the department Friday.

Ricketts, 41, of Highland Park, currently is the administrator of the Department of Law and Public Safety and was previously director of the Division of Consumer Affairs and executive director of the Governor's Task Force on Mental Health. Before joining state government, Ricketts served as a councilwoman in her Middlesex County hometown and worked in the behavioral health and social services area in New Jersey, Florida and North Carolina. (Michael Rispoli, Gannett State Bureau)

DEP makes progress

The state has secured nearly $4 million in damages and has protected more than 700 acres of open space over the past year as the result of settlements that compensate the public for injuries to natural resources, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson has announced.

The DEP, represented by the Attorney General's office, files lawsuits known as natural-resource damage claims that seek monetary and land compensation for injuries that discharges of hazardous substances and oil spills have caused to natural resources such as groundwater, surface water bodies, and wetlands. (John Barna, Gloucester County Times)

Sambade keeps license

Bayonne architect Avelino "Al" Sambade, who was convicted of federal tax evasion in April 2007, will get to keep his New Jersey architect's license after agreeing to accept a "letter of reprimand" from the state Board of Architects.

Board spokesman Jeff Lamm said the reprimand was the result of a settlement agreement negotiated between the board and Sambade and his attorney, Raymond Flood. (Ronald Leir, The Jersey Journal)

State senator fights for commuter rights

MANALAPAN — When Paul Farina goes to Gordons Corner Road and Route 9 to wait for his Academy Lines commuter bus, he never knows what to expect.

Sometimes the bus is on time, some days it arrives early, sometimes it's late, and occasionally it doesn't come at all, he said. The ride home from his job in lower Manhattan's financial district is no more predictable. (Larry Higgs, Asbury Park Press)

Records requests could become more expensive

TRENTON — New Jersey is on its way to dramatically raising the rates it charges commercial applicants — such as developers, lawyers and engineers — when they seek public records on the environment and the use of land.

Bills moving through the state Senate and Assembly note that the Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, is smothered beneath requests by people seeking information by way of the state's Open Public Records Act, or OPRA. (Tom Baldwin, Gannett State Bureau)

Full disclosure

WHITE TWP. | An open government advocate is challenging Warren County's policy of not releasing closed-door meeting minutes without freeholder board approval.

John Paff, chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project, initially challenged the county for being too vague when going into closed session. Instead of the board just saying it is discussing pending litigation, Paff advocates specifying the litigants' names. (Sara K. Sutello, The Express-Times)

States attempts to push past hospital delays

Frustrated by delays in getting the new $170 million Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital opened, the state has put the lead contractor on notice of potential legal action unless the situation is soon remedied.

Breach of contract notices have been issued to general contractor/construction manager Torcon Inc. on a project that was seemingly completed last November, when a gala opening ceremony was held in Parsippany featuring Gov. Jon Corzine and state Sen. President Richard Codey (D-Essex). (Lawrence Ragonese, The Star-Ledger)

With the PolitickerNJ.com Wake-Up Call e-mailed to your inbox, phone, Blackberry or PDA first thing in the morning, you can get a rundown of New Jersey's top political headlines. Sign up to get the Wake-Up Call delivered every morning.

Wake-Up Call: Monday, June 16, 2008