Morning News Digest: February 13, 2009

Lonegan and Merkt work Hackensack while Levine welcomes Christie to Franklin

FRANKLIN – Guerilla sniping sounded from the Lonegan camp even as the four Republican candidates for governor split up on the trail tonight to chart an otherwise sedate course to one of two prime Lincoln Day Dinner events. Assemblyman Richard Merkt (R-Mendham) and former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan attended the Bergen County Republican Organization confab in Hackensack, and former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie and Franklin Mayor Brian D. Levine mixed at the Somerset County Republican Organization’s annual dinner at the Imperia in Franklin. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

Whitman eyes freeholder seat

FRANKLIN – Kate Whitman, Republican Party municipal chair from Peapack-Gladstone and a veteran of last year's Republican Primary in the 7th Congressional District, is mulling a bid for Somerset County Freeholder, she told tonight at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner at the Imperia Banquet Hall. Whitman, who last year ran a hard-charging campaign in losing to eventual general election winner U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton), would vie to replace retiring Freeholder Director Rick Fontana of Bridgewater Township. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

Kate Whitman considers bid for Somerset County Freeholder

Kate Whitman, who lost last year's Republican Primary in the 7th Congressional District, is mulling a bid for Somerset County Freeholder, according to a report on The report said Whitman, who lost to eventual general election winner U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton), would vie to succeed retiring Freeholder Director Rick Fontana of Bridgewater Township. But Whitman, daughter of former Gov. Christie Whitman, said will discussethe issue with her husband before either talking to Chairman Dale Florio or deciding against another run. (Star-Ledger)

Audit of dependent health coverage is common in private sector

Charles "Chip" Dutcher handles human resources for a Princeton public relations firm that has just 10 employees. For him, keeping track of who in his employees' families is eligible for health coverage is fairly easy. (Larini, Star-Ledger)

GOP asks N.J. Supreme Court to rule on Corzine e-mails

The chairman of New Jersey's Republican Party has asked the state Supreme Court to order the release of e-mails exchanged by Gov. Jon Corzine and former state workers union leader Carla Katz, his ex-girlfriend. Tom Wilson filed a petition with the high court Wednesday night, asking the justices to reverse an appeals court ruling that the e-mails need not be made public. (Heininger, Star-Ledger)

Elizabeth parents file court injunction against school board meeting rules

A group of angry parents filed a court injunction against the Elizabeth school board this week, claiming a move to revise the public comments portion of meetings violates their freedom of speech. "I'm sure this is unconstitutional," said James Carey, 43, the Elizabeth chair for the People's Organization for Progress, and the father of two daughters in the K-12 district. "This thing is out of control." (Kwoh, Star-Ledger)

Senator urges N.J. sports authority to end free race track passes for leglislators

For more than 30 years, the sports authority handed out free season passes for the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park racetracks to a small but influential group: members of the state Legislature. That little perk, however, may be going the way of the horse and buggy.(Margolin, Star-Ledger)

Publicly funded Lonegan disputes ties to a lobby

TRENTON – A Republican gubernatorial candidate's ties to an antitax lobbying group raise questions about whether he was entitled to receive nearly $500,000 in taxpayer-funded campaign financing. Steve Lonegan was state director of Americans for Prosperity New Jersey for nearly three years until he applied for two-for-one matching funding from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. (Delli Santi, AP)

South Jersey road projects for U.S. stimulus aid

The long-awaited "direct connection" of I-295 with Route 42 and I-76 near Bellmawr is one of the major South Jersey highway projects slated to benefit from the federal economic stimulus package. Others include improving drainage of the frequently flooded Admiral Wilson Boulevard (Route 30) in Camden and Pennsauken; repaving of I-295 in West Deptford, Haddon Heights and Cherry Hill; median crash-barrier construction on Route 18 in Burlington County; the redecking of a Main Street bridge over Route 206 in Mansfield, and the resurfacing of I-295 between Rancocas-Mount Holly Road and Route 130. (Nussbaum, Inquirer)

N.J. set to get at least $2.2 billion in Medicaid aid

TRENTON – New Jersey stands to receive an additional $2.2 billion for its Medicaid program under the stimulus package emerging from Congress, providing a financial boost to a safety-net program that officials say will face more demands as the recession continues. Other funding from the program is estimated to create or save about 100,000 jobs in New Jersey during the next two years, and may help renovate 205 schools in the state, according to White House figures distributed by New Jersey senators. (Tamari, Inquirer)

Wage gap by gender in ranks of county

TOMS RIVER — Women employees of the Ocean County government were paid less, on average, than their male counterparts regardless of seniority, according to a review of 2008 payroll data. The greatest pay gaps were seen in the Sheriff's Department and Prosecutor's Office, where women with the same job titles and longer service were paid, on average, less than the men. (Larsen and D’Ambrosio, Asbury Park Press)

Monmouth freeholders propose budget with small tax increase

FREEHOLD — Though an increase on the Monmouth County tax levy was avoided in 2008, the bill is due this year. The budget proposed by the Board of Freeholders on Thursday night calls for a tax increase of just less than $11 million. (Jordan, Asbury Park Press)

Dem legislators tout jobs saved

WASHINGTON As Congress prepares to vote on a final version of a $789 billion economic stimulus bill, the White House is estimating the measure would protect 100,000 jobs in New Jersey during the next two years. Nationwide, the Obama administration estimates 3.5 million jobs would be created or saved. (Coomes, Gloucester County Times)

Peter Cammarano (re)-announces run for Hoboken mayor

Councilman-at-Large Peter Cammarano reiterated his intention to run for Hoboken mayor, in a press conference he held this morning at Frozen Monkey cafe. Who showed up? Cammarano spoke in front of local and state media (Hoboken Reporter, The Jersey Journal, Hoboken411, PolitikerNJ) Hoboken politicos, residents like Lane Bajardi and Kurt Gardiner, and a couple people who looked truly shocked as to why a political event was going on while they tried to get a cup of coffee. (Carly Baldwin, Jersey Journal)

Forget the shopping and make Xanadu a borough

IT'S BIG. It's ugly. Those are the nicest things I can say about Xanadu, the mega-entertainment-quasi mall nearing completion in the Meadowlands. Opening a shopping mall during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression is about as smart as trying to build housing and golf courses on a former landfill. (Doblin, Record)

Lawmaker Introduces "Right to File" Consumer Protection Bill

A measure working its way through trenton's legislative process is designed to safeguard consumers by invalidating any contract that requires the customer to waive their right to file a complaint. The bill is sponsored by assemblymen wayne DeAngelo, Nelson Albano and Matt Milam. The measure has been unanimously approved by the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee. It now goes to the Assembly Speaker who decides if and when to put it for a floor vote. "When companies are increasingly using contract clauses that force consumers to waive their right to file a complaint, something must be done," says DeAngelo. "Preventing a customer from filing a complaint undermines New Jersey's long standing tradition of consumer protection. Without such protection, government's ability monitor a business' compliance with existing law is severely compromised." (NJ 101.5)

Bernards commitee official announces candidacy for county freeholder seat

SOMERSET COUNTY —Bernards Committeeman John Carpenter officially declared his candidacy this week for an open Somerset County freeholder seat. Meanwhile, several other Republicans have said they are considering running in what could be a crowded field seeking the endorsement of the county Republican party in April to run against Democratic candidates in the fall. (Bricketto, Courier News) Morning News Digest: February 13, 2009