Morning News Digest: February 26, 2009

Jersey City Council approves tax exemption for moderate- and market-rate housing development

The Jersey City council approved a tax exemption for a moderate income and market rate housing project at the intersections of Monticello, Fairmount and Fairview avenues by a vote of 8-0 with Councilman Bill Gaughan absent. (Clark, Jersey Journal)

Essex County honors Booker

Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo today honored Newark Mayor Cory Booker as Essex County's "Black Man of the Year” at the Essex County Hall of Records. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

Corzine says he will sign medical marijuana bill

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine said he will "absolutely" sign a medical marijuana bill for chronically and terminally ill patients if it gets to his desk. Corzine, a Democrat running for re-election, made the comments Wednesday morning on WNYC radio's "Brian Lehrer Show." (Star-Ledger)

Rutgers University will spend $500M for expansion

Rutgers University officials said Wednesday they will spend $500 million during the next three years to expand and upgrade the school's campuses. At a time when the economic slowdown has stunted development across New Jerseywill fund more than 20 building projects on the Camden, Newark and New Brunswick-Piscataway campuses, said Antonio Calcado, the university's vice president for facilities and capital planning. The spending will be be financed mostly through the sale of bonds. (Mueller, Star-Ledger)

Morris County Freeholders propose small '09 tax decrease

Taxpayers will get a bit of a break this year in Morris County, where county government taxes will be going down for the first time in more than a decade. Savings built into a $298.5 million operating budget that was introduced by the freeholders last night, combined with a reduction in the county's open space tax, will result a more than $2.2 million tax levy decrease. (Ragonese, Star-Ledger)

Belmar OKs strict limits on eminent domain use

BELMAR — The borough now boasts the strongest anti-eminent domain law in Monmouth and Ocean counties, Councilman Matthew J. Doherty declared. Belmar earned that distinction, he said, when the Borough Council voted 4-1 Wednesday night to prohibit itself from seizing any property in a redevelopment area and selling it to a developer — despite a state eminent domain law that allows municipalities to do just that. (Reiss, Asbury Park Press)

State lawmakers may vote to close loophole in casino smoking ban

TRENTON — Lawmakers will discuss a bill next week that would close the loophole that allows smoking on casino floors. The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens will take testimony on the bill at a session scheduled for 1 p.m. March 2 in Committee Room 1 in the Statehouse complex. (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)

Edison Democrats unite behind mayoral candidate to oust Choi

EDISON — In a quest to defeat incumbent Mayor Jun Choi, once-warring factions of the Democratic party have decided to put a united front by fielding just one candidate — Township Council member Antonia Ricigliano. Council members Robert Diehl and Anthony Massaro are relinquishing their individual pursuits for the mayoral position in a joint decision to back Ricigliano. (Amuthan, Courier News)

N.J. high court divided on police car searches

A divided New Jersey Supreme Court yesterday defined parameters for when police can search a car without a warrant, but the dissenting justices said the ruling created a legal "quagmire" that would hinder officers. The ruling stemmed from two cases – one originating in Camden – in which police arrested suspects following traffic stops. In both cases, subsequent searches turned up drugs and weapons in the vehicles. (Graham, Inquirer)

Key witness testifies in Bordentown chief's trial

The key witness in the trial of the suspended Bordentown City police chief charged with plotting to kill his former wife testified yesterday that he told authorities about the plan because he was afraid he would be implicated if the woman were killed. (Rao, Inquirer)

Highway stimulus could boost big contractors

If past is prologue, Driscoll Construction Co. of Montgomery County and South State Inc. of Cumberland County can expect the federal stimulus program to be very good to them. The construction firms, among the region's largest, had the most lucrative highway contracts in Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey over the past four years. And they are among a handful of area companies well-positioned to receive construction work unleashed by the new federal law. (Nussbaum, Inquirer)

Is Watson Coleman's 'second chance' tour an audition for LG?

Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman's marathon of "Second Chance" hearings across the state is widely seen first and foremost as an initiative brought about by a personal struggle: watching her two sons return from 5 1/2 year prison stints for robbing a clothing store at gun point. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

A GOP chief faces revolt over open post

Last week’s press release from Christopher J. Christie portrayed a unified Bergen County Republican Party marching in solidarity behind his campaign for governor. But an attack flier — distributed to guests at the party’s annual Lincoln Day dinner the night before in Wood-Ridge — tells another story. (Stile, Record)

After Biden's plea, education chief says N.J. is on right track

New Jersey's education commissioner said Wednesday that she was encouraged the state is on the right track after hearing Vice President Joe Biden make an impassioned plea for better schools. (Jackson, Record) Morning News Digest: February 26, 2009