Morning News Digest: February 6, 2009

What's that smell, New Jersey?

New York City City investigators have tracked down the source of a maple syrup smell that has puzzled New Yorkers several times in recent years. No offense, New Jersey, but it was you.

The harmless but long-confounding smell, which has drifted through swaths of the city at least nine times since 2005, was traced to a facility across the Hudson River that processes seeds for use as artificial flavorings. (AP)

N.J. lawmakers approve 'bed bug bill'

The state Assembly passed Thursday passed the "bed bug bill," a measure whose main objective is to get landlords to take care of bed-bug infestations, according to a report in the Press of Atlantic City.

The report said under the bill approved by a 74-3 vote in the Assembly, landlords of multiple-dwelling units must have bed-bug infestations removed as soon as they learn about them. Landlords who don't take appropriate actions would face fines of $300 for each infested bedroom and $1,000 for each infested common area. (Star-Ledger)

Christie all but drives a stake through COAH in Monmouth County remarks

LINCROFT – On the second day of his two-day campaign kickoff, Chris Christie has sharpened his Wednesday speech into a few short bursts, and in front of a packed house at the Lincroft Inn in this one-time horse farm country turned box store sprawl zone, he toughens his anti-COAH (Council on Affordable Housing) rhetoric.

“If I am governor, I will gut COAH and I will put an end to it,” says Christie, an edited version of underdog gubernatorial candidate Assemblyman Richard Merkt’s (R-Mendham) “If I am governor, I will drive a stake into COAH’s heart, bury it, and make sure it never rises again” mantra. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

Farmer advocacy group endorses Karrow

State Senator-elect Marcia Karrow (R-Raritan) was today endorsed for reelection by the New Jersey Farm Bureau.

"Senator Karrow is exactly the type of leader we need working with us in the Senate," said Richard Nieuwenhuis, the president of the group. "She understands the farming industry and has a genuine passion for preserving agriculture in New Jersey.” (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

Burden of age isn't on Lorraine Gerson

Lorraine Gerson, the stylish and eloquent grand matron of the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey, stood before her colleagues on Thursday and said she wanted one more thing for her 80th birthday.

"I want to be able to sing," she said. "And the song that I wish I was able to sing is, 'You Make Me Feel So Young.'" (Ryan, Star-Ledger)

Corzine fears disaster without federal aid

Gov. Jon Corzine today said it would be "catastrophic" for New Jersey as well as the country if a major federal stimulus package does not pass, saying it could mean more than a billion-dollar difference in the amount he will have to cut from the state budget to be unveiled next month.

"If we don't see that program in the state of New Jersey, we will see cuts that are dramatically more serious than the ones I am now working on," Corzine said. "We're going to have cuts regardless of what is included in that package, but they're going to be even more severe — billion dollars or more severe — for the upcoming fiscal year." (Heininger, Star-Ledger)

Critics cite flaws in 6-year-old program to track down undocumented immigrants

The National Fugitive Operations Program was launched six years ago to track down undocumented immigrants who either had a serious criminal record or had been ordered to leave the country.

Critics say, however, the program has not been used as intended. Too many of those caught up in the sweep are not criminals and were never previously told to leave the country, they say. (Diamant, Star-Ledger)

Corzine signs harsher gun law

People caught with machine guns or other illegal assault weapons will face harsher penalties under a bill signed into law today by Gov. Jon Corzine, who used the occasion to push for another bill that would restrict handgun purchases in New Jersey to one per month.

Under the new law, the unlawful possession of a machine gun or assault firearm is classified as a second-degree crime, carrying a penalty of five to 10 years in prison or a $150,000 fine. It was previously a third-degree crime. (Heininger, Star-Ledger)

Manzo completes at-large slate

In a meeting with The Jersey Journal today, mayoral candidate Louis Manzo announced the rest of his at-large slate.

Former Hudson County Sheriff Joseph Cassidy and former Jersey City Director of Public Works Betty Outlaw, will join at-large candidate Lori Serrano, school district accountant and former chair of the Jersey City Housing Authority, on the slate. (Clark, Jersey Journal)

Spike TV pulls ad calling Newark 'one of America's most dangerous cities'

A radio promo for Spike TV's upcoming documentary series on drug enforcement in Newark has been spiked after Senate President Richard J. Codey voiced outrage over the commercial's depiction of the city.

The promotion for the new season of "DEA," scheduled to air next week, characterized Newark as "one of America's most dangerous cities," and asserted that "after 9/11 New York's ports shut down, severing the lucrative drug supply, so dealers moved across the river to Newark." (Read, Star-Ledger)

Christie vows to cut state spending

TOMS RIVER — Ocean County Republicans estimated that 80 to 100 people would show up today at a late morning campaign rally for gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie.

But when Christie stepped before the dais at town hall, flanked by 16 elected local and county officials and other political movers and shakers from throughout Ocean, the audience before the former U.S. attorney numbered more than 300. He received a long, standing ovation from the party faithful present. (Larsen, Asbury Park Press)

Healy to announce slate tonight

Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy will announce his City Council slate tonight at Casino-in-the-Park in Lincoln Park at 6 p.m.

Sources close to the campaign say the slate will include at-large candidates Willie Flood, Mariano Vega and Peter Brennan, incumbents Michael Sottolano (Ward A), Bill Gaughan (Ward D), Viola Richardson (Ward F) and newcomers Phil Kenny (Ward B), Nidia Lopez (Ward C), and Guy Catrillo (Ward E). (Clark, Jersey Journal)

State Police drive Corzine to renew license

TRENTON — Gov. Jon S. Corzine was driven by State Police motorcade to renew his expired driver's license Thursday.

The governor went to a Motor Vehicle Commission office about a mile from the Statehouse at midday, then waited there for about 15 minutes for his renewal. Afterward, he posed for pictures with employees and customers. (AP)

NJ court: Inflatable rat has rights

TRENTON, N.J. (Associated Press) — In New Jersey, rats can talk and even have free speech rights.

The state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a 10-foot inflatable rat used at union protests around the state is protected speech.

The case has pitted an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union local against a central Jersey town.

Lawrence Township fined the union for using the rat in a 2005 protest, saying it violated an ordinance against balloons and other inflatable signs.

School report cards: Some stand up to state tests

Students in four Gloucester County school districts surpassed their peers throughout the state in all of the standardized tests administered last spring, according to the New Jersey School Report Cards released Wednesday.

High school and middle school students at Clearview Regional and Kingsway Regional schools, as well as all grade levels in the Mantua school district and Washington Township school district scored higher than the state averages in every single test administered in the subjects of math, science and language arts. (Beym, Gloucester County Times)

Corzine signs anti-gun legislation into law today

New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine signed legislation into law this afternoon that will increase the penalty for people who illegally carry machine guns or assault weapons in New Jersey. (Today's signing was ceremonial; the bill became law earlier this week.)

Hoboken Assemblyman Ruben Ramos was one of the primary sponsors of that legislation, which elevates unlicensed gun ownership from a third- to second-degree crime, punishable by five to 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $150,000, or both. (Hoboken Now)

Corzine calls for tougher gun laws

Gov. Corzine called yesterday for tougher gun laws at the state and national levels, citing the recent discovery of 259 firearms at a man's Gloucester County home as a reason to bring back a federal ban on assault weapons.

Corzine also called on the state Senate to give final legislative approval to a plan to limit New Jersey handgun buyers to one purchase every 30 days – putting public pressure on lawmakers to pass a bill that appears stalled. (Tamari and Steele, Inquirer)

Corzine proposes pension-funding changes

TRENTON – Gov. Corzine hopes to revive a proposal to give towns a break on their pension payments over the next three years by making some key changes to address the concerns of local leaders.

The plan would allow towns to pay only half of what actuaries say they should to cover the current fiscal year's liabilities, then 60 percent in 2010 and 80 percent in 2011. Legislation on the issue stalled in the Senate for lack of support in December. (Lu and Tamari, Inquirer)

Mayor Dave Roberts criticizes the Hoboken City Council

The Council has decided to close up shop; they don't want to vote on anything of controversy because there is a municipal election a few months away," said the mayor today.

Hoboken Mayor Dave Roberts may be entering the twilight of his administration but that doesn't mean he doesn't have some strong opinions about the Hoboken City Council.

Roberts said today he was disappointed with several outcomes of the City Council meeting last night, as the Council voted not to take out a $2.2 million bond and decided to table a proposed blight study for north Hoboken. (Hoboken Now)

Princeton inn honors Michelle Obama

PRINCETON — Another honor for first lady Michelle Obama.

Her picture has been added to the wall of the Tap Room in the Nassau Inn, a place where Princeton University’s most famous graduates are celebrated.

She was Michelle Robinson when she received a bachelor’s degree at the Ivy League school in 1985.

The first lady is the first African American to have her picture on the wall and she’s the second woman, behind alumna Brooke Shields.

Others on the wall include former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, ex-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the late actor Jimmy Stewart. (AP)

Christie sounding a bit like Obama

The Democratic welcoming committee lined the snow-encrusted sidewalk Wednesday as Republican Christopher J. Christie's Darth Vader-black campaign bus trundled into the parking lot of a Hamilton Township diner.

"Bush Lied And You Know It!" and "Hypocrite Chris Christie" screeched from signs held by union laborers. (Stile, Record)

Edison mayor's idea for funding school upgrade gains traction with board

EDISON —The proposal by Mayor Jun Choi to fund school improved by using expected revenues from redevelopment projects is finally gaining traction as the school board is more receptive now — after two school-bond proposals were rejected in referendums.

"The mayor has a good plan. I'm going to back him 100 percent on this," said Board of Education Vice President Joseph Romano, who was a frequent critic of the mayor in the past. (Amuthan, Courier News)

Corzine Hope to Avoid Tax Increase

Gov. Corzine does not favor a tax increase in the current economic climate but he has not ruled out the possibility either, he said Thursday.

Given that New Jersey still does not know how much money, if any, it will receive from the federal government’s economic stimulus package, “We can’t take anything off the table,” Corzine said.

“This would be a very last resort action. I really don’t think it would be helpful.” The governor made the comments at a press conference on an unrelated issue.Corzine, who is seeking re-election in November, is seeking legislative approval for $812 million in mid-year budget cuts after the state budget gap grew from an estimated $1.2 billion to $2.1 billion. The state budget was approved at $32.9 billion, about $600 million smaller than the previous year’s. (Lu, Inquirer) Morning News Digest: February 6, 2009