Morning News Digest: February 9, 2009

On tap in Trenton: Senate & Assembly Committees

New Jersey legislators are scheduled to discuss roughly 60 bills today. Neither body is in session, but both chambers have a full slate of committee hearings on tap: (Springer, Blue Jersey)

Newark seeks to sustain turnaround amid recession

Unlike most politicians, Newark Mayor Cory Booker doesn't have a brag wall inside his office. There's no "grip and grin" photo with President Barack Obama, even though Booker was an early and enthusiastic Obama supporter; no portrait of him with popular media magnate Oprah Winfrey, an admirer who recently donated $1.5 million to five charitable organizations in Newark; and no shot of him with New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, another outspoken supporter. (AP)

Obama provides comfort — but no assurance — on 9/11 prosecutions

Representatives of families who lost relatives to the 9/11 attacks are satisfied with the new president's handling of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. For now. But expectations may be too high. "After years of having doors shut in our faces, he opened the doors to us, and it was wonderful," said Diane Horning of Scotch Plains, one of 53 family members who crowded into a small conference room in the old Executive Office Building next to the White House to meet President Obama Friday. She lost her son Matthew in the attacks. (Braun, Star-Ledger)

Two lawmakers seek Springsteen ticket probe

Two members of Congress, one from New Jersey, the other from New York, are calling for a federal investigation into Ticketmaster for sending fans who wanted Bruce Springsteen tickets to its own ticket reselling website that had much higher prices. Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said today that the Federal Trade Commission should get to the bottom of it. (AP)

How many ways can they waste our money?

TRENTON — Too bad politicians and big-shot Wall Street types can't have a special GPS unit to warn them they're going in the wrong direction. Common sense and ethics don't seem to work. Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, should have one. He authored a bill to extend a state senator's term from four to five years and have the Assembly changed from two-year terms to alternating two- and three-year terms. Why? To save taxpayers money, he says. (Ingle, Gannett)

Study suggests COAH overestimates vacant land supply

TRENTON — Critics fighting New Jersey's plan for adding 115,000 affordable housing units say state officials ignored, then suppressed, a report from consultants pointing out flaws in the vacant-land analysis used to project each municipality's share of that goal. A July 2008 report, in which Rutgers University researchers examined Somerset County land-use information and compared the results to earlier conclusions based off 2002 statewide photos, suggested the initial results overestimated the supply of vacant, developable land in that county by 15 percent and overestimated its residential build-out capacity by 17 percent. (Symons, Gannett)

Jobless? Wait a minute … or maybe months for assistance

Blind and suddenly broke, Kristin Carmen, of Egg Harbor Township, went to the One Stop Career Center to apply for general assistance. The appointment to determine whether she was eligible was set for two months later, she said. Carmen, 39, worked most of her life as a paralegal. A dozen years ago, she developed an illness that eventually left her legally blind. She continued to work part time, but finally had to leave the work force in June. Her disability benefits ran out the first week of January and she was forced to apply for general assistance, or welfare. (Rose, Press of Atlantic City)

Obama setting ties to Jersey Congressional Democrats

WASHINGTON Just weeks into his presidency, Barack Obama has rolled out the White House welcome mat multiple times for the area's members of Congress. Obama has begun establishing relationships with both Democrats and Republicans by extending invitations to official meetings and social gatherings. (Coomes, Gloucester County Times)

Lawyer: Moskovitz didn't have to resign

HOPATCONG — Hopatcong Administrator Joseph Moskovitz, who faces drunken driving and drug charges, resigned last week despite state laws and policy that would offer protections from being fired. Moskovitz has not made any public statements about why he chose to resign long before the charges are even decided in court, but his attorney, Gary Kramer, said "We will vigorously contest the charges." While a trial date of March 16 has been set, Kramer said there are several pre-trial issues to be decided and expects that date will be moved. (Scruton, NJ Herald)—02-08-09-web

Christie says Katz, e-mails are off-limits

For two years the Republican State Committee's top obsession has been undisclosed e-mails between Governor Corzine and his ex-girlfriend and union boss Carla Katz. But Republican Christopher J. Christie says Katz and her e-mails with Corzine will be off limits in his campaign for governor. (Stile, Record)

Capital Games

REP. Bill Pascrell Jr. couldn't persuade fellow members of the House to put his tax break for car buyers in the economic stimulus plan, but the Senate saw things differently. An amendment sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., was added to the stimulus bill on Tuesday. It provides a tax deduction for sales tax and interest on cars bought from Nov. 12 of last year through Jan. 1, 2010. It's limited to individuals making less than $125,000 and couples making $250,000, and only covers cars financed at $49,500 or less. (Jackson, Record)

Ticketmaster clients allege pattern of ripoffs beyond Springsteen sales

Bruce Springsteen's fans were outraged last week when Ticketmaster immediately linked them to its resale site TicketsNow, where seats were selling for hundreds of dollars over their original price. Ticketmaster apologized and promised reforms. But interviews with concertgoers and experts familiar with the online ticket business suggest the practice of redirecting ticket-buyers to a resale site goes far beyond the Springsteen tour. They also describe a ticket marketplace governed by few rules but geared to generate sales at lightning speed. (McGlone, Star-Ledger)

Collingswood mixes cheers with chafing

To the first resident of Collingswood's newest development, living is easy. The dry cleaner downstairs knows her name, the guy at the salad place remembers her dressing, and to get a pedicure "I don't even have to put on my shoes." To the proprietor of the first-floor jewelry shop, the LumberYard development represents what's great about Collingswood's progressive approach to economic revitalization. "City living in the suburbs," she calls it. (Katz, Inquirer)

Assembly Committee to discuss DTV transition

It was supposed to be a smooth transition to digital television, but a lack of funding to help people make the change has turned things upside down. The Congress is trying to pass a four month delay and now the Assembly will try to get information for residents: (Springer, Blue Jersey)

Bill would require volunteer firefighters to pass physical

New Jersey's volunteer firefighters may soon have to pass a physical before suiting up. A state Senate committee on Monday will discuss a bill that would let local governments and fire districts require a "physician's certificate" from their volunteer firefighters. (AP) Morning News Digest: February 9, 2009