Morning News Digest: March 24, 2009

Ex-Assemblyman Neil Cohen's aide indicted for stealing from election fund

The campaign treasurer for former Assemblyman Neil Cohen was indicted today on charges she stole more than $5,000 from his election fund. (Spoto, Star-Ledger)

Newark campaign worker is indicted on election-fraud charges

A Newark campaign worker was indicted today for changing votes on absentee ballots he collected during New Jersey's 2007 legislative election. Antonio Santana, 58, allegedly unsealed three ballots and changed the votes to Democratic candidates. The forgery was discovered by the voters, all members of the same family, when their ballots were accidentally returned by the Post Office. (Megerian, Star-Ledger)

Rep. Bill Pascrell seeks cancellation of Nets arena name deal

A New Jersey congressman is asking Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to intervene to void a deal that would put the name of a financial services company on the proposed Nets basketball arena in Brooklyn. (AP)

Corzine signs law allowing Atlantic City casino workers to enter politics

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine has signed a law allowing casino workers to run for the City Council in Atlantic City. The decades-old prohibition was designed to prevent the casino industry from dominating city government. But after a series of corruption scandals involving mayors and council members, state legislators decided expanding the pool of potential elected officials was desirable. (AP)

L. Harvey Smith wins mayoral endorsement from Amalgamated Transit Union

Jersey City Mayoral candidate L. Harvey Smith was endorsed by the 7,500-member Amalgamated Transit Union New Jersey State Joint Council today in front of Jersey City Hall. (Clark, Jersey Journal)

Sen. Raymond Lesniak challenges ban on sports betting

A state lawmaker today announced the filing of a lawsuit challenging the 17-year-old ban on sports betting in New Jersey and 45 other states. Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) said he believes allowing legalized sports betting could generate as much as $100 million a year in tax revenue from an enterprise that now just lines the pockets of illegal bookmakers and Internet gambling site operators. (Larini, Star-Ledger)

Students at Washington's Memorial School want tomato to be N.J. state vegetable

In a letter to New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a fourth-grade student at Washington's Memorial School asks: "If we are the Garden State, why don't we have a state vegetable?" The students at Memorial are engaging in a civics and health lesson to make the case for the designation of the tomato as the state's official vegetable. In addition to health benefits, the students point out that the state is one of the country's top tomato-producing locations. (Express-Times)

Local union: Where are the local jobs?

GLASSBORO Members of a local carpenters' union picketed the site of two new student housing complexes at Rowan University on Monday to protest the use of out-of-state construction workers. (Driscoll, Gloucester County Times)

Group takes aim at COAH proposal

MONROE TWP. The developer in the U.S. Route 322 affordable housing initiative here is slated to present site plans to planning board members Thursday after canceling several prior meetings. (Paciolla, Gloucester County Times)

State borrows federal cash for jobless claims

DENNIS TOWNSHIP, N.J. – New Jersey has joined the list of states unable to pay the escalating number of unemployment insurance claims without borrowing from the federal government, Gov. Corzine said yesterday. (AP)

N.J. lawmaker challenges federal ban on sports betting

A state senator, seeing the potential for increased revenues and economic activity, filed a lawsuit yesterday aiming to overturn a federal ban on sports betting in most states, including New Jersey. (Tamari, Inquirer)

Poll: More rights for immigrants a hard sell

Proposals to offer illegal immigrants in-state college tuition rates and driver's licenses face an uphill battle in garnering public support, according to a Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll. Sixty-two percent of New Jersey residents oppose granting illegal immigrants some type of limited driver's license. Even when presented with counterarguments that the licenses would make the state safer and keep undesirable jobs filled, almost 90 percent of the opponents remained steadfast. (Patberg and Predham, Asbury Park Press)

Students may pay if they are in low-cost school districts

Lynda Towns is not too proud to take hand-me-downs. The Woodbine school superintendent has personally picked up used desks from the Cape May School District, got some old computers from Lower Alloways Creek Township, Salem County, and is borrowing bleachers from Avalon. (D’Amico, Press of Atlantic City)

Poll finds hurdles for illegal arrivals

Proposals to offer driver's licenses and in-state college tuition rates to illegal immigrants face an uphill battle in New Jersey, a new poll shows. Sixty-two percent of state residents oppose granting illegal immigrants some type of limited driver's license, according to a Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll. (Hirsch, Courier-Post)

'Tax shock' concerns over recent assessments expected at Franklin meeting Tuesday

FRANKLIN (SOMERSET) — Business owners are expected to pack council chambers Tuesday night to complain about recent tax assessments, which they fear will cause them huge tax increases. (Bourbeau, Courier News)

Xanadu lender sued for $11M

A Xanadu lender must provide a promised $11 million immediately — or put completion of the Meadowlands project "at grave risk of failure," according to a lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court today. (Brennan, Record)

Pascrell seeks cancellation of Brooklyn arena naming rights

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-Paterson, today asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to seek a cancellation of the $400 million naming-rights deal for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. (Brennan, Record)

‘Good guy’ has GOP in Bergen grumbling

Paul DiGaetano, the former Assembly minority leader, dispenses sotto voce wisdom as an inner-circle adviser to Bergen County Republican Chairman Bob Yudin. So it was curious that a campaign sticker touting Yudin antagonist Eleanore Nissley was pasted on DiGaetano’s lapel at last Thursday night’s Bergen County Republican Organization convention. Nissley, the Ridgewood stalwart running for state committeewoman, had publicly attacked Yudin last month and threatened him with a lawsuit. (Stile, Record)

On the gubernatorial front, things get testy between Cardinale and Shaftan

It was a tough crowd for state Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest). Speaking as a surrogate for gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie to a group of conservatives who mostly supported rival candidate Steve Lonegan at the Conservative Leadership Breakfast at a diner in North Brunswick, Cardinale was interrupted by Lonegan's chief strategist, Rick Shaftan, while he was making the case for Christie's conservative ideals. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

Diaz pledges 'zero tolerance' for corruption

Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz reacted to the news today that Jeffrey D. Gumbs, former director of human services and recreation super under former Mayor Joseph Vas, admitted submitting fraudulent invoices to the city to pay for personal expenses for both himself and Vas. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ) Morning News Digest: March 24, 2009