Morning News Digest: April 21, 2009

State DEP won't close parks to deal with cuts

No state parks will be closed this year to offset budget cuts, but the future of New Jersey’s land preservation effort is in question because lawmakers haven’t renewed the funding for it. (Reitmeyer and Megerian, Record)

Former N.J. environmental commissioner launches campaign for governor as independent

A former New Jersey environmental commissioner launched an independent run for governor today, criticizing Democrats and Republicans for failing to contain spending even as the economy buckled. (Young, Star-Ledger)

Essex County dedicates Newark Plaza to Congressman Donald Payne

U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne drew praise today at the dedication ceremony of a newly renovated plaza named for him in Newark today, just one week after the veteran New Jersey legislator's airplane was fired on by errant mortars in war-ravaged Somalia. (Ortega, Star-Ledger)

Daggett opens campaign for N.J. governor

Christopher Daggett began his independent campaign for New Jersey governor yesterday, saying the major parties have long known that the state was in trouble yet ignored answers sitting in reports he pulled from the state library's shelves. (Burton, Inquirer)

Poll finds support for sports bets at casinos

ATLANTIC CITY – Do New Jerseyans want to be able to wager on professional sports at Atlantic City casinos or horse-racing tracks? You bet! (AP)

New rule says politicians can't use campaign funds to pay for defense

New Jersey politicians will not be able to use their campaign funds to pay their legal bills in criminal cases, under rule changes adopted by state election law officials. But those who tapped their war chests for such costs in the past — such as former Newark mayor and state Sen. Sharpe James (D-Essex) and former state Sen. Joseph Coniglio (D-Bergen) — may be spared. (Heininger, Record)

Third GOP candidate calls for more gubernatorial debates

The two leading Republican candidates for governor will face off in two official debates next month, but a third candidate wants more. Chris Christie and Steve Lonegan will go head-to-head on New Jersey Network. on Tuesday, May 12, and on WABC and WPVI on Sunday, May 17. The two are required to participate in the debates because they accepted 2-for-1 public "matching funds" for their campaigns. (Heininger, Record)

Districts hold costs for annual election

School districts are hoping residents will buck the traditionally light turnouts for school elections today and support their proposed 2009-10 budgets. To make voting more palatable, most districts in the tri-county area are holding the line on spending or making use of other sources to ensure that tax levies will go down or remain stable. (Rothschild, Courier-Post)

Central Jersey school board election preview

Know who you're voting for? Before you head to the polls Tuesday, be sure to see our town-by-town look at the Board of Education candidates. (Courier News)

Pass judgment on school budgets today

It’s election day in New Jersey. On the ballot — 548 school district budgets; 1,600 school board positions; 11 districts 2nd ballot questions, and 19 have new projects that would cost $212 million. (Ingle, APP)

No savings from furloughs at New Jersey casino regulatory agencies

ATLANTIC CITY – Contrary to the purpose of his sweeping state furlough program, Gov. Jon S. Corzine will not save taxpayers one penny by forcing hundreds of employees at two New Jersey casino agencies to take two days of unpaid leave in May and June. (Wittkowski, Press of Atlantic City)

DRPA eyes high-speed EZ-Pass

Cars and trucks zipping through EZ-Pass lanes on area bridges. Hybrid and other fuel efficient vehicles bearing the crest of the Delaware River Port Authority. Revamped eco-friendly facilities. (Murray, Gloucester County Times)

N.J. seeks Obama's input on dredging

TRENTON New Jersey officials are hoping their concerns over the Delaware River deepening project will be heard in Washington under President Barack Obama's administration. (Graber, Gloucester County Times)

Merkt wants six more debates

Assemblyman Rick Merkt (R-Mendham) wants six debates with the two other Republican gubernatorial primary candidates – one for every week left of the primary. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

Choi challenges opponents to disclose ties to government jobs and contracts

EDISON – Running for reelection as the good government reformer, Mayor Jun Choi today challenged his opponents to disclose their personal and family ties to taxpayer-funded jobs and contracts. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

Jersey City council may table Animal Control ordinances

Two ordinances designed to provide oversight for the Jersey City's Division of Animal Control were vigorously debated at tonight's City Council caucus and may be pulled from Wednesday's City Council meeting agenda. (Clark, Jersey Journal) Morning News Digest: April 21, 2009