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Hoboken University Medical Center: Bad hospital deal is being rushed

Right now the residents of Hoboken are facing a stark reality: the pending sale of the Hoboken University Medical Center (HUMC) to buyers with a poor track record in protecting jobs, maintaining needed community services, and providing quality healthcare services. This rushed, backroom deal should be prevented before Hoboken loses an asset it cannot replace. Applicable state law is already on the books to block this sale and start this process again to ensure more community input and transparency.

N.J. appeals court rules in favor of Mount Arlington woman seeking borough cell phone records

Mount Arlington must release more records of cell phones used by municipal employees, a state appeals court ruled today.

The court rejected an appeal filed by the borough and upheld a decision by the state’s Government Records Council, which had ordered the borough to release call destinations for municipal cell phones.

The borough had released some records, but removed both the numbers called and the destinations, the court said.

The records are being sought by Gayle Ann Livecchia, a borough resident, who submitted Open Public Records Act demands for calls in September and October 2007.

Livecchia wants to know if employees used their cell phones for personal business without reimbursement and if employees — including, specifically, JoAnne Sendler, who was borough administrator at the time — made personal calls from home during working hours, the court said. She is seeking a list of the towns and states called, but has not requested the phone numbers involved, agreeing that would be a violation of privacy.

Examining the Changes to Health Insurance and Pensions

WHO IS AFFECTED All state employees and most local government workers, about a half-million in all, as well as about 260,000 retirees.

HEALTH INSURANCE Employees will pay much more, with the increase phased in over four years.

Most workers had been paying 1.5 percent of their salaries for health insurance, regardless of whether they had individual or family coverage. Under the new system, they will instead pay a percentage of the insurance premium — from 3 percent to 35 percent, depending on how much they earn.

A typical worker making $65,000 to $70,000 a year, who elects full-family coverage, will pay 19 percent of the premium, or about $3,600 at current rates, up from about $1,000.

The new system will offer a broader range of plans, including some lower-cost alternatives. Under the old system, an employee paid the same amount regardless of the plan. State officials hope that basing payments on premiums will encourage more workers to choose the cheaper plans.

"Me, Governor?" by Richard J. Codey

Richard J. Codey enjoyed wide popularity during a 14-month tenure as New Jersey's governor. But the reward was a clobbering by the state Democratic machine after he returned to the state Senate, Codey says in his upcoming book.

Codey said he was stripped of his Senate leadership by fellow Democrats in 2009 because Camden County powerbroker George Norcross and Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo teamed up, settling old scores against him.

Codey vents about the fall from power in the book, "Me, Governor?," due out in June, saying DiVincenzo has held a grudge ever since Codey backed an opponent in a 2002 county election.

Commuters getting a gift from Macy’s basement

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg: He was right about the need for a tunnel; but wrong on where it should go.

If these two had backpedaled any further, they might have ended up in Macy’s basement.

I’m talking about our two U.S. senators, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez. Yesterday they had the unenviable job of telling us that everything we were told about the canceled Access to the Region’s Core tunnel project wasn’t true after all.

What we’d been told was that because of economic and environmental constraints, it was impossible to dig shallow rail tunnels from New Jersey to Penn Station in Manhattan. Therefore, New Jersey would have to tunnel deep under Manhattan to a new train station to be built near the cellar of that famous department store.

After the Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel labeled this "the tunnel to Macy’s basement," people had a graphic image of just how far the plan had gone off the tracks. Gov. Chris Christie last year employed Tittel’s witticism in explaining his decision to cancel the $8.7 billion project for fear of multibillion-dollar cost overruns.

Gov. Christie, Democratic U.S. senators scramble to take credit for Gateway tunnel project

After months of feuding since Gov. Chris Christie killed the rail tunnel under the Hudson River, the announcement of a new project today left the Republican governor and the state’s two Democratic U.S. senators scrambling for credit.

U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, who announced the new tunnel, cast themselves as the savior of the commuter, reviving a project they said Christie abandoned. With a new deal that would include more federal funding, Christie took credit for saving New Jersey taxpayers what he said might have been billions in cost overruns on the Access to the Regions Core tunnel he nixed.

Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez on Friday compared talks with the GOP on extending tax cuts to negotiating with terrorists.

During a press conference on Capitol Hill, Menendez (N.J.) took aim at Republicans for opposing his party's plan to extend the Bush-era tax cuts only for the middle class, accusing them of holding the cuts "hostage." Asked about the possibility of compromising with the GOP, the senator sounded bearish, to say the least.

FDA admits mistake in approving knee device

WASHINGTON (AP) — Almost two years ago, the Food and Drug Administration ignored the advice of its scientists and approved a knee implant after being lobbied by members of Congress. On Thursday, the agency issued an unprecedented "mea culpa," saying the device should not have been approved.

The agency said it is taking steps to revoke approval of the Menaflex implant, made by ReGen Biologics. The announcement comes a year after the agency first acknowledged that its decision to approve the device was influenced by outside pressure, including lobbying by four lawmakers from the company's home state of New Jersey.

The 2008 decision to approve the implant was made despite protests by FDA scientists that Menaflex — which reinforces damaged knee tissue — provides little, if any, benefit to patients.

64-year-old Hoboken woman's head ripped open by shotgun blast; found in her apartment in complex where New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez resides

HOBOKEN - The Hudson County Prosecutor's Office and Hoboken police are investigating the "suspicious death" of a 64-year-old city woman.

The woman's body was discovered early yesterday morning in her apartment at 1034 Clinton St., authorities said. U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez also lives at this complex.

How Are the Benefits? For Members of Congress, Not Too Shabby

In a down economy, a good benefits package can be hard to find.

But on Capitol Hill, a 401(k) and health plan are just the beginning. The hundreds of candidates vying for a coveted congressional seat this November will earn more than a chance at shaping the nation's legislative priorities if elected -- they'll tap into a mountain of perks that most Fortune 500 companies couldn't begin to rival.

A little-known benefit drew some attention Wednesday after it was reported that the family of the late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd will be paid his $193,000 salary next year. That's just the tip of the benefits iceberg that comes with being a venerable member of Congress.

For those entering any of the 535 seats in Congress next year, here's a glance at the world of juicy perks coming their way: