TRENTON - Those heavy iron shackles are finally off Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, her every move no longer scripted and approved by Gov. Chris Christie. We now learn Guadagno actually has her own opinions on things and, actually, is now voicing those opinions without fear of immediate retribution. While our unpopular, besieged governor really had no other choice but to sign off on that 23-cent gas tax, Guadagno (an obvious GOP gubernatorial candidate) has the apparent luxury of calling it a bad idea and carrying the blind Republican banner of no new taxes, no matter what. As we move toward the election of 2017, we can't wait to hear how she hopes to dig the state out of its gaping budget mess.  

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL - With two weeks left until the election, the "Trump for President" clan is eagerly planning for the big transition in Washington. (Yippee!) The Heritage Foundation is trying to shake $5,000 apiece to attend an "information session" next week with Gov. Chris Christie in DC, Politico reports. Christie says he needs $100,000 for transition costs not covered by federal funding. It seems a paltry sum when these guys, we assume, must woo thousands of talented professionals who would be willing to sacrifice their successful, well-regarded careers to toil in the dank basement of a marble-and-gold Trump Administration.  

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MAPLEWOOD - The great leaf blower battle is back in this leafy Essex County town thanks to all them falling leaves. On one side, landscapers say they'll have to jack up their prices if workers must rake ginormous leaf piles. After all, it's time consuming. On the other side, homeowners tell the Township Committee they can't enjoy their yards, patios or porches because of the never-ending blast of hurricane-wind leaf blowers. Maplewood's three-month ban on these commercial nuisances ended in August. Homeowners, begging for peace and quiet, now want to make the ban permanent, NJ.com says. No decision yet, so the battle rages in Maplewood, and is simmering in many other suburbs.

TRENTON - For more years than any safety advocate can stand, retailers have been able to sell those supplemental baby mattresses that are a proven suffocation hazard. But it looks like the state is finally getting serious, with an Assembly committee unanimously supporting a bi-partisan ban yesterday, while slamming a manufacturer who dared come up to the microphone to claim his product is safe. Assemblyman Jamel Holley, Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz and others were all over this guy, questioning such ridicolous claims in the light of proven cases. The vote now goes to the Assembly floor; a companion bill is working through the Senate. The non-profit Keeping Babies Safe group, which has been calling for the ban for years, finally sees some light.  

LITTLE SILVER - C'mon, Joe Kyrillos's state Senate seat is still warm. But that's not stopping the GOP lawmaker's would-be successors from wriggling out of the woodwork. Now, it's Republican Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon who tells Politico he is eyeballing the seat. Yesterday, we told you Democrat Jon Hornik, the mayor of Marlboro, is eager to do the same. Kyrillos, mind you, still has 14 months left to his 30-year career in the state Legislature. O'Scanlon, part of Kyrillos' Monmouth County delegation, says stepping up to the Senate might give him "a bigger voice and a bigger megaphone for my policy advocacy ... that's something I would be interested in." We hear you, loud and clear.  

PATERSON - City school officials pulled $425,000 in student accident insurance earlier this year because the district couldn't afford it. But then all the bad press came. Now, school officials have reinstated the policy, miraculously realizing they have the money after all. The Paterson Press reports this is the second time in two years that Superintendent Donnie Evans dropped the policy but then bowed to public pressure. See ya again next year. 


ISELIN - Owners of The Star-Ledger are taking their lumps, after ticking off a legion a former reporters now being told they will no longer be covered under the company's retiree insurance plan. Columbia Journalism Review says owners are "pleased to offer a new solution," in which retirees will be given some subsidy to purchase their own insurance on an exchange. Here is the glaring problem: For years, the company made the overly generous promise of health insurance for life, which was a terrific reason for staff to stay at the newspaper and perhaps accept lower salaries or crappy assignments. It was also a carrot dangled in front of those who took a 2008 buyout. Owners controlled negotiations by offering this great perk. Now, following all those controlled negotiations, the perk has been yanked. Interesting to see the newspaper editorialize on this one.


BRYAN, Texas - It's said that most people get their 15 minutes of fame. For one 19-year-old Texas A&M University student, she is forever known on the Internet for rear-ending a squad car while attempting to take a topless selfie, to apparently post on Snapchat for her boyfriend. Besides all that, there was an open bottle of wine in her cup holder, adding to the pile of tickets. She is national news, for these 15 minutes.   


Computers tell humans to "lay off" on this day in 2013, when some sort of human error shuts down the NASDAQ index for 44 minutes before computers can save the day, once again.


Titivate [tit - u - veht] - verb 

Definition: To make smart or spruce 

Example: Chris Christie will titivate the West Wing with curtains now available from the Trump Taj Mahal.