N.J. would have ‘blood on our hands’ if we shut indoor dining, retail without stimulus money, Murphy says

Posted Nov 20, 2020

Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday continued to say all options are “on the table” when it comes to fighting the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in New Jersey — but he also suggested it’s irresponsible to close indoor dining or nonessential retail stores without more federal aid.

The Democratic governor took aim at a favorite target, Republican U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, as federal lawmakers in Washington remain deadlocked over a new stimulus package. Democrats want a $2.2 trillion bill, while Republicans prefer $500 billion with no aid to state and local government.

“As long as Mitch McConnell is sitting on his hands and not getting behind a major stimulus ... you shut without absolute evidence that there’s spread and transmission, you shut nonessential workplaces or indoor dining, you’re basically putting a bullet in them,” Murphy said during his latest COVID-19 briefing in Trenton.

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Lawmakers at odds, fail to agree fine print of NJ marijuana legalization

IAN T. SHEARN, CONTRIBUTING WRITER | NOVEMBER 20, 2020 

NJ Spotlight News

June 24, 2020, Pure Oasis, a Black-owned recreational marijuana dispensary in Boston, Mass., where recreational adult use of the drug is legal.

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The day began in Trenton with great optimism for marijuana legalization believers.

After five years of fits and starts, the movement to legalize recreational marijuana was believed to be at hand. With voters overwhelmingly backing a ballot referendum on Nov. 3, Gov. Phil Murphy and the Legislature had ostensibly worked out some last-minute amendments intended to mollify a host of social justice advocates, who had derailed a vote on a bill needed to define a new marijuana industry last Thursday. Committees from both legislative houses were expected to sign off on the changes, and the legislation would be passed into law on Monday.

But like many times before, the day in the State House would end with no consensus. Instead, New Jersey’s quest for closure in legalizing marijuana grew just a bit longer, and the jury remains out as to which way it is heading.

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Former Newark Deputy Mayor, NCEDC Vice President Charged in Bribery Scheme

Former Newark Housing and Economic Development director Carmelo Garcia is accused of using his position in city government and a quasi-governmental nonprofit to seek and accept bribes.

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NEWARK, NJ — Two business owners and the former deputy mayor and director of Newark Economic and Housing Development have been charged in the bribery scheme involving Newark Community Economic Development Corporation, United States Attorney Craig Carpenito announced Thursday.

Carmelo Garcia, 45, who also served as executive vice president of NCEDC (now Invest Newark) while deputy mayor, is facing a criminal complaint for one count of conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with the business and transactions of a federally funded local government organization. Alleged co-conspirators Frank Valvano and Irwin Sablosky are charged with the same crime.

Garcia is a long-time Hoboken resident who served on the Hoboken Board of Education and later as Director of the Hoboken Housing Authority. He was also elected to the New Jersey Assembly for the 33rd Legislative District, representing Hoboken, Union City, Weehawken and portions of Jersey City.

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N.J. ports are 2nd busiest in the country. Road projects could get us to No. 1, gov says.

Posted Nov 18, 2020

Can the ports of Newark and Elizabeth overtake Los Angeles as the busiest port in the nation? Three bridge and road projects highlighted by Gov. Phil Murphy Tuesday to help cargo trucks move to and from the port might make it happen in the future.

The projects highlighted at a Tuesday event held at Port Newark are part of a larger $700 million road and bridge effort called Portway, intended to ease truck traffic in and out of the port and to reduce traffic back-ups on highways.

Most of the products and merchandise ordered online during the coronavirus pandemic when retail stores were closed likely came here through the port. Cargo traffic was the only aspect of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s operations that grew in 2020.

Murphy pitched the projects as necessary to move the record amounts of cargo that came through the port in 2019 and to keep up with other ports in the country competing for the same business.

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At this N.J. brewery, Black culture is always on tap

Posted Nov 18, 2020

What part of the world do you first think of when you think of beer?

For Montclair brewer, Leopold Sawadogo, it’s Africa; the continent he was born on and the place where he first learned to brew.

At an early age, his mother taught him all about the brewing process. It made him somewhat of an anomaly in his native land of Burkina Faso, he says.

“I’m probably one of the first men from Africa who tried brewing beer,” Sawadogo, who goes by “Leo” for short, jokes. “It’s just not a custom for men to brew beer in those countries.”

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A year ahead of Murphy’s reelection fight, a détente with Sweeney and Norcross

11/18/2020

Politico

While New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, center, speaks, Senate President Steve Sweeney, right, and Democratic Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin look on in Trenton, N.J., Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.

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A year ago, a task force appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy was digging up dirt on South Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross’ use of tax incentives, while Norcross was telling reporters Murphy was “politically incompetent” and in danger of facing a serious primary challenge for reelection in 2021.

Things have changed drastically since then.

The two sides have entered into a kind of détente after years of political schism between the freshman governor’s allies in North Jersey and the South Jersey Democrats, led by Norcross and his childhood friend, Senate President Steve Sweeney.

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If you must have Thanksgiving, here’s how to cut the risk

Posted Nov 17, 2020

Let’s say you decide to reject the advice of experts and invite family for a traditional Thanksgiving because you, or your loved ones, can’t live without it.

How can you manage the risks? David Cennimo, an infectious disease expert at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School spoke to editorial writer Julie O’Connor about creating a “risk budget” for the holiday.

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Rutgers-Eagleton Poll: About Four in Ten New Jerseyans Say They Won’t Get COVID-19 Vaccine

By Insider NJ | November 17, 2020

 

Between 36 percent and 47 percent of New Jerseyans say they will “probably” or “definitely” not get a  vaccine against COVID-19, with response rates varying depending on how the question is asked, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

Among individuals reluctant to get vaccinated, 80 percent cite a concern about side effects, and 82 percent cite the need for more information about how the vaccine works as “major reasons” for their resistance. Fewer respondents cite not feeling they need it (a major reason for 25 percent, and minor reason for 23 percent) or the potential cost (a major reason for 15 percent and minor reason for 22 percent).

“With the recent positive news from Pfizer and Moderna, it is likely that public opinion on immunization will continue to shift and evolve,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “But right now, a large portion of New Jerseyans are still wary, which makes any future messaging encouraging vaccination that much more important.”

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Murphy, Senate leaders reach deal on cannabis cultivation excise tax

11/16/2020

Politico

Timing is of the essence for pro-cannabis forces.

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Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration and Senate leaders have reached an agreement on the structure of an additional excise tax that could be imposed on recreational cannabis cultivators, according to five sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations.

Why it matters: Disagreements between Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin over an additional excise tax threatened to derail the speedy passage of enabling bill. The recently approved constitutional amendment caps retail taxes at 6.625 percent, the current state sales tax, while local governments can impose an additional 2 percent tax.

Timing is of the essence for pro-cannabis forces. Even though New Jersey voters approved a ballot question on Nov. 3 amending the state’s constitution to allow for the sale and use of recreational cannabis, the drug won't be legal until Murphy signs an enabling bill passed by both houses of the Legislature. Until then, cannabis sales and use will remain illegal.

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New COVID-19 restrictions limit size of Thanksgiving gatherings

LILO H. STAINTON, HEALTH CARE WRITER | NOVEMBER 17, 2020

NJ Spotlight News

Carving a turkey to be frozen and packaged into individual meals for seniors in Hawthorne. With a fall surge of  the coronavirus, many Americans are forgoing traditional Thanksgiving celebrations.

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No hugging or handshakes with family. Skip the singing and loud music, which only causes people to raise their voices. And it looks like no crowding on the couch to watch football games with the cousins.

Those were some of the grim recommendations for the Thanksgiving holiday, as state officials unveiled new restrictions on public gatherings Monday in an effort to tamp down the growing rise of COVID-19 statewide.

It was a day of disheartening news in general from Gov. Phil Murphy and his top health officials, who warned of not just rising daily case counts but the possibility of record hospitalizations as well.

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