Explainer: How Some Lawmakers Want to Delay NJ’s Minimum Wage Increases if Economy Sours

JOHN REITMEYER | NOVEMBER 12, 2019

NJ Spotlight

 

New Jersey’s ramp-up to a $15 minimum wage could be put on hold if the state economy begins to sputter, under a bipartisan bill that is scheduled for its first committee review later this week.

The measure seeks to create ways for state leaders to hit the pause button on a ramp-up schedule; under current legislation, most of New Jersey’s low-income workers would hit the $15 minimum wage by 2024. Prime sponsors of the legislation are Sens. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) and Kristin Corrado (R-Passaic).

Business-lobbying groups have suggested such “off-ramp” provisions are vital to ensure the wage increases don’t cause more harm than good for the state economy as they are being phased in. But the off-ramp legislation has drawn strong opposition from liberal groups, who view the planned wage increases as a key tool for lifting people out of poverty and combating entrenched income inequality.

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U.S. Supreme Court sets date to hear Bridgegate case

Updated Nov 10, 2019

Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Baroni, the former Christie administration officials convicted in the infamous scheme of political retribution that became known as Bridgegate, have a date with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The justices will hear their arguments to overturn the verdicts in the high-profile case that attorneys for the two have characterized as “bare-knuckle New Jersey politics, not graft,” on Tuesday, Jan. 14 at 10 a.m., according to the court’s docket.

It marks the final appeal in a bizarre case that began with the inexplicable shutdown of several toll lanes at the George Washington Bridge six years ago and soon reached deep into the inner circle of former Gov. Chris Christie.

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In Blue New Jersey, a Conservative Backlash on Immigration

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

Nov. 8, 2019

Voters in Sussex County, N.J., overwhelmingly approved a non-binding referendum to allow county government to offer help to federal immigration agents.

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A referendum on Tuesday’s ballot in New Jersey’s northernmost county asked whether voters wanted local officials to cooperate with federal immigration agents.

It passed by a lopsided 2-to-1 margin.

Nearly 200 miles away, along the state’s southern swath, a directive by the state attorney general that in part bars county sheriff officers from doing the work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents has led two counties to file federal lawsuits. A third county has threatened legal action.

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Vote to give N.J. driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants may happen soon

Posted Nov 09, 2019

Proponents of a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses, say now is the time to get it done.

With the election over, lawmakers will be back in Trenton for a lame-duck session in the coming weeks and there’s a renewed push to send a bill to the desk of Gov. Phil Murphy, who has long supported the measure.

“It’s vitally important,” said state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, one of the prime sponsors of the bill (S3229).

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Trump Ordered to Pay $2 Million to Charities for Misuse of Foundation

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

Nov. 7, 2019

A fund-raiser for veterans that Mr. Trump held in Iowa was in fact a campaign event, he acknowledged.

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A state judge ordered President Trump to pay $2 million in damages to nonprofit groups on Thursday after the president admitted misusing money raised by the Donald J. Trump Foundation to promote his presidential bid, pay off business debts and purchase a portrait of himself for one of his hotels.

The damage award brought an end to a protracted legal battle over the foundation, whose giving patterns and management became a flash point during Mr. Trump’s run for office in 2016. New York’s attorney general had filed suit last year accusing Mr. Trump and his family of using the foundation as an extension of his businesses and his presidential campaign.

The settlement, which was finalized last month and announced on Thursday in the judge’s order, included a detailed admission of misconduct that is rare for the president, who has long employed a scorched-earth approach toward fighting lawsuits.

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Political Gender Gap Still Looms Large in New Jersey

COLLEEN O'DEA | NOVEMBER 8, 2019

NJ Spotlight

Republican Jean Stanfield won an open seat in the 8th District based in Burlington County.

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New Jersey Democrats and Republicans can argue over which party had a better Election Day this year, but one group was a clear loser, at least at the state level: women.

Already lagging behind 19 other states, including nearby New York and Connecticut, in the percentage of lawmakers who are female, New Jersey stands to lose a net of one woman in the state Assembly come January, provided current results hold. That will drop the proportion of female representation in the state Legislature down to 30%. At the same time, more than 51% of those living in New Jersey are women, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“This was basically a status quo election,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University.

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NJ Senators Invite DOT Head to Meet Commuters Delayed by Decrepit Hudson Rail Tunnel

JOHN REITMEYER | NOVEMBER 7, 2019

NJ Spotlight

The North River Tunnel under the Hudson connects New York and New Jersey and carries Amtrak & NJ Transit passengers making 200,000 daily trips.

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New Jersey’s two U.S. senators are challenging the head of the federal Department of Transportation to meet the commuters who routinely face delays caused by the Northeast Corridor’s century-old trans-Hudson rail tunnel.

In a letter sent yesterday to U.S. DOT Secretary Elaine Chao, Democratic Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez reacted to recent media reports that indicated the secretary privately reviewed conditions inside the North River Tunnel last year, even as her agency has held up federal funding for a new tunnel.

“While viewing the state of the existing tunnels is a compelling enough sight, we believe you and your team would also benefit from meeting with our constituents, who are impacted each week by countless delays, in order to better understand the urgency of moving the project forward,” the senators said

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2019 Campaign Winners and Losers- Including One Surprise Winner (Murphy)

By Alan Steinberg | November 6, 2019

Insider NJ

Chris Russell

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Major Winner of Election Night: Chris Russell. 

The wunderkind of New Jersey politics, once again Chris Russell proved that he is the top GOP political consultant in New Jersey.  He was the chief strategist in the decisive upset GOP victories in the First and Eighth Legislative Districts, despite being vastly outspent by the Democrats.  On the local side, he scored two significant victories in Old Bridge and Parsippany.  Can Chris bring home a winning NJGOP gubernatorial candidate with Jack Ciattarelli in 2021? 

Major Upset Winners: Jon Bramnick and Nancy Munoz 

Virtually every pundit, including myself, had predicted that Jon Bramnick and Nancy Munoz would lose.  My exact quote: “Bramnick and Munoz have served with distinction in the Assembly, but in 2019, they have been hit with the perfect storm.”  What doesn’t kill you in politics makes you stronger, and the fact that that Bramnick and Munoz survived the perfect storm substantially boosts Bramnick’s stature as Assembly Republican Leader and Munoz’s eminence on health care issues. 

The Muhammad Ali Award – Mike Testa, Jr. 

Howard Cosell once said that every sports writer tends to fall in love with a fighter.  He fell in love with Floyd Patterson and Muhammad Ali.  That happens with political writers, too, and that’s what happened with me regarding Mike Testa, Jr. 

Before entering the ring with Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964, Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, said to Howard Cosell, “I’m going to shock the world tonight!”   Yesterday afternoon, I received a text message from Mike Testa saying, “I predict we will shock the world!”  He sure did shock the New Jersey political world, carrying his Assembly running mates Erik Simonsen and Antwan McClellan in victory across the finish line with him.  At long last, South Jersey Republicans have a charismatic leader in Mike Testa.  He is only 43, and a decade from now, look for his name to be mentioned as a gubernatorial candidate. 

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Some Surprises as Republicans Pick Up Assembly Seats, Plus Senate Seat in South

COLLEEN O'DEA | NOVEMBER 6, 2019

NJ Spotlight

Assembly Republican leader Jon Bramnick, with running mate Nancy Munoz and Senate Republican leader Tom Kean, declares victory.

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Democrats appear to have lost at least three and as many as five seats in the New Jersey Legislature, including the only Senate race on the ballot. And they did not flip any of the three districts they were targeting in this year’s election, which took place yesterday.

With 100% of districts reporting, Republicans captured the Senate seat in the southernmost 1st District, as well as both Assembly seats there. They also held a smaller lead in the neighboring 2nd, a split district with a Republican senator that includes Atlantic City. That race, however, had not been called with fewer than 800 votes separating the second and third place finishers and mail-in and provisional ballots apparently uncounted as of midnight. Final results there may not be available for several days.

Democrats were also unable to flip seats in three districts they had been targeting, although they did keep control of the Assembly seats in two others considered competitive.

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600K N.J. residents would lose health insurance if Trump wins suit to kill Obamacare

Posted Nov 04, 2019

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s latest effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act would leave 595,000 more New Jerseyans without health insurance, a new report by a progressive group shows.

It would also take away tax credits from 181,000 residents who use them to buy coverage, and cost the state $2.7 billion in federal funds.

The winners? The wealthy and corporations who now pay special taxes to help fund the ACA. Those based in New Jersey would save $1.7 billion on, according to a study released Monday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive research group.

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