Bill to End Religious Exemptions for Vaccinations Collapses in N.J.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

Jan. 13, 2020

Protesters who are against ending a religious exemption for school vaccinations demonstrated on Monday outside the State House in Trenton, N.J.Credit...

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TRENTON, N.J. — It began as one of the nation’s broadest proposed bans on religious exemptions to childhood vaccines.

But after weeks of sustained and boisterous protests by vaccine skeptics, as well as a last-minute effort to amend the proposed bill to win the support of key lawmakers, the effort collapsed on Monday in the New Jersey State Senate.

The Senate president, Stephen M. Sweeney, maintained that science, not protesters, would eventually emerge victorious.

“It’s going to get done,” Mr. Sweeney, a Democrat, said, repeating a vow he had made since last month when a far more sweeping version of the bill passed in the Assembly but failed to win enough support in the Senate. Democrats control both chambers.

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School Funding Discord Pits Murphy Against Sweeney — Again

JOHN MOONEY | JANUARY 14, 2020

NJ Spotlight

Gov. Phil Murphy, left, and Senate President Steve Sweeney

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Two years ago, the agreement on school funding that Gov. Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney cobbled together was born out of the need to avoid a protracted government shutdown.

Yesterday, that accord appeared to break down when Murphy vetoed a measure pushed by Sweeney that would ease some of the worst pains of the new funding agreement.

It didn’t go over well on either side, and how lasting the rift will be and how much it will affect the coming state budget are yet to be seen.

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U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Bridget Kelly Appeal Tuesday

By Fred Snowflack | January 11, 2020

Insider NJ

Politics is nasty and vindictive. But that’s not a crime – it’s just the way things are. Strip away the legal prose and citations and that just about sums up the argument of the Bridget Kelly legal team before the U.S. Supreme Court, which is set to hear the latest chapter in the classic New Jersey scandal lovingly known as Bridgegate this coming Tuesday.

We must digress. You may have thought this saga, which likely derailed Chris Christie’s path to higher office, was over. After all, it has been six years since we all read Kelly’s infamous email about, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

To recap, Both Kelly, who worked in Christie’s gubernatorial office, and Bill Baroni, a muckety-muck with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, were convicted in federal court for their involvement in a crazy scheme that closed two of three lanes connecting downtown Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge in September, 2013, presumably to punish the town’s mayor for the sin of not endorsing Christie’s reelection. This caused massive traffic tie-ups in Fort Lee for the better part of a week, inconveniencing untold thousands of people.

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‘Far-Reaching’ School Segregation Lawsuit Kicks Off in Trenton

JOHN MOONEY | JANUARY 13, 2020

NJ Spotlight

Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson

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It may soon go down in the lexicon of New Jersey’s most famous equity court cases: Latino Action Network v. State of New Jersey.

Right up there with the Abbott v. Burke school finance case and Mt. Laurel’s affordable housing rulings, the nascent school segregation lawsuit brought by the Latino rights group and others opened in earnest in a Trenton courtroom on Friday.

And after close to 90 minutes of mostly procedural arguments and exchanges, state Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson sent a clear message that this is one of those epic cases that could take a while.

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Golf Club for the 1 Percent Wants to Seize a Migratory Bird Habitat

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

Jan. 9, 2020

Rick Cordner, a retiree who lives in Jersey City, regularly goes to Caven Point in Liberty State Park to spot rare birds.Credit...

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JERSEY CITY, N.J. — The snowy owl was first spotted just beyond the 18th hole of one of the most expensive golf courses ever built.

The bird was resting on a sandy beach filled with seashells and driftwood at the edge of Liberty State Park. Waves lapped the New Jersey shoreline of the Hudson River as birders with binoculars stood in awe two years ago.

Nearby, behind a tall black fence, were the willow-lined fairways of Liberty National, an exclusive private golf course where luminaries like Tiger Woods and Brooks Koepka have played, and where the original initiation fee for members was about half a million dollars.

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Murphy Signs Lead Pipe Replacement Bill

Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation allowing municipalities to adopt an ordinance to enter properties to perform lead service line replacements.
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Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation Thursday allowing municipalities to adopt an ordinance to enter properties to perform lead service line replacements, after providing notice to residents. 

The bill was sponsored by Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz and Assemblywomen Eliana Pintor and Shanique Davis Speight, who represent the 29th District, which has been ground zero of a drinking water crisis caused by lead service lines.

“As municipalities around our state replace lead service lines, we must ensure that they have timely access to properties,” said Governor Murphy. “This law equips cities and towns with a crucial tool in combating the nationwide issue of lead in water.”

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Senate Finally Approves Corrections Commissioner, Murphy Signs Bills to Help Prisoners

COLLEEN O'DEA | JANUARY 10, 2020

NJ Spotlight

Marcus O. Hicks was confirmed as commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

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New Jersey lawmakers on Thursday gave their final approval to the last of the original Cabinet members nominated by Gov. Phil Murphy as the governor signed into law two measures designed to improve the lot of the incarcerated.

Some 20 months after Murphy first nominated Marcus O. Hicks to be commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Corrections, the Senate Judiciary Committee interviewed and cleared Hicks, and then the full Senate voted to confirm him to head the second-largest state agency, which has a budget of almost $1 billion and 8,000 employees. Hicks, of Robbinsville, has served as acting commissioner during that time.

“It has been my honor to lead this department in the fulfillment of our mission to protect the public by operating safe, secure and humane correctional facilities through effective treatment of offenders and by providing … services that promote successful re-entry into society,” Hicks, who has held several positions at the corrections department since 2007, told the committee during an early afternoon hearing.

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Booker left campaign trail for White House briefing on Iran. He didn’t like what he heard.

Posted Jan 08, 2020

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Cory Booker cut short a campaign trip to Iowa to hear from top Trump administration officials about the conflict with Iran.

He emerged from the closed-door briefing unhappy with what he had heard about the imminent danger to the U.S. that President Donald Trump cited in ordering the killing of top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani.

Iran then retaliated by firing missiles at two Iraqi military bases housing American troops.

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Advocates Blast Superintendent’s Call to Close Four Newark Charter Schools as ‘Unfair’ and ’Alarming’

PATRICK WALL, CHALKBEAT | JANUARY 9, 2020

NJ Spotlight

Superintendent of Newark Public Schools Roger León at a school board meeting

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Charter school advocates are firing back at Superintendent Roger León after he called for the closure of four Newark charter schools last month and warn that his actions could reignite district-charter clashes.

Two advocacy groups sent strongly worded missives to the state Monday in response to a series of letters León wrote in December urging the state to shutter four charter schools: M.E.T.S., People’s Prep, Roseville Community, and University Heights.

“The ideology and factual misstatements that permeate those letters threaten years worth of work to create harmony between district and charter schools in Newark,” wrote Kyle Rosenkrans, executive director of the New Jersey Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes cooperation between Newark’s traditional and charter schools.

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NYC will stop paying full year of rent to move homeless to N.J.

Posted Jan 07, 2020

New York City will stop giving landlords a full year’s worth of rent up front to house homeless families amid mounting complaints that the controversial relocation program leaves people with little leverage to demand better living conditions.

Starting next month, New York City officials will begin paying landlords on a month-to-month basis and give families the option to halt payments if units fall into disrepair.

The special one-time assistance program has placed more than 2,200 homeless families in 62 municipalities in New Jersey. Newark sued NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio over the relocations, alleging families were forced to sign leases for illegal and uninhabitable apartments. Newark said NYC failed to disclose the addresses where families were living.

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