FEDERAL SHUTDOWN ALREADY HURTING NJ AMID FEARS OF GROWING IMPACT

JOHN REITMEYER | JANUARY 8, 2019

NJ Spotlight

U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) at a news conference yesterday at Alementary Brewing Co., Hackensack with brewery co-owners Mike Roosevelt, left, and Blake Crawford

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An ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government has already caused canceled meetings, delayed permitting and the closure of some facilities at national parks in New Jersey. But concerns are running high that the effects could be more serious and widespread if the political gridlock continues in Washington, D.C.

Hanging in the balance this month are paychecks for essential Coast Guard members, including those stationed in Cape May. If the shutdown drags on, food stamps and other assistance for thousands of New Jersey residents could also be held back.

There is also apprehension about the impact that a long shutdown could have on already short-staffed air traffic controllers at Newark Liberty International Airport.

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FOR STRETCHED NJ STUDENTS, HELP ON THE WAY IN LEARNING HOW TO MANAGE FINANCES

JOHN REITMEYER | JANUARY 4, 2019

NJ Spotlight

 

Learning how to handle basic financial decisions such as managing a savings account or responsibly using credit cards will soon be required of middle school students in New Jersey, with the first bill to be signed into law in 2019.

Known as financial-literacy legislation, its adoption comes in response to concerns about serious economic challenges faced by young adults, including the high cost of college tuition that saddles many with hefty debt obligations.

Right now, students in New Jersey receive some instruction on basic financial-literacy issues when they are in high school thanks to a state law that went into effect for the 2010-2011 school year. But under the legislation enacted yesterday, students will now begin to learn about debt and other issues related to “personal financial responsibility” in middle school.

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Ex-Bush and Whitman adviser: Trump won’t be impeached, but he will leave the presidency in 2019

Posted Jan 1,  2019

By Alan J. Steinberg

Steinberg: President Trump will leverage the Oval Office to avoid any likely charges levied against him and his family. Will a President Pence pardon him after he resigns from office? 

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The major issue for political pundits regarding 2019 is whether Donald Trump’s presidency will survive the year leading into the 2020 elections. Their focus is on the likelihood as to whether Trump will be impeached by the House of Representatives and then removed by the U.S. Senate.

Trump will not be removed from office by the Constitutional impeachment and removal process.

Instead, the self-professed supreme dealmaker will use his presidency as a bargaining chip with federal and state authorities in 2019, agreeing to leave office in exchange for the relevant authorities not pursuing criminal charges against him, his children or the Trump Organization.

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After Early Victories, N.J. Governor Is Undermined by Lawmakers From His Own Party

By Nick Corasaniti

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Dec. 30, 2018

Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey, a Democrat, achieved some early victories during first year, but progress has stalled as he has fought with legislators and has been shadowed by a sexual assault scandal involving a former top administration official.

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During his first year in office, Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey has boasted of an open-door policy for legislators whose support he needs.

But it’s not easy getting to the governor’s door. A building renovation forced Mr. Murphy from the State House into temporary offices five minutes from the legislative chambers.

The distance between the executive and the legislative chambers is an apt symbol of Mr. Murphy’s tenure.

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Civil Rights Investigation Opened After Black Wrestler Had to Cut His Dreadlocks

By Michael Gold and Jeffery C. Mays

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Dec. 21, 2018

The referee will not be assigned to further matches “until this matter has been thoroughly reviewed,” according to a statement by the state's high-school sports association.

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New Jersey state officials said on Saturday that they opened a civil rights investigation into the case of a black high school wrestler with dreadlocks who was forced to make a choice: cut his hair or forfeit his match.

The wrestler, Andrew Johnson, was told by a referee that his hair and the hair cover he was wearing violated wrestling rules during a competition on Thursday in southern New Jersey. He wanted to compete. So he stood, forlorn and resigned, as he received a hurried, last-minute haircut while teammates from Buena Regional High School shouted their support.

With his dreadlocks shorn, Mr. Johnson went on to win his match but the episode drew widespread attention and condemnation.

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Cory Booker Isn’t Yet Running for President. But a Supporter is Launching a Super PAC to Back Him.

By Shane Goldmacher and Kenneth P. Vogel

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Dec. 20, 2018

A prominent Democratic donor is planning to raise $10 million for a super PAC to boost Senator Cory Booker’s anticipated presidential campaign. The issue of big money is likely to be a flash point among Democrats in 2020.

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A prominent donor plans to raise $10 million in the coming months for a new super PAC to boost Senator Cory Booker’s expected presidential campaign — marking the first infusion of big money into the Democratic primary and setting the stage for a reckoning within the party over the role of super PACs.

Steve Phillips, an influential San Francisco-based Democratic donor and activist, said he would formally file paperwork on Thursday to create the pro-Booker super PAC, Dream United. Mr. Booker, who represents New Jersey, has yet to announce whether he is running, let alone whether he would welcome super PAC support.

A first well-funded super PAC of 2020 could aid Mr. Booker in amplifying his message in what is expected to be a historically crowded field, and it speaks to the depth of his support from potential financiers. But such support could also backfire as the grass-roots base of the party is increasingly calling to curtail the political influence of the wealthy.

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AS POLS HAIL NJ TRANSIT REFORMS, KEY QUESTIONS LURK ABOUT AGENCY FUNDING

JOHN REITMEYER | DECEMBER 21, 2018

NJ Spotlight

Gov. Phil Murphy signing the NJ Transit reform bill in Summit yesterday

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Gov. Phil Murphy praised the adoption yesterday of a law bolstering legislative oversight of New Jersey Transit and overhauling its management, reforms designed to make the beleaguered mass-transit agency more transparent and accountable to its riders.

But left unaddressed by Murphy and lawmakers as they celebrated their achievement is the bigger issue of getting the cash-starved system back on more stable financial footing.

And the agency’s finances could soon get even more complicated. The governor will be putting forward a new state budget early next year, and broader concerns about taxes and fiscal policy are already starting to roil Trenton. Murphy, a first-term Democrat, promised on the campaign trail last year to establish a dedicated source of revenue for the transit agency — beyond fares paid by riders — but he’s spoken little about the subject since.

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On the Census, Trump and GOP allies target Latinos | Moran

Posted Dec 18, 2018

New Jersey's top legislative leaders just tried to pull a slippery stunt that would have cheapened our democracy by tilting the electoral map in their favor, but they were forced to abandon it last weekend after the party's base revolted.

"We don't have to cheat to win," said Analilia Mejia, head of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance.

Imagine if the Republican base in this Trump era had the same respect for fair play.

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Governor Murphy: "I drink Newark's water"

Gov. Phil Murphy delivered remarks at Saint James AME Church in Newark as the Rev. Dr. Ronald Slaughter, the senior pastor, looks on.
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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday during a trip to Newark that he drinks the city's tap water despite growing concerns that the public water supplied to as many as 15,000 homes in the city has unsafe levels of lead.

"I'll drink it, 100 percent," Murphy said, sipping from a label-free bottle of water. "I have a second office in Newark, and I frequently don't have any bottled water, so I will take something out of the tap." 

Murphy's comments came as the debate continues to escalate over lead levels in Newark's water. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a non-profit international environmental advocacy group, filed a lawsuit against the city in the summer, alleging it is in violation of federal safe drinking laws. 

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SENATE CREATES COMMISSION TO STUDY WAYS OF PREVENTING WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS

COLLEEN O'DEA | DECEMBER 19, 2018

NJ Spotlight

Eric Kelley and Ralph Lee spent nearly a quarter of a century behind bars before being exonerated last April of murder and robbery convictions. Their story inspired a bill passed by the New Jersey Senate this week that could help others like them find justice and prevent future wrongful convictions.

In the wake of a 2017 report about the two men winning new trials after DNA evidence suggested a different person had killed a video-store clerk in 1993, Sens. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Morris) and Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) introduced a bill that would create the New Jersey Innocence Study and Review Commission. The Senate unanimously passed the measure (S-406) on Monday.

Under the bill, a nine-member commission would study and review all aspects of criminal cases involving wrongful conviction in New Jersey and recommend reforms to reduce the likelihood of mistaken verdicts being handed down in the future.

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