New Jersey Becomes a Key Battleground in Race for House Control

TOMS RIVER, N.J. — The tables inside the hotel room were full and Andy Kim, the candidate responsible for filling them, was pleasantly surprised. It was a weeknight fund-raiser after all, rescheduled once already, for this relatively unknown Democratic challenger in a Republican district and a thick fog on Route 37 had obscured the tiny sign directing drivers to the hotel.

“Seven months before Election Day this is not normal, to be able to pack a room on a weekday,” he told a crowd of about 150 supporters, each of whom contributed at least $10 to listen to Mr. Kim and snack on donated croissants.

Ever since the election of President Trump, Democrats across the country have seen a predictable surge in energy among a base eager to take on the White House. What has been perhaps less expected is the uprising against the president coursing through more moderate suburbs, including many Mr. Trump won. Democrats buoyed by recent victories in Republican districts have lofty aims in suburban New Jersey as they work to wrest control of the House from the G.O.P., given Democrats’ surprise victories in Virginia, Alabama and, most recently, Pennsylvania.

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DEMOCRATIC HEAVY HITTERS READY TO REVISE MURPHY’S BUDGET PLAN

JOHN REITMEYER | APRIL 4, 2018

NJ Spotlight

Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), left, testifies at budget hearing in Glassboro yesterday.

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State Democratic lawmakers are sending clear signals they are ready to rewrite major sections of newly installed Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed budget, particularly in the areas of taxes and K-12 education funding.

“It’s our job to correct whatever we think is wrong,” said Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), at a budget hearing yesterday in Glassboro, where residents complained of Murphy’s proposals on K-12 funding.

Lawmakers traveled to the lower half of the state to hear firsthand from South Jersey residents about Murphy’s proposed 2019 fiscal year budget. With fewer big cities and lower population density, communities in South Jersey often have different needs from those in the more urban north. State budget investments can also be more impactful in South Jersey as the region is less populated and has fewer options for higher education.

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Trump trashes Jersey again, this time with the Census | Editorial

It's nice to see New Jersey's governor stick up for New Jersey for a change, after Chris Christie was such a chump for Trump.

He dutifully let the president order him meatloaf, and order cuts that would have stripped health care from thousands in our state, had a few votes in Congress not stopped him. He sang Donald Trump's praises on national TV. All roles for which we did not elect him.

Since Phil Murphy won in November, Trump has only continued to attack our state, trying to kill plans for a new rail tunnel under the Hudson and screwing us with the tax code. But at least our new governor is speaking up loudly about it.

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NEW JERSEY’S TROUBLING TREND, INCREASE IN BIAS AND HATE CRIMES

COLLEEN O'DEA | APRIL 2, 2018

NJ Spotlight

 

The number of bias and hate crimes in New Jersey rose in 2016, mirroring a national trend that many people – including the state’s attorney general – attribute to the campaign and election of Donald Trump.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal discussed the 417 reported hate crimes in New Jersey in 2016, a nearly 14 percent increase over the prior year, during a forum on the topic at Rutgers University last week. The most recent statistics available that track hate crimes are for 2016.

“It’s sad that we see bias incidents trending upward, but it’s not surprising, given that we have political leaders in this country who encourage the expression of intolerance and hatred, or in other cases, ignore or countenance it,” Grewal said. “What we need to do, as individuals and as a society, is to push back against this prejudice. We need to embrace the diversity that makes us stronger as a state and a nation, and we need to spread a countervailing message of tolerance and unity. To quote Nelson Mandela, ‘No one is born hating another person.’ If people can learn to hate, they also can learn to love and respect one another.”

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After a Year of Turmoil, Menendez Announces He Is Seeking Re-Election

UNSenator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, announced on Wednesday he will seek another term, with Senator Cory Booker, right, and Gov. Philip D. Murphy, center.

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UNION CITY, N.J. — Senator Robert Menendez officially announced his intention to run for re-election at a raucous rally on Wednesday, a remarkable turn two months after federal prosecutors dismissed corruption charges against the New Jersey Democrat.

With nearly every state Democratic luminary inside a packed high school gymnasium here, it was an unusual show of force for a candidate who already enjoys a considerable lead in early polling.

In his kickoff speech, sometimes delivered in Spanish, Mr. Menendez vowed that he would continue to fight against President Trump’s agenda.

“There is a president in Washington who spends his days dividing us and distracting us, but never delivering for us,” Mr. Menendez said, drawing some of his loudest cheers.

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AMAZON EXPANDS CHAIN OF WAREHOUSES ALONG NJ TURNPIKE

JOHN REITMEYER | MARCH 28, 2018

NJ Spotlight

While Newark and dozens of other cities across the country are still waiting to hear where mega-retailer Amazon will locate its coveted second corporate headquarters, the company is moving ahead with an expansion of its New Jersey fulfillment-center operations as online sales continue to flourish.

Amazon has already become one of the state’s largest employers — it would tie for fifth on the state's latest official list based on the company's newest figures, with 15,000 workers primarily at a stable of 10 fulfillment centers, all closely tied to the New Jersey Turnpike. The company’s New Jersey locations, which range from Logan in South Jersey to Teterboro in the north, gives it easy access to the state’s 9 million residents, but also 40 percent of the nation’s population that lives within 24 hours of the state.

“We want to exceed expectations in customer delivery and response, and so I think you’re seeing us meeting the demand in New Jersey, and the Northeast,” said Rachael Lighty, the company’s regional public-relations manager, during an interview with NJ Spotlight yesterday.

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New Jersey Assembly Approves Sweeping Gun Control Legislation

By Christian Hetrick • 

 

Two days after hundreds of thousands of people rallied across the world for more gun control, the New Jersey Assembly passed six bills to further toughen the state’s strict gun laws.

The bills require background checks for private gun sales, ban the sale of armor piercing ammunition, reduce the capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds, and codify regulations regarding handgun permits. The Assembly also passed a pair of bills that allow police to take firearms from people deemed to pose a threat to themselves or others.

Gov. Phil Murphy has pledged to sign the measures into law if they reach his desk. The bills must still clear the Senate before going to the Democratic governor.

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Big N.J. gun control bills set for votes on Monday, and Phil Murphy vows to sign them

State lawmakers are set to vote Monday on a package of bills to make New Jersey's gun laws even tougher -- and Gov. Phil Murphy has vowed to sign them all if they reach his desk.

The state Assembly will consider six measures at the Statehouse in Trenton, including one to reduce magazine capacity, another to ban armor-piercing bullets, another to make it tougher to obtain a permit to carry a handgun, and two that are designed to keep firearms out of the hands of people with mental health issues. 

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association and local gun-rights activists will hold a morning rally at the nearby War Memorial in Trenton to protest the bills before the voting session.

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NEW OPPORTUNITY FOR NEW JERSEY’S DISTRESSED TOWNS AND CITIES

COLLEEN O'DEA | MARCH 26, 2018

NJ Spotlight

 

Some 75 municipalities throughout New Jersey could benefit from new economic investment through a little-known provision of last year’s federal tax-reform law.

Gov. Phil Murphy has recommended that the U.S. Treasury Department designate portions of 75 towns, at least one in each county, Opportunity Zones. The goal of this federal program is to encourage capital investments in low-income or otherwise distressed communities. Its true impact likely will not be known for years.

“New Jersey is committed to using every tool at our disposal to develop our communities and grow our economy,” Murphy said in announcing his recommended zones in New Jersey last Thursday. “This program provides real opportunity for our state that has the potential to create significant, long-term economic development in the communities that need it the most.”

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NEWARK AIRPORT WORKERS CHEER AS PORT AUTHORITY VOTES FOR $19 MINIMUM WAGE

COLLEEN O'DEA | MARCH 23, 2018

NJ Spotlight

Airport workers cheer the decision to phase in wage hikes for them.

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Workers at the three Port Authority of New York and New Jersey major airports stand to receive at least $19 an hour, a higher minimum wage than in any city or state in the nation, following a long, union-led campaign to boost salaries.

The PA Board of Commissioners voted unanimously yesterday to raise the minimum wage for some 40,000 workers at the airports by 2023, opening a public comment period that could lead to final action to adopt the $19 minimum wage at the board’s June 28 meeting.

This revised wage policy also would eventually bring wage parity to workers at Newark Liberty International Airport, who have earned less than their counterparts at JFK International and La Guardia for more than a year. Newark workers now make at least $10.45 an hour, while workers at the other two facilities get the New York state-mandated $13 minimum. Still, that $10.45-an-hour Newark airport workers currently make is more than New Jersey’s $8.60 statewide minimum.

A higher minimum wage is something union members have been advocating for since 2012, holding marches, rallies and strikes. The Port Authority in 2014 approved a minimum wage higher than either state’s at the time — $10.10 beginning Feb. 1, 2015 — but efforts to increase that further stalled due to opposition from former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

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