MURPHY CALLS FOR RETURNING RIGHT TO VOTE TO FELONS ON PROBATION OR PAROLE

COLLEEN O'DEA | JANUARY 17, 2019

NJ Spotlight

Gov. Phil Murphy wasn’t shy about patting himself and lawmakers on the back in his State of the State speech for making it easier both to register to vote and to cast a ballot. But he also wants to increase the number of registered voters by re-enfranchising felons on probation or parole, a controversial initiative.

This marked Murphy’s first public support for the concerted effort, launched last year by a number of progressive advocacy groups and legislators, to undo a 175-year-old law that strips the right to vote from those convicted of serious crimes until they have completed their entire sentence. But the governor stopped short of fully embracing legislation — embodied in S-2100 and A-3456 — that would return the right to vote to those who are incarcerated.

“Let’s open the doors to our democracy even wider,” Murphy said toward the end of his speech to a joint session of the Legislature on Tuesday. “Let’s restore voting rights for individuals on probation or parole, so we can further their reentry into society. And we further their reentry into society by allowing them to exercise the most sacred right offered by our society — the right to vote.”

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DEMOCRATS TEPID, REPUBLICANS PREDICTABLE AS MURPHY’S SPEECH DRAWS FAINT PRAISE

JOHN MOONEY | JANUARY 16, 2019

NJ Spotlight

Senate President Steve Sweeney said Gov. Phil Murphy was entitled to a victory lap.

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Year One of Gov. Phil Murphy’s time in office was marked by a list of promises, but also a fractious relationship with legislative leaders from his own party that may have prevented the governor from notching more wins.

Judging from the reaction to his first State of the State address yesterday, Year Two may be starting out much the same for Murphy.

Democratic leaders yesterday initially tried to sidestep the press following the governor’s hour-long address, announcing beforehand that they would only be putting out a written statement.

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Catholic Church settles for $400K in five sex abuse lawsuits against N.J. priest, attorney says

Posted Jan 14, 2019

Five alleged victims who say they were sexually abused by a New Jersey priest settled their lawsuits against the Catholic Church for a total of $400,000 -- and a sixth cases against him is still in court, an attorney said.

The Rev. Michael “Mitch” Walters was accused of molesting both boys and girls at St. Cassian Church and school in Montclair and St. John Nepomucene Parish in Guttenberg in the 1980s and 1990s. He denied the accusations and was removed from ministry in 2016.

Five lawsuits against Walters were settled in July after the cases went to mediation, said Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston-based attorney for the alleged victims. Garabedian, who was portrayed by Stanley Tucci in the 2015 film “Spotlight,” is known for representing victims in cases against the Catholic Church.

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HAS MURPHY MADE GOOD ON HIS PROMISES? TAKING STOCK AT THE 1-YEAR MARK

COLLEEN O'DEA | JANUARY 15, 2019

NJ Spotlight

Gov. Phil Murphy is getting a passing grade or better for his first year in office from some organizations and special-interest groups, but NJ Spotlight’s review of his major promises found mixed results.

Murphy, who delivers his first State of the State address to the Legislature today on the eve of the one-year anniversary of his taking office, has taken steps toward accomplishing nearly all 22 concrete promises made in his inaugural speech. He has also taken some action on close to 40 percent of another 75 specific pledges made during his gubernatorial campaign.

But he has also learned that being arguably the most powerful governor in the nation does not give him the ability to fully enact his agenda, even when his party controls both houses of the Legislature. To date, he has been unable to fulfill several of his major inaugural promises such as a $15 minimum wage, legalized recreational marijuana, and a millionaires tax — not for want of trying. The stumbling block: pushback from, most notably, Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex).

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SURVEY FINDS PERSISTENT BULLYING OF LGBTQ STUDENTS IN NJ HIGH SCHOOLS

COLLEEN O'DEA | JANUARY 14, 2019

NJ Spotlight

 

Gay, bisexual and transgender students in New Jersey high schools continue to face bullying, harassment, discrimination and even physical violence eight years after the enactment of a tough anti-bullying law, a new survey of LGBTQ students found.

Results of the 2017 online survey of students’ experiences in secondary schools by the organization GLSEN, whose goal is to improve the education system for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students — and for students who are questioning their sexual identity — indicate New Jersey’s LGBTQ students faced slightly less prejudice and harassment than those elsewhere in the nation. Still, a large majority face bullying or harassment and attend schools without an inclusive curriculum or policies supportive of transgender or gender-nonconforming students.

“I am very disappointed and disheartened by these statistics,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, a prime sponsor of the anti-bullying law that requires schools to protect against and try to prevent the harassment, intimidation or bullying (HIB) of students for any reason. “The numbers are alarming.”

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February SNAP Benefits to be Issued Early

SNAP recipients in New Jersey will be receiving their February benefits early because of the continued federal government shutdown.
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TRENTON, NJ—SNAP recipients in New Jersey will be receiving their February benefits early because of the continued federal government shutdown.

The New Jersey Department of Human Services announced today that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients who received a SNAP benefit in January and were scheduled to receive the benefit again in February will receive them on Jan. 19 on their Families First Card.

“Due to President Trump’s shutdown, numerous federal programs that provide critical services to residents of New Jersey could be severely impacted,” said Governor Phil Murphy in a statement. “If the shutdown continues past February, 730,000 SNAP recipients will be affected. New Jersey’s top priority is to stand with our residents, and we urge the federal government to end this shutdown immediately.”

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Trump’s wall makes hostages of us all | Editorial

Posted Jan 10, 2019

It helps to remember that the border wall, which the president has used as his justification to shut down the federal government, was never meant to be anything other than a memory trick for an undisciplined mind.

President Trump’s earliest political advisors invented the concept of a border wall as a “mnemonic device” back in 2014, just to keep candidate Trump from wandering into a thicket of disassociated ramblings that nobody could understand, especially when he launched a stream-of-consciousness oration about his real estate accomplishments.

One advisor, Sam Nunberg, told the New York Times Saturday that he and Roger Stone meant the wall to be used only as a tool to remind Trump to talk tough about immigration.

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NJ HAS WEAK SYSTEM OF STATE SUPPORT FOR BLACK AND LATINO COLLEGE STUDENTS — REPORT

CARLY SITRIN | JANUARY 10, 2019

NJ Spotlight

 

Higher education in New Jersey is failing its black and Latino students, according to a new report. And, if that inequity is not addressed soon, the state’s economy will suffer, the authors say.

The report, from progressive think tank and advocacy organization Education Reform Now (ERN) is titled “Locked Out of the Future: How New Jersey’s Higher Education System Serves Students Inequitably and Why It Matters.” In a deep dive into the state’s higher education system, it found harmful gaps between the way the state serves its white students versus its black and Latino students.

The report shows that a black student in New Jersey is nearly 30 percent less likely to enroll in an in-state public four-year college than his or her white peer while a Latino student is 18 percent less likely. What’s more, those students are also less likely to attain the necessary degrees the workforce demands. According to the report, New Jersey’s white population earns bachelor’s degrees at a rate needed to keep up with job demand (43 percent), whereas black and Latino degree attainment rates (23 percent and 17 percent respectively) lag far behind.

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N.J.’s Governor Wants to Give You Fewer Reasons Not to Vote

By Nick Corasaniti

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Jan. 9, 2019

Gov. Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat, is pursuing a package of bills that would significantly expand voting rights in New Jersey.

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Ballots disqualified for dubious reasons. Hourslong wait times. Onerous identification requirements. Broken polling stations.

The frustrations millions of people experienced during November’s midterm election have made voting rights a polarizing issue, thrusting it to the top of statehouse agendas across the country. While some states are wrestling with expanding voter access, others are seeking to further restrict access to the ballot under the guise of combating voter fraud, which is extremely rare.

Now, in New Jersey, Gov. Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat, is pursuing a series of bills that would significantly expand access to the ballot for hundreds of thousands of voters.

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HIGH COURT RULING MAKES IT EASIER FOR DRUG-COURT GRADS TO WIPE SLATE CLEAN

COLLEEN O'DEA | JANUARY 9, 2019

NJ Spotlight

 

All those who successfully complete drug court in New Jersey are eligible for an immediate expungement of prior minor criminal offenses, the state Supreme Court has ruled — clarifying a two-year old law that offers a clean slate to non-violent former drug addicts looking to rebuild their lives.

The 2016 law gives those who complete the drug-court program a presumptive automatic expungement of their entire criminal record as long as that record does not include major violent crimes like murder or kidnapping, or serious drug offenses including possession of larger quantities of marijuana or any amount of heroin or cocaine.

But shortly after the law took effect, prosecutors contested three drug-court graduates’ requests for expungement, saying that approving the erasure of their criminal histories was not in the “public interest.” One of the individuals had as many as 13 convictions, another had eight convictions for third-degree offenses that included burglary. Each had drug-related offenses.

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