Why the Plan to Legalize Marijuana in New Jersey Suddenly Unraveled

By Nick Corasaniti and Jesse McKinley

THE NEW YORK TIMES

March 27, 2019

An effort to legalize marijuana in New Jersey collapsed on Monday after Democratic leaders failed to muster enough support among state lawmakers.

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All the elements for swiftly legalizing marijuana in New Jersey seemed to be in place: A proposed bill was enthusiastically backed by Gov. Philip D. Murphy and had been endorsed by leaders of the Democratic-controlled State Legislature. Also, statewide polls showed support for the issue.

Then the plans unraveled.

Some lawmakers were unsure about how to tax marijuana sales. Others feared legalization would flood the state’s congested streets and highways with impaired drivers. Some would not be deterred from believing that marijuana was a dangerous menace to public health.

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FOR YOUNG MEN OF COLOR IN NEWARK, LIFE REMAINS A STRUGGLE

COLLEEN O'DEA | MARCH 28, 2019

NJ Spotlight

 

Life can be difficult for young black and Hispanic men in Newark: They are less likely to graduate high school, more likely to lack health insurance, and far more likely to be murdered than young women in Newark or their peers in New Jersey overall.

That’s the picture painted by a new report out today from Advocates for Children of New Jersey that presents, for the first time, a detailed look at more than 18,000 men of color ages 15 to 24, using statistics and their own words. This deep dive was part of the 2019 Newark Kids Count report that ACNJ annually publishes about children living in the state’s largest city.

A number of young men talked about threats of violence and other challenges growing up in an urban area, their desire to change their high school experiences to make them more meaningful, and their dreams for a bright and successful future.

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‘They’re Leaving Us With Nothing’: Cuts of 150 Teachers Threaten Troubled N.J. City

By Sarah Maslin Nir

THE NEW YORK TIMES

March 27, 2019

Garrett Vargo teaching music to fourth graders at an elementary school in Paterson, N.J., where the school board has proposed laying off 150 teachers and eliminating music classes.

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More than 200 education jobs cut, including 150 teachers and 23 vice principals. Class sizes would balloon. Art and music classes would be erased.

The budget proposed by the school board in Paterson, the third largest city in New Jersey, offered a staggering package of cuts. Officials said they have no choice but to make the cuts that stand to undo years of gains by the long-struggling school district.

The board’s recent vote has plunged this economically distressed city into a wrenching debate about how its schools are funded, who controls the education of its nearly 29,000 public school children and what it will finally take to lift Paterson — a once-thriving industrial center — from its bleak past.

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STUDENT BILL OF RIGHTS CENTRAL TO NEW STATE PLAN FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

CARLY SITRIN | MARCH 27, 2019

NJ Spotlight

Secretary of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis at the annnouncement Tuesday of a new plan for higher education in NJ

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For the first time in more than 13 years, New Jersey has a plan for improving higher education in the state. It includes enhancing college affordability, creating work opportunities, ensuring safe and supportive campuses, and prioritizing student voices in decision-making processes. And university professors and faculty members are prepared to strike to see these goals reached.

Secretary of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis and Gov. Phil Murphy have released a new “student-centered vision” for higher education in New Jersey that they say will not only make college costs more transparent and improve life on campus for students across the state, but will also help keep talented young people living and working in New Jersey. The goal, Murphy said, is to achieve the target set by former Gov. Chris Christie of “65 by ‘25” — meaning that 65 percent of working New Jerseyans will have earned a college degree or certification by 2025.

“Today, New Jersey’s great colleges and universities set course to make our state the hub for American innovation and economic opportunity,” Murphy said at the announcement at Rutgers, Newark on Tuesday. “This goal is nothing short of reclaiming our state’s mantle as the global leader in innovation and I firmly believe that anyone can find their place in that economy.”

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Effort to Legalize Marijuana in New Jersey Collapses

By Nick Corasaniti

THE NEW YORK TIMES

March 25, 2019

New Jersey Gov. Philip D. Murphy had made legalizing marijuana one of his top priorities since taking office in January 2018.

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TRENTON — A monthslong effort to legalize marijuana in New Jersey collapsed on Monday after Democrats were unable to muster enough support for the measure, derailing a central campaign pledge by Gov. Philip D. Murphy and leaving the future of the legalization movement in doubt.

The failure in the Legislature marks one of the biggest setbacks for Mr. Murphy, who despite having full Democratic control in the State Senate and Assembly, has faced constant party infighting and has struggled to convince lawmakers of his progressive agenda.

Among the most vocal opponents were a handful of African-American Democratic lawmakers who split with their party over legalization, arguing that it would be a public health menace to their communities.

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MURPHY ANNOUNCES STATE TO TAKE CONTROL OF OBAMACARE EXCHANGE

LILO H. STAINTON | MARCH 25, 2019

NJ Spotlight

Gov. Phil Murphy announce efforts to advance ACA infrastructure and protections in New Jersey, Friday, March 22, 2019.

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Hundreds of thousands of New Jersey residents and small business owners could have far easier access to better quality, affordable health insurance and millions more could benefit from additional health policy protections under a new proposal from Gov. Phil Murphy.

Murphy, a Democrat, plans for the state to claim full control of its health insurance exchange by 2021. The exchange, now embodied in the federal website healthcare.gov, is an online sales marketplace for lower-cost policies that was created as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The Murphy proposal — elements of which require state legislation — would make New Jersey the first state to undertake this transition since the time of the Obama administration, which created the law, according to Murphy’s office. Twelve other states and the District of Columbia already operate their own marketplaces.

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Legalizing weed will put N.J. on the right side of civil rights history, Murphy says in plea for votes

Updated Mar 21, 2019

With Monday’s vote to legalize marijuana in New Jersey looming, Gov. Phil Murphy made an impassioned appeal to undecided state lawmakers on Thursday, saying that voting yes will deliver a civil rights victory to black and Latinos who have been unjustly targeted in the war on drugs.

The bill scheduled for a vote in the state Senate and Assembly in four days include provisions that would expedite the expungements of marijuana possession and minor distribution offenses for as many as 200,000 people in the Garden State, Murphy said. Blacks are three times more likely to be arrested and convicted than whites, although they consume marijuana at about the same rate.

“To all of you out there wondering, ‘Where should I be on this,’ let me just say this: We have a chance — one chance — to protect our kids," Murphy said, standing among 13 minority religious, business and community leaders during a news conference outside his office in Trenton.

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SUEZ SPEEDS REPLACEMENT OF LEAD SERVICE LINES, AIMS FOR 25% BY END OF YEAR

TOM JOHNSON | MARCH 22, 2019

NJ Spotlight

 

The Suez water company yesterday said it will step up replacing lead service lines in northern New Jersey that have fouled drinking water for thousands of customers, vowing to spend $15 million to remove 25 percent of the lead in its system by the end of the year.

The replacement program is much more aggressive than the previous announcement by the company, which had come under pressure from towns to speed up replacements initially projected to take as long as 14 years.

The company, which serves 800,000 customers in northern New Jersey, detected unsafe levels of lead in 15 of 108 homes tested last summer, results that were disclosed in January. Like most other cases where levels of lead have been found in tap water, the problem is blamed on lead service lines connecting customers with water mains in the streets.

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IMPACT OF HOUSING STRUGGLES A BIG FACTOR IN COUNTY HEALTH RANKINGS

LILO H. STAINTON | MARCH 22, 2019

NJ Spotlight

 

Nearly one in five New Jersey households spend more than half their income on housing costs, leaving little money available for quality food, medications and other items that impact the health of the families involved.

That’s just one of the sobering findings in the 2019 County Health Rankings for New Jersey, part of a national annual report that compares counties in each state using data on outcomes like birth weight, wellness and mortality. The findings, which include multiple tables that break down the numbers by geography and demographics, also highlight significant racial disparities in many areas, including that black residents of any age die prematurely at nearly twice the rate of white ones.

The rankings, a product of the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, also consider health factors — like the rates of smoking, cancer screenings and vaccinations, education and income levels, and the impact of violence. (RWJF also supports NJ Spotlight.) These details can help policymakers focus on opportunities for change.

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OP-ED: NEWARK SETS THE NATIONAL STANDARD FOR CIVIC EMPOWERMENT

HARRY POZYCKI | MARCH 21, 2019

NJ Spotlight

Harry Pozycki

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As we watch the dysfunction of our national government, where just keeping the doors open seems like an accomplishment, it is tempting to simply point fingers and express frustration. But as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”

In Newark, the leaders and residents alike are living Roosevelt’s words, putting in place a foundation that empowers citizens to drive their government from the bottom up. All Newark residents now have the opportunity to learn how to be No-Blame problem-solvers, exercising their full political power to leave their city better than they found it.

Recognizing this hopeful reality that he has helped bring about, Mayor Ras Baraka joined members of the Newark Civic Trust, the superintendent of the Newark School District, and the Vice-Chancellor of Rutgers Newark, as Newark became the first Civic City in the nation. A Civic City is one that creates a pipeline of practical solutions and principled leaders. In a Civic City, all citizens have access to training in the practice of No-Blame problem-solving and the opportunity to serve as Civic Trustees working to find successful urban solutions which they adapt for adoption in their city.

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