Murphy vetoes mandatory minimum bill as Grewal unilaterally eliminates some sentences

 Politico

04/19/2021

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s directive may help allay the concerns of criminal justice advocates who did not want to see mandatory minimum sentences upheld over a political fight, leading some to throw their support behind the legislative effort. 

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Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday vetoed a bill that would do away with mandatory minimum prison terms for non-violent crimes, excising sections that would eliminate the sentences for corruption offenses.

At the same time, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal issued a directive requiring that prosecutors make use of a provision in New Jersey law allowing them to set aside mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes.

“I am particularly troubled by the notion that this bill would eliminate mandatory prison time for elected officials who abuse their office for their own benefit, such as those who take bribes. Our representative democracy is based on the premise that our elected officials represent the interests of their constituents, not their own personal interests,” Murphy wrote in his veto message, which also took a shot at former President Donald Trump. “I cannot sign a bill into law that would undermine that premise and further erode our residents’ trust in our democratic form of government, particularly after four years of a presidential administration whose corruption was as pervasive as it was brazen.”

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Head of MVC told to make fixes after COVID-19 disruptions

JOHN REITMEYER, BUDGET/FINANCE WRITER | APRIL 20, 2021 

NJ Spotlight News

Motor Vehicle Commission chief administrator Sue Fulton

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The head of New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission faced another grilling from lawmakers who said their constituents continue to be frustrated with frequent office closures and other difficulties securing appointments for services during the ongoing pandemic.

During a hearing Monday that was supposed to be about her agency’s latest state budget request, MVC chief administrator Sue Fulton instead was peppered with questions about its ongoing struggles to adapt to challenges posed by the health crisis.

“Something has got to get done,” said Assembly Budget Committee Chair Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “There’s got to be something we can do in order to make sure that people are getting what they need.”

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Sweeney: My plan would make a degree from a 4-year public college affordable | Opinion

Posted Apr 18, 2021

By Steve Sweeney

State Senator Steve Sweeney says New Jersey should guarantee the last two years of college at any public institution of higher learning will be tuition-free. The program would be available for households with an adjusted gross income of $65,000 or less. 
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To continue to make a college education affordable for all New Jersey families, we need a plan that builds on the Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) program and that serves to incentivize students, regardless of socio-economic status, to stay on course with their studies all four years.

We can do this by guaranteeing the last two years of college at any public institution of higher learning will be tuition-free, through a similar “last dollar in” program that, like the CCOG, would be available for households with an adjusted gross income of $65,000 or less. This program has been percolating for a while now in higher education reform circles and we believe that, as an alternative to the governor’s Garden State Guarantee proposal, we will be taking a reasonable idea and making it better.

While many of us can agree that the cost of college is fast becoming unaffordable for many working families in our state, and recognize the severity of the problem of paying off leftover student debt after graduation, I believe helping to pay for the last two years will be a more effective way to address the problem.

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Admired owner of popular Newark soul food restaurant dies at 86

Posted Apr 16, 2021

John Steward’s soul food restaurant on Wright Street in Newark attracted everyone, from celebrities like Shaquille O’Neal to churchgoers looking for a good meal after Sunday services, his nephew said.

“Everyone came in from all walks of life and sat down and had a great meal there,” said Steward’s nephew, Godfrey Allen.

Steward, the longtime owner of the family-run restaurant, died on April 10 from a heart attack, his family said. He was 86.

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University Hospital needs $1 billion overhaul, CEO says

LILO H. STAINTON, HEALTH CARE WRITER | APRIL 19, 2021

NJ Spotlight News

April 14, 2021: Dr. Shereef Elnahal, president and CEO of University Hospital, Newark at the announcement of state funding for a study of a potential new hospital

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A new University Hospital in Newark should include modernized operating rooms, a stroke center, additional space for liver transplants, and innovatively designed areas to better support primary care and help address underlying social issues like poverty, housing challenges or poor nutrition.

That is the vision of Dr. Shereef Elnahal, University’s president and CEO, and it comes with a current estimated price tag of $1 billion. The existing 42-year-old facility — twice the age of New Jersey’s other hospitals, on average — suffers from occasional flooding and regular overcrowding in the emergency room, officials note, and is not built for today’s team-based approach to medicine.

As the state’s only true public hospital with a unique mandate to care for Newark residents, a new University Hospital needs to enable “newer, more innovative models to meet not only the clinical needs but also the upstream social needs that patients have that ultimately determine their health outcomes,” said Elnahal, a former state health commissioner.

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Biden’s broken promise. And why he has no choice. | Editorial

Posted Apr 15, 2021

During last year’s presidential campaign, Joe Biden promised to work “across the aisle to reach consensus” with Republicans in Congress. But so far, we’ve seen no evidence of that, beyond a few bipartisan meetings at the White House that produced no agreement.

So, now Biden is redefining the word “bipartisan.” It’s no longer about making deals with Mitch McConnell, but going over his head, and fashioning policies that appeal to Republican voters themselves.

“If you looked up ‘bipartisan’ in the dictionary, I think it would say support from Republicans and Democrats,” his senior advisor, Anita Dunn, recently told the Washington Post. “It doesn’t say the Republicans have to be in Congress.”

Yes, we are witnessing a bait and switch. During the campaign, Biden’s Democratic rivals called him a dreamer when he said he could make deals with Republicans in Washington. And let’s face it, his critics were correct.

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New Jersey governor makes new push for ‘sweeping’ new gun laws

 Politico

04/15/2021 

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a joint meeting of the Democratic-led Assembly and Senate in Trenton.

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday began his third major push for new gun control laws since taking office in 2018. He cited rising gun violence in cities across the country, including in parts of New Jersey, which already has some of the nation's most stringent gun laws.

The governor, a liberal Democrat who is up for reelection this fall, said the measures were “perhaps the most sweeping gun violence prevention package in the nation” and would “guarantee unquestionably that New Jersey will have the strongest gun violence prevention laws in the United States of America.”

Murphy unveiled his proposals at a press conference in Newark, where he was joined by high-ranking lawmakers from both houses of the state Legislature. But at least some of the proposals are likely to hit a wall in the state Senate.

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It’s debate season in the N.J. governor’s race. But not for Phil Murphy.

Posted Apr 15, 2021

At least two Republicans hoping to unseat Democratic incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy in this year’s election will spar in a pair of public debates.

Former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli and engineer Hirsh Singh both met the criteria to debate at dates to be announced. Ciattarelli is required to participate because he accepted two-for-one matching funds from the state and Singh raised at least $490,000 for his campaign, Election Law Enforcement Commission officials announced this week.

A third GOP hopeful, Phil Rizzo, failed to qualify for the debates but is currently appealing ELEC’s ruling.

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More than 4 in 10 Republicans won’t take COVID vaccine, poll says

Posted Apr 14, 2021

The vast majority of Democrats are anxious to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Not so with Republicans, according to a poll released Wednesday.

A Monmouth University Poll found 43% of Republicans said they won’t take a shot in the arm, compared with just 5% of Democrats.

Overall, 1 in 5 Americans, 21%, said they had no plans to be vaccinated, even as the virus continues to spread and new variants are discovered. That was statistically about the same as the 24% who said last month that they would not take the vaccine.

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Feds unveil plan to deal with the Passaic River’s toxic mud

Posted Apr 14, 2021

The lower reaches of the Passaic River are toxic.

Heavy industrial pollution through the 19th and 20th centuries left the river-bottom laced with hazardous substances, including carcinogens like dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

It’s a history of pollution that has robbed residents in Newark and surrounding towns of the chance to fully enjoy the river, a fact that once led U.S. Sen. Cory Booker to call the river “New Jersey’s biggest crime scene.” To this day, people are warned against eating any fish or crabs pulled from the Passaic.

Federal efforts to clean up this section of the river, known as the Diamond Alkali Superfund site, have been underway for decades. Now, the next chapter of that work is set to begin.

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