N.J.’s top cop and judge agree: Stop jailing people for minor fines | Editorial

Published: Jun. 06, 2022

The chief justice of New Jersey’s Supreme Court, Stuart Rabner, has been on a years-long campaign to stop using our jails to punish people for being poor; what amounts to a debtor’s prison.

He started by making our state a national model for bail reform, locking up dangerous people awaiting trial but releasing those stuck behind bars because they can’t afford to pay their way out.

Now he’s seeking to reform our municipal court system for lower-level offenses, which brings us to the new policy announced last week for all New Jersey cops and courts: You can no longer arrest people for minor fines like an unpaid parking ticket or hold them in jail because they can’t pay.

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Fresh Finds at Westfield Farmers Market: Vegan Cobblers, Local Produce & More

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Newark School District 4-8 Graders Trail State Average in Reading, Math, Test Results Show

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Mental health part of plans to protect students

LILO H. STAINTON, HEALTH CARE WRITER | JUNE 6, 2022 

NJ Spotlight News

Communities in New Jersey and nationwide are again focusing on the need to protect students, avert violence and help kids and families heal from the trauma of incidents like the recent mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas.

New Jersey — which has among the nation’s strongest gun laws — had already taken steps to beef up school security, identify students who may pose a threat and ensure districts provide comprehensive mental health services. The state also created a $1 million grant fund to help schools develop depression-screening programs, starting this fall.

“We’ve always had children that experienced mental health issues, but not at the level and frequency that’s going on now. We have to treat it like we treat reading,” said Millville schools superintendent Tony Trongone, pointing to strategies such as intervention, ongoing support and parental engagement.

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Newark boosts starting teacher pay to $62K to fill staffing gap worsened by pandemic

Published: Jun. 03, 2022

In an effort to plug a years-long teacher shortage aggravated by the Coronavirus pandemic, Newark public schools will boost starting pay by $8,000 this fall, or about 15%, the district and local union announced.

The hike in starting pay to $62,000 a year for rookie teachers in the state’s largest school district is among several pay-related changes intended to attract new teachers and retain veterans.

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University Heights Charter School Announces State Intends to Revoke its Charter

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NJ’s training on school threats now more urgent

JOHN MOONEY, EDUCATION WRITER | JUNE 3, 2022

NJ Spotlight News

May 25, 2022: Esmeralda Bravo, center, holds a photo of her granddaughter, Nevaeh, one of the Robb Elementary School shooting victims, as she is comforted by Nevaeh's cousin, Anayeli, during a prayer vigil in Uvalde, Texas.

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Dating back at least five years, the state’s training for New Jersey school and law enforcement officials comes with a clinical name and lots of detail on processes and procedures that belie its tragic topic.

But the latest online session of the “School Behavioral Threat Assessment & Management” certainly took on a greater urgency — and interest — than usual on Thursday, as experts and educators spent the day discussing strategies to address troubled students who could turn violent against others or themselves.

The session comes in the aftermath of the Texas school shooting last week, where the 18-year-old gunman was somehow missed by such safeguards in his school, leading to the mass shooting at the Robb Elementary School and the deaths of 19 schoolchildren and two teachers.

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Election officials say they’re ready for N.J. primary. They just need voters to show.

Published: Jun. 01, 2022

Election officials say they’re ready for just about anything this primary after rising to the challenges thrown their way these last few years, first with the coronavirus pandemic and then with the hastened rollout of early voting in New Jersey.

“They’ve been throwing us a lot of curveballs,” said Passaic County Clerk Danielle Ireland-Imhof.

Ireland-Imhof is one of a half dozen election officials NJ Advance Media interviewed ahead of the June 7 primary, who said their counties were prioritizing training, education, and transparency in order to avoid the technology glitches and long lines that plagued the general election last fall. Whether voters will actually turn out for the primary — in which voters will weigh in on mid-term Congressional races and about 100 contested county and municipal races — and put their preparations to the test, remains to be seen. During the last mid-term primary in 2018, only 11% of registered voters cast a ballot and that figure was even lower at 6.6% in 2014.

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DEP spells out new permitting standards for ‘overburdened communities’

TOM JOHNSON, ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT WRITER | JUNE 1, 2022 

NJ Spotlight News

Incinerators are one of the uses that would come under enhanced DEP permitting scrutiny.

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For the first time, state environmental regulators would be required when making permitting decisions to consider the cumulative impact of new facilities such as power plants on pollution levels in already overburdened communities.

That requirement is spelled out in a new rule proposed by the Department of Environmental Protection to protect communities that already have high levels of pollution from new projects that would increase public exposure to contaminants.

NJ Spotlight News obtained a copy of the draft 153-page rule, which is set to be published Monday in the New Jersey Register. A series of public hearings will follow on the new regulations before they are officially adopted.

The rule would implement a nearly two-year-old law that aims to end the long-standing practice of siting power plants, incinerators and other unwanted facilities in low-income communities — typically with mostly Black and minority populations. The so-called environmental justice law, touted as the nation’s strongest, was signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in September 2020.

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Acting AG: Here’s one way to hold the gun industry responsible for the harm they cause | Opinion

Published: May. 29, 2022

By Matthew J. Platkin

Gun violence in America is a public health crisis. Just this month alone we have seen mass shootings at a supermarket, a church and an elementary school. In each tragic case, the victims were simply performing ordinary activities — shopping for groceries, attending church services, and enjoying what would have otherwise been an ordinary school day. The perpetrators of these atrocities appeared to have one thing in common: ready access to firearms.

According to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control report issued earlier this month, deadly shootings accounted for 79% of homicides nationwide in 2020 — a 35% increase from the prior year and the highest firearm homicide rate in more than two decades. New Jersey, unfortunately, is not insulated from the national uptick in gun violence: in 2020 there were 330 homicides in our state, 25% more than the year before, and two-thirds of those deaths involved a firearm.

The Attorney General’s Office has a long history of working closely with law enforcement partners at all levels of government to keep our residents safe, including through smart and evidence-based police work that leads to the arrest and prosecution of individuals, gangs, and gun traffickers who violate New Jersey’s commonsense gun laws, and who bring danger and chaos to our communities.

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