North Jersey News Roundup for Aug. 13, 2020

New Jersey schools will have the option of staying closed and teaching virtually if they meet a list of conditions to begin the school year. The state’s nearly 600 school districts were previously told they needed to hold at least some in-person classes to start the 2020-2021 school year. “There is no one-size-fits-all plan for all of the state’s public school districts,” Gov. Phil Murphy said, adding the state will continue to allow local school boards to make their own decisions about what’s best for their districts.

Paterson schools would remain closed through the end of October, under a virtual learning plan approved by the city’s Board of Education. The Paterson school board opted to go virtual at least until Nov. 1 and will review Paterson’s coronavirus data on Oct. 15 to decide when school buildings will reopen. The Record 

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled the state can borrow billions of dollars with restrictions to deal with revenue shortfalls caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The unanimous ruling found that a law passed in July to borrow up to $9.9 billion does not run afoul of the state constitution’s prohibition on borrowing large amounts without voter approval. New Jersey’s constitution prohibits borrowing more than 1% of what it spends in a fiscal year without putting the question before voters, though there is an exception “to meet an emergency caused by disaster or act of God.” The Wall Street Journal

Sen. Cory Booker told President Donald Trump “your racism is showing” on Twitter after the president suggested that Booker and Joe Biden would push policies for low-income housing to “invade” suburban neighborhoods. Trump said on Twitter that Booker would run a Biden administration program to build low-income housing in suburban neighborhoods after bringing back a rule that the president rescinded, and therefore the “suburban housewife” would be voting Republican.

The 2020 New Jersey primary has been verified by the state’s Board of Elections, about a month after votes were cast on July 7. A total of nearly 1.5 million votes were cast in a hybrid vote-by-mail and polling stations, second only to the 1.7 million who voted in the 2008 primary. The percentage of voters at 26% was the same from the 2016 primary. Of those who voted, 457,017 were Republicans and 1.0 million were Democrats. The percentage of registered voters by party was 33% for Republicans and 42% for Democrats. 

Six former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chiefs, including former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and Lisa Jackson, are calling for an agency reset after President Donald Trump’s first term, backing a detailed plan by former EPA staffers that ranges from renouncing political influence in regulation to boosting climate-friendly electric vehicles. Some of the reset recommendations were aimed at the Trump era, such as minimizing industry and political influence on science-based decisions in regulatory actions, combating climate change and cutting air pollution with electric vehicles.

Power outages followed in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaias, and regional power suppliers felt the heat as state legislators lamented their response to the electrical crisis. The storm knocked more than 1.4 million New Jersey homes and businesses off the grid. Led by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, members John McKeon (D-27), Christopher DePhillips (R-40) and Angela McKnight (D-31) are  among those calling for improvements following the power outages.

The Federal Railroad Administration reiterated its concerns that NJ Transit may not make the positive train control (PTC) deadline at the end of the year, according to a quarterly update report. NJ Transit President and CEO Kevin Corbett and representatives from the contractors hired to help install PTC have repeatedly told the board in recent months that major milestones are being met and they are on target to meet the end-of-year deadline. The Daily Record

Bergen County will accept applications for financial relief to small businesses that are struggling in light of Gov. Phil Murphy’s shutdown order. The online application portal will reopen for one week, according to county officials, beginning on Aug. 13. Grants of up to $10,000 are available to non-essential businesses with fewer than 20 employees and must have been operating on March 1. The Record

The Hoboken City Council is considering adopting a $250 fine to enforce Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive orders mandating the use of face coverings outdoors when social distancing is not possible. Employees for the Office of Emergency Management, police, members of the city’s COVID-19 taskforce, code enforcement officers and the zoning department would be empowered to enforce the ordinance. Officials reported compliance has been low in areas that attract many visitors, such as the waterfront area. 

Newark city officials have created a hotline for city residents to report large gatherings that violate COVID-19 restrictions. City officials say that the hotline, active every day from 3 p.m. through 3 a.m., was created following reports of large gatherings and some people failing to exercise social distancing during the pandemic. News12 New Jersey

Newton’s town council has proposed property guidelines amendments that will limit parking to “proper” driveways after complaints of vehicles parked and stored on lawns for long periods of time. The change in the ordinance also sets standards for what constitutes driveways, which can be no larger than 50% of the footprint of the primary building on the lot and be gravel or paved and properly maintained. New Jersey Herald

And finally...New Jersey casinos, racetracks win $264M in July after reopening at the beginning of the month. News12 New Jersey

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