North Jersey News Roundup for Sept. 2, 2020

New Jersey towns and counties can borrow money to cover unexpected costs from the coronavirus and to make up for revenue shortfalls under a bill Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law. The law allows local governments to borrow for up to five years or possibly extend the repayment term to up to 10 years if the annual debt payment over five years would present a significant financial hardship.

Elections officials in New Jersey will be allowed to begin counting mail-in ballots 10 days before the Nov. 3 general election, under a largely unnoticed provision of a bill Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed. The law permits county boards of elections to begin opening the inner envelopes and canvassing each mail-in ballot from the inner envelopes no earlier than ten days prior to the day of the election. PoliticoNJ

Immigration status will no longer block residents of New Jersey from obtaining a professional or occupational license. Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill into law allowing immigrants to become licensed doctors, nurses, electricians, counselors, cosmetologists, and other professionals in the Garden State even if they’re undocumented, as long as they meet all other requirements. The Wall Street Journal

It is now a crime in New Jersey to call 911 solely to intimidate someone because of their ethnicity, religion or gender, with violators facing up to five years in prison and fines up to $15,000. Additionally, the law makes filing a false police report a form of “bias intimidation,” which carries the threat of a year-and-a-half behind bars and up to a $10,000 fine.

State Sen. Steve Oroho (R-24) wants the Gov. Phil Murphy to abandon consideration of a 9.3 cent per gallon gas tax increase set to go into effect Oct. 1. Oroho notes that the first-term Democratic governor has repeatedly cited and exercised vast executive authority to respond to the current public health emergency in dealing with the economy and should now do the same in regards to the gas tax.

Fabiana Pierre-Louis was sworn in as the newest member of the New Jersey Supreme Court, becoming the first Black female justice in the state’s 224-year history. Pierre-Louis took the oath during a private ceremony in Trenton and replaces Justice Walter Timpone, an appointee of former Gov. Chris Christie who stepped down from the bench Aug. 31, a few months before he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. New Jersey Globe

Two additional states were added to New Jersey’s COVID-19 travel advisory list. Alaska and Montana met the metrics to qualify for the advisory with none removed, bringing the total to 33 states and territories. News12 New Jersey

School districts are finding themselves having to consider last-minute changes to account for shortages of supplies and staff as the first day of the new year approaches. The New Jersey School Boards Association said the most common reason for virtual school openings is that schools are waiting on things like cleaning products and special air filters along with a shortage of teachers, substitutes and bus drivers.

AstraZeneca announced its COVID-19 vaccine candidate has entered the final testing stage in the U.S. The company said the study will involve up to 30,000 adults from various racial, ethnic and geographic groups. Two other vaccine candidates began final testing this summer—the National Institutes of Health and manufactured by Moderna Inc., and Pfizer Inc. combining with Germany’s BioNTech. News12 New Jersey

Federal and state lawmakers highlighted International Overdose Awareness Day by announcing funding and new programs to fight the opioid epidemic in New Jersey. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services granted New Jersey nearly $66 million to bolster the state’s efforts in combating opioid drug abuse, while New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced $1.2 million in additional funding to integrate the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program with electronic health records and pharmacy management systems across the state.

Water utility Suez will continue removing lead service lines as part of a four-year, $600 million North Jersey infrastructure spending plan. The spending, which includes $120 million in 2020, will cover the costs of water main replacements, as well as updates to the company’s water treatment facility in Haworth. The Record

Budd Lake Beach in Mount Olive has been placed under a “blue” level watch by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The beach was closed for much of last summer due to high levels of harmful algal blooms. A blue-level watch on DEP’s six-tier alert table allows swimming but advises visitors not to ingest the water or eat fish caught in the lake, and urges caution during and after contact with the water. The Daily Record

And finallyNew Jersey’s two largest wine and liquor wholesalers were fined millions for rigging the market. Philadelphia Inquirer

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