North Jersey News Roundup for Sept. 25, 2020

Dr. Anthony Fauci believes New Jersey is positioned to withstand a second coronavirus wave as well as the flu season if the state continues protocols that lowered key health metrics. Fauci revealed that he uses New Jersey as an example of where states need to be as they face the challenge of Fall and Winter and be positioned to continue to open the economy in a careful way to avoid the “challenging difficulties” of going indoors while maintaining percent positivity rate to less than three.

The Democrat-controlled New Jersey Legislature approved a $32.7 billion, nine-month spending budget that includes tax hikes for the wealthy and corporations as well as $4.5 billion in borrowing to balance the books in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans decried the spending plan for being filled with “pork” at a time when the state should be practicing fiscal restraint, citing the inclusion of money for things like golf programs and town hall renovations. Democrats defended the agreement as one that will help low- and middle-income families. PoliticoNJ

Lawmakers in both houses passed a bill to limit the use of single-use plastic bags, paper bags, plastic straws and polystyrene food containers in New Jersey. The Democrat-sponsored bill prohibits foodservice businesses from giving customers single-use plastic bags and polystyrene food containers. The bans apply to a variety of businesses, including restaurants, convenience stores, food trucks and movie theaters. The proposed would apply to grocery stores that are 2,500-sq. ft. or larger and prohibited the stores from giving paper bags to customers. The Record

Legislation eliminating or reducing mandatory minimum sentences in New Jersey for non-violent drug offenses and property crimes stalled in the state Legislature after an amendment was recently added to add official misconduct to the list of crimes eligible for reduced sentences. Gov. Phil Murphy has stated he would not sign the bill if it included the amendment. “Let me say unequivocally, official misconduct was not on the list. I just want to say as clearly as I can, I do not support official misconduct being roped into this legislation,” he said.

President Donald Trump continues to suggest he will challenge any outcome unfavorable to him Nov. 3 as Republicans and Democrats are locked in an fight over the rules to cast and count votes in battleground states. After the White House said that President Trump would accept the results of a “free and fair” election, the President stated he was not sure the November election could be “honest” because mail-in ballots were “a whole big scam.” The comments have drawn pushback from prominent members of his party. The New York Times

Gov. Phil Murphy described President Donald Trump’s recent comments about not committing to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election as “detrimental.” During a television interview Sept. 24, Murphy stated ““This has been a theme of this administration and I think it’s bad for the country and it’s bad for both parties to continually and constantly question institutions that had been tried and true for decades, if not centuries. There’s a right way to do that and a wrong way and I think undermining folks’ confidence in the credibility of these institutions, including elections and then democracy, I think is hugely detrimental to our country.”

New Jersey’s Division of Consumer Affairs continues to crack down on consumer protection violations related to COVID-19. Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal recently announced penalties have been levied against twelve businesses charged with price gouging or false advertising, including those in Cresskill, Rockaway, Parsippany and Ridgewood.

Unemployment claims are on the rise again in New Jersey after the Department of Labor received another 24,663 new filings for the week ending Sept. 19. With the 25% increase in claims, total filings since mid-March—when businesses were forced to close to stop the spread of coronavirus—now top 1.6 million.

Sen. Bob Menendez introduced bipartisan legislation to create an independent commission to investigate the nation’s preparedness and response to COVID-19. The commission, modeled after the 9/11 Commission established in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and co-chaired by former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, would provide recommendations to improve readiness for future epidemics and pandemics. “We can never put our country, our communities and our families through this again,” said Sen. Menendez. “We need to understand what we did right, what we did wrong and what we can do better to strengthen our public health systems and supply chains.”

Gov. Phil Murphy will nominate Robert Carroll, to serve as the next Morris County Prosecutor. Carroll, the top lawyer at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, will serve as acting Morris County Prosecutor beginning on Oct. 13 as he awaits confirmation for a five-year term by the State Senate. Carroll, a veteran attorney with 40 years of experience, previously served as a state assistant attorney general, acting prosecutor in Sussex County, assistant prosecutor at the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and as chief of the Attorney General Office’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Task Force, leading investigations of corruption and major criminal enterprises.  The Daily Record

Hoboken passed a $117.8 million budget Sept. 23 that includes a 7.5% municipal tax increase. The average household will see a $70 increase from 2019 as the city closed an estimated $7 million shortfall due in part to rising fixed costs in health care and union contracts. Twenty six city employees were laid off or opted to retire as part of a cost-saving effort that was initiated soon before the coronavirus reached Hoboken. The Jersey Journal

Sussex County’s freeholders approved a resolution objecting to new sex education standards for public school students. In voting for the resolution, Freeholder Sylvia Petillo said she would not describe what she called “explicit sexual acts” which are part of the new curriculum approved in the spring by the state Department of Education, finding it inappropriate that “13-year-olds are hearing and seeing descriptions of sex acts in a co-ed situation.” New Jersey Herald

Hoboken’s Policing Policy Task Force wants residents to take part in a survey to review policies and procedures for the Hoboken Police Department. The task force was put together by the city in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and consists of residents, police officers, and city council members. Hudson Reporter

And finally…Nine New Jersey public schools have been awarded the national Blue Ribbon designation, including four in North Jersey.

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