North Jersey News Roundup for Sept. 29, 2020

New Jersey will receive nearly 2.6 million COVID-19 rapid tests officials say will “significantly” scale up New Jersey’s testing capabilities. At a press briefing on Sept. 28, Gov. Phil Murphy said following discussions over the weekend with Trump Administration officials, the Abbott Laboratories BinaxNow test will be distributed in the state, with priorities for vulnerable, underserved-communities as well as essential and frontline healthcare workers.

Morristown High School is switching to all-remote instruction for three days after a person affiliated with the school tested positive for the coronavirus. Morris School District officials said 37 people are quarantining for 14 days as “a close contact” of the person who tested positive is displaying symptoms and is waiting test results. The district described the infected person as “a member of the Morristown High School community” and didn’t say if the person is a student or staff member.

A Newton High School football player tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in the football program shutting down for two weeks. The varsity team’s Oct. 3 opening game against Kittatinny Regional High School and Oct. 9 versus Hackettstown will be postponed or canceled, with practice scheduled to resume Oct. 12. The school, currently in an all-remote model, planned to re-open for in-person instruction on Oct. 5. New Jersey Herald

The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic reached 1 million world-wide on Sept. 28. COVID-19 is killing on average more than 700 people a day in the U.S., which leads the world in both confirmed cases and deaths. With more than seven million confirmed infections since the beginning of the pandemic, the U.S. accounts for nearly a fifth of the more than 33.1 million cases reported globally. More than 205,000 Americans have died. The Wall Street Journal

Legislative leaders approved the state to borrow $4.5 billion to replace tax revenue the Murphy administration expects to lose amid the pandemic recession. The state Legislature approved a $32.7 billion budget that includes the proposed bonding, but a special four-person commission—consisting of Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, State Sen. Paul Sarlo, chairman of the Senate’s budget committee, and Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, chairwoman of the Assembly’s budget committee—was required to separately authorize any coronavirus-related borrowing. NJ Spotlight

Rep. Bill Pascrell said The New York Times report about President Donald Trump’s taxes “confirms our worst fears,” calling the President “the most corrupt President in our history.” Pascrell, the newly installed chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, said “Donald Trump has spent his entire life abusing the tax system to lie, cheat, and steal on a scale that is almost unimaginable. The partial findings reveal absolutely staggering theft by Trump before and while he has been in office.”

New Jersey residents in the military will no longer have to pay state income taxes on combat pay under a new measure Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law Sept. 28. The law exempts servicemen or women from paying state income taxes on their wages if they’re being hospitalized for an injury from a combat zone.

A U.S. Postal Service error saw over 6,500 primary mail-in ballots received on July 7 postmarked for the following day. The believed-to-be valid ballots were from each of New Jersey’s 21 counties, with the greatest share of the 6,535 ballots coming from Middlesex with  1,266, and Morris with 1,017. Five other counties had more than 500 ballots incorrectly postmarked. It’s not clear how many of the votes were counted as state law requires ballots arriving after polls have closed be postmarked by election day. New Jersey Globe

More than 13,000 Hudson County residents have registered to vote for the Nov. 3 election. County election officials said most of the new registrations were completed through New Jersey’s online registration system, which launched Sept. 4, and have more than double the number that registered over the same time period prior to President Barack Obama’s second election. The Jersey Journal 

Gov. Phil Murphy and Rep. Albio Sires both criticized President Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses November’s election. “The last thing we need right now is a further undermining of our well-functioning institutions for either decades or centuries in our country,” said Murphy at a press briefing Sept. 25, with Sires adding, “The President refusing to commit to a peaceful transition of power when asked by reporters is an appalling and gross violation of our constitution.”

The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (NJOHSP) released a report on potential threats to the election process as well as warning of commotion that could follow after Nov. 3. According to NJOHSP director Jared Maples, “numerous threats from domestic extremists and foreign adversaries have emerged due to the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-government sentiment, nationwide civil unrest, and various forms of disinformation. These threats will begin to converge with the presidential election in November in a manner not previously experienced by our nation.”

An amendment that would end mandatory minimum sentences for official misconduct was made at the behest of State Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-32). “Reforming the way our state handles criminal sentencing is a worthy endeavor that I fully support, however, I believe that it is important to extend judicial discretion to other non-violent offenses as well,” Sacco said. “Official misconduct is a serious offense and anyone convicted of it should face appropriate consequences, but that sentencing decision should be made by a judge and not by legislators, and it should be based on the severity of each individual case.” PoliticoNJ

And finally…The first of three presidential debates between Joe Biden and President Donald Trump is set for tonight.

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