North Jersey News Roundup for Oct. 30, 2020

A second COVID-19 wave has arrived in New Jersey, according to Gov. Phil Murphy. “The second wave of coronavirus is no longer something off in the future,” said Murphy. “It’s coming in now. We have been seeing the numbers of new cases grow exponentially across the past several weeks…along with the numbers of patients being treated in our hospitals. COVID-19 has been waiting for us to get lax in our personal responsibilities so it can come roaring back. Do not let your guard down and stay vigilant.”

Over the past week, the United States has recorded more than 500,000 new coronavirus cases, averaging more than 77,000 a day, and nine states reported daily records on Oct. 29. More total cases have been identified in the United States than in any other country, although some nations have had more cases in proportion to their populations. The New York Times

A Bergen County hospital employee was identified as the source of COVID-19 infections found recently in several residents of a Westwood nursing home soon after arriving at the home. As a result, CareOne at Valley paused admissions after the new residents tested positive. The residents who tested positive were moved to the company’s Wellington facility in Hackensack, which is a COVID-designated center. The Record

New Jersey legislators remain vigilant in their efforts to hold the state’s Board of Public Utilities (BPU) responsible in the aftermath of significant storms. Three bills are working their way through the Assembly, including a bill sponsored by District 40 Republicans Christopher P. DePhillips and Kevin Rooney to give municipalities the option to revoke a utility’s franchise if it could not provide for continuous, safe, and reliable service.

New Jersey lawmakers are considering a bill to lessen the blow of a $919 million unemployment payroll tax increase businesses will be hit with next year to begin replenishing the unemployment trust fund. The bill, which passed the Assembly unanimously, would phase in the increased unemployment payroll tax hike through July 2023 instead.

Gov. Phil Murphy says there are “no plans at all” to hit pause on an upcoming $1 hike in New Jersey’s minimum wage. Signed into law in February 2019, the state’s minimum wage is scheduled to rise by a dollar per year by 2024, up to $15 an hour. A hike in January 2021 would bring the state’s hourly rate to $12.

New Jersey voters have already returned more than 3 million mail-in ballots as of Oct. 29. In 2016, nearly 4 million voted in the 2016 presidential election.

Presidential hopeful Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and the ballot question to legalize marijuana are receiving support of nearly 60% according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Biden is leading incumbent President Donald Trump by a double-digit margin (59% to 37%) among all registered voters, while Cory Booker continues to maintain his large lead against GOP challenger Rik Mehta at 59% to 31%. In terms of the ballot questions being asked statewide, there is strong support for marijuana legalization and regulation, with 60% of likely compared with 36% against it. 

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie unwittingly was swept into a social-media prank when the Democratic candidate for Montana governor used him to troll his Republican opponent on Cameo. Mike Cooney, the Democrat running for Montana’s top seat, tweeted a Cameo message from Christie in which the Republican former governor implores an ex-New Jersey resident named Greg to come back to the Garden State. The “Greg” in question is Rep. Greg Gianforte, Cooney’s opponent, who lived in Jersey before relocating to Montana.

As the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) continues to work its way through a backlog caused by the COVID-19 shutdown, lawmakers are looking to modernize how the agency serves the state. Three bills aiming to reduce long lines and wait times at the MVC that have plagued locations since opening after a nearly four-month closure are advancing in the state Legislature, including creating a virtual check-in pilot program as well as offering the written driver’s license knowledge exam online.

A judge upheld Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order closing state lands to the New Jersey bear hunt, rejecting a challenge by sportsmen who claimed the ban violated state policy intended to manage the bear population. While the judge acknowledged there was a “reasonable degree of scientific probability” that the ban on state lands was a factor in reduced harvests in 2018 and 2019, bear migration, a dropoff in participation by hunters, the natural food supply and weather all played a role. The Daily Record

A Hudson roads inspector pleaded guilty to asking for and accepting bribes. Authorities said Bayonne resident Barry Smith asked solicited and received a cash payment to delete any violations he may have issued regarding a construction project in the area of Kennedy Boulevard and 15th Street in Bayonne. Additionally, Smith previously accepted a similar cash payment in December 2019. The Jersey Journal

The amount of lead in the drinking water in North Jersey has dropped over the past year and now meets a key federal standard, according to Suez officials. A $65 million plan that removed 5,000 sections of lead pipes over two years—coupled with treatment changes that made the water less corrosive—helped reduce the toxic metal in a system that serves 870,000 residents in Bergen and Hudson counties. The Record

And finally…Vernon man who sought sex with animals gets three years in prison for harassing farmers. New Jersey Herald

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