North Jersey News Roundup for Nov. 25, 2020

A Hopatcong woman was arrested at her home Nov. 25 on charges she sent money to a Syrian foreign terrorist organization, and provided advice about weapons and ammunition. Maria Sue Bell allegedly used an encrypted app to send thousands of messages since February 2017 to communicate to a member of the al-Nusra Front, fighting the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to bar New York state from imposing limits on religious gatherings, granting emergency relief to Roman Catholic churches and to Jewish congregations. The majority in its decision wrote “Stemming the spread of COVID–19 is unquestionably a compelling interest, but it is hard to see how the challenged regulations can be regarded as ‘narrowly tailored.’ They are far more restrictive than any COVID–related regulations that have previously come before the Court, much tighter than those adopted by many other jurisdictions hard-hit by the pandemic, and far more severe than has been shown to be required to prevent the spread of the virus at the applicants’ services.” Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s Democratic appointees in the minority opinion. PoliticoNJ

Pope Francis believes governments have made great efforts to put the well-being of their people first, acting decisively to protect health and to save lives. The Pope noted some exceptions of governments that shrugged off the “painful evidence of mounting deaths, with inevitable, grievous consequences.” But most governments he believes acted responsibly in imposing strict measures to contain the outbreak. The New York Times

President Donald Trump said he would leave the White House if the Electoral College formalized President-elect Joe Biden election as President, while reiterating claims of fraud he said would make it “very hard” to concede. President Trump revealed he would travel to Georgia to support Republican candidates in two runoff elections scheduled there on Jan. 5, but was non-committal in attending an Inauguration. The Wall Street Journal

Republican Rosemary Becchi formally conceded to Rep. Mikie Sherrill in the race to represent the 11th Congressional District in New Jersey. “I’m very proud of the campaign we’ve run,” Becchi said in a statement issued Nov. 25 that thanked her family, staff, volunteers and voters. “It was a hard-fought campaign and over 206,000 voters supported our platform, but unfortunately we came up a little short and ultimately lost by 6%.” Insider NJ

Special school elections set for Jan. 26, 2021 in Fairfield and Waldwick have been postponed to March 9. Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order moving the elections, writing “Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we must continue to ensure that elections are held in a manner that ensures that every citizen is able to vote while conserving time and resources. This change will allow special school elections scheduled for the first quarter of next year to be held on the same day, minimizing the burden on elections officials.” New Jersey Globe

Gov. Phil Murphy and New Jersey Department of Health officials are pleading for New Jerseyans to follow COVID-19 protocols during the holiday season despite renewed optimism about the availability of a vaccine sooner rather than later. “This is a really, really big week. It’s almost an inflection point,” said Murphy at a press briefing Nov. 23. “I think it’s the front end of the holiday season that’ll last basically five, six weeks. We’ve just got to find a way, folks, to both respect (the holidays) but do it responsibly.”

New Jersey is abandoning the state-by-state formula it has used the last five months to determine its quarantine travel advisory. The state is now asking people who travel from any U.S. state or territory except immediate neighbors New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware to voluntarily self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving. Gov. Phil Murphy is urging people to avoid all unnecessary travel to and from the state.

Bergen County is expanding its COVID-19 testing with a new drive-thru program at Bergen Community College for the entire month of December. The program, in collaboration with Bergen New Bridge Medical Center, will begin on Dec. 1. The tests are free of charge regardless of health insurance status, but proof of residency or employment in the county is required. The Record

The British government formally asked the country’s medicines regulator to assess whether AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s coronavirus vaccine should be authorized for use. The step comes amid questions about preliminary results from trials, after the company and the university acknowledged that the most encouraging part of their findings stemmed from a dosing error. News12 New Jersey

Princeton University will allow all undergraduates to return for the Spring semester. Each student will have their own bedroom, will have to agree to testing and will have to sign a social contract stating they will abide by social distancing restrictions. The vast majority of classes will be taught virtually, with some having an in-person hybrid option. Only a select few classes will be taught in-person only.

A New Jersey court ruled the state wrongly rejected medical marijuana licenses for several companies and the system used to rate applicants lacks transparency and creates confusion in the small and competitive marijuana industry. A three-judge appellate court vacated the 2018 decision to award six licenses for new medical marijuana companies and remanded it to the health department to come up with a new rating system.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal ordered prosecutors to halt all low-level marijuana cases statewide as lawmakers continue to debate bills to formally legalize cannabis. Anyone charged only with possession, being under the influence of marijuana or having marijuana while driving, among other charges, should have their cases postponed until at least January 25, 2021. The order affects adults and juveniles currently being prosecuted, as well as anyone arrested in the coming weeks. It does not apply to people accused of distributing marijuana. The Record

The New Jersey Supreme Court will take up a case pursued by police unions on whether the state is allowed to identify cops found guilty of misconduct. New Jersey has generally hidden which cops were fired, demoted or suspended for more than five days. State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has argued for releasing the names as part of police reforms to build trust and accountability. A state appeals court unanimously upheld the plan in October.

A bipartisan bill promoting New Jersey’s craft beer scene recently passed the state’s Assembly. Co-sponsored by Assemblymembers Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) and Hal Wirths (R-24) would task the Division of Travel and Tourism within the New Jersey Department of State to identify and develop a craft brewery trail featuring some of the state’s best brewpubs and breweries. The facilities would need to have a specific theme, or be surrounded by the arts, cultural, historical, entertainment, or other tourism destinations.

A Warren County land use board reaffirmed its recommendation that a township property should qualify for a special designation that may make it easier to build up to 1.2 million-sq.-ft. worth of warehouse space. Franklin Township’s Land Use Board voted unanimously that a 112-acre property on Bloomsbury-Asbury Road meets the criteria for designation as an “area in need of redevelopment” under the provisions of the New Jersey Local Redevelopment and Housing Law after Long Island-based home-furnishings company Safavieh requested the township investigate whether the property qualified.

The Ridgewood Village Council filed an appeal brief challenging the court-ordered insertion of a question on the November ballot approved by voters to move elections to one date. The village wants the decision of Superior Court Judge Estela De La Cruz that clerk Heather Mailander had improperly and unlawfully rejected a petition submitted by the “One Village One Vote” coalition to appear on the November ballot reviewed by the Appellate Division. The Record

And finally…Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and Jon Stewart teamed up for “Wear a friggin’ mask” billboard. 

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