North Jersey News Roundup for Dec. 15, 2020

The Electoral College formally selected Joe Biden as the next President of the United States. In remarks afterwards, President-elect Biden was said that “it is time to turn the page” on the election that “was honest, it was free and it was fair.” The President-elect added Republican efforts to get the U.S. Supreme Court to undo the result represented a “position so extreme we’ve never seen it before,” and called the attacks on election officials at the local level “unconscionable.” The New York Times

The first public COVID-19 vaccinations in the U.S. were administered on the same day the nation’s death toll from the virus surpassed 300,000 people. Health experts believe that a vaccination rate of 75 to 80% of Americans could potentially achieve herd immunity in the U.S. by the Fall 2021 and bring the pandemic to a close by year’s end. PoliticoNJ

Gov. Phil Murphy reiterated New Jersey’s restrictions for restaurants and bars will remain unchanged despite neighboring states moving ahead with plans to close or limit indoor dining as COVID-19 cases rise. “We are staying with what we got,” said Murphy. “I’m comfortable where we are.” The question arose as New York and Pennsylvania recently placed greater restrictions on indoor dining in their states.

Several Verona firefighters were exposed to COVID-19 at an unauthorized holiday party at a firehouse, forcing township officials to temporarily close the station. The gathering was at Fire Station No. 2 on Bloomfield Ave, although it is unclear when it happened or how many firefighters were exposed. Anyone who was exposed is in quarantine. The Record

State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D- 36) has proposed a measure to provide tax relief to small businesses struggling in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Democratic senator’s bill would exempt forgiven Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from state income taxes and allow business owners to deduct certain expenses covered by the federal relief funds.

State Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-39) intends to run for a 13th term after overcoming a series of health issues over the past month. Cardinale, the oldest member of New Jersey’s legislature at 86, stated “I have committed myself to running. My health is much better than it was a couple of months ago,” after being hospitalized a number of times this year for undisclosed issues. New Jersey Globe

Two state committees approved a bill allowing a corporate restructuring of New Jersey’s largest health insurance provider, which would net the state budget as much as $1.25 billion over the next quarter-century, in exchange for less government oversight and fewer taxes. Legislation would allow Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey—a not-for-profit that was once the state’s insurer of “last resort”—to apply to state regulators for permission to function more like a for-profit company.

About 66,500 ballots in New Jersey were rejected in the November election. A third of the mail-in ballots disqualified in the 2020 general election in the Garden State were due to signature mismatches, while another 40%  were related to ballot envelope certificate issues. New Jersey Spotlight News

Bob Hugin will seek the New Jersey Republican State Chairman post in a special election scheduled for Dec. 22. Hugin, who has the backing of Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, will face Michael Lavery to fill the post that opened after Doug Steinhardt resigned to seek the GOP nomination for governor. New Jersey Globe

The Congressional bipartisan group led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer agreed to split its coronavirus stimulus package into two separate bills. The first bill would spend $748 billion on programs such as expanded unemployment benefits, another round of forgivable loans for small businesses, nutrition assistance, school aid, public transportation, vaccine development and distribution and extend moratoriums on evictions and student loan repayments. The second measure takes two issues holding up a larger package—state and local aid and liability protections—as a separate bill of $160 billion. 

Attorney General William Barr will resign Dec. 23, ending a tenure during which Barr long marshaled the Justice Department to President Donald Trump’s personal and political agenda before falling afoul of him in recent months. In his two-page resignation letter, Barr praised President Donald Trump for what he described as his historic accomplishments “in the face of relentless, implacable resistance,” and a “partisan onslaught… in which no tactic, no matter how abusive and deceitful, was out of bounds.” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen will be Attorney General for the rest of President Trump’s term. The Wall Street Journal

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito will step down as New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor on Jan. 5, 2021. Carpenito, who gained fame representing former Gov. Chris Christie in the Bridgegate scandal, took over the office first on an interim basis in January 2018 before being formally appointed as the state’s top federal prosecutor in April that year.

New Jersey’s gamblers wagered more than $931 million on sports in November, the latest in a string of monthly records set by a rapidly growing market. It was the fourth month in a row that New Jersey set such a record. News12 New Jersey

A group of animal rights activists filed an appeal over New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection rejection of their effort to stop the ongoing bear hunt. The group filed an appeal of the DEP’s decision that the matter should be heard by the Fish and Game Council with the state appellate court, believing the policy, as signed by DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe, is the basis for the hunting regulations and, therefore, is what should be challenged. The Daily Record

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, Assemblyman Parker Space and business leaders from Warren and Sussex counties highlighted several safe and socially distant Winter activities and tourist attractions in the region. “We should be working on attracting more of our fellow Garden State residents to safely visit Sussex and Warren counties to come hike, fish, ski, shop and visit our beautiful downtowns,” the Congressman stated.

And finally…The National Weather Service’s regional forecast office is calling for as much as 13 to 18 inches of snow in northeastern sections of New Jersey, along with wind gusts as high as 45 mph.

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