North Jersey News Roundup for Dec. 18, 2020

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie released a 30 second ad urging all American to wear a mask to combat the coronavirus. In the video, Christie states “This message isn’t for everyone. It’s for all those people who refuse to wear a mask. You know lying in isolation in ICU for seven days I thought about how wrong I was to remove my mask at the White House. Today, I think about how wrong it is to let mask wearing divide us, especially as we now know you’re twice as likely to get COVID-19 if you don’t wear a mask…Please wear a mask.”

Vice President Mike Pence received a coronavirus vaccine on live television Dec. 18 at the White House, a measure that the Trump administration was made to promote the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and build confidence among the American people.” “I didn’t feel a thing,” Vice President Pence stated. The Second Lady Karen Pence, and Jerome Adams, the surgeon general, received the vaccine as well. The New York Times 

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) independent advisory panel recommended Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine be cleared for broad use, setting the stage for the FDA to grant an expected emergency use authorization. The panel’s unanimous approval is the second COVID-19 vaccine to be granted an emergency use authorization, following the FDA’s green light of a vaccine from Pfizer a week earlier. The New York Times

State lawmakers passed a bill establishing rules and regulations for legal marijuana sales,  making the Garden State the first in the region to overhaul its pot laws. The proposed law, passed by both the State Senate and Assembly, directs 70% of the state sales tax revenue from marijuana purchases and an excise tax on marijuana growers to certain minority communities disproportionately impacted by the drug war.

A bill passed by both houses in Trenton would provide eight additional weeks of unemployment benefits to New Jersey workers. Workers eligible to receive unemployment payments under New Jersey law will have additional benefits between Dec. 30 through Feb. 27, 2021 as a stopgap measure if Federal legislators do not agree to a stimulus package. The Daily Record

New Jersey’s unemployment rate rose to 10.2% in November, the second month of rising joblessness. The unemployment rate for the month was up 2.2 points from October’s adjusted rate of 8.0%. While New Jersey’s rate rose, the national unemployment rate dropped slightly to 6.7% in November.

Congressional lawmakers were weighing another stopgap spending measure to give themselves more time to wrap up negotiations on a coronavirus relief bill. Disagreements on authority for Federal Reserve lending programs, aid distributed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and eligibility for the direct checks held up negotiations Dec. 17. Items reportedly agreed to include sending direct payments likely worth $600 to many Americans, enhance unemployment benefits, providing aid to small businesses and fund distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Wall Street Journal

Rep. Mikie Sherrill called for the resignation of Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Robert Wilkie after being uncooperative in an investigation into his response to allegations in September 2019 when a Navy reservist reported she was assaulted and verbally abused by a man in a public area of the Washington, D.C. VA medical center. “The Secretary’s behavior (is) extremely disturbing,” stated Sherrill. “The Secretary of the VA is responsible for the veterans in his care, and they should be his first concern—not his own political wellbeing. Secretary Wilkie should resign immediately.”

President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate Michael Regan to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) as Interior secretary. Regan, a North Carolina environmental regulator, would be the second Black EPA administrator in the agency’s 50-year history and Rep. Haaland the first Native American cabinet secretary if she is confirmed to the post. The Wall Street Journal

Morris County Republicans established the Election Accuracy Guardians for Legality and Equity (EAGLE) Project in response to a call for election transparency and accuracy.  Elizabeth Nader of Morris Township will chair the task force charged with assuring voters feel confident on the conduct of elections. The task force will concentrate on cleaning up voter rolls, reviewing issues related to the accuracy of New Jersey’s vote-by-mail guidelines, and look at potential ways of making voters more confident in the electoral process. New Jersey Globe

New Jersey State Police troopers responded to 207 crashes and assisted another 426 motorists during the snowstorm that hit the Garden State Dec. 16. The storm dropped less than a foot of snow in the North Jersey area, under the predicted amount by weather forecasters. The Record

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey‘s Board of Commissioners approved a $7.3 billion budget for 2021, reflecting a 15% reduction from its pre-pandemic spending plan to account for substantially decreased revenues. The budget consists of $3.2 billion for operating expenses, $2.4 billion for capital spending, and $1.6 billion for debt service and other expenses with the agency is forecasting a $1.7 billion loss by the year’s end. The capital budget is a third less than what was originally planned for 2021. PoliticoNJ

New Jersey local and state officials recently announced a commitment of $190 million for renovations and upgrades at Newark Penn Station. The work is slated to begin immediately with $30 million in renovations and restorations, with additional upgrades scheduled over the next five years totaling $160 million, all funded by the state.

A $11.5 billion plan to update and expand corporate tax breaks is set to be introduced to New Jersey state lawmakers Dec. 18. The measure would allow for the awarding of up to $1.5 billion in tax breaks annually over a six-year period to incentivize things like small-business support, brownfield remediation, historic preservation and other economic development activities, according to the bill. Another $2.5 billion in tax breaks could be awarded over the same six-year period for “transformative projects” such as large-scale housing or mixed-use developments. NJ Spotlight News

Bloomingdale’s Board of Education approved a proposal to share the superintendent position with neighboring Butler. The agreement will permit Daniel Johnson, the Butler school district superintendent, to take the reigns of both districts starting Jan. 1, 2021. Johnson plans to strengthen relations between the districts that share a high school and pave the way for additional shared service agreements in special education, information technology and business administration. The Record

Hudson County Superior Court Judge Sheila Venable was appointed the first Black judge to preside over the Essex County Superior Court system, the state’s largest vicinage. Venable has served as the presiding judge of the criminal division in the Hudson vicinage from 2008 to 2018 and currently serves as a drug court judge. The Jersey Journal

And finally…A New Jersey family won the Great Christmas Light Fight.

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