North Jersey News Roundup for Dec. 24, 2020

President Donald Trump granted clemency on Dec. 23 to his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, longtime adviser Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. The pardons of Manafort and Stone nullify the most significant convictions won by special counsel Robert Mueller and his team. Charles Kushner was convicted by a federal jury in 2005 of making illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering in charges brought by the then-U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Chris Christie.  PoliticoNJ

CVS and Walgreens will begin administering the COVID-19 vaccine to 90 long-term care facilities residents and staff members on Dec. 28. That number will increase as more facilities set up vaccination clinics as part of a federal program according to state health officials. After nursing home residents and staff members are vaccinated across the state, the pharmacies will begin vaccinating thousands of residents and staffers at assisted living facilities, the state’s five development centers, federal housing for seniors, group homes and other facilities.

Revenues the state collected increased in November as two recent tax hikes went into effect, reported New Jersey’s Department of the Treasury. November’s revenue collections for the major taxes were up 5.8% for a total of approximately $2.3 billion above November 2019. The November’s collections of an extra $124.7 million were buoyed by changes to the Gross Income Tax and the Petroleum Products Gross Receipts Tax. Absent these tax changes, revenues would have declined in November.

NJ Transit is expected to receive the $1.25 billion it requested from a second round of federal coronavirus stimulus funding, but the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey appears to be left out. Bi-state agencies, like Port Authority, are not eligible for traditional state transit formula funding and carve out for bi-state agencies was removed from the bill.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a $14 billion corporate tax break bill less than a week after it was introduced into the Democrat-controlled New Jersey Legislature. The New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020 restores and reforms two incentive programs aimed to encourage redevelopment projects and job creation. Supporters of the bill point to it creating several new programs to promote economic development, and numerous targeted tax breaks for brownfield remediation, historic preservation and eliminating food deserts in low-income communities.

President-elect Joe Biden declared the political center is alive and well and plans to govern from there. “I believe that (in) the country, in both parties, the center of gravity has moved to the center and center-left,” he said. The President-elect is calculating that there are enough Republican lawmakers prepared to meet him in the middle that he can get legislation passed in an evenly divided Congress. The Wall Street Journal

Seven new confirmed outbreaks of in-school transmission were reported in the Garden State, involving 31 additional cases around the state. That brings the statewide total to 105 school COVID-19 outbreaks involving 459 students and school staff since schools reopened. Those new outbreaks came out of five counties — Atlantic, Bergen, Monmouth, Ocean, and Salem.

A multibillion-dollar plan to fully reopen schools hinging on testing all students, teachers and staff for COVID-19 at least once a week is being considered by President-elect Joe Biden. The reported proposal under consideration calls for the federal government to cover the cost of providing tests to K-12 schools throughout the country. These could then be administered regularly by staff at each school, providing results in minutes. PoliticoNJ

A Lodi school received national recognition for serving its English learner student population. The Thomas Jefferson Middle School was one of two schools in the state named to the 2020 National Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Distinguished Schools list.  The Record

A settlement with the owner of the former Playboy Club in Vernon was rejected by the Township Council by a 3-2 vote, as members objected to terms they said were too lenient to the current owner. The proposed agreement would have given Metairie Corp. until June 2021 to pay $388,000 in overdue 2020 taxes, selling the property by October 2021 and township retaining the right to block the liquor license renewal a year from now if Metairie failed to keep to his commitments. New Jersey Herald

New Jersey will see a decrease of more than 37% in holiday travel compared to 2019, according to AAA. More than 1.8 million New Jerseyans are expected to take a trip of 50 miles or more between now and Jan. 3.

The holiday season can put a strain on your mental health. Added with the stress of the coronavirus this year, the state is making sure New Jerseyans have the resources to speak with someone if they are seeking help. The state this week set up resources for frontline healthcare workers who are struggling with their mental health, with Gov. Phil Murphy noting “in every sense they have been heroes (during the pandemic), but even heroes need help sometimes.” Resources are available for first responders as well as any resident of New Jersey.

And finally….Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) performed by Darlene Love on the Late Show with David Letterman. Stay safe everyone. YouTube

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