North Jersey News Roundup for Jan. 15, 2021

New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) Commissioner Judith Persichilli said “We are preparing for the predictive surge that may start as early as next week into the middle of February.” At a press briefing on Jan. 15, Persichilli added “if our predictive modelling is accurate, we could see a moderate scenario for 4,500 and high scenario, over 6,000, that would be tough.” Gov. Phil Murphy said if the state were to hit 5,000 hospitalization in one day, that would “ring a lot of alarm bells. At that point we’re going to have pull some levers that we’re not pulling at the moment.”

President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a his plan to fight the coronavirus pandemic, featuring a more robust federal role in everything from testing to vaccine delivery compared with the Trump administration. The President-elect Biden called on Congress to swiftly pass a nearly $2 trillion relief package soon after he takes office, with significant sums directed at expanding testing, accelerating vaccine deployment and safely reopening schools. The bill will also include $1,400-per-person checks to working families, extended unemployment insurance and housing and nutrition aid. PoliticoNJ

Rep. Mikie Sherrill echoed an earlier call from Rep. Donald Payne, Jr., to investigate suspicious activity in the Capitol Complex the day before the deadly riots that unfolded Jan. 6. Sherrill noted access was heavily restricted following the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, and echoes concerns from Payne regarding the unprepared status of law enforcement around the Capitol on Jan. 6. Meanwhile, Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., hammered Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), for his role in the Capitol riot and Rep. Josh Gottheimer requested information from the FBI in regards to planned attacks.

Members of Congress have been told that they can use their office funds to buy bulletproof vests and other security measures. Lawmakers were urged to ask local police to increase patrols in their neighborhoods and to have their staff members work away from their legislative offices until after President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated. FBI Director Christopher Wray said the threats are real as agents “are seeing an extensive amount of concerning online chatter about a number of events surrounding the inauguration.”

Sen. Bob Menendez is against a proposed Office of the Comptroller of the Currency regulation requiring financial institutions to lend to industries identified as risky—including gun manufacturers. Menendez described the proposed regulation as “politically-motivated” in a letter to Brian Brooks, Acting Comptroller of the Currency. “This ‘midnight rulemaking’ effort announced just weeks after an election in which Americans elected a new Administration appears specifically targeted at financial intuitions that have enacted carefully considered policies related to firearms sales in an effort to reduce gun violence,” wrote Menendez.

State and federal New Jersey officials signed an agreement Jan. 14 with the Federal Transit Administration to fund the Portal North Bridge replacement. The long-awaited $766.5 million in federal funding for the $1.8 billion project is the final step toward hiring construction companies to replace the 110-year old swing bridge that carries Amtrak’s busy Northeast Corridor line across the Hackensack River in Kearny.

Two North Jersey GOP Senators found fault with Gov. Phil Murphy’s State of the State when it comes to the effects his policies have had on the Garden State. “Clearly, the Governor’s version of the state’s condition is nothing like the reality experienced by everyday New Jerseyans,” said State Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-40) in response to Gov. Phil Murphy’s State of the State address Jan. 12. “(The) address was further proof that Murphy is detached from state residents. He doesn’t understand us because he isn’t one of us.” State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-25) added, “The simple fact is, even with the unforeseen disruptions and challenges to our lives last year, the State of the State could be stronger if we didn’t have unnecessary missteps from this administration.”

A package of bills aimed at easing restrictions on New Jersey restaurants trying to weather the pandemic is advancing in the state Legislature. Lawmakers on Assembly committees approved five bills waiving permit fees for restaurants and bars expanding their services outdoors, allowing restaurants to meet social distancing requirements by erecting barriers, establishing rules for outdoor tents and heaters, and exempting restaurants with outdoor tents from snow certifications. One bill would permit restaurants in regions with a low or moderate coronavirus activity to increase their indoor capacity to 50%, provided they prove compliance with certain standards, such as social distancing, employee hand washing, masks, ventilation, cleaning and party sizes.

A Senate panel unanimously advanced a measure to bar prosecutors and the state attorney general from seeking or holding elected office for three years after they leave their position. The measure, sponsored by State Sens. Richard Codey (D-27) and Nick Sacco (D-32), would bar such officials from seeking elected office while they hold their positions as well. “We shouldn’t put people who want to run for public office and use that position to make a case for themselves. Instead of making the right decision on behalf of the people, they make the best decision for them politically,” Codey said. “It’s wrong. It shouldn’t be tolerated.” New Jersey Globe

A lawsuit against the federal government over long-standing water pollution on and near military bases in the Garden State was filed by the New Jersey’s Attorney General’s office and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The state blames the military for long-standing use of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) for firefighting operations at three bases in New Jersey, contaminating three private drinking water wells around the Joint Base in the state. 

Passaic adopted a redevelopment plan aimed at transforming Main Avenue by attracting investors both large and small to build high-rises, shops and apartments. The new zoning for the stretch between Pennington Avenue and Monroe Street would permit as many as 11 10-story mixed-use buildings and encourage smaller properties to rehabilitate buildings and add apartments to upper floors, with all having commercial or retail spaces on the ground floor. The Record

And finally…The New York Jets named Robert Saleh head coach, the first Muslim hired for the position in the NFL.

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