North Jersey News Roundup for Jan. 19, 2021

As President-elect Joe Biden gets set to take office, Gov. Phil Murphy and Rep. Josh Gottheimer expressed support for the American Rescue Plan rolled out the week before he was to be sworn in. “I’m still reviewing the details, but, hopefully, (the) proposal from President-elect Biden will take us the distance until every family is finally vaccinated,” said Gottheimer in a press statement, while Murphy added “I look forward to working alongside the President-elect in any way I can to see this plan swiftly passed and enacted. New Jersey will help lead our nation into the new day that beckons.”

F.B.I. agents and prosecutors investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol have increasingly shifted their attention to dangerous right-wing extremist groups, arresting several people in recent days suspected of taking part in the violence and of possessing ties to notorious militias such as the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters. Agents have made at least 70 arrests, opened more than 300 investigations and gathered about 140,000 media tips as law enforcement officials monitored social media for word of more unrest or coordinated attacks. The New York Times

President Donald Trump is reportedly eyeing clemency for Dr. Salomon Melgen, the imprisoned Florida ophthalmologist key to the corruption trial of Sen. Bob Menendez. Melgen, currently in prison after being convicted on dozens of counts of healthcare fraud for submitting false claims and falsifying patient files, was a central figure in the fraud and bribery case in 2013 against Menendez that ended in a mistrial due to his lavish gifts and campaign donations to the U.S. Senator.

NJ Transit is prepared to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to its employees after it was approved by the state Department of Health to distribute the vaccine. The agency has purchased three freezers to store the vaccines, installed with backup battery storage and proven settings for the appropriate cooling environment. Two sites in Camden and Maplewood are being prepared for socially distant employee vaccinations and a system was created to schedule two visits for each employee. The Daily Record

State officials expect to continue receiving its regular allotment of 100,000 doses from the federal government in each of the next four weeks after dashed hopes that supply from the national pipeline was about to ramp up. State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said people who have already received the first dose of the two-dose vaccine will be able to get their second shot on time. Persichilli noted the state can’t promise when others will be able to get their first shot.

After running out of COVID-19 vaccines twice in the same week, Paterson has reduced the number of days city healthcare workers will administer the inoculations. Paterson asked for between 7,000 and 10,000 doses for this week’s vaccine shipment, but instead will get just 2,000 after city officials were unable to convince the New Jersey Department of Health to increase the number of doses provided to the city. The Record

Essex County has designed and staffed a program to vaccinate thousands of people a day with an online sign-up process. While officials struggle at times with supply hiccups caused by slow-to-arrive vaccines, Essex County said it is using 100% of its doses every week, with surrounding counties coming to it for advice. The Wall Street Journal

Sussex County officials are reporting favorable feedback from residents who have passed through the county’s first COVID-19 vaccination site. About 200 residents per day received their vaccines at the drive-thru site at the county fairgrounds. The site will shift its hours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and the county expects to vaccinate about the same amount of people. New Jersey Herald

A group led by State Sen. Loretta Weinberg shared a report on its findings on the “toxic culture” in New Jersey politics and gave recommendations on how to stamp out sexual misconduct. The 76-page report from the Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey Politics calls for several changes in the political sphere, including tougher anti-harassment policies and mandatory sexual harassment training for officials, candidates and their staffs.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney is signaling now is the time to discuss new ways to reduce state spending or enact cost-saving reforms to help keep the budget in balance. “Reforms have to happen,” said Sweeney (D-3). “I’m telling you right now, I’m not doing (increased) taxes or fees until (there’s) reform.” NJ Spotlight News

A “Safe Stop” bill designed to educate drivers on both their rights and responsibilities when pulled over by police was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy. The bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-25), was crafted in response and encouraged by a national dialogue on incidents occurring during routine law enforcement stops. Dunn noted drivers are given certain rights—including the right to be free from unreasonable or illegal search and seizure, and the right to remain silent when under question by the police. “We want to establish a foundation for safer, less stressful police interactions and in order to do that, we must educate people on what actions are permissible under the law,” said the assemblywoman.

Ocean County Commissioner Joseph Vicari is moving toward a bid for the Republican nomination for governor, filing a letter of intent to seek the organization line in Ocean County. Vicari, a 74-year-old retired public school teacher and superintendent of schools, is the longest-serving county elected official in the state. He was first elected to the Board of Freeholders in 1981 and is now serving his 14th term. New Jersey Globe

Hoboken officials hope to transform the northwestern section of the city into a residential and commercial hub with hundreds of new apartments and a new light rail station. The redevelopment plan calls for new cultural amenities, public facilities such as a school or library and a 71,000-sq.-ft. linear park in addition to apartments, office buildings and hotels. A new Hudson-Bergen Light Rail stop would connect residents to the rest of the city and Fifteenth Street would become a commercial corridor, and extend all the way to the waterfront. The Jersey Journal

And finally… Whitney Houston, Grover Cleveland and Frank Sinatra were named to the National Garden of American Heroes.

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