North Jersey News Roundup for Jan. 21, 2021

President Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States Jan. 20, calling for the end to the “uncivil war” in America. Declaring “democracy has prevailed” in the face of repeated challenges to the election results, President Biden implored the public to stand together in the face of division and crisis. “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue,” said the President. “Or rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.” The Wall Street Journal

Donald Trump left the White House for the final time as President, saying  “It’s been a great honor, the honor of a lifetime.” Before departing for Florida ahead of the Inauguration that he chose not to attend, he told those assembled in unscripted remarks that “Goodbye. We love you. We will be back in some form” and for the first time he wished “great luck and great success” to the incoming administration. The New York Times 

Rep. Josh Gottheimer is seeking an investigation of how those who stormed the U.S. Capitol were financed. Gottheimer called on the Department of Justice to focus their investigative efforts into bitcoin transfers of over half million dollars to multiple domestic terrorists leading into the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6. “Americans deserve to know if more than half a million dollars’ worth of bitcoin helped fund the failed insurrection,” stated the North Jersey Congressman. “Are foreign entities paying far-right extremists to try to overthrow the U.S. government? Are there other cryptocurrency transfers to extremist groups we don’t yet know about?”

President Joe Biden announced his national strategy to confront the coronavirus on Jan. 21. The “National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness,” includes aggressive use of executive authority to protect workers, advance racial equity and ramp up the manufacturing of test kits, vaccines and supplies. The New York Times

New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Director Paul Rodríguez will leave his state post to join the Biden administration. Rodríguez will become deputy general counsel to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Gov. Phil Murphy appointed Kaitlin Caruso, who was the division’s deputy director for policy and strategic planning, as acting director. New Jersey Globe

Modeling outcomes factoring in the COVID-19 vaccine show a steady decline through the end of June, according to the New Jersey Department of Health. The best-case scenario predicts that by June 30, New Jersey will see 538 cases in one day and 373 people in the hospital. If the vaccine rollout doesn’t go as planned and people don’t stay six feet apart from others, New Jersey could see 4,706 new daily cases by the end of June, with 3,268 people in the hospital. The Daily Record

The New Jersey Supreme Court heard arguments for the release of up to 1,100 county jail inmates whose trials have been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. Attorneys for the state’s Office of the Public Defender and American Civil Liberties Union asked the high court to develop new criteria to re-weigh the risks the inmates pose to society in order to release as many as possible whose cases have wallowed for longer than six months due to the pandemic. Prosecutors protested that the move would be dangerous and illegal. New Jersey Herald

New Jersey will—for the second time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic—lift a graduation assessment test requirement for all high school seniors this Spring. Gov. Phil Murphy said the state would expand how long some substitute teachers can work in a district and eliminate the use of student growth objectives when evaluating teacher performance. All three changes, he said, are driven by “the unique challenges our students and educators are facing” as schools near the one-year mark of operating either partially, or entirely, remotely.

Montclair elementary school teachers boycotted in-person training designed to prepare them for their students’ return to school on Jan. 25. The teachers expressed concerns about the readiness of the buildings amid rising numbers of COVID cases after the school district had released details of the district’s plan to ease into an in-person hybrid model with students in pre-K to grade 5. The Record

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will build a new bus terminal atop the existing structure in Midtown Manhattan and incorporate on-site bus parking and infrastructure for electric buses, according state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. The build-in-place approach, one of three main options the bi-state agency had considered in planning to replace the terminal, will allow buses to continue servicing the existing terminal during construction. The Port Authority will eventually be able to sell the air rights to generate revenue to cover the cost of the replacement. PoliticoNJ

Tax collections through the first six months of the fiscal year in New Jersey totaled $14.67 billion, up $783 million compared to the first six months in the prior year, according to the state’s Department of Treasury figures released Jan. 20. Treasury collected nearly $1 billion in December 2020 under the state’s newly instituted Business Alternative Income Tax, the new tax category established under a policy change lawmakers enacted in response to the federal limit on state and local tax deductions implemented by former President Donald Trump in late 2017. NJ Spotlight News

A pair of bills that would protect the rights and health of Garden State seniors were advanced by legislative panels. A bill requiring the continuous publishing of data concerning COVID-19-related deaths and cases at long-term care (LTC) facilities was approved by the Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee, sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37). Meanwhile, a bill from the same Assembly committee sponsored by Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-26) would expand age discrimination protections for New Jersey’s senior workforce.

Fundraising by New Jersey’s six statewide political parties and legislative leadership committees reached a new low in 2020, according to the Election Law Enforcement Commission. The six political committees raised less than $4.3 million last year, a fraction of their pull in decades past. Long-term trends and the pandemic slowed fundraising, which is typically lower in federal election years when there are no gubernatorial or legislative races. Their cash on hand, fundraising and spending all dropped from 2016.

Several Jersey City Democratic Committee members are calling for party leadership to condemn and cut financial support to Ward C Councilman Richard Boggiano over his refusal to vote on a resolution calling for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. On the night of the vote, Boggiano told his colleagues that while he is against what happened at the Capitol, he abstained from the vote because he doesn’t “think we have the right to criticize any president no matter who it is.” The Jersey Journal

And finally…Bruce Springsteen’s performance of Land of Hope and Dreams in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Inauguration Night. YouTube

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