North Jersey News Roundup for Jan. 27, 2021

Gov. Phil Murphy said he sees fans in high school stands this Winter—if COVID-19 numbers keep improving. When questioned with the opening of high school basketball season Jan. 26, if there was any chance that parents will be allowed to attend games before the season ends on March 6, Gov. Phil Murphy said “The answer to your question about allowing some amount of folks in to watch the games if the numbers continue to get better, I think the answer to that is yes. I would certainly think whatever we did, whenever we did it, it would prioritize (high school) Senior families.”

Passaic’s school district will remain with remote learning until April 23. The decision, based on health concerns of students and staff, was made after the school board met with local health officials and Hackensack Meridian Health Systems. The Record

The Biden administration is planning to purchase an additional 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, marking a stepped-up effort to vaccinate the vast majority of Americans this year. Federal officials negotiating for the new supply expect to receive 100 million doses each from Moderna and Pfizer, in deals set to boost the nation’s total vaccine capacity to 600 million. That would give the U.S. the ability to eventually vaccinate up to 300 million Americans. The Wall Street Journal

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded the New Jersey State Police $216 million to help cover the costs of storing, transporting, distributing and administering the COVID-19 vaccines through April 30. The police are working with the state Health Department to distribute the vaccines, managing six megasites to administer the shots.

A new Monmouth Poll shows not only does a clear majority of Americans support the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump but want the Senate to convict him and bar him from holding office in the future. The poll found 56% of Americans approve of the House of Representatives impeaching Trump for incitement of insurrection, while 42% disapprove. Comparatively, when the House impeached Trump the first time in January 2020, 53% approved and 46% disapproved.

A Jersey City man was charged with participating in the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6 after the FBI was alerted to a selfie he took during the riot. Hector Vargas, who authorities say took multiple photos and videos inside the Capitol during the riot, faces four federal charges including violent entry, the court documents allege.

By a vote of 55-to-45, the Senate denied a Republican effort to dismiss the impeachment proceeding against former President Donald J. Trump for “incitement of insurrection” at the Capitol Jan. 6. GOP lawmakers, led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), unsuccessfully argued the charges were unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office. The New York Times

President Joe Biden has just handed one of the thorniest issues in Washington to Sen. Bob Menendez to shepherd through the U.S. Senate: Immigration reform. “This plan is not only about fixing our broken immigration system, but building a better one that reunites families, brings the undocumented community out of the shadows and on a path to citizenship, stands up for human rights, addresses root causes of migration, and includes a smart border security strategy,” said Menendez in a press statement Jan. 20.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer is urging Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to roll back a regulation preventing taxpayers from circumventing the cap on the state and local taxes (SALT) deduction. Gottheimer asked Yellen to restore a related write-off for taxpayers making charitable donations to their state or other local governments, which was limited by a rule the Treasury finalized in 2019. That regulation was put in place to prevent taxpayers from getting around the $10,000 ceiling on SALT federal deductions enacted in 2017. Politico

New Jersey lawmakers are considering a ban on doctoring audio and visual media in campaign commercials in the run-up to elections to combat misinformation. A bill approved by the Assembly’s Science, Information and Technology Committee on Jan. 25 would prohibit the distribution of manipulated media content featuring political candidates—known as deepfakes—within 60 days of an election unless it contains a disclosure that the content has been altered.

GOP Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi is considering a challenge to State Sen. Gerald Cardinale in the 39th Legislative District for the Bergen County Organization line at the party’s convention in March. “Over the past few weeks, I have had multiple conversations with friends, family, local residents, political and community leaders across my district about my political future and the direction of our party,” Schepisi said. “I’ve been heartened by the broad support I have received and the strong encouragement to consider running for the State Senate this November. While I have not made any final decisions, it is something I am seriously considering.” New Jersey Globe

Several unsuccessful primary candidates are part of a group suing a half dozen county clerks to end the preferential “party line” placement they say gives candidates backed by New Jersey’s Democratic and Republican parties an unfair advantage. Six current or former candidates and New Jersey Working Families Alliance are asking a federal judge to declare unconstitutional the ballot design and the bracketing and positioning of candidates associated with party backing, contending these practices violate their constitutional right to a fair chance at being elected and violate the rights of voters who support them. NJ Spotlight News

New Jersey lawmakers and Gov. Phil Murphy remain unable to reach an agreement to legalize cannabis with a Feb. 8 deadline looming. The issue is under the legalization bill, those 21 and younger caught with less than 1 oz. of cannabis could be charged with a petty disorderly persons offense. But the decriminalization bill removed penalties for those under 21 caught possessing marijuana, a term that would only apply to illicit products. PoliticoNJ

An Oradell police officer was charged with stealing prescription drugs from a drop box intended for the public to dispose of unused medications at his department’s headquarters. Officer Jeffrey Peters is being charged with theft and drug possession by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office after Peters allegedly “gained access on several occasions and removed prescription narcotics” from the locked drop box in the police station lobby. The Record

Five more New Jersey lawmakers demanded Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks be placed on leave after women inmates at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility were attacked by officers earlier this month. State Sen. Sandra Cunningham, (D-31) along with Assemblywomen Yvonne Lopez, (D-19), Pamela Lampitt, (D-6), Eliana Pinter Marin, (D-29) and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) made the call after a total of 30 people have been suspended at the prison, including 20 officers, nine supervisors and Associate Administrator Sean St. Paul, who was in charge on Jan. 11, when prisoners said officers severely beat at least three women.

A Republican Paramus council member is suing to have an offer of employment to the mayor’s son rescinded, claiming that the mayor broke local ethics law and that his son was not eligible to become a police officer. The lawsuit by Republican Councilman Joseph Vartolone claims that Democratic Mayor Richard LaBarbiera violated local public ethics law by voting on conditional offers of employment for 10 police officers, including his son, Vincent LaBarbiera. Additionally, the lawsuit claims Vincent LaBarbiera was not eligible to become a police officer and his hire was “improperly recommended” to the mayor and council. The Record

New Jersey City University (NJCU) received a $1 million gift from entrepreneur, philanthropist, and real estate developer Robert M. Kaye. The gift will be among the largest in the university’s history and becomes the second lead gift in NJCU’s $10 million campaign to develop its Center for Music, Dance and Theater and The Guarini Performing Arts Center at University Place, a $400 million redevelopment of the institution’s West Campus. Hudson Reporter

And finally…Swarms of cicadas are expected to return and emerge in New Jersey this Spring. News12 New Jersey

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