North Jersey News Roundup for Feb. 15, 2021

The U.S. Senate voted on Feb. 13 to not impeach former President Donald Trump for inciting the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6 by a 57-43 vote. Most Senate Republicans sidestepped House managers central argument that Trump’s monthslong campaign to subvert the election results, as well as his incendiary remarks hours before a mob stormed the Capitol. In the end, seven Republicans supported a conviction—10 votes short of the two-thirds threshold required. PoliticoNJ

OPINION: What Happens After Impeachment? The second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is completed. It leaves us to wonder: what are the lessons we can learn moving forward? For Republicans, the direction of the party will be determined by deciding if their leaders are conservatives Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-MT) or Trump Republicans Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO). For Democrats, the time has ended in their quest to hold Trump accountable for his actions in office and move on to doing the people’s business at hand. It’s a long list, which begins with the government’s actions to get more vaccines in the arms of Americans as quickly as they can, followed in tandem by getting teachers and students to return to the classroom as well as growing the U.S. economy again.

The chairs of the independent 9/11 Commission want a similar blue-ribbon panel to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump. In a letter released by the Bipartisan Policy Center, commission chair former New Jersey GOP Gov. Tom Kean and retired Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN) suggested that the White House and Congress conduct an independent investigation of the insurrection and issue a public report with recommendations, including suggestions on how to strengthen the legislative branch of government, in a letter released before the impeachment verdict.

North Jersey high school and youth athletes again heard the roar of the crowd in person as an executive order signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on Feb. 12 allowed fans in the stands effectively immediately. The order allows two parents and guardians of each athlete inside of gyms, rinks and other sporting venues for high school and youth sports. “This is something I have been wanting to do for our student-athletes and their biggest fans,” said Murphy at his press briefing on Feb. 12. “With our metrics trending in the right direction, we feel comfortable taking this step and allowing parents back into youth sporting events.”

State officials announced five additional cases of the highly-contagious UK coronavirus variant were identified in the Garden State on Feb. 12. There have been a total of 38 cases in 11 counties identified in New Jersey, including six in Essex, three in Morris, two in Hudson and Passaic and one in Warren.

Suicides in New Jersey likely fell in 2020, despite widespread fears that the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic would cause more people to take their own lives. Preliminary state data recorded 636 deaths by suicide last year, down from 757 in 2018 and 723 in 2019. And while 2020′s figures are expected to rise as more suicide investigations are completed, they suggest that the strain of the past year did not translate into a rash of new suicides, as many worried it would.

Two North Jersey lawmakers called for the state to cancel standardized school testing this year. Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) stated New Jersey should not be adding additional barriers and challenges to children currently in school, arguing the best interests of students would be skipping standardized testing in the 2020-2021 school year. Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-25) wondered why the New Jersey Department of Education had quietly sent a memo to school districts at the end of January detailing plans to handle standardized testing, despite the fact it could apply for a waiver from the Biden Administration.

Nearly half the students in New Jersey still without a reliable internet connection are from Sussex County. There were 195 students in nine districts statewide still experiencing a digital divide due to internet connectivity problems or the lack of a personal device in Gov. Phil Murphy’s update Feb. 8. All of the county students the governor mentioned are in the Newton School district, who had reduced the number to 58 in the last week. New Jersey Herald

New Jersey officials are taking steps to make it easier for drivers to switch to electric vehicles from gas-powered cars. The State Senate recently approved a bill to help expand the growing network of vehicle charging stations statewide, a measure lawmakers believe will help New Jersey reach its goal of having 333,000 registered zero-emissions vehicles on the road by 2025. The move comes as the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities recently approved PSE&G’s plan to invest $166 million over the next six years to increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations.

Lawmakers in Trenton have introduced a new proposal for penalizing those under 21 who are caught with marijuana. Under the proposal, a first juvenile offense would result in a written warning, a second as a written warning that also involves parents and the third as a $50 fine or community service if the person is unable to pay. People selling marijuana to those underage would also face escalating fines, starting at $250 for a first offense up to $1,000. And someone who knowingly purchases marijuana on behalf of a person under 21 could face 30 days in jail or a fine of $500.

The push to restore fully the state and local tax (SALT) deduction is moving forward in Washington. Rep. Josh Gottheimer joined a bipartisan group of six other House members to introduce the SALT Deductibility Act, a bipartisan bill to fully restore the full SALT deduction. At the same time, Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker are pushing forward with the bill in the U.S. Senate.  Lawmakers said their proposal would allow taxpayers to fully deduct their state and local taxes on their federal income returns, resulting in giving Northern New Jersey families a tax cut. In 2017, the deduction was capped at $10,000 and resulted in a tax hike for many middle-class families in the Garden State.

Sen. Cory Booker will chair the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Counterterrorism in the 117th Congress, becoming the first Black chair of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee. The subcommittee’s jurisdiction includes oversight of the the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division; the Drug Enforcement Administration; COPS and other law enforcement grant programs; the Bureau of Prisons; the US Sentencing Commission; the Office of National Drug Control Policy; and the Department of Homeland Security’s functions that relate to anti-terrorism enforcement and policy. Insider NJ

The U.S. Census Bureau announced data for congressional and legislative redistricting in New Jersey will be released on Sept. 30. As a result, a new map for the state’s legislative districts will not be drawn in time for the 2021 elections, activating a 2020 constitutional amendment allowing the 2011 map to be extended through this year’s election. The cutoff for a new map was February 15. New Jersey Globe

And finally….Residents of Fair Lawn are boycotting Oreos and other Mondelez products after the company announced plans to close down their production plant in the borough. The Record

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