North Jersey News Roundup for Feb. 17, 2021

Over the President’s Day weekend, the state administered its 1 millionth first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine since the first shot was delivered Dec. 15, 2020. The number of COVID-19 vaccines delivered in New Jersey totaled 1,411,270 as of Feb. 16. Of those who have been administered the vaccine, 1,024,769 residents have received their first dose with 386,490 their second.

Sussex County officials postponed three days’ worth of COVID-19 vaccination appointments due to a winter storm expected to bring as much as 10 inches of snow starting Feb. 18. All appointments originally scheduled for Feb. 18 were moved to Feb. 21, while Feb. 19’s appointments were split between two days. New Jersey Herald

President Joe Biden restated his original goal to have a majority of elementary schools open five days a week by the end of his first 100 days in office. The President believes kindergarten through eighth grades will be back to in-person instruction but suggested reopening would take longer for high schools due to a higher risk of contagion from the coronavirus among older students.

Former President Donald Trump blistered Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as a “political hack” on Feb. 16, days after McConnell denounced him as the inciter of U.S. Capitol riot. “The Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political ‘leaders’ like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm,” Trump wrote in a statement released by his political action committee. Trump suggested he’d work to defeat McConnell and his Republican allies, saying he planned to “back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great…This is a big moment for our country and we cannot let it pass by using third rate ‘leaders’ to dictate our future.” The Wall Street Journal

A state grand jury indicted four North Jersey politicians on bribery charges stemming from an investigation of political corruption in Hudson and Morris counties. Authorities alleged former Jersey City School Board President Sudhan Thomas, former State Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell and former Morris County officeholders John Cesaro and John Windish received thousands of dollars in bribes from a cooperating witness in the form of illegal campaign contributions for offices they were seeking at the time. In return, they promised the cooperating witness, a tax attorney, that they would use their official authority or influence to hire or continue to hire his law firm for lucrative government legal work. The Record

The calls to replace New Jersey Department of Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks continue to intensify in Trenton. A bipartisan group of 12 women legislators are supporting articles of impeachment put forth by Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield (D-8) and sponsored by Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) and Nancy Munoz (D-21). “It’s clear he is not up to the task. It is time for him to move on,” said State Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-40). “The longer Hicks retains his post, the more the department of correction’s image is tarnished.”

A State Senate panel advanced a bill to remove mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for a bevy of non-violent drug and property crimes. The bill eliminates minimum sentencing for crimes like possession, burglary, and for a series of offenses committed by elected officials and public employees, including money laundering and tampering with public records. New Jersey Globe

A municipal court judge in Bergen County was suspended from the bench for 10 months without pay for multiple violations of the code of judicial conduct during an assault case she handled. Englewood Judge Aishaah A. Rasul acted “in the absence of any statutory or legal authority” after she placed a defendant on “in-house probation” for one year with a warning that if she faced charges again the court would find her guilty of simple assault. Rasul accepted the findings of a judicial conduct panel and her suspension is retroactive from her initial suspension in November 2019.

Another compromise on penalties for underage marijuana use was put on hold Feb. 16 as lawmakers continue to be unable to find a consensus on how to handle use by those under the age of 21. State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-22) said the Senate Judiciary Committee would schedule a new meeting Feb. 17 and may consider another marijuana-related bill along with a “cleanup” bill establishing penalties for younger offenders requested by Gov. Phil Murphy. The governor wants those underage to face only civil penalties for possessing marijuana once it becomes legal for people 21 and older. The legalization bill makes underage possession a disorderly persons offense similar to alcohol, but the decriminalization bill does away with all penalties.

A pair of bills designed to address criminality in using manipulated media content, sometimes known as “deepfakes,” during political campaigns recently passed the Assembly’s Science, Information and Technology Committee. The first bill would address the emerging use of these fabricated and edited media items by banning the use of deceptive audio or visual media content featuring a candidate for public office within 60 days of an election.The second bill would require certain disclosure requirements on any video or audio released that was intended for distributed online or in other channels.

Gov. Phil Murphy plans to use a $100 million settlement to buy electric buses and trucks to provide relief to some of the state’s hardest-hit communities in his first in-person public appearance since entering quarantine. The program, partly funded by a settlement with an automaker accused of tampering with emissions equipment, includes funding for NJ Transit electric bus deployment. Additionally, Murphy announced the formation of a state Office of Climate Action and Green Economy to oversee broader greenhouse gas reduction initiatives and environmentally friendly economic development projects.

Jersey City’s 1% payroll tax is constitutional and does not place an undue burden on businesses in the city, a state appellate panel ruled. The special payroll tax, on Jersey City businesses or out-of-city firms that employ people in Jersey City, was enacted in 2019 and dedicated for school purposes after the state announced it would make drastic cuts to the city’s public school district. A group led by real estate developers Mack-Cali and LeFrak had filed the lawsuit. The Jersey Journal

Boonton governing body approves an ordinance changing its name to “town council” and the title of its elected officials to “council members.” The ordinance states the purpose of the change from Board of Aldermen is “to ensure that its governance is as inclusive and representative of the diverse nature of the town’s residents as possible.” The Daily Record

And finally….They are blowing up the chickman’s house this morning as an implosion of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City is scheduled for Feb. 17 (yes, we know in the song it actually happened in Philly). The New York Times

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.