North Jersey News Roundup for March 10, 2021

Gov. Phil Murphy defended his administration’s actions after GOP State Senate and Assembly members held a four hour hearing looking at the response New Jersey undertook in fighting the coronavirus pandemic at long-term care facilities. Republicans focused heavily on the New Jersey Department of Health’s (NJDOH) directive to nursing homes saying they could not deny a patient’s admission based on a positive COVID diagnosis. Murphy shifted the spotlight to facilities operators, stating “Now, does that mean that every operator did the right thing? And my fear is that some did not do it.”

A lawsuit filed by the Montclair School District over the teachers union’s decision to not have elementary teachers return to school ended with an agreement between the two sides. Students and teachers in grades K-5 will return to school for hybrid learning on April 12, the first time students in those grades will set foot in a classroom since the coronavirus pandemic broke out in March 2020.

Prospect Park’s only public school will reopen for in-person instruction on March 15 as long as there are no new reports of the coronavirus. Students in kindergarten through third grade will return for full in-person instruction, and those in Pre-K and Grades 4th-8th will go back to the same hybrid model used in the Fall. The Record

Jersey City will dedicate the full allotment of vaccines to the 4,700 teachers and staff within the Jersey City Public School System on March 15 in order to safely return the nearly 30,000 students to in-person learning. The school district is preparing to have students return to in-person learning in the fourth quarter, possibly by April 22. Hudson Reporter

With the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic on their minds, Americans seem ready to return to normal life and are happy with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Monmouth University Poll. One in five (21%) Americans think a sense of normalcy will return by the Summer, with 40% anticipating normalcy by the end of the year. Only 27% said it would take longer than that and 9% pessimistic the country would never return to normal. Additionally, worry regarding family members getting sick with the coronavirus have dropped sharply in recent weeks. Only 40% were very concerned and 28% somewhat concerned that a family member would get seriously ill.

A Hackettstown man was arrested on three federal charges pertaining to the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot, accusing him of obstructing and tampering with Congress and entering a restricted building. The FBI alleges Roberto Minuta, who wore tactical clothing with an Oath Keepers Militia patch, was spotted in several pictures and video “aggressively” berating and taunting police guarding the Capitol, decked out in hard-knuckled tactical gloves, ballistic goggles, an earpiece and a can of chemical spray on his belt.

A sweeping election reform bill passed by the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives is being praised by members of North Jersey’s congressional delegation. Approved March 3, the For the People Act, also known as House Resolution 1 or H.R. 1, proposes the largest overhaul of U.S. election law since the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. “If we do not act now, we may lurch irreparably down the path of illiberalism and authoritarianism. The stakes could not be higher,” stated Rep. Bill Pascrell.

House Democrats approved the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, a bill expanding labor rights aimed at neutralizing right-to-work laws in 27 states and bolster workers’ ability to organize after years of eroding clout. The bill would amend decades-old labor law to shield workers seeking to form a union from retribution or firing, strengthen the government’s power to punish employers who violate workers’ rights and outlaw mandatory meetings that employers often use to try to quash an organizing drive. It would also make it harder for companies like Uber and Lyft to classify workers as independent contractors, paving the way for a potentially substantial expansion in the pool of workers eligible to unionize. The New York Times

New Jersey ranked first in the U.S. for education and pre-school enrollment, according to independent news organization Education Week. States were ranked on performance in higher education, along with primary and secondary schooling, as well as pre-K. In New Jersey, 47% of people have an associate’s degree or higher. News12 New Jersey

A bill urging New Jersey’s hundreds of school districts to join in broader regional systems is on a fast track to a full vote in the State Senate after approval by the Senate’s Education Committee. Filed last week, the bill crafted by State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) would revise the state’s process for school districts to study and then implement school regionalizations and it includes some new financial incentives for those that pursue combined operations. NJ Spotlight News

GOP Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi narrowly won a State Senate seat in the 39th Legislative District, defeating Assemblyman Robert Auth by eight votes in a special election convention to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Gerald Cardinale. Schepisi won by a 111-103 margin to complete the remainder of Cardinale’s current term, which runs until Jan. 11, 2022. Bergen County Republican Organization will meet in the near future to fill the Assembly seat being vacated by Schepisi. Insider NJ

Palisades Park Mayor Christopher Chung is dropping out of the race for the Democratic Assembly nomination in the 37th district. The move comes as after some party leaders reportedly became concerned allegation of financial mismanagement by the borough could be a drain on the ticket. New Jersey Globe

Palisades Park has hired an outside attorney to review a recent New Jersey comptroller report that alleged widespread fiscal mismanagement by the borough’s business administrator, chief financial officer, mayor and governing body. The borough is immediately changing a slew of policies that came under attack from the comptroller, including untraceable gas cards given to employees, sick time benefits more generous than New Jersey law allows and expense reimbursement practices the comptroller says led to the business administrator getting reimbursed tens of thousands of dollars for costs unrelated to his job. The Record

Lobbying expenditures hit a new high of $105 million in 2020, according to a new New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission report. The 3.4% spike was driven by pro-cannabis advocates who spent $1.5 million on lobbying, and another $2.3 million specifically on securing the passage of November’s ballot question. At the center of other high spending was the New Jersey Education Association teachers union, which spent $5.8 million. The Daily Record

Jersey City property owners want the City Council to hold off extending the city’s moratorium on rent increases as landlords continue to struggle through the coronavirus pandemic. The Jersey City Property Owners Association argued operating costs for property owners have risen between $10 and $20 per unit monthly in most cases during the pandemic in order to provide sterile living environments for their tenants while vacancy rates have increased. The Jersey Journal

An appellate judge has sided with Ridgewood residents who sought to move the election dates for the Village Council and Board of Education to November. Judge Richard Geiger affirmed a September 2020 ruling by Superior Court Judge Estela De La Cruz that Village Clerk Heather Mailander had acted “improperly and unlawfully” in attempting to block a petition by the group One Village One Vote to place the question of Fall elections for both bodies on the November ballot. The Record

New Jersey will repair some of the beaches hardest-hit by a string of February storms that caused severe erosion at numerous beach access points. Acting head of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection Shawn LaTourette said the agency will move to eliminate dangerous conditions at some of the most eroded beaches, including Bay Head, where precipitous drop-offs have led the town to place emergency barriers on top of the dunes to prevent people from falling off the edge. The state asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out emergency repairs, but the federal agency said the storms were not bad enough to warrant such assistance.News12 New Jersey

And finally…March 9 was declared ‘COVID-19 Heroes Day’ for N.J. essential workers.

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