North Jersey News Roundup for March 22, 2021

OPINION: Time for Gov. Phil Murphy to Answer Questions About Pandemic Decisions. Last May, the State Senate reached an agreement to form a bipartisan Review and Recovery Committee to investigate the actions of the Murphy Administration during the coronavirus pandemic. No meetings have been held and Gov. Phil Murphy said officials are too busy “trying to land the plane.” But Murphy and those same officials are not too busy for photo ops promoting his response. Governor, we are not knuckleheads—the time has come for the Governor and Democratic leaders enabling him to end this charade and schedule hearings.

Gov. Phil Murphy continues to move too slowly to reopen New Jersey’s economy after shutdowns imposed a year ago at the start of the pandemic, according to business owners and Republicans in a second GOP oversight hearing. “We are well past the time to open up businesses 100% in the state of New Jersey,” said State Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-40) as lawmakers criticized an approach that ignores regional differences in infection rates and data they say proves many small businesses can reopen safely. Industry lobbyists argued their members are willing to jump through hoops to reopen and know they can do so safely but their pleas are ignored.

Gov. Phil Murphy floated the possibility of COVID-19 vaccine passports March 19, laying the groundwork that the small cards signifying immunity from the coronavirus could be the ticket to a normal summer. “Don’t get rid of the card, that’s likely to be something valuable,” Murphy said, adding that proof of immunization might be necessary to attend sporting events or board a plane. “Laminate it and put it in your wallet.” PoliticoNJ

The coronavirus has continued to spread across New Jersey at such a high rate that the Garden State leads the U.S. in new cases per capita. “We’ve definitely plateaued,” Gov. Phil Murphy said as New Jersey is no longer seeing a steady decline in new cases and hospitalizations from the coronavirus pandemic’s second wave thanks in part to new, more contagious COVID-19 variants. “We’ve come down dramatically from hospitalizations and positivity rates we saw a couple of months ago. But it’s still uncomfortably too high.” New Jersey Herald

The COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford provided strong protection against the coronavirus in a large clinical trial in the U.S., completely preventing the worst outcomes from the disease while causing no serious side effects, according to results announced March 22. The vaccine was 79% effective overall in preventing symptomatic infections, higher than observed in previous clinical trials as well as strong protection for older people. The New York Times

Workers at New Jersey’s coronavirus vaccination hotline have scheduled more than 6,000 appointments as part of a targeted effort to connect members of this vulnerable age group with COVID-19 vaccines. The percentage of New Jerseyans over age 75—the group most at risk for death from the virus—who have received at least one COVID-19 shot nearly doubled since late last month. NJ Spotlight News

Paterson may resume in-person instruction on May 3 as the Board of Education plans to hold a special meeting on the subject. The school district would likely implement a hybrid system, with families having the option of continuing remote learning after Gov. Phil Murphy recently made a series of phone calls about the possible reopening to Paterson Schools Superintendent Eileen Shafer, Mayor Andre Sayegh and city teachers’ union President John McEntee Jr. The Record

Calling the State Board of Chiropractic Examiners’ action both “irresponsible and illogical,” New Jersey State Senators worked to eliminate and replace the current board with one that would focus on public safety. The reinstatement of a chiropractor on a Florida sex offender list was taken in defiance of a motion set forth by Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal to deny the request. “There is no way a sexual predator should also be a licensed chiropractor in New Jersey. If the board is going to reinstate this license, what, one might fairly ask will it take for a chiropractic license to be revoked?” asked Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37).

State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-25) introduced a bill that would raise the bar for an officer to be found guilty of deprivation of civil rights for their interactions with those under 21 that was redefined in the marijuana legalization and decriminalize billd. The proposed law would make officers only liable for the criminal charge if the officer acted to intimidate or discriminate against a person based on race, religion, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Days after the head of the powerful State Senate Budget Chair Paul Sarlo (D-36) pushed for a delay, the Murphy Administration announced the date taxes are due has been changed. Late on Friday March 19, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the state income tax filing and payment due date for individuals for the 2020 tax year will be automatically extended to May 17 from April 15 to mirror actions taken by the IRS.

Katie Brennan, the state official who publicly accused a former aide to Gov. Phil Murphy of raping her during the 2017 campaign, is leaving her New Jersey government job. Brennan, chief of staff at the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, will be senior advisor to New York City’s deputy mayor of housing and economic development in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. Her last day working for New Jersey is March 29.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and the Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey will host a public listening session March 22 on the proposal to create an independent investigative unit within the Election Law Enforcement Commission to review complaints of sexual misconduct in the political arena. Additionally, the bill would enable survivors to confidentially report sexual misconduct to the independent investigative agency and/or to a designated campaign or party official responsible for monitoring anti-harassment policies.

GOP Assemblyman Robert Auth has ruled out running for the State Senate and will seek re-election to his 39th district Assembly seat in the June Republican primary. Auth, who  came within eight votes of winning the seat earlier this month in a special election convention against State Sen.-elect Holly Schepisi, said he will work to get Upper Saddle River Councilwoman DeAnne DeFuccio as the GOP’s Assembly nominee in a race against Saddle River Councilman John Azzariti and Closter Mayor John Glidden for the second Assembly seat. New Jersey Globe

And finally…Rutgers lost a 10-point lead in the second half as Houston went on a 14-2 run over the final 4:30 to pull off a 63-60 stunner.  The Record

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