North Jersey News Roundup for March 26, 2021

In the wake of the deadly shootings in Aurora, GA, and Boulder, CO, Sen. Cory Booker lamented the government’s inaction to curtail gun violence. Booker stated politicians have forgotten their duty to protect the people of the U.S. “We are not fulfilling our mandate. We do not have domestic tranquility. We do not have a common defense, with death levels that no one country is seeing. And, dear God, clearly we do not have justice,” he said. “(Gun violence) seems to grow like a cancer on the soul of our country.” Booker concluded his speech by stating he believes that if American gun violence has not broken your heart, “then you don’t love her enough.”

President Joe Biden’s administration is moving ahead on approving the Gateway Tunnel project, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said during House testimony March 26. Buttigieg told the House Transportation Committee he hoped to complete the project’s long-delayed environmental impact statement by the end of June. “I share your sense of urgency with Gateway and related projects,” the Secretary said. “This is a regional issue but one of national significance because if there was a failure in one of those tunnels, the entire U.S. economy would feel it.”

President Joe Biden signaled support for changes to the legislative filibuster, said the U.S. was unlikely to meet a May deadline to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and defended his approach to the southern border in his first press conference since taking office. The President criticized Republicans for pushing legislation that he said could make it more difficult for the public to vote, including Georgia’s, that “makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle.” The Wall Street Journal

New Jersey voters would be able to cast their ballots in person up to 10 days before an election under an early voting bill passed by the state Legislature on March 25. Early voting under the bill would begin 10 days before November general elections, six days before presidential primaries and four days before non-presidential primaries. The number of early voting sites in each county would depend on the number of registered voters within each county, and voters would be able to vote at any early voting site in their county. New Jersey Globe

Trenton lawmakers in both houses unanimously passed a bill that requires police to notify parents every time teens are caught with alcohol and weed, tweaking a measure they garnered outrage from police and parents. Previously, the first warning was to go only to the underage person, the second to a parent if the person was under 18 and the third as a referral to drug treatment or education programs. The Record

Rutgers University will require COVID-19 vaccines for all students enrolled in the Fall 2021 semester. “Proof of vaccination” will be required for students planning to attend classes on Rutgers’ three main campuses—New Brunswick, Newark and Camden. Exemptions will be made for medical or religious reasons, and students enrolled in entirely online or remote-only programs who do not use campus facilities will not be required to show proof of vaccination. PoliticoNJ

New Jersey’s COVID-19 vaccine supply next week will rise nearly 20%, a number still below the quantum leap Gov. Phil Murphy is expecting from the federal government in the coming weeks. “Personally it isn’t quite the quantum leap that I had anticipated, but it is certainly going in the right direction,” said Murphy. “The sense we’re getting—and it’s a sense from the feds—(is) that that number is only going up. I think in fairness to them, they don’t want to give us some level and then not have the confidence that they could continue to meet that level week in and week out.” The state will receive the week of March 29 a total of 494,430 doses, including 267,930 of Pfizer, 174,800 of Moderna and 51,700 of Johnson & Johnson.

Hoboken is planning to begin vaccinating homebound residents with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. The city joins other local municipalities, including Weehawken and North Bergen, in offering in-home appointments for those who are unable to travel to neighborhood vaccine sites. The Jersey Journal

New unemployment filings increased for the second week as another 10,441 new claims were filed, a 1.6% increase from the previous week, the state Labor Department announced. Funds distributed to residents by the Department of Labor have now topped $25 billion, just over a year after the coronavirus pandemic began and led to massive job losses across the state. More than 2 million people have filed for jobless benefits since March 2020.

President Joe Biden’s stimulus bill will bring billions of dollars in Federal aid to the Garden State that local politicians are looking to spend in their North Jersey districts. A trio of state lawmakers representing District 24 are urging Gov. Phil Murphy to use the funding to replace any anticipated losses from state budget cuts, while Democrats from the 38th Legislative District want federal funds earmarked for the business and non-profit community.

Republican Holly Schepisi assumed the vacant Senate seat in the 39th Legislative District. Schepisi, the first Republican female Senator from Bergen County, she will serve on the Health, Human Services & Senior Citizens Committee and the Labor Committee after after being chosen to fill out the vacancy caused by the death of Gerald Cardinale. Insider NJ

State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) says the state moved too quickly last year when it borrowed roughly $4 billion to shore up the state’s finances amid the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s one of these things that we should have waited until after the first of the year to get a clearer picture of our revenues,” stated Sweeney. “But again, in the moment in time we made—the administration made—the decision, and they borrowed.” New Jersey Herald

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will look at cutting projects from the agency’s capital plan as it was only provided a fraction of Federal aid from the American Rescue Act. As the agency faces a $1.7 billion revenue loss due to coronavirus traffic declines, Port Authority officials are having conversations with state officials about sharing some of the American Rescue Act funding allocated for state and municipal governments.

Morris County Commissioners unanimously passed a $320 million budget for 2021 with no tax increase for residents helped in part by a strong real estate market. The budget includes a $35.8 million capital spending plan and directs $38.6 million toward educational, cultural and economic initiatives as property values. The Daily Record

And finally…The Monmouth University football team is set to kick off its season this weekend. News12 New Jersey

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