North Jersey News Roundup for April 16, 2021

Members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation will not support any tax law changes to fund President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan unless the current $10,000 cap on the federal state and local tax (SALT) deduction gets removed. North Jersey House members led by Reps. Mikie Sherrill and Tom Malinowski argued the SALT deduction cap has imposed a harmful double tax and created one of the largest marriage penalties in the federal tax code. “We could not vote for a bill that has a meaningful tax impact on our constituents unless it restores SALT deduction relief to our middle-class families,” said the North Jersey House members. Additionally, Gov. Phil Murphy joined with Democrat governors of six other states in penning an April 2 letter to President Biden, urging the cap’s repeal.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer will co-chair a new bipartisan SALT Caucus to advocate for new tax relief from Congress. “We’re formally launching a new bipartisan group—the SALT Caucus—because, for all our Members, and for the tens of thousands of middle class families we represent, it is high time that Congress reinstates the State and Local Tax deduction, so we can get more dollars back in to the pockets of so many struggling families — especially as we recover from the pandemic,” said Gottheimer. Other New Jersey members of the SALT Caucus include Vice Chairs Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-9), Mikie Sherrill (D-11), and Chris Smith (R-4) along with Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-8) and Jeff Van Drew (R-2).  

A majority of Americans back President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal as long as corporations paid for it, according to a recent Quinnipiac University Poll. The American Jobs Plan is backed by 53% of poll respondents, with 39% in opposition. In addition, 62% supported raising taxes on corporations and 64% backed taxes on people earning more than $400,000 a year. Opposition to both proposals was 31%. Biden proposed paying for it by increasing the corporate income tax to 28% from 21%, still below the 35% level before Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans enacted their tax law.

Pfizer officials expect that a third dose of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine would “likely” be needed within a year of the initial two-dose inoculation, followed by annual vaccinations. “There are vaccines like polio where one dose is enough, and there are vaccines like flu that you need every year, ” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. “The COVID virus looks more like the influenza virus than the polio virus.” The New York Times

Gov. Phil Murphy New Jersey’s public-health emergency because of the coronavirus into its 14th month. Murphy’s executive order extends the emergency another 30 days, taking it through mid-May. “Our vaccination program is expanding vigorously and quickly, but COVID-19 remains a threat to New Jerseyans,” said Murphy. “As we move to extend vaccine eligibility to all residents of our state, the need for all available resources could not be more important.”

A total of $50 million will go to the arts and restaurants industry severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. New Jersey restaurants are set to get $35 million in relief after a year of struggling to stay afloat under coronavirus restrictions. A day earlier, Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation providing $15 million in federal aid to another hard-hit sector of New Jersey’s economy—arts and cultural venues. Both bills are part of a $100 million relief package aimed at aiding small businesses throughout the Garden State.

New Jersey’s employment rose in March with the unemployment rate dipping for the month, according to the state’s Department of Labor & Workforce Development. Preliminary estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found payrolls grew by 20,800 jobs, with the unemployment rate ticked lower to 7.7%. Eight of nine industry sectors saw job gains for the month, led by leisure and hospitality, which added 5,700 jobs.

Fairleigh Dickinson University will mandate students must be fully vaccinated before the Fall semester begins. The requirement applies to students who attend either the Metropolitan Campus in Hackensack and Teaneck or the Florham Campus in Madison who will be on campus to live, attend classes or take part in any in-person activities.

Legislation urging the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to develop the sixth Veterans Center in the Garden State was put forth by State Sen. Steve Oroho, joined by 24th Legislative GOP colleagues Assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths. The center, to be placed in Northwest New Jersey, would serve the 50,000 veterans living in Sussex, Morris, Hunterdon, and Warren counties. “There’s no question we need a Vet Center in this part of the state,” said Oroho. “There is a significant veterans’ population across New Jersey, and the current distribution of VA centers simply cannot meet the demand.”

New Jersey is in the midst of providing two days of training for all police to restore public trust in law enforcement and prevent the use of excessive force. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said part of the new training in New Jersey is to teach police to intervene when a fellow officer is using inappropriate force and training in de-escalation and active bystandership to ensure that New Jersey law enforcement officers know how to stop situations from needlessly escalating to the point of death or injury and instill confidence in the public that police really are working to protect them. NJ Spotlight News

For Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, his campaign to be the Democratic nominee in the 37th Legislative District for State Senate is a natural progression of a career dedicated to serving his community. But his primary campaign, one of the state’s most hotly contested races pitting him against Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, has not been without its issues—Johnson has had to answer questions about being a product of the party, his original running mates dropping out and alleged inappropriate comments made to a female politician. With the backing of the party, Johnson asserts he is the best choice to succeed the retiring State Sen. Loretta Weinberg.

Gov. Phil Murphy proposed a host of new gun policies April 16, including only giving permits to residents who pass gun safety classes and raising the purchasing age to 21. Other proposals would require guns to be locked up in homes, stamping ammunition to make it easier to trace, mandating an electronic database of all ammunition sold, banning .50 caliber firearms, requiring people moving to New Jersey to register their guns and a bill to make it easier to sue gun manufacturers when their weapons are used in crimes. News12 New Jersey

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said New Jersey’s marijuana legalization laws will likely have unintended consequences, including a legitimate concern that police officers will stop enforcing alcohol and pot possession laws for fear of prosecution. “It is a real issue, and it’s front and center right now because one of the unintended consequences of the legislation could be de-policing, which I don’t think any of us want in our communities,” Grewal said. “We want our officers to uphold public safety.” At a Senate budget committee hearing April 15, Grewal said he’s trying to head off such a result by developing training for police on how to abide by the law’s restrictions on how possession rules can be enforced when minors are involved.

The Paramus borough council is outlining plans to allow recreational marijuana retailers, enticed by a transfer tax that would bring revenues to the borough. Mayor Richard LaBarbiera said he was given preliminary numbers of medical marijuana facilities making about $20 million per location, of which $400,000 would return to the borough through the 2% transfer tax. Currently, the borough code prohibits recreational marijuana dispensaries with medical marijuana dispensaries are permitted only in the Highway Corridor Commercial zone along Route 4. The Record

Dover town officials have introduced an ordinance to temporarily ban marijuana sales and businesses. Alderman Eddie Correa said the town “is for” marijuana sales but needs input from other committees. The ban will give lawmakers  time to develop rules and regulations on cannabis sales. The Daily Record

And finally…NJPAC will reopen this summer as it will be the 1st venue in the state to require coronavirus test or vaccine to attend events.

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