North Jersey News Roundup for April 20, 2021

State officials are hopeful that a third wave of the coronavirus has crested. “It’s baby steps but we like that the numbers are starting to go in a better direction,” said Gov. Phil Murphy at a press briefing on April 19. “For my taste, it’s still too early to declare victory…but I am quietly, cautiously optimistic.” The number of new cases for April 19 was 2,323, brokedown between 1,935 confirmed new PCR cases and 388 positive antigen tests. Comparatively, the daily high’s in the most recent waves was 4,699 cases on April 1 and 6,922 Jan. 13 this year.

Jersey City public school students will not complete the school year inside their classrooms, reversing initial plans to reopen for in-person instruction next week. Superintendent Franklin Walker blamed a shortage of teachers and other instructional staff willing to return to their schools for a hybrid learning schedule, noting that more than 450 staff members declined to return to their schools April 15 and 16 when their attendance was deemed mandatory. The Jersey Journal

New Jersey parents of very young children are relying heavily on family for child care, rather than preschool or daycare centers, according to a recently released FDU poll. In a survey of parents with kids aged 3 and under, 70% indicated their kid are in some form of child care, with 45% care being provided by relatives, 30% have their child in school or a daycare environment and 10% have a non-relative is providing care.

A Republican state senator wants to ban the use of vaccine passports and bar any public or private entity from asking about or for someone’s vaccination status. The bill, introduced by State Sen. Jim Holzapfel (R-10), would prohibit public agencies and private businesses from asking whether people have been vaccinated, requiring they be vaccinated in order to gain entry or requiring they show proof they have been vaccinated.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s directive eliminating mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenses comes in coordination with Gov. Phil Murphy vetoing a bill that would have done the same due to the inclusion of weakening penalties associated with political corruption. “I have determined that I cannot sign this bill, which goes far beyond the recommendations of the Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission (and) falls short because it does not offer relief for currently incarcerated individuals serving mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses,” stated Murphy.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a suite of seven bills expanding the rights of sexual assault victims. Among the measures now law include sexual assault victims being entitled to copies of police reports connected to their case, victims being notified when prosecutors are filing charges against their assailants and mandates the Attorney General to track sexual assault cases and issue an annual report with statistics on how many complaints were filed, prosecuted or led to plea agreements.

U.S. Capitol police officer Brian D. Sicknick died the day after the Jan. 6 attack from natural causes, the medical examiner’s office ruled. The District of Columbia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said the New Jersey native suffered two strokes at the base of the brain stem caused by a clot in an artery that supplies blood to that area of the body. The autopsy found no evidence Sicknick suffered an allergic reaction to chemical irritants sprayed at him during the protests nor evidence of internal or external injuries. The Record

New Jersey police and firefighters with 20 years of service can now retire early under a bill Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law April 19. The legislation allows public safety workers who reach 20 years of service within the next two years to retire with a pension, regardless of their age. Current law limits the early retirement benefit, the equivalent of half their salary, for public safety workers hired after January 2000 to those at least 55 years old.

After the state received an upgraded credit rating, New Jersey reported March tax revenue collections increased 49.4% over last March when the pandemic first hit the Garden State. New Jersey’s Treasury Department reported April 16 that March revenue collections for the major taxes totaled $2.8 billion, up $933.5 million from 12 months earlier. Fiscal year-to-date, total revenue collections of $24.3 billion are up $1.9. billion, or 8.6% above the same nine-month period last year. The increase in revenue has been boosted by the new Pass-Through Business Alternative Income Tax according to state officials, accounting for $1.4 billion, or nearly 75%, of the $1.9 billion year-to-date revenue increase.

The pause on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine has delayed getting state Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) employees vaccinated to reduce agency closings and canceled appointments for drivers, said Sue Fulton, the agency’s chief administrator. The suspension put the brakes on the MVC’s program to vaccinate its front line staff in agencies as a way to end agency closures with only four of 14 total scheduled days of vaccinations completed. NJ Spotlight News

NJ Transit President and CEO Kevin Corbett stated fares aren’t likely to increase on NJ Transit for the next three years during budget testimony in Trenton April 19. Fares are expected to remain unchanged through 2024 due to federal funds from three rounds of coronavirus aid and a growing pool of money deriving from New Jersey Turnpike Authority toll increases.

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission added an additional gender option will be available on driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards. An “X” to indicate “unspecified” will be offered alongside the existing male and female options for residents who identify as nonbinaryor prefer not to specify a gender. The Daily Record

Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-32) announced he will no longer seek re-election to his seat in the state Assembly. “Unfortunately, I do not have the support of the Hudson County Democratic Organization to run for re-election,” stated Chiaravalloti. “The task of winning off the line is daunting in a normal year; however, running against the HCDO this year would mean running against Governor Phil Murphy. I believe the power of the line and the popularity of Governor Murphy would make it impossible to compete successfully. As a strong supporter of the Governor, I do not see any benefit to running against a ticket he leads.” Hudson Reporter

A Wyckoff Middle School Principal was suspended due to a bullying incident of a family member who is a student in the district. Eisenhower Middle School Principal Christopher Iasiello will have a hearing in front of an Administrative Law judge seeking to force the Board of Education and Schools Superintendent Kerry Postma to reveal the full range of their concerns and intentions regarding Iasiello’s future with the district. The Record

The Weldon Road bridge in Jefferson will partially reopen in mid-May, but will eventually have to be fully rebuilt. The northern side of the four-lane bridge that carries Weldon Road over Route 15 will be reconfigured with new ramps to accommodate two-way traffic. The southern side of the bridge where the broken beams were found, will be torn down. A timeline for the project is still to be determined. New Jersey Herald

And finally…Walter Mondale, vice president under President Jimmy Carter, has died at the age of 93. The New York Times

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