North Jersey News Roundup for April 29, 2021

President Joe Biden laid out an ambitious agenda to rewrite the American social compact by vastly expanding family leave, child care, healthcare, preschool and college education for millions of people to be financed with increased taxes on the wealthiest earners in a Joint Address to Congress April 28. President Biden unveiled a $1.8 trillion social spending plan to accompany previous proposals to build roads and bridges, expand other social programs and combat climate change, representing a fundamental reorientation of the role of government. “We have to prove democracy still works, that our government still works and we can deliver for our people,” said the President. The New York Times 

During and after his speech, North Jersey politicians weighed in with their thoughts on President Joe Biden’s address. Among those offering opinions were Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker as well as Reps. Josh Gottheimer, Tom Malinowski and Gov. Phil Murphy. 

Gov. Phil Murphy said he’ll have “more news” May 3 about further easing New Jersey’s coronavirus restrictions after New York moved to get rid of some rules for dining at bars and restaurants. “You’re going to see us accelerating the opening up of the state,” Murphy replied when questioned about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announcement that residents can get served at bars in New York City beginning Monday and that outdoor and indoor curfews for bars and restaurants in the city will both be lifted by the end of May. “There’s just no other way to put it. We’ll have more news on that on Monday.”

New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will not change the mask mandates in New Jersey, according to Gov. Phil Murphy. “For outdoors, from moment one, the feds have been mimicking what we have been doing. But from the get go, when you are outside and can socially distance, we have not required you to wear a mask,” said Murphy at a press briefing April 28. “Even with the CDC guidance relaxing the necessity of a face mask outdoors where we know where the virus is much less transmissible, remember both under the CDC guideline and our directives, masking up remains mandatory in indoor settings except when eating or drinking.”

Only 56% of nursing home and assisted living staff in New Jersey have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, compared with an 84% vaccination rate among residents, according to  New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “The vaccination of nursing home residents and staff is essential to reduce the risk of symptomatic COVID-19,” Persichilli said. “In New Jersey, we must increase our vaccination rates among our long-term care staff.” Gov. Phil Murphy added “We’re not happy with it.” News12 New Jersey

Voters should prepare to wear a mask at their polling stations this Spring and Summer. “I think that if you refuse to wear a mask, we’re not letting you in, it’s that simple,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “I mean you’ve got to wear a mask if you’re going into a store, going into a restaurant; gotta wear one going to the Motor Vehicles Commission.”

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle is demanding Assemblyman Gordon Johnson address a past allegation of sexual misconduct after Johnson said on social media that Denim Day “is more than about wearing jeans, it’s about standing with survivors.” “Let’s get one thing clear, you cannot claim to support survivors when you have remained silent in the face of your own sexual misconduct allegations,” Vainieri Huttle said about her opponent in the 37th Legislative District for State Senator Democratic nominee. “You certainly cannot claim to believe survivors when you’ve remained silent. Gordon, you brought this up—now you need to come clean.” New Jersey Globe

The Hoboken Health Department is now allowing residents and employees of Hoboken businesses to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment on a first-come, first-serve basis. Residents can book an appointment at the time and day of their choosing to make getting a vaccine more convenient. Previously, the city would collect names on a preregistration list and then book appointments. Hudson Reporter

Moderna will spend billions of dollars to boost production of COVID-19 vaccines and potentially triple its yearly output of doses in 2022 to meet rising global demand. The company plans to make no less than 800 million doses this year, up from a minimum 700 million it had forecast previously and has the capability to produce up to three billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines in 2022, compared with a projected output of up to one billion this year. The Wall Street Journal

Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker committed to fighting for more federal resources to help modernize New Jersey’s aging transportation infrastructure. “The COVID-19 pandemic derailed mass transit budgets across the nation and here in New Jersey, and if Congress failed to pass the American Rescue Plan, workers and commuters would pay the price,” Sen. Menendez said. “But the American Rescue Plan was just that—a rescue plan. It was not a long-term solution for our nation’s outdated and crumbling infrastructure.”

Undocumented immigrants and excluded workers passed entered there 23rd day of a hunger strike seeking relief in the form of $600 weekly unemployment payments and $2,000 checks after being excluded from nearly all coronavirus-related relief funds for over 13 months. A bill that would allocate $35 million to tax-paying undocumented workers hasn’t been posted for a committee vote since it was introduced in May.

Former Democratic legislator Jason O’Donnell is seeking a dismissal of the bribery charges, arguing he could not be charged because he was not a public official when he was targeted. O’Donnell, who was running for mayor in Bayonne when he allegedly was offered a $10,000 cash payment by a Morristown tax attorney then cooperating with prosecutors, argued in new court filings that the case against him is unconstitutional as the state’s bribery statute applies only to public or party officials. In his case, the one-time firefighter was only a previously unelected candidate for elective office. The Jersey Journal

Essex County officials are terminating a contract to house detainees for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the county jail, days after Essex entered into an agreement to house Union County inmates at the Essex County Correctional Facility. According to its contract with the federal agency, ICE now has 120 days to remove its 165 detainees. Essex County is anticipating about $11.3 million in revenue from its agreement with Union. The Record

Five New Jersey counties were made eligible for federal aid April 28 following the White House’s issue of a major disaster declaration for the winter storm of Jan. 31 to Feb. 2. The declaration to New Jersey will enable communities in Morris, Sussex, Warren, Cape May, and Ocean counties to cost-share storm expenses with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for work including emergency repairs and facility replacements. The Daily Record

And finally…A ‘Jeopardy!’ contestants flunked the Bridgegate clue under the category  ‘In-car-cerated.’

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