North Jersey News Roundup for May 11, 2021

State officials are considering taking more aggressive steps to increase the rate of long-term care facilities staffers receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in New Jersey. “This is one of the few areas where it is frustrating and angering for us,” said Gov. Phil Murphy at a press briefing May 10. “I continue to be personally against a mandate (but) at a certain point, we will have to step in.” The governor pointed out that the vaccination rated for residents is “as good as it is in the country,” nearing 85% compared with staffers under 60%. While Murphy said his wish for people is to decide to get the vaccine of their own free will, staffers in long-term care facilities may be an exception to that case. “Would we consider other steps? I think if we had to we would,” he stated.

Gov. Phil Murphy said he’s open to the idea of paying people who get vaccinated against COVID-19. “Are we willing to just basically bribe people to get vaccinated? Everything’s on the table. Literally everything’s on the table,“ remarked Murphy. Roughly 4.5 million people had received at least one dose and 3.6 million residents are fully vaccinated, edging closer to the state’s goal of 4.7 million adults vaccinated by the end of June.

Today is election day in 14 municipalities in New Jersey. Among the North Jersey towns holding non-partisan municipal elections are Cedar Grove, Hackensack, Lyndhurst, Passaic, and Verona. New Jersey Globe

The Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine being administered to kids 12 to 15 years old, the first shot available for Americans younger than 16. The timing of the agency’s decision means that many high schoolers could be vaccinated by the time the next school year starts and aids the Biden Administration’s push to vaccinate as many Americans as quickly as possible. The New York Times

New Jersey has released two new maps showing how many people in each town have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot. The maps allow a visitor to click on a municipality and a white box will appear, showing the vaccination data for total residents, residents over 18 and residents over 65. One map shows the percentage of the population that received at least one dose, and the second shows how many residents have received two doses. NJ Spotlight News

New Jersey’s state and local governments will begin getting its $10.2 billion in federal aid this month. The money can be used to make up lost tax revenue, fund increased health costs due to COVID-19, rehire laid off public employees, assist residents who are hungry or face eviction, help small businesses, provide extra pay for essential workers, help communities hardest hit by the pandemic, including addressing long-standing problems, to expand high-speed internet; and to improve water and sewer systems.

A bill sponsored by Assemblyman Brian Bergen to incentivize investors to cover the start-up costs for cannabis dispensary businesses owned by minorities, women and disabled veterans was passed by the Assembly Health Committee. The new bill allows an investor or investment fund or group providing significant financial or technical assistance to hold up to a 35% interest in up to seven medical marijuana businesses owned by minorities, women, or disabled veterans. “Only people with a lot of money could open up one of these dispensaries. It’s just not possible unless you have a lot of money in the bank,” Bergen told the committee. “Starting a business is near impossible nowadays. This bill allows entrepreneurs to come into this fresh new industry and gives them a shot.” 

Newark launched a two-year pilot program to provide cash payments to some 400 low-income residents, making New Jersey’s largest city the latest place to embrace guaranteed income as a way to bridge the wealth gap. “[We want] to show the world that we give our residents freedom of choice and recognize and affirm that inherent dignity, they will make decisions that will help us build a stronger and more resilient city,” stated Mayor Ras Baraka. PoliticoNJ

North Jersey state and federal lawmakers are crafting legislation that would require nonresidents to pay state sales tax on tolls when driving between New Jersey and New York at crossings such as the George Washington Bridge. The legislation, being drafted by the District 38 legislative team of State Sen. Joe Lagana, Assemblywoman Lisa Swain and Assemblyman Chris Tully with the support of Rep. Josh Gottheimer, would use the tax revenue to reimburse New Jersey drivers who have to pay so-called congestion-pricing fees to travel into Manhattan. The Record

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) recently introduced legislation to ensure lockdown drills take into consideration the impact on the mental health of students, while continuing the safety preparations for students should an intruder appear at a school. The bill would require that a school district planning to conduct a school security drill, including “lockdowns” or simulations, when students are present be allowed to do so only after advance written notice has been provided to staff, and parents/guardians of enrolled students in the district. “We need to realize that sometimes the drills themselves can cause trauma, particularly to younger students. It will require that notice include clear messaging to students and staff that the event is a drill, and that no danger exists,” according to Weinberg.

The power was out in a unit at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women for at least two days starting May 8. Around 200 women were housed without power in the Stowe Unit, leaving the prisoners without heat or air conditioning, hot water or a working kitchen. A Department of Corrections spokesman said on May 10 the department has secured back-up generators, “which should be operational shortly” and will restore full power to the whole facility.

Fuel prices continued to rise nationwide over the weekend, with average prices in New Jersey hitting $3.00 for a gallon of regular gasoline, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. Economists stated prices have already seen an upturn due to the easement of many coronavirus pandemic related shutdown protocols and so far, the attack on Colonial Penn is not a driving force. The Daily Record

A state ethics panel has fined former Hopatcong Mayor Cliff Lundin $22,500 for using government vehicles for personal business and government computers to view and store pornography during the time he headed the agency overseeing New Jersey’s soil control regulations. Lundin didn’t file a challenge to the ruling, which is civil and not criminal. He can still appeal its findings to the Superior Court’s Appellate Division but must do so by June 4. New Jersey Herald

And finally…“The prospects are pretty good” the Giants and Jets will play in a full stadium this year, according to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

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