North Jersey News Roundup for June 1, 2021

North Jersey lawmakers applauded the decision by the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Record of Decision allowing the Gateway Program and construction of a new Hudson River rail tunnel to proceed. Sen. Bob Menendez said receiving approval on the the required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on May 28 means “after three years of politically-motivated delays and attempts by the Trump Administration to derail Gateway, this long-overdue milestone gets us one step closer to building a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel and delivering New Jersey commuters the safe, reliable service they demand and deserve.”

School staff members in Paterson returned to classrooms today for the first time in more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Paterson Education Association has stated neither staff members nor students, especially most vulnerable students, should be returning to schools due to concerns about the HVAC system. News12 New Jersey

New Jersey on May 31 reported another 177 confirmed new cases of the coronavirus and an additional five deaths on Memorial Day. Monday’s numbers bring the total confirmed cases in New Jersey to 887,699 and the total deaths to 26,213 in the nearly 15 months since the first case was reported on March 4, 2020.

Bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-25) to ensure that Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans forgiven by the Federal Government are exempt from New Jersey’s gross income tax was recently signed into law. The law allows the deduction of expenses paid for by a PPP loan as well. “During this extremely difficult time, small business owners should not have to worry about additional taxes. New Jersey is one of the highest taxed states in the nation,” Bucco stated. “During this pandemic, when small businesses are literally struggling to survive, the last thing they need is yet another tax.”

Pfizer has started clinical trials testing its COVID-19 vaccine on healthy children between the ages of six months and 11 years old at Rutgers University. A total of 200 Garden State kids are participating, including 100 of them between the ages of 5 and 11. Two additional groups of children, 50 between the ages of 2 and 5, and 50 between 6 months and 2 years are also enrolled in the trial.

Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway stepped into a dispute about a statement by two university officials denouncing anti-Semitism that has drawn fire from a campus group, Students for Justice in Palestine. “Rutgers deplores hatred and bigotry in all forms. We have not, nor would we ever, apologize for standing against anti-Semitism,” Holloway said. “Neither hatred nor bigotry has a place at Rutgers, nor should they have a place anywhere in the world. At Rutgers we believe that anti-Semitism, anti-Hinduism, Islamophobia and all forms of racism, intolerance and xenophobia are unacceptable wherever and whenever they occur.”

“We’re not an island as it relates to gun laws and gun safety,” Gov. Phil Murphy said after the recent mass shooting incident in Fairfield. “(We) have probably the strongest gun safety laws in America, but we need national steps taken and, in the absence of that, we’re still going to have the risk, at least, of bad actors and, or crime guns coming into our state.” The national steps that Murphy is calling for include a bill backed by New Jersey Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker are backing to ban “ghost” guns—firearms that are undetectable and untraceable as well as Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr.’s  Safer Neighborhoods Gun Buyback Act to provide federal grants to local communities to buy back guns from local gun owners.

Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan commission proposed to study the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6. The Senate voted 54-35 on May 28 to advance the measure, but it fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster, which would have blocked debate on the bill. The House had approved legislation to create the commission with support from 35 Republicans. New Jersey Herald

Rep. Tom Malinowski sent a letter urging President Joe Biden to offer a comprehensive strategy to ensure the survival and success of the Afghan government and protection of vulnerable Afghans as U.S. troops withdraw from the country. “The capabilities of Afghanistan’s security forces will determine whether the Taliban succeeds in reimposing medieval rule over Afghanistan’s 40 million people (and if) al Qaeda and ISIS reestablish a terrorist sanctuary there,” Malinowski wrote in the letter with 10 other U.S. Congressman. Malinowski emphasized that the United States government needs to maintain robust assistance to Afghan security forces once American troops are gone, including mechanisms that allow the Afghans to continue hiring the international contracts critical to maintaining their Air Force, and the provision of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) information to Afghan forces.

Former GOP State Chairman Doug Steinhardt has been named to the New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission, one of six Republican who will help draw twelve House districts for the 2022 midterm elections. Steinhardt joins Mark LoGrippo, a councilman from Westfield; Jeanne Dovgala Ashmore, a former aide to Gov. Chris Christie ; Lynda Pagliughi, a longtime GOP stalwart from Cape May County; Mark Duffy, the executive director of the Assembly Republican Office; and Michele Albano, Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick’s finance chair.  Harrison Neely, a Republican political consultant and State Sen. Thomas Kean, Jr.’s top political advisor, will serve as executive director of the GOP side of the Congressional Redistricting Commission. New Jersey Globe

A state appellate panel found a lawsuit was improperly dismissed in February 2020 when a judge agreed with Bayonne and Mayor Jimmy Davis that Stacie Percella and her attorney had failed to produce discovery evidence in a timely manner. Percella filed a lawsuit in Hudson County Superior Court in 2018, alleging that she was fired in retaliation for filing a federal lawsuit against the city in 2014 that alleged hostile environment discrimination, her actions as vice president of a local union and because she rebuffed Davis’ sexually harassing text messages. The Jersey Journal

OPINION: Reuniting on Memorial Day. There is a debt that we never can repay to all those that sacrificed their lives—from the beaches of Normandy, the rice paddies of Vietnam, the fields of Afghanistan—to ensure we can live as free Americans.The events over the last 15 months, contending with a pandemic, a push for significant social justice reforms and an insurrection attempt, has thrust into the spotlight on how precious that freedom is. We only have these because of the heroism of those that serve in the military.

And finally…Sarah Renee Bakal of Upper Saddle River recently became Bergen County’s first female Eagle Scout during ceremonies at Temple Israel in Ridgewood. The Record

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