North Jersey News Roundup for June 4, 2021

From the perspective of the White House, New Jersey continues to be a national leader when it comes to distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. “(Governor Phil Murphy) and his team have built one of the best performing vaccination programs in the nation,” said White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients during a virtual news briefing on June 2. “I hear that from my team all the time.” Zients noted that New Jersey was one of the first states to hit the important milestone of 70% of adults with at least one shot, with 74% of adults as of June 3 in the Garden State having received at least their first shot.

Morris County is the first county in New Jersey where 70% of adults are fully vaccinated to protect against the coronavirus, according to data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC shows 276,994 residents of Morris County are fully vaccinated, including 272,412 age 18 or older. Five other counties in New Jersey where the CDC shows at least 60% of adults are fully vaccinated: Cape May, 65.8%; Bergen, 64.4%; Burlington, 63.7%; Somerset, 62.8%; and Warren, 60.3%.

The State Legislature passed a plan that would end New Jersey’s 15-month-old public health emergency related to the coronavirus but allows Gov. Phil Murphy‘s administration to retain some powers to keep responding to the pandemic for the next eight months. The proposal was approved largely along party lines in both Democratic-controlled chambers, 21-16 in the State Senate and 44-28 in the Assembly. Murphy, who helped negotiate the plan with the Legislature’s Democratic leaders, immediately announced he will sign the bill into law June 4 as well as an order officially ending the public health emergency. PoliticoNJ

New Jersey lifts all indoor gathering and capacity limits for large indoor venues that Gov. Phil Murphy ordered to combat the coronavirus today, resulting in no COVID-19 capacity or social distancing restrictions on events such as indoor concerts and sports for the first time since March 2020. Additionally, private businesses in the Garden State are now allowed to let their employees work maskless if they’ve been vaccinated, while people who have been working remotely can now be called back into the office. The Daily Record

Gov. Phil Murphy’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to rankle State Sen. Anthony M. Bucco (R-25) who questioned the Democratic governor’s recent move to exclude New Jersey state workers from updated rules that allow vaccinated employees to unmask in most New Jersey workplaces. “Is the science somehow different for State employees?” Bucco asked in a May 26 press statement. “If the vaccine works, government workers should have the same protections as everyone else.”

Bergen County tenants behind on rent and utility bills during the coronavirus pandemic could receive up to a year’s worth of assistance. Renters who meet certain criteria can apply to the first-come, first-served program beginning June 14 at The Bergen County CARES Emergency Rental Assistance Program application will stay open through July 23, or until the federal funding is exhausted. Bergen County received $27.8 million in the first round of federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds, and could collect up to a possible $31.2 million in a second round, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The Record

President Joe Biden signaled he could accept a narrower infrastructure package that didn’t include raising the corporate tax rate, reportedly telling a top Senate Republican that he wants $1 trillion in new spending and floating alternative ways to pay for the measure. The new proposal includes a minimum corporate tax of 15% for the nation’s largest companies and the repurposing of $75 billion of COVID-19 aid funding. The Wall Street Journal

Self, a financial technology company, found New Jersey residents will pay an estimated $931,698 in taxes over the course of their lifetimes, the highest burden of all 50 states and 77% higher than the average American burden of $527,000. The findings are based on 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys and examines taxes on income, property, sales taxes and owning a car. New Jerseyans paid the highest percentage of earnings—49.5%—on taxes over the course of lifetimes as well. New Jersey Herald

A teacher and the principal from Maugham Elementary School in Tenafly have been placed on paid leave pending a district investigation into a controversial assignment that led to an 11-year-old student writing an essay from the perspective of Adolf Hitler. In a letter sent to parents, Tenafly Superintendent Shauna DeMarco said the assignment violated the district’s curriculum and that “an attempt to individualize the project resulted in the student receiving misguided instruction from the teacher” and the school erred in hanging the essay publicly in the school. The Record

The New Jersey Attorney General’s office plans to appeal the decision to dismiss the bribery and corruption case against former Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell. New Jersey Superior Court Judge Mitzy Galis-Menendez throw out the indictment because O’Donnell, as a candidate running to become mayor for Bayonne, had no power to make any promises in return for a $10,000 cash payment he allegedly accepted from an informant during an undercover sting operation. New Jersey Globe

Grand juries empaneled by the state’s Attorney General have issued 35 indictments against 81 people for allegedly selling or possessing illegal guns since March, in a bid to combat increased shootings in the state and a push by the governor to tighten the state’s gun laws. Investigators seized nearly 100 weapons, including 10 so-called ghost guns, in cases that include many out-of-state guns—some from an alleged trafficking ring officials previously said sold weapons from Philadelphia to Camden. At least 18 seized guns were from Pennsylvania and a dozen came from South Carolina, among other places, with 16 assault rifles, one machine gun and 53 illegally large ammunition magazines were taken overall.

State Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-31) pleaded not guilty to a charge of driving while intoxicated. Cunningham was arrested in connection to the March 4 crash on Culver Avenue in Jersey City and struggling to complete a field sobriety test . The Jersey Journal

Facing a potentially severe shortage of poll workers for the June 8 primary, the Legislature approved a number of changes topped by doubling poll worker pay to $400. The legislation would allow voting districts to be staffed by two workers instead of the usual four to six and permits National Guard members in civilian clothes to work the polls. Gov. Phil Murphy signed the measure into law hours after it was passed June 3. NJ Spotlight News

New Jersey would get a complete accounting for the first time of how many women and minorities sit on its nearly 500 state boards under a proposal that would pay Rutgers University researchers to create a first-of-its-kind database and website. Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) is drafting a resolution to ask for the state budget to include $250,000 for the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers to create and maintain a public database of state government appointments by race and gender.

And finally…The U.S. found no evidence of alien technology in unidentified flying objects, but can’t rule it out, either. The New York Times

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