North Jersey News Roundup for June 8, 2021

Gov. Phil Murphy plans to close New Jersey’s only women’s correctional facility after receiving an outside report on conditions that he labeled as “disturbing.”  The decision on closing Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women (EMCF) coincides with the publishing of a Murphy-ordered independent investigative report of the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) prepared by former State Comptroller Matt Boxer and the law firm Lowenstein Sandler LLP after the cell extractions at the facility that occurred on Jan. 11 that has lead to criminal charges against corrections officers. Asked about Commissioner Marcus Hicks’s job status, Murphy only offered “No news to make on leadership, but I’m very disturbed by the report. I’ll just leave it at that.”

The report brought a new round of calls from New Jersey lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks to be fired. “The fact remains we need new leadership…from the outside,” said State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37). “I don’t believe that somebody who has grown up through the ranks … within the institution is the proper person to actually oversee a cultural change there.”

Polls are open across the state on Primary Election Day. Among the key races in North Jersey is the bitter contest to be the State Senator Democratic nominee in the 37th Legislative District between Assembly members Gordon Johnson and Valerie Vainieri Huttle as well as those looking to replace them in the lower house. Across the aisle, the contested battles to be the GOP nominee in the Assembly are taking place in the mostly Morris County seat in the 26th Legislative Districts and the 39th in Bergen County as well as the party choosing who will take on Phil Murphy in the Fall in the race for governor. NJ Spotlight News

More than $1.6 million in spending by independent committees mostly is being targeted on two contested districts in the June 8 primary election, according to disclosure reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. Legislative District 26 has drawn the most independent spending—$903,887 or 45% more than candidate outlays. District 37 has drawn substantial independent spending as well with $722,098, nearly 32% more than candidate spending themselves. Insider NJ

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka is accusing an Essex County Sheriff candidate of fabricating an endorsement in advance of the Democratic primary. John Arnold, a former deputy Newark police director, used Baraka’s image and a fictitious quote on a campaign flyer touting an endorsement from the mayor. But Baraka is supporting the 11-term incumbent, Armando Fontoura, for the Democratic nomination. New Jersey Globe

A Rutgers-Eagleton survey released June 7 shows 55% of the state’s adults approve of Gov. Phil Murphy’s performance, while 40% disapprove. The latest results remain slightly higher than the governor marks before the coronavirus pandemic, when Murphy had a 52% approval in an April 2019 poll and 43% in a November 2018 survey. PoliticoNJ

Teachers and students in New Jersey may remove their masks in school during a scorching heat wave, Gov. Phil Murphy explained at a recent press briefing. “Our current masking requirements do include exceptions for cases of extreme heat in outdoor settings and for situations indoors or outdoors where wearing a mask would inhibit the individual’s health,” remarked Murphy. “School officials are empowered to relax masking among students and staff in their buildings, given extreme weather conditions, and we hope they will make the right calls for their educational communities.” New Jersey Herald

State officials previewed new guidance to be released June 9 that children or staff members at New Jersey Summer camps will not be required to wear masks outdoors as the state updated coronavirus guidance to match new federal recommendations. Fully vaccinated campers and staffers will not be mandated to wear masks indoors at camps, though unvaccinated people will still be required to wear masks with limited exceptions. Unvaccinated campers and staffers will still be “strongly encouraged” to wear masks outdoors.

After published reports revealed managers at state-run veterans’ homes were paid COVID-19 bonuses they were ineligible to receive, State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-26) again took aim at the Murphy Administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. “The audacity of these bungling bureaucrats to accept COVID payoffs after the horrors they brought on the residents and healthcare workers is beyond appalling,” said Pennacchio in a press statement. “Unfortunately, given the administration’s complete lack of transparency, it isn’t surprising. Repeatedly, the pandemic has been used as a shield to obscure questionable actions from public and legislative scrutiny.”

New Jersey’s Supreme Court approved a plan to identify many police officers disciplined for misconduct, allowing the state’s attorney general to name officers who were found guilty of wrongdoing. In a unanimous ruling, the state’s highest court found authorities can identify officers subjected to “major discipline” such as giving false testimony, drinking on the job or abusing family members going forward but held that officers who were disciplined prior to last year can go to a judge to seek to block the public disclosure. The Daily Record

A U.S. Senate investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has uncovered broad government, military and law enforcement missteps before the violent attack, including a breakdown within multiple intelligence agencies and a lack of training and preparation for Capitol Police officers who were quickly overwhelmed by the rioters. The report includes new details about the police officers on the front lines who suffered chemical burns, brain injuries and broken bones and who told Senators that they were left with no direction when command systems broke down. It recommends immediate changes to give the Capitol Police chief more authority, to provide better planning and equipment for law enforcement and to streamline intelligence gathering among federal agencies. News12 New Jersey

Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a blunt message to undocumented migrants hoping to reach the United States: “Do not come.” While President Joe Biden campaigned on unwinding some of the Trump administration’s border restrictions, allowing migrants to apply for asylum at the U.S. border, Vice President Harris amplified the White House’s current stance that most of those who crossed the border would be turned away and would instead need to find legal pathways or protection closer to their home countries. The New York Times

State legislators recently introduced two bills designed to improve reporting and collection of bias and hate crime information in the state of New Jersey. These actions come as hate crimes in the state have been on the rise over the past three years. Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) introduced legislation to require the New Jersey Attorney General to publish bias crime data every month; current law mandates the Attorney General to publish this information quarterly. In the State Senate, that body’s Law and Public Safety Committee advanced bill S-2268 to require the New Jersey Attorney General to report bias intimidation offenses to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for inclusion in their annual report on hate crimes.

Tenafly parents in the fifth-grade class jointly announced their support for the teacher and student involved in the controversial assignment about Adolf Hitler during the school board’s June 7 meeting. In their statement, read by multiple parents, the student told her classmates that she spoke as Hitler to show how he was a “horrible man” and spoke in his point of view, not her own. “We discussed that only by learning about Hitler’s motivations can we begin to understand why so many followed him and why his rise to power was facilitated,” said the statement, which was put together with input from the students. According to the parents, before the student gave her presentation, the teacher, who is Jewish, had been hesitant about the report, but decided to let the student go through with it after getting input and advice from her rabbi. The Record

State lawmakers have begun the process of expanding New Jersey’s prescription drug benefit programs to more than 20,000 additional seniors, as outlined by Gov. Phil Murphy in his 2022 budget plan. Under the proposal, income limits for both Pharmaceutical Assistance for the Aged and Disabled and Senior Gold would increase by $10,000. They would be $38,769 for a single person and $45,270 for a married couple in PAAD, with those thresholds $10,000 higher under Senior Gold.

BAW Development has closed on the $94 million financing for its redevelopment of the historic Hinchliffe Stadium project in Paterson. The financing for the Hinchliffe Stadium Neighborhood Restoration Project, which includes the athletic facility, a restaurant, senior housing and more, comes from a combination of private loans, tax credits and other vehicles, includes a $60 million construction loan from Goldman Sachs, $10 million in tax credits from U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp., and $21 million in tax credits from four Community Development Entities.

And finally…Bruce Springsteen will return to Broadway with shows running from June 26 through Sept. 4 at the St. James Theater. The New York Times

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.