New Jersey

This summer will be remembered as one of the hottest ever in New Jersey.

State climatologist Dave Robinson says this was the 5th warmest summer on record in Garden State.

“Our nighttime temperatures were more unusually warm than were our daytime temperatures, in part because it was so darn humid for much of the summer and the humidity helps to hold in the daytime heat during the night. It doesn’t allow that daytime heating to escape.”  

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is defending the state Education Department’s decision to hire a former Passaic City councilman who served prison time for taking bribes from undercover FBI agents.

The administration determined Marcellus Jackson was eligible for his $70,000 special assistant job after conducting a legal review.

Governor Murphy says people who admit they made a mistake, repent, and paid their price need to get back on their feet in society.

Governor Phil Murphy is announcing the first round of expanded funding for preschool programs in New Jersey.

Murphy says the $20.6 million for 31 school districts will increase or enhance pre-school programs for more than two thousand 3-and-4-year-olds in the Garden State.

“In some cases, improving or expanding means going from part day to full day or providing more services. In other cases, you’re going from not having it at all to a reality.”

New Jersey lawmakers are trying again on legislation to help increase the stock of affordable housing in the state.

They propose that towns use their housing trust funds to buy foreclosed residential properties and convert them into affordable housing for double credits toward their affordable housing obligations.

Staci Berger with the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey says it’s a creative solution.

A New Jersey lawmaker wants to ban smoking in more outdoor public places.

A law Governor Murphy signed this summer that imposes a statewide smoking ban at New Jersey beaches and parks will take effect in January.

A bill introduced by Senator Shirley Turner would expand the ban to boardwalks, marinas, historical sites, racetracks, amusement parks, and other outdoor recreational and sports facilities.

New Jersey plans to use the state’s database to better predict where the next opioid overdose might happen. 

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says the state already has a lot of data about the locations of overdoses and first responders’ use of the Narcan antidote to save lives.

“We are starting to take that information to identify overdose hotspots or to integrate that with pawn shop data to see where stolen goods are being sold and who’s selling them and to marry all that up to have profiles of our next potential overdose victim.”

The Partnership for Policy Integrity says energy companies in Pennsylvania are refusing to identify potentially harmful chemicals used for drilling and fracking.

New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel hopes the dangers of fracking waste will convince Governor Murphy to ban it in New Jersey.

“You can’t treat it because, one, you don’t even know what you’re treating. Two, the facilities in the Delaware Basin can’t take out all these different chemicals. So if you can’t treat it, then you have to ban it”

Governor Phil Murphy is advising New Jersey residents to prepare for the potential impact of Hurricane Florence.

Murphy says the remnants of Florence are expected to move into the area sometime between Saturday and Tuesday.

“If you look at the models that are predicting the track of this, we’re not going to get a direct hit. So it’ll be some about of rain and some amount of high winds and obviously you get concerned high tides as well mixing in that.”

The Governor says he’s hoping for the best, but the state is taking precautions.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s’ executive order that puts state owned lands off limits for this year’s bear hunt got mixed reviews at a meeting of the Fish and Game Council.

Janet Piszar is the founder of Public Trust Wildlife Management, a bear protection group.  She’s upset that Governor Murphy did not fulfill a campaign promise to completely ban the bear hunt.

“When does eliminating land for the bear hunt constitute a ban? Murphy has lost credibility.”

A new study finds millennials in New Jersey are not fleeing the state at a greater rate than young people in the past.

Cliff Zukin, a professor at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, says 18-to-39-year-olds are the most likely to move out of state, but only a small percentage of them leave. 

One-and-a-half million dollars in criminal forfeiture funds are being used to equip New Jersey State Police with body cameras, and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal all road troopers should have them by the middle of next year.

Grewal says when law enforcement officers and citizens know their encounters are being recorded, they behave better. He says there are thousands, maybe even millions, of those interactions in the state each year.

Hundreds of New Jersey residents rallied outside the Statehouse in Trenton urging lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license.

Johanna Calle, the director of New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, says it’s frustrating that the legislature has not acted on the measure.

New Jersey plans to double the number of medical marijuana dispensaries to keep pace with increased demand and there’s a lot of competition to get those licenses.

Since Governor Murphy ordered an expansion of the medical marijuana program earlier this year the number of patients has increased to more than 30,000.

106 groups met the August 31st deadline to submit applications for six new alternative treatment center licenses.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says he plans to announce a new directive on state and local law enforcement’s relationship with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Grewal says the 2007 directive does not reflect the immigration realities of today.

“If federal immigration authorities have a criminal warrant and they need our assistance in executing criminal warrants, we’ll cooperate. But we’re not here as state law enforcement officers to enforce civil immigration laws.”

New Jersey is the first state to adopt a rule that sets a maximum contaminant level in drinking water for the hazardous chemical compound PFNA and requires all water companies to test for it.

Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Hajna says the testing is mandatory starting in January and water companies will have to install a filtration system to remove PFNA if levels exceed 13 parts per trillion.

controlled burn
New Jersey Forest Fire Service

 

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service is developing new guidelines for prescribed burning in the Pinelands and on other public and private lands. WBGO’s/WHYY’s Phil Gregory reports.

 

Legislation recently signed by Governor Phil Murphy gives the Fire Service more flexibility in using controlled burns conducted with handheld torches.

 

ragweed plants
Dr. Leonard Bielory

Ragweed will soon be causing problems for people with allergies.

Dr. Leonard Bielory is an allergy expert who tracks the pollen count in New Jersey. He says ragweed plants are growing rapidly.

“Tall ragweed normally goes one, two, three feet. Now we’re seeing three to four feet. They’re just growing like a crop of corn about ready for harvest. And once we get a dry spell, people are going to feel very strong release of pollen.”

Bielory expects ragweed pollen will intensify in the first two weeks of September.

New Jersey’s gas tax will be going up October 1st.

The state Treasury Department says lower fuel consumption over the last two years necessitates raising the gas tax 4.3 cents a gallon. That's to comply with the 2016 law that requires a steady stream of revenue to support New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund program.

Senator Mike Doherty voted against the 23-cents gas tax hike two years ago, and he’s not surprised the tax is going up again.

A New Jersey lawmaker wants the state Attorney General to empanel a grand jury to investigate sexual misconduct in New Jersey's catholic dioceses.

Senator Joe Vitale is making that request after a Pennsylvania grand jury reported that 300 priests sexually abused more than a thousand children over more than 60 years.

“Some of the priests that were mentioned in the Pennsylvania grand jury report were transferred to New Jersey where they continue to be part of the institution and have access to children.”

The price of gasoline hasn’t changed much this summer, but an analyst predicts it’ll soon start costing less.

The average nationwide price of a gallon of regular gas is now $2.83.

Tom Kloza, the global head of energy analysis at the Oil Price Information Service in Wall, New Jersey, expects a switch to less-expensive winter blends will help push prices down in September and October.

Two New Jersey lawmakers have introduced a measure to provide $20 million from the state’s general fund to increase the purse money at horse racing tracks in the state.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli says the horse farm business in Jersey has suffered since casino subsidies for the race tracks ended in 2010.

He says sports betting might not be enough to make New Jersey tracks competitive with those in Pennsylvania and New York that have casinos.

We’re having a heat wave, and this could end up being the warmest August on record in New Jersey.

State climatologist Dave Robinson says a persistent pattern of warm air from the south is making this an unusually hot month.

“It’s been about 4 degrees above normal in August. That may not sound like a lot. But when you average that day in and day out you can really the notice the difference. And as matter of fact August is going to end up being in absolute sense a little bit warmer than July. July normally being the warmest month of the year.”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has vetoed legislation that would have made oil companies and their staff not liable for damages resulting from spills during the delivery of home heating oil.

New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel says it was a bad bill that would have put the environment and homeowners at risk.

After Governor Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed a bill seeking a one billion dollar bond act to fund school improvements, New Jersey's legislature voted unanimously to go along with Murphy's advice to cut the proposed borrowing in half.

In his veto message, Murphy endorsed the goals of the legislation. But he raised concerns about the debt load from borrowing a billion dollars to improve school security, expand vocational-technical schools and community colleges, and help schools pay to replace water pipes.

Senate President Steve Sweeney says he's disappointed.

Governor Murphy and Democratic legislative leaders in New Jersey say they’ll take whatever steps they can to challenge a proposed IRS rules change that could block the state’s workaround of the federal $10,000 cap on state and local tax deduction. 

A state law enacted in response to federal tax code changes would allow resident to get a tax deduction for contributions to new charitable funds municipalities create to help pay for local services.

With Governor Murphy’s expected veto of a measure that would have imposed a 5-cent fee on single use plastic and paper bags, New Jersey lawmakers will consider another bill that would ban plastic bags, straws, and Styrofoam containers.

New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel says a plastic bag ban in California has had a significant impact.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is expected to veto legislation next week that would impose a 5-cent fee on single-use plastic and paper bags.

Senate Environment Committee chairman Bob Smith got applause from environmental group leaders when he announced the upcoming veto at a legislative hearing in Toms River to examine how to reduce plastic waste.

Doug O’Malley, the director of Environment New Jersey, says the bag fee bill would have prevented towns that haven’t already banned plastic bags from enacting a local prohibition.

For the second time this summer syringes and medical waste have washed up on some New Jersey beaches.

Cindy Zipf, the executive director of Clean Ocean Action, says syringes that are tossed away many miles from the beach are washed into the ocean by heavy rains that storm drains and sewer systems can’t handle.

Legislation signed by Governor Phil Murphy creates the New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation, and Technology.

Murphy says the 17-member-panel replaces a science and technology commission that was defunded in 2010.

“We’re getting back to our core mission of making New Jersey the home for cutting edge research and innovation that improves and saves lives, creates good jobs, and changes our world for the better.”

Michael Johnson, the CEO of biotechology company Visikol in Whitehouse Station, is excited about the new commission.

A bill signed into law by Governor Murphy expands the use of public-private partnerships to develop essential projects and grow the state’s economy.

Senate President Steve Sweeney says those partnerships helped colleges get private capital to build new facilities, and the bill he sponsored will give the state, county, and local governments more flexibility to advance critical infrastructure projects.

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