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Governor Phil Murphy and Democratic legislative leaders in New Jersey say one of their priorities this fall is enacting legislation that would boost the state’s $8.60 an hour minimum wage to $15.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin says lawmakers are formulating a bill to do that but haven’t worked out all the specifics.

“We need to take a look at everything. There are differing views from all sorts of phases of the economy and segments of the population. We’re going to try to put together a bill that we know will pass.”

JOSE LUIS MAGANA / AP

The confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh continue. Watch the hearing live.

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.”

Puerto Rico panel
Ark Republic and Lisa Durden Unlimited Productions

A special panel discussion titled Puerto Rico: Nearly A Year After Hurriane Maria is set for Thursday night, September 6th at Rutgers Express Newark Lecture Hall.

Organizers of the program say it's time to talk about the disparity in how the U.S. responds to natural disasters according to race and class.

Recently, the death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria was upped dramatically to nearly three-thousand people.

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.

Governor Phil Murphy and members of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation are seeking the Trump administration's support for completing the multi-billion billion Gateway tunnel between the Garden State and Manhattan.

Gateway Development Authority trustee Jerry Zaro says a new tunnel is needed because the existing two train tunnels under the Hudson River need repairs.

A national survey by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers finds that a majority of Americans believe the economy is improving, but they’re worried about future job prospects.

Carl Van Horn is the Center’s director. He says even though unemployment is low, 57 percent of those surveyed consider the federal government’s handling of the job situation as only fair or poor.

7 in 10 Americans are worried that the country is being run for the benefit of the rich rather than for workers.

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.

Since Aretha Franklin's death on Aug. 16, the world has memorialized the soul icon in fitting fashion — as a Queen. So it's fitting a star-studded lineup will remember and pay tribute to her. Below, watch the live stream of the funeral service in Detroit.

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.

Ang Santos / WBGO

Stop the Bleed is a campaign created by medical and law enforcement experts, developed in the wake of active shooter events across the United States. Dr. Adam Fox with University Hospital in Newark lectures school nurses and staff on how to stop life threatening bleeding.

“The goal is two pronged.  The goal is to educate as many people as possible in the three easy techniques for bleeding control.  The second one is to identify, advise, and equip people with the tools they need to use this,” Dr. Fox said.

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.

When Detroit celebrates the life of Aretha Franklin on Friday, there will be more than 100 pink Cadillacs lining the road in front of the church where her funeral will occur. It's a tribute to the Queen of Soul and one of her biggest, Grammy-winning hits.

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.

SportsJam
Joe Favorito for WBGO News

2004 Olympic Boxing Gold Medalist and former super middleweight and light heavyweight champion of the world Andre Ward is the new host the reality boxing series The Contender which started its first episode last week on EPIX.

Andre “Son of God” Ward retired in 2017 after a professional boxing career record of 32-and-0, that’s right he never lost a pro bout.  He's joined on this edition of SportsJam with Doug Doyle by one of the 16 contestants on the show, Newark boxer and artist John Thompson IV.

Governor Phil Murphy has conditionally vetoed a bill requiring all New Jersey public school buildings to be equipped with a panic alarm linked with law enforcement agencies.

Murphy says the measure proposed funding the panic alarm systems through bonds issued by the Schools Development Authority that has nearly exhausted its borrowing capacity.  He wants a revision so the funds come from a new bond act that will be on the November ballot. He also wants the SDA to oversee the purchase and installation of the alarms.

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.

Pretty Woman
Michael Bourne for WBGO

Another new musical on Broadway comes from screen to stage.  Theater Critic Michael Bourne reviews Pretty Woman.

The musical is based on the 1990 film of the same name written by J. F. Lawton and starred Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.  The film captured in many people's opinion one of the most beloved romances of all time .

Broadway's Pretty Woman stars Samantha Barks and Andy Karl.

Kurt Kleinmann
Doug Doyle for WBGO

Kurt Kleinmann lives in Pompton Plains, New Jersey and has been married for 61 years.  The military veteran had a very successful career in pharmacy and was a long-time ski instructor.  But how Kurt got to the United States and what his family went through is the subject of the new book from Jeremy Dronfield, The Stone Crusher: The True Story of a Father and Son's Fight for Survival in Auschwitz.

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.

The latest poll numbers show New Jersey’s U-S Senate race is becoming more competitive.

Quinnipiac University polling analyst Mary Snow says Democrat incumbent Bob Menendez now has a slim 6 point lead over Republican challenger Bob Hugin. That’s down from the 17 point lead he had in March.

“Make no mistake Senator Menendez is still in the lead. And we should mention that 16 percent of voters who responded to the survey say they haven’t made up their minds.

So, there’s a long way to go.”

The Wife
Harlan Jacobson for WBGO

Just when we’re getting used to the noir-like crime stories from Sweden that started with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by writer Stieg Larsson about his alter ego Michael Blomqvist, the hard-bitten reporter swept up in murder, along comes a new film, The Wife, from Sweden also about a writer. 

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