New Jersey

It’s not all about the trains.

A survey of people who regularly take New Jersey Transit buses found they often show up late because of heavy traffic, and that bus stops frequently lack amenities that protect riders from the elements.

The survey of 250 bus riders was released Tuesday by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a transit-advocacy nonprofit focused on New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.

Tatiana Rodriguez emigrated from Uruguay when she was a child, but she is not covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which means she cannot legally get a driver’s license in the state of New Jersey.

The Elizabeth resident said, during a hearing in the state legislature on Monday, that the inability to drive has put a strain on her family.

“I have a six-year-old boy who asks me every day why I can’t drive him to school, why we can’t drive to his doctors appointments, why I cannot be behind the wheel to take him to his soccer games,” she said.

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New Jersey could ban all plastic and paper bags as well as polystyrene containers, in a move lawmakers say will address environmental and public health concerns associated with those materials.

While discarded plastics and polystyrene end up in waterways, littering beaches and harming marine life, humans can also ingest small pieces in the environment.

“When they get into your body, because you’re ingesting them, they also bring with them organic chemicals, some of which are carcinogenic,” said state Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex. “This is a public health crisis.”

“In 20 years of being in the legislature, I find this bill the most confusing,” said state Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex, during a Trenton hearing Thursday.

Yet just a few hours later, she and other lawmakers on the Senate Labor Committee voted 3-1 in favor of legislation that critics say would take money out of the pockets of some freelance workers and put others out of business altogether. Greenstein said she hoped additional amendments would address their concerns.

New Jersey’s top law enforcement official said a new set of rules will improve accountability and transparency among police officers and prosecutors in an era when the criminal justice system is under increased scrutiny.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal laid out the changes in a handful of directives released Wednesday that he said were unprecedented.

“These documents reflect the most significant restructuring of policing practices certainly during my tenure as attorney general, and perhaps in the history of the Office of the Attorney General,” Grewal said.

New Jersey prisons and jails may have to offer blood testing for hepatitis B and C to all incarcerated, under a proposal scheduled for a hearing Thursday.

The state Department of Corrections has come under fire from some criminal justice and public health advocates who say its policy of targeted screening for the virus falls short.

“Hepatitis is a scourge. There is no denying that. But thanks to breakthroughs in medicine, it is now a curable scourge,” said Dr. Aakash Shah, an emergency room physician and the medical director of the nonprofit New Jersey Reentry Corporation.

Legislation introduced at the very last second. Public hearings starting hours late. Lawmakers refusing to let audience members speak.

New Jersey advocacy groups say the public is increasingly shut out of the political process in Trenton, as state lawmakers continue “chipping away” at democratic norms that used to be standard practice in the statehouse.

A method long used by police to spot drivers who are high on drugs will go under the microscope in New Jersey.

The state Supreme Court this week ordered a hearing on the scientific reliability of the drug recognition expert, or DRE, methodology.

It comes after critics challenged the 12-step protocol in court, claiming that it was not grounded in science and that police officers were not trained as medical professionals.

New Jersey officials have announced a new goal to power more than three million homes using offshore wind energy by the year 2035.

The state is attempting to deal with a worsening climate crisis caused by fossil fuel use and also capitalize on a booming new clean energy industry.

“Here’s my message to the skeptics and the climate deniers, and it really is this simple: offshore wind is a win for our environment, a win for our economy, and a win for our future,” said Gov. Phil Murphy at an event in Jersey City on Tuesday.

Greeted by throngs of vocal protesters, South Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross told legislators at the Statehouse in Trenton on Monday that the state’s generous tax incentive program has succeeded in revitalizing distressed areas, particularly Camden.

The controversial insurance executive testified that, despite what critics say, Camden has turned a corner, in large part due to investment spurred by state tax breaks.

A group of New Jersey legislators wants to form a task force that would explore the possibility of reparations for African American residents of New Jersey.

Their proposal comes more than a decade after the Garden State publicly apologized in 2008 for its role in the Atlantic slave trade.

“Last I checked, where there’s a public admission of guilt, there has to be some type of repair or restitution made,” said Rev. Charles Boyer, pastor of the Bethel AME Church in Woodbury, New Jersey. “That’s what we’re looking for.”

Time is up for mandatory minimums in New Jersey.

Citing racial disparities in the prison population, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Thursday that he agreed with a state commission’s recommendation to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of nonviolent drug and property crimes.

“They haven’t served the cause of justice. They have devastated the lives of too many individuals and families, mostly people of color,” Murphy said, tying the harsh sentences to the War on Drugs of the 1980s. “It is past time that they are retired.”

Lawmakers in New Jersey voted to ban the sale of flavored vaping products Thursday, as part of a package of bills aimed at reducing e-cigarette use among youth.

The approval was seen as a blow to the vaping industry in New Jersey, which argued against the prohibition and claimed it could have unintended consequences.

“You’ll create a black market where the products will not necessarily be out of the hands of youth,” said Mark Anton, executive director of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association.

When Adriana Gomez was 2 years old, she moved to the United States from Mexico. Now, she is a full-time teacher in New Jersey.

She worries that she may lose her driver’s license if the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, is eliminated. The Supreme Court starts oral arguments for DACA’s future next week.

That’s why it is crucial that New Jersey enshrine the right of immigrants to get driver’s licenses, she said.

Citing thousands of computer science jobs going unfilled, the administration of Gov. Phil Murphy is offering $2 million in state grants for New Jersey schools to establish or strengthen their computer science programs.

At a Monday afternoon press conference announcing a new computer science state plan, Murphy said that increasing access to this kind of education is critical to training students for careers in high-tech.

Ang Santos / WBGO

Cardiology Associates of Morristown hosted their annual “Our Noble 90’s” event to honor patients that have made it to that age.

Cardiologist Dr. David Freilich says the practice has over 300 patients that are age 90 and above.

“I think it’s a reflection of the fact that people are getting older,” Freilich said.  “People are able to keep going, stay out of nursing homes, have a great life and make the best of it.  That’s what we are here to celebrate.”

Dr. Freilich’s mother was his inspiration to host the ‘Our Noble 90’s’ event.

Ang Santos / WBGO

A teacher in Ramsey, New Jersey is the latest recipient of a $25,000 award from an organization that honors educators for their work in the classroom.

Ramsey High School social studies teacher Daniel Willever can add the Milken Educator Award to his resume.  

U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.) was one of just two Democrats nationwide to oppose a House resolution Thursday that formalized the public impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

“Without bipartisan support I believe this inquiry will further divide the country tearing it apart at the seams and will ultimately fail in the Senate,” Van Drew said in a statement.

The Democrat’s stance did not come as a surprise to many. Van Drew had previously said he opposed impeachment, partially because he did not think the Senate would convict the president.

New Jersey is marking the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy with a new set of policies to address climate change.

At a press conference in Hoboken, Gov. Phil Murphy said the state faces increasing threats from climate change seven years after Sandy, which damaged tens of thousands of homes in New Jersey and killed dozens of people.

“Even though we know we’ll never have another Sandy,” Murphy said, “it would be naive of us to think that we won’t ever see one of Sandy’s siblings in New Jersey.”

More Latinx and Asian children in New Jersey are living without health insurance, according to a new report.

Researchers with the progressive think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective believe tougher immigration policies from the Trump administration are instilling fear in immigrant communities in New Jersey, where 85% of foreign-born residents hail from Latin America and Asia.

Two New Jersey lawmakers want to allow college athletes to earn money from sports, as more states look to lift a longstanding ban on students profiting from university athletics.

“Universities are making immense profits from their athletic departments, and while students receive scholarships, one serious injury can leave them with no scholarship, no way to pay for the remainder of their degree, and no real path on how to move forward with their life or their career,” said State Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson, who sponsored the New Jersey Fair Play Act.

An outlaw motorcycle gang with criminal tendencies is experiencing a resurgence in New Jersey, authorities say.

According to investigators with the New Jersey Commission of Investigation, the Pagans motorcycle club now has 17 chapters across the state, up from 10 a few years ago, and some of its members continue to break the law.

“It’s going to be hard to find a county where you don’t have a Pagan presence or have somewhere in the county where they’re not trying to establish a chapter,” said Edwin Torres, an SCI investigative agent.

A new report says New Jersey can do better when it comes to offering reentry services to former prisoners.

The report from the New Jersey Reentry Services Commission, which included advocates, legislators, and a former governor, listed 100 recommendations for the state to help people transition back into daily life.

“We as a society have created obstacles to them that can and should go away,” said attorney Larry Lustberg, who co-chaired the commission.

An association representing consumer reporting agencies filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday seeking to block a New Jersey state law that requires credit reports be made available in Spanish and 10 other languages.

The Washington, D.C.-based Consumer Data Industry Association claims the new state law is preempted by the federal credit reporting statute, and that it violates the First Amendment by “compelling speech” in other languages.

Companies that had been sued for workplace issues or were facing regulatory penalties still routinely received tax incentive awards from New Jersey, according to one of the top legal officials at the state’s Economic Development Authority.

Marcus Saldutti, senior legislative officer at the regulatory body, made the comments Thursday during the fourth public meeting of a task force set up to look into the state’s $11 billion tax break system.

Cape May County Sheriff Robert Nolan and the County of Cape May are suing the state attorney general’s office over a directive that blocks local police agencies from entering into agreements with federal immigration authorities.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court claims that New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has endangered the public safety of the county by restricting its ability to communicate with federal law enforcement.

New Jersey’s public schools could better equip themselves to provide mental health services to students, according to a new report.

An analysis from the New Jersey School Boards Association laid out strategies for districts interested in better serving students with mental health issues.

Frank Belluscio, deputy executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association, said one major factor is getting students to trust staff members.

State officials say New Jersey Transit will restore continuous service to midtown Manhattan on a popular rail line, thanks to an increased number of qualified engineers and strides in installing positive train control, a federally-mandated automatic braking system.

At a Monday press conference, Gov. Phil Murphy said the so-called one-seat rides would resume during off-peak hours on the Raritan Valley Line on November 4.

If you type “Andrew Kortyna” into Google, the top results reveal he was fired from a tenured professorship in Pennsylvania after he retaliated against two female students who accused him of sexual harassment.

But officials at Stockton University say they weren’t aware of that part of Kortyna’s record when they hired him in August to a $64,000-a-year post as a visiting assistant professor of physics.

Students say they raised concerns with administrators about the professor the day before the university’s board formally approved his hiring on Sept. 18.

New Jersey has announced an ambitious plan to replace all of its aging lead-lined water pipes in the next ten years.

The state also wants to help residents rid their homes of lead-based paint, which is the leading cause of lead poisoning.

“It’s a problem that’s been handed to us by years — and in some cases, by generations — of inaction. Well, this is our time for action,” said Gov. Phil Murphy during a Thursday press conference.