New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed a new mental health parity law, creating stronger regulations on health insurers to cover behavioral treatments at the same level as physical care.

Inequity in coverage between physical and mental health care is already banned by federal law, but Governor Phil Murphy says there was little enforcement in New Jersey.  

“Unless we take the steps to close the gaps in access, individuals with mental health issues will continue to fall thought those gaps,” he said.

N.J. accountants: Impact of federal tax change mixed

Apr 5, 2019

Accountants in New Jersey say the new federal tax law has had a mixed impact in the Garden State.

One of the main issues has been a $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions, known as SALT, a limit that was expected to hit high-tax states like New Jersey the hardest.

Yet under the new law signed by President Donald Trump, tax rates have also dropped. And that’s evened out the tab for many filers.

The New Jersey Judiciary is asking for dedicated funding in the state budget to pay for the extra personnel and equipment required to operate its pretrial system.

In 2017, New Jersey virtually eliminated cash bail, and judges began deciding whether to keep defendants in jail before trial or let them go free based on the risk they posed to the public.

The changes affected courts across the state and required additional training as well as new staff and equipment.

Rates of recidivism and failure to appear for court increased slightly after New Jersey virtually eliminated cash bail in 2017, according to a report released Tuesday by the state Judiciary.

The data was viewed as a victory by state court officials, who said the increases were statistically insignificant and suggested critics were wrong to predict that releasing more nonviolent criminal defendants before their trials would wreak havoc on the justice system.

A massive forest fire that burned thousands of acres of land in the Pine Barrens over the weekend was “incendiary in nature” and “started by some humans,” state forest fire officials said Monday.

“There was not lightning in the area that was reported. There are no power lines that get to the area of origin,” said Brian Corvinus, the lead arson investigator for the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.

Corvinus would not say whether officials believe the fire was sparked by accident or started intentionally.

Just hours after New Jersey legislators backed a bill that would legalize medical aid-in-dying in the state, Gov. Phil Murphy vowed to sign it into law.

“Allowing terminally ill and dying residents the dignity to make end-of-life decisions according to their own consciences is the right thing to do,” Murphy said in a statement. “I look forward to signing this legislation into law.”

The medical aid-in-dying bill was controversial, and it passed both the state Assembly and Senate with the minimum number of votes.

The New Jersey Tax Incentive Task Force, a group formed by Gov. Phil Murphy to look into the state’s $11 billion tax break programs, kicked off its first public meeting Thursday with testimony from a whistleblower who said her former employer lied to get a lucrative tax break — and kept it, despite failing to meet the requirements of its agreement.

Gulsen Kama, a former high-level employee at the tax preparation company Jackson Hewitt, said the firm falsely claimed it was considering leaving New Jersey to secure a tax break meant to keep jobs in the state.

Legislative leaders in New Jersey canceled a scheduled vote Monday on a plan to legalize recreational marijuana, citing a lack of support from members.

State Sen. President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said the Senate specifically did not have enough votes to pass the legislation, but the Assembly also called off its planned vote.

“I might’ve underestimated the challenge in getting this passed,” Sweeney said. “We’re postponing today. But that does in no way mean that we have failed or that we’re walking away from it.”

Tom Brady. NyQuil. Blue Magic.

New Jersey law enforcement authorities are urging heroin users to ditch their drugs if they see any packages stamped with these logos.

“Please, please, stay away from it. Your next fix could very likely be your last,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal at a Thursday press conference.

The unusual warning followed what authorities said was a major bust of a heroin production facility at a luxury apartment in Harrison in North Jersey.

Officials estimated it was churning out 15,000 doses of fentanyl-laced heroin every day.

It’s been a little more than seven years since New Jersey’s Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment law, or POSLT was signed by former Governor Chris Christie, empowering patients to work with their preferred medical professional to create advance directives.  But still people end up in hospitals with no living will.  The Governor's Advisory Council Report on End of Life Care says more than a quarter of adults, including seniors, have no documentation available if they're not able to make healthcare decisions for themselves.

Advocates on either side of New Jersey’s school funding debate made their views clear in Trenton Wednesday, as legislators kicked off their first round of public hearings on the next fiscal year’s budget.

Although the meetings are open to anyone who wants to speak, testimony was dominated by those weighing in on recent changes to the state’s school funding formula, which reduced aid to some districts and increased it to others.

New Jersey has become the second state to ban “cashless” businesses. Proponents characterize it as an attempt to ensure that consumers without credit cards can participate in the economy.

It comes at a time when retailers such as Amazon are rolling out cashless stores that only accept credit cards in the name of efficiency.

Two key committees in the New Jersey Legislature have approved bills to legalize recreational marijuana and allow past offenders to expunge their criminal records.

Gov. Phil Murphy and top Democrats in the Legislature have long agreed on legalization in principle but had been negotiating the details of such legislation for months.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee held votes on the two bills late Monday night, following hours of delays and last-minute amendments to the legislation.

Law enforcement officials in New Jersey have announced the first criminal charges filed under the state’s new “ghost gun” law.

Signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in November, the law bans manufacturers from selling partially assembled guns that can be built into fully functional, untraceable firearms.

Cory Booker
Joe Hernandez for WBGO News

At a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Friday, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., all but confirmed he would pick a woman as his vice president if he won the Democratic nomination for president.

“No matter what — I’m looking you in the eye and saying this — there will be a woman on the ticket,” Booker told the crowd at the Salt Hill Pub in Lebanon.

“I don’t know if it’s in the vice president’s position or the president’s position, but if I have my way, there will be a woman on the ticket,” he added.

The man at the center of a hiring scandal in New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration said Tuesday he did not know who approved him for a job in state government months after a colleague accused him of rape. He has denied the allegation.

New Jersey’s perennial quest to find new sources of revenue has returned to a familiar idea: selling ads on state government websites.

A proposal in the state Legislature would allow the New Jersey Lottery and the state Economic Development Authority to sell ad space on their sites to raise money for the state budget.

“We struggle with funds as a state being dedicated and not having enough money in the till,” said Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, D-Passaic, one of the bill’s sponsors.

New Jersey lawmakers are considering a plan to offer parole to older inmates who are imprisoned for less serious crimes. The move could save the state millions of dollars and extend compassion to offenders who are not a public safety threat, they said. 

If signed into law, New Jersey would be the 18th state to offer “geriatric parole.”

New Jersey’s Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill Thursday evening that would dramatically expand the state’s statute of limitations for sexual assault, allowing survivors to file civil lawsuits against their abusers for conduct that took place years or even decades earlier.

The upvote on a bill that had stalled in the Legislature in previous years came after hours of raw testimony from survivors about the abuse they had endured and the struggles of seeking justice with the state’s two-year limit.

A possible fight over transportation funding in New Jersey’s next state budget could end before it really started.

In his second state budget proposal Tuesday, Gov. Phil Murphy suggested increasing New Jersey Transit’s funding by $25 million.

The proposal prompted immediate pushback from Democrats in the Legislature, with whom Murphy will have to negotiate in order to pass his budget plan.

State Sen. President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said he wanted to see even more money funneled into the ailing transit agency.

Gov. Phil Murphy is again calling for New Jersey to raise its income tax rate on millionaires, a proposal that was shot down last year by legislative Democrats as the state hurtled toward a government shutdown.

In his second proposed budget, which he announced Tuesday, Murphy suggested expanding the state’s highest income tax bracket of 10.75 percent to include anyone making more than $1 million per year.

Murphy predicts it would mean additional $447 million if the state expanded its highest income tax brackets.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Monday that medical experts can testify about whether they believe plaintiffs are malingering, or faking the symptoms of an injury for personal gain.

Although such testimony was already occurring in civil cases across the state, the ruling formalizes the acceptance of testimony on malingering in New Jersey and sets standards for how it’s applied.

Booker again introduces marijuana legalization bill

Mar 1, 2019

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey has reintroduced legislation to legalize marijuana at the federal level.

The second-term Democrat said marijuana use is so common — even among politicians — that people should no longer go to prison for it.

“You have people being punished for doing things that two of the last three [U.S.] presidents admitted to doing,” Booker said Thursday on Facebook Live. “You have congresspeople and senators now wanting to admit their marijuana usage, at the same time that people are in jail for doing what they admitted.”

A Monmouth University poll released Monday shows residents perceive their quality of life in the Garden State at an all-time low.

“The fact that this number just goes down year after year after year to a 40-year low really tells you something,” said Monmouth University polling director Patrick Murray.

The current positive rating of 50 percent is a drop from the 54 percent Monmouth counted last year and an all-time low for the question in New Jersey public polls.

Ang Santos / WBGO

2010 Census statistics show most children under age 5 that weren’t counted live in what’s called “hard to count” areas.  Experts say these are generally majority minority, low poverty municipalities.

“I can say that my wife and I are taking it so seriously, that since the last census count, we’ve had three children,” said Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh, who jokes about it but understands that his city has one of the largest populations of undercounted children in New Jersey.  That’s why Paterson created a Complete Count Committee.

Taxes paid by New Jersey fire insurance policyholders into a fund meant to help the state’s firefighters largely go unused, according to a report released Wednesday by the state comptroller.

The New Jersey State Firemen’s Association and local firefighters relief organizations across the state have amassed nearly $245 million to help needy firefighters, but they can only spend it in limited circumstances so much of the money remains in reserve.

“This money has sat unused for decades,” said Andrew Cliver, assistant director of the comptroller’s investigations division.

As the New Jersey legislature prepares to vote on a $15 minimum wage bill, advocates for restaurant employees are making their case to ensure the industry isn’t left out.

Seven states have a ‘One Fair Wage’ bill, where restaurant employees make the state minimum wage with tips on top.  Opponents of the restaurant wage hike say it would hurt the industry, particularly small businesses.  Advocates believe otherwise.

The Garden State has moved one step closer to legalizing the personal use of marijuana, following votes by two key legislative committees.

The Senate and Assembly Judiciary committees voted Monday to approve a bill that would legalize the adult use of one ounce or less of marijuana.

State Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said the bills would be posted for a full vote after top Democratic lawmakers worked out the details with Gov. Phil Murphy, who supports legalization.

Ang Santos / WBGO

Downtown Cranford, NJ was recently voted one of the best in the Garden State.  

WBGO's Ang Santos visits the municipal building to talk with Gabe Bailer, director of Downtown Business and Economic Development in Cranford.  They discuss why the downtown district has attracted so much attention and the importance of Small Business Saturday.   

To listen, click the link above.

Ang Santos / WBGO

Many New Jersey voters encountered long lines and malfunctioning machines at the polls yesterday.  

A lot of voters who mailed in ballots in 2016 had to use provisional ballots at the polls this time. That’s because a new law signed by the governor this year that automatically lists them as mail-in voters.  It caused problems at the polls, but Murphy says it expanded voter participation.

“While it may have brought some confusion, four hundred thousand people, over four hundred thousand people voted by mail, a third of them we believe are new voters.”