New Jersey

A top New Jersey lawmaker wants to change the state constitution to dedicate $500 million for public transit each year.

Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said the constitutional amendment is necessary to ensure New Jersey Transit has a reliable funding stream and guard against the ebb and flow of annual budgetary priorities.

“If you constitutionally dedicate funding, then they can rely on that funding year after year,” Sweeney said of the agency.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced five legislative proposals Wednesday that would drastically overhaul the state’s ethics rules for government officials, in what he called the first comprehensive reform in a decade.

“These proposals will shine light into the dark corners of our politics and re-instill faith, as best we can, that those elected to serve are there to serve the people, all of the people, not the special [interests] or their own interests,” Murphy said.

Katie Brennan, who accused a former campaign staffer for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy of raping her during the Democrat’s 2017 gubernatorial bid, has recommendations for how to improve the system for victims of sexual assault and harassment.

Brennan, who now works in Murphy’s administration, made the proposals last week in a letter her attorney sent to the Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey Politics, which was recently formed by state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has floated legislation that would crack down on sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. He made the proposal as he defended himself over allegations of a toxic atmosphere on his 2017 gubernatorial campaign and after a year-long review of state law on the subject.

The legislation would clarify what counts as a “hostile work environment” in New Jersey law. It would also require all public and private employers to enact policies around harassment and discrimination.

For Aubrey Navarro-Conway, who has Type 1 diabetes, the constant question of how she will be able to afford insulin made her desperate and self-conscious.

“It took me a long time to understand that the only people who should be embarrassed are the pharmaceutical companies that are getting rich off the desperation of me and patients like me,” she said.

People wanting to be anything from an accountant to an acupuncturist in New Jersey need to obtain professional licenses before they can ply their trade.

A proposal in the state Legislature would make certain immigrants living in the state eligible to apply for and obtain those licenses, which supporters said would invigorate the economy and bring some immigrants out of the shadows.

One died while commanding troops during the Civil War. The other helped secure women the right to vote by passing the 19th Amendment. Which should be honored in the halls of the U.S. Capitol?

The historical debate was thrown into stark relief Monday as the New Jersey Senate considered a bill that would replace a statue of Brig. Gen. Philip Kearny with one of suffragette Alice Paul in the National Statuary Hall Collection in Washington, D.C.

Gov. Phil Murphy said New Jersey is ready to go to court with the Trump administration over the state’s Immigrant Trust Directive, which limits cooperation between local and state law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.

On Monday, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the Murphy administration over the policy, which it says is unconstitutional.

“We will defend our position with great vigor, in particular on behalf of public safety,” Murphy said at a press conference on Tuesday. “The other side of the argument does not have the facts on their side.”

Some New Jersey lawmakers want college athletes to be able to earn money from their success in sports.

The Fair Play Act, passed by the state Senate on Monday, would allow players to strike endorsement deals using their name, image, or likeness.

“They can absolutely not accept pay. This is only about endorsements. They cannot be paid by the college or any other entity for their service as an athlete,” said Sen. Joe Lagana, D-Bergen, one of the sponsors.

The Trump administration has filed a lawsuit against New Jersey over a state policy that limits law enforcement agencies’ cooperation with federal immigration officials.

In a complaint filed Monday, Justice Department prosecutors said the so-called “Immigrant Trust Directive” violates the U.S. Constitution and should be invalidated.

“Today’s lawsuit, filed by the Department of Justice, seeks to restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments,” said U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.

Poll workers across New Jersey could see their first pay bump in nearly two decades, under a new proposal in the state legislature.

Legislation set for a public hearing Monday would raise poll worker pay to $300, up from the $200 daily rate that has been in effect since 2001.

“These people are there looking to do the job the best way possible, and it’s high time we compensate them for that,” said Assemblyman Kevin Rooney, R-Passaic, one of the bill’s sponsors.

Camden County will get $190,000 to expand access to medication assisted treatment. Hudson County will spend $203,000 on new recovery efforts for young people.

In all, 12 counties across New Jersey will receive a share of nearly $1.7 million in grant funding for programs to combat the opioid crisis.

Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said the “county innovation awards” were a way for Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration to be more responsive to the specific needs of local communities.

Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey are proposing a law to make work schedules more predictable for low-wage employees and give them a guaranteed 12-hour break between shifts.

It comes as cities and states across the country consider similar “fair work week” legislation to help workers in the retail and hospitality industries better plan their work schedules while leaving enough time in the day for their personal lives.

New Jersey will begin trying to stem the tide of gun violence at a new place: hospitals.

State officials announced Wednesday they were awarding $20 million in federal grant money to nine hospitals to create new violence intervention programs.

“These programs change the current ‘treat-and-release’ policies,” N.J. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said. “Policies that have forced hospitals to discharge vulnerable victims back into the same environment in which they were injured.”

Ang Santos / WBGO

New Jersey State Sen. Loretta Weinberg detailed the first steps in a plan to address the toxic political culture for women in the state.  She did so alongside a group of women with varied experience in state politics she calls the Workgroup on Harassment, Sexual Assault and Misogyny in New Jersey Politics.  

Weinberg’s group will host several listening sessions to encourage women to tell their stories without fear of retaliation.  

New Jersey will offer $5,000 rebates to drivers who buy electric cars and $500 to people who install charging equipment in their home, in a bid to accelerate the nascent industry and move the state toward a 100% clean energy economy.

Gov. Phil Murphy, who signed the law Friday, said switching from gas-powered to electric vehicles is key to fighting climate change in a state where the transportation sector accounts for more than 40% of greenhouse gas emissions.

New Jersey will eliminate surcharges on motor vehicle violations, which defendants are required to pay in addition to court-imposed fines and penalties.

Lawmakers and defense attorneys said New Jersey was one of just four states that levy additional surcharges on defendants for infractions like unsafe or drunk driving, a practice they suggested disproportionately impacts poorer residents.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has again called on the state Legislature to support a proposed income tax hike on millionaires, an idea he failed to realize last year.

Speaking during the annual State of the State address Tuesday, the Democratic governor said there was broad support for the idea as a way to raise revenue and fund his progressive political agenda.

“Overwhelming majorities of residents of all political stripes support this,” Murphy said. “We should too.”

Democratic leaders in the New Jersey Senate failed again on Monday to rally enough support for a controversial bill that would eliminate the religious exemption for mandatory childhood vaccines.

The monthslong effort inspired raucous protests at the Statehouse in Trenton from opponents who said requiring childhood vaccines would violate their religious beliefs.

Although the Assembly previously passed the measure, there were not enough votes in support of the bill in the state Senate on Monday, the last day of the two-year legislative session.

A judge ruled Friday that a major lawsuit against the state of New Jersey over racial and socioeconomic segregation in the public school system can move forward.

The complaint, first filed in 2018, alleges that New Jersey has de facto segregation of its public school system, because district boundaries roughly align with municipal boundaries, which are largely segregated by race and wealth.

Jewish and African American activists in New Jersey have teamed up to combat what they say is an increase in hate and bigotry across the state.

The new partnership between the Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, and the NAACP comes just weeks after a fatal shooting at a Jewish deli in Jersey City and amid continued fallout over anti-Semitic comments made by two separate New Jersey NAACP officials.

New Jersey lawmakers advanced separate election-related bills this week that aim to register more people to vote and change how the state draws legislative district maps.

The proposals were heard just a few weeks after Gov. Phil Murphy signed a measure into law that gives New Jersey residents on probation and parole voting rights.

The first bill would end the practice of so-called “prison gerrymandering,” in which states count people where they are incarcerated instead of where they previously lived for the purpose of drawing electoral maps.

A proposal in New Jersey would provide rebates of up to $5,000 to people who buy electric cars and set statewide goals for their future use, in what lawmakers hope will be a boost to an industry that is still eclipsed by traditional gas-powered automobiles.

Supporters said the move would also be a major step in fighting climate change in New Jersey, where the transportation sector accounts for more than 40% of greenhouse gas emissions.

New Jersey will provide $9.5 million to women’s health organizations across the state, including Planned Parenthood, that have seen a reduction in their federal funding.

The new state funding came in response to a rule imposed by the Trump administration that blocked recipients of Title X funding, such as Planned Parenthood, from referring patients to abortion providers.

Rather than complying with the rule, which some critics viewed as a violation of medical best practices, many organizations gave up their Title X federal funding.

New Jersey will extend voting rights to residents who are on parole or probation, allowing nearly 73,000 people across the state to cast ballots for the first time next year.

At a bill signing Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy said the sea change in criminal justice policy was part of his “second chance agenda” that prioritizes social justice and correcting historical racial discrimination.

“This is not and should not be one [political] party or the other,” Murphy said. “This is the right thing to do.”

Bernice McClain, of Lindenwold, is enjoying retirement.

“I don’t watch the clock,” she said. “The clock watches me.”

But now the former caseworker is applying for a job with the U.S. Census.

“I still enjoy talking to people and working with people. And like I said, I’m retired. Extra money,” she added.

McClain was one of many people who took part in census job fairs in Camden County on Thursday, where residents could apply to be census takers.

Ang Santos / WBGO

Law enforcement officials say the deadly attack in Jersey City on Tuesday, which left three civilians, one police officer, and the two suspects dead, is being investigated as an act of domestic terror. 

“The evidence points towards acts of hate," said New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.  "I can confirm that we are investigating this matter as potential acts of domestic terrorism fueled both by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs."

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.

Fiona Goodall / Getty Images

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.”