Good Thursday morning!
Gov. Phil Murphy’s latest push for opening up abortion access isn’t getting anywhere in the Legislature, but his gun control package is.
While Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin has been at least verbally supportive of the new restrictions all along, most had a tougher time in the state Senate. But yesterday, around the same time the Assembly was hearing nine gun control bills — most of which had been proposed by Murphy, or are slightly different versions of his bills — the Senate scheduled a committee meeting for today to consider most of them. It appears to all be tied to budget negotiations.
These include measures that would ban the sale of .50 caliber BMG rifles, require safety training to get a handgun purchase permit and restrict the sale of body armor. Not on the Senate committee agenda: requiring guns to be stored in safes or lock boxes and raising age to purchase rifles from 18 to 21.
Would these measures do anything to stop mass shootings or reduce other types of gun violence? I don’t know. The .50 caliber rifle is expensive so isn’t in your average criminal’s hand, though I found this old government report online about criminal activity “associated” with the weapon. It’s worth noting that the Buffalo supermarket shooter wore body armor that stopped a bullet fired by a security guard. A bill that passed the New York Legislature would only ban soft vests — not the type worn by the shooter. The New Jersey version, from my reading of it, has a broader definition body armor, one Assembly Republicans said would even include bulletproof backpacks.
Of course, the Supreme Court could come out with an opinion soon that would blow a hole in New Jersey’s gun control laws.
DAYS SINCE MURPHY REFUSED TO SAY WHETHER HIS WIFE’S NONPROFIT SHOULD DISCLOSE ITS DONORS: 127
WHERE’S MURPHY? — In Washington for a White House meeting on offshore wind
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “People want someone in your corner if something’s happening to you. I’d be the first to get out of a car. That’s in my blood. It’s in my bones. You never give up the gun. You die with the gun.” — Trenton Councilmember George Muschal, who refused to drop his gun when asked by a cop responding to his neighbor’s 911 call about a burglary. Councilmember Robin Vaughn had claimed Muschal waved the gun at police, which body camera footage showed did not happen.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Assemblymember Pedro Mejia, Newark Board of Ed’s Asia Norton, The Jewish Standard’s Larry Yudelson
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REPUBLICANS CALL THE PROPOSAL A NUMBER 2… PENCIL — Murphy, legislative leaders announce ‘back-to-school tax holiday’ as part of budget deal, by POLITICO’s Carly Sitrin: Gov. Phil Murphy and legislative leaders, in a further sign budget negotiations appear to be going smoothly, announced Wednesday that New Jersey will be instituting a so-called back-to-school tax holiday later this summer as part of the overall budget agreement. The 10-day sales tax exemption will apply to school supplies, some computers and other educational technology, and sports equipment. It will last from Aug. 27 to Sept. 5. … The agreement comes with accompanying legislation, NJ S1522, sponsored by Sen. Fred Madden and Assemblymember Paul Moriarty (both D-Gloucester) that will be adopted as part of the Legislature’s fiscal 2023 budget proposal.
WHAT ABOUT A GRASS TAX HOLIDAY? — “Why a NJ gas tax holiday is unlikely as Biden plans federal break to ease pain at the pump,” by The Record’s Katie Sobko: “New Jersey’s Democratic leaders are reluctant to suspend the state gas tax despite the call from President Joe Biden for states to consider following the federal government’s lead as inflation and the war in Ukraine cause prices at the pump to skyrocket. Gov. Phil Murphy and legislative leaders said that since the state’s gas tax is legally dedicated to the Transportation Trust Fund, which pays for road and bridge projects, suspending it would ultimately cost more than it saves. ‘Here’s the problem. It’s constitutionally tied to infrastructure projects, which you’d have to stop, and then when you restarted them it would cost all of us, including taxpayers, more money,’ Murphy said Wednesday. … Senate President Nick Scutari echoed that, calling it a ‘complicated issue’ because the state needs a stable funding source for the Transportation Trust Fund.”
SAME DIRECTION NEW JERSEY — “NJEA donates $750,000 to another political dark money group tied to Phil Murphy,” by The Record’s Ashley Balcerzak and Charles Stile: “The state’s largest teachers union donated $750,000 to a nonprofit tied to Gov. Phil Murphy called Stronger Fairer Forward, a dark money group that recently launched a $2 million ad campaign boosting the governor’s platform. The New Jersey Education Association wrote the check — which has not been previously reported by the media — on March 29 through its affiliated political committee, Garden State Forward, to Murphy’s nonprofit, according to a filing with IRS. … Between 2018 and 2020, the union gave $9.5 million to New Direction New Jersey, a nonprofit formed by Murphy’s former aides that set off a political fight in Trenton to pass a dark money law, which was later struck down by a federal judge.”
PHIS MURPHTIE — “Another absentee NJ governor? Murphy’s new video ads point to national aspirations,” by The Record’s Charles Stile: “Dan Bryan, executive director of the Stronger Fairer group, a nonprofit that has not disclosed its donors, dismissed the speculation that the $2 million ad campaign, which will be launched on TV, digital platforms and billboards, was designed to boost Murphy’s national profile. Bryan said the videos’ audience is solely the ‘four walls of New Jersey’ and that the new spots are consistent with past efforts to communicate Murphy’s agenda. … ‘This is a communication to New Jersey and for everyone in New Jersey,’ Bryan said. ‘This isn’t tied to a campaign or anything like that.’ Murphy’s immediate predecessor, Republican Chris Christie, was an absentee second-term governor, hopscotching the country, first as chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2014 and then as a presidential candidate the following year. … But if Murphy is playing a longer game, angling to be added to the stable of 2024 contenders by boosting his home-front standing, then that suggests plans to remain at the helm here — in theory, at least.”
FORE! — “Controversial Liberty State Park bill heads toward full vote of Assembly and Senate,” by The Jersey Journal’s Joshua Rosario: “Controversial legislation that could allow privatization of Liberty State Park barreled toward approval Wednesday when a state Assembly committee voted unanimously to send it for a full vote. … The members of the Assembly committee did not say much after hearing several dozen speakers plead their case for and against the bill. ‘I just wanted to point out, this is really about forming a task force so that all the options are discussed with different members of the community,’ said Assemblywoman and Committee Vice-Chair Lisa Swain.’ … We heard the bill is not perfect yet today, but it is still a work in progress and I know Assemblywoman McKnight is going to take those concerns to heart.” Next for the legislation is a full vote by both the Senate and Assembly.”
N.J. BARD ASSOCIATION DEMANDS VACANCIES BE FILLED ‘WITHIN THE FORTNIGHT’ — “N.J. bar association weighs lawsuit to fill judicial vacancies,” by New Jersey Monitor’s Nikita Biryukov: “The New Jersey State Bar Association is engaging constitutional scholars as it considers a lawsuit to force lawmakers to fill an unprecedented number of judicial vacancies that have entirely stopped certain types of trials in most of New Jersey’s counties. The bar has not decided yet whether it will pursue the suit, and it is still pursuing other, more diplomatic solutions to resolve logjams that have swollen the number of court vacancies to 67, Jeralyn Lawrence, the association’s president, said in an interview.”
MIDDLE-AGED MCBOOKER AT THE FARM — “‘Agriculture would disappear’: Advocates pushing for farm labor protections in NJ,” by The Record’s Lauren Sforza: “The United Farm Workers Foundation, an organization that advocates for the rights of farm workers, has been pushing lawmakers to pass new safety regulations and protections for farm workers, like implementing a national heat standard, banning pesticides that harm people and creating an accessible path to citizenship. …The United Farmer Workers Foundation invited every U.S. senator to participate in their ‘Take Our Jobs’ initiative, where a senator is paired with a farm to work alongside workers for a day to demonstrate how tough farm labor is. Teresa Romero, the president of the United Farm Workers, said New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was one of only two senators to accept the invitations and spend Friday morning working at the farm … harvesting lettuce and planting tomatoes while talking to the farm workers about labor protection laws and immigration reform.”
HOMELESSNESS — “Newark drops ban on program that brought 1,200 homeless people from NYC, paid their rent for a year,” by NJ Advance Media’s Steve Strunsky: “The move caps a legal battle that unfolded after New York City launched a program that pays one year’s worth of rent on apartments for individuals or families living in city homeless shelters. The Newark council voted to lift the restriction against New York’s Special One-Time Assistance program, or SOTA, on May 18. And Mayor Ras Baraka’s signed off on the change on May 24, following a federal judge’s ruling against the city in October. … Newark sought to dismiss the suit and, in a counterclaim against then-Mayor Bill DeBlasio of New York, asserted that his administration failed to properly administer the SOTA program because it didn’t conduct inspections and allowed clients to live in illegal or substandard apartments. Newark also alleged that some SOTA clients reported being coerced by New York to move to New Jersey against their will. Newark officials also expressed concern that SOTA clients would be on their own, possibly without employment, and vulnerable to lapsing into homelessness if they had not found jobs by the time their year of paid rent ran out.”
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMM… — “Prosecutor’s office seizes control of Irvington police internal affairs unit,” by NJ Advance Media’s Ted Sherman: “The Essex County Prosecutor’s office said it took over the Internal Affairs unit of the Irvington Police Department on Wednesday, but would not say why it took the unusual action. In a short statement, Acting Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens, II, said only that his office’s Professional Standards Bureau would be assigned to direct the operations of Irvington’s internal affairs unit and be responsible for all internal affairs investigations. … The police department’s internal affairs office has come under scrutiny in the past. In 2014, two former internal affairs officers filed suit against the township and then-Police Chief Michael Chase, alleging they were the victims of threats and other retaliation for prompting a misconduct investigation against the chief.”
WHEN VIRTUAL MEETINGS ARE JUST TOO MUCH — “Passaic councilman’s seat vacated after he misses months of meetings,” by The Record’s Matt Fagan: “After he missed too many consecutive Passaic City Council meetings, it was announced at Tuesday’s meeting that Councilman Salim Patel had vacated his council seat. City Council President Gary Schaer noted that Patel had missed the majority of meetings, all of which were virtual, since the first of the year. The state statute is quite clear, Schaer said: Miss meetings for eight weeks straight, and the seat is vacated. … Patel was present virtually Tuesday evening to apologize for his inability to attend council meetings. ‘The city deserves a representative that can fully meet the needs and its requirements of office,’ Patel texted after the decision. ‘I unfortunately have not been able to due to my work schedule.’”
HALF BAKED — “NJ home bakers can now sell their goodies, but Somerville is saying no,” by MyCentralJersey’s Jenna Intersimone: “Somerville resident Maria Winter is exactly the type of home baker that New Jersey’s new law permitting the sale of home-baked goods was supposed to benefit. … She believed she could make a few extra dollars for her 6-year-old son’s college fund by baking cookies at home and selling them. But then Somerville got in the way. Her application for a home business zoning permit, which would allow her to sell the sugar cookies from her 150-square-foot kitchen, was denied by Somerville for the first time in February. Winter was told by borough officials that she needed a zoning variance, pay a $1,000 application fee, deposit $4,000 into a borough escrow account, publish a public notice in the newspaper and notify all property owners within 200 feet of her home that there would be a public hearing on her application.”
HOOP DREAMS — “Camden celebrates a hoops rebirth. But critics wonder: Did they cheat their way to a championship?” by NJ Advance Media’s Keith Armstrong: “The Panthers represent hope as the city rebuilds, but the presence of the well-traveled star players also raises questions regarding residency, guardianship and fair play: Camden High assembled an all-state roster of players from six towns spread across five counties. A six-month investigation by New Jersey Advance Media … revealed that Camden skirted New Jersey scholastic norms to win a state title. While providing a national platform and supporting cast for [D.J.]Wagner, a skilled scorer at the center of a recruiting war between Kentucky and Louisville, school officials seemingly made sports-driven enrollment decisions en route to the championship. Talented players — who did not live in the city — played for a travel team that became Camden High’s farm system, were funneled to two magnet schools — one of which advertised unconventional academic standards — and given sweetheart tuition deals to play for Camden High. And all of this happened in a cash-strapped school district already under state control.”
HEALTH — “N.J. hospital released private info about celebrity chef Floyd Cardoz as he died of COVID, lawsuit says,” by NJ Advance Media’s Anthony G. Attrino: “The widow of celebrity chef Floyd Cardoz has filed a lawsuit against a hospital in Essex County claiming a doctor and other staffers released private health information without the family’s consent before and after the chef died of COVID two years ago. Barkha Cardoz said in court papers that health care workers at Hackensack Meridian Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair were consumed with Cardoz’s celebrity status and went public with medical treatment details — including his placement on a ventilator and his death on March 25, 2020. They released the information without authorization from his family, according to the suit filed in Superior Court in Essex County.”