Phil Gregory

Statehouse Reporter

Phil has been the Statehouse Reporter in Trenton for both WBGO and WHYY in Philadelphia since 2009.

He’s a long-time reporter in the tri-state area. For 10 years he worked at Bloomberg Radio in New York City where he anchored coverage of several major events including the 9/11 attacks and the 2003 blackout. He also covered business and market news as a reporter from the New York Stock Exchange.

Phil is a native of the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania and started his broadcast career at WAEB in Allentown, PA where he advanced to become News Director. He was an award-winning reporter and anchor at radio stations WPTR, WFLY and WROW in Albany, NY and at WOBM in Toms River, NJ. Phil is a past President of the Empire State Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and has been a broadcast instructor at the New School of Contemporary Radio in Albany and at Monmouth University.

Outside of work he enjoys visiting historical, nature and entertainment sites.

Ways to Connect

Advocates are praising Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto's plans to improve New Jersey's paid family leave program.

Prieto's bill would increase the maximum family leave from six weeks to 12, raise the current $633 cap on weekly benefits to as much as $932, and expand the family members who qualify for paid leave to include siblings, grandparents, and parents-in-law.

Eric Richard with the New Jersey AFL-CIO says the current paid family leave law does not provide job protection for workers at firms with fewer than 50 employees.

Drug users desperate to kick the habit are now turning to some New Jersey police departments for help.

Brick Township police chief James Riccio says about 150 drug users showed up at police stations in Brick and Manchester Township since the Heroin Addiction Response program was launched in January

Governor Christie insists his proposed $300 million renovation of the New Jersey Statehouse is going to happen.

Several lawmakers concerned about the expense have filed a lawsuit to block the work. They say only the repairs needed to ensure the safety of the building should be done.

Christie says it won’t be scaled back while he’s the governor.

The New Jersey Assembly has passed a bill intended to strengthen protections against employment discrimination.

Assemblywoman Joann Downey says it would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about their employment history.

“There’s only one reason for that and that’s to be able to pay a person less if they can. If a job is worth something, it’s worth something to each and every person who comes in, especially a woman.”

Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt says the measure is another opportunity to take down a barrier toward equal pay.

New Jersey might ban the use of smokeless tobacco on school grounds.

Legislation to prohibit the use of that product in any area of a public school building has been advanced by the Assembly Education Committee.

Frank Belluscio with the New Jersey School Boards Association says the bill is in the interest of students’ health and safety.

“In many cases, young people just might not be aware. They’re not inhaling smoke and they might feel that chewing tobacco is like chewing bubble gum when in fact it does run the risk of both oral and throat cancer.”

Creating a false public alarm in New Jersey could mean decades behind bars if a bill advanced by an Assembly committee becomes law.

Assemblyman Gordon Johnson says his bill is a response to the string of bomb threats aimed at Jewish Community Centers, temples, and schools earlier this year.

'It's something that we as elected officials cannot accept and must do something in response. We can't allow anyone to be targeted because of their faith."

A bill advanced by a New Jersey Assembly committee would allow people convicted of driving with a suspended license to perform community services instead of going to jail.

Current law allows for a jail sentence up to 180 days.

Assembly Judiciary Committee chairman John McKeon says the intention is to make sure the penalty is appropriate.

Three lawmakers have filed a lawsuit to block the Christie administration's renovation of the New Jersey Statehouse.

Republican Senators Kip Bateman and Mike Doherty and Democrat Ray Lesniak claim the administration initiated the project without legislative or voter approval.

Bateman says that's just wrong.

A New Jersey lawmaker says legalizing recreational marijuana use in the state would create thousands of jobs and generate millions of dollars in tax revenue.

Senator Nick Scutari in introducing legislation that would legalize possessing up to an ounce of marijuana for those 21 and older and set strict regulations for production and sales.

He says it would not permit home growing, so regulators could focus on the facilities that would be licensed to produce and sell it.

The New Jersey Senate's Environment Committee will hold a hearing Monday on a plan to phase out the diversion of money intended for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

The so-called societal benefits charge on electric and natural gas bills is supposed to be used for those programs, but over seven years New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel says about $1.5 billion of that money has funneled into the state budget for other uses.

The Christie administration is providing more details about a plan to turn over New Jersey's lottery to the public employee retirement system.

State Treasurer Ford Scudder says a steady stream of revenue from the lottery would generate about $37 billion in pension funding over the next 30 years and reduce the general fund obligation to the system.

More patients might become eligible for New Jersey's medical marijuana program.

The state Medicinal Marijuana Review panel has voted to recommend that chronic pain related to muscular skeletal disorders, migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome, anxiety, Tourette's syndrome, and irritable bowel syndrome be added to the qualifying conditions for the program.

Roseanne Scotti, the state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, is thrilled with the decision.

A New Jersey Congresswoman is re-introducing legislation calling for more stringent federal review of proposed pipeline projects.

Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman says the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is rubber stamping pipeline projects with little regard for the public or the environment.

She says her proposed Safer Pipelines Act would assess regional needs for additional pipeline capacity and the environmental impact of proposed projects.

New Jersey's Supreme Court is clarifying some of the ground rules of the state's new bail system that took effect in January.

The state's highest has ruled the defense should have access to documents and reports prosecutors rely on when seeking to hold violent defendants without bail until trial.

Alexander Shalom, the senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey says the decision sends a strong message that detention hearings need to be meaningful, adversarial proceedings.

New Jersey plans something new to prevent delays at Motor Vehicle Commission offices.

The commission's chief administrator Ray Martinez says two mobile agencies will be available by the summer to be sent where needed in the state.

"We can bring those mobile agencies to do actual transactions. In situations where an office is down for some reason we can bring them in to augment processing or senior citizens locations or things like that."

Martinez says wait times have gotten shorter since last summer when computer problems resulted in long lines.

New Jersey Transit is making efforts to minimize lost revenue from uncollected fares.

The conductors' union says the agency might have lost more than $5 million in fares last year because more than 240,000 tickets weren't collected on overcrowded trains.

New Jersey Transit executive director Steven Santoro questions that amount  because about 80 percent of commuters buy pre-paid monthly passes.

"So the $5 million is probably a very high number but I'll say that it's greater than zero. So there are a couple of things that we are doing to get it closer to zero."

S

tockton University will host the first of the New Jersey gubernatorial primary debates this evening.  The Republicans meet at 6:30 and the Democrats begin at 8. 

Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray expects very few people will be tuning into the debates and believes they won't have much impact for the candidates.

"What helps them is whether they've got organizational support to get their voters out to the polls on primary day and in many ways that has absolutely nothing to do with their policy positions or what they do in a debate."

Stockton University will host the first of the New Jersey gubernatorial primary debates this evening.  The Republicans meet at 6:30 and the Democrats begin at 8. 

Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray expects very few people will be tuning into the debates and believes they won't have much impact for the candidates.

"What helps them is whether they've got organizational support to get their voters out to the polls on primary day and in many ways that has absolutely nothing to do with their policy positions or what they do in a debate."

New Jersey lawmakers are considering legislation that would permit anyone 16 and older to buy and possess sparklers.

Eric Turner represents the United States Fireworks Safety Commission. He believes the measure is a safe way for New Jersey residents to have a 4th of July display in their own backyards.

"A sparkler burns about the same temperature as a blue tip kitchen match. If you touch a lit sparkler to your hand, it will burn. But to the best of our knowledge there has never been a death in the United States attributed to these products."

A study ordered by Governor Christie and New Jersey lawmakers has determined the state should not force middle and high schools to have later start times.

The study group says research suggests sleep deprivation endangers students’ academic performance and well-being, but there are impediments to delaying the start of school times.

Frank Belluscio is deputy executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association.

New Jersey lawmakers grilled the head of Amtrak about recent disruptions in rail service and the planned acceleration of projects to replace some tracks.

Senator Bob Gordon questioned Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman on how the work will affect commuters.

"How many tracks are going to be shut down? What does that mean in terms of commuter delays?"

"We can't answer your question until we have gone over that plan with New Jersey Transit and Long Island Railroad and what they would prefer to see in order to minimize the impact to their passengers.”

New Jersey commuters can expect more delays into the summer as Amtrak closes and repairs tracks that lead to New York's Penn Station.

Instead of replacing the aging infrastructure over several years, Amtrak officials plan to work on a series of projects through June of 2018.

Senator Tony Bucco says disruptions from the track work are a big inconvenience for thousands of New Jersey commuters.

Governor Christie has been insisting that marijuana is a gateway to other drug use. Now, his opposition to legalizing recreational marijuana in New Jersey is focusing on the revenue it might generate.

Speaking at an event in Toms River where he highlighted his efforts to combat opioid addiction, Christie said some are moving at breakneck speed to legalize marijuana in the state because they believe it will bring in about $100 million of tax revenue.

As part of efforts to curb the opioid addiction problem, Governor Christie and other officials are urging New Jersey residents to safely dispose of prescription drugs they no longer need.

Collection boxes at police departments and pharmacies provide a convenient way to get rid of those medications.

Angelo Valente leads the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey. He says after drugs are dropped off, they're incinerated.

New Jersey's Attorney General says heroin that's mixed with fentanyl is becoming more pervasive in the state.

Attorney General Chris Porrino says fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and he's heard that some drug dealers will lace one bag in a hundred with a lethal dose.

"You might ask yourself, why would a drug dealer intentionally kill one of his or her customers? And the answer is marketing. Because the word on the street then travels that that particular dealer has the most potent heroin out there and that's what's selling."

New Jersey officials are considering some tweaks to the bail changes that have been in effect in January.

Senator Sandra Cunningham is working on legislation that would take a history of gun violence into consideration when determining if a defendant should be released while awaiting trial. 

"We've had a lot of people in Jersey City who have been hurt because that's happened with gang members and people who have just gotten out immediately and either did the same crime again or did something that was really hurtful at that point."

Parents and officials from some New Jersey school districts that get significantly less state aid than required by the school funding formula packed an Assembly committee hearing.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli questioned Acting Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington about the Christie administration’s budget plan to hold school funding at current levels.

“Is the Department’s position that the status quo and the effect of the status quo is having is acceptable?

Harrington says the state does not have the money to fully fund the formula.

Police say about a dozen people in Newark became ill after ingesting the synthetic marijuana K2.

A state law, enacted four years ago, that bans those products is having some effect.

Bruce Ruck with the New Jersey Poison Education and Information System says since the ban took effect, calls are down to the poison center about the products treated with chemicals designed to mimic the effects of marijuana.

It's not over yet, but the flu season is New jersey is nearing an end.

State epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan says some people came down with the flu later in the season than usual, but the number of flu-related illnesses is decreasing now.

"'We definitely had more intense activity this year. This is what we expect when we see a predominance of the type AH3 strain. It tends to be a little bit more severe illnesses.'

Tan says low to moderate levels of flu activity are still being reported throughout New Jersey and it’s not too late to get a flu shot.

New Jersey lawmakers are concerned about an increase in sexually transmitted diseases.

State health officials say 50 percent of sexually active 15-to-25 year olds will get a sexually transmitted disease unless they take precautions to prevent it.

Senator Jeff Van Drew says that's troubling.

"I have noticed with younger people, they feel that they're invincible and they really don't worry about it anymore, and STDs are a greater problem than ever. I wonder if we should have a renewed energy toward that issue."

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