New Jersey

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear legal arguments next month in New Jersey's quest for legalized sports betting.

Advocates are optimistic the state will win its case.

Lobbyist Bill Pascrell the Third believes the state's chances of success are better than ever.

Congressman Frank Pallone is also confident, but as a backup he's working on a measure that would allow all states to legalize sports betting and online gaming.

Governor-elect Phil Murphy says legislation to phase-in a $15 minimum wage in New Jersey will be a high priority when he takes office in January.

Murphy joined legislative leaders and labor officials at a Statehouse event where some workers said it's tough to get by on less than $15 an hour.

Sayerville resident Anthony Banos says he works at a warehousing distribution center and has a part-time job at a retail store.

Senator Bob Menendez
NBC News

New Jersey U-S Senator Bob Menendez is walking away a free man after the federal corruption case against him ended in a mistrial. it came after the jury in Newark deadlocked on a verdict.

For the second time this week the jury told the judge they could not come to a unanimous decision on the corruption charges facing Senator Menendez and a co-defendant. That’s when the judge declared a mistrial, saying it would be futile to go any longer.

New Jersey is using a million dollars from criminal forfeiture funds to pay for an information campaign intended to prevent conflict during police and civilian encounters.

Attorney General Christopher Porrino says traffic stops are the most common place where misunderstandings can escalate to dangerous situations.

He says videos that will air on television, social media, and in movie theaters provide tips to ensure those encounters are safe and mutually respectful.

Republicans in the New Jersey Congressional delegation were divided when the House of Representatives voted to pass legislation to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program.

The legislation would increase flood insurance premiums for many property owners to fund a program stressed by frequent storms.  It would also make it easier for private companies to get in the flood insurance market.

Congressman Bill Pascrell voted against the bill, saying it does not apply the lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy.

New Jersey Governor-elect Phil Murphy has decided who will fill two top positions in his administration.

Murphy has selected Metuchen Mayor Pete Cammarano to be chief of staff. He'll oversee all the workings of the Governor's Office and the Executive Branch. It's a role he's had before. He served as chief of staff to Senator Dick Codey when he became Governor in 2004. He's also a former member of the New Jersey Casino Redevelopment Authority.

Cammarano will step down as mayor by the end of the year. 

Majority Democrats in the New Jersey Assembly have selected their leadership team for new legislative session that begins in January.

Assemblyman Craig Coughlin from Middlesex County will be the new Assembly Speaker. He’ll take over for Vinnie Prieto who lost a leadership fight and will end his term as Speaker in January.

Coughlin says he intends to be a Speaker that leads by consensus to help move the Democratic agenda forward.

With Democrats about to take full control in January, Republicans in the New Jersey legislature know that a higher minimum wage is not far off.

The top Republican in the state senate now wants to make sure that Democrats don’t go too far.  

Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean says the issue of affordability is the greatest challenge confronting New Jersey lawmakers and he’s calling for a bipartisan compromise.

Governor-elect Phil Murphy takes office in January. He met with Governor Chris Christie in Trenton today for about an hour and half to discuss the transition.     

Murphy says it was a terrific meeting.

“Just a great willingness on the Governor’s part to be as helpful as possible and we welcome that obviously. So, it was a good discussion.”

Murphy did not provide any specifics about what they discussed.

He’s decided his Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver will serve as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs.

Now that he’s won reelection, New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney says Democrats who control the legislature want to work with Governor-elect Phil Murphy to advance legislation they couldn’t get through during the Christie administration.  

Sweeney says Democrats’ plans include funding for women’s health care, expanding paid family leave, a higher minimum wage, and phasing in higher pension payments and more money for schools.

Governor-elect Phil Murphy supports legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Jersey, and other advocates are hoping lawmakers act on a bill to do that within a hundred days of Murphy's inauguration.

Scott Rudder is president of New Jersey CannaBusiness Association. He says after legislation is enacted, it'll take several months to develop regulations, license sellers, and grow the product.

"We really are looking at early 2019 on a very aggressive schedule, but more than likely mid 2019 is when we would see most of the retail sales coming on line."

A political action committee is spending about $400,000 on advertising that ties some New Jersey Republican candidates to unpopular Governor Chris Christie.

That could affect who holds the top position in the state Assembly.

Rider University political science professor Ben Dworkin says most headcounts of majority Democrats in the Assembly show that current Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto does not have enough support to continue in that role. 

There are two questions on the New Jersey ballot for voters to consider when they go to the polls on Tuesday.

Ed Potosnak with the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters says a proposed constitutional amendment would require all the money from environmental damage lawsuits be dedicated to restoring and replacing natural resources.

Ang Santos / WBGO

For weeks, Democrat Phil Murphy has focused on big name endorsements like former President Barack Obama, New Jersey rocker Jon Bon Jovi, and even International Brotherhood of Teamsters President James Hoffa, who says Murphy's opponent is another Chris Christie.

“You know, so long with Chris Christie we’ve had so many problems in the state of New Jersey.  This is a great state.  We’ve got to turn it around.  We need a new man, new thinking, someone that is for the average person in this state and that is our man Phil Murphy,” Hoffa said.

A day before New Jersey voters select a new governor, a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll shows they're ready to say goodbye to the current one.

Poll director Krista Jenkins says only 17 percent of voters surveyed approve of Chris Christie's job performance while 73 percent disapprove.

"By comparison Governor Christie's predecessor left office with approval numbers that were also upside down, but Jon Corzine still had a higher approval rating when he left office than Governor Christie does now, with numbers that were more than double those for the current governor."

Even before the election of a new governor, a coalition of business groups in New Jersey is mobilizing to oppose any big boost in the state's minimum wage.

A business owner in a 60 second ad from the Protect Jersey Jobs coalition says to stay competitive he can't raise prices.

"If some Trenton politicians have their way and pass these mandates, I'm concerned I would have to cut employees hours or their jobs."

Governor Christie vetoed legislation last year that would have raised New Jersey's minimum wage to $15-an-hour by 2021.

Just days before the election of a new Governor, a Monmouth University poll finds Democrat Phil Murphy holds a 14-point lead over Republican Kim Guadagno among likely voters in New Jersey.

Poll director Patrick Murray says that margin is the same as it was in early October.

A New Jersey Congressman is introducing legislation to combat price gouging after natural disasters.
 
Democrat Frank Pallone says his proposed Stand Up Act would empower the Federal Trade Commission to issue regulations to prohibit excessive pricing of consumer goods or services within 180 days of the declaration of a major disaster and determine the fines for violators.
 
He says no one should have to pay abusive prices for essentials such as food, water, and gasoline when they’re a victim of a natural disaster.

A New Jersey lawmaker is proposing legislation to prevent convicted sex offenders from living near their victims.

Assemblyman Ron Dancer hopes lawmakers will act on his bill in the lame duck session.

“I think this should have priority for the protection of any of these victims so they do not have to think about their molester, their convicted offender, living either next door or within 1,000 feet.”

Republican Kim Guadagno is hoping to be the second woman elected Governor of New Jersey, but female voters are showing more support for Democrat Phil Murphy.

Only 29 percent of likely women voters surveyed by Quinnipiac University favor Guadagno while 65 percent support Murphy.

Debbie Walsh, the director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, says that fits with the gender gap observed since 1980. 

Many of the 11,000 voting machines in New Jersey are old and will soon have to be replaced. Amid concerns about hacking, state lawmakers are examining how to make sure new machines will be more secure.

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker says while there’s no evidence of hacking, the machines are hackable.

Princeton computer science professor Andrew Appel say he could quickly break the security seals on a voting machine, replace the chip that records the results, and reseal it so the tampering would be undetectable.

Free Press Action Fund / newsvoices.org

The Civic Information Consortium would allocate $100 million from New Jersey’s sale of two public broadcasting licenses over a five-year span to promote local journalism.

“Right now, New Jersey is suffering from a local news crisis,” said James Thompson with the Free Press Action Fund, a journalism advocacy organization.  “There’s been cutbacks in journalism staffs around the state.  We see this as a way to transform the way people get their news and information.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says his administration learned a lot during Superstorm Sandy and the five years of rebuilding.  The recollections of his senior staff and cabinet members have been put in a recovery playbook for the state.

Christie says the book will bring back some tough memories for victims and first responders but it also highlights what’s been accomplished.

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey says debates in several legislative districts aren’t being held this year because candidates aren’t willing to participate.

Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray says avoiding debates is a political strategy for some candidates.

“If you are running ahead, the status quo is your best friend. So you don’t want to upset that by engaging in a debate where something is out of your control.”  

Murray says incumbents might prefer to skip debates.

Advocates for opposite sides of the political spectrum are urging New Jersey lawmakers not to approve subsides to get Amazon to consider locating its second headquarters in the state.

Jon Whiten with New Jersey Policy Perspective says offering Amazon huge subsidies distorts the state’s tax policy and economic development efforts.

“With a proposal like this and $7 billion in tax breaks we’re acting as if we’re South Dakota, we’re begging companies to come here. We’ve got a lot of other reasons for companies to want to be here.”  

New Jersey's State Commission of Investigation says waste and abuse are still a big problem for the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
 
Commission spokeswoman Kathy Riley says problems investigators identified 17 years ago are getting worse.
 

A New Jersey lawmaker wants to limit the use of motor vehicle surcharges.

Senator Shirley Turner says her bill would restrict the surcharges to drunken driving offenses.

"If it's for reasons like a moving violation or parking tickets, then there would be no surcharges. Now with DWI that's a whole different category."

The surcharges assessed on drivers who have excessive points for traffic violations can amount to thousands of dollars.

Turner says many drivers have their license suspended because they can't afford to pay.

A new group in New Jersey wants to make it easier for voters to get information about candidates for legislative and local offices.

Yael Niv helped start the Good Government Coalition of New Jersey.

Some information is available on government and candidates' websites, but she says the state doesn't offer a centralized way to find out who is running for office and where they stand on important issues.

Advocates are urging New Jersey’s next governor to increase the state’s investments and support for higher education.

New Jersey Policy Perspective president Gordon MacInnes says a pattern of disinvestment in the state’s public colleges and universities over the last quarter century has resulted in high costs and rising debt for students.

He says the Secretary of Education lacks the resources to analyze the performance of colleges and maximize opportunities.

This is usually the time to think about a weekend drive to check out the fall foliage. But so far, we’re not seeing a dazzling display of color.

New Jersey state climatologist Dave Robinson says the change in leaf color is getting a late start because of warmer than average temperatures in recent weeks.  

“That tends to delay the season. It doesn’t necessary destroy the season. So, I would think right now unless it turns cool pretty quickly, we’re probably going to see a one, maybe even longer than, a week delay in getting the peak foliage.”  

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