New Jersey

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.

The Chief Justice of New Jersey's Supreme Court is urging the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to stop arresting immigrants in courthouses.

In a letter to the Homeland Security Secretary, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner is raising concerns about the recent arrests of two unauthorized immigrants who showed up for appearances in state court.

When individuals fear they'll be arrested for a civil immigration violation when they set foot in a courthouse, Rabner says witnesses to violent crimes may stay away and remain silent.

Governor Christie commends Department of Children and Family employees
Phil Gregory

Governor Chris Christie is congratulating state employees for their work to move New Jersey closer to ending federal oversight of its child welfare system.

New Jersey Department of Children and Families Commissioner Allison Blake says the federal monitor finds the state has satisfied performance measures for reducing the caseloads of intake workers and completing case plans when a child enters out-of-home care.

New Jersey has sold the licenses of two public broadcast television stations for $332 million.

A battle is shaping up on what should be done with the proceeds.

Mike Rispoli is the campaign director for the Free Press Action Fund that's urging the money go to rebuild journalism at the local level in New Jersey.

A new trend has many of the campaign ads in the race for Governor of New Jersey going up online instead of airing on traditional media outlets.

Carl Golden was the press secretary for former Governors Tom Kean and Christie Whitman. He says it's cheaper to put campaign ads on social media and the internet, and they can be effective.

A national survey shows New Jersey hospitals have improved their quality of care.

The nonprofit health care watchdog organization Leapfrog Group ranks New Jersey 15th best for protecting patients from harm.

Communications director Erica Mobley says that's up from 22nd a year ago.

"What we've seen overall is an improvement in both the processes and procedures hospitals have in place to prevent errors and in the outcomes. So in things like infection rates, rates of blood clots, rates of air embolism, we've seen improvement across many hospitals."

Governor Christie is not providing details on additional pension changes he'd like to see before leaving office.

Senate Budget Committee chairman Paul Sarlo says lawmakers would like to hear more about the governor's idea of moving the state lottery into the pension system to reduce its unfunded liability.

He says that has to happen before there's any consideration of talking with public employee unions about more pension changes.

A poll conducted for a coalition of child advocates finds that 85 percent of New Jersey residents believe the youth justice system should focus more on prevention and rehabilitation rather than incarceration and punishment.

Mary Coogan with Advocates for Children of New Jersey says young people who commit crimes should be should be held accountable, but believes community-based counseling and treatment are more effective than putting them in prison.  

Ang Santos / WBGO

  

Knights of New Jersey explores four essential parts of the Renaissance Faire.  Honor, Courage, Loyalty, and Turkey Legs.  Lots of Turkey Legs.  It does so through the comedic life of fictional Renaissance Faire performers Sir Robert of Arden Dale and his mostly trusty squire Tom.  Director Michael Hadley says Knights of New Jersey started with a visit to Medieval Times in East Rutherford.

“I thought, what would it be like to have that as your day job?  To actually punch a clock, swing a sword, and that got me thinking about that lifestyle,” said Hadley.

New Jersey Statehouse
Phil Gregory

New Jersey lawmakers tried to get more details about Governor Christie's plan for a $300 million Statehouse renovation, but the state Treasurer didn't offer many specifics.

Senator Jeff Van Drew asked Treasurer Ford Scudder if the legislature will have to approve the renovation project.

"How does this work? Who authorizes this? Is it purely the executive branch that has the ability to do that?

"Senator, we're working with bond counsel through exactly what steps that needs to take and it's not a finalized process at this point in time."

NJ officials announce the start of the program.
Phil Gregory

After an 8 percent increase in fatal traffic accidents last year, New Jersey is expanding the program used to report aggressive driving so the public can alert police about distracted drivers.

State Attorney General Chris Porrino says anyone who notices a distracted driver can call #77 and report the model, make and license number of the vehicle. He hopes that will deter cellphone use and other driver distractions.

Office of Legislative Services officials testify at Assembly Budget Committee hearing
Phil Gregory

The Christie administration says revenues in the budget year ending June 30th are expected to be $247 million below projections.

That's less than a one percent difference from the $233 million shortfall the Office of Legislative Services anticipates.

Legislative Budget Officer Frank Haines says revenue forecasts are not perfect, and the gap is not a signal of trouble ahead for the state's economy.

"We don't see a severe economic downturn coming. In fact we see modest economic growth coming for at least a few years, but the unexpected can happen."

State Treasurer Ford Scudder gives lawmakers some details of the plan.
Phil Gregory

In February, Governor Christie proposed using revenues from the New Jersey lottery to shore up the state's pension system. An administration official is now providing some details.

State Treasurer Ford Scudder says the lottery enterprise would be placed into the public employee pension system.

"You would still be buying the same lottery tickets. The retailer would still be getting their commission for sales. It would still be a division within Treasury. It would still be directed by the state Lottery Commission. It would just be owned by the pension system."

Four former New Jersey Governors are urging the state's Congressional delegation to defend environmental laws.

Republican Christie Whitman says the Trump administration's proposal to slash the Environmental Protection Agency budget would hurt environmental enforcement and scientific research on what's acceptable for human health.

Nearly 300 candidates are competing for a chance to run for the New Jersey legislature in the June Primary.

The 192 Assembly candidates are the most since 2001. The 88 seeking a Senate seat is the highest since 2003.

Seton Hall political science professor Matthew Hale says five Senators are retiring or seeking higher office.

"So you're seeing a lot of people want to take that shot because they're not sure when it's going to come around again."

Be prepared to pay more for gasoline.

The average price is 3 cents higher than a week ago.

Tom Kloza, the global head of energy analysis at the Oil Price Information Service in Wall, New Jersey, expects it'll keep going up.

"I don't want to alarm people, but this will be a month probably unlikely any month they've seen in the last 15 months in that you're probably going to see prices increase by 15 or 20 cents a gallon and it may even follow through into a strong May as well."

Phil Murphy arrives at NJ Division of Elections
Phil Gregory

Former Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy has filed a record 43,000 petitions to get on the June primary ballot as a Democratic contender for Governor of New Jersey.

Fairleigh Dickinson political science professor Peter Woolley says Murphy is the clear front runner for the Democratic nomination.

"He's trying a bit of shock and awe, I think, trying to demonstrate to anybody who might come out and offer in particular financial support to his competitors, that it is futile."

Monday is the filing deadline for candidates who want to run in New Jersey's June primary.

Political analysts expect a battle to get the Republican nomination for Governor.

Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno has won the endorsement of GOP organizations in 10 counties to get favorable placement on the primary ballot and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli will have that coveted designation in 7 counties.

A New Jersey lawmaker is calling on legislative leaders to move ahead with vacation and sick leave reforms.

Senator Jennifer Beck says New Jersey property owners have a nearly $2 billion property tax obligation hanging over their heads in terms of unused sick and vacation time accumulated by municipal and school employees.

She says some of those workers are retiring with half a million dollars or more in unused sick and vacation time.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says he's honored President Trump has selected him to chair a commission focused on combatting the nation's opioid addiction crisis.

The President called Christie a very effective guy when he met with him at the White House to kick off the commission.

In a Fox News interview, Christie said it's an issue he and Trump care passionately about.

Governor Christie signs the legislation at laborers union hall in Trenton
Phil Gregory

Just days after it received final legislative approval, a measure providing $400 million in gas tax revenues for transportation improvements this year has gotten Governor Chris Christie's OK.

Workers at the International Laborers Union hall in Trenton cheered as Christie signed the legislation designating $260 million for road and bridge repairs throughout the state.

New Jersey Statehouse
Phil Gregory

A bill passed by the New Jersey Assembly would require criminal background checks for family day care providers and any adult living there.

Day care facilities that receive federal subsidies already perform the background checks.

Cynthia Rice with Advocates for Children of New Jersey says the measure to extend that requirement to all registered day care providers in the state is a logical bill that will protect kids.

Lawmakers and homeowners say the measure would provide some relief for Sandy victims.
Phil Gregory

A New Jersey lawmaker wants to provide some protection for Superstorm Sandy victims told by the state they have to repay some grant money they received to rebuild.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora says residents acted in good faith when they accepted the grant money to rebuild from Sandy.

“They got undercut by their own insurance company and then they thought the government grants was a godsend. Unfortunately to find out the government, RREM, wants the money back. This is unconscionable.”

New Jersey Statehouse
Phil Gregory

The New Jersey Assembly could give final legislative approval tomorrow to a measure banning the state's public colleges from paying more than $10,000 to commencement and other speakers.

In recent years reality TV star Snookie, novelist Toni Morrison, and producer Spike Lee were among those paid more than that for speaking at New Jersey colleges.

Assemblyman John DiMaio questions whether that's the best use of college funds.

So far three of the candidates who want to be New Jersey's next Governor have raised enough money to qualify for matching funds.

After gubernatorial candidates meet the threshold of raising and spending $430,000 to qualify for the state program, they can get two dollars in public matching funds for every private dollar they raise.

There's a $4 million limit on public funds for a primary election campaign and a $9.3 million cap for the general election.

Jeff Brindle is executive director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

Nonprofit group leaders attend event where Governor Christie announces the grant program.
Phil Gregory

The state of New Jersey is making a million dollars in grants available for non-profit and religious institutions in nine counties to improve their security.

Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Mercer, Salem, and Warren counties have not been eligible for federal grants to enhance security.

Governor Christie says recent threats at Jewish Community Centers around the state show the need to protect every area vulnerable to possible attacks.

Governor's office entrance
Phil Gregory

Former Saturday Night Live comedian Joe Piscopo says he won’t be a Republican candidate, but he could run as an independent in New Jersey's race for Governor.

Political analysts aren't giving him much chance to win.

Fairleigh Dickinson political science professor Peter Woolley says it's nearly impossible for independent candidates to do well in New Jersey elections because they don't have the party organization or money to attract support.

Mike Egenton and Sara Bluhm oppose the legislation.
Phil Gregory

New Jersey lawmakers are trying again to get the state back into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Governor Christie pulled the state out of the program in 2011, saying it was an ineffective way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. He vetoed previous bills to force the state to resume participation.

Sara Bluhm with the New Jersey Business and Industry Association told lawmakers the state doesn't need to get back in.

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