New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says a public-private partnership will help combat an opioid epidemic that's killing thousands of people across the country.

Christie says leaders of 17 pharmaceutical companies and government agencies intend to work together to fast-track development of new non-opioid medications for pain.

Dr. Francis Collins is director of the National Institutes of Health. He's excited about the effort but says it'll be difficult.

If you want to get an early start on pumpkin purchases for Halloween, New Jersey farmers say you'll have a lot to choose from.

Jim Giamarese grows about 25 acres of pumpkins on his farm in East Brunswick. He says a lot of rain this summer caused bigger than usual pumpkins.

Advocates are urging New Jersey officials to do more to encourage the use of electric vehicles.

Pamela Frank is CEO of the ChargeEVC coalition. She says the costs of electric vehicles are too high for many consumers and creating a $300 million fund to provide rebates would make them more affordable.

"Giving a $5,000 cash rebate at the point of sale and having that rebate decline by $500 for each $100 million bloc allocated would give us 67,000 new cars on the road with a plug in three years."

A non-profit group is urging New Jersey's next governor to put more emphasis on transportation.

Fund for New Jersey says last year's 23-cent gas-tax increase won't provide enough money for all the state' transportation needs.

The group recommends policymakers consider leasing toll roads to private operators and charging tolls on interstate highways to generate more money for transportation projects.

Martin Robins is director emeritus of the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers.

A New Jersey lawmaker wants to prevent the public from being inconvenienced if the state doesn't enact a budget on time.

Legislation introduced by Senator Jeff Van Drew calls for motor vehicle agencies, state parks and beaches to remain open for up to ten days if a budget isn't complete by the end of June deadline.

He wants to prevent a recurrence of the public outcry this summer because a deadlock in enacting a new budget forced state beaches and parks to close for three days.

A New Jersey lawmaker is urging continuation of a temporary moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River watershed.

Senator Kip Bateman says the drilling process that uses high-pressure liquid to extract natural gas has benefits but allowing it in the Delaware River Basin could endanger water quality.

A New Jersey pilot program will allow Ocean County residents who believe they improperly received Medicaid benefits to withdraw from the program without fear of criminal prosecution.

State comptroller Phil Degnan says the recent arrests of 26 Lakewood residents for public assistance fraud got him thinking about what kind of program to offer.

The drinking water at nearly 400 schools in New Jersey contains lead and advocates say the state must do more to address the problem.

The state is reimbursing school districts for the costs of the water testing.

Environment New Jersey director Doug O'Malley says that's a good start, but he believes remediating lead contamination from old pipes and fixtures should be a state priority.

A New Jersey lawmaker wants to prohibit the Turnpike Authority and the South Jersey Transportation Authority from adding a fee when seeking payment from motorists without an E-Z pass account who go through cashless toll plazas.

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano says drivers who don't have an E-Z Pass account should not be punished with a fine.

"I'm ok with individuals getting a notice for the amount of the toll, but I'm not in favor for them to then also be charged in addition an administrative fee up to $50."

Democrat Phil Murphy says if he becomes New Jersey's next governor he'd sign the gun control bills Governor Christie has vetoed. And he's proposing some additional measures to stem violence.

Murphy says he'd approach neighboring states to talk about coordinating strategies to prevent gun violence.

"We think about 80 percent of the guns involved in crimes in New Jersey come from out of state, so not only to we have to do a better job in our state, we have to engage with our neighbors."

Governor Christie has signed legislation authorizing and regulating fantasy sports games in New Jersey.

Participants pay an entry fee to manage an imaginary team and compete for a predetermined prize.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli says many residents have been playing and the new law will protect consumers.

Five months before he was planning to retire, New Jersey State Senator Jim Whelan has died after suffering a heart attack at his Atlantic City home.

State officials are remembering him as a dedicated public servant.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg says Whelan was a role model for lawmakers.

“He seemed to be able to be part of the team, be part of the unified effort, and yet signal out the things that were important to him even if it was going against the tide a bit. He was an eminently decent man, full of integrity.”

A New Jersey lawmaker wants to change how water providers respond when they find elevated levels of lead in the system.

Assemblyman Dan Benson says current law requires a utility that finds high lead concentrations to send a letter to residents, but not municipalities and school districts.

"You'd want that because so often these municipalities have reverse 911 systems. They can hopefully provide additional information or coordinate a response to make sure that residents are protected."  

An advocate for children's educational rights is conducting an investigation into schools' compliance with New Jersey's anti-bullying law.

John Rue is the president and general counsel of the Innisfree Foundation. He says the investigation is focused on how school officials interpret the law and decide whether to pursue bullying complaints.

Political analysts believe it's likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Murphy's proposed tax increases will be approved if he's elected and Democrats maintain control of the New Jersey legislature.

Nearly half of the $1.3 billion Murphy's tax hikes are expected to raise would come from a millionaires' tax.  Governor Christie has vetoed five attempts by Democrats to impose that levy. Rider University political science professor Ben Dworkin believes Democrats will get it done if Murphy becomes governor.

Environmental groups and New Jersey officials are urging Congress to reject President Donald Trump's proposed 30 percent cut in the Environmental Protection Agency's budget.

They expressed their opposition to Trump's plan in Brick Township at the base of a bridge that was wiped out by Superstorm Sandy nearly five years ago.

Ed Potosnak leads the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. He says the budget cuts would put the state’s environment in grave danger.

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Health care advocates in New Jersey say even though efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act have failed, uncertainty about potential changes in the health care marketplace is confusing consumers.

The biggest concern is President Trump's threat to cut federal subsidies that reduce costs for low-income consumers who buy coverage in the health insurance marketplace.

It won't be long until ragweed starts causing problems for people with allergies.

Dr. Leonard Bielory is an allergy specialist at the Rutgers Center for Environmental Prediction. He says all the moisture in the air recently has delayed the usual early August onset of the ragweed season.

"As long as it rains, ragweed will not pollinate into any considerable amount at all. Then once it dries up, we're going to blossom. So, we expect the next week to really be the real beginning of the ragweed season."

A new bipartisan legislative panel will look into addressing a shortage of middle-skilled workers in New Jersey.

Melanie Willoughby with the New Jersey Business and Industry Association says 80 percent of manufacturers in the nation have a serious shortage of qualified applicants for skilled production positions.

“This is not where we want to be with the manufacturing industry in New Jersey that is worth over $44 billion, paying an average salary of $90,450 without a BA.”

Thursday is the last day to submit public comment on President Trump's America-First Energy Strategy to allow oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. The New Jersey region has been off limits to drilling and there's an effort to keep it that way.

Trump administration officials say opening up new areas for drilling will help the nation achieve energy dominance.

Cindy Zipf leads the marine-advocacy group Clean Ocean Action. She says opponents believe it would be harmful.

New Jersey lawmakers held a hearing in the shore community of Lavallette to examine the potential impact of climate change.

Professor Anthony Broccoli of the Rutgers Climate Institute says, depending on future carbon dioxide emissions that warm the ocean and melt ice sheets, sea level along the Jersey Shore is expected to rise 17 inches by 2050 and up to 41 inches by 2100. And studies indicate tropical storms intensity is likely to increase.

Legislation signed by Governor Christie is strengthening New Jersey's laws against animal cruelty.

Senator Jeff Van Drew says the measure defines prohibited conditions so law enforcement can intervene.

“To really ensure that those animals that are tied up cruelly with a very small lead line in very cold weather and in very hot weather without any of the proper care, that that no longer hopefully is acceptable.”

A new law is aimed at making sure New Jersey spends taxpayers' money efficiently.

Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling says the legislation requires the state auditor to report annually to lawmakers on unspent funds in each state agency's account at the end of the previous fiscal year.

"This really identifies not only that we authorized money to be spent but how the money is being spent and if it's being spent wisely. And if at the end of the year we have some money that is not spent, the state will be able to use that money for other things."

A new law is aimed at making sure New Jersey spends taxpayers' money efficiently.

Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling says the legislation requires the state auditor to report annually to lawmakers on unspent funds in each state agency's account at the end of the previous fiscal year.

"This really identifies not only that we authorized money to be spent but how the money is being spent and if it's being spent wisely. And if at the end of the year we have some money that is not spent, the state will be able to use that money for other things."

Heavy downpours this summer have caused some flash flooding and lightning strikes damaged some buildings, but overall the weather has been relatively tranquil.

New Jersey state climatologist Dave Robinson says the summer has not been excessively hot and ample rainfall has prevented drought concerns.

"We've saved on our electric bills especially the last couple of weeks without much heat. In some cases, we're saving on the water bills by letting Mother Nature water the lawns and water the gardens."

The American Cancer Society says New Jersey has advanced polices to prevent smoking-related problems, but needs to do more.

Brian Shott with the Society's Cancer Action Network says nearly 12,000 people die every year in the Garden State because of tobacco use.

He hopes the state Senate will give final approval to a bill dedicating one percent of New Jersey's cigarette tax revenue to smoking prevention programs.

Some New Jersey lawmakers and advocacy groups are urging the Christie administration to fill six vacancies on the 13-member Board of Nursing.

Avery Hart is a public member of the Nursing Board. She says insufficient staff and funding are holding up about 4,000 trained professionals awaiting their nursing license or home health aide certification.

In a rare summer session, New Jersey's Assembly passed several bills in response to the recent three-day government shutdown during the state budget impasse.

A measure requiring state beaches and recreation areas to remain open for the first seven days of a budget-related shutdown won unanimous support.

Assemblyman John McKeon says that would prevent inconvenience during a 4th of July Holiday weekend.

Republican for Governor Kim Guadagno has picked Woodcliff Lake Mayor Carlos Rendo to succeed her as Lieutenant Governor.  Rendo is wasting no time taking shots at the policies Democrat Phil Murphy is putting forth.

"Phil Murphy has proposed a $75 billion increase in government spending.  He has promised to raise taxes on everyone to pay for everything from government run healthcare to a state run bank.  We know what happened the last time we had an out of touch Goldman Sachs millionaire run this state," Rendo said referring to former NJ democratic governor John Corzine.

Steve Sandberg / For Senator Bob Menendez

The BEACH ACT requires the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that   the most up to date standards are being used to test beach water for contaminants.  Congressman Frank Pallone says right now that’s not happening.

“Most of the time it takes about twenty-four hours.  Our bill would allow for four hours, or try to mandate a four-hour test so people would know even quicker,” Pallone said. Then they can go on the website or they can find out from the media whether they can swim in a particular location.  Then when it’s cleaned up, they know that it is and they can go back.”

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