New Jersey

Drawing on economic data and insights from business leaders, a consulting firm is suggesting ways New Jersey can improve its economy.

Steve van Kuiken is a senior partner at McKinsey and Company. He says helping high-growth biotech, cybersecurity, and warehousing and distribution businesses navigate regulations and increase their access to capital will help turbo-charge the state's economic growth.

An analysis by an environmental group finds that 55 percent of the water in schools in New Jersey's most populous county show some level of lead contamination.

Schools had until last week to test their water for lead and Environment New Jersey director Doug O'Malley believes the results in Bergen County indicate what will be found statewide.

He says it's a wakeup call for the state to fund replacement of school water fountains and fixtures that contain lead.

Violating bans on smoking in public places in New Jersey towns could soon result in a fine instead of a disorderly person's charge.

The state Senate has given final legislative approval to a measure that Senator Bob Gordon says makes the penalty less onerous.

"If the municipalities choose to enforce it, the penalties would be civil as opposed to criminal. It is currently mandated in the statute that it's a low-level criminal offense, but still a criminal offense, and we thought that's a bit excessive."

New Jersey's Senate has unanimously approved bipartisan legislation to pay state workers for the days they were furloughed during the recent three-day government shutdown.

Chanting ‘It’s time of give us back our pay” unionized state employees rallied outside the Statehouse in Trenton in support of the measure they say will prevent them from losing money they depend on.

Senator Linda Greenstein says it's a moral obligation to get the measure to the governor's desk as quickly as possible.

Governor Christie has vetoed a measure requiring companies that transport crude oil and hazardous liquids on train cars to file detailed emergency response plans with the state.

Christie says he supports the legislature's effort to ensure state officials are prepared to respond to the discharge of hazardous materials, but says he can't sign the bill because of security and public safety concerns.

A coalition of parents and caregivers is urging Governor Christie to sign legislation expanding New Jersey's Family Leave program.

Jesse Burns, the executive director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, says a few months after finding out she was pregnant, her mother-in-law was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

A new Monmouth University poll in this year's New Jersey governor's race shows Democrat Phil Murphy with a 27 point lead over Republican Kim Guadagno.

Poll director Patrick Murray says it’ll be an uphill battle for Guadagno to close that gap.

“The only thing that could happen within the fundamentals of this race is if the Republican brand starts to regain some credibility with voters here in New Jersey and Murphy simply just ignores the property tax issue and Guadagno continues to hammer away at her plan and voters start to tune into that.”

Advocates have some concerns about the Christie administration's proposal to transfer responsibility for mental health and addiction services from the New Jersey Department of Human Services to the Department of Health.

State Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett expects the move will mean a better coordinated system.

"What we currently have is a system where the patient has to navigate to the different providers. Now what we're doing is creating a system where the provider treats the whole person and has all of the resources that will be needed."

A Monmouth University Poll finds New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's voter approval ratings remain in the cellar.

Only 15 percent of voters surveyed approve of the job Christie is doing.

Poll director Patrick Murray says photos of Christie on the beach with his family during the recent state government shutdown didn't help his public image.

The leaders of New jersey's legislature say state employees should not be penalized for the three-day government shutdown last week.

Senate President Steve Sweeney plans a Senate session Thursday to act on bipartisan legislation requiring the state to pay workers furloughed because of a delayed budget.

"It's just showing our intent for what we think is important. For the workers that should have been paid, this wasn't their fault that we had an impasse. We should pay them. It was in the budget. It's not like the money is not there."

A private New Jersey foundation that provides public policy grants says poor fiscal decisions are hampering the state's ability to pay for basic needs, and it’s recommending immediate changes.

The Fund for New Jersey says the most critical financial problem is funding the public employee pension system.  Rutgers University professor and fund trustee Henry Coleman says a balanced approach would include limiting retirees' health coverage commensurate with private employers. 

After a year of research, the New Jersey Campus Sexual Assault Task Force has issued a 39-page report on steps colleges must take to make campuses safer.

Patricia Teffenhart is executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the co-chair of the task force.  She says the recommendations include having every college conduct a sexual violence climate survey to get information from students, faculty and staff.

Students should know where they can confidentially report a sexual assault and have access to counseling and services.

Majority Democrats in New Jersey's Senate want more money in the state budget for a program offering financial aid and support services tor thousands of low-income college students.

Governor Christie's budget plan calls for a $3.5 million cut for the Educational Opportunity Fund. Democrats want to restore that and add another $1.5 million.

Senate President Steve Sweeney says funding for that program is a crucial part of the state budget.

A bill advancing in the New Jersey legislature would authorize the issuance of $125 million in bonds for the construction and expansion of public libraries.

New Jersey Library Association executive director Patricia Tumulty says the money would finance half the costs of building or repairing a library or making technology improvements and the local government would have to pay the other half.

As the June 30th deadline for enacting a state budget approaches, New Jersey lawmakers are also considering whether to pass several other controversial bills.

Democratic legislative leaders have been delaying action on a budget bill until they reach a compromise with Governor Christie on their proposal to increase state aid to schools.

After Democrats in the Assembly met for several hours in a closed-door session, Budget Committee Chairman Gary Schaer was optimistic.

Health care advocates are worried that the bill Republican U.S. Senators are considering would be a disaster for New Jersey.

Ray Castro with New Jersey Policy Perspective says eliminating Medicaid expansion and health insurance subsidies would reverse progress made under the Affordable Care Act.

“The current un-insurance rate of 10 percent would increase to about 14 percent by 2020 and 15 percent by 2026. That’s a 50 percent increase. The rate would actually be higher than it was before the Affordable Care Act.”

Governor Christie expects a new state budget will be enacted by the end of the month deadline.

Christie questions the specifics of the school funding proposal Democratic legislative leaders want resolved before acting on a budget bill.

But he's confident Democrats won't block a new budget and shut down state government.

"I don't think that the Democrats would be that irresponsible nor that politically stupid to close down the government in an election year. I just don't believe it will happen so I'm not worried about it."

Thanks to a higher gas tax, more than 925 road and transit projects are underway in New Jersey. Governor Christie is touting one set to improve a stretch of a heavily traveled highway in Mercer County.

Christie says the $15 million resurfacing of a five-mile portion of Interstate 95 through Ewing, Hopewell, and Lawrence will begin this summer and be completed in the fall of 2018.

Most of those who testified at a New Jersey Senate committee hearing said they support legislation to legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older.

Princeton psychiatrist Dr. David Nathan say there's no evidence marijuana is a gateway to using opioids or other drugs.

Top Democratic and Republican lawmakers in New Jersey's Assembly are joining to call for civility and respect in politics.

Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick is urging those in leadership at every level of government to tone down the rhetoric.

"When public officials speak with disdain in their voice towards other public officials, that gives a license to the public to do the same, and even more."

Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto says politicians must work together to deal with the public's concerns.

New Jersey lawmakers are considering several measures to expand the state’s wine industry.

One of the bills advanced by the Assembly’s Agriculture Committee would make low interest loans available to farmers for preparing land and purchasing vines and equipment for new vineyards.

Another bill would provide tax credits for purchasing barrels, crushers, tanks, and other equipment for a new winery or making improvements at existing ones.

A bill advanced by a New Jersey Assembly committee would allow riders to use low-speed electric bikes on streets, bike paths, and sidewalks.

Assemblyman Tim Eustace believes the bikes with speeds under 20 miles an hour would be a good means of transportation for short distances.

"Around the world when you look in cities you see people using electric bicycles to get around town. It reduces traffic congestion. It reduces pollution. It gets people outside."

Assemblywoman Annette Chapparo has some concerns about allowing electric bicycles on sidewalks.

Even though he has some concerns about it, Governor Christie says he’ll consider a school funding agreement hammered out by Democratic leaders in New Jersey's legislature.

The plan would provide an additional $100 million in the state budget for underfunded school districts and reallocate $46 million in so-called adjustment aid to districts with increasing student enrollment.

Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto says it’s a good compromise.

Governor Christie is touting a new park project to help revitalize New Jersey's capital city.

A four-and-a-half acre strip of land along the Delaware River will be developed into a Trenton park.

Christie says the state Department of Transportation will use $15 million in federal funds to build a pedestrian walkway over Route 29 from the park to the roof of the Statehouse parking garage.

"It's going to provide access to a part of the Trenton waterfront separated from the downtown area since the 1950s when Route 29 was developed.

Governor Christie's voter approval rating is now at a record low.

Christie's rating is the worst for any governor in any state surveyed by Quinnipiac University in more than 20 years.

Only 15 percent of New Jersey voters approve of the way he's handling his job and 81 percent disapprove.

Pollster Maurice Carroll says 94 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of Republicans have a negative view of Christie's job performance.

"He's not well regarded even by his own party. And the way he's performing lately, he's irrelevant. He doesn't matter."

A New Jersey lawmaker says you shouldn’t have to take your cell phone, laptop, or tablet to a company-approved store for repairs.

Assemblyman Paul Moriarty has introduced legislation that would require electronics equipment manufacturers to make diagnostic and service documents and parts available to consumers and independent repair providers.

New Jersey lawmakers are considering a new initiative to promote local art and help towns reinvigorate their business districts.

A bill advanced by an Assembly committee would encourage the state Commissioner of Community Affairs to help towns deal with the selection process and liability issues of having artists display work in the windows of vacant stores.

Ann Marie Miller with ArtPride New Jersey says that would show art galleries and gift shops the potential for opening there and also helps the artists.

In New Jersey, it's illegal to take photos of your ballot in a voting booth and share it on social media. The state Assembly has passed a bill that would end that ban.

Assemblyman Raj Mukherji believes that 'selfies' in polling places should be allowed.

"Particularly these days when social media is the most accessible place for people to exercise their freedom of speech, we should be encouraging millennials to tout their political preferences or to display their pride in voting." 

A bill passed by the New Jersey Assembly would allow police departments to set up designated areas for the public to complete purchases made on craigslist or other internet marketplaces.

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker says having a lighted area on police department property that’s monitored with video cameras will make it safer for the buyer and seller to meet.  

Two New Jersey Senators want to hold landlords accountable for dangerous, unsanitary conditions in subsidized rental housing.

Democrat Ron Rice says the bill he's sponsoring with Republican Jennifer Beck follows investigations about deplorable conditions at rental complexes in Newark and Asbury Park.

"We have some units where the landlords continue over the years to flip properties, don't maintain them. You have roaches and rats and all kinds of violations taking place in these buildings, the ceilings falling."

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