News

Governor Phil Murphy
Brandy Wood for WBGO

Have a question for Governor Phil Murphy? WBGO's live call-in show Ask Governor Murphy, a one-hour show produced by WBGO News in collaboration with WHYY and WNYC, airs tonight at 8pm on WBGO and www.wbgo.org.  

Taxes and the state budget stalemate are just some of the topics that will be discussed this evening.  Host Nancy Solomon and Governor Murphy will take your phone calls and tweets starting at 8pm. 

Is your NJ school district getting enough funding? Tonight, our guest reporter is Linh Tat, an education reporter for POLITICO New Jersey.

Some public employees in New Jersey have been getting big payouts for unused sick time when they retire.

State workers have had a $15,000 cap on those payouts for decades. A limit that also applies to county and local employees hired since 2010.

A bill advancing the legislature would put impose some new restrictions.

Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt says there would be no cash payout for leave time accrued after the enactment of her bill, but up to $7500 of the amount that was built up could be used for health care expenses for up to five years.

Ratepayer subsidies totaling up to $300 million a year will help keep three nuclear plants open in South Jersey now that Governor Phil Murphy has signed the controversial legislation.

Murphy says the legislation will protect the viability of the Salem and Hope Creek nuclear plants.

“To reach our clean energy goals we will need to keep these plants open and safely operational. They not only produce 40 percent of our power but as of today 90 percent of our clean energy.”

Ang Santos / WBGO

New York City is ranked 9th on The Trust for Public Land annual ParkScore index.  They rate park systems based on access, size, investment, amenities.

“How many residents live within a ten-minute walk of a park, spending per resident, and a bunch of what we call amenities, basketball hoops, dog parks, playgrounds, recreation and senior centers, and splash pads,” said Adrian Benepe, Senior Vice President with The Trust For Public Land.

Jersey City fell 13 spots to 53rd.

Updated at 12:50 a.m. ET

Philip Roth, whose novel American Pastoral won a Pulitzer in 1998 but who was best-known for the controversial and explicit 1969 Portnoy's Complaint, has died at age 85.

Roth's biographer Blake Bailey, who confirmed his death to NPR, says the author was surrounded by friends and family.

New Jersey lawmakers have ended their public hearings on Governor Murphy’s proposed budget and are now hoping an agreement is reached to get the budget enacted by the June 30th deadline.

Senate Budget Committee chairman Paul Sarlo does not believe there will be a stalemate in budget talks that lead to a state government shutdown.

“Well I don’t think we’re that far off. I mean we’re making progress. Discussions are continuing and ongoing. I am confident that we’re not going to get to a situation that we had last year.”

A bill advancing in the New Jersey Senate would require that state parks, recreation areas and historic sites remain open to the public for 7 days if a stalemate over enacting a state budget results in a government shutdown.

Drew Tompkins with the Keep It Green Coalition says those public places should not be held hostage to budget negotiations.

New Jersey lawmakers are considering legislation that would prohibit public schools and universities from selling food and beverages in Styrofoam containers.

Henry Gajda with the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters told lawmakers it takes about 500 years for a Styrofoam cup to biodegrade.

Ang Santos / WBGO

New Jersey State Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal says check for ticks after being out in wooded areas.  Tick-borne illness is on the rise. 

“Ticks that transmit Lyme disease are active during the spring, summer, and the fall.  But May, June, and July are the peak seasons, the peak months rather for transmission of tick-borne illness,” said Elnahal.  “5,000 cases of Lyme disease were diagnosed in New Jersey last year.  The highest total since the year 2000.  Morris and Hunterdon County top the list in terms of the number of cases.”

Saint Joan
Michael Bourne for WBGO

Theater Critic Michael Bourne has enjoyed this year's jam-packed revival display on and off Broadway.

Click above to hear Michael's full rundown of shows that are worth your time and money.

Should Tackle Football Begin With Teenage Years?

May 18, 2018
Trey Schneider
Scott Pringle for WBGO News (used with parent's permission)

A New Jersey lawmaker has recently introduced a bill that bans children under the age of 12 from playing tackle football in the Garden State.

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri-Huttle points to studies that show brain injuries at a young age can have devastating effects later in life. Her legislation would limit children under 12 to just flag or touch football.

Just the thought of tacking tackle out of one of America’s most popular sports has outraged Sal, who coaches his child. “It’s horrible, why would we let the politicians decide what our kids are allowed to play.”

A bill advancing in the New Jersey legislature would expand Medicaid coverage to help smokers quit.

Corrine Orlando with the American Heart Association says about 14 percent of Medicaid recipients in New Jersey smoke.

"It remains the one preventable cause of death and the New Jersey Medicaid program spends over a billion dollars a year just treating smoking related illnesses."

Assembly Health Committee chairman Herb Conaway is also a doctor. He says easier access to tobacco cessation services could decrease hospital admissions.

New Jersey lawmakers are considering legislation to ensure the nearly 600,000 residents who do freelance work are treated fairly.

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker says his bill would require businesses that have a written contract with a freelance worker to compensate them no later than 30 days after they complete the job.

A lawsuit filed by a coalition of civil rights groups in New Jersey seeks to have the courts strike down provisions of state education law.

Retired New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Gary Stein chairs the Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools. He says the lawsuit challenges the segregation of public and charter schools by race, ethnicity, and poverty.

“New Jersey’s public school segregation results from a long standing failure of state educational policy that legally and morally indefensible.”

New Jersey lawmakers are considering legislation that would prevent your internet service provider from sharing your personal information without first getting your written permission.

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker says it’s a significant issue.

“Not only is our data being sold and used and they’re targeting us for advertisements. But our personal information is used for identity theft so this is a really big thing. This is about our banking. This is about our personal privacy.”

Zwicker says some internet service providers oppose his bill.

New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Sheila Oliver told lawmakers the state is making efforts to help families who are still not back home five-and-a-half years after Superstorm Sandy damaged their primary residence.

Oliver, who also serves as New Jersey’s Lt. Governor, says the state has $1.2 billion dollars left of the $4 billion in Sandy recovery aid it got from the federal government.

New Jersey’s Lieutenant Governor says she believes the state’s intervention in Atlantic City is working and the city’s worst days are over.

Sheila Oliver, who also serves as the Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, says 18-months of state oversight have helped Atlantic City make progress in dealing with its debt, its health and pension obligations, and its ability to attract investment in new development projects.

Oliver says continued stability requires both budget and management discipline.

The Supreme Court ruling that allows all states to have legalized sports betting could help Atlantic City casinos generate additional revenue.

Public finance attorney David Fernandez says sports wagering gives Atlantic City a new opportunity to draw tourists, but it might benefit casino companies more than the city because sports gambling could be made available online. 

“It may not be the boom that they think it’s going to be if the online gambling takes off and becomes an alternative that folks might want to do instead.”

New Jersey legislative leaders and Governor Phil Murphy have until the end of June to reach agreement on a new state budget. A stalemate could risk a potential government shutdown.

Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Tom Coughlin are resisting the governor’s proposed tax increases and free community college.

Democrat Assemblywoman Patricia Egan Jones does not expect there will be a government shutdown.

The employment outlook for graduating college students may be the best in years. 

Carl Van Horn, the director of the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, says job prospects for new grads have improved because a low unemployment rate means fewer people are applying for available openings.

Legalized sports betting is coming to New Jersey.

The U-S Supreme Court has ruled in New Jersey's favor, striking down a 1992 federal law restricting sports wagering to Nevada and three other states.

Former state Senator Ray Lesniak has been fighting for years to legalize sports betting in New Jersey and he's thrilled with the court’s decision.

Bob Hennelly

Over forty years ago the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Mount Laurel decision was hailed nationally. It proclaimed it was unconstitutional for local zoning to exclude housing for its poor and working class.

This week Delaware became the first state in the nation to ban marriage for anyone under the age of 18. 

New Jersey lawmakers are making another attempt to pass a similar ban.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora is one of the sponsors of the legislation. He says since 1995 more than 3500 people under the age of 18 did get married in New Jersey.

“There’s probably success stories but I’m sure that there are many that would regret that decision in years to come. We want them to concentrate on school, concentrate on work, and concentrate on their future.”

 

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy promised during his campaign that he would not raid the Affordable Housing Trust Fund like his predecessor did. But his budget plan DOES divert some of the money.

 

Staci Berger, the president and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, is disappointed Murphy’s budget would take $59 million from the Trust Fund for housing-related programs.

 

Desperate Measures
Michael Bourne for WBGO

The Tony Awards celebrate what happens ON Broadway, but WBGO theater critic Michael Bourne is often even busier OFF Broadway.

Click above to hear Michael's reviews of some Outer Critic Circle Award-winning shows off Broadway.

Broken Glory
Jon Kalish for WBGO

In early June we'll be marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy during the 1968 presidential campaign.  There's a fraternity of independent researchers and journalists who believe that the New York senator was killed by someone other than Sirhan Sirhan.

There's a new book coming out about the assassination titled Broken Glory.

Click above to hear WBGO's Jon Kalish's report.

Ang Santos / WBGO

The Carteret Ferry Terminal is part of a redevelopment project on the borough’s waterfront along the Arthur Kill Channel.  Mayor Dan Reiman says the terminals construction won’t be complete until 2022, but the ferry can start operating as soon as they acquire a boat with help from NJ Transit.

“We have an existing 1,200-foot pier.  In fact, last year, two years ago when we did the test runs we operated off of this existing pier.  The infrastructure in town is in place.”

A bill advanced by the Senate Labor Committee would expand New Jersey’s paid family leave program.

Dena Mottola Jaborska with New Jersey Citizen Action is pleased the legislation would increase the wage replacement rate when workers take family leave.

“Workers who are working at the lower income level will be able to get 90 percent of their salary. And workers who are at the higher earning level will be able to earn the average weekly wage in this state which is about $1200, and that is really what is considered minimally livable in our state.”

18 towns in New Jersey already prohibit smoking on their beaches. A bill advancing in the legislature would ban smoking on all public beaches in the state.

Senate Environment Committee chairman Bob Smith says a statewide ban would prevent beachgoers from being exposed to second-hand smoke and end the litter problem from the tens of thousands of cigarette butts that are left on the beaches every year.

Alexandra Hill / News

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer and choreographer Jamar Roberts  talks about his love for choreography, working with Ailey dancers, and the inspiration for his new piece, Members Don't Get Weary, premiering at the company's 20th annual Mother's Day Engagement at  NJPAC. 

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