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A package of bills advancing in the New Jersey legislature would make the state’s tough gun laws even tougher.

The measures include background checks for private gun sales, a 10-round limit on the capacity of ammunition magazines, and a mandate for law enforcement to seize a person’s guns if a mental health professional determines they’re a threat to themselves or others.

Assembly Judiciary Committee chairwoman Annette Quijano says the deadly school shooting in Florida was the latest unfortunate result of a failed national gun and mental health policy.

Ang Santos / WBGO

The Truth, Racial, Healing, and Transformation Campus Center, TRHT, is a grant program awarded by The Association of American Colleges and Universities to ten institutions of higher learning across the country. Dr. Sheri-Ann Butterfield is the Executive Vice Chancellor of Rutgers University Newark. 

keanstage.com

Birdman was the first film drummer Antonio Sanchez scored.  A great challenge presented to him by director Alejandro G. Inarritu.

“In the beginning I had no idea how to approach it,” Sanchez said.  “But when Inarritu told me that what he wanted was me improvising, being really free, expressive and emotional like the way I try to be when I’m playing drums, then I understood.  It was very easy once we figured out the approach.”

Sanchez will perform a live set to Birdman as its projected on a screen at Wilkins Theater on Kean University’s campus in Union. 

Governor Phil Murphy says New Jersey is getting lapped by other states in job creation.

 

He’s signed an executive order aimed at stimulating job growth.

 

The order establishes the Jobs and Economic Opportunity Council in the Governor’s office.

 

“I’m directing the council to analyze state and national economic trends and data to design the policies needed to attract, expand, and retain good jobs.”

Health care groups are seeking a New Jersey law requiring all employers in the state to provide earned sick days for their workers.

Beth Cohen is an emergency room nurse at Virtua Hospital in Mount Holly. She says some people who don't have paid sick leave aren't getting treated for the flu.

"They come in so sick. It's not even just the flu or pneumonia. They're septic from letting it go so long. And then we're sending so many people to intensive care, many hospitals not just ours, because of that." 

Some New Jersey lawmakers are introducing legislation to restore voting rights to people with criminal convictions.

Senator Ron Rice says his bill would end the practice of taking the right to vote from residents on parole, probation, or in prison.

"There is no relationship between voting and committing crimes. To disenfranchise those who have made mistakes and are paying for them is wrong. "

Senator Sandra Cunningham says African-Americans are disproportionately denied the right to vote because of a criminal conviction.

New Jersey lawmakers are considering a bill to expand participation in a program that provides breakfast to public school students in their classrooms.

The measure would require schools where 70 percent of more of students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals to have a ‘breakfast-after-the-bell’ program.

Senator Shirley Turner says that would help ensure kids have enough food.

Lamoureux Twins
Doug Doyle for WBGO

The United States women's hockey team has claimed its first Olympic gold medal in 20 years by downing Canada, 3-2 in a shootout.

Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored in the first extra round of the shootout after her twin sister, Monique Lamoureux-Morando, tied it with six minutes left in regulation.

The Lamoureux Twins from Grand Forks, North Dakota come from an amazing family of athletes.

A bill to provide subsidies for nuclear plants and renewable power incentives is scheduled for a vote in the New Jersey Senate on Monday. It's not clear whether it has enough support to pass. 

Senator Bob Smith is one of the bill's primary sponsors, but he's not sure if he'll vote for it.

"I think the bill is still a work in progress. So, like any bill you want to wait until you see what is in the final bill. The bill started out tremendously with really good stuff. I'm really concerned about the solar portion at this moment."

Ang Santos / WBGO

There was a somber feeling in the auditorium at Rafael Hernandez Elementary as Principal Patricia Goyce read names of the seventeen killed in a Parkland, Florida high school last week.  Students held photographs of each victim as their names were called, lighting a candle in honor of them.

“The eighteenth candle that we have there, and the empty picture frame is for all of those in Newark who have lost their lives to a senseless crime through shooting.  Our babies, our students, their students, their family members.”

Patrik Elias
Doug Doyle for WBGO

This Saturday night Patrik Elias will become fifth New Jersey Devil to have his number retired. Elias' number 26 jersey banner will be raised to the rafters of Prudential Center prior to the Devils' game with the Islanders.

After his Thursday news conference, I had a brief chat with Patrik about his big night and his thoughts on playing in Newark.

Some New Jersey lawmakers are introducing legislation to ban the state's public employee pension funds from investing in companies that manufacture guns.

Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling is one of the bill's sponsors.

"I don't think gun manufacturers should profit from the pensions we have in the state of New Jersey and we want to set an example. I think if we're really committed to gun control, we need to have a starting point and move and continue forward."

Senator Vin Gopal says gun manufacturers should not benefit from pension fund investments.

The governors of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are forming a regional 'States for Gun Safety' coalition.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy says more than 80 percent of the gun crimes in New Jersey are committed with guns from out of state.   He says the four states already have tough gun laws but believes they can be stronger.

“We’re working with the legislature to enact a whole series of steps, but it has to accept the reality that getting engaged with other like-minded states and hopefully beyond, we can mitigate this awful scourge.”

The NAACP's Great Debate America is reviving the art of debate with some of the nation's leading institutions of higher learning. The Debate recently made a stop in Newark New Jersey for black history month, where Newark Public School children got to see and participate in a debate between Rutgers Newark and Harvard University inspiring a new generation of scholars.

You don't have to travel very far to find potholes on New Jersey roadways.

New Jersey Department of Transportation spokeswoman Judy Drucker says it's shaping up to be one of the worst pothole seasons in years. State crews tackled nearly 35,000 of them last month.

"We've had frequent snow storms very early this winter. We had heavy rains, severe swings in the temperature, so it's been pretty rough on our roads. We've begin our statewide annual pothole campaign this year specifically because of that."

The first bill New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed since taking office restores nearly seven-and-a-half million dollars to Planned Parenthood and other women's health facilities.

"Today we are saying in a clear voice that New Jersey will once again stand for the right things. New Jersey will once again stand up for women's health. New Jersey will once again stand strong in support of Planned Parenthood and for reproductive rights." 

A week after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Governor Phil Murphy says his administration is making school safety a top priority in New Jersey.

Homeland Security Director Jared Maples says the state must strengthen prevention efforts to protect students.

For the first time in New Jersey’s 242-year history, the majority of a governor’s cabinet appointments are female.

Governor Phil Murphy has selected three more women for cabinet positions.

He’s nominated Zakiya Smith Ellis as Secretary of Higher Education.

She’s worked on education policy issues in Washington DC for the past decade and believes a powerful movement is brewing in the nation around the concept of free community college.

Mister Rogers Neighborhood
AP

Growing up in the Pittsburgh area was a joy thanks to family, friends and "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."  Fred Rogers died 2003, but he may be getting more attention than ever in 2018.

The host of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" is being celebrated this year on the 50th anniversary of his first broadcast with a PBS, a documentary movie, a stamp and an upcoming feature-length film starring Tom Hanks.

The day after Fred Roger's death 15 years ago, I paid tribute to him on WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM. I thought you might enjoy going back to the Neighborhood of Make Believe.

Alexandra Hill / News

Essex County has launched a pilot program, one week after a woman was gunned down in Newark, that will help determine whether a domestic violence suspect is freed or remains in jail. The county assigned one judge to handle all domestic violence cases instead of letting other judges rule on the cases at random. The man suspected of killing 28 year old Tiffany Wilson was released twice on domestic violence charges pending trial.

The federal Affordable Care Act provision imposing a tax penalty on those without health insurance expires at the end of the year. Some New Jersey lawmakers want to state to replace it with a mandate of its own.

Senator Joe Vitale says his bill would help the state's insurance marketplace remain vibrant.

A bill passed by the New Jersey Assembly would create a confidential registry of newborns diagnosed with sickle cell trait.

Assemblyman Herb Conaway says many people with sickle cell disease are not getting standard treatments for that condition.

“The hope is that by establishing the registry and having the Department of Health get in touch with those who have trait or who have sickle cell disease itself with messages about the kind of treatments they receive, we can empower patients to advance their own health with their physicians.”

Black Panther
Harlan Jacobson for WBGO

The good guys, the bad guys, the good women, the bad women and the missing link in the form of a long, lost son who lays claim to the throne of the fictional, all black Central African, Brigadoon-style republic of Wakanda, are all black.

An all black super hero movie? That’s great—if you’re 13. It’s even great if you’re 8 and have figured out how to sneak into a PG-13 film. And no review should tamper with how those age groups see the film. In fact, I’d say it will do any and all kids good to see Black Panther.

Parents for Change
Paul Casey for WBGO News

Parents for Change started in 2014 in Union Township.  Paul Casey was one of the founders of the grassroots group who was not happy with the direction the school board was headed at the time.

Parents for Change would eventually get several of their candidates on the school board with a goal of keeping politics out of the classroom.

Casey, and two former Union Board of Education members Nancy Zuena and Ronnie McDowell spoke to WBGO's Doug Doyle about how they were able to succeed in achieving their goals.

 

Governor Phil Murphy is taking steps to ease overcrowding on New Jersey Transit trains.

Murphy says the public deserves immediate relief.

Acting Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scacetti says New Jersey Transit has been 37 train cars short of the number needed for full daily service.

She says 20 train cars that have been sitting in rail yards waiting for installation of Positive Train Control equipment are being put back in service.

Some New Jersey lawmakers are introducing legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Senator Bob Singer is one of the bill’s sponsors. He says decriminalization would keep people from being sent to jail, but he’s opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana use.

“Somebody said it would be good for tourism. Shame on us if that’s how we want to bring tourism in. Shame on us if that’s how we want to make money.”   

Manufacturing companies in New Jersey are asking state lawmakers for some changes to help them compete. And they're asking the legislature not to enact some measures they say they can't afford. 

Jim Minadeo is president of Zero Surge in Frenchtown, which makes electronic safety and surge protection devices. He says manufactures are having trouble finding the skilled labor they need for their workforce.

Advocates are proposing an action plan to eliminate childhood lead poisoning in New Jersey in ten years.

Ruth Ann Norton is president of the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative. She says more prevention efforts are needed so children don’t suffer learning disabilities and organ damage from lead poisoning.

“Kids poisoned by lead are seven times more likely to drop out of school. They will earn about a million dollars less over their lifetime. They will also face higher risk of hypertension, cardiac arrest, and early death.”

Jazz at Lincoln Center

Jazz at Lincoln Center has announced 15 finalists for the 23rd Annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival, to be held this spring. Among them is Newark Academy, returning for the second year in a row under the direction of Julius Tolentino.

A New Jersey Assembly committee has passed a package of bills aimed at preventing students from becoming a victim of sexual misconduct.

The legislation would require school districts to provide instruction on sexual abuse awareness, the meaning of consent for sexual activity, and the consequences of distributing sexually explicit images through electronic means.

Sussex County resident Allison Pereira says when she was a high school sophomore, a topless photo she sent to her ex-boyfriend went viral on the internet.

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