News

Ang Santos / WBGO

Bob Hugin recently retired from Celgene, a New Jersey based biotech company that develops medicines, most notably for cancer treatment.  He was a major financial donor to Chris Christie’s failed presidential bid, turned staunch supporter for President Trump, but Hugin says he’s ready to go to Washington with his mind set on doing what’s right for the state.

A New Jersey Assembly committee has advanced legislation for a pilot program in selected school districts on how to identify and respond to child trafficking.

The International Labor Organization estimates 1.2 million children worldwide are forced into work or sexually exploited.

Nathanial Hirschman is with Project Stay Gold, a student organization working to raise awareness on human trafficking. He says teachers, administrators, and students need to learn about the dangers.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is creating a Commission on Puerto Rico Relief to help with the continuing recovery from Hurricane Maria.

Reverend Joshua Rodriquez is chairman of the commission. He says more than 30,000 thousand Puerto Rico residents staying in New Jersey after being displaced by the hurricane still need help.

Bill Boules
Jon Kalish for WBGO

A lot of people are putting the Amazon Echo and other so-called smart speakers in their home that use a voice interface to play audio content, look up trivia on the web, control home appliances and buy stuff on-line. The Amazon Echo has been embraced by blind people.

Click above to hear Jon Kalish's feature.

Doug Doyle / WBGO

February 17 is the date of the 38th Annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture Series at the Paul Robeson Campus Center on the campus of Rutgers University-Newark.

Organizer Dr. Mark Krasovic and Keynote Speaker and jazz vibraphonist Stefon Harris sat down with WBGO's News Director Doug Doyle to talk about next Saturday's day-long event.

This year's theme is "The Space Between the Notes:  The Social Life of Music in Black History."  The conference is sponsored by the Clement A. Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience at RU-N.

Ang Santos / WBGO

A 17-month investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board points to the train engineer’s undiagnosed sleep apnea as the probable cause of the crash.  US Senator Cory Booker says future incidents can be avoided if personnel are screened and treated for the disorder.

“And those people that work hard, and commute daily should be able to rest, they should be able to sleep on that train with confidence that we are doing everything necessary to keep them safe.”

A bill advancing in the New Jersey legislature would allow undocumented immigrants in the DACA  program to qualify for state financial aid to help cover the costs of college.

There are more than 22,000 DACA participants in New Jersey, the ninth highest number of the so-called Dreamers in the country.

Stephen Ruszczyk, a sociology professor at Montclair State University, says the legislation would help DACA students afford a college education.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy could face an uphill battle getting the legislature to approve a tax surcharge on income over a million dollars.

Senate President Steve Sweeney had been an advocate of a millionaires’ tax, but now says it’s the last thing he wants to consider.

He’s backed away from his previous support of the idea because of recent federal tax code changes that limit state and local property tax deductions.

New Jersey lawmakers want to extend more help to thousands of families struggling to make ends meet.

Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera says former Governor Chris Christie vetoed efforts by Democrats to boost the energy assistance payment that would help about 180,000 families qualify for more nutritional assistance.

"They have lost $90 per month in food benefits. This translates to a loss of 64 meals a month."

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is urging the legislature to send him a bill that would help homeowners cope with the new $10,000 federal limit on state and local property tax deductions.

Murphy wants towns to be able to establish charitable funds that pay for local services.  Homeowners would get credits on their property tax bills for the amount they donate.

Environmental activists in New Jersey are mobilizing against the Trump administration's plan to open nearly all of the nation's coastal waters to oil and gas drilling.

Leaders of environmental groups met on the boardwalk in Asbury Park to show their opposition to the plan.

Jennifer Coffey is executive director of the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions. She says drilling for oil and gas off the Jersey shore could threaten marine life and hurt tourism.

A bill being considered by New Jersey lawmakers would prohibit the Motor Vehicle Commission from imposing a surcharge on drivers who have their license suspended for failing to pay a parking ticket.

The $250 surcharge for three consecutive years could far exceed the amount for the parking tickets.

The legislation would limit the penalty for driving with a license suspended because of a parking violation to a fine of $100.

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll says that’s a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough.

A bill advancing in the New Jersey legislature would authorize the state’s police and firefighters’ unions to manage their own pension funds.

Pat Colligan, the president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, says the policy change would help the unions improve the performance of their funds.

“We looking to just modernize and be able roll into different investments as the markets dictate, make faster decisions.”

Former Governor Chris Christie vetoed a similar bill last year. 

A measure New Jersey lawmakers are considering is intended to eliminate surprise out-of-network medical bills.

The legislation requires health care facilities and professionals to disclose whether their services are covered by a patient's health benefits plan.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin says it puts limits on out-of-network charges for medically-necessary emergency care and services ordered by an in-network provider but not available at that facility.

New Jersey lawmakers are delaying action on a bill calling for subsidies to Public Service Enterprise Group to keep nuclear plants open in Salem County.

New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel says additions to the bill are making it worse for consumers. He says it could increase costs for ratepayers by more than $4 billion over the next ten years.

New Jersey lawmakers are considering legislation that would extend the Urban Enterprise Zone program for an additional ten years. 

John Moran with the New Jersey League of Municipalities says about six thousand businesses take advantage of the program that’s designed to help small businesses by allowing them to charge half the state sales tax rate.

healthcare.gov

Ang Santos:  Some experts say this is the worst flu season in a decade, and in New Jersey potentially on record when it’s all said and done.  Joining us on the phone is Dr. Bill Miller, author of The Microcosm Within:  Evolution and Extinction in the Hologenome.  Dr. Miller is a veteran physician with special interest in infectious diseases, thanks for joining us.

Dr. Bill Miller:  Thanks very much for having me on.

AS:  First off, a professional opinion, is this one of the worst flu seasons in recent memory?

Jon Kalish / WBGO

In Seaersmont, Maine a company called Ecocor uses European design principles and tools to build what are referred to as passive houses. These super energy efficient pre-fab homes are assembled on location from wall, floor and roof panels manufactured at the factory. WBGO’s Jon Kalish visited Ecocor and then watched as their team assembled a house near Woodstock, New York.

Crystal Moselle’s Skate Kitchen is almost the perfect Sundance film.

First, it is written, produced and directed by a woman—one of some 45 features at Sundance directed by women this year of the 120 spread out over nine main sections, including US and international feature and documentary competitions. Second, it’s characters and milieu are quintessentially young, mostly broke and minority born. Thirdly, it’s proudly no-budget.

The leader of the New Jersey Senate says a salary increase for New Jersey judges and cabinet officers is long overdue. 

A measure to give them raises will be considered by the Senate Budget Committee on Monday.

The $141,000 salary for the governor’s cabinet members, hasn’t gone up in 16 years. Senate President Steve Sweeney's bill would raise it to $175,000.

Alexandra Hill / News

After 22 years under state intervention. It's day one of local control in the Newark public school district . 

Mayor Ras Baraka addressed students, faculty and the districts newly empowered school board at science park high school. Baraka says despite being under a two-year probationary period, Newark intends to keep control of its schools at all costs.

A New Jersey lawmaker wants to speed the timetable for getting all of the state’s electricity from renewable energy sources.

Assemblyman Tim Eustace says his bill would require 100 percent of the electric power sold in the state to be from clean energy sources by the year 2035.

“This bill had originally been 2050. But as we see technology change and European countries have already reached these goals, there’s no reason why we can’t reach for the same goals.”

New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel says that could be hard to do.

Governor Phil Murphy says New Jersey will support efforts to permanently ban fracking in the Delaware River watershed.

Murphy says the gas drilling process that uses a pressurized liquid to fracture underground rock formations is one of the most dangerous threats in modern times.

“Fracking puts our health and safety and the health safety of our environment and our communities at risk. It is a direct threat to our water and runs counter to our values.”

 

Governor Phil Murphy is ordering the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to fully implement a law enacted eight years ago to encourage the development of offshore wind projects.

Regulations to implement the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act and provide financial aid and tax credits to attract windmill developers stalled during the Christie administration.   

At the site of an onshore wind farm in Atlantic City, Governor Murphy signed an executive order to move ahead with the program.

Ang Santos / WBGO

For more than 50-years, Cissy Houston has led the choir at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark.  The perfect place for a gathering to celebrate her life’s work.  City officials say Houston’s big day in Newark was year’s in the making.   Mayor Ras Baraka presented Cissy Houston a key to the city.

“Her singing talent expresses our highest values, inspires audiences around the world and right here in our neighborhoods.  She is a pioneer and advocate for the arts.  One of the greatest legends in musical and Newark history.”

New Jersey lawmakers want to increase the penalties to discourage third-party energy suppliers from taking advantage of consumers.

Assemblyman Ron Dancer says his bill would double the fines for “slamming”. That’s when a company or marketer changes a consumer’s electric or gas provider without their permission.

“They prey upon elderly, seniors, and those that maybe don’t have English as their first speaking language. Without their knowledge or consent these individuals are having their energy supplier changed and their rates increased.”

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Lena Horne is remembered as an all-around entertainer, Hollywood actress, Grammy Award winning singer, and a Tony Award winning Broadway star. But equally important to her legacy was a willingness to use fame as a platform to promote Civil Rights in the 1960s.  

New Jersey could become the first state to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes.

Assemblyman Herb Conaway says the cooling effect of menthol allows smokers to inhale more toxic substances that cause health problems.

“Black males in particular are probably as a group the most affected by lung cancer related to smoking. Menthol cigarettes have been heavily advertised in black communities which in my view has led to this very high prevalency rate among black males.”

Governor Phil Murphy blames New Jersey Transit's management for the agency's problems. He's nominating a new executive director to help make it a system that commuters can rely on.

Murphy says undoing years of bad management and delayed capital investments will take some time.

"There are years of overlooked issues to account for. But with the right leadership, and we think we've got just that, we can yank this system back from the brink."

Long serving Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, says he will not seek re-election and will retire at the end of his term.

The New Jersey Republican was facing his first competitive re-election race in decades and joins a growing roster of GOP veterans who are heading for the exits.

Ben Dworkin, the director of the Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship at Rowan University, says Frelinghuysen’s retirement does not necessarily mean it’ll be easy for Democrats to win the district.

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