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August 17, 2018

July was the first full month for legal sports betting in New Jersey and the five establishments that offer this new way to wager scored big, hauling in $40.7 million, with gross revenues of $3.8 million. The equivalent figures for June were $16.4 million and $3.5 million respectively.

Sports betting became legal in the state on June 11 and only two establishments, the Borgata and the Ocean Resort casinos in Atlantic City, got going shortly thereafter. The five sportsbooks now open are operated by Monmouth Park and Meadowlands racetracks, the Borgata and Ocean Resort casinos, as well as Caesar’s Entertainment which opened a sportsbook at Bally’s Atlantic City on July 30.

It’s “important to remember that this is the industry’s infancy. A mature, fully established New Jersey sports betting market could field billions of dollars in annual wagers,” said Dustin Gouker, lead sports betting analyst for PlayNJ.com. More operators are expected to open sportsbooks in the state soon.

August 16, 2018

Morristown Medical Center has been rated the number one hospital in New Jersey by U.S. News & World Report in its just-released 2018-2019 Best Hospitals rankings. The medical center was also rated one of the top 20 hospitals in the nation for cardiology and heart surgery and in the top 50 hospitals in the nation for gastroenterology and GI surgery. It ranked as the number four hospital overall in the New York Metro area.

The Morristown hospital was one of only 31 hospitals in the country the report deemed high performing — meaning, in the top 10 percent of programs nationwide — in eight conditions and procedures: abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, aortic valve surgery, heart bypass surgery, heart failure, colon cancer surgery, hip replacement, knee replacement, and lung cancer surgery. It was also recognized as a high-performing hospital in five specialties: geriatrics, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, and pulmonology.

U.S. News evaluated more than 4,500 medical facilities throughout the country in 25 specialties, procedures and conditions. The purpose of the ratings is to “make hospital quality more transparent to healthcare consumers nationwide,” said Ben Harder, managing editor and chief of health analysis at U.S. News.

Morristown Medical Center is part of the Atlantic Health System, which has a workforce of 16,500 and 4,800 affiliated physicians. It has five other hospitals — Overlook Medical Center, Newton Medical Center, Chilton Medical Center, Hackettstown Medical Center and Goryeb Children’s Hospital — plus 400 sites of care.

August 15, 2018

There isn’t even the width of a greenback between voter support for U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur (R) and his Democratic challenger Andy Kim as they face the November mid-term election for New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District seat. The Monmouth University Poll finds a mere 1 percent dividing them, with support for the incumbent MacArthur at 41 percent compared to 40 percent for Kim. Fifteen percent of voters are undecided.

While the 3rd District is seen as a battleground in the mid-terms and therefore is a must-watch for political operatives on both sides, the poll finds it hasn’t captured much voter attention. Not even half (49 percent) say they have a lot of interest in the election; this is the lowest interest level found in seven midterm House races that Monmouth has polled in the past two months.

The challenger Kim, who was an aide in the administration of former President Barack Obama, is trying to wrest a seat that MacArthur first won by 10 points in 2014 and was re-elected to comfortably in 2016.

MacArthur is considered one of the more bipartisan House members. But he’s also seen as a stalwart of President Donald Trump, who hosted a fundraiser for the congressman at his Bedminster golf club. According to the poll, 25 percent of voters say MacArthur has been too supportive of the president, more (31 percent) say he has given Trump the right amount of support, and 7 percent say he has not been supportive enough.

The 3rd District takes in two distinct geographic areas — the eastern Ocean County section is strongly Republican and registers strong support for Trump; so, it’s no surprise that MacArthur is well ahead of Kim there (47 percent to 32 percent). The western Burlington County section encompasses several Democratic areas where Trump is unpopular; and that’s where Kim is outperforming MacArthur (47 percent to 37 percent).

The two candidates might see cause for concern in the poll’s favorable-unfavorable ratings: Voters give MacArthur a 30 percent favorable to 19 percent unfavorable score, while a surprising 52 percent have no opinion of their current representative. Kim scores 20 percent favorable to 11 unfavorable among voters, but here’s the red flag for him — the great majority of voters (68 percent) give no opinion of him.

“Both candidates will need a combination of tactics to motivate their base and persuade undecided voters. The relative weight they give to these strategies is going to play out differently in the eastern and western parts of the district for each campaign,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

August 14, 2018

New Jersey returned $142.6 million in unclaimed property and assets to 50,837 rightful owners and their heirs in fiscal year 2018. That was the second-highest figure ever returned, according to state Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio.

The state’s unclaimed-property laws require financial institutions, insurance companies, utility companies and the like to annually report abandoned assets — dormant accounts or ones that have been inactive for a specified time. Before the advent of these laws, banks and corporations would happily absorb abandoned accounts and uncashed checks. Current law also requires the property eventually be turned over to the state, which then goes about getting it to the rightful owners. In fact, the state is required to hold the assets in perpetuity until they’re claimed.

The restorative transactions are handled by the Unclaimed Property Administration, which as well as following the rightful money trail, publicizes the process in a variety of ways so that we all have a chance to get a welcome surprise. The UPA also publishes the names and addresses of abandoned property owners twice a year; the upcoming August advertisement is expected to list the names of 165,800 residents whose property — valued at $100 or more — was handed over to the state during FY2018. Residents can find out if New Jersey is holding property on their behalf through an online searchable database.

August 13, 2018

More than half a million New Jerseyans (530,000) are served in the state’s 119 community health centers, which are a critical safety net for uninsured and underinsured residents. The state Department of Health is highlighting the centers’ important role in this, National Health Center Week. Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said the centers are essential to “providing primary prevention, medical care, dental care and behavioral health care such as mental health treatment and substance abuse counseling.” The DOH funds the centers’ care of the uninsured and underinsured to the tune of $30 million annually.

A number of events for Health Center Week will take place throughout the state including health fairs, screenings, community walks and educational sessions.

August 10, 2018

To fluoridate or not to fluoridate: that’s something on which New Jerseyans are divided. Thirty-four percent say that adding fluoride to water does more harm than good, although they’re outnumbered by those residents who believe fluoridation is a good thing (48 percent). The results are from the most recent Fairleigh Dickinson University poll.

New Jersey is among the states with the lowest levels of water fluoridation. Only 14.6 percent of residents here live in areas where fluoride is added to the water at a level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. As recently as 2006, 22.6 percent of residents here had access to fluoridated water.

Fluoride coverage in New Jersey is strikingly lower than in the country as a whole; 67 percent of Americans in general get fluoridated water when they turn on their taps. And, only Hawaii ranks lower than New Jersey for fluoridation (11.7 percent). In comparison, the figures for our neighboring states are: Pennsylvania (55 percent), New York (71 percent); and Delaware (87 percent).

Although the CDC characterizes community water fluoridation as one of the greatest public-health achievements of the 20th century, the FDU poll found strong skepticism of it nationally, with 43 percent of people believing that putting fluoride in public drinking water is a way for chemical companies to offload dangerous toxins into the environment.

August 9, 2018

A new competitive grant fund of $4.3 million is now available for conservation work to protect and enhance the Delaware River Watershed. Quality-improvement programs, habitat restoration, flood mitigation, and other conservation and protection projects are eligible for the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund. The fund will be administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. (Grant applications are being accepted through Thursday, September 27.)

In addition to providing drinking water to more than 15 million people, including in New York City and Philadelphia, the watershed is a vital resource for all the five states that contain it — New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, and Maryland. It supports billions of dollars’ worth of economic activity annually and its ecosystem services to the region include water filtration, forests and wetlands, and carbon sequestration. It is home to more than 200 species of fish, oysters and crab that support numerous recreational fisheries and a diverse marine ecosystem.

August 8, 2018

In New Jersey, the tragedy of sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) happens less among infants whose mothers were born in India than among any other sector of the population. From 2000 to 2015, the SUID rate for babies whose mothers were born in India was 0.14 deaths per 1,000 live births. During the same period, SUID was recorded at a rate of 0.4 in the white population, 0.5 among Hispanics and 1.6 in the black population. The figures come from a Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences study on sudden infant deaths.

Bed-sharing is flagged by the American Academy of Pediatrics as a high-risk factor in SUID — which includes sudden infant death syndrome, accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed, and ill-defined and unknown causes in children under one year old. The study’s lead author Barbara Ostfeld, a professor of pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, notes that “Conditions that substantially increase the risk of SUID while bed-sharing include smoking, alcohol use and maternal fatigue.”

Paradoxically, the low rate of SUID among Indian-Americans is juxtaposed with the fact that they have the highest rate of bed-sharing with their babies among ethnic groups in New Jersey. Said Ostfeld, “Indian-Americans smoke and use alcohol less than other populations. In addition, grandparents tend to be very active in childcare, which reduces maternal fatigue. Apart from bed-sharing, poverty also increases the risk of SUID, and Indian-Americans have higher incomes.”

August 7, 2018

With 1,210 people per square mile — at least as of 2015 — New Jersey takes the top spot as the most densely populated state in the nation.

The only other state even to come close that year was Rhode Island, which squeezed 1,022 people into a square mile.

New Jersey is the fifth smallest state in the country, based on land area. It encompasses 7,417 square miles and has the 11th-largest population — close to 9 million in 2015, now estimated to exceed 9 million as of 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

While there are still plenty of relatively rural parts of New Jersey in the northwest and southwest in particular, its urban areas are very crowded. A survey by Governing magazine of cities with populations of at least 50,000 found that six of the 10 most densely populated in 2016, including the top three, were in New Jersey. New York City ranked fourth.

Leading that list was Union City, with 54,138 people per square mile. Two other Hudson County towns took the second and third slots: West New York, with 52,815 people per square mile, and Hoboken, with 42,484. Also among the top 10 were Passaic, fifth, with 22,42 people per square mile; Jersey City, ninth, with 17,860; and Paterson, 10th, with 17,438.

August 6, 2018

Tomato season is finally here! Surprisingly, the justifiably famous Jersey crop is only the third largest grown in the state. Farmers say that field tomatoes are now ripe for picking; and, due to early rain and warm weather, the growing conditions this year are great.

New Jersey annually ranks in the top 10 states in the U.S. for the production of tomatoes. Last year, the production of 112 million pounds grown on 4,000 acres was worth more than $39 million.

New Jersey’s tomato season lasts through October with peak harvest during the first two weeks of August, according to the state’s Department of Agriculture. There are many different types of tomatoes grown in New Jersey, including the Ramapo, Quick Pick, Jet Star, Pik-Red, Floramerica, Celebrity, Supersteak, Supersonic, Mountain Pride, Heirloom, as well as cherry-shaped, pear-shaped and novelty varieties.

And recently, the Rutgers tomato, which started it all, has been reintroduced to the market.

August 3, 2018

Hunger is an issue in 16 percent of New Jersey households where there are children. In households where no children live, hunger is less of a problem (11.5 percent). The gap is highlighted in How Hungry is America?, a new national report by the Food Research & Action Center. According to the report, New Jersey is one of the 15 worst states for a high ratio of hunger in households with children compared to childless households.

The findings underscore “the need to strengthen our child nutrition programs, including school breakfast, summer meals and afterschool meals, as well as well protect food aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,'' said Adele LaTourette, director of the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition. One small cause for optimism: LaTourette noted that New Jersey has made strong gains against child hunger by providing school breakfast and summer meals to more children, although thousands of children still go unserved.

August 2, 2018

The median sale price of a single-family home in June was $340,000, up 4.6 percent from last year, according to New Jersey Realtors, the largest trade association in the state.

Prices overall are on the rise, and properties are spending fewer days on the market, according to the group’s most recent report.

The median price of a townhouse/condo increased slightly to $260,000 in June; adult communities increased 10.5 percent to $210,000 compared with this time last year.

Single-family homes spent an average of 57 days on the market in June, down 10.9 percent over last year. Average time on the market for townhouses and condominiums was down 15.4 percent to 55 days, with adult communities not far behind at an 11 percent decline to 65 days, when compared to this time last year.

New Jersey Realtors indicated that a strong economy and a quarter-point increase to the federal funds rate in June are spurring competition among buyers, with low inventory adding to an already aggressive market. The number of single-family homes on the market in June dropped 12 percent over last year to 37,573. The townhouse/condo and adult community market numbers followed suit, dropping 12.6 percent to 9,741 and 6.9 percent to 2,335, respectively, for June.

August 1, 2018

New Jersey’s “uninsurance” rate ticked up in 2017 to 11.8 percent; it had been 10.6 percent the previous year. This is among the statistics related to health insurance in the Garden State that are highlighted in Trump's ACA Sabotage: Bad Medicine for New Jersey, a new report on what GOP efforts to kill the Affordable Care Act have meant here. The report is by the progressive think tank, New Jersey Policy Perspective.

One key figure cited in the report — 18. That’s the number of actions the report says the Trump administration has taken to undermine the ACA. Among those acts of “sabotage,” it lists reducing funds for navigators in New Jersey by 68 percent (from $1.9 million in 2016 to $600,000 in 2018); cutting outreach funds for 2019 by one-third (down to $400,000); cutting national funding for advertising by 90 percent. But, probably the most cutting action of all comes fourth on the list: repealing the federal individual mandate for people to have health insurance.

“While New Jersey has taken steps to protect its residents from the Trump administration, more must be done to combat the barrage of attacks on New Jersey’s health care market," said Raymond Castro, NJPP director of health policy.

July 31, 2018

New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has joined with nine other state attorneys general in a lawsuit to prevent a firearms developer from releasing computer files that can be used to create untraceable guns on a 3-D printer.

The developer, a Texas-based company called Defense Distributed, has threatened to release the files to the public on Wednesday, August 1, 2018.

The complaint against the U.S. Department of State, filed yesterday by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in federal court, was joined by California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. The action seeks to stop a settlement and rule changes that would allow Defense Distributed to post files online to allow individuals to print guns using 3-D printers.

“These dangerous files,” Grewal said, “would allow anyone — including terrorists, domestic abusers, felons, fugitives, and juveniles — to print untraceable assault weapons using a 3D printer.”

Grewal also filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in Essex County, seeking a temporary restraining order against Defense Distributed and its founder, Cody Wilson. The lawsuit follows a cease-and-desist letter the attorney general sent the company on Thursday, July 26, 2018.

On Sunday, July 29, 2018, Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation, a gun-rights organization, sued Attorney General Grewal in federal district court in Austin, seeking to stop him from preventing publication of the company’s computer files on its website, known as DEFCAD. The same day, Wilson claimed on his personal Twitter account that he had taken steps to prevent the distribution of those files in New Jersey, stating “Yes, DEFCAD has been blocked in New Jersey.”

Despite that claim, as noted in New Jersey’s court filings yesterday, the Defense Distributed website remains accessible in New Jersey.

July 30, 2018

More than 100 million visitors came to the Garden State last year. A nice plump 101 million, in fact. And they spent just a tad less than $43 billion while they were at it. Most visitors (90 percent) came for leisure, with overnight visitors making up most of the numbers (90 percent), according to a report on the economic impact of tourism in New Jersey last year. Moreover, domestic visitors were the mainstay. In fact, international visitors contributed a negligible 6 percent of all visitor spending, a fact the report attributes to their being put off by higher exchange rates.

So, where did our visitors spend their money? Well, quite a lot of it in casinos, it seems; it was the first year since 2006 there was a year-over-year increase in gambling revenues at brick-and-mortar casinos. The visitors spent $11.8 billion on lodging, $10.8 billion on food and beverage, $7.8 billion on retail, $7.2 billion on transportation, and $5.2 billion on recreation.

July 27, 2018

Most rabies cases in New Jersey involve raccoons, but so far this year 11.1 percent of the 81 recorded incidents were due to bats. Although wildlife experts warn residents to be careful, they note that less than 0.5 percent of wild bats carry rabies and bats are considered relatively harmless creatures.

Wildlife experts are asking the public to help them learn more about the state’s bats. Since 2003, the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and the Endangered and Nongame Species Program have been running a citizen-science project called Summer Bat Count to help track the locations of the state’s bat populations over time. Last year, volunteers monitored 1,300 bats at 12 nesting areas in Hunterdon, Mercer, Morris, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Warren and Cape May counties. Researchers hope larger sample sizes in the future will lead to a more accurate map of the Garden State’s bat colonies.

If you’ve noticed bats living in your barn or backyard during the summer, you can contribute to the research by filling out this form with data from four observations. You’ll have to wait until next year, though, as the study requires two counts between May 15 and June 21 and two more between July 6 and July 31.

In the meantime, munch on this fact: one little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) can eat over 1,200 insects an hour.

July 26, 2018

The Department of Banking and Insurance announced today that it issued fines and ordered the return of funds owed consumers totaling $12.5 million in the first half of 2018. Fines adding up to $4.1 million were imposed on companies and individuals for violations of state insurance, banking, and real estate laws.

In the first quarter of 2018, licensees and carriers were ordered to repay real estate, insurance, and banking consumers $5 million as part of DOBI investigations resulting from formal complaints. The department also imposed a total of $2.7 million in fines.

“These actions should send a clear message that the Department takes very seriously its mission to ensure that New Jersey residents are protected and regulated entities are operating in compliance with the law,” said Commissioner Marlene Caride.

First-quarter enforcement actions included a $2.5 million fine paid by UnitedHealthcare Insurance Co., the largest fine in nine years, for various insurance violations. Infractions by UnitedHealthcare and its affiliates, AmeriChoice of New Jersey, Oxford Health Insurance, and Oxford Health Plans (New Jersey) included use of a nondesignated provider of hemophilia services and supplies for nine months. They also included failures to promptly comply with decisions of the Independent Health Care Appeals Program that reversed denials of claims and authorizations.

Fines imposed in the second quarter of 2018 amounted to $1.4 million. A total of $3.4 million was ordered to be returned to consumers by licensees and carriers.

July 25, 2018

California has recently made headlines for a proposal to split it into three states. But it’s by no means the first to put forward such a radical idea. Thirty other states have had at least one group campaign to secede from the mother state, although few managed to get the issue on a ballot.

New Jersey is one of the states that got as far as voting on the issue. If you’re hazy on the details — or weren’t around then — here’s what happened: In 1980, citizens of Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Cumberland, Ocean and Salem counties voted on a nonbinding referendum to make South Jersey the 51st state in the U.S., with Interstate 195 as its northern boundary. The proposal passed in each county except Ocean, winning 51 percent of the vote overall (180,663 to 174,151). However, the dream of a state united by pork rolls, hoagies and a love for Philadelphia sports soon died in the state Legislature.

The individuals who launched the South Jersey secessionist movement in the 1970s complained of an overinvolved government; they were also dissatisfied with insufficient representation in a Legislature they felt sought to advance the economy of northern New Jersey at the cost of southern reaches. The governor at the time, Democrat Brendan T. Byrne, dismissed them as a group of “rabble-rousers.”

Though the two-state proposal never got beyond that, comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert recently thrust the Garden State’s regional divide back into the spotlight as they investigated the questionable existence of Central Jersey. Can a three-state proposal be far behind?

July 24, 2018

If catching a flight out of Newark Liberty International Airport conjures up visions of long lines and longer delays, you might want to try a less stressful liftoff — Trenton-Mercer Airport. According to numbers released this week by the Federal Aviation Administration, passenger growth at the airport increased 30.6 percent in 2017 over 2016. The FAA indicated that 363,626 people boarded a commercial aircraft out of Trenton-Mercer in 2017, compared with 278,436 in 2016.

The airport is adding four “exciting” new destinations in 2018 by Frontier Airlines — Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Jacksonville, and Nashville. What’s more, Frontier’s newer, quieter A320 NEO Airbus has increased seating capacity over the A319, airport officials reported.

Trenton-Mercer Airport now ranks 143rd out of 533 commercial airports in the United States and is in the top 25 percent of all commercial airports. It supports more passengers than airports with much larger terminals such as Allentown/Lehigh Valley, PA; Tallahassee and Daytona, FL; Fort Wayne, IN; and Santa Barbara, CA.

July 23, 2018

Here are grim tidings. New Jersey has five of the top 15 most unhealthy cities in the United States, according to a Quote.com study. Camden, Trenton, Passaic, Newark, and Paterson are the unlucky five, with Camden coming second overall. The study ranked Gary, Indiana as the least healthy city of all in the country.

Quote.com says it recruited 12 medical experts to identify the most critical health metrics, using data from the CDC and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's 500 Cities Project. On the negative side, they focused on issues such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes; on the positive side, they looked at preventive behaviors like regular mammograms, cancer screenings, and health insurance coverage.

Ohio joined the Garden State for having five cities ranked among the least healthy. And, between them, Indiana, New Jersey, and Ohio accounted for 70 percent of the least healthy cities. As Quote.com put it, “Many of the unhealthiest cities have dealt with, or are currently experiencing, major economic or social issues. These findings concur with a 15-year study by the medical journal JAMA, which found a direct link between poverty and health. That study's authors even estimated a life expectancy difference of 10 to 15 years between the poorest and richest people.”

Newton, MA ranked as the healthiest city; seven cities in California made it into the top 20 healthiest.

July 20, 2018

More than 75 percent of certified public accountants (CPAs) believe New Jersey’s 2019 state budget will affect the economy negatively; they were responding to a survey by the New Jersey Society of CPAs (NJCPA). The pessimists were about evenly split among those who think the economy will get “significantly worse” (37 percent) and those who are of the opinion it will get “marginally worse” (39 percent). Fourteen percent contend the budget won’t impact the economy either way, and there’s an outlier group of optimists (10 percent) that predict the Garden State economy’s going to get either “marginally better” or even “significantly better” under the new budget.

But, why the preponderantly gloomy outlook? For one, the budget’s millionaires tax: According to one respondent, this tax will fuel “…the outward migration of wealth… and the long-term effect will be disastrous.” Another reason cited: The budget’s tax increases on corporations won’t help the job market, will be a disincentive for businesses to remain in the state, and will make the state less friendly to investors and businesses.

July 19, 2018

Undergraduate students at Rutgers will see a 2.3 percent increase in the cost of tuition and fees for the 2018-2019 academic year, the state university’s board of governors decided yesterday. The increase is in line with the trend at the university during the past five years and below the 10-year average (3.2 percent). “We understand that any increase is difficult for our students, but we must balance that with the need to provide access to the highest quality education for our students,” said Sandy J. Stewart, chair of the board of governors.

Here’s what the increase will mean for students’ bottom line: A typical in-state, full-time Arts and Sciences undergraduate at Rutgers University-New Brunswick will be billed $14,975 in combined tuition and mandatory student fees in 2018-2019. If they live on campus, the total charges (tuition, fees, room and board) will go to $27,681, an increase of 2.18 percent over last year. At Rutgers University-Camden, the comparable figures will be $14,836 and, for those living on campus, $27,172 for total charges. And at Rutgers University-Newark, tuition and fees will go to $14,410 and $27,946 for total charges for students living on campus.

Rutgers notes that, although the 2.3 percent increase is for most undergraduates, charges for tuition, fee, room and board may vary across the university’s colleges and schools. Yesterday, the board also approved a $4.3 billion budget for the 2018-2019 academic year.

July 18, 2018

Federal funding for the multistate Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBRP) has been awarded, for the first time ever. The amount — $5 million — isn’t a heck of a lot of money given the scope of the work involved, but advocates are taking it as a good sign and perhaps a harbinger of future funding. The money will go toward conservation and restoration projects in fish and wildlife habitat, water quality and management, repairing flood damage, and improving recreational opportunities and public access. The basin supplies drinking water to about 15 million people.

New Jersey’s portion of the Delaware River Basin covers 40 percent (2,961 square miles) of the land area and includes 22 percent of the state's population. The region’s a real economic engine for the Garden State, with more than 60,000 related jobs and $1.3 billion in annual wages; the jobs are in fishing, recreation, tourism, water/sewer construction, water utilities, and ports. (The basin also encompasses portions of New York, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.)

July 17, 2018

The Murphy administration wants to double the number of medical marijuana dispensaries operating in New Jersey, from six to 12. The dispensaries are known as Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs.) The administration plans to give two new licenses each in the northern, central and southern regions of the state.

If you want to apply, you must pay a hefty application fee — $20,000, $18,000 of which would be returned to unsuccessful applicants. But it’s not just a matter of plopping down the money and hoping to get picked. Would-be license holders must go through a mandatory preapplication conference; that will take place on Thursday, August 9 at the Department of Health headquarters in Trenton. Applications are due by August 31, 2018.

More than 25,000 patients, 1,000 caregivers, and 700 physicians participate in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. “Due to the steps that Commissioner Elnahal and I have taken since January, we have seen the addition of 10,000 new patients,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. “Accordingly, we have to expand the number of businesses who are growing product and serving patients,” he added. (He was referring to Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal.)

July 16, 2018

It’s been 10 years since one of the most renowned varieties of New Jersey tomatoes was relaunched — after having dropped out of our salads and off the face of the earth.

In general, New Jersey tomatoes are justifiably famous for their size, flavor and juice. But when Rutgers University developed the Ramapo tomato in 1968, it was somewhat of a miracle plant: fast-growing, crack-resistant and immune to diseases. Bernard Pollack of Rutgers’ New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) had spent eight years breeding it to be the perfect Jersey tomato. Gardeners — and gastronomists — loved it.

And then it disappeared.

By the late 1980s, seed companies had completely phased out the Ramapo. They were more interested in marketing new tomato varieties that were firmer, more durable and could withstand being shipped cross-country. But they weren’t nearly as tasty.

Ramapo loyalists got upset and even started a letter-writing campaign demanding the return of their favorite tomato. For a short while, NJAES produced and distributed small batches of the variety to appease them.

Decades after the last Ramapos went off the market, vegetable agents at Rutgers sought to reintroduce the plant. In 2008, they identified a facility in Israel that could produce large enough quantities of the seeds to resurrect the Ramapo variety. The seeds sold out within three months of hitting the market — and were quickly restocked.

Today, the Ramapo lives on, in grocery stores, farmers markets and backyards. Since its reintroduction in 2008 — and the associated launch of the Rediscover the Jersey Tomato program — three more varieties with the “delicious tangy old time Jersey tomato flavor” have been introduced: the Rutgers 250, the Moreton and the KC-146. Fortunately, tomato season is just around the corner.

July 13, 2018

Sports betting became legal in New Jersey on June 11 and gamblers here haven’t wasted any time exercising their new right. They wagered $16.4 million in the first month of the law’s operation, generating $3.5 million in gross revenue.

The figures have put a smile on the faces of those in the legal sportsbook industry; given that only three establishments took in the wagers, the results were above expectations. The Borgata Casino in Atlantic City opened for sports betting on June 14, as did Monmouth Park. The Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City got in on the game on June 28. Monmouth Park won the revenue race in the first month. It had $2.3 million in gross revenue, generating $142,448 a day. The Borgata’s total was $986,831, for $61,677 a day. The Ocean Resort grossed $192,671 in revenue, for $64,224 a day.

“Total amount wagered and revenue will increase exponentially as more casinos and racetracks begin to offer wagering, and as online betting kicks off later this summer and into the fall,” said Dustin Gouker, a sports betting analyst for PlayNJ.com. Sports betting is expected to get going at Meadowlands Racetrack on July 14, with more operators to follow (you can bet on it).

July 12, 2018

New Jersey’s overall infant mortality rate is lower than the national rate (4.7 per 1,000 live births versus 5.9 in 2015). But there’s a big disparity between the results for white and black infants in the Garden State (3.0 per 1,000 births for white infants compared to 9.7 for black infants). To improve health outcomes for black infants and mothers, several state agencies under the aegis of the Department of Health have just awarded grants of $4.3 million as part of a “Healthy Women, Healthy Families” initiative. The money is going to six community-based organizations across the state.

In addition, the Department of Health is giving $450,000 for a doula pilot program in municipalities with a high mortality rate among black infants. (Doulas provide patient education, labor support, and home visits. Studies show their involvement in maternity care reduces the incidence of cesarean births, increases the likelihood of a shorter labor, and can lead to a more positive childbirth experience.)

July 11, 2018

Geoffrey the Giraffe, all 550 pounds and 16-plus feet of him, once lived at the Toys ‘R’ Us headquarters in Wayne, New Jersey. But when the toy retailer filed for bankruptcy last September and began liquidating its assets, it couldn’t find a buyer for the gangling fiberglass ruminant; the difficulty of moving him and the associated costs proved too big a reach for would-be takers. What would be his fate? Well, even amid the ashes of an iconic retailer’s demise, there was something to cheer.

This very morning, Geoffrey is being given a welcoming party in the lobby of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital in New Brunswick. It turns out the big guy found a buyer after all. Joseph Malfitano, liquidation adviser to Toys ‘R’ Us, bought the giraffe and funded the $10,000 cost of packing and shipping him 50 miles to New Brunswick. Then, RWJBarnabas Health board member Ken Rosen said he would donate the $6,000 needed to settle Geoffrey in his new spot in the hospital’s lobby, which henceforward is where he shall be receiving guests. Most other giraffes live in Africa where they browse on tall plants and keep an eye out for lions and leopards.

July 10, 2018

More than 1,000 people will soon be working in Parsippany-Troy Hills at the new U.S. headquarters of Teva Pharmaceuticals USA. Teva is a global company that originated in Israel; it specializes in the manufacture of generic and specialty drugs, as well as other health-related products. Currently headquartered in North Wales, Pa., it looked at several locations for a new HQ before choosing to expand in New Jersey, where it already has more than 200 employees.

The company said it will increase its existing Parsippany-Troy Hills facility, and transfer — and create — 843 jobs there, adding to those already working for it at that location. The median annual wage for the 1,000 jobs is a healthy $128,073. Teva received tax credits from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA).

July 9, 2018

Forty-four percent of children under the age of 10 in New Jersey are non-Hispanic white, placing the state 11th among the states, as sorted by the lowest percentage of whites. Hawaii is 1st (15.3 percent), New Mexico next (23.9 percent), followed by the District of Columbia (25.3 percent), California (25.4 percent), and Texas (31.1 percent). At the other end of the scale, 88.6 percent of children of that age in Vermont are non-Hispanic white, followed by West Virginia (88.3 percent), Maine (87.7 percent), New Hampshire (84.3 percent), and Kentucky (77.6 percent). New York comes 12th on the list (46.2 percent).

The figures, from the U.S. Census Bureau’s recent release of statistics on race and age, also indicate that “for the first time there are more children who are minorities than who are white, at every age from zero to nine” in the country, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution. Those born in the United States in the years since 2007 — the report dubs them Generation Z-Plus — comprise “the first truly minority white generation, at 49.6 percent white, where 26 percent of its members are Hispanics, 13.6 percent African-Americans, and nearly 10 percent include Asians and persons of two or more races.”

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