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December 9, 2016

Saying that spending by independent groups supporting or opposing ballot questions in this year’s election is a “harbinger of things to come,” Jeff Brindle, executive director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, announced the amount was an all-time high — “by leaps and bounds.”

Brindle warned that without reforms that require registration and disclosure by independent groups, outside organizations will submerge next year’s gubernatorial and legislative elections in a “sea of dark money.”

The ballot initiative calling for new casinos outside of Atlantic City — which failed — garnered the most spending, about $24.6 million both pro and con. An additional $2.4 million was spent on the ballot question about the Transportation Trust Fund. And $884,460 was spent on local ballot initiatives around the state.

December 8, 2016

Parents of babies that were put up for adoption as far back as 1940 have only until December 31 before they can ask for personal identifying information be redacted from sealed adoption records. After that, approximately 300,000 birth certificates will be unsealed at the request of adoptees beginning January 3, 2017.

December 7, 2016

Gov. Chris Christie released his 2015 tax returns Tuesday, showing that he and his wife earned $913,420 last year. The big earner in the family is Mary Pat Christie who reported income of $698,708 from her job in sales at Angelo Gordon & Co., a financial investment firm. The governor’s salary is $160,754. The Christies paid $260,991 in taxes — $208,802 to the federal government. They gave $23,802 to charity.

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and her husband Michael also released their 2015 returns, showing an income of $339,686. They paid a total of $77,322 in taxes.

December 6, 2016

For the most part, New Jerseyans don’t think of the state as a major military location. But they’d be wrong. The United States military is the second largest employer in the state with 45,631 people directly employed at military installations. These workers add $3.8 billion to the state’s gross domestic product. And that’s only the direct employees. A state task force estimates that the military contributes 27,603 indirect jobs and in total delivers $9.6 billion to the state GDP.

Most jobs are located at the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst – the only base in the country that houses all four branches of the military. The Joint Base employs 35,395 people. The Picatinny Arsenal, which develops new guns and ammunition for all branches of the military, employs 5,196. The Air (2,376), Army (1,641) and Coast Guard (728) have the bulk of the rest of the military workforce in the Garden State.

December 5, 2016

Today starts the second segment of New Jersey’s bear-hunting season, a six-day hunt. The hunt will be halted when the requisite 30 percent of the estimated number of bears tagged this year are killed. This is the first time the controversial bear hunt has been held in two segments; the first part was held in October. Some environmentalists complain that the bear hunts don’t really work and that they destroy habitats. They fear the entire population of bears may be killed off, rather than managed. This week will be pretty busy in the woods. The firearm deer-hunting season will be held concurrently with bear-hunting season. And there are overlapping seasons for bow hunting and for hunting deer with other guns as well as hunting for some birds.

December 2, 2016

Despite the rain of the past week, climatologists are still warning of a severe drought in New Jersey. Most New Jerseyans are unaware of the severity of this year’s drought, although almost the entire state is being impacted. Indeed, an estimated 7,474,550 people are living in drought conditions.

The northern part of the state has the most severe conditions and is classified as in a severe drought. Moderate drought conditions are affecting the central parts of the state, with abnormally dry conditions along the shore and the southern part of Delaware Bay. To see how your town is classified, check out this map and accompanying data table.

December 1, 2016

New Jersey is nothing if not decentralized. There are more operating school districts (586) than there are municipalities (565). And there are 2,522 schools all told, which includes 1,948 elementary schools, 482 secondary schools, and 89 charters.

November 30, 2016

Small business takes the brunt of the $147 billion that large U.S. corporations gain by dodging taxes in various overseas tax havens, according to a new report issued by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund. This common scheme puts smaller businesses at a competitive disadvantage, since the extra costs prevent them from investing in their product. The costs can be significant; in New Jersey, each small business would have to pay $5,675 to make up the difference if it were the only entity to make it up.

November 29, 2016

Today is Giving Tuesday, and it’s comforting to know that the United States is ranked the second-most generous country in the world, according to the World Giving Index. (As unlikely as it may sound, Myanmar is in the top slot, and has been for the past three years.)

But how do the individual states stack up? Frankly, New Jersey could do a bit better: It came in 36th out of 50 states in a new survey from WalletHub, the personal finances website. The Garden State made a particularly poor showing when it came to percentage of donated income, finishing at 49th, just ahead of New Hampshire.

New Jersey did a bit better for “Volunteering & Service,” taking the 29th spot.

Charitable rankings were determined using a set of weighted factors that included percentage of income donated, number of public charities per capita, number of Feeding America foodbanks per capita, and percentage of sheltered homeless.

And with a Republican administration waiting in the wings, it’s interesting to note that Red states are more generous than Blue. Surely New Jersey can do something to address that situation.

It’s Tuesday. Please give generously, both of money and of time.

November 28, 2016

If you’ve got a child between the ages of 12 to 17, there’s a 6 percent chance that they’ve used marijuana in the past month, according to Kids Count, a national program that tracks children’s wellbeing run by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Young adults (18 to 25) are much more likely to use marijuana as 17 percent — or 148,000 individuals — say they used marijuana in the past month.

Fewer children — 5 percent — have smoked a cigarette in the past month. Many more young adults have smoked cigarettes, 26 percent.

November 23, 2016

What is Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce? Well, some would say, “Just fine,” but the more traditionally minded wouldn’t think of having Thanksgiving dinner without a cranberry compote gracing the table.

Chances are good that those cranberries come from New Jersey; the state is the third-largest producer of the tart fruit. Wisconsin, actually, is by far the largest grower of cranberries, expected to produce 5.2 million barrels of them this year. Massachusetts is the second-largest producer, with 2 million barrels expected.

This year’s forecast calls for New Jersey to produce 588,000 barrels of cranberries from 3,000 acres of land. Oregon, with a forecast of 530,000 barrels and Washington with 194,000 barrels round out the top five. Most states are experiencing a drought and the forecasts are for fewer cranberries than in previous years.

November 22, 2016

It’s no secret that New Jersey is home to many immigrants, but the growth in their numbers is somewhat staggering. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that there are nearly 2 million immigrants living in New Jersey (22 percent of the population), and that total grew 33 percent since 2000.

Of these immigrants, 48 percent were born in Latin America (including the Caribbean), totaling 895,321. The second-largest cohort was Asian, with immigrants hailing from across the continent. Nevertheless, 10 percent are from Eastern Asia (mostly China and Korea) and 14.5 percent from South Central Asia (India, Pakistan, Iran).

November 21, 2016

Nurses of every kind, particularly skilled nurses, are in high demand these days due to the changing work environment in the medical field. In 2014-15, 123,384 New Jerseyans applied to renew their registered nurse licenses. Of those, 101,182 participated in a demographic survey, which was published by the New Jersey Collaborative Center for Nursing.

According to the survey, 92 percent of all registered nurses are women. The majority – 69 percent – are white, but 10 percent are black, 13 percent are Asian, and 4 percent are Latino. About 46 percent of registered nurses have bachelor’s degrees; 19 percent have associate’s degrees; and 24 percent have master’s degrees. Only two percent have a doctoral degree.

About half of all nurses work in hospitals, which tend to employ younger members of the nursing workforce, with an average age of 48. Occupational health and academic settings employ the oldest registered nurses, with a mean age of 58.

November 18, 2016

There are approximately 792,088 business firms in New Jersey, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But only 184,682 of these companies have paid employees.

Of the total number of firms, 464,592 are owned by men, and 252,944 by women. Minorities own 237,242; veterans, 57,996.

November 17, 2016

There are 340,107 veterans living in New Jersey, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. That translates to about 5 percent of the population — somewhat below average among states. Washington, Virginia, Nevada and other states have more than 9.5 percent of their populations made up of veterans.

Among New Jersey’s veterans, by far the largest cohort is Vietnam vets, with 118,778 — or 35 percent of the total. The Korean War (43,631) and first Gulf War (43,069) have the second-largest groups. There are 34,466 veterans from the Second Gulf War, and 30,124 from World War II.

The vast majority of veterans in New Jersey are male, with only 6 percent female. Most are white — 82 percent. Veterans’ unemployment in New Jersey is only 5.9 percent, and 28 percent of veterans are disabled.

November 16, 2016

Given that New Jersey is the Garden State, it makes a sort of sense that virtually all residents (95 percent) believe that a strong farming industry is at least somewhat important to our overall economic health, according to the most recent Fairleigh Dickinson PublicMind Poll. The survey, sponsored by the New Jersey Farm Bureau, also indicates that 75 percent of respondents believe that farming is very important to the state’s wellbeing.

Two-thirds of those who took the poll say they have heard of the slogan, “Jersey Fresh,” an indication that the slogan has reached a broad audience.

The survey also found that 46 percent of New Jerseyans support increasing wages for seasonal agricultural labor to $10/hour in 2018, and then capping them until 2020.

November 15, 2016

Today is national recycling day, with a number of activities being held across the state. New Jersey recycles 13 million tons of material each year, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection, supporting 27,000 jobs and adding about $6 billion a year to the state economy. Nationally, recycling employs almost 500,000 people and generates more than $105 billion every year.

November 14, 2016

New Jersey has about 2 million acres of forested lands, covering 42 percent of the state. Despite being the most densely populated state in the country, New Jersey’s forests are larger than Rhode Island.

Only 775,000 acres, however, are owned and managed by the state, since 62 percent of the state’s forest are privately owned. There are more than 300 tree farms in New Jersey. Roughly 70 percent of the Highlands region is forested and over 1 million acres in the Pinelands is considered forest.

November 10, 2016

According to the unofficial results posted on Wednesday by the New Jersey Division of Elections, New Jerseyans cast 114,999 votes for third-party presidential candidates, representing 3.2 percent of all ballots cast for president. The total ballots cast for the seven third-party candidates on the ballot so far are more than triple the 37,623 they received in the 2012 presidential election; and that's before all mail-in and provisional ballots are counted. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, got more than half of those: 66,993. That’s almost 46,000 more than he got four years ago. Jill Stein, the Green Party standard-bearer, received 35,305 votes, or more than 2 1/2 times what she got in 2012. The increase in votes for Johnson and Stein, in particular, is likely due to the high unfavorable ratings for both major party candidates.

November 9, 2016

More than 3.65 million New Jerseyans voted in yesterday’s election, or 63.3 percent of the registered electorate. That is less than the 67 percent that voted in 2012 — and that was the year of Hurricane Sandy, when many voters couldn’t get to the polls. There are 5.8 million registered voters in the Garden State. The county with the highest turnout was Hunterdon, with 75.2 percent voting; they voted for Trump 55 percent to 41 percent. Camden appears to be the county with the lowest turnout at 53.5 percent. Camden voted in favor of Clinton, 65 percent to 33 percent.

November 8, 2016

At least 3.5 million New Jersey voters are expected to vote today, casting ballots for either Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump. Clinton is expected to take the state — considered “true blue” in federal statewide elections — since she is winning by an average of 11 percent in most New Jersey polls. (Some recent polls have her up about 4 percent, while others have her as high as 28 percent.)

In the most recent presidential election in 2012, about 3.6 million votes were cast for either President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. In 2008, the year Barack Obama won the presidency, 3.8 million voted in New Jersey.

This year there are 5.8 million registered voters, 300,000 more than 2012. The largest share (2.5 million) are unaffiliated, but there are 2 million registered Democrats and 1.2 million Republicans.

November 7, 2016

If you own property within 1,000 feet of Barnegat Bay or its tributaries, you may soon be able to get a $250 tax credit for replacing your lawn with gravel. The state Senate Environment and Energy committee has released a bill that would allow the tax credit for those property owners who replace grass lawns with stone, crushed shells, or other similar materials. The idea is to reduce fertilizer from running off into the bay. Property owners with existing stone or crushed-shell lawns would also be eligible for the benefit.

November 4, 2016

Breast cancer continues to be the second most-frequently diagnosed cancer among women in the United States, after skin cancer. In New Jersey, it is expected that 7,100 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2016.

According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 246,660 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in the U.S. this year, along with 61 new cases of noninvasive breast cancer. Of those, an estimated 40,450 will lose their fight.

In New Jersey, there are expected to be 1,500 deaths from breast cancer in 2016.

November 3, 2016

The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s “Cops in Shops” program, which targets underage drinking at the Jersey Shore in 27 towns, resulted in 229 arrests this past summer. This was the 20th year that the state ABC ran the program, in which undercover cops are placed in retail liquor stores to catch minors trying to purchase alcohol.

The program is actually run all year round and next month the ABC is expected to announce details of its 2016-2017 college initiative, which targets towns outside of the Shore area that have a concentrated college-age population.

Charges for providing alcohol to underage patrons are disorderly persons’ offenses and carry fines of $500.

November 2, 2016

New Jersey would experience the largest loss in economic activity in the country if the United States were to suddenly deport all of its estimated 11.3 million undocumented immigrants. The blow to the economy would be equal to 4.9 percent of the state’s Gross Domestic Product, according to New Jersey Policy Perspective, or a loss of $25.9 billion. Although other immigrant-heavy states would see greater losses (California’s would be $103 billion), it is the largest of any state when taken in the context of the size of the state’s economy.

Johanna Calle, program coordinator of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, said in a written statement that this proves it is myth that immigrants are taking from, rather than contributing to, our economy.

New Jersey has the third-highest share of undocumented workers in the nation at 7.4 percent — behind California (10.2 percent) and Texas (8.7 percent.)

November 1, 2016

As if to reinforce some of the advantages of urban life discussed at the second annual NJ Spotlight on Cities, WalletHub, the personal finances website, has put together a list of the 100 best small cities in the United States — and Jersey’s own Princeton finished in the second spot.

Princeton’s overall score of 69.63 was just 0.30 of a point behind first-place finisher, Westfield IN. Total ranking comprises 1) affordability, 2) economic health, 3) education and health, 4) quality of life and 5) safety. Princeton was ranked very high for economic health (2) and high for safety (30) and quality of life (71). Surprisingly, given that Princeton is home to one of the premier universities in the country, its score for education and health was 216. Princeton’s affordability score, however, is likely to be less surprising: 937.

The survey crunched the numbers on 1,268 cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000.

October 31, 2016

With little more than a week to go before the presidential election that seems never to end, it’s interesting to note that the “Blue” state of New Jersey actually has more unaffiliated voters (2.4 million) than it has Democrats (2 million.) Still, there are almost twice as many registered Democrats as there are Republicans (2 million versus 1.2 million.)

Those registered for third parties, like “greens,” libertarians, and conservatives cause not a blip on the total.

How then, one wonders, do New Jersey Congressional districts divide so evenly — six Democrats versus six Republicans. The answer is that Democratic districts are totally lopsided in terms of party registration. For example, District 1 – represented by Donald Norcross – has 214,762 Democrats and 77,156 Republicans. The 6th, represented by Democrat Frank Pallone, has 168, 879 Democrats to 66,536 Republicans. The 10th, represented by Democrat Donald Payne, is the most striking, with 253,166 Democrats to only 22,911 Republicans.

The Republican districts, for the most part, favor Republicans in terms of registration but by much smaller margins. The 7th District, for instance, has 140,033 Democrats to 157,456 Republicans. The Morris County district of Rodney Freylinghausen, the 11th, is considered rock-ribbed Republican. In reality, it has 164,000 registered Republicans to 149,317 Democrats.

October 28, 2016

The Affordable Care Act may be running up against some serious obstacles in its third year of full implementation but one aspect of the law that New Jersey can be proud of is the number of previously uninsured children that now have health protection. A study by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families released this week shows that in New Jersey, the number of uninsured children dropped by 38,000 or 34 percent between 2013 and 2015. There are still 75,000 children without healthcare coverage in New Jersey.

The report shows that we know how to confront intolerable problems such as children going without healthcare coverage,” said Raymond Castro, Senior Policy Analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective. “It also shows that while New Jersey has made major progress in insuring children, the state remains in the middle of the pack nationally. To reverse this trend, New Jersey should carry out commonsense measures like improving outreach and providing more continuous insurance coverage in NJ FamilyCare.”

October 27, 2016

One tool that’s being used to narrow the yawning income divide between the haves and have-nots is the Earned Income Tax Credit, a tax refund that is offered to lower-wage earners based on the size of family and overall income. Until now, childless adults were eligible for a very small sum under the federal EITC, but Congress is debating how to expand it.

According to a report by New Jersey Policy Perspective, if Congress adopts the most generous expansion of the program being proposed by U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), 504,000 New Jerseyans would benefit. That’s nearly 11 percent of the labor force. But even the most restrictive proposals by President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan would see the EITC expanded to 343,000 workers in New Jersey, or 7.3 percent of the labor force.

All of the proposals would expand the EITC to childless workers, lower the minimum age to receive it (it’s currently 25), and increase the amount of funding.

October 26, 2016

There are 1.492 million Medicare recipients living in New Jersey, a rate of 17 percent, according to statehealthfacts.org, a website maintained by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Of these, 87 percent are eligible due to age and 13 percent due to disability. The average expenditure per New Jersey enrollee is $11,903, the highest in the country. Despite the fact that the cost in New Jersey is significantly higher than the national average ($10,365), there are states that are in New Jersey’s range. Florida, for instance, pays $11,893 per enrollee, Louisiana $11,700, and New York $11,604. Between 1991 and 2009, the total annual increase in spending for Medicare in the Garden State was 7.9 percent – lower than in most states.

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