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September 3, 2015

In celebration of Labor Day, it’s worth noting that the energy sector of the market continues to grow in New Jersey, despite the fact it’s not an oil-producing state. PSEG said that it will increase its workforce by [link:https://www.pseg.com/info/media/newsreleases/2015/2015-09-02.jsp#.VeerjOkvEZg|30 percent] this year, due to modernization efforts, transmission upgrades, hardening infrastructure, and building a new power plant. The state’s largest energy provider is investing $10 billion in infrastructure upgrades in the next few years.

PSEG has hired 800 new employees this year, in addition to hundreds of contractors. It also plans to create 2,000 jobs through its Energy Strong program, which calls for hardening its infrastructure in the wake of superstorm Sandy. Transmission upgrades will result in 6,000 new jobs, and the modernization of its distribution program calls for another 500 jobs. This is in addition to 350 construction jobs to build a new power plant, which will call for 28 full-time permanent workers.

September 2, 2015

New Jerseyans love their cars. Despite an increase in the use of public transportation and in working at home, the vast majority -- [link:http://www.census.gov/easystats/|2.9 million] out of 3.8 million -- of New Jersey workers drive alone in their cars and trucks to their jobs everyday, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The next most popular mode of transportation to work is carpooling, with 338,538 New Jerseyans choosing it.

Public transportation, excluding taxis, comes next in the lineup, with 216,345 residents relying on it to get to work. About 158,000 people -- the vast majority of them white -- work at home.

Some 124,825 residents walk to work. Taxis are used by about 78,000.

September 1, 2015

Grace, a doe located in the vicinity of Marlboro, has had a foot-long arrow stuck in her face since last November, and now more than [link:http://www.thepetitionsite.com/720/806/872/help-grace/|104,000] people have signed a petition calling for the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Fish and Wildlife Division to help her.

Fish and Wildlife attempted to tranquilize her last fall but failed, and subsequently suspected she was pregnant. Grace has given birth -- and according to her supporters “is a great mum.” Now they are petitioning the department to follow through on promises to help her. Petitioners also want to create a no-hunting zone throughout the area.

August 31, 2015

It may or may not come as a surprise to some residents, but New Jersey has a dismal rating when it comes to women’s equality, according to Wallethub, the financial services website. The state ranked [link:http://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-states-for-women-equality/5835/#methodology|38th] in a recent look at 11 metrics that the company said indicate how equal women are in a given state.

New Jersey scored worst when it compared education of women to men -- ranking 41st in the country. Position in this category was determined by how many women had a Bachelor’s degree or higher and how well they did on math tests compared with men.

Women did somewhat better when the report looked at workplace environment, scoring an 18. Factors that made up workplace scores include equal pay, entrepreneurship, number of executives, unemployment, number of minimum-wage workers, and average work hours.

The lack of women in political posts also factored into New Jersey’s poor score for political empowerment, which considered the number of women in federal and state elected positions. New Jersey ranked 27th in the country.

August 14, 2015

As any New Jerseyan will tell you, August is prime time in the Garden State. Tomatoes, corn, and peaches are at the height of their season. Fresh fish -- both ocean and bay -- is plentiful. And it seems that almost all of its 565 municipalities are sponsoring some sort of jazz, music, or other festival to draw crowds.

Of course, the biggest attraction is New Jersey’s [link:http://www.visitnj.org/nj/beaches|130] miles of beach fronting the Atlantic Ocean. The state also boasts 24 boardwalks along the coast, something New Jersey is almost uniquely known for.

NJ Spotlight is taking a much-needed two-week rest, and many of us plan to spend our time along the ocean reading from our upcoming Summer Reading series of book excerpts -- all related to our beloved Garden State. But don’t worry. We’ll be back on the job before the month is over.

August 13, 2015

Even the most fervent fans of felines would probably admit that New Jersey has something of a cat problem -- at least when it comes to the approximately [link:http://www.aplnj.org/tnr-policy.php|400,000] feral cats that call the Garden State home during the summer, according to data provided by the Animal Protection League of New Jersey.

The population, reports the APL, dwindles to 200,000 in the colder months, with the harsh climate killing off some cats and driving others away. Feral cat colonies breed frequently, and rapidly replenish their numbers.

The APL is the founder of Project TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return), a strategy designed to help curb the state's feral cat population. Feral cats are trapped, neutered, and vaccinated for rabies, then released into controlled areas where they are monitored.

While finding homes for the cats might seem more humane, the APL explains that this is unfeasible. The sheer volume of feral cats alone would make this difficult, but there is also the problem of behavior: Feral cats can never really be fully domesticated; as a result Project TNR sends only kittens and friendly adults into foster care.

August 12, 2015

New Jersey is becoming notable for the lack of political participation by its citizens in general and by [link:http://statusofwomendata.org/explore-the-data/state-data/new-jersey/#political-participation|women in particular], according to a ranking by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

The group, which tracks data for the Status of Women in the states, gives New Jersey a “D” for political participation by women.

Why? Well, although women vote in higher numbers than men, the participation of both genders is dismal. Only 62 percent of women eligible to vote were registered in 2010/2012, while only 58 percent of men registered. The percent who voted was even smaller -- 47 percent for women, 43 percent for men.

New Jersey performed equally poorly when it came to the number of women serving as elected officials. While there are a number of women in the state Legislature, and the lieutenant governor is female, the only woman in the congressional delegation is Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12), elected this past November.

New Jersey’s poor showing is despite the fact that it ranks first in the country when it comes to women having support from institutional groups set up to encourage them to participate in the political process. These institutions include a state chapter of the National Women’s Caucus, a commission for women, a training program for women who want to run for office, and a women’s political action committee.

August 11, 2015

Gov. Chris Christie may be many things to the folks who live in New Jersey. Unfortunately for the governor, given his current political ambitions, one of those is not “presidential,” according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. [link:http://eagletonpoll.rutgers.edu/rep-Christie-traits-Aug2015|Fifty-four percent] of New Jersey registered voters say “presidential” does not describe Christie at all, versus 29 percent who think it describes the governor “somewhat well” and just 14 percent who say “very well.”

Negative perceptions of Christie, which could affect his presidential run, continue to inch up: with “arrogant” (58 percent “very,” 25 percent “somewhat”), “self-centered” (52 percent “very,” 24 percent “somewhat”), and “bully” (49 percent “very,” 25 percent “somewhat”) reaching new highs.

The governor did field some good numbers. About half of those surveyed still believe “smart” describes him “very well”; another third, “somewhat.” Four in 10 say “strong leader” is “very apt” (another quarter, “somewhat”).

The emotional tenor of some of the responses also is telling. Voters continue to feel “angry” at Christie (43 percent), while almost half are “worried,” and a third even feel “contempt.” About three in 10 continue to say Christie makes them feel “proud” or “enthusiastic,” but both are down by double digits since the governor’s reelection in 2013 -- and by six points since Bridgegate alone.

August 10, 2015

Feeling poor? No wonder. According to statehealthfacts.org, a website sponsored by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a New Jersey family of four needs to earn at least [link:http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/cost-of-living-variation/|$116,303] to equal the earning power of 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

What’s more, that’s only in the parts of the state with the lowest cost of living. In the parts with the highest, the income figure is $123,966.

Actually, although New Jersey has one of the highest costs of living in the country, the variation across the state is rather modest compared with some states. In some parts of New York, for instance, that same family of four would only need to earn $92,732 to match the buying power of 400 percent of the federal poverty level. But in the places with the highest cost of living (presumably Manhattan), that same family of four would need to earn $216,989. Nationally, the median rate for a family of four is $97,000. In New Jersey, it is $121,250.

The states with a higher median rate than New Jersey were Alaska, California, Oregon, as well as the District of Columbia.

August 7, 2015

Commuters who count on New Jersey Transit to get to work and back know they’ll be digging even deeper in their pockets when the 9 percent fare increase goes into effect October 1. But they may be shocked by the depth of the hole: The cost of a weekly ticket between Aberdeen-Matawan and New York Penn Station has outpaced inflation by [link: http://tstc.org/reports/njtransit/NJT_fare_factsheets.pdf|24.1 percent] since 1982, according to the Tristate Transportation Campaign. The price of a weekly ticket in ’82 was $42.00; after the fare hike it will be $127.53.

Riders who shell out for a monthly pass don’t do much better: Fares have climbed from $140 to $420.74 (22.8 percent). Buying a one-way daily ticket is the best bet: The fare since 1982 has gone from $5.00 to $14.99 -- outpacing inflation by just 22.5 percent.

The [link:http://tstc.org|Tristate Transportation Campaign] bills itself as a nonprofit advocacy organization working toward a more balanced, transit-friendly, and equitable transportation system in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey.

August 6, 2015

Recycling doesn’t just help keep the “garden” in Garden State; it also helps keep almost [link:http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dshw/recycling/economic.htm|27,000] New Jerseyans gainfully employed, according to a recent study by the Northeast Recycling Council and United States Environmental Protection Agency.

That number may not accurately indicate the economic heft of this sector. But as the NJ DEP’s Bureau of Recycling and Planning reports, total receipts from recycling and reuse “establishments” are valued at over $5.9 billion annually. What’s more, recycling has a documented role to play in cost cutting and energy efficiency: New Jersey’s recycling efforts annually save about 128 trillion BTUs of energy, equal to nearly 17.2 percent of all energy used by industry in the state, with a value of $570 million.

The bureau also reminds residents that, “The economic value of clean air, water and land is significant, but difficult to quantify,” adding that recycling and reuse play an important role in protecting natural resources.

August 5, 2015

Gov. Chris Christie will make it to the big stage on Thursday night, coming in [link:http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/08/04/fox-news-announces-candidate-line-up-for-prime-time-debate/?intcmp=hpbt1|ninth] among Republican presidential hopefuls, thus making it into the first GOP debate being hosted by Fox News and Facebook.

Christie lagged real-estate mogul and TV personality Donald Trump; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz; Florida Senator Marco Rubio; and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. He edged ahead of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who came in at number 10.

Seven other GOP candidates, including former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham did not make the cut and have been invited to debate one another earlier in the day on Thursday.

Fox News said it determined the 10 participants by averaging the results of the five most recent national polls, including those from Monmouth University, Quinnipiac University, Fox News and CBS News.

August 4, 2015

Even New Jersey Republicans are abandoning Gov. Chris Christie’s bid for president, according to the most recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll, with only [link:http://eagletonpoll.rutgers.edu/rep-christie-2016-debate-aug2015/|12 percent] of registered Republicans or Republican-leaning voters saying he is their first choice to be the GOP candidate.

Who’s first? Like Republicans across the country, Donald Trump came out on top, with 21 percent citing him as their first choice. Jeb Bush and Scott Walker came right behind Christie, each with 10 percent. Ben Carson and Marco Rubio each scored 5 percent, with Ted Cruz at 4 percent and Rand Paul and John Kasich each at 2 percent. The rest of the field garnered a one percent or less response, although 19 percent said they didn’t know.

New Jerseyans, however, do believe he will perform well in the first GOP debate to be held this week -- and they do expect Christie to participate. Across all categories -- Democrats, independents and Republicans -- 36 percent of New Jerseyans think their governor will be one of the strongest debaters, with 48 percent saying he will perform about average.

Still, New Jersey voters as a whole do not support a Christie presidency, as 84 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents said the governor would not make a good president, and even Republicans remain mixed at the thought -- 45 percent said he would not and 50 percent said he would.

August 3, 2015

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control recommends that all teenagers between 13 and 17 get vaccinated for the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer. But in New Jersey, only 48 percent of adolescent girls have been inoculated. The rate is even lower for boys -- 35.5 percent.

The government recommends that every adolescent should be vaccinated three times, but the rate of compliance with this suggestion is even lower: 34.5 percent for girls; 21.2 percent for boys.

The low rates of vaccination puts New Jersey in the same group as Mississippi, Tennessee, Kansas, and Missouri.

July 31, 2015

There are [link:http://www.state.nj.us/corrections/pdf/offender_statistics/2015/Total%20NJDOC%20Inmates%202015.pdf|21,486] inmates in New Jersey’s jails and halfway houses, 15,193 of whom are housed in the state’s prison complex. Another 2,878 are being held in halfway houses or county jails, with 3,415 youths being held in juvenile detention centers and institutions.

The number of those incarcerated has been slowly dropping in the past few years. In 2011, the number of state inmates was 25,139.

Most inmates (57 percent) are in prison for serious crimes: homicide, sexual assault, aggravated assault, robbery, kidnapping, and other sex offenses. Still, 17 percent of those in prison were committed for narcotics-law violations, including possession, sale, and distribution -- although the vast majority (82 percent) of these are being held for sale and distribution, not possession.

The median term being served by inmates is six years. The median age of inmates is 35, with 36 percent 30 and younger. The vast majority of inmates are black (61 percent), followed by 22 percent white, 16 percent Hispanic, and 1 percent Asian.

July 30, 2015

States are understandably eager to grab bragging rights for whatever beauties of the natural world are found within their borders, and things are no different when it comes to counting lakes. But it’s tough to settle disputes when there’s no definitive ranking of lakes by state -- or even an agreed-upon definition as to what constitutes a lake.

Alaska is commonly given the top spot, claiming 3 million lakes. New Jersey has [link:http://newjersey.hometownlocator.com/features/physical,class,lake.cfm|366], at least according to HomeTownLocator.com, but another website -- disagreeing as to what constitutes “lakehood” -- knocks that number down to 202.

[link:http://lakehopatcong.com/|Lake Hopatcong], New Jersey’s largest freshwater body, covers 2,560 acres (about 4 square miles) and boasts 45 miles of shoreline. It’s located between Sussex and Morris counties. Second-largest is Hunterdon County’s Round Valley Reservoir, at 2,350 acres. It’s also the state’s deepest lake, going down 180 feet.

Sadly, none of these lakes even cracks the country’s Top 100, with the last-place holder, Arkansas’ Beaver Lake, being 40 square miles larger than Lake Hopatcong.

July 29, 2015

The Christie administration announced Tuesday that it would spend [link:http://nj.gov/oag/newsreleases15/pr20150728a.html|$4 million] to outfit the New Jersey State Police with body cameras as part of an effort to strengthen community policing, as well as fund a grant program to provide cameras to local police.

In conjunction with that announcement, acting state Attorney General John Hoffman released a policy for body cameras. It doesn’t dictate that local police departments must deploy them, but encourages them to do so and provides a set of best practices for guidance. For instance, the state does not set the procedures that must be met when deploying body cameras but says when local communities do determine procedures they must be based on objective criteria and be the same for the entire department.

Under the plan, the state will purchase 1,000 body cameras to be worn by state troopers, at a cost of $1.5 million. All troopers on the road will be equipped with them at one time.

Local communities will be encouraged to apply for a part of a $2.5 million grant pool to obtain body-camera “packages,” which include related equipment.

Recent state regulations require newly purchased patrol cars to be equipped with mobile video-recording systems. Because the statutory requirement can be satisfied if an officer in the car is wearing a body camera, and body cameras are more versatile, the state expects police departments to acquire body cameras instead of dashboard cameras.

July 28, 2015

If you’re the sort of swimmer who spends most of your time standing on shore worriedly scanning the surf for dorsal fins, you can relax: There have been [link:http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/isaf/2014Summary.html|zip, zero, zilch] shark attacks reported in New Jersey coastal waters this year, according to the International Shark Attack File, “the only globally comprehensive, scientific shark attack database in the world.”

Residual nervousness is to be understood though: There have been 10 unprovoked shark attacks off the Carolinas since May of this year. And a video of Australian surfer Mick Fanning [link:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmavmlGJSLs|fighting off a shark attack] bare-handed went viral on the Internet.

Still, there have been those pesky shark sightings off Shore points, including Margate City and Avalon.

So are more shark sightings and attacks along the Jersey Shore to be expected?

Not so much. While global climate change will ultimately raise ocean temperatures, it’s not a trend that will have any short-term effect on the shark population. Meanwhile, the International Shark Attack File points out that more people are spending more time than ever in the ocean, and tracking technology continues to improve, which means fewer sightings and attacks go unreported.

If that’s not enough to get you back into the water with the boogie board, you may want to download the global shark tracker app from [link:http://www.ocearch.org/|Ocearch.org] and keep tabs on tagged sharks from Cape May to Cape Town.

July 27, 2015

North Jersey -- considered for this study as the counties of Bergen, Passaic, Sussex, Essex, Hudson, Union, Morris, and Warren -- has more than 4.1 million residents, according to a recent report by the Regional Plan Association and North Jersey Partners, an eight-county collaboration affiliated with Together North Jersey. About [link:http://library.rpa.org/pdf/TNJ-North-Jersey-Partners.pdf|18 percent] of those residents don’t own cars.

What’s more, the share of households that have only one car has increased from 35 percent to 37 percent. Approximately 55 percent of households have only one or no vehicle.

There’s no surprise then that use of public transportation to get to work has increased -- to 16.5 percent. About 9 percent carpool. A significant change is how many people now work from home -- 3.3 percent in 2012, up from 2.6 percent in 2000.

However, commuters now spend more time traveling to work than they did in 2000. About 48 percent of commuters spend 30 minutes or more on their commute, up from 43 percent in 2000.

July 24, 2015

Presidential candidate Jeb Bush suggested this week that the nation needs to [link:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jeb-bush-medicare_55b11e41e4b0a9b94853e9eb|“phase-out” Medicare], and although he said it needed to be preserved for those now in the program and those soon to be eligible, he did indicate that it should be swapped out for something else for the next generations.

Given that stance, it’s interesting to note that 1.37 million New Jerseyans -- or [link:http://kff.org/state-category/medicare/?state=NJ|16 percent] -- are currently enrolled in Medicare. That’s the same percentage as the country as a whole; 49.4 million Americans were enrolled in the system as of 2012.

In New Jersey, 85 percent of those on Medicare are elderly, and 15 percent are disabled.

Interestingly, the first two states to hold primaries or caucuses have an even higher percentage of people on Medicare. Iowa has 17 percent and New Hampshire has 18 percent. Bush’s own state of Florida has 19 percent enrolled in Medicare.

July 23, 2015

There were [link:http://www.state.nj.us/highereducation/documents/pdf/statistics/fallbylevel/Enr2014.pdf|130,868] full-time students enrolled in New Jersey’s four-year public institutions in the fall of 2014, with another 81,524 full-time students enrolled in community colleges.

All told, there were 212,392 full-time students in the state’s public higher-education system, including 38,068 graduate students.

Additionally, there were 138,294 part-time students enrolled in New Jersey’s public colleges in 2014.

The largest school was Rutgers, with 66,013 students -- 53,291 of whom were undergraduates. The next largest was Thomas Edison State College, which offers online and self-directed courses. It had an enrollment of 21,495, almost all of whom were adult part-timers. Montclair State with an enrollment of 20,022, had the second-largest number of undergraduates -- 15,253, followed by Rowan and Kean University.

Bergen Community College had the largest enrollment of full-time students among the two-year colleges and largest overall. But Brookdale Community had the largest number of part-time students.

July 22, 2015

New Jerseyans complain about ticketing in this state, but according to Wallethub, the financial services website, the Garden State is pretty lenient when it comes to penalizing people for speeding and reckless driving. New Jersey ranked as the [link:http://wallethub.com/edu/strictest-and-most-lenient-states-on-speeding/14211/|12th] most-lenient state when it comes to penalties for those violations.

Which states are the most lenient? Texas, Utah, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Mississippi. And in which states should you be the most careful to slow down? Colorado, Arizona, Delaware, Illinois, and New Mexico.

July 21, 2015

Those New Jersey beachfront-property owners who are hoping they can forestall coastal dune projects are going to have to provide easements fast or go to court. The state has initiated eminent domain proceedings against [link:http://www.state.nj.us/dep/newsrel/2015/15_0062.htm|244] property owners seeking a total 388 easements.

About 90 percent of beachfront owners have agreed to the easements -- which total 4,279 -- in order for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct coastal-protection projects now underway. But there are still holdouts. So the state Department of Environmental Protection and attorney general’s office have announced they have filed their first eminent domain action in Ocean County court. It involves a property in Ocean City.

The bulk of the remaining easements are in northern Ocean County; ironically, the area hardest hit by Sandy. Of the 326 outstanding easements needed there, 123 are in Bay Head and 68 are in Point Pleasant Beach, according to the state DEP.

Some homeowners thought they would be well compensated for the easements but that idea disappeared last year after a couple who had been fighting the borough of Harvey Cedars for years was awarded only $1 by the state Supreme Court for their easement, saying they weren’t entitled to a windfall for a project that would protect the community. Since then, most homeowners have voluntarily signed over the easements.

Last year, the Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the DEP, completed eight post-Sandy beach-repair projects, returning roughly 45 miles of previously engineered and constructed beaches along the New Jersey coast to their original protective construction design at a cost of $345 million.

The Army Corps and DEP are currently undertaking a $128 million beach-and-dune construction project on Long Beach Island; a $57.6 million beach-and-dune project in southern Ocean City, the Strathmere section of Upper Township, and Sea Isle City in Cape May County; and a $38.2 million project to build beaches and improve infrastructure in the areas of Loch Arbour, Allenhurst, and Deal in Monmouth County.

July 20, 2015

The average cost of home healthcare in New Jersey is [link:https://www.genworth.com/dam/Americas/US/PDFs/Consumer/corporate/130568_040115_gnw.pdf|$48,506], among the lowest in the Northeast (Massachusetts is $57,200) but higher than the national average of $45,760, according to a new study by Genworth Life Insurance Co. of New York.

The least expensive type of care for the elderly is an adult daycare center, which is typically required for only part of the day. In New Jersey, the annual cost of adult daycare is $22,165; nationally, it is $17,904.

Those who not need hands-on care but do need help with tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and running errands are probably best served by homemaker services, which in New Jersey cost nearly the same as a home health aide. The average in-state homemaker service costs $46,332; nationally, it is $44,616.

Assisted-living facilities are also pricey in the Garden State, costing an average of $68,700, among the highest rates in the country -- something that’s also true of Delaware, Washington, D.C., Alaska, and Connecticut. Nationally, assisted living costs an average of $43,200.

And then there are nursing homes. A private room in a nursing home costs $127,750, less than Alaska’s $281,415, Connecticut’s $158,775, Massachusetts’ $139,580, and New York’s $136,437 -- but still much higher than almost everywhere else and higher than the national average of $91,250.

July 17, 2015

Are things finally turning around for New Jersey’s economy? Maybe. Although still higher than most of the country, New Jersey’s unemployment rate dropped to [link:http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/lwdhome/press/2015/20150716_Unemployment.html|6.1 percent] in June -- the lowest it's been since 2008.

The total unemployment rate nationally is 5.3 percent.

The state is touting the 4.275 million private-sector jobs as the highest in its history, and points to job growth in the leisure, information, and manufacturing sector.

Despite the drop in unemployment, however, the market actually lost 7,400 jobs last month. But since the rate is based on the total number of people reported looking for work as a percentage of workers, the rate for Junes still dropped 0.2 percent.

What’s more, it's important to note that boasts about private-sector jobs do not mean total employment. New Jersey Policy Perspective, the Princeton-based liberal-leaning think tank, released a statement that the state has still only recovered 69 percent of the jobs it had before the recession, while the country has regained 140 percent of its jobs. Our neighbors to the north and west can also boast of better statistics: New York has regained 258 percent of its job; Pennsylvania, 117 percent.

July 16, 2015

Medical marijuana remains a controversial topic -- and treatment -- in New Jersey, but the number of physicians and patients registered with the state program appears to be slowly growing: As of last year, [link:http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/11/new_medical_marijuana_dispensary_in_cranbury_gets_permit_to_start_growing.html|364] Garden State doctors had signed on to recommend patients to the program. And 3,400 patients had registered.

Most likely, they’ll still be traveling a fair distance to fill their prescriptions: The fifth dispensary to receive a permit to grow and sell cannabis, Compassionate Sciences, Inc., has built a dispensary and indoor grow center in Bellmawr.

It joins Breakwater Alternative Treatment Center (Cranbury); Garden State Dispensary (Woodbridge); Greenleaf Compassion Center (Montclair); and the Compassionate Care Foundation (Egg Harbor).

July 15, 2015

Pretty much every driver in New Jersey knows that the state’s roads and bridges are in need of repair, and the U.S. Department of Transportation agrees. On Tuesday it released a list of all states and their infrastructure needs for motor-vehicle transportation.

According to the report, New Jersey’s poor road conditions are costing motorists $3.476 million a year in extra repair costs, which works out to [link:http://www.transportation.gov/policy-initiatives/grow-america/road-and-bridge-data-state|$601] per driver. That’s because the US DOT says 66 percent of our roads are in poor or mediocre condition.

[related]Bridges didn’t far much better, with 35.5 percent of them (2,334 of 6,566) considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

What was surprising was that New Jersey is not the only state with severe infrastructure problems. Six states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin all had a higher percentage of roads in need of repair.

But only Connecticut and Rhode Island could compete with New Jersey’s double whammy of roads and bridges in such bad shape. Connecticut has 35 percent of its bridges rated as structurally deficient or obsolete, and 73 percent of its roads seriously in need of repair. Rhode Island has 56.5 percent of its bridges rated as “poor” and 70 percent of its roads in need of repair.

July 14, 2015

Businesses never tire of telling state officials that New Jersey has some of the highest energy costs in the country. And that may be true, if you consider electricity rates before the advent of fracking and cheap natural gas. But a recent report by Wallethub, the online financial services firm, found that New Jersey ranked [link:http://wallethub.com/edu/most-least-energy-expensive-states/4833/#methodology|30th] (with 1 being the cheapest) for energy costs among the 50 states and District of Columbia.

The average New Jersey household spends only $307 per month on energy, according to the study, the largest portion of that going to electricity ($118), ranking the state 21st in that category. The same family would spend only $105 in motor fuel -- the third lowest in the country. The average household spends $65 each month on natural gas -- and we are big consumers of it. We rank 47th among states for natural-gas consumption per total housing units. We also have some of the highest home-heating-oil prices (48), averaging $20.52 per household. (Of course, far fewer New Jerseyans use home heating oil rather than natural gas.)

July 13, 2015

The things Atlantic City casinos have to deal with. The state has indicted a North Carolina man who came to gamble at a Borgata Casino with millions of dollars in counterfeit poker chips.

Christian Lusardi, 43, of Fayetteville, NC, was caught out after Harrah’s Casino Hotel discovered a leak in its sewer pipes and found that [link:http://nj.gov/oag/newsreleases15/pr20150708b.html|$2.7 million] in counterfeit chips had been flushed down the toilet.

The Borgata had to shut down its Winter Poker Open Tournament after only three days -- it had been scheduled to run for three weeks -- after an audit discovered that 160 $5,000 counterfeit chips had already been put in play. The Division of Gaming Enforcement ordered the Borgata to distribute the prize funds and refund entry fees.

Allegedly, Lusardi ordered the phony poker chips over the Internet from a manufacturer in China and affixed the counterfeit Borgata logo stickers to them. There was no word as to why the chips were flushed down the toilet at Harrah’s, as well as at the Borgata. (A total in $3.6 million in phony chips was recovered.)

If convicted, Lusardi faces up to 10 years in prison for second-degree trademark counterfeiting, second-degree theft by deception, and third-degree criminal mischief.

July 10, 2015

According to a report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Jersey is home to [link:http://www.fws.gov/endangered/map/ESA_success_stories/NJ/NJ_story2/index.html|135] bald-eagle pairings. That impressive number -- in 1982 the state had only one bald eagle nest, which failed to produce eaglets for six consecutive years -- is due to the efforts of New Jersey’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program.

DDT contamination was the main reason for the precipitous decline in the eagle population. The toxic pesticide saturated the area around the Bear Swamp nest, and caused the eggs to develop abnormally thin shells. As a result, the ENSP had to remove them from the nest so that they could be raised in a safe environment, which was accomplished by carefully switching the eggs in the nest for fake ones, while the real items were taken to a Maryland research center.

Eventually, this program produced eagles uncontaminated by DDT who were capable of laying and hatching eggs normally. The ENSP also managed to replenish the eagle population by bringing in wild eagles from Canada and releasing them in New Jersey. The birds still face disturbances and habitat loss, but their status as a protected species and the banning of DDT have helped them recover.

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