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May 27, 2016

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the nation’s medicine cabinet, as New Jersey has long been known, spends quite a lot ($9.1 billion) on pharmaceuticals at its local drugstore, according to statehealthfacts.org, a website maintained by the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation. That’s 3.2 percent of what’s spent nationally ($287 billion).

While that may sound like a lot, it’s a rather modest rate per capita, at 11.7 separate purchases annually on average. States as varied as West Virginia (21.8), Mississippi (17.7), Tennessee, (18.7), Vermont (17.4), Pennsylvania (15.4), and Oregon (14.2) all have higher rates of per capita prescription drug use. As in most states, New Jersey women use more prescription drugs than men (13.3 vs. 9.9). And the older you get, the more prescriptions you take. In New Jersey, the average is 25.9 for those over the age of 65.

May 26, 2016

There are currently 16 confirmed cases of the Zika virus in New Jersey, all travel-related, according to the state health department. A travel-related case of Zika means that it was contracted outside of New Jersey and imported here. Zika, which can cause catastrophic harm to a fetus if the mother contracts the virus, can be transmitted sexually and is spread primarily by mosquitoes. Parts of South America and the Caribbean have seen outbreaks of the disease.

Of the cases in New Jersey, seven are in Bergen County, two each in Passaic and Morris counties, and one each in Hudson, Camden, Burlington, Union, and Essex counties.

Although there is debate as to how far north mosquitos that can carry the Zika virus are able to survive, most do not believe the New Jersey climate will be hospitable to the type of mosquitos that spread the disease. There have yet to be reported cases of Zika that have been locally contracted in the United States.

Nevertheless, the state health department is warning that mosquito controls should be stepped up this summer and that those who are travelling to the tropics should obtain prevention information.

May 25, 2016

Approximately 4 percent of New Jerseyans regularly use marijuana, according to a new report by New Jersey Policy Perspective and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, for a total of 2.5 million ounces annually. They spend up to an estimated $869 million each year, at a cost of $343 an ounce.

If New Jersey should legalize the use and sale of marijuana to adults, as other states have and California is considering this year, it would raise about $300 million, according to the report. The authors used a 25 percent retail tax to come up with that number.

The report argues that the increase in tax revenue and the added benefit of an estimated $1.1 billion to the legal economy is not a good enough argument for the drug’s legalization. However, there are 24,000 marijuana arrests each year. Eliminating that effort would save money, increase racial justice and public safety, and alter a criminal-justice system that jails nonviolent drug offenders and creates a criminal record for the use of marijuana.

Advocates are preparing to build a public campaign for the legalization of marijuana in New Jersey within the next few years.

May 24, 2016

New Jersey’s Democratic Legislature and the Republican Christie administration have been battling over how much reform is needed at the Port Authority of NY and NJ since the Bridgegate scandal erupted in 2013. The Democrats want the Legislature to have some oversight. Christie says it’s not needed.

So once again yesterday, Christie vetoed reform legislation approved by the Legislature, saying it would be wasteful, protects union workers, and is unnecessary. That’s because there is a competing bill sponsored by Senator Thomas Kean (R-Union) that is identical to one passed by New York State, which Christie supports. In order to take effect, both states must adopt identical legislation.

Govs. Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo acted quickly after the Bridgegate scandal to appoint a special panel to look into Port Authority abuses. The panel recommended a series of changes, including a change to the administration of the authority. New York State quickly took up the recommendations and approved them, with Cuomo’s support.

But New Jersey Democrats don’t believe it’s enough. The main sticking point is the lack of legislative oversight. In the past, the state Legislature has asked Port Authority to testify to no avail. Their bill would require testimony, if asked, at least twice a year.

In an effort to make their point, New Jersey has gotten the support of the original New York State sponsor to the legislation, who said he would quickly make sure the New York bill mirrored New Jersey’s if the more robust bill gets passed. But it has yet to pass Christie’s desk. Meanwhile, no reform measures have been codified. The Democrats say they have only one chance to get this right, and so don’t want to approve a weaker bill.

“We need real reform, not a halfhearted effort,” said Sen. Bob Gordon (D-Bergen). He noted that the Port Authority will be responsible for building a new $500 million bus terminal and overseeing the construction of the new multibillion dollar Gateway Rail Tunnel. “It is crucial that we have the ability to monitor the cost and progress of these and other projects on an ongoing basis in the years ahead.”

Christie, however, disagreed, saying that it would interfere with the ability of the Port Authority to root out fraud and waste by enabling Port Authority employees to impede the efforts of the Inspector General.

May 23, 2016

There are nearly 30,000 certified emergency medical service personnel – that fill the ranks of volunteer services around the state – but New Jersey is moving toward a more professional system of paramedics run by hospitals. There are 1,600 licensed paramedics in the state.

Last week was national emergency medical services week. Gov. Chris Christie issued a proclamation honoring their service, and the New Jersey Office of Emergency Medical Services handed out thank you notes to each of the EMS workers.

But state legislators have been trying to reduce the number of volunteers, who provide basic life support, and increase the number of paramedics, who are responsible for advanced life support. They also want the state to start monitoring EMS services and set standards for licensing.

Christie has twice vetoed a bill that would call for that, citing its effect on volunteers and property taxes if municipalities were required to provide these services.

Still, the ranks of paramedics, typically employed by hospitals, are growing while the ranks of volunteers thinning, as medical support becomes more complicated and there are fewer volunteers. According to the state, EMS personnel respond to more than 1 million 911 calls each year.

May 20, 2016

New Jersey is Clinton country, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll released Thursday, despite the fact that people here don’t seem to like her much (45 percent to 38 percent). Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton leads her primary rival Bernie Sanders by 54 percent to 40 percent, and she would beat Republican Donald Trump by 7 percent in the general election.

Even though Trump is closely associated with New Jersey due to his casinos and golf courses, he would lose to Sanders by even a greater margin than Clinton: 49 to 37 percent.

But despite her dominance in the polls, Clinton has very high unfavorable ratings in the Garden State, just as she does in the rest of the country. Fifty-eight percent of those polled said they had an unfavorable opinion of her. That is due to 95 percent of Republicans saying they don’t like her, while white men (76 percent) and those ages 18-34 (61 percent) also don’t like her. That was somewhat outweighed by the split among women -- 47 percent vs. 47 percent.

Trump’s unfavorables are just as high. He also had an unfavorability rating of 58 percent. The difference was in those with college degrees. Trump’s unfavorables there are 65 percent, while Clinton’s were 54 percent.

The decision for the Democratic primary seems pretty solid; 84 percent of those asked said they had their minds made up. Indeed, 85 percent of those supporting Clinton said they were firm in their choice, while 81 percent of Sanders supporters expressed the same opinion. Only 1 percent said they hadn’t made their minds up.

May 19, 2016

Gov. Chris Christie’s job-approval rating continues to plummet, reaching its lowest point yet: New Jersey voters disapprove of Christie 2 to 1 (64 percent to 29 percent), according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll. That’s Christie’s lowest approval rating yet, but whether it’s bottomed out is anybody’s guess.

The only folks who award the governor a positive rating are his fellow Republicans, and they’re not all that keen on the job he’s doing -- approving by a tepid 56 percent to 38 percent. Democrats disapprove 86 percent to 9 percent, and independents are down on him 66 percent to 26 percent.

New Jersey voters are even more adamant that likely GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump would do well to steer clear of Christie as a running mate: lining up 4 to 1 (72 percent to 18 percent) against the idea. Even Republicans say that it’s a bad idea: 64 percent to 27 percent).

“New Jersey voters give Christie abysmal job-approval numbers. Even a third of his fellow Republicans disapprove,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Assistant Director Maurice Carroll.

May 18, 2016

Nonviolent crime dropped 7 percent in 2014, according to the most recently available crime statistics, with the most significant drop coming from the theft of motor vehicles. Motor vehicle theft was down 15 percent, with 11,702 autos stolen.

Burglary was down 11 percent, to 31,740 cases. Residences were the targets in 76 percent of the cases, and 56 percent involved forced entries. Most residential burglaries occurred during the day (10,497), while nonresidential burglaries occurred at night (3,345).

The average loss due to a burglary was $2,347, with a total of $75.4 million in stolen property due to burglaries statewide.

Although burglaries were up, arrests were down 9 percent, with 5,214 people arrested. Of those, 85 percent were men and 15 percent women. Sixty-five percent of those arrested were white.

Larceny was also down 5 percent, to 111,620 incidents. The largest incidents of theft were due to shoplifting, with 24,284 incidents and a value of $7.2 million.

Thefts from motor vehicles or motor vehicle parts accounted for 24 percent of thefts. Total value of motor vehicle theft was $104 million, with the average being $8,992. Most cars -- 65 percent of the value -- were recovered.

Twenty-two percent of the larcenies were cleared, with juveniles accounting for 8 percent. Sixty-three percent of larceny arrests were white.

May 17, 2016

There were 23,004 violent crimes reported in New Jersey in 2014, the most recent year in which full statistics are available. That represents a 10 percent drop and 2.6 violent crimes per 1,000 permanent residents.

There were decreases in the rate of murders (354 or -12 percent), robberies (10,492 or -13 percent), and aggravated assault (11,208 or -7 percent). The only crime that rose was rape, which saw an increase in reported crimes of 9 percent to 950.

A similar pattern could be seen in the number of offenses “cleared” -- someone was charged or the charges were dropped. More murders, robberies, and assaults were cleared while the number of rapes that were cleared dropped 10 percent.

Firearms were responsible for 72 percent of the deaths, with 248 committed with handguns. Juveniles were involved in a significant number of crimes, especially rapes (13 percent) and robberies (17 percent).

When it came to murders, the age group of 20-24 accounted for 23 percent of the victims. Only 11 percent of the murders were committed by strangers. While quarrels (84), domestic violence (42), and drugs and gang-related violence (26) were the cause of many of the deaths, circumstances could not be determined in 124 instances.

May 16, 2016

A biotech industry magazine -- GEN, which stands for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News -- has ranked the New Jersey/New York region number three when it comes to biopharma clusters. South Jersey -- the New Jersey/Philadelphia region – was ranked sixth.

The annual list of the top 10 regions is based on five criteria: the amount of funding from the National Institutes of Health; venture capital funding; number of patents awarded since 1976; lab space; and number of jobs.

The report said that the New Jersey/New York region ranked first in the nation when it came to jobs – 127,651 -- but that it only ranked fourth when it came to VC funding. It ranked second in the country when it came to NIH funding but lagged when it came to patents. And although lab space was ranked third -- the majority in New Jersey -- it dropped over the past year due to higher demand in the top two regions -- Boston/Cambridge, MA, and the San Francisco Bay.

The Greater Philadelphia region, which includes Princeton in this survey, ranked best in terms of lab space (fifth), jobs (sixth, with 54,627) and patents (sixth). It didn’t do as well when it came to NIH or VC funding.

May 13, 2016

It may come as a shock to many New Jerseyans, but Gov. Chris Christie is not the most unpopular governor in the country, as rated by constituents. He was ranked the fourth least-popular (or 46th most-popular) governor in the country by Morning Consult, a digital media and polling company. Christie has a 60 percent disapproval rating according to the poll.

How has his endorsement of Donald Trump for president changed the minds of New Jerseyans? It hasn’t moved the needle much, but it certainly hasn’t made him more popular. Christie had been sitting at a 59 percent disapproval rating before the endorsement; afterward it bumped up to 61 percent.

Despite his low rankings, Christie does sit one position higher on the approval list than fellow Republican Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder who experienced the steepest drop due to the Flint water crisis. Democrat Dan Malloy was ranked second most-unpopular and Sam Brownback of Kansas was ranked No. 1.

At the other end of the scale, Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker was ranked as the most popular with an approval rating of 72 percent.

May 12, 2016

New Jersey police recovered 2,112 guns while investigating crimes in New Jersey in 2012, according to data presented by ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative news site from information supplied by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Of those, almost 80 percent were purchased out of state. (It’s important to note that if a gun can’t be traced to its origin, the police credit New Jersey as the source.)

For the most part, these 2,112 guns were purchased in nearby states with more relaxed gun laws. For instance, 278 of them originated in Pennsylvania -- by far the largest source for New Jerseyans. Only 56 were purchased in New York. Other big suppliers to New Jersey were North Carolina (199), Virginia (194), Georgia (152), South Carolina (134), and Florida (127). Tiny Delaware supplied 30 of the guns.

The farther these states were from New Jersey, regardless of gun laws, the fewer guns were traced to them. For example, police traced 38 firearms to Texas.

When it comes to traces from law enforcement agencies outside of New Jersey, only 196 were traced to New Jersey. Nationwide, 155,530 guns were traced by law enforcement and 29 percent were found to be purchased in another state.

May 11, 2016

Last year was pretty typical for New Jersey when it came to traffic fatalities, with 522 accidents on the road resulting in 562 dead.

The county with the most fatalities was Burlington, with 48, from 43 accidents. Monmouth County had 45 fatal accidents with 47 dead. In Monmouth, almost half (19) of the accidents occurred in the summer months. Ocean also had a large number of accidents compared with its year-round population, with 38 fatal accidents each with one fatality.

Essex also had a large number of fatal accidents, which can be expected since it is the most populous county, with 38 accidents resulting in 40 fatalities.

May 10, 2016

The Garden State’s net income from farming is estimated at $34.6 million last year, slightly down from the past three years. The state farmland-evaluation committee, made up of state farmland experts, estimates that total farm income was $812 million last year but that there were expenses of about $778 million.

May 9, 2016

There may be talk of legalizing marijuana in the western United States. But here in New Jersey, our police are actively arresting people for marijuana possession, according to the most recent Uniform Crime Report -- with 24,689 people busted in the state in 2014.

The New Jersey American Civil Liberties Union released a statement from Clark Municipal Prosecutor J.H. Barr that said “When I look at the nearly 25,000 marijuana possession arrests in 2014, I see nearly 25,000 missed opportunities for law enforcement to have done work that actually keeps people safe.” Barr is on the steering committee of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform.

Police made more arrests for marijuana than for any other crime that year, and the group, which includes the ACLU, is advocating instead for legalization and taxation.

"Behind every one of the 24,689 arrests in 2014 is a person whose life has been interrupted and often damaged from the consequences our criminal justice system imposes for a marijuana arrest,” said ACLU-NJ Public Policy Director Ari Rosmarin. "It's not often that the Legislature has an opportunity to improve people's lives, raise hundreds of millions of dollars in state revenue, and end a civil rights injustice all in one vote, but that's exactly what marijuana legalization would mean."

May 6, 2016

New Jersey Republicans are lining up behind Donald Trump, with 79 percent saying they will vote for him in November, according to the most recent Monmouth University poll. Only six percent say they will vote for Hillary Clinton; six percent, for an independent; six percent haven’t decided; and 3 percent said they won’t vote.

But loyalty to the state’s GOP governor is not what’s driving the support of Trump, since only 34 percent said they would be more likely to vote for a delegate slate headed by Chris Christie, and 13 percent said it would make it less likely.

What’s more, 41 percent of those surveyed said they thought Trump would be hurt if he chose Christie as his running mate, and only 15 percent said it would help.

May 5, 2016

Unlike much of the country, New Jersey’s banking industry is doing relatively well. It has increased employment by 11.5 percent, as opposed to a drop of 3 percent nationally. And according to a report by Rutgers’ Bloustein School of Policy and Planning, if you consider the economic ripple-effects of their operations, banks generate $16.7 billion in gross domestic product in New Jersey annually.

The local banking industry can be broken into two parts -- commercial banks and savings institution. By far the larger of the two are commercial banks, which employ 36,492 people and have grown nearly 16 percent since 2001. Savings institutions are less hardy, employing 8,159 people, which is 3.8 percent lower than in 2001. Nationally, however, employment at savings institutions fell by 33.5 percent.

The average pay for a commercial banker in NJ is $86,532, while it’s $57,449 for savings institutions. That reflects higher pay in the commercial banking industry than is offered nationally, but lower pay when compared with that of savings institutions.

May 4, 2016

As May turns to summer, the tourism industry is hoping for the kind of weather we had in 2015, when the number of visitors grew 2.4 percent to 95 million. These visitors spent $43 billion, according to Tourism Economics, who produced a survey of the state’s tourism activity for the Travel and Tourism department. About 90 percent of the visits were for leisure, not business.

The tourism industry accounts for 10 percent of the state’s jobs and 6.6 percent of the economy, according to the report.

The industry can also be counted on to provide significant tax revenues. In 2015, the report said tourism delivered $4.7 billion in state and local tax revenues.

May 3, 2016

A state mandate requiring county courts to issue non-monetary bail alternatives to those arrested and awaiting trial in county jails will cost counties an estimated $45 million statewide, according to the New Jersey Association of Counties. The reform mandate was issued because many of these individuals cannot afford bail and thus languish for months before a trial.

The reform mandate also sets timeframes to ensure “speedy” trials, for the most part requiring trials to start within two years of being charged.

NJAC has issued a statement saying it agrees with the goal but that the law will require the remodeling of court facilities and the hiring of additional prosecutors and other staff, such as sheriff’s officers. An increase in court fees will provide $42 million for more legal-defense lawyers, creation of pretrial services to determine the risk posed by defendants, and new software system. But it will not pay for the additional burden on the court system. NJAC is asking for relief of the 2 percent cap on its budget -- and thus higher taxes -- in order to meet this need.

County officials are also meeting this week to discuss regionalizing some activities.

May 2, 2016

As many New Jerseyans can tell, the ranks of deer haven’t thinned much in the past year. The annual “harvest “ -- the number of deer killed by hunters each year -- was the lowest in about two-and-a-half decades: 41,439 for the season spanning mid-2015 through the first part of 2016. A typical year sees between 50,000 and 60,000 deer fall prey to hunters.

The fall bow-hunting season is the most popular and productive, and this year was no different. There were 13,312 deer killed by bowhunters this past fall. Approximately 17,500 deer were killed by some sort of firearm last year, and the other two bow seasons took out about 10,000. The remaining deer were killed during youth deer-hunting season.

April 29, 2016

How well prepared is New Jersey for dealing with and recovering from disasters that risk residents’ health and wellbeing? On a scale of zero to 10, the Garden State scores 6.8, according to the 2015 National Health Security Preparedness Index.

New Jersey’s ranking just tops the national average of 6.7 and puts the state in close company with several of its neighbors. Pennsylvania earned a 6.9 and Delaware scored 6.7. New York scored a 7.5 and Maryland achieved a 7.6, leading the nation.

The latest overall ranking is consistent with past findings. In 2014 New Jersey scored 6.7 against a national average of 6.5; in 2013, the state logged a 6.6 against a national average of 6.4.

The index, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, combines results from more than 100 different measures, ranging from emergency planning and participation in public drills to food inspections to testing for the Zika virus.

The findings are compiled in six categories designed to provide a full picture of a region’s preparedness: health security and surveillance; community planning and engagement; incident and information management; healthcare delivery; countermeasure management; and environmental and occupational health. New Jersey scored between 5.4 (for healthcare delivery) and 8.8 (for incident and information management), beating the national average slightly in each case.

April 28, 2016

Talk about college becoming unaffordable, a New Jersey state comptroller audit of three state schools found that the average student paid between $3,600 and $4,600 in fees, over and above tuition and board. The comptroller audited The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), Kean University, and William Paterson University and found that these schools charged full-time students more than $115 million in mandatory fees for fiscal year 2013.

William Paterson was the only one of the three that could provide documentation justifying its fees. At TCNJ, the Office of the State Comptroller was told that fees were not assessed on an individual basis -- for instance, lab fees for lab courses -- but assessed and increased at the same percentage in order to balance the school’s budget.

What’s more, despite assessing students as many as 25 different fees for such items as “technology,” and “athletics and recreation,” TCNJ and Kean did not maintain separate accounts for these fees. Instead, they comingled the funds.

State Comptroller James Degnan suggested that schools have written policies and procedures regarding their fees, and also indicate how the fees will be spent. All three schools said they would update the fee descriptions on their websites.

April 27, 2016

According to a recent study by WalletHub, the personal-finance website, New Jersey takes the seventh slot on a list of most gambling-addicted states. There’s a bitter irony to that number, given the recent push to open two new casinos in northern New Jersey. And there’s more disheartening news: the Garden State is in fourth place when it comes to percentage of adults with gambling disorders.

Nevada, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the No. 1 state for gambling addiction. Pennsylvania, which is typically cited for drawing off gambling revenue that could go to New Jersey, was rated 24th. Near neighbors New York and Connecticut finished 20th and 33rd, respectively.

Compulsive gambling is a tragic addiction. This medical condition affects approximately 2 percent of the country’s population and costs approximately $6 billion a year, according to a study by the National Council of Problem Gambling. Male addicts accumulate between $55,000 and $90,00 in debt; females average $15,000. Typically, compulsive gamblers cannot pay off their debts.

April 26, 2016

New Jersey’s medicinal marijuana program has been in operation just about three years and it now has 6,126 active patients with 6,960 patients registered, according to the program’s 2015 annual report. There are 362 physicians actively participating in the program.

There are currently five dispensaries in the state, located in Montclair, Woodbridge, Egg Harbor, Bellmawr, and Cranbury. Another site is being considered in Secaucus.

The largest number of patients in the program (34 percent) are suffering from intractable skeletal spasticity, followed by severe or chronic pain (26 percent.) Inflammatory bowel disease makes up 11 percent of the patients in the program, followed by multiple sclerosis (10 percent), terminal cancer (7 percent), seizures (6 percent), and glaucoma (6 percent).

April 25, 2016

Owner-occupied homes in New Jersey make up 65 percent of all households, according to the U.S. Census Department. That’s slightly more than the country at large, which is 64.4 percent.

The median value of that New Jersey home is $319,900. That is significantly higher than the national rate of $175,700. Median monthly costs, including mortgage, are $2,248. And 90 percent of New Jerseyans have lived in their homes for at least one year.

Meanwhile, the average rent in New Jersey is $1,188, while the average rate nationally is $920.

April 22, 2016

Among the five early women’s rights activists to be pictured on the back of the redesigned $10 bill will be New Jersey’s own Alice Paul. Paul was a key leader of the suffragette movement in the early 1900s, which led to the adoption in 1920 of the 19th amendment to the Constitution of the United States, giving women the right to vote.

Paul, a Quaker and Swarthmore college graduate, earned a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, and later, three law degrees. Nevertheless, Paul was a radical leader of the movement, arranging protest marches and picketing the White House. She was often arrested, later incarcerated for seven months and conducted a hunger strike, after which she was removed to a psychiatric ward. She also founded the National Women’s Party, which led the fight for the right to vote.

After the adoption of the 19th amendment, Paul continued in her quest for women’s equal rights, writing the original Equal Rights Amendment and fighting for it until her death in 1977. She was a major player in seeing that women’s rights were included in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Paul was born in Mt. Laurel, where she lived most of her life at Paulsdale, her family homestead and farm. The home is now a heritage site, and the location of the Alice Paul Institute, which advocates for women’s rights and runs leadership programs for girls. Tours of the site and discussions about Alice Paul’s life are regularly offered.

April 21, 2016

Forget constitutional amendments calling for funding pensions or bringing casino gambling to north Jersey. The Delaware Riverkeeper network released a poll Wednesday, conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson Public Mind, which showed that 84 percent of New Jerseyans want a state constitutional amendment that gives them the right to clean air and water, similar to guarantees of free speech, freedom of religion, and free assembly.

Indeed, 71 percent of respondents said they “strongly agree,” rather than just “agree” with the idea.

Although more Democrats than Republicans, women than men, and nonwhites than whites were supportive of a proposed amendment, a majority of every demographic said they “strongly agree.”

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network is working for state’s to adopt constitutional provisions guaranteeing such rights, and it is now focusing on New Jersey. Pennsylvania did adopt this amendment to its state constitution.

April 20, 2016

New Jerseyans do like drugs. According to statehealthfacts.org, a website that monitors healthcare information, New Jerseyans spent $9.16 billion on prescription drugs at retail pharmacies last year -- or 3.2 percent of the $287 million that was spent in the country.

That ranks New Jersey ninth in the country, despite the fact that the Garden State ranks 11th when it comes to population. Michigan and North Carolina spent less than New Jerseyans but have a higher population.

April 19, 2016

One of the tried-and-truisms of politics is, “It’s a long way to the election,” or, in New Jersey’s case, to the June primary. And it’s not clear if our votes will make any difference by the time we get there. Thus, it’s probably a good idea to keep that distance and time in mind when assessing the findings of the latest Rutgers-Eagleton poll.

Donald Trump continues to do well with New Jersey Republicans, breaking the 50 percent mark for the first time: 52 percent of Republicans said they’d vote for Trump if the primary were held today, according to the poll. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has fought his way to a distant second in the Garden State, with 24 percent.

On the Democratic side, the poll shows Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continuing to lead Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but Sanders has closed her lead to single digits: 51 percent (down four points) to 42 percent (up 10 points). Some 57 percent of “confirmed” Democrats support Clinton. But the secretary of state’s favorability rating is at an all-time low: 39 percent favorable to 50 percent unfavorable.

April 18, 2016

Firefighters have to be ready to battle blazes wherever they occur, and that includes on the road. In 2014 -- the most recent year for which data is available -- there were 3,395 vehicle fires in New Jersey. Passenger vehicles accounted for the largest number of these: 2,614 (77 percent), which translated into a property loss of $8,191,365. The loss of vehicle contents came in at $472,175. The second-largest group of vehicles to smoke and smolder was road freight or transport vehicles: 365 (11 percent). Property loss for all vehicles except passenger vehicles was $4,372,194. Content loss was $638,551.

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