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May 3, 2018

Something momentous happened yesterday between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Solar-energy systems in New Jersey delivered about 20.4 percent of the state’s total electric load on average, and 21.6 percent at peak (12:30 p.m.), according to calculations made by the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association.

“When solar power contributes large proportions of the electric load during the middle of the day, when demand usually pushes wholesale prices up, it depresses those wholesale prices. Overall, that helps keep electric prices down,” said Dr. Richard Perez, an internationally known renewable-energy researcher at SUNY Albany. According to Dr. Perez, this effect is known as the merit-order effect.

A new clean-energy bill ( S-2314) recently passed by the state Legislature and awaiting the governor’s signature is intended to reinvigorate the state’s solar energy program and requires that the state achieve 50 percent renewable electricity by 2050.

MSEIA is a trade organization that has represented solar-energy companies in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware since 1997. The organization has spearheaded efforts in the Mid-Atlantic region to make solar energy a major contributor to the region’s energy future.

May 2, 2018

In an effort to decrease disparities in birth outcomes between black and white infants in New Jersey and to reduce black infant mortality, the state Department of Health has just announced $4.3 million in grant aid. “The disparities in New Jersey around infant mortality are shamefully high,” Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said. The money will go to the Healthy Women, Healthy Families initiative, specifically to fund programs in areas of high need. There will be funding for up to 12 grantees expected to target places such as Atlantic City, Camden, Trenton, East Orange, Irvington, Jersey City, Newark, and Paterson.

The overall infant mortality rate in New Jersey is, in fact, lower than the national rate (4.7 per 1,000 live births versus 5.9 per 1,000 live births in 2015). However, the disparity between black and white infants for infant mortality is startling: 3.00 per 1,000 births for white infants, 9.7 for black infants.

May 1, 2018

Half of New Jersey residents would support a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget, even if it required “major spending cuts,” according to a recent Stockton University poll. Thirty-eight percent would oppose a balanced-budget amendment, and 12 percent are unsure.

But those polled do not agree where cuts should be made, and overall a majority balk at making spending cuts in key programs to balance federal revenues and spending.

The poll of 709 adult residents found that 78 percent say the national debt is a major problem, and 16 percent consider it a minor problem. Four percent say it is not a problem at all, and 2 percent are unsure.

Those who support a balanced-budget amendment were asked how they feel about spending cuts in three areas: the military, entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and safety-net programs such as welfare and Medicaid. While none of the three proposed cuts were supported by a majority, close to half the respondents would choose to cut programs to help poor people. Other results include:

  • 59 percent oppose cuts to the military, while 40 percent would support them;

  • 74 percent are against cutting Social Security or Medicare, while 24 percent would support it and 2 percent are unsure; and

  • 50 percent oppose cuts to welfare or Medicaid, and 48 percent support such cuts with 2 percent unsure.

April 30, 2018

The next time a Jersey cop pulls you over and writes a ticket for distracted driving (talking or texting on a cellphone while you’re behind the wheel), you probably should thank them. The Garden State has just been ranked the fifth-safest state for fatal car accidents — at 6.7 fatalities for every 100,000 people per year, compared with the national number of 11.6/100,000 (using 2016 data). And that strong showing is partly because New Jersey police wrote 7,215 tickets for distracted driving (minimum fine $400). The worst state, according to the Safewise Report, the authority on safety and security news, was Mississippi, at 23.1/100,000.

April 27, 2018

Rutgers University has been named No 3 overall in a national study of the safest college campuses. The report analyzed the most recent crime data sets provided by the U.S. Department of Education's Campus Safety Security Survey and the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting data. The results were then calculated and ranked using the information provided by those two reports.

The 2018 study was prepared by Your Local Security, a trusted site dedicated to providing the most up-to-date security tools and information needed to build a safer home environment.

April 26, 2018

A total of 22 general acute-care hospitals (out of a total of 65 facilities) were awarded an “A” for patient safety by the Leapfrog Group, an organization that aims to improve healthcare quality and safety for consumers. The ratings are based on how well hospitals prevent medical errors, infections, and other dangers. These errors, which kill or harm millions of people per year, are the third leading cause of death in the United States.

At 94.4 percent participation, New Jersey had the highest response rate in 2017 for regions with over 50 targeted hospitals.

April 25, 2018

New research puts the overall economic cost of gun violence in New Jersey at more than $3.3 billion, with a direct annual cost to New Jersey taxpayers of approximately $273 million. The analysis was compiled by Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and is published in a report, “The Economic Cost of Gun Violence in New Jersey.”

Giffords indicates that local businesses are severely impacted when gun violence occurs, as shootings keep customers and tourists away and often limit hours of operation. On average, there are 2,014 shootings in New Jersey each year, resulting in directly measurable costs of over $1.2 billion annually. That includes:

  • Healthcare costs: $93 million

  • Law enforcement and criminal justice expenses: $131 million

  • Costs to employers: $8 million

  • Lost income: $918 million

Much of this tab is picked up by the public. Up to 85 percent of gunshot victims, for example, are either uninsured or on some form of publicly funded insurance. Additionally, law enforcement efforts are funded entirely by taxpayer dollars.

April 24, 2018

Only 1 percent of the participants in a Stockton University poll released yesterday rate the state economy as “excellent.” Some 21 percent would go as far as “good.” Nearly half (48 percent) rate the New Jersey economy as “fair,” with 27 percent of 709 adult state residents rating it “poor”; 2 percent said “unsure.”

Residents of South Jersey are a bit more pessimistic than counterparts to the north. In the eight southernmost counties, only 18 percent give positive ratings to the state economy, but 80 percent rate New Jersey’s economy as” fair” or “poor.” In the 13 counties to the north, 24 percent rate New Jersey’s economy positively, while 73 percent rate New Jersey’s economy as “fair” or “poor.”

April 22, 2018

The Department of Health and Human Services has awarded New Jersey nearly $13 million in new funding to combat the opioid crisis.

The Opioid State Targeted Response (STR) grants, which were created by the 21st Century Cures Act, are administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

April 20, 2018

Six-in-10 New Jersey residents support legalizing marijuana, according to yesterday’s Monmouth University Poll, with support running 11 points higher than it did four years ago. The change in attitude appears to be driven mostly by the numbers: 60 percent of those surveyed believe legalization will help the state’s economy. Broken out by party line the responses look like this: 68 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of independents, and even 50 percent of Republicans. Just 16 percent of state residents say it would hurt the economy and 20 percent say it would have no impact.

The poll also finds widespread concern over the opioid crisis — with most New Jerseyans saying the state is not doing enough to deal with this problem. Nearly 9-in-10 New Jersey adults (86 percent) say that addiction to opioids — which include pain medications like Vicodin and OxyContin, as well as street drugs like heroin and fentanyl — is a very serious problem in the United States. One-in-five (20 percent) say that this issue is a bigger problem in New Jersey than in most other parts of the country; 13 percent say it is less of a problem, while the majority (59 percent) say the problem of opioid addiction is about the same in New Jersey as it is elsewhere in the country.

April 19, 2018

Close to $1 million — that’s what the Democratic State Committee raised for Gov. Phil Murphy’s January 16 inaugural, and it spent it all too. That figure pushed fund-raising and spending by the state’s “Big Six” political committees to a decade-long high, according to disclosure reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC); the Republican State Committee, along with the two parties’ Senate and Assembly committees make up the rest of the “Big Six.” Their total take for the first three months of this year was $1.9 million.

But the first quarter’s take “can’t mask the fact that overall party fundraising and spending has declined sharply since the early 2000s,” Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s executive director, said. And there’s an urgency to reversing that slide, he said. In his view, “Reinvigorating parties is important because party committees are more accountable and transparent than many of the independent groups that now dominate state and national elections.” To that end, ELEC has made several recommendations — including a revamp of restrictions on “pay to play contributions” — that it hopes the governor and the Legislature will take up.

April 18, 2018

Somebody’s kissing the dice for New Jersey’s online gambling industry — because it’s on a hot streak. In March, the state’s online casinos generated $25.6 million in gross revenue. That was 16.3 percent more than February’s revenue figure ($21.99 million), and 17.6 percent better than in March 2017 ($21.7 million). In fact, the first three months of 2018 have brought online gambling’s three highest revenue totals since it was legalized and regulated in the Garden State in 2013. The figures come from the state’s monthly Internet Gross Revenue Report.

The Golden Nugget, which owns the Golden Nugget, Betfair, and SugarHouse online casino brands, was the highest roller in March, when it became the first online license holder to generate more than $8 million in a single month. It beat that figure comfortably, racking up $8.7 million in revenue. “The Golden Nugget has become a bellwether for New Jersey. As it goes, so goes the state's legal online gambling industry,” Steve Ruddock, lead analyst for PlayNJ.com, said.

April 17, 2018

New Jersey, a “blue” state, could become even bluer by the time the votes are tallied in the fall congressional elections. A new Monmouth University Poll gives Democrats a 19-point advantage over Republicans in a generic House ballot. If that held true in the elections, it could sweep all the state’s five Republican-held congressional seats into the Democratic column. In the poll, 54 percent of New Jersey’s registered voters said they would vote or lean toward voting for the Democratic candidate in their district compared with 35 percent favoring the Republican. One month ago, New Jersey voters favored Democrats over Republicans by a smaller margin — (50 percent-41 percent), the same polling organization found.

This latest poll suggests that President Donald Trump is the biggest drag on the Garden State’s GOP delegates’ prospects of returning to Washington, D.C. A scant 34 percent of voters approved of the president’s job performance compared with 61 percent who disapproved. He did somewhat better in the state’s GOP-held congressional districts (43 percent approved, 53 percent disapproved).

Another negative for voters was the GOP’s recently enacted federal tax reform (35 percent approved, 46 percent disapproved). This marks a bigger thumbs-down for the tax changes than the Monmouth poll registered last month among voters nationally (41 percent approved, 42 percent disapproved).

The latest poll numbers are “pretty astounding,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said. “Not only are New Jersey Democrats doing better on the generic House ballot statewide, but the shift is coming almost entirely from districts currently held by the GOP. If these results hold, we could be down to just one or two — or maybe even zero — Republican members in the state congressional delegation after November.”

April 16, 2018

New Jersey’s pension system is the worst funded in the nation, according to new research from The Pew Charitable Trusts. In 2016, the most recent year for which comprehensive data is available, New Jersey had only $75 billion in assets to cover nearly $244 billion liabilities, resulting in a $168 billion shortfall. This is an almost $33 billion increase over 2015, when the state reported a $136 billion funding gap.

New Jersey contributed just 33 percent of the $9.6 billion necessary to pay down its debt in 2016, causing its individual funding gap to continue expanding.

Nationwide, state pension funds cumulatively reported a $1.4 trillion deficit in 2016. This represents a $295 billion jump from 2015 and the 15th annual increase in pension debt since 2000. Overall, state plans disclosed assets of just $2.6 trillion to cover total pension liabilities of $4 trillion.

April 13, 2018

Registered voters in New Jersey favor incumbent U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) in his bid for re-election by 21 percentage points over his Republican challenger. Fifty-three percent say they favor Menendez while 32 percent say they would vote for Bob Hugin, a former pharmaceutical executive. And that’s even though Menendez also registers weak approval ratings, with only 37 percent of voters approving of the job he’s doing, 38 percent disapproving, and 25 percent having no opinion. The senator’s limp job-approval rating can be attributed in part to fallout from his recent corruption trial. The numbers are from the latest Monmouth University Poll.

The picture is far more lopsided when the poll gets into preference by party affiliation. Ninety-two percent of Democrats back Menendez and 84 percent of Republicans opt for Hugin. Among Independents, the split is 41 percent for Menendez and 33 percent for Hugin.

“Let’s be honest. It’s very unlikely that these results are predictive of the final margin on Election Day. New Jersey voters do not tune in to midterm elections until sometime in October and fewer than half of the voters we polled now will actually show up to vote then. However, the current state of the race does speak to what is perhaps the incumbent’s biggest strength: being a Democrat in a blue state in a year that is looking very good for Democrats,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, said.

April 12, 2018

Newly elected Gov. Phil Murphy is starting out his tenure in good shape, according the latest Monmouth University Poll, with a 44 percent positive job rating. That’s markedly better than his two predecessors at the same point in their terms. Chris Christie held a slightly negative 41 percent approve to 44 percent disapprove rating in April 2010. Jon Corzine received a slightly negative 34 percent approve to 37 percent disapprove rating in April 2006, according to Monmouth polling.

Some 28 percent of 703 Garden State adults disapprove of the job Murphy is doing. Another 28 percent have no opinion. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats (65 percent) approve; 7 percent disapprove. Among Republicans, 17 percent approve while 59 percent disapprove. Among independents, 41 percent approve, and 33 percent disapprove of the governor’s performance to date.

April 11, 2018

Almost two-thirds of New Jersey residents (64 percent) gave a thumbs-down to state subsidies for PSEG’s nuclear plants. That’s according to a poll by the political consulting firm, Fifty One Percent. Eighteen percent of New Jersey residents said they support the subsidies while 18 percent were unsure about them. The poll is being highlighted by the anti-subsidy NJ Coalition for Fair Energy. The numbers for and against the state giving a financial hand to the nuclear power industry come in the same week that both houses of the state Legislature are expected to sign off on a bill that would subsidize three PSEG nuclear power plants for up to 10 years at a cost of $300 million annually.

The poll’s other main findings: A significant number of New Jerseyans said they were less likely to vote for a politician who in turn has voted for a subsidy bill (46 percent), while 10 percent said they were more likely to vote for such a politician; 26 percent said the politician’s vote on the issue would make no difference. Fifty-two percent of voters overall thought New Jersey's nuclear plants should close if they are not profitable — or should close whether they are profitable or not.

April 10, 2018

According to the latest research from the Center for Public Integrity, some 1.7 million employees in New Jersey (53 percent of the workforce) are toiling away for companies that don’t offer employment plans.

New Jersey is hardly alone in this situation; some states, like Oregon, are experimenting with state-run retirement plans. In fact, Garden State lawmakers in 2016 were poised to pass legislation with bipartisan support creating an Oregon-style auto-IRA program. But Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed that plan and obtained agreement on legislation that instead creates a marketplace without the state’s direct involvement.

April 9, 2018

Newark will launch LinkNWK (pronounced Link Newark), a citywide network of kiosks that offer free public Wi-Fi and other digital services. It joins New York City, the United Kingdom, and Philadelphia as the fourth Link smart city program in the world.

The city will partner with Intersection to install the communications network of sidewalk kiosks that will provide residents and visitors free gigabit Wi-Fi, mobile device charging, phone calls to anywhere in the United States, access to municipal services, maps and directions, and realtime local information at no cost to taxpayers or users. Advertising on Link display will pay for the service.

The program will run on Newark Fiber, the City’s public-private gigabit-data network

April 6, 2018

Adults in New Jersey are split over whether marijuana should be made legal for recreational use, but one in four say they would try it or use it if it were legal, according to a recent Stockton University poll.

According to the poll of 728 adult New Jersey residents, 49 percent support legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Forty-four percent oppose legalization, with 5 percent unsure.

Seventy-five percent say they do not currently use marijuana and would not even if it were legal.

Gov. Phil Murphy supported legalizing marijuana for people ages 21 and older during his gubernatorial campaign as a social-justice issue and as a way to raise an estimated $300 million in sales-tax revenues.

Medical marijuana is currently legal in the state.

April 5, 2018

Fifty percent of sexually active people will contract a sexually transmitted disease at some stage — and most won’t even know it. That unnerving nugget is being highlighted by Planned Parenthood of Northern, Central and Southern New Jersey (PPNCSNJ), as it encourages New Jerseyans to get tested for such diseases.

This is national STD Awareness Month. In concert with that campaign, the PPNCSNJ is hosting a Free STD Testing Week from April 16 to 21 at its 16 health centers. The organization provides free testing to people under the age of 24 as a matter of course, but during the special testing week will give free tests for HIV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia to people of any age. People who want to get tested will be accommodated during normal business hours that week.

The group is also planning other ways to heighten awareness of STDs and the importance of early treatment. One will involve Friday-night “condom crawls” through April at downtown bars and restaurants in places like Asbury Park, New Brunswick, and Princeton where volunteers will hand out “goody bags” of condoms along with STD-testing information.

April 4, 2018

The construction of new offshore wind farms in New Jersey and other coastal states could lead to more than 75,000 clean-energy jobs. That’s the estimate of a new report from the Center for American Progress and the New Jersey Work Environment Council.

“The state-level offshore wind requirements in place along the eastern seaboard totaled 4.5 gigawatts before Gov. Murphy’s 3.5-gigawatt commitment nearly doubled the sum in late January, note the authors of “Offshore Wind Means Blue-Collar Jobs for Coastal States.” And they suggest that “New Jersey’s electoral shift adds significant momentum to a burgeoning U.S. offshore wind industry, with major implications for the coastal state labor force.”

The potential for 75,000 jobs comes, they say, from the fact that in 2014, when 7.5 gigawatts of total generation capacity was achieved from offshore projects in the European Union, “The manufacture, installation, and maintenance of offshore wind facilities supported approximately 75,000 full-time-equivalent workers across the continent that year.”

April 3, 2018

New Jersey CPAs figure the best way to keep millennials in the Garden State is to reduce taxes, all taxes. According to the New Jersey Society of CPAs (NJCPA), 34 percent of the accountants who took part in the society’s latest survey believe New Jersey’s high taxes contribute mightily to millennial outmigration, which lately has become a preoccupation for business interests in the state; millennials generally are categorized as those born between 1981 and 2000. The result was reinforced by the fact that 35 percent of millennials who took part in the survey also listed lowering taxes as their principal idea for persuading their peers to stay.

The CPAs’ other main suggestions for ways to entice younger folk not to abandon New Jersey include bringing more businesses to the state (16 percent) and building more affordable housing (14 percent). They also reprise the sorts of ideas that have long been discussed in the state: improving mass transit and decreasing its cost, making colleges more affordable, increasing technology jobs, creating more open space. But here’s one idea you might not have expected from the CPAs — legalizing marijuana for the business opportunities it could provide.

April 2, 2018

The Rutgers School of Public Health has been awarded a $345,587 grant from the National Cancer Institute. The grant will go towards researching the impact of advertising on tobacco usage and public health.

Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ-06) announced the award.

“The dangers of tobacco and its link to cancer are a well-known danger to our country’s public health and to our children,” said Pallone. “Rutgers is one of the leading research institutions in the world, and I know that its research on tobacco advertising and its impact will be indispensable and could even save lives.”

March 29, 2018

More than two-thirds (72 percent) of New Jersey high schoolers believe the minimum age to buy assault weapons should be raised to 21. An even greater percentage (77 percent) take the view that gun laws in the United States need to be stricter in general. The results come from a nationwide survey of 25,000 9-12th grade students on the subject of gun policy and school safety; more than 1,300 New Jersey students took part. (The survey was conducted by Newsela, an instruction-content platform for students and teachers.)

The results come, of course, in the tragic context of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL and the subsequent stream of marches for gun control across the country. One flashpoint of the debate unleashed by those events has been the arguments for or against arming teachers. The New Jersey students who responded to the survey came down heavily against that prospect, with 64 percent opposed to teachers being allowed to carry guns.

March 28, 2018

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission is making $10 million in election security improvements available to the State of New Jersey.

The commission, created as a result of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2018, is administering federal grants through the 2018 Help America Vote Act Election Security Grant Program.

U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (NJ-7) supported the fiscal year 2018 spending measure in part because of the funds made available for election security.

The purpose of a grant is to assist states improve the administration of elections, including enhancing election technology and upgrading election security in accordance with the bipartisan Help America Vote Act. Funding can be used for the following:

  • Replace voting equipment that only records a voter’s intent electronically with equipment that utilizes a voter-verified paper record;

  • implement a postelection audit system that provides a high level of confidence in the accuracy of the final vote tally;

  • upgrade election-related computer systems to address cyber vulnerabilities identified through the Department of Homeland Security or similar scans or assessments of existing election systems;

  • facilitate cybersecurity training for the state’s chief election official’s office and local election officials; and

  • implement cybersecurity best practices for election systems and other activities that will improve the security of elections for federal office.

The Omnibus Appropriations Act makes $9,757,451 available to the state of New Jersey. Completion of the grant package will go through the office of the New Jersey Secretary of State.

March 27, 2018

According to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates released last week, nine of New Jersey's 21 counties lost population between 2016 and 2017. All nine of these counties also lost population in the previous year (from 2015 to 2016), although in most cases the 2016-2017 loss was smaller. Only Cumberland County lost more people from 2016 to 2017 than it had from 2015 to 2016.

"The state's more urban counties are generally faring much better than the exurban ones, as has been the case since the Great Recession of 2008," said New Jersey Future Executive Director Peter Kasabach. "While Ocean County was the fastest-growing county this year, as it was last year, the next five top positions are all held by counties of the North Jersey urban core, all of which grew faster than the statewide growth rate of 0.3 percent.

"This is further evidence of a move to, or back to, more compact walkable places with existing infrastructure and vibrant downtowns," Kasabach continued. "These places are reaping the benefits of accelerated economic growth, and counties that are helping to support this trend are benefiting as well."

Hudson County hit a milestone as of 2017 — with its current population estimate sitting at 691,643. It has now surpassed its previous population peak of 690,730, which it had achieved in 1930. The county has gained back all of the population it lost during the era of suburbanization and de-industrialization, after falling to a low of 553,099 in 1990. Union County also earlier this decade surpassed its previous population peak, which it had achieved in 1971.

The New Jersey counties losing population over the past year include all of the counties that are farthest from the state's two core urban areas: Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, and Salem in the south, and Sussex, Warren and Hunterdon in the north. These northern counties represent the formerly fast-growing exurban fringe of the New York metro area, now faltering as millennials increasingly opt for more walkable urban areas.

March 26, 2018

According to previous legislative proposals to address this most common – but still rare – bleeding disorder, some 800 men suffer from hemophilia. The disease is attached to the X chromosome, making males more vulnerable. Nationwide, 1 in 5,000 male infants are born with the most common form of the disease, one of several in which the blood does not properly clot, leaving the individual vulnerable to hemorrhaging and other issues.

On Friday, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a resolution that designates March as “Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month” in an effort to increase awareness and understanding about these diseases and create a greater sense of community for those who suffer. The resolution was sponsored by Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Mercer) and Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), who has worked for more than a decade to expand care for these conditions.

March 23, 2018

Census data out Thursday for 2017 finally puts New Jersey’s population over the 9 million mark. We’ve been hovering around 8.9 million for the past four years. Total population is 9,005,644 (estimated). That's 2.4 percent higher than the 2010 estimate and 0.3 percent more than the 2016 count.

Growth is not uniform. Nine counties lost population since 2010 (Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Hunterdon, Monmouth, Salem, Sussex, Warren); six of those lost from 2016 to 2017 (Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Monmouth, Salem, Sussex). The greatest growth was in Hudson County, which was up 9 percent since 2010, with Union second at 5.1 percent, and Bergen third with 4.8 percent.

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