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April 19, 2019

Yet another way to divide people into two groups is by whether they love or loathe black jellybeans. According to candystore.com, Garden State residents are firmly in the first category, preferring black licorice beans over 21 other flavors. Unfortunately, New Jersey is tracking a trailing trend: Black licorice was the No. 1 bean nationally two years ago, slipping to second place last year and coming to rest in the third slot this time around. Peach and cherry fill out the state’s top three choices. Buttered popcorn is the country’s favorite flavor.

A few more factoids: Six million jellybeans are manufactured just for the Easter season, enough to reach one-third of the way to the moon. National Jelly Bean Day falls on April 22 this year, if you need another reason for risking sugar shock.

Candystore.com, which seems to aggregate information on anything bad for your teeth, has also put together a ranking of the 10 worst Easter candies, according to 23,000 people surveyed. The first entry on the list was Fluffy Stuff Cotton Candy; number eight, Hershey’s carrot-cake-flavored Kisses. The seventh slot was taken by chocolate crucifixes, which probably deserve a special award for being in the worst taste possible. And the pinnacle of unpopularity? Cadbury Creme Eggs, which can melt into “goo” while folks are working on their sugar fix.

April 18, 2019

The so-called Big Six fundraising committees raised less than $1 million during the first three months of 2019, the smallest haul in at least a decade for a state election year.

Quarterly reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) show that the two major state parties and four legislative leadership committees raised a relatively paltry $981,798 during the first quarter.

Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s executive director, said while it still is early in the year, the latest quarterly totals are another warning sign for the state’s political parties.

All told, the Democrats have raised $531,970 for the first quarter of the year: New Jersey Democratic State Committee ($244,466), Senate Democratic Majority ($56,404), and Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee ($231,100). Meanwhile, the Republicans have pulled in $449,828: New Jersey Republican State Committee ($213,905), Senate Republican Majority ($112,250), and Assembly Republican Victory ($123,673).

ELEC, according to Brindle, has suggested reforms “to raise general contribution limits for party and candidate committees, and easing tight pay-to-play contribution restrictions from parties, imposing them instead on political action committees.

“Parties are an essential part of our political system. Steps need to be taken to prevent them from being rendered irrelevant by the growing clout of independent spenders,” Brindle said. “S-1500/A-1524 is a step toward aligning disclosure requirements of independent groups with those of parties and candidates.”

April 17, 2019

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded $84.5 million in grants to help public housing agencies in New Jersey preserve, repair and modernize affordable homes.

The money will be split among more than 60 such agencies across the state. The Newark Housing Authority is receiving the largest award, at $24 million, following by Jersey City, which won roughly $7 million, Trenton, $4.7 million, and Paterson, with an award of $4.2 million. The allocations range down to $84,154 awarded to the Housing Authority of the Borough of Clementon in Camden County.

“This money will allow our housing agencies to make much needed repairs and upgrades to help thousands of families across the state access safe, quality, reliable and affordable housing that all Americans deserve,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) in a joint announcement with the state’s other representative in the Senate, Cory Booker.

April 16, 2019

Today is National Health Care Decisions Day, when we are prompted to become informed on the importance of advance planning for end-of-life medical care.

A new poll shows that most New Jerseyans (97 percent) have discussed their end-of-life wishes with a loved one and 39 percent have talked about it with a lawyer or a financial planner.

But the gap between talking and taking action to record those wishes is substantial. “People are thinking about their end-of-life care wishes, but there’s a real gap when it comes to discussing them and writing them down,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling. “The gap is wider for some groups more than others, influenced by key factors like age, gender and race.”

The poll shows that only 30 percent of New Jerseyans are pragmatic — and organized — enough to have a written document detailing their wishes. At the same time, the poll, by the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute in partnership with the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, also finds that six in 10 New Jerseyans (61 percent) have given a great deal or at least some thought to the issue.

“We know the best way to make sure your end-of-life wishes are respected and honored is to discuss and document them. And that’s why we created Conversation of Your Life (COYL),” said Linda Schwimmer, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute. “We therefore need physicians, nurses and other health care providers to encourage patients to talk about — and then document — their wishes. And if health care providers don’t bring the topic up, then patients should.”

April 15, 2019

State tax collections swelled in March, helping to push the rate of growth in total revenues for the first nine months of the 2019 fiscal year to 4.7 percent, according to the latest official revenue report provided by the state Department of Treasury.

For the month of March alone, total tax collections were up by nearly 17 percent compared to March 2018. But despite the productive month, there’s still cause for concern. The state budget for FY2019 relies on overall revenues growing by a nearly 8 percent rate by the time the fiscal year closes on June 30.

The state’s largest single source of tax revenue is the income tax, and it continued to lag last year’s tax collections through the first nine months of FY2019, by nearly 4 percent. But there was an uptick in March, and Treasury officials are expecting to get back on pace with a major income-tax haul this month as final tax returns are sent in to meet today’s filing deadline.

April 12, 2019

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a study tapping Rutgers University research that shows a 43 percent increase in the rate of autism spectrum disorder reported in New Jersey between 2010 and 2014.

The report found that New Jersey’s rate was the highest of the states studied: one in 35 4-year-olds here, versus one in 59 elsewhere.

New Jersey’s higher rates are likely due to more accurate or complete reporting based on education and healthcare records, researchers said. Similar studies were conducted in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin.

Rutgers professor Walter Zahorodny, who directed the New Jersey portion of the study, said the analysis shows U.S. autism rates are continuing to rise without plateauing. He called the results “consistent, broad and startling.”

April 11, 2019

New Jersey has a reputation for high taxes. A new poll puts a number on exactly how frustrated residents are with those taxes. Only 18 percent said they are getting their money’s worth in exchange for what they pay in taxes, according to a recent survey by Rutgers-Eagleton in collaboration with the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.

The tax bill that draws the most scorn from residents is the local property tax, which only 20 percent of those surveyed said they considered to be a very fair or somewhat fair tax. That comes after the average New Jersey property tax bill rose to a record high last year of ($8,767).

The state’s gas tax — which also increased last year — draws low marks as well, with only 23 percent of those surveyed saying it’s very fair or somewhat fair.

Doing somewhat better is the state income tax, which was viewed as very fair or somewhat fair by 38 percent. And the state sales tax — which was slightly reduced in recent years — fared the best; it was viewed as very fair or somewhat fair by 58 percent of those who responded to the poll, which was conducted from March 7-22.

The poll also sought residents’ views on related issues like education, affordability and spending. Interestingly, it found that 59 percent said they were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with how the state is handling K-12 education, a service that is heavily funded with local property taxes, and to a lesser degree, state income taxes — two of the taxes that poll respondents considered to be more unfair than fair.

The poll also asked residents about the public-employee pension system, which is grossly underfunded and eats up nearly 10 percent of the state’s annual budget. Only 11 percent favored using increased taxes to fund the state’s regular pension contributions. Among the “tradeoffs” that were considered as more appealing remedies were making employees increase their pension contributions and reducing the quality of their health benefits. Those options drew 65 percent and 64 percent support, respectively. But the pension-funding question did not explain that the state has a long record of underfunding its own pension contributions and, in some years, has skipped making a payment altogether.

April 10, 2019

Many of New Jersey’s political leaders might usefully put a stint at charm school on their Google calendars. Not one of them is favored by a majority of the state’s residents, according to a joint poll by Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics and Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Gov. Phil Murphy scored more favorable than unfavorable reactions in the poll (43 percent favorable to 37 percent unfavorable, with one in five having no opinion). U.S. Sen. Cory Booker did better (46 percent favorable, 32 percent unfavorable). They were the only two whose numbers, the poll found, were “right side up.”

“These are solidly Democratic politicians who represent a solidly Democratic state. And yet, none of them appear to be wowing the crowds,” said Krista Jenkins, professor of government and director of the FDU Poll. “But they’re doing far better than two marquee Republicans.”

As for the marquee GOP twosome, the poll found sometime-Bedminster resident President Donald Trump’s numbers were 30 percent favorable, 59 percent unfavorable. His chum, and New Jersey’s former governor, Chris Christie did even worse (21 percent favorable, 63 percent unfavorable).

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) registered 13 percent favorable, 21 percent unfavorable; and, for all the power he wields in the state, the poll found he remains unknown to many residents: 46 percent had no opinion of him, and 19 percent weren’t sure who he is.

Humble pie, anyone? Probably not.

April 9, 2019

Did you know there’s a peak season for scammers making robocalls? Apparently, their busy season is right now, with the April 15 deadline for filing tax returns approaching. AllAreaCodes.com analyzed 15 million consumer complaints made to the Federal Trade Commission in 2016-2018 and, based on consumer complaints about violations of Do-Not-Call rules, ranked the states (and the District of Columbia) for those most at risk for tax-season scams. New Jersey ranked sixth for those annoyances, with 2,333 complaints. The most complaints were from residents of Nevada (2,579) and the least from people in Alaska (549). The Garden State also featured in the top 100 counties for robocall complaints: Monmouth County (22nd), Middlesex County (68th), and Essex County (85th).

The Internal Revenue Service knows well that much of the seasonal robocalling centers on tax returns. It has issued tips on how not to fall into the clutches of scammers trying to impersonate IRS personnel. Tip number one: Know that the IRS will never call to demand immediate payment, ask for a credit card number over the phone, or threaten people with the police or lawsuits.

April 8, 2019

The need for a more diverse faculty at Rutgers University is a big issue for current teachers at the institution. Rutgers president Robert Barchi has just announced a boost in funding for that goal, with $20 million added to Rutgers’ Faculty Diversity Hiring Initiative. The money will extend an existing $22 million program that was set to expire in July 2021; that program is for new hires as well as providing “funds to support mentoring and retention activities,” said Barchi in a letter announcing the $20 million infusion. He said the extra money will enable schools and departments to do more hiring in the 2019-2020 academic year and assist “in attracting and retaining a world-class faculty that embodies our dedication to diversity and inclusion.”

The Rutgers president noted that, “Since its inception in the fall of 2016, seventy-nine faculty have been hired through this salary support program, in addition to other diverse faculty whose salaries are supported by departments and schools.”

April 5, 2019

There’s overwhelming support in New Jersey for the development of wind farms off the state’s coast. A new Monmouth University Poll has found that three-quarters of residents (76 percent) give a thumbs-up to such development. Of those, 48 percent said it should be a major priority over the next decade.

The poll suggests that the cost of developing wind farms may be a key issue, however. It found that 45 percent of residents would oppose developing more wind farms if it caused their electricity rates to increase; slightly fewer (41 percent) would still favor forging ahead in that event. However, a majority (58 percent) would be supportive even if their electricity rates increased, if they also believed this would significantly reduce carbon emissions and reliance on fossil fuels.

“This could be tricky for clean energy advocates,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Support for wind energy could drop once New Jersey ratepayers become aware of any development costs they will have to bear. However, they could become more willing to shoulder some of that investment if they are convinced it will lead to real environmental benefits.”

On the possible effects on their utility bills, New Jerseyans are a little hazy. Nineteen percent figure their rates would go up for the next few years, 35 percent believe their rates would decrease, and another 35 percent think they would stay the same. In the long term, a majority (52 percent) expect rates would be lower than if no new wind farms were developed; 24 percent expect no change in rates a decade from now if the state develops more wind energy; 15 percent expect rates would be higher 10 years from now.

The poll found a big enthusiasm gap between people’s support for wind farms and some other energy options. Only 30 percent of residents said they favor drilling for oil and gas off the state’s coast while twice as many (61 percent) oppose it. Further development of nuclear power in the state got even less support; only 26 percent would favor building another nuclear power plant in New Jersey, while two-thirds (67 percent) would oppose it.

April 4, 2019

Seven in 10 New Jerseyans strongly (46 percent) or somewhat (26 percent) support raising taxes on households making more than $1 million annually, according to the first joint poll between Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics and Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Opposition is divided evenly between 14 percent strongly against and 14 percent somewhat against.

“Support is just as strong for a millionaires tax as it was a year and a half ago,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP) at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “This may change as more details are released and as the proposal plays out in the Legislature in the coming months, but as of now, this could be a much-needed win for Murphy — at least in the public’s eyes.”

After more than a year in office, Murphy himself remains largely undefined in the minds of New Jersey voters. Half (50 percent) believe he hasn’t yet had any significant accomplishments. More approve (52 percent) than disapprove (43 percent) of his job performance, but support is not overwhelming. In fact, disapproval has increased by double digits since last fall.

Approval of how the governor is handling key issues is also mixed. He receives his lowest approvals on taxes and the state pension fund and his highest — and only majority — approval on weather-related emergencies.

All in all, over half of residents (56 percent) say Murphy is doing about as well as they expected in his first year as governor; 16 percent say he is outperforming their expectations, and 25 percent say he is doing worse than they anticipated.

As for the state as a whole, residents have grown a bit more pessimistic about New Jersey’s future since last fall: 58 percent now say the the state is on the wrong track, compared with 42 percent who feel it is moving in the right direction.

April 3, 2019

In the decade between 2007 and 2017, New Jersey made considerable progress in reducing the number of children in foster care who were placed in group homes; the number went from 1,739 (19 percent) to 332 (6 percent). A report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that 94 percent of children in foster care in the Garden State were placed with families rather than in group placements by 2017. That was up from 80 percent in 2007. Nationwide, care systems placed 86 percent of the children with families in 2017, compared with 81 percent in 2007.

“Given the progress New Jersey has already made in reducing reliance on group home or institution care, we can focus on other aspects of the Family First Act such as supportive services to keep children safely at home and services to support successful reunification when children do need to enter foster care,” said Mary Coogan, vice president of Advocates for Children of New Jersey.

Nationwide, the report indicates, there has been little progress getting teenagers out of group placements and into family settings; more than one-third of youngsters in child welfare systems, age 13 and older, lived in group placements in 2017, the same proportion as in 2007.

The number of children in foster care in New Jersey in 2017 was 5,946.

April 2, 2019

Today is Equal Pay Day, the symbolic date on which women’s earnings nationwide finally catch up to men’s earnings from the previous year. The average woman in the United States earns 80 cents for every dollar a man earns. The overall average is the same for women in New Jersey, which ranks right in the middle of the states (25th) on pay equity. The only women in the Garden State who out-earn that figure are Asians (88 cents). That’s about the only bright spot. Otherwise, the news on our pay-equity statistics is far from comforting.

The state ranks dead last among the 50 states and Puerto Rico in pay equity for Latinas (51st) and near the bottom for African-American and white non-Hispanic women (both 42nd). Native American women in New Jersey do a little better (36th).

For every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man earns in the Garden State, the average Latina makes 42 cents. For African-American and Native American women, it’s 56 cents. The figure is 74 cents for white non-Hispanic women.

Women in New York and Pennsylvania do far better. New York: Women’s overall average (88 cents), Asian women (83 cents), white non-Hispanic women (81 cents), African-American women (65 cents), Native American women (62 cents) and Latinas (56 cents). Pennsylvania: Overall (81 cents), Native American women (91 cents), Asian women (81 cents), white non-Hispanic women (78 cents), African-American women (67 cents) and Latinas (57 cents).

The issue has huge financial consequences for women over the course of their working lives. “The typical millennial woman in the U.S. can expect to lose $1 million over her lifetime as a result of the gender wage gap, and this amount is even larger for minority women,” said Professor Yana Rodgers, an economist and faculty director of the Rutgers Center for Women and Work, which announced the rankings. “Much of the disparity results from the ‘mommy tax,’ in which women with caregiving obligations hold lower-paying jobs with more flexibility, or they exit the labor market to care for young children only to return to low-level jobs,” Rodgers said. “Government policies have helped to narrow the gender pay gap over time, but more needs to be done to eliminate the ‘mommy tax,’ open doors to women in non-traditional occupations, and support fathers in taking on caregiving roles.”

April 1, 2019

In 2018, the average rate of union membership among wage and salary workers by state was 10.5 percent, down 0.2 percent from the previous year. In New Jersey, there were 587,000 (or 14.9 percent) employed union members out of the total of 3,935,000 wage and salary workers; that was down from 16.2 percent in 2017. (The data are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

The total of union workers in the United States last year was 14.7 million. Twenty states had union membership rates above the U.S. average, with Hawaii (23.1 percent) and New York (22.3 percent) the highest. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia had rates below the U.S. average, with the lowest rates in the Carolinas (both 2.7 percent).

More than half of the union members in the U.S. lived in just seven states: California (2.4 million); New York (1.9 million); Illinois (800,000); Pennsylvania (700,000); and Michigan, Ohio, and Washington (600,000 each).

Some national statistics of note: The rate of union membership among public-sector workers (33.9 percent) was more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.4 percent); men continued to have a higher union membership rate (11.1 percent) than women (9.9 percent); median weekly earnings for nonunion workers were 82 percent of earnings for union members ($860 versus $1,051).

March 29, 2019

The dollar value of New Jersey’s manufactured goods has increased “almost 75 percent since 2000 and account for nearly 90 percent of New Jersey’s exports.” So said Assemblyman Clinton Calabrese (D-Bergen, Passaic), who added, “These goods are shipped throughout the United States and all over the globe.” Not too shabby! Calabrese suggests that manufacturing in the Garden State — which supports almost a quarter of a million jobs — is “booming.”

Calabrese and Assembly colleagues Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey (both D-Monmouth) are behind a measure to create an official “NJ-Made” logo to be used by in-state manufacturers. Their bill (A-3692) didn’t draw any arguments; it passed the full Assembly by a vote of 75-0. “A state brand showcases the variety of goods and products made right here in New Jersey,” said Houghtaling. “We can celebrate and raise awareness of New Jersey’s manufacturing sector by promoting state production anywhere the product is sold in the world. That’s just good business.”

March 28, 2019

It really wouldn’t do to say that New Jersey’s beekeepers are angry as hornets, but they are definitely abuzz about the state’s draft regulations for keeping honey bees. Actually, it’s not just beekeepers that are put out by the Department of Agriculture’s proposals. According to the New Jersey Beekeepers Association, the 1,100 negative comments came from academics, legislators, beekeepers, environmental commissions, town councils, and county agricultural boards.

For the NJBA, more than bees and honey are at stake. It argues that the “whole system of policy-making” for the agriculture industry in the Garden State is at “risk” if the secretary of agriculture and his staff can “ram through policies and procedures.”

March 27, 2019

New Jersey ranked 11th among the states for jobs in the solar industry in 2018, with 6,410 people employed, according to the Solar Foundation. That included jobs in installation (4,364, an 18 percent decrease), wholesale trade and distribution (711, down 10 percent), manufacturing (609, down 10 percent), operations and maintenance (482) and unspecified other jobs (243, which decreased by 25 percent).

Employment in solar in the Garden State went down by 9.8 percent overall last year, a loss of 696 jobs. New Jersey generated 4.17 percent of its electricity from solar energy last year.

March 26, 2019

Dr. Robert Koch discovered the bacteria that causes tuberculosis 137 years ago and healthcare entities have been trying to eradicate the disease ever since. But tuberculosis, or TB, remains one of the world’s deadliest diseases. One third of the world’s population is infected with it. In 2017, about 10.4 million people around the world became sick with TB disease and there were about 1.7 million TB-related deaths worldwide.

The rate of active tuberculosis continues to decline in the United States. And efforts toward its eradication continue in New Jersey, where 291 residents were diagnosed with active TB last year. “This represents a 70 percent decrease in cases since TB peaked in New Jersey in 1992,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said. There were 984 cases in 1992.

TB is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and is spread from person to person through the air. It typically affects the lungs but can affect the brain, kidneys and spine. Babies, young adults, the elderly, those with HIV and those with weakened immune systems are at increased risk of contracting the disease, as well as people with cancer, severe kidney disease, low body weight and those who have undergone an organ transplant.

There are two types of TB conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: latent TB infection and TB disease. TB bacteria can live in the body without making one sick, thus “latent” TB infection. “In most people who breathe in TB bacteria and become infected, the body is able to fight the bacteria to stop them from growing. People with latent TB infection do not feel sick, do not have any symptoms, and cannot spread TB bacteria to others.” It’s when TB bacteria become active in the body and multiply, that a person goes from having latent TB infection to being sick with “active” TB disease.

For more information about New Jersey’s TB program and information about the disease, click on this link.

March 25, 2019

Accountants in New Jersey aren’t running up the bunting for Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed budget. Indeed, when polled by the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants, 70 percent of nearly 500 CPAs said his budget would make the state’s economy worse over the long term. Thirty-eight percent were of the view the state’s economy would become “significantly worse,” while a somewhat less pessimistic cohort (32 percent) said the economy would become “marginally worse.” A further 17 percent said the economy would “stay the same.” Only 12 percent marked themselves as in the optimistic camp.

Among the CPAs with a gloomy outlook, most said the governor wasn’t focusing enough on the amount of state spending on public pension benefits and wasn’t dealing with high property taxes for both residents and businesses. They also were not keen on his proposed millionaire’s tax.

The small group who were optimistic about the governor’s plan suggested it would deliver increased revenues from the highest-income taxpayers, reduced healthcare costs, and the prospect of tax revenue from the sale of legalized, adult-use marijuana.

Nearly half those surveyed (47 percent) rated the state’s economy as “fair,” compared with 29 percent who described it as “poor” and 23 percent as “good.”

March 22, 2019

According to a new report by the Education Law Center, the 2018-2019 budgets of 23, or over two-thirds, of New Jersey’s 31 urban “Abbott” school districts are below the state’s “adequacy” level. This means that, despite recent updates to the school funding formula, they do not have enough funding to provide their students with a “thorough and efficient” education as required under the state constitution.

The ELC found the total funding gap for those districts comes to more than $1 billion, because of what it says are “shortfalls in both state aid and local property tax revenue, as required by the SFRA formula.”

Abbott districts enroll approximately 20 percent of all public school students statewide and a large share of New Jersey’s low-income students (40 percent), English Language Learners (54 percent), and African-American and Latino students (40 percent).

Sharon Krengel, the ELC’s outreach director said in a statement that “Governor Phil Murphy’s proposed FY20 State Budget … fails to make much headway towards addressing the growing underfunding of Abbott districts.” This is even though Murphy’s budget proposal includes a state aid increase for all districts — approximately $200 million in additional appropriations. Krengel said that amount “barely scratches the surface of the state aid required to close the adequacy gap in the Abbott districts.”

March 21, 2019

The depth of feeling among faculty and graduate employees of Rutgers University over contract negotiations was signaled this week when 88 percent of members represented by the American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers authorized their union’s leadership to call a strike if contract negotiations hit a wall. It would be the first strike in the university’s 253-year history.

The AAUP-AFT, which represents 4,800 full-time faculty and graduate workers, is looking for pay equity for part-time faculty, female faculty, and those who are teaching in Rutgers’ Newark and Camden campuses. It also wants more full-time faculty and librarians to be hired to improve the student/faculty ratio; more teaching assistantships; and a more diverse faculty. It’s also looking for salary increases and longer, more secure contracts.

March 20, 2019

The number of pedestrian fatalities in the United States has grown sharply in recent years. In the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, they increased by 35 percent (from 4,414 deaths in 2008 to 5,977 deaths in 2017). At the same time, the combined number of all other traffic deaths declined by 6 percent.

A preliminary report from the Governors Highway Safety Association underlines the worrying trend. In New Jersey, the figure for pedestrian fatalities in 2017 was 67; in 2018, it was 73, marking a 9 percent increase. The highest percentage increase was in Hawaii (1,800 percent), but that shocking figure is deceptive. The number of fatalities in Hawaii went from one in 2017 to 19 in 2018. At the other end of the spectrum was New Hampshire, which had the fortune to have fewer pedestrian fatalities in 2018 (1) than in 2017 (5), an 80 percent decline.

March 19, 2019

Immigrants make up 22 percent of New Jersey’s population, but they own 47 percent of its Main Street businesses.

And, although immigrant owners dominate certain businesses — for example, they make up eight out of 10 dry cleaners and run seven out of 10 grocery stores and bodegas — immigrants in New Jersey also own 50 percent or more of businesses such as household maintenance, transportation services, nail salons, computer service centers, restaurants, and clothing stores.

The data comes from a new report released yesterday by New Jersey Policy Perspective. “Immigrants in New Jersey own a higher share of Main Street businesses than in any other state not named California. These immigrant-owned businesses anchor local economies across the state, providing goods, services, and job opportunities in their respective communities,” noted Erika Nava, the report’s author.

According to NJPP, the results of the report “echo a nationwide trend, as immigrants are almost twice as likely to start new businesses” as their native-born peers, adding that immigrant-owned businesses in the Garden State generate $4.4 billion in annual income, with $950 million coming from the Main Street businesses.

March 18, 2019

Look out, Las Vegas! New Jersey is coming to cut a strip out of you. February is supposed to be a quiet month in the betting world, after the excitement of the Super Bowl in January. Although the state’s online and retail sportsbooks last month didn’t match January’s haul, they still netted $12.7 in revenue on $320.4 million in sports bets.

“New Jersey’s sports betting market is less driven by major events than in Nevada, and February’s numbers bear that out,” said Dustin Gouker, lead sports betting analyst for PlayNJ.com. “The market’s consistency will eventually help New Jersey overtake Nevada as the largest legal sports betting market in the U.S., which is now more a question of when rather than if.”

March 15, 2019

“Sexual assault and rape are unique, horrific and violent crimes, particularly when it happens to a child. There is too much understanding today about the suppression of childhood trauma, too many testimonials on the internal turmoil that prevents a survivor from coming forward … The standard statute of limitations, simply, is woefully inadequate,” said Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex).

Yesterday, the state Senate passed a bill, sponsored by Vitale and Sen. Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union), that would expand the statute of limitations from the current two years to seven years for adult victims of sexual assault.

Additionally, if an incident of sexual assault occurred before a victim turned 18, that person would be able to file a claim any time before they turned 55.

The bill also provides for a seven-year discovery rule, meaning the victim would have seven years from the time they connected the trauma they suffered to the abuse they endured, to pursue justice.

March 14, 2019

Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 includes $1 million to provide doula care to expectant mothers on Medicaid; doulas are non-clinical birth coaches and maternal advocates. The aim of the investment is to rectify the significant racial disparities in health outcomes for New Jersey mothers and their children.

The state’s Department of Health has already invested $4.7 million in its Healthy Women, Healthy Families program, as a result of which 77 outreach workers — including 40 doulas — have been hired to work on improving black women’s health.

There’s evidence that doulas contribute to lower cesarean section rates, fewer obstetric interventions, fewer complications, and the improved health of babies after delivery. They support healthy pregnancies by providing culturally appropriate social and emotional support to pregnant women throughout the prenatal period, labor and delivery, and the postpartum period.

“Building a stronger and fairer New Jersey means giving every mom and infant the support they need to thrive, and culturally appropriate doula services can help us give moms and infants of color the strongest possible start,” said Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson, who oversees Medicaid.

March 13, 2019

New Jersey’s unemployment rate ticked up by 0.1 percent in January, putting it level with the national rate of 4 percent. That’s according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the same time, employers added to their payrolls. There were job gains in leisure and hospitality (+8,100); professional and business services (+7,900); education and health services (+3,500); construction (+1,900); trade, transportation, and utilities (+1,500); and information (+700). But job losses were recorded in January in other services (-1,500), financial activities (-1,300), and manufacturing (-900). Government employment was lower by 2,100 over the month.

The state’s employment rolls are far healthier than at the height of the Great Recession, when the unemployment rate here peaked at 9.8 percent; that was in November 2009 when close to 500,000 New Jerseyans were unemployed. By January this year, that number had been reduced to 175,637.

March 12, 2019

New Jersey had 30 municipalities among the nation’s 100 safest — more than any other state — as measured in a study conducted by SafeWise, a web-based group that offers consumers recommendations on home-security solutions.

The study, based on FBI data for 2017, compared violent crime rates for communities with populations in excess of 15,000. Statistics for aggravated assault, murder, rape, and robbery were counted; a total of 504 such offenses were listed among all 100 of the cities identified by SafeWise.

Led by Bernards Township, which came in at number five, New Jersey had four communities in the top 10 nationwide, including Denville (which ranked eighth), Pequannock Township (ninth) and Bergenfield (10th). Rounding out the Garden State communities in the study’s top 25 were Monroe Township, Westfield, Hawthorne, Milford, Cranford Township, Readington Township, and Morris Township.

According to the study, which excluded any community that did not submit a report to the FBI for 2017, more than 90 percent of the communities identified across the country had fewer than 10 total violent crimes, and only six reported any counts of murder. All had populations of under 100,000, and most had a median income over $100,000.

March 11, 2019

Women are especially prominent in the new wave of Garden State grassroots political activism. Now comes another indication of their progress toward more political power at the local level — 43 women are serving as county freeholders (elected, part-time county-level legislators). That’s four more women than in the previous year. Women now make up 32 percent of all freeholders in the state. Of the 43, 14 are women of color, including seven black women, five Latinas, and two Asian Pacific Islanders.

The state’s 21 counties serve as administrative and political units, and every county has a legislative body known as the board of chosen freeholders. We’re the only state using the “freeholder” title — an old English term for a person who owned land free of debt. There are three to nine freeholders per county, based on population.

According to data from the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, the top three counties for women’s representation on freeholder boards are Somerset (60 percent), Bergen (57 percent), and Union (56 percent), where women hold a majority of the available positions. In contrast, both Salem and Warren counties have zero women serving as freeholders.

“Much attention has been paid recently to the record numbers of women running for office nationally, but this report makes it clear that there is much work to be done to recruit and encourage women to run for local office here in the Garden State,” noted CAWP associate director Jean Sinzdak. “We urge New Jersey women to throw their hats in the ring, and we ask our county party leaders on both sides of the aisle to use their influence to recruit women to run.”

Women’s representation in New Jersey mayoralties has a lot more ground to make up; there are 86 women serving as mayors, up from 80 last year; that’s only 15 percent of all New Jersey mayors.

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