Since Gov. Phil Murphy took office in 2018, there’s been a modest bump in the percentage of women serving on select New Jersey boards and commissions, reaching 27 percent as of July 2019 — up 9 percent from 2017’s 18 percent. That’s welcome progress, but it comes with a qualification. Much of this improvement, according to the Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics, derives from Murphy’s choosing women as the majority of his Cabinet. Cabinet members are included on state boards and commissions, but the administration has not appointed women as public members of these boards and commissions at or near parity levels.
Of the nearly 500 state boards and commissions, CAWP analyzed the 58 widely considered to be among the most powerful, with high levels of responsibility and requiring financial disclosure. Of the 563 positions on those boards and commissions, 152 are currently held by women, 307 are held by men, and 104 remain vacant. When Murphy assumed office, 103 of those positions were held by women, 371 by men, and 89 were vacant.
CAWP is a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers.
Forty-one percent of New Jerseyans approve of the job Gov. Phil Murphy is doing and 38 percent disapprove, according to the latest Monmouth University Poll. That means the governor has been treading water in the ratings since Monmouth last polled New Jerseyans on the subject; in February, the results were statistically similar (43 percent approved, and 40 percent disapproved).
“Murphy’s approval rating has been stuck at a nearly even split this year. Recent events, such as the Newark water crisis, have not helped cast him in the best light. But the bigger issue seems to be that he is simply flying under the radar for most New Jerseyans,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Big-time Murphy fans — those who believe the governor has achieved major accomplishment — came to 12 percent. Forty-two percent said he has minor accomplishments. Thirty-six percent said he has nothing to crow about while 10 percent had no opinion.
The poll found that New Jerseyans believe Murphy is more concerned with his own political future (49 percent) than he is with governing the state (33 percent), 4 percent said he is concerned with both equally and 15 percent said they are unsure where his focus lies.
It’s no secret that going to college is a pricey proposition. But undergrads pursuing their sheepskin in the Garden State could have it much worse. Average annual in-state tuition is $16,583. Out-of-state students shell out $19,314 per year. Those numbers earn New Jersey the 15th slot on a ranking of states and Washington, DC, according to college tuition.
Rhode Island makes up for its diminutive size by collecting the biggest chunk for tuition: In-state tuition is $30,879; out of state, $33,908. In-state tuition in Pennsylvania, which ranks fifth, is $22,391, with out of state running $24,570. For New York, which ranks 10th, it’s $19,305 (in), $21,153 (out). In comparison, students pursuing their degree in big-sky country pay a mere pittance: Wyoming, which takes a budget-conscious final spot, charges $3,385 (in), $8,784 (out).
All these dollar amounts are of no consequence to students smart enough to get into Cornell Medical School and lucky enough to qualify for financial aid. The school announced yesterday that they’ll be getting a free ride; the cost of tuition, books, housing and food have all been waived.
New Jerseyans pay the bill for public corruption. Now, the same sleazy activity can put some cash back in taxpayers’ wallets — up to $25,000 — thanks to a new program from the office of the attorney general. The Anti-Corruption Rewards Program offers rewards for tips that lead to a conviction for public corruption. Among the crimes included: bribery; misuse of public office; and theft involving government funds, contracts, and election funds.
Fifteen e-cigarette businesses are to be reviewed by the state Division of Consumer Affairs for their marketing and sales of vaping products in New Jersey, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said yesterday.
Grewal spoke at the press conference where Gov. Phil Murphy announced he had signed an executive order establishing a task force to address e-cigarettes’ threat to public health.
The moves come in the wake of reports across the United States indicating a dramatic rise in the use of vaping products by underage users. The sale of vaping products to persons under 21 is prohibited in New Jersey.
The Division of Consumer Affairs called on the e-cigarette companies to provide information about the volume of their New Jersey sales, the types of flavored e-cigarettes they sell, and how they market their products here.
“As a father, I am very concerned about the way e-cigarettes have been marketed to kids in New Jersey,” Grewal said. “If products that come with risks of addiction and other serious health problems are sold at all, they should never be marketed in ways that appeal to children.”
New Jersey’s Department of Health (DOH) has received $7.4 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address drug overdoses in the state. The money will be used to establish more robust links to care for individuals with substance use disorder with a focus on vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, homeless individuals and LGBTQ+ populations.
The DOH will also use some of the funding for Harm Reduction Centers of which there are seven in the state. Also known as Syringe Access Programs, they provide access to new syringes, overdose prevention education, the anti-overdose medication naloxone, as well as HIV and Hepatitis C testing.
In addition, the DOH will pass $4.3 million of the grant money to the Department of Law and Public Safety for use over a three-year period to fund programs and initiatives that advance the fight against the opioid crisis.
The state Department of Human Services has received a federal grant of $350,000 a year for three years, which it will use to improve reporting and tracking of abuse, exploitation and neglect of elderly state residents.
The grant, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, will go for a statewide database to serve the state’s Adult Protective Services (APS) provider network. The department says the effort will improve the quality of the data maintained and create one standardized and streamlined client information system.
APS agencies in each of the state’s 21 counties receive and investigate reports of maltreatment of vulnerable adults and take appropriate steps to ensure their health and safety.
“As our population ages, we have an obligation to help ensure that older New Jerseyans are safe and well cared for in our communities,” said NJ Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson. “Building a standardized way to identify, track and assess outcomes for elder abuse, neglect and exploitation is key to achieving that goal.”
Anyone who suspects abuse, neglect or exploitation of an elderly person is urged to call their local APS agency or, in an emergency, 9-1-1 or the local police.
Addressing the national call for research into the causes of firearm violence, the New Jersey Center on Gun Violence Research at Rutgers University is launching eight new studies.
Among other topics, the research will explore correlations between reductions in spending on mental healthcare and crimes committed with guns; examine the effectiveness of existing laws and policies in preventing firearm violence; and look at whether the layout of school buildings can help prevent casualties.
The center has been financed in fiscal year 2019 with a $2 million appropriation from state funds through the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education. It is one of only two state-funded centers in the nation that conducts interdisciplinary research on the causes and consequences of gun-related violence, as well as solutions.
A portion of the grant will be used to fund the eight research projects:
When and why do owners carry guns?
How school buildings and campuses can prevent gun violence
Determining risk factors for gun-related deaths in New Jersey
Relationships between legal firearm availability and gun homicides
Mental health spending and violent-crime rates
Keeping police officers safe
How community violence affects perceived threats
How the Cambodian genocide sheds light on white supremacist extremism in the U.S.
Seafood is big business in New Jersey; the total seafood catch in the state for 2017 was 198.6 million pounds, placing New Jersey 10th in the country for its haul. New Jersey was Number One, for quahogs, those big-bodied hard-shelled clams that often are served stuffed or in chowder; 16.5 million pounds were landed here. The same year, the state ranked second for the amount of sea scallops landed (11 million pounds), second for Atlantic mackerel (2.8 million pounds), second for surf clams (18.3 million pounds), and second for squid (24.9 million pounds). The name “quahog” is said to come from the Native American name “poquauhock,” meaning horse fish.
There are no excuses not to have eggplant on the menu in New Jersey. The Garden State is No. 1 in the nation in acres of eggplant harvested, according to the Census of Agriculture.
New Jersey harvests 849 acres of eggplant annually, ahead of California’s 705, Florida’s 685 and Georgia’s 624. No other state had more than 500 acres of eggplant harvested.
New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher, along with state, county and local officials, recently visited Flaim Farms, which harvests approximately 900 bushels of eggplant per day during the peak of the season (which is now). The Vineland farm’s Italian, regular, Sicilian, Indian, zebra, white and fairytale varieties of eggplant are shipped as far as Chicago, Maine and the Eastern seaboard.
“We are having a good harvesting season right now,” said Bob Flaim Jr., who co-owns the operation with his brother Kevin. “The temperatures have made for ideal growing conditions in the last couple of weeks, with it being in the 60s at night and the 80s during the day.”
As for the question of whether eggplant is a vegetable or a fruit, answers please on a postcard, along with your best recipe for eggplant parm.
How sweet it is. For the first time, New Jersey has made it to the top of the Education Week Research Center’s annual report card on school systems nationwide. Given that this is the 23rd such report, it’s been a long time coming.
New Jersey squeezed past Massachusetts by a few hundredths of a point on the combined scores. Both states had overall scores of 87.8 (B+). For the past four years, Massachusetts has had the top berth to itself, with the Garden State finishing second. Connecticut (83.6), Maryland (83.1), and New Hampshire (82.5) took third, fourth, and fifth place, respectively. New Mexico finished last with a score of 66.4 (D).
Getting a bit more granular, New Jersey ranks third in the nation for school finance with a score of 89.3 (B-plus) and outpaces Massachusetts, which ranks 11th at 83.4 (B). New Jersey has an advantage over Massachusetts in both spending and equity. It ranks sixth for per-pupil expenditures at $16,543, while Massachusetts is 13th at $14,529, once figures are adjusted for regional cost differences.
More than 8,000 students and workers are now participating in New Jersey’s Registered Apprenticeship Program, designed to use paid, on-the-job training opportunities to develop a workforce that possesses the high level of skills and technical knowledge that many employers in the state require. A total of 855 programs are participants in the state’s apprenticeship network.
Four of the apprentices are now working at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab (PPPL), a world-class center for fusion energy research that’s part of the Department of Energy. On Tuesday, their signing on to the four-year, on-the-job training program was marked with a formal ceremony witnessed by numerous dignitaries, including state Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo.
“Because of the commitment of PPPL to apprenticeship, these new apprentices will be mentored in careers that are rewarding, cutting-edge, and vital to our country’s future energy needs,” said Asaro-Angelo. “In my mind, there is almost no industry sector that cannot benefit from an apprenticeship program, and today’s ceremony at a high-tech research lab proves the point.”
The apprentices will train as mechanical and electrical technicians and attend classes at Mercer County Vocational Technical Schools. At PPPL, where they will be part of a team looking to develop nuclear energy to generate electricity, they will receive competitive pay and benefits, 8,000 hours of on-the-job training, and related classroom instruction. They will be eligible for full-time employment after completing the program.
State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio announced that New Jersey’s current tax rate on gasoline and diesel fuel will remain stable for the coming year at 41.4 cents and 48.4 cents per gallon, respectively.
As required by law, the Department of the Treasury conducted a detailed review of fuel consumption data, and the Treasurer consulted with the Legislative Budget and Finance Officer, in order to make this year’s determination in compliance with the 2016 law (Chapter 57) that requires a steady stream of revenue to support the state’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) program.
New Jersey’s TTF program is required to provide $16 billion over eight years to support critical infrastructure improvements to the state’s roadways and bridges. In order to ensure the state has the funds necessary to support these projects, the law dictates that the Petroleum Products Gross Receipt (PPGR) tax rate must be adjusted accordingly to generate roughly $2 billion per year.
Since the 2016 law was enacted, the state has disbursed a total of $4.34 billion for local, county, and state projects, including New Jersey Transit, with $2.73 billion of that funding distributed since the Murphy administration took office in January 2018.
The unemployment rate in New Jersey fell to another historic low in July — coming in at 3.3 percent, or 0.2 percent below the previous record, set in June.
It’s the lowest monthly jobless rate since the state began keeping its own records in 1976.
The total number of people employed in non-farm jobs in the state stood at 4.2 million, essentially unchanged from the month before.
New Jersey’s jobless rate also comes in 0.4 percent below the preliminary estimate of the national unemployment rate, which was 3.7 percent for July.
The number of New Jersey residents with jobs is nearly 50,000 higher than it was a year ago, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
New Jersey’s Department of the Treasury has just reported the latest on revenue collections. The main takeaway: Total revenues for the 13 months ending in July increased $3.175 billion (9.9 percent), something Treasury attributes to “numerous tax policy changes enacted last year.”
Why focus on the 13-month figure? That’s because July is effectively treated as the 13th month of the fiscal year since cash collections include revenues from both fiscal year 2019, which just ended, and fiscal year 2020, which has just begun.
Revenue collections for the month of July alone were also on target, up $250.1 million to $2.33 billion, a 12 percent increase over last July’s collections.
Another figure of note: The Corporation Business Tax continues to perform well. It totaled $177.8 million in July, up $43.8 million (32.6 percent) over last July.
Newark has been distributing cases of bottled water for free, days after the federal Environmental Protection Agency urged city officials to do so. The EPA was responding to test results at three homes in the city that had turned up high lead levels in two of them even though the homeowners had been using filters designed to eliminate lead contamination.
The issue of lead contamination is not a new one for Newark. It had already embarked on a Lead Service Line Replacement Program to change out approximately 15,000 lead service lines — the lines that bring water from the street to homes. Since March, according to a report by the city, it has replaced over 700 lead service lines on private property. It has been doing so in partnership with the state, at a maximum cost to homeowners of $1,000 even though the actual cost could be far higher.
There is no deadline for homeowners to apply for replacement of the lead service line that goes to their home. They simply have to register to be included in the program at www.NewarkLeadServiceLine.com.
In answer to frequently asked questions about the lead issue in Newark, the city noted, “The reality is that the cost of updating water infrastructure falls disproportionately on America’s older cities — often low-income communities of color.”
New Jersey’s municipal courts could do with big improvements, 17 in all, according to a 38-member working group that has just released its recommendations.
Set up under the aegis of the state Supreme Court, the group is made up of representatives from all three branches of government.
The recommendations address the separation of sentencing practices from a municipality’s need for revenue, modifying the appointment and reappointment process for Municipal Court judges, and consolidating the state’s smaller courts.
The working group also recommended the introduction of legislation that would significantly reduce the usage of license suspensions for failure to pay; and provide for uniform caps on penalties and fines for lower-level offenses.
Other suggestions on the list: create a traffic ticket deferral program for drivers with minor traffic offenses who maintain a clean driving record for a specific period of time; provide financial credits for hours spent in clinical treatment related to an underlying offense; reduce certain surcharges and assessments imposed by the Motor Vehicle Commission.
The report also recommends the Legislature consider establishing additional financial incentives to encourage municipal courts to consolidate and, after a three-year period, mandate the regionalization of smaller municipal courts with fewer than 3,000 annual filings.
Who knew pet leasing was a thing? Cars, yes; heavy equipment, sure. But leasing a dog or a cat? Apparently, the practice has become common, promoted by some pet stores and breeders. When the lease is up, typically in three years, a final payment can still be due before ownership of the pet is transferred.
“Families looking to bring a pet into the home can easily fall in love with a dog or cat they can’t afford,” said Assemblyman Kevin Rooney (R-Bergen), one of the prime sponsors of the bill. “Buyers end up signing a lease without understanding the fine print or knowing the total cost.”
That’s not going to happen here anymore. Gov. Phil Murphy enacted a law on Friday making New Jersey the sixth state to ban the practice. Specifically, the measure (A-4552), which had bipartisan support, bans cat and dog leasing except in cases where they are purebred and being used for breeding purposes or if the animals are specially trained to perform tasks like police K-9s and guide dogs.
“You’re not buying a dog, you are renting it,” Rooney said. “The lease can double or triple the cost, and with some dogs going as high as $5,000, it can add up fast. Families can suffer a serious financial hit, and if they miss a payment, the family pet can be repossessed.”
The law, which takes effect immediately, establishes a penalty up to $10,000 for leasing a dog or cat, and up to $30,000 for additional violations.
California, Nevada, New York, Indiana and Washington already have banned pet leasing.
Forty-two New Jersey food service employees are to receive nearly $111,000 in back pay following an investigation into wage violations by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
The department’s Division of Wage & Hour Compliances got on the case after an employee filed a wage complaint against the employer, Thyme Food Services L.L.C., operating as Berry Creek Café in three locations: Moonachie, Secaucus, and Edison. The investigation found employees working at multiple locations but not being paid overtime for working more than 40 hours a week, and some who were paid a portion of their wages off the books. A self-audit by the company showed it owed $110,603.38 to the underpaid workers, ranging from a high of $18,898.34 to a low of $15.
The issue of “wage theft” currently is very much in the department’s sights, with a new state law having just been signed this week. That law toughens penalties and includes potential jail time for employers who commit the worst offenses.
“When New Jersey workers are denied overtime or paid off the books, they are deprived of fair wages. Our society improves when employers play by the rules, and treat every employee fairly,” Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said.
As well as having to shell out the back pay, the company was assessed $11,060.34 in fees and $20,000 in penalties.
While New Jerseyans perceive women as being more emotional and men as more aggressive, other views on gender have evolved, with 80 percent believing women and men are equally smart, says a joint poll from Rutgers-Eagleton and Fairleigh Dickinson University.
The majority of New Jersey residents also believe that the genders are equal in terms of capable management (74 percent), ethical behavior (67 percent), manipulative behavior (60 percent) and “people” skills (59 percent), in addition to other characteristics.
On the other hand, the poll showed that residents perceive some stark gender differences in certain areas. Respondents deemed women as more compassionate (62 percent), emotional (63 percent) and better listeners (57 percent). Meanwhile, men were seen as more likely to be risktakers (50 percent) and more aggressive (56 percent).
New Jerseyans’ views both confirm and move beyond commonly held gender stereotypes, showing that some attitudes have changed and some have endured since Rutgers-Eagleton and FDU last asked about these traits in 2003.
“The endurance of gender trait stereotypes has consequences in the personal, professional, and political world,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. “Perceiving differences in men’s and women’s capabilities and personalities can impact everything from interpersonal interactions and household duties to hiring practices and wages to who we elect to public office.”
Today is National Lighthouse Day, and if you live in New Jersey or are visiting for sun and fun, you don’t have just one good reason to visit these guardians of sailors and ships, you’ve got 11. That’s the state’s lighthouse tally, according to the page posted online by NJ.gov.
Before you get in the car, however, a few caveats. Not all New Jersey lighthouses fit the traditional profile of a tall, red-and-white-striped tower — though the Barnegat and Abescon lights come close.
The state also offers directions to these points of interest. We’ve got you covered other ways as well: Last summer NJ Spotlight published a list of the 10 tallest lighthouses in the state.
One last thing: If you’ve always had a hankering to be a lighthouse keeper, you’re out of luck. Automation is the rule of the day.
Many New Jersey college students are on summer break, and classes could be the last thing on their minds. But it’s a good bet plenty of them are thinking — or worrying — about their student loans. They’ve got plenty of company: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York estimates there’s $1.5 trillion owed as of the first quarter of 2019.
They’ve also got some help: the Student Loan Task Force of the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants (NJCPA) has developed a borrower checklist to make students and parent know what they’re signing before they reach for the pen:
Know what you’re agreeing to, such as loan terms, payment options, interest rates, and fees.
Know your credit score and the factors that affect it. Investigate whether to refinance/consolidate with favorable terms.
Take advantage of a co-signer to secure the lowest rate possible.
Set a monthly budget and include your student loan payments as a line item.
Know your strengths; find a secondary/tertiary job in the growing “gig” economy.
When considering multiple loan offers, be sure to take into account the value of a fixed rate. While fixed rates may be higher than the comparable variable rate offers, variable rates are subject to change in the future.
Choose a lender with no prepayment penalties and take advantage of it — an extra $100 a month can save thousands of dollars in interest.
Borrow as little as possible to get through your education.
Research, research, research! Depending on the type and size of loan, job, lender, and state of residency, there may be tax strategies and/or loan-forgiveness programs to take advantage of.
Be thrifty now to live a debt-free life later.
“Yummy,” “juicy,” and “succulent” are not scientific names for New Jersey peaches, as far as we know, but they should be — something to which anyone who’s ever wiped peach juice from their chin can attest.
As bounteous as the Garden State’s peach harvest is — the state ranked third for the value of its harvest last year (41 million pounds of peaches on 4,100 acres for $46 million) — it’s still hard to credit that growers at 80 peach orchards in New Jersey produce more than 100 different types of peaches. But they do.
This is the height of peach season. On top of that, it’s National Peach Month. So, no excuses, go eat the peaches. Because, you know what they say: Peaches “contain health promoting flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants including lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin.” Let us know if you get to taste all 100 types before the month is over.
University Hospital Newark’s Center for Advanced Liver Diseases and Transplantation was the first liver transplant center in New Jersey, opening in 1989. Today, it’s one of the busiest such facilities in the country. And recently it reached a milestone, successfully performing its 1,500th liver transplant.
“This is an exciting moment for the Center, and we are thankful for the organ donors and their families for the gift of life that made this possible,” said Dr. James V. Guarrera, program director of liver transplantation. “We look forward to continuing our engagement with the community around the benefits of transplantation and the life-saving importance of organ donation.”
The center works closely with NJ Sharing Network, a nonprofit organization responsible for the recovery and placement of donated organs and tissue for those in need of a life-saving transplant.
According to John Keith, health promotions director of the American Lung Association, an estimated 6,070 New Jersey residents will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2019.
Approximately 3,390 will succumb to the disease this year he noted.
As part of World Lung Cancer Day on August 1, the American Lung Association in New Jersey is highlighting recent advancements that will save more lives.
Lung cancer death rates in the United States have decreased 11.5 percent since 2013, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We are excited to see that lung cancer deaths have decreased, but there is still so much more that we need to do to end this terrible disease,” said Keith. “Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer, so we encourage everyone to educate themselves and their loved ones about risks, early detection and symptoms.”
To learn more about lung cancer or to volunteer or donate, visit Lung.org.
If you or a loved one have ever been sick you know how important reliably good hospital care can be. Indeed, we’ve reported heart attack patients treated at New Jersey hospitals with low hospital performance scores have a higher chance of having another heart attack.
U.S. News & World Report has just issued its list of top-ranked hospitals in New Jersey for 2019-2020. The state’s largest health network, Hackensack Meridian Health, has four hospitals on the list. They are: Hackensack University Medical Center, Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Ocean Medical Center and Riverview Medical Center. Those hospitals are also ranked as high-performing on a national level in several areas of care including cancer care, geriatrics, neurosurgery, orthopedics and urology.
U.S. News evaluated more than 4,500 medical centers nationwide in nine procedures and conditions. Worryingly, fewer than a third of all hospitals received any high-performing rating at all, and only 57 earned a strong rating in all nine areas examined.
What do we New Jerseyans see when we look in the mirror in the morning? We ask, only because skincare specialist has been the fastest growing job in the state over the past decade, with a 230 percent increase. That’s according to a new study by COMMERCIAL Café, the real-estate blog.
Nationwide, the greatest growth was in personal care aide jobs (up 251 percent over the past 10 years). But there were also many more human resources specialists; that was the fastest growing job in Washington, Montana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Kansas, Virginia, and Maine.
Meanwhile, it appears New Yorkers need attention to their extremities; the fastest growing job there in the past decade was manicurist/pedicurist.
The arts and culture sector in New Jersey contributes a not too shabby $22.1 billion to the state’s economy, representing 3.8 percent of gross domestic product. To put that in context, the construction sector contributes $22.4 billion, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. There were 19,264 arts-related businesses in the state employing 80,233 people, a 2017 report by Americans for the Arts stated.
“Art, in all its varied forms, is important to New Jerseyans. It ultimately shines a light on all aspects of society by lifting our spirits, beautifying communities, and attracting visitors,” said Secretary of State Tahesha Way.
Last week, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts awarded more than $15.7 million in grants to 700 arts organizations, projects and artists throughout the state.