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December 17, 2018

New Jersey launched a tax-amnesty program in November that’s set to run through January 15. Treasury officials are being coy about whether people are showering them with lots of moolah. All they’d say on that point, as of December 15, was that they “began receiving payments on outstanding tax balances the very first day of the amnesty program.” And, they noted opaquely that they “believe the response to be right on target at this point.” Treasury will need to haul in $200 million from dilatory taxpayers; that was the figure mentioned when the program was launched last month.

They were more forthcoming on the number of phone enquiries made to Treasury so far on the subject (32,826) and the number of emails (3,485).

There’s a lot riding on this tax amnesty; the state is really counting on that $200 million. Anything short of that goal would require the Murphy administration to make midyear cuts or enact other budget adjustments to keep spending in balance.

December 14, 2018

The holiday season is a time when people are supposed to be full of joy. But for individuals in recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs, “it can be a trying time,” said Indra Cidambi, M.D. of the Center for Network Therapy (CNT) in West Orange. There, readmission rates went from roughly 25 percent to more than 60 percent after Thanksgiving, suggesting a 150 percent spike.

Cidambi said the hazards of the season for those recovering from addiction include interpersonal conflicts as well as stress over money and gift-giving. And then there are the holiday blues. “The loneliness and melancholy are triggers for relapse,” Cidambi said.

Among the things she suggests might help people to maintain sobriety over the holiday season: “Individuals in recovery are vulnerable and need to focus on safeguarding their sobriety,” by going to AA Alkathons before and after an event, ensuring their sponsor is available for support, having an escape plan that enables them to leave a gathering at any time, and planning activities that keep them socially active and not isolated.

December 13, 2018

Gov. Phil Murphy has staked a lot on his promise to restore New Jersey Transit to its former glory. Yesterday, his press office released the news that the transit agency’s board has approved the purchase of 113 new rail cars as part of the renewal effort.

It’s the largest order the agency has put in for rail cars in years and will allow for the replacement of the oldest rail cars in its fleet. The cost? $670 million. The goal is eventually for the average age of all NJ Transit’s rail vehicles to be under 30 years old.

The purchase includes “self-propelled multilevel cars, the first of their kind” in the country. These don’t require a separate locomotive, as “electric traction motors are incorporated within one or a number of the vehicles on the train.” The new rail cars will also have “roomier” seating.

December 12, 2018

Civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement to seize a person’s money, car, or other property based on the suspicion that it has some link to criminal activity. The ACLU-NJ points out that “Even if a person is never charged with a crime, the government can still take and keep their money or belongings through this legal process.”

After analyzing civil asset forfeiture in New Jersey for the period January-May 2016, the organization has concluded the system “has proved prone to widespread abuse, but it’s also ripe for sweeping reform,” according to Liza Weisberg, one of the authors of a new report on the subject. The report found that $5.5 million was seized during the first five months of 2016.

Areas with greater minority populations tended to have a higher number of seizures.

The top ten municipalities, ranked by the amount of money seized in that period, were: Newton, $660,025; Fort Lee, $419,193; Warren, $291,187; Newark, $282,073; Union, $266,858; Jersey City, $148,627; Paterson, $145,537; Trenton, $143,309; Camden, $111,872, and Elizabeth, $93,272.

The top 10 municipalities, ranked by the number of seizures, were: Jersey City, 346; Newark, 175; Paterson, 93; Middle Township, 89; Trenton, 79; Toms River, 37; East Orange, 32; Camden, 31; Elizabeth, 31, and Union City, 21.

“We need dramatic and widespread reform of civil asset forfeiture, and ultimately, we need to end the practice altogether. Both of these things require the Legislature to act,” said ACLU-NJ Policy Counsel Dianna Houenou. “At a time when the federal government has announced plans to augment civil asset forfeiture, it’s especially important for New Jersey to begin mending the painful rifts civil asset forfeiture abuse has caused in our state, especially in communities of color,” she said.

December 11, 2018

If driving is the most important thing in your life, it may be time to move to North Dakota. It’s been ranked Number One in a new study of the best and worst states for drivers. New Jersey, on the other hand, is jammed close to the end of the line, ranked fourth last, only underperformed by Connecticut, Hawaii and — worst of all — California. The states rounding out the top five smooth rides after North Dakota are Iowa, Ohio, Minnesota and Nebraska.

The report considered factors such as safety (including accident data), road conditions, traffic and commuting times, and the cost of running a car.

While North Dakota scored 5.1 on safety, 17.1 on cost, and 19 on driving quality, the Garden State’s scores came in at 8.8, 6.15 and 1.8 respectively. Only Massachusetts (1.4) and California (1) scored worse than New Jersey on driving quality.

And here’s a related number the report chose to highlight from recent U.S. Census Bureau data: More than three-quarters of commuters in the United States — 117 million people — get to work by driving alone, with nobody else in the car.

December 10, 2018

Only about half of New Jersey residents who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (54 percent) get referred to support services by their physicians. That’s one of the findings of a recent survey conducted on behalf of Alzheimer’s New Jersey by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind.

Alzheimer’s has touched a lot of lives in New Jersey, most devastatingly the 180,000 individuals diagnosed with the disease and their caretakers. There’s no cure for the disease but services are available for both the person with the disease, their families and caregivers; there are respite and support groups, and education programs. All the more reason, said Ken Zaentz, president and CEO of Alzheimer’s New Jersey, for doctors to include information about such services as part of the diagnosis conversation. For example, a referral could be made to the Alzheimer’s New Jersey Helpline for next steps.

“Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be devastating. It is so important that those diagnosed and their caregivers are informed that there are support services that they and their families can access and take advantage of,” said Zaentz.

December 7, 2018

It’s happened elsewhere: local officials in New York and Utah have shut down lemonade stands because their young operators have lacked a license or permit. Now a Garden State legislator says he has just the bill to keep that from happening here.

As co-sponsored by Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti, A-4462 would prohibit a municipality from requiring a license or permit to operate a business temporarily for anyone under 18. If enacted, the bill would take effect immediately.

“Through these activities, children learn they can help a cause, how to save money and seize an opportunity to fuel their entrepreneurial spirit,” explained the Hudson Democrat. “They’re just kids. Making them pay $100 to $200 in permit costs for a few hours of selling lemonade on hot day is unfair.”

December 6, 2018

Phil Murphy made clear on the campaign trail that, once governor, he would expand New Jersey’s medicinal marijuana program. And that’s what his administration has done. Since Murphy became governor in January, an additional 20,017 patients have been added to the state’s medicinal marijuana program, more than doubling the number previously in the program. As of December 3, 37,040 New Jerseyans are active in the program.

The primary driver of the increase has been the addition of five new eligible medical conditions — anxiety, migraines, two forms of chronic pain and Tourette’s Syndrome, Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal has said. “Physicians should consider marijuana as another appropriate treatment for patients with many medical conditions, especially diseases for which conventional therapies aren’t working for their patients,” he said.

December 5, 2018

If the folks living in well-heeled Morris County need something more to take pride in, they can consider the latest Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, which rank the county’s median household income of $114,269 as the highest in the Northeast. Hunterdon County took the second slot at $113,083, and Somerset was right behind at $111,838.

December 4, 2018

On Monday, the state Board of Canvassers certified the results from the November 6 elections. The state Division of Elections posted turnout figures showing that close to 3.25 million New Jerseyans voted, out of 5.83 million registered. Highly competitive House races in half of the state, including two open seats being vacated by longtime Republicans — and strong opinions about President Donald Trump — drove turnout. Energized Democrats and independents flipped four House seats from red to blue, unseating two incumbent Republicans and leaving New Jersey with just one Republican for a dozen seats.

The 56 percent turnout this year was 1.3 million votes (or 66 percent) higher than in the last midterm election in 2014, when just 36 percent of voters went to the polls. It was also significantly higher than the 39 percent of registered voters who voted in last year’s gubernatorial race. Since the 1990s, turnout in a midterm had not exceeded 50 percent in New Jersey.

This year, more than 60 percent of voters cast ballots in four counties — Bergen, Burlington, Morris and Hunterdon, which had the highest turnout of all (65 percent). In only three counties — Cumberland, Hudson and Passaic — did fewer than half of those registered vote. The lowest turnout was 46 percent in Cumberland County. While state elections officials did not break the vote down by type, NJ Spotlight’s analysis of nearly complete data from individual counties shows a substantial portion of votes were cast by mail — more than 391,000 or roughly 12 percent of all. The vote-by-mail total this year was nearly triple the number counted in 2014. There were also close to 59,000 provisional ballots counted.

December 3, 2018

HIV is still considered to be epidemic in New Jersey, with 37,000 residents affected. The Murphy administration says it wants that to end by 2025. As part of that effort, the state Department of Health just announced it’s teaming up with the Rutgers School of Public Health and hundreds of organizations across the country on a campaign dubbed U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable).

U=U is a global campaign to spread awareness about how effective medications are in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, that in turn can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, AIDS, if not treated.

“Scientific advances in HIV care and treatment are game changers that can get us to the vision of a future in which new HIV infections are rare,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said. “In New Jersey, the rate of new HIV cases has declined 39 percent in nearly a decade because of success in getting people tested for HIV and linked to treatment.”

The number of new HIV diagnoses in New Jersey declined from 1,722 cases in 2006 to 1,048 in 2017.

More than 79,000 free, confidential rapid HIV tests were administered at more than 170 locations in the state in 2017. Here’s a list of the testing sites.

November 30, 2018

A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau points out that in earlier generations, young adults in the United States “were expected to have finished school, found a job, and set up their own household during their 20s — most often with their spouse and with a child soon to follow” but nowadays they don’t reach those milestones at anything like the same clip as their parents did. (Young adults are defined as those in the 18-34 age group.)

In particular, the trend for one of those key measures of adulthood for Americans — getting out from under the parental wings (and roof) — has tilted significantly in recent years. The report states, “In 2005, the majority of young adults lived independently in their own household, which was the predominant living arrangement in 35 states. A decade later, by 2015, the number of states where the majority of young people lived independently fell to just six … More young people today live in their parents’ home than in any other arrangement: 1 in 3 young people, or about 24 million 18- to 34-year-olds, lived in their parents’ home in 2015.”

Nowhere is the stay-at-home tendency more pronounced than in New Jersey. In 2015, almost half (46.9 percent) of young New Jerseyans lived in their parents’ home; (the breakdown, state by state is given in Table 3 of the report). Other states with high rates of stay-at-home young adults in 2015 were Connecticut (41.6 percent), New York (40.6 percent), California (38.1 percent) and tied in fifth place, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island (both 37.1 percent).

Moreover, in its review of the statistics for 2005, the report shows that even then the stay-at-home rate for New Jersey’s young adults was the highest in the country. In 2005, the percent of young adults in the Garden State who lived with the folks was 36.1 percent. Next came New York (33.2 percent), Connecticut (32.8 percent), Hawaii (32.5 percent), and in joint fifth place 10 years ago were Pennsylvania and Louisiana (both 30.5 percent).

November 29, 2018

It’s no surprise that folks are worried about whether they’ll have enough money to retire. What is shocking, though, is the number of people who share this anxiety. A new poll released yesterday by AARP New Jersey indicates that 72 percent of respondents (registered voters between 18 and 64) are worried about what will happen to them when (and if) they stop working. And more than 80 percent do not feel financially prepared for retirement.

November 28, 2018

Solar energy in New Jersey hit a milestone this month by passing the 100,000 mark for solar projects installed.

The Garden State now ranks in the top ten states for home and business solar installations, according to the state Board of Public Utilities. BPU president Joseph L. Fiordaliso said the 100,000 milestone “is more than symbolic. The number showcases not only New Jersey’s past commitment to solar, but also its future.”

November 27, 2018

Some things don’t change. Talk about expensive property to New Jerseyans and they’ll immediately home in on the property taxes that go along with it.

Take the annual ranking of the 100 most expensive zip codes in the United States, as compiled by PropertyShark, the real estate blog, which has just released this year’s list, based on closed sales in residential properties. And just imagine the property taxes!

Not much has changed since last year’s list. Once again, locations in California dominate, with 30 in Silicon Valley alone. Once again, the same two New Jersey zip codes make it into the list, albeit in different spots from 2017. Last year, Alpine (07620) in Bergen County was at Number 50; this year it comes in at Number 33. Its median home sale price in 2017 was $1,775,000; this year, $2,200,000. Last year, Short Hills (07078) in Essex County was in 93rd place, with a median home sale price of $1,422,500; this year it rounds out the list in 100th place (median home sale price, $1,436,250).

California dominates the rankings, as usual (82 entries); New York has 19, Massachusetts six and Connecticut four. There’s one each in Florida, Maryland, Nevada and Washington State. (Some of the slots are shared by several zip codes.)

November 26, 2018

The war against opioid addiction in New Jersey goes on apace, with a big emphasis on the need to reduce prescribing of the drugs. That seems to be happening.

The number of opioid prescriptions dispensed in the Garden State between January 1 and October 31 this year was 3,604,686. If the rate of prescription holds steady for the last two months of the year, that should bring total opioid prescriptions for 2018 well below 2017 dispensations (4,867,130). The numbers come from NJCares, a “dashboard of opioid-related data” for the state.

Here are the opioid prescription totals for 2013-2107, the years for which data are available on NJCares: 2016 — 5,252,333 prescriptions dispensed; 2015 — 5,640,864; 2014 —5,346,517; and 2013 — 5,256,462.

November 21, 2018

Correctional officers in New Jersey have been working without a contract — or a raise — since mid-2015. But their union, PBA Local 105, has just agreed a new contract with the state; members previously had ratified it. The contract covers 5,200 employees and spans the period July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2019. The projected cost of the deal is $84 million, but because of retroactive payments and other details, the final cost is not yet available.

As part of the agreement, salary increments that had been frozen under former Gov. Chris Christie’s administration will be restored along with certain bonus payments.

Gov. Phil Murphy, who announced the accord, acknowledged that workers “have worked under difficult conditions for so long without” a contract. And Brian Renshaw, president of PBA Local 105, said, “Our officers work hard, often in dangerous conditions, and do their part to keep New Jersey safe. We are pleased to close this chapter…”

November 20, 2018

The presence of undocumented immigrants in the United States — and attendant tensions over border security — were hot-button issues in the recent midterm elections. Under Gov. Phil Murphy, however, government in New Jersey is willing to assist immigrants who face the possibility of detention and deportation.

“Deportation is one of the harshest consequences an individual can face under U.S. law, yet most immigrants do not have the right to appointed counsel and many cannot afford an attorney,” Murphy said yesterday as the Department of the Treasury announced funding for legal assistance to low-income immigrants.

The Treasury has allocated $2.1 million in supplemental funding for legal representation through Legal Services of New Jersey ($925,000), the American Friends Service Committee (($925,000), and $125,000 each to law school clinics at Rutgers and Seton Hall universities.

“Providing access to counsel helps ensure due process and just treatment for immigrants while ensuring the efficient administration of our legal system, which can dramatically reduce the taxpayer costs associated with detention,” maintained State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio.

November 19, 2018

The unemployment rate in New Jersey came in at 4.1 percent in October. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics preliminary estimates, that’s the lowest it’s been since June 2001 — 17 years. Meanwhile, other data shows that employment in the Garden State expanded for the sixth consecutive month in October; total nonfarm wage and salary employment increased by 17,400 to reach a seasonally adjusted level of 4,213,300.

The bigger picture shows that between October 2017 and October 2018, employment in New Jersey increased by 68,500, with all the gains recorded by private sector employers. February 2010 is considered the low point of the last recession; since then, New Jersey’s private sector employers have added 407,200 jobs.

November 16, 2018

A unanimous Supreme Court earlier this week agreed with the findings of a court-appointed special master that breath tests from Alcotest machines that may not have been properly calibrated are inadmissible in court. The case stemmed from an appeal by one woman, Eileen Cassidy, who pled guilty to DWI when her Alcotest showed her blood alcohol level exceeded the legal limit, but it could affect 20,667 individuals whose cases hinge on the devices used in Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset and Union counties between 2008 and 2016.

According to court papers, State Police Sgt. Marc Dennis was responsible for conducting semi-annual calibrations of the Alcotest machines for the five counties, but he has been charged with failing to perform required temperature checks on at least some of the devices and falsifying records. The case against Dennis is pending. After learning that the results of her test were called into question because of Dennis’s alleged actions, Cassidy sought to withdraw her guilty plea.

The machines Dennis was responsible for calibrating were used to take breath samples from 20,667 people, according to the state Attorney General’s office. The state had argued that the risk of miscalibration was “infinitesimal” because of other fail-safes in the calibration procedure. But the court, in its decision, stated that “alleged human failings have cast doubt on the calibration process” and that confidence in the reliability of these machines “is of paramount importance.” Under the ruling, the state must notify all affected defendants that breath test results from machines that had not been properly calibrated are inadmissible in court. The decision states that those charged in cases that have already been decided can “take appropriate action,” which might include going back to court if they want to seek to overturn a resulting guilty plea or conviction and asks the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts to monitor these cases. It also vacated the conviction of Cassidy, who has since died.

November 15, 2018

Closing in on a year in office, Gov. Phil Murphy gets more positive than negative ratings from New Jerseyans although many have yet to make their minds up about him.

According to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, 43 percent approve of the job the governor’s doing while 28 percent disapprove. But, Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, notes that residents evince “indecision on Murphy,” something that’s in “an especially stark contrast to Chris Christie — a governor about which virtually everyone had an opinion. Residents are in fact more uncertain about Murphy’s job performance and likeability than they have ever been about almost any other governor besides Governors DiFrancesco and Florio.”

The poll found that 42 percent remain undecided about him personally while a fair share still can't make their minds up about his job performance (29 percent).

Residents grade Murphy well for his work on transportation and infrastructure (46 percent approve, 28 percent disapprove). They also view favorably his efforts on education and schools (44 percent approve, 31 percent disapprove), and on crime and drugs (40 percent approve, 29 percent disapprove).

The governor doesn’t do so well on healthcare, a high-stress issue for so many residents (37 percent approve, 30 percent disapprove). And he scores poorly for his work on state finances; only 26 percent approve of his handling of the state pension fund, 28 percent approve of his approach to taxes, and 30 percent approve of his work on the state budget. Those views of how Murphy has handled financial matters might raise a red flag in Murphyland, given poll respondents also indicated that the issue of taxes remains their top item of concern; 28 percent cite taxes as the state’s biggest problem, and another 9 percent specifically mention property taxes.

Still, the governor probably will be comforted by the poll’s finding that, by a tiny margin — and for the first time in four years — New Jerseyans believe the state is headed in the right direction (46 percent) as against those who say it is on the wrong track (45 percent).

November 14, 2018

New Jersey ranks 12th among the states for the lowest prevalence of diabetes in 2016-2017. In fact, its 9.9 percent rate represents an improvement over the 2008-2009 rate (10.1 percent).

Unfortunately, the overall diabetes rate among adults in the United States is growing, up from 10.8 percent in 2008-2009 to 11.5 percent in 2016-2017. That means 1.7 million more Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes than would have been the case if the 2008-2009 rate had been maintained.

The data, from the Gallup-Sharecare State of American Well-Being series, show Alaska (8.4 percent) leading the way among states with a low prevalence of diabetes, followed by Colorado (8.6 percent), Montana (8.7 percent), New Hampshire (8.8 percent), and Utah (8.9 percent). At the other end of the spectrum, the states with the highest prevalence were West Virginia (17.9 percent), South Carolina (15.1 percent), Mississippi (14.8 percent), Kentucky (14.4 percent), and Louisiana (14.4 percent).

November 13, 2018

Through a program called Serving Those Who Served, 10 Garden State veterans worked as navigators to connect thousands of New Jerseyans, including 18,000 of their fellow veterans, with vital information on healthcare and support services. Under the aegis of the Health Research and Educational Trust of New Jersey, the veteran-navigators contacted veterans, military families and other special populations who might need help connecting to health services. At the end of the grant-funded project, they had reached more than 34,441 residents.

According to the National Institutes of Health, military service members and veterans face health issues differently than civilians. Combat stress, combined with being separated from family, can put service members and veterans at risk for such problems as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse and depression.

Michael Mimms of Sicklerville, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, who worked with Serving Those Who Served, said, “Vets can get things done … I’m grateful to be part of something that helps others.”

November 9, 2018

New Jersey has 335,000 veterans, 5 percent of whom use SNAP to buy food. But the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is now under threat. The House version of legislation known as the “farm bill” would eliminate benefits to at least 35,000 people in New Jersey, including 15,000 veterans. The Senate version protects and strengthens SNAP (formerly food stamps).

“These are men and women who have put their lives on the line and sacrificed to keep our country safe,” said Adele LaTourette, director of Hunger Free New Jersey, a statewide advocacy group. “We should be doing all we can to ensure these brave men and women have the resources they need to live healthy, productive lives.”

The data comes from a Center for Budget Policy and Priorities report which also found that nationally 1.4 million low-income veterans rely on SNAP.

SNAP helps seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, and many low-paid workers with money for groceries.

Sunday is Veterans Day; it will be publicly observed on Monday.

November 8, 2018

After Mikie Sherrill's win in the 11th Congressional District on Tuesday, she will be among a record number of women, 123, serving in the U.S. Congress in January 2019. That’s according to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University. And among those will be a record total of at least 44 women of color.

“We've seen important breakthroughs, particularly in the U.S. House," said CAWP director Debbie Walsh in a statement, "but deepening disparities between the parties in women’s representation will continue to hobble us on the path to parity. We need women elected on both sides of the aisle.”

Sherrill is one of 100 Democratic and 18 Republican women who have already been declared winners; another five seats in the House and Senate that have yet to be decided are guaranteed to go to women since the candidates in those races all are women.

The freshman class of women in the House of Representatives in 2019 will be the largest ever at 32; the previous high was 24 in 1992.

While a record number of 100 Democratic women will be serving in the House, the same cannot be said for Republicans. In fact, according to CAWP data, the number of Republican women in that chamber will likely drop in 2019, even as the number of Democratic women there will increase by at least 21 next year.

Thirteen races with 17 women candidates remain undecided. In the Senate, ten Democratic and two Republican women have already won, adding to the ten that are already serving there. With the guaranteed win for a woman in Arizona's undecided contest, this matches the previous record of 23, set in 2018. One race remains undecided in Mississippi.

In her victory speech on election night, Sherrill recognized the role that women played in helping her get elected and she thanked the “thousands of women who are ready to join me in making sure we have a better future for our kids in New Jersey and for the United States.”

November 7, 2018

The New Jersey electorate yesterday said “yes” to the ballot question that proposed $500 million in new debt to fund a range of initiatives aimed at upgrading educational facilities.

But, with 99 percent of votes counted by early this morning, it was a relatively close-run thing, garnering 52.3 percent support, with 47.7 percent of voters against issuing the bonds; that represented a margin of victory of just over 92,000 votes.

But here’s an intriguing element: Ten counties said “no” on the question — and they all are ones that Bob Hugin, the Republican challenger in the Senate race, won. They are Atlantic, Cape May, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Salem, Sussex, and Warren.

Voters in the Garden State tend to be undaunted by requests for large amounts of debt to be issued on their behalf. Last year 60 percent said “yes” to $125 million for library construction. The last bond issue to be defeated was in 2007 when voters turned down a request for $450 million for stem cell research.

November 6, 2018

County parties, both Democratic and Republican, are having their best fundraising year in about a decade, thanks in part to contributions by congressional candidate committees. The latest reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) show that, as of September 30, the county committees had hauled in $5.8 million.

“Republican county committees have prospered the most this year from contributions by federal candidates,” said Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s executive director. “So far, Republicans have taken in nearly a third of their funds from federal candidates. Democrats have received about $1 out of $19 from federal candidates.” But though Republican committees have gotten more than five times the amount from federal candidates as Democrats, the Dems still have raised and spent more than Republicans and report a larger cash reserve.

Bob Hugin, the wealthy Republican Senate candidate, has given $37,000 to all 21 Republican county committees; he has also reimbursed them for some rental payments, bringing his total payout to county parties so far to $788,310. Brindle noted that when wealthy candidates run for office, they usually help fund get-out-the-vote efforts and other election activities. “As we are seeing this year and previous ones, self-financed candidates can reinvigorate their entire party network,” he said.

While the county parties’ haul in 2018 is good for a federal election year, it’s still well below totals before 2005 when tight limits on contributions by public contractors had not gone into effect, and spending by independent special interest groups had not yet exploded due to federal court rulings.

November 5, 2018

Republican Bob Hugin has so far spent $36 million of his personal funds on his effort to unseat U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, the two-term Democrat. All told, the former pharmaceuticals executive has raised $38.9 million, with less than 10 percent of that coming from individual donors, according to data reported to the Federal Election Commission. By contrast, more than 70 percent of the $12 million Menendez has raised is from individual contributors.

Hugin’s generous spending on his campaign has him on several lists of deep-pocketed candidates this year. He is the second biggest self-funder in this year’s congressional elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets website. OpenSecrets also ranked him the fifth biggest overall spender in the nation as of the candidates’ final pre-election reports, filed October 26. And the FEC ranked him as the sixth biggest fundraiser through October 17. Hugin’s personal spending on the race equals $6.12 per New Jersey registered voter.

Outside interest groups have spent another $20 million on the race. Some $13.1 million of that has been to support Menendez or oppose Hugin, with the majority spent by the Democrats’ Senate Majority PAC tying Hugin to Trump, who is very unpopular in the state. Another $6.3 million was spent against Menendez, nearly all of that by Integrity NJ, a group with ties to former Gov. Chris Christie that has been running ads pounding Menendez’s past ethics troubles and repeating other allegations that have been found to be false.

November 2, 2018

During the 2017-2018 heating season in New Jersey, 162 people were evaluated in emergency rooms for issues related to carbon monoxide, the deadly gas that’s a “silent killer” because it can’t be smelled or tasted. Many of the 162 required hospitalization. The NJ Poison Control Center received 250 calls related to carbon monoxide during those cold months.

With the recent shift in temperature having prompted people to turn on their heating systems, New Jersey’s Poison Information & Education System has sent out a warning about carbon monoxide, noting that many homeowners and landlords turned on the heat earlier than expected without having had systems serviced beforehand.

“Prevention and early detection are crucial in preventing poisoning injury and death from carbon monoxide,” says Diane Calello, MD, executive and medical director of the NJ Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School’s Department of Emergency Medicine. “You want to catch a leak before it turns into a serious problem.”

So, it’s the time of year to check that battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors are working properly, are on every level of the home and near every sleeping area. The alert lists safety tips on reducing the risk of exposure to the gas and has information on what to do if you suspect exposure.

Exposure to carbon monoxide can produce headaches, sleepiness, fatigue, confusion and irritability at low levels. At higher levels, it can result in nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, impaired vision and coordination, and death. During cold and influenza season, symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can easily be confused with symptoms of viral illnesses like the common cold and the flu.

November 1, 2018

Midterm elections often sputter and sag and wind up with a disappointingly low turnout, but this year could be different — and it’s not just due to the passion that appears to have been kindled in Democratic and Republican voters. A state law passed in August mandates that all voters issued a vote by mail ballot in the November 2016 election automatically be issued one for the 2018 midterms. As a result, there’s been an extraordinary jump in volume: 553,606 vote by mail ballots have been issued thus far, compared with 143,094 vote by mail ballots cast in the November 2014 midterms.

The largest number of vote by mail ballots have been issued in Middlesex (59,624), Camden (56,624), and Bergen (53,280) counties; the smallest, in Salem (3,734).

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