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February 15, 2019

Sen. Cory Booker recently announced his bid to become the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in 2020. Already, he’s been making his case to voters in the all-important state of Iowa, where the first votes in that presidential cycle take place but he has some work to do on his home-state voters as well. According to the latest Monmouth Poll, 37 percent of New Jersey voters believe the Newark resident would make a good president while 42 percent say he would not.

“The home state sentiment isn’t quite ‘Run Cory, Run.’ But when you take into account how the last big presidential campaign rubbed many New Jerseyans the wrong way, it’s a decent endorsement for Booker,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Ah, yes, it will be a while before New Jerseyans forget the last presidential campaign to originate here, that of former Gov. Chris Christie. At its launch in 2015, 69 percent of residents said Christie would not make a good president versus 27 percent who said he had the right stuff for the Oval Office.

“Booker has become better known to his constituents over the past two years, but his presidential bid and elevated national profile may have worn off some of the sheen. Part of the problem could be that New Jerseyans haven’t fully recovered from Christie’s run four years ago,” Murray said.

Booker is still in positive territory when it comes to New Jersey residents’ views of him as a U.S. senator (48 percent say he’s doing a good job, 36 percent say he’s not, 16 percent have no opinion). Among registered voters, the split is 48 percent approve, 38 percent disapprove. Just nine months ago, his approve-disapprove rating was 54 percent to 31 percent.

Would Booker be able to serve effectively as a senator while on the presidential campaign trail? Thirty-four percent of residents believe so, but 58 percent say he could not do both effectively. And 43 percent say Booker should resign his seat now that he’s running, although 50 percent say there’s no need for that.

Probably the best news in this poll for New Jersey’s junior senator is that nearly four in 10 New Jerseyans believe that he has a good chance of either becoming president (15 percent) or at least winning his party’s nomination (22 percent). Twenty-eight percent think he’s a long shot to become the Democratic nominee and 26 percent say he hasn’t got a hope.

February 14, 2019

Sweets for the sweet is all well and good, but is the Garden State over the top when it comes to Valentine’s Day candy? According to CandyStore.com, New Jerseyans buy an average of 57,764 pounds of candy conversation hearts when Cupid lets his arrows fly. M&MS are not far behind, at 52,393 pounds, while heart-shaped boxes of chocolates weigh in at 38,520 pounds. (Figures are for 11-year weighted averages for sales between January 1 and February 14.)

But there’s a sad side to New Jersey’s sweet tooth: The state’s favorite confection — Sweethearts candy conversation hearts — can’t be had for love or money. The manufacturer shuttered its factories in 2018. It’s not likely that gummy bears will do in a pinch.

February 13, 2019

Just over a year in office, Gov. Phil Murphy appears to be settling in to “meh” territory when it comes to New Jersey’s view of him overall. While the latest Monmouth University Poll found strong support for one of Murphy’s big issues, the recently enacted minimum-wage hike (66 percent approve, 29 percent oppose), it gauged public opinion as more negative than positive on whether his agenda has done much for property-tax payers and the middle class, and agnostic on the governor’s pledge to create a “fair economy” for poorer residents.

The results show that Murphy isn’t exactly lighting it up in New Jerseyans’ performance assessments. The poll found that 43 percent of New Jersey adults approve of the job Murphy is doing as governor, a figure that has hardly budged from his April 2018 rating (44 percent). More worrying for the governor and his team may be that his disapproval rating has spiked from last year’s 28 percent to 40 percent. At the same point in their terms, his two immediate predecessors, Chris Christie and Jim McGreevey, had better approve-disapprove ratings.

“Murphy started his term with greater public goodwill than his recent predecessors, but he has now fallen behind them,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “The most troubling result may be the large number of his fellow Democrats who continue to take a wait-and-see attitude. It seems he has yet to score a defining win with his base despite spending a significant amount of energy pushing a progressive agenda.”

One of the major issues for the Murphy administration has been the hiring of someone who was accused of rape while working on the governor’s 2017 campaign. It led to the formation of a select legislative committee whose enquiries are ongoing. Could that controversy have affected the governor’s poll numbers? “The legislature’s focus on this situation certainly hasn’t helped the governor’s standing, but I’m not convinced this is the primary reason for Murphy’s rising negatives. The public seems to be a little hazy on his core aims and he has yet to sew up base support among his fellow Democrats,” said Murray.

The poll found that only four in ten New Jerseyans (41 percent) have heard anything about the legislative hearings. And Republicans (61 percent) are more likely than Democrats (37 percent) or independents (37 percent) to be paying attention to them. Of those who have been paying attention, 68 percent believe the administration mishandled the hiring versus 12 percent who believe the hiring was handled properly based on what was known at the time. The big unknown in the case remains exactly who authorized the hiring; on that point, 51 percent think that the Murphy administration is trying to cover something up, while 34 percent think the administration is really unsure about how the hiring occurred.

It’s true that Democrats are largely positive about how Murphy is governing (66 percent approve; 9 percent disapprove) but, as Murray noted, a sizable cohort of them (25 percent) say they still have no opinion of how he’s doing after his first year.

Among Republicans, the jury is in, with somewhat predictable results: 11 percent approve, 85 percent disapprove. He did better with GOP supporters last year (17 percent approved, 59 percent disapproved).

And the governor is losing ground among independents, holding a net negative rating (39 percent approve, and 43 percent disapprove). That’s a switch from last April (41 percent approved, and 33 percent disapproved).

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from February 8 to 10, 2019 with 604 New Jersey adults. The results have a margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points.

February 12, 2019

Gov. Phil Murphy has made it clear that he’s committed to expanding the state’s medical marijuana program, and he has the numbers to back up that promise: 23,629 people have been added since he announced the expansion early in 2018, bringing the total number of enrollees to 40,652 as of yesterday.

The number of doctors and caregivers involved in the program also continues to climb: 380 doctors have come aboard, bringing the total to 893. And 853 new caregivers have signed on, for a total of 1,689.

February 11, 2019

Bald eagles had all but vanished from New Jersey not so long ago. In fact, David Wheeler, executive director of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, said, “…we only had one nest in all of New Jersey as recently as the 1980s, and it wasn’t even a successful nest.” Now, 200 pairs and more nest in the Garden State.

“It’s an incredible recovery and it’s really a testament to a number of different factors,” Wheeler told NJTV News. “First, of course, was getting rid of DDT as a widely used agriculture pesticide … but also it was really a testament to smarter laws about cleaning up our waters” and “to the work of scientists and volunteers.”

There’s a lot of excitement over the fact that two pairs now call Mercer County home. And a series of public programs to highlight the presence of the raptors has launched. “For understandable reasons we are very protective of the eagles’ nest. We want to make sure that they thrive, and they continue to feel safe... So all viewing by the public will be from a distance greater than 1,000 feet from the nest,” said Anthony Cucchi, superintendent of Parks for the Mercer County Park Commission.

February 8, 2019

In the past year, thousands of New Jersey workers lost their jobs when Toys ‘R’ Us and Sears stores closed. A bill approved Thursday by the state Senate Commerce committee seeks to soften the blow of such mass layoffs, in part by lengthening the warning large employers must give threatened workers, from 60 days to 90. The bill would also mandate severance pay when 50 or more workers are laid off by a company.

“We want businesses to come to New Jersey. We want businesses to stay in New Jersey. We also need to make sure that they are working together and protecting the rights of their employees,” said Sen. Nellie Pou (D-Passaic), who along with Sen. Joe Cryan (D-Union), sponsored what’s being called the “Toys ‘R’ Us” bill.

As lawmakers talked about ways to better protect workers, some employees shared stories of their layoffs at a press conference in Trenton. “I got eight weeks of severance after 35 years of dedicated service,” said former Sears employee Bruce Miller. “Within two weeks of my severance running out I lost the house that I had owned since 1995 when it was foreclosed on by the bank.”

February 7, 2019

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has been allocated $2 million by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to get as many as 80 older diesel trucks that service port authority facilities off the road. The EPA has targeted short-haul trucks — from model year 2006 to be replaced with cleaner, newer models (no older than 2013). The $2 million will be divided into grants of a maximum of $25,000, giving truckers up to 50 percent of the cost to scrap and replace each vehicle.

It’s salutary to be told by the EPA that getting just 80 old short-haulers off the road would reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (by 49.5 tons), carbon monoxide (16.5 tons) and fine particulates (2.15 tons) annually.

“Pollution from diesel engines is linked to asthma, respiratory problems, heart attacks and is especially dangerous to children and the elderly,” EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez, said. “Reducing air pollution from diesel engines has enormous health benefits that translates directly into fewer hospitalizations and less missed days of work and school. Replacing old dirty trucks with newer ones makes a significant difference in areas around Port Authority facilities.”

Let’s not think too hard about what all the other old trucks continue to emit after the 80 are scrapped.

February 6, 2019

We don’t know how they do it, but we’ve to thank the state Department of Environmental Protection for keeping track of waste in New Jersey. Apparently, the Garden State generated 22.6 million tons of solid waste in 2016, the latest year for which data is available. That included municipal waste as well as construction debris and other types of non-municipal waste. Of the total collected, 61 percent was recycled (13.9 million tons) and 8.7 million tons disposed of.

Municipal solid waste accounted for a big chunk (9.7 million tons) of the overall amount. Of the municipal waste, 4.26 million tons went for recycling. That put the municipal recycling rate (44 percent) well above the national average (34 percent) but shy of the state’s goal (50 percent). The DEP last month announced $14 million in grants to encourage municipal recycling.

February 5, 2019

2018 was a big-money year for both Democratic and Republican county parties in New Jersey. Helped greatly by $1.1 million in contributions from federal candidates in last year’s elections, they had their best federal election year — financially speaking — since 2008. This is according to reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. Combined, the Democratic and Republican committees raised $9.7 million and spent $9 million.

Bob Hugin, the Republican Senate candidate, was responsible for most of the largesse, accounting for $806,210 in contributions and for rental reimbursement to GOP county parties. That translates to 71 percent of the $1.1 million.

“As we’ve seen in the past, self-financed candidates often share their wealth with county organizations. It helps win support for their candidacies while creating valuable allies during the election,” commented Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s executive director. While Hugin’s contributions were a big deal for the GOP county parties, they were a drop in the bucket in his overall personal spending on the failed attempt to unseat U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez; Hugin spent $36,831,210 on that endeavor.

February 4, 2019

The dastardly polar vortex was identified as the cause of the record-setting cold temperatures across swaths of the country last week. To be precise, the culprit was a mere “lobe of the stratospheric polar vortex,” explained Dr. Jeff Masters in a blog post on www.wunderground.com. The freeze in the Midwest — it was -56 degrees in Cotton, Minnesota early Thursday — makes last week’s lows in New Jersey seem positively balmy and nothing compared to the lowest temperature ever recorded in the Garden State, which was -34 degrees Fahrenheit on January 5, 1904 in River Vale. This coldest community is in Bergen County at the eastern edge of the Pascack Valley.

February 1, 2019

It’s hard to get unanimous agreement on anything in the State House in these fractious times. But Assembly members managed it Thursday, voting 75-0 for a measure that would establish the Anthony Bourdain Food Trail; it would highlight some of the New Jersey native’s favorite dining spots in the Garden State. The measure would specifically include the 10 eaties Bourdain visited in 2015 for the “Parts Unknown” television series.

Bourdain, who was born in Leonia, Bergen County started as a dishwasher at a clam shack in Provincetown, Massachusetts and went on to become the head chef in the Rainbow Room and Les Halles. He became famous with “Kitchen Confidential,” his no-holds-barred portrait of a chef’s life, before making the popular television programs “No Reservation” and “Parts Unknown.”

“There’s no question that Anthony’s road to fame was not an easy one,” said Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester), one of the measure’s sponsors. But, he noted, “Even after international fame, he never forgot his Jersey roots. Each episode, Bourdain brought his homegrown wit, charm and sense of humanity to his viewers. He became a New Jersey food icon.”

“Not only will designating a food trail in Anthony Bourdain’s honor commemorate the love he always expressed for his home state … but it will also bring increased awareness to the plight of those with depression and other mental health issues,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Hudson). Bourdain died last June by suicide.

The 10 dining places Bourdain visited for “Parts Unknown” in 2015 and that are to feature on the food trail are: Kubel’s in Barnegat Light; Hiram’s Roadstand in Fort Lee; Knife and Fork in Atlantic City; Dock’s Oyster House in Atlantic City; Tony’s Baltimore Grill in Atlantic City; Tony and Ruth Steaks in Camden; Donkey’s Place in Camden; Lucille’s Country Cooking in Barnegat; Frank’s Deli in Asbury Park and James’ Salt Water Taffy in Atlantic City.

January 31, 2019

Just over one-fourth of New Jersey adults (27 percent) responding to a Rutgers Center for State Health Policy poll reported having “a great deal” of stress in the previous month, while 44 percent reported “some stress.” As for high stress, it turns out we mirrored the national rate (26 percent). However, far fewer people nationally reported experiencing “some stress” in the previous month than New Jersey residents. Stress, of course, can make a big difference to people’s health and well-being, particularly chronic stress.

You’re not going to get a Nobel for figuring out the greatest source of stress for the New Jerseyans. Yes, that would be not having enough money to pay bills; 22 percent of respondents felt the weight of that worry. This was closely followed by those who were stressed out by not having enough time (21 percent). Job-related stress (18 percent) came after that — both at-work stress and the stress caused by looking for a job. Other sources of stress were family members (15 percent), family member health (15 percent), and personal health (11 percent).

The breakdown by income is intriguing. While high-income respondents reported the highest levels of “some stress,” middle-income respondents reported the highest levels of “a great deal” of stress, perhaps underlining the financial strain on many in the middle class.

January 30, 2019

The subject of immigration policy has become an incandescent element of political debate in the United States, with no sign of a cooling off; witness the recent partial shutdown of the federal government. Now for some interesting numbers from WalletHub, the credit rating and financial advice website. It compared the economic impact of foreign-born populations on the 50 states and the District of Columbia, using 20 key indicators, such as median household income of the foreign-born population and jobs generated by immigrant-owned businesses. New Jersey ranked third overall with a total score of 70.56, after California (77.01) and New York (74.62). The bottom three states were Mississippi (13.19), Wyoming (15.11) and South Dakota (15.74).

New Jersey’s ranking for the different indicators is also illuminating. It ranked first for percent of foreign-born STEM workers out of total workers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), second for the percent of jobs generated by immigrant-owned businesses out of total jobs, and fourth for the median household income of its foreign-born population.

January 29, 2019

Last year, 9,303 men, women and children, in 6,982 households across New Jersey were noted as homeless by NJCounts. That was an increase of 771 (9 percent) from 2017. (The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development mandates a sheltered count each year and an unsheltered count every other year in states.) The 2018 count concluded that 1,288 people were chronically homeless, a 17.9 percent increase over 2017. The count also revealed racial disparities in the homeless population. Blacks or African-Americans made up 48.1 percent of the homeless last year while they were 12.7 percent of the state’s general population.

The count helps “to better understand the depth and breadth of the need for housing resources throughout New Jersey” said Taiisa Kelly, CEO of Monarch Housing Associates, which directed the latest count, NJCounts 2019 on January 23. During NJCounts, volunteers seek out homeless residents in shelters and transitional housing programs, in vacant buildings, under bridges, in the woods and at other locations.

January 28, 2019

Looks like you’d have to travel a long way in New Jersey before you’d find someone to disagree with the notion of funding programs to help people care for sick or disabled family members. An overwhelming percent of New Jerseyans (92 percent) supported the provision of such programs, according to a poll by the Rutgers University Center for State Health Policy. Almost as many (86 percent) of poll respondents favored requiring employers to pay for at least five days a year of sick leave for all workers. And there was very strong support too for funding pre-kindergarten classes for all low-income schoolchildren (82 percent). There was less — but still robust — support for increasing childcare funding for families who can’t afford it (76 percent). The same percent supported increasing paid family leave from six weeks to 12 weeks for childbirth or a sick family member for workers in businesses with more than 20 employees.

January 25, 2019

The plot thickens. Some studies — never mind late-night comics — rate New Jersey drivers poorly. You’ve heard the jokes.

But now comes evidence that whatever we’re doing on all our clogged highways, at all those challenging roundabouts and toll plazas, we’re doing it quite well. Using the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s 2017 traffic fatality data and U.S. Census estimates, the home security website safesmartliving.com ranked the safest and most dangerous states to drive in. Result? New Jersey ranked as the fourth safest state in 2017. The top three were New York, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. Connecticut ranked eighth safest and Pennsylvania 12th. Mississippi ranked as the most dangerous, followed by Wyoming and South Carolina. California had the most traffic fatalities (3,602) in 2017 and Vermont had the fewest (69).

January 24, 2019

CPAs tend to be a pretty conservative group, so it’s worth noting that 48 percent of those surveyed by the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants said that legalizing adult-use marijuana would help the economy. Some 22 percent said legalization would have no effect on the economy, while 20 percent said it would hurt it.

Not nearly as many CPAs were in favor of legalizing weed when economic considerations were taken out of the equation, with 51 percent supporting the idea and 48 percent opposed. Of the 559 respondents in favor, more than 40 percent wanted a 12 percent tax on the sale of cannabis; 32 percent supported a tax between 12 percent and 25 percent. Gov. Phil Murphy has called for a 25 percent tax; state Senate President Stephen Sweeney wants a 12 percent tax.

A total of 1,058 CPAs responded to the survey.

January 23, 2019

About 730,000 people in New Jersey receive benefits under the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Despite the ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government, February SNAP benefits were paid early to them. Officials said the state took advantage of a provision in the government budget bill that expired December 21 allowing for certain payments to be made up to 30 days after the budget’s end.

“The SNAP program is one of several federal programs critical to many New Jerseyans that are at risk should President Trump’s shutdown continue,” said Gov. Phil Murphy.

The benefits were credited last Thursday to recipients who received a SNAP benefit in January and who were approved for continued assistance. State officials warned, however, that there is no guarantee of additional SNAP payments until the federal shutdown is resolved.

SNAP, administered by the state Department of Human Services, offers nutrition aid to low-income individuals and families. For more information, visit www.njsnap.gov.

January 22, 2019

First responders to the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center continue to suffer ongoing health problems. A new study conducted by Rutgers University has found a 40 percent increase in the number of head and neck cancers between 2009 and 2012.

The trend was first noted when clinicians treating WTC-exposed responders at Rutgers’ World Trade Center Health Program became concerned about an unusually high number of patients with oropharyngeal and laryngeal cancers.

“This excess occurrence in head and neck cancers is plausible since first responders inhaled debris clouds containing many known carcinogens,” said lead author Judith Graber, an associate professor at Rutgers School of Public Health and a researcher at Rutgers Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute.

The study also found that head and neck cancers were most associated with responders who were over 55, were non-Hispanic whites, or who worked in military or protective service occupations and performed rescue and recovery and maintained the perimeter after the attacks.

January 18, 2019

In 2018, New Jersey’s Democratic and Republican parties spent the most money in a federal election year since 2012 — $5.4 million, via their so-called Big Six committees. That left them with combined reserves of $1.5 million heading into this fall’s legislative elections, when all 80 Assembly seats will be on the ballot. (The Big Six are the Democratic State Committee, Republican State Committee, and corresponding committees for each party in the state Senate and Assembly.)

Reports sent to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) show that the two state parties and four legislative leadership committees raised $6.2 million and spent $5.4 million last year — mostly on the federal congressional elections.

Jeff Brindle, ELEC’s executive director, said it’s normal for party coffers to be depleted after an election year. He noted that the two state parties, which were the biggest spenders in 2018, ended up with the smallest cash reserves of the Bix Six — $117,803 for the Republican State Committee and $102,682 for the Democratic State Committee.

A year ago, after the governor’s seat and all 120 legislative seats were decided in 2017, the Big Six committees had $738,454 in combined cash-on-hand versus $1.5 million this year. “Perhaps not surprisingly, the two committees with the most at stake this fall carried over the largest balances among their respective parties,” said Brindle. “The Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee reported $635,823 as of December 31 while the Assembly Republican Victory Committee reported $187,031.”

If the data shows anything else it is that money follows power — or perhaps that’s just a coincidence. For the Democrats — who now control the governorship and both legislative houses — fund-raising has improved since just a few years ago, when Republican Chris Christie occupied the governor’s office. Democratic fund-raising, spending, cash-on-hand and net worth all were up compared to 2014. Meanwhile, Republican fund-raising, spending and cash on-hand were down compared to four years ago, though net worth was up slightly.

“During the past decade, there has been a tremendous shift in influence from parties and candidates to independent groups,” Brindle said. Pending legislation recommended by ELEC that requires disclosure by independent committees and increases contribution limits for candidates and parties would boost the fortunes of party committees. “Hopefully, these legislative changes will create a better balance by helping to restore influence to the parties,” he added.

In fact, a bill including ELEC’s recommendations on disclosure, among other provisions, cleared its first hurdle in a Senate committee yesterday. The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee unanimously released S-1500, sending it to the floor of the Senate. This follows Senate President Steve Sweeney’s recent announcement of support for requiring dark money groups to disclose their donors.

January 17, 2019

If you need something good about New Jersey to start off the New Year, consider this: The Garden State has earned a B+ on the Chance-for-Success Index from Education Week, making it one of the two best states in the country to raise your kids. New York, which earned the only A- awarded, was in the top spot.

The Chance-for-Success Index folds together key family, education, and economic indicators across three broad categories: early foundations, school years, and adult outcomes. Among those indicators are family income; parental employment and education; preschool and kindergarten enrollment; math and reading scores in select grades; high school graduation; and adult education, income, and steady employment levels.

Four states earned a B+ grade: New Jersey (89.1), New Hampshire (88.8), Connecticut (87.4), and Minnesota (87.0). New Mexico was at the bottom of the rankings, with a D+.

The country as a whole was graded C+ for Chance for Success, with a score of 79.0, slightly higher than the 78.5 it earned in 2018.

The Chance-for-Success Index is included in the first of three Quality Counts reports being rolled out by Education Week in 2019.

January 16, 2019

Republicans and other critics of the Murphy administration have seized on a United Van Lines’ annual National Movers Study ranking New Jersey as the state with the largest outmigration in 2018 as evidence of it being too expensive to live here. Following Gov. Phil Murphy’s State of the State address, Republican leaders in the Legislature said just that.

United Van Lines’ study is based on 2,959 families that it moved from New Jersey to other states, representing two-thirds of all moves the firm handled involving the state. It also moved 1,471 persons into New Jersey. Over the last 10 years of the survey, New Jersey has been one of the top 10 states for outmigration and moved up to first place for 2018.

Undoubtedly, many people migrate out of New Jersey each year for many reasons. Some of the biggest ones are for retirement to a warmer, and yes, cheaper retirement. But critics note that there are a number of problems with the study. For one, it is based solely on customers who used United to move them from one state to another and its clients do not always proportionally represent the nation’s population: New Jersey is the 11th most populous state but had only the 16th most moves by United. And the sample size of the study is tiny in a state with more than 3.2 million households.

New Jersey’s ranking as a state with high outmigration is often cited by politicians, organizations and think tanks. Two studies over the last few years have contended millennials or young adults leave New Jersey at higher rates than they leave other states, while another study last September debunked that and found that young people move out of the state at about the same rate as they leave other nearby high-cost states and at no greater rate than they have in the past. One major reason why young people leave New Jersey is to go to college.

Ultimately, data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that New Jersey’s population continues to rise, albeit at a slower pace than some other states. Five states — Wyoming, West Virginia, Illinois, Alaska and Hawaii — actually lost population between 2016 and 2017, data shows. Thirteen others, including nearby Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania, grew at a rate slower than New Jersey. Census officials estimate New Jersey’s population grew by 0.3 percent from 2016 to 2017, and by 2.4 percent from 2010 to 2017, making it the 31st fastest growing state in the nation.

January 15, 2019

Even one case of child abuse is one too many: According to the latest data from the federal government, there were 8,264 confirmed cases of child abuse in New Jersey in 2016, the most recent year for which stats are available. That works out to 4.2 cases of abuse per 1,000 children. But what’s truly shocking about that figure is that it’s down -8.5 percent since 2012.

Nearby Connecticut had 7,803 confirmed cases overall. New York had 65,123; Pennsylvania, 4,355.

All told, in 2016, there were an estimated 676,000 victims of abuse and neglect. This equates to a national rate of 9.1 victims per 1,000 children in the population.

This data is compiled in the Child Maltreatment Report, which has been published for the past 27 years. It also reveals that 6,560 of New Jersey’s confirmed cases represent first-time abuse.

The numbers are even more disheartening when broken out by the age of the victims: 1,068 are under 1 year old; 522 are between 1 and 2, while 515 are between 2 and 3.

Those numbers track the nationwide trends. According to the report, “the youngest children are the most vulnerable to maltreatment. In FFY 2016, 50 states and the District of Columbia reported that more than one-quarter (28.5 percent) of victims were younger than 3 years. The victimization rate was highest for children younger than 1 year (24.8 per 1,000 children in the population of the same age).

It also indicates that 3,952 victims were boys; 4,298 were girls (14 cases were unknown). A total of 2,505 victims were black; 2,379 were Hispanic; 2,876 were white. (Numbers do not include Native Americans and other ethnicities.)

The data is collected and analyzed by the Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, and the Children’s Bureau, which are all part of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

January 14, 2019

The bald eagle population in New Jersey grew last year, with 172 young being produced. That’s quite remarkable, given that as Conserve Wildlife Foundation executive director David Wheeler noted, “As recently as the early 1980s, bald eagles were down to a single unsuccessful nesting pair in New Jersey.”

Numbers of the bird of prey here had plummeted due to the widespread use of the pesticide DDT before it was banned in 1972, around the same time that the bald eagle receiving endangered species protection nationally and in New Jersey.

Today there are over 200 pairs of bald eagles in the state. However, the bald eagle remains endangered in the Garden State. And, although the population is growing, the birds are threatened by nest disturbance, loss of habitat, and contaminants in the food web.

January 11, 2019

Just how often should a woman get a mammogram? Even breast cancer experts give different answers to that vital question. Because their conflicting advice has created such confusion, a new national study is being undertaken to clarify guidelines. The (WISDOM) study seeks to establish which method is safer and more effective — routine yearly screening or a personalized screening schedule that takes into consideration genetic and other factors like age, family history, and breast density. It’s being conducted by the Athena Breast Health Network, a group of breast cancer experts, healthcare providers, researchers, and patient advocates at five University of California Medical Centers.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is covering the cost for 5,000 of its members to participate in the study. Members between the ages of 40 and 74 who have not had a mastectomy, breast cancer or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) are eligible to participate. You can learn more about the study and sign up to participate by visiting www.wisdomstudy.org.

“Breast cancer is the second leading cancer-related cause of death in New Jersey and early detection is the key to successful treatment, yet the most recent data shows that 1 in 5 women age 50-74 living here did not have a mammogram. Improving breast cancer screening protocols can help us close that gap in care and focus on reaching women with a higher risk profile,” said Horizon’s vice president and chief medical officer Thomas Graf.

January 10, 2019

The shutdown of the federal government has furloughed 800,000 workers nationwide or forced them to work without pay. In New Jersey, more than 5,000 workers are in that boat.

The shutdown is affecting the state in a number of ways. U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez along with U.S. Reps. Albio Sires (NJ-8) and Donald Payne Jr. (NJ-10) have highlighted some of the impacts:

  • U.S. Coast Guard: The Coast Guard is the only military branch not funded by the Department of Defense. Hundreds of service members from New York Harbor to Cape May are working without pay.

  • Federal Aviation Administration: Air traffic controllers in Newark are working without pay.

  • Transportation Security Administration: Hundreds of TSA agents responsible for ensuring safe air travel and screening passengers at New Jersey airports are working without pay.

  • Federal Housing Administration: New home loans are not being processed. In 2018, 28,400 FHA loans were made in New Jersey.

  • Small Business Administration: The shutdown threatens the ability of small businesses to access critical financing from the SBA. Last year, it made 2,602 loans to small businesses in New Jersey.

  • National Parks: Twelve national parks in New Jersey are affected by the shutdown including Sandy Hook, Paterson Great Falls, and the Thomas Edison National Historic Park.

January 9, 2019

New Jersey will get $10.6 million in federal funding for a new initiative from the Murphy administration, the NJ Preschool Development Collaboration. According to an announcement from the governor’s office, under the initiative, the state will evaluate its current early childhood education programs with a goal of making the transition from early educational programs to elementary school easier for kids.

The program will focus on giving children “the tools they need to achieve their greatest potential,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a press release.

The move appears to be part of the governor’s wider efforts to expand access to pre-kindergarten. This past September he announced the first round of pre-k expansion money: $20.6 million to expand classes in 31 eligible districts across the state.

The money for the NJ Preschool Development Collaboration was awarded to the state through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Preschool Development Grant.

January 8, 2019

More than half of New Jersey voters — across party lines — favor allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain limited driver’s licenses in the state, according to a new poll commissioned by supporters of the licenses.

A survey commissioned by the special interest group Let’s Drive NJ surveyed 561 registered voters across the state and found that 54 percent supported legislation expanding access to driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants compared to 29 percent who opposed such legislation. Seventeen percent said they were “unsure.”

The majority of registered Democrats — 62 percent — favored the legislation while 47 percent of registered Republicans also gave it a thumbs up. Thirty-eight percent of registered Republicans said they oppose it.

There are currently two bills in the Legislature, A-4743 and S-3229, that would allow undocumented residents to obtain licenses. Neither has been scheduled for a vote. Meanwhile, advocates are pushing lawmakers to move on the issue sooner rather than later.

“New Jersey cannot hold off any longer on moving this forward,” Johanna Calle, director of New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, said. “We have been fighting for this type of legislation for almost 12 years now.”

Calle said her organization has spoken with Gov. Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney who have both expressed support for the legislation. She said the Assembly leadership may be holding the process up.

“The bill is ready to go,” Calle said. “This really comes down to the committee chairs and the Assembly Speaker to move this forward.”

January 7, 2019

Three members of New Jersey law enforcement died in the line of duty in 2018. Nationwide, there were 144 fatalities in the line of duty among state, local, tribal and territorial officers last year, a 12 percent increase over the previous year’s 129 deaths. That’s according to a preliminary report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Firearms-related fatalities claimed the lives of 52 officers. The most fatalities (11 each) occurred in Texas, Florida, California, and New York. Seven took place in North Carolina. South Carolina, Georgia, and Indiana each had five.

The deadliest year on record for law enforcement officers was 1930 when 307 were killed in the line of duty. The last time officer fatalities dipped below 100 for a single year was 1944.

January 4, 2019

New Jersey’s acute-care hospitals contributed $23.6 billion to the state’s economy — in payroll, taxes, services, etc. — last year and accounted for 150,000 jobs, both full-time and part-time. That’s according to the New Jersey Hospital Association’s 2018 Economic Impact Report.

“Healthcare is a critical part of New Jersey’s economic infrastructure,” NJHA president and CEO Cathy Bennett said in a statement. “The $23.6 billion that hospitals and health systems contribute to the state economy ripples throughout all communities.”

The report also shows the total economic impact of the hospitals and the number of jobs they provide continue to grow; the corresponding figures for 2017 were $23.4 billion in expenditures and 144,000 jobs. What’s more, the report’s authors argue that, according to state Department of Labor data, healthcare is the only industry that has added jobs in the state every year from 1990 through 2017.

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