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October 29, 2018

Another medically fragile child who had been cared for at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Passaic County, passed away late Saturday at a hospital, bringing to nine the number of deaths caused by the outbreak of adenovirus among residents of the facility.

Adenovirus had been confirmed in a total of 25 infants and children; a staff member at the facility, who has since recovered, also became ill as part of the outbreak.

The DOH reported that the affected children — in the facility’s pediatric ventilator unit — became ill between September 26 and October 22. They had severely compromised immune systems, including respiratory problems, before the outbreak began.

The DOH’s Communicable Disease Service is on site monitoring the outbreak, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is assisting with lab testing and expertise. The facility will not admit new residents for the duration of the outbreak.

Adenovirus is a respiratory virus which can cause mild or serious illness, though serious illness is less common. Symptoms may include common cold, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, pink eye, fever, bladder inflammation or infection, inflammation of the stomach and intestines and neurological disease.

The DOH has provided answers to frequently asked questions about adenovirus.

October 26, 2018

When the Monmouth University Poll took the temperature of the contest for the 3rd Congressional District in August, Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur held a one-point lead over Democratic challenger Andy Kim, (41 percent to 40 percent). The latest Monmouth poll flips things and now Kim is ahead (48 percent to 46 percent), with the statistically insignificant lead confirming this South Jersey midterm contest as one of the keenest in the state.

While there hasn’t been much change in the overall state of the race in the past two months, a couple of numbers pop out from the new poll that might suggest trouble for MacArthur. Kim has been attacking him as being beholden to special interests and, according to the latest Monmouth poll, almost half the voters (47 percent) in the 3rd District said the incumbent does more to represent special interests than average residents; only 28 percent said he does more to represent average residents. The opposite perception was the case for the challenger; almost half (48 percent) thought Kim would do more to represent average residents if elected, compared with 30 percent who believed he would do more for special interests.

MacArthur’s favorability rating has also gone in the wrong direction among likely voters. In the August poll, the congressman had a net +10 positive rating (35 percent favorable to 25 percent unfavorable, with 40 percent offering no opinion). This time around, although he maintained the 35 percent favorable, there were more in the unfavorable camp (34 percent), while 31 percent had no opinion. Kim, on the other hand, kept the same +10 positive rating as in August, when he was at 27 percent favorable, 17 percent unfavorable, and 57 percent for voters with no opinion. The new poll shows Kim with 38 percent favorable, 28 percent unfavorable, and 40 percent with no opinion.

October 25, 2018

The cost of renting a home in New Jersey isn’t a trifling matter for those in the middle class. For residents on low wages, it can be one of the dominant challenges. Last year, almost two-thirds of New Jerseyans (62 percent) earning less than $20,000 spent more than half their income on rent. And well more than half of households (58 percent) earning up to $35,000 were in the same boat.

These sore points are among the findings of the latest New Jersey Poverty Snapshot, released by the Anti-Poverty Network and the Coalition on Human Needs (using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey).

The report’s bright spot? Because New Jersey has expanded its Medicaid program, the proportion of New Jerseyans without health insurance was 7.7 percent in 2017, down 5.5 percentage points since 2013. New Jersey has made far more progress in that regard, the report notes, than states that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act; those states average more than 12 percent uninsured.

October 24, 2018

Everywhere you look, someone’s online privacy has been breached in one (egregious) way or another. Evidence in New Jersey bears that out. The number of data breaches affecting New Jersey residents rose significantly in 2017 (958) over the number reported to state police the previous year (676); that was a 41 percent increase.

The 958 breaches affected more than 4.38 million residents’ accounts. Most of those by far (4 million-plus) were a result of the breach involving the credit-reporting company, Equifax. In 2016, the first year such data was collected, approximately 116,000 New Jersey account holders were affected by data breaches.

The statistics were released yesterday by the state Attorney General’s Office to mark this as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and to prompt people to get serious about protecting their online security. Earlier this year the setup was announced of a new Data Privacy & Cybersecurity Section within the state Division of Law to investigate data privacy cases and advise state agencies on related matters. And an entity titled the New Jersey Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Cell is now the state’s “one-stop shop for cybersecurity information sharing, threat analysis, and incident reporting.” In conjunction with this month’s focus on improving cybersecurity, the latter has released tips for residents.

October 23, 2018

Zero percent: That’s what purchasers of medical marijuana in New Jersey would pay in sales tax, under a bill sponsored by a Republican in the state Assembly.

“New Jersey’s medical marijuana is more expensive than almost every other state,” said Assemblyman John DiMaio (R-Warren). “Patients should be able to afford it, just like any other prescription.” And he contends that the substance should be treated just like any other prescription for tax purposes. Currently, it is subject to the state’s 6.625 percent sales tax. With medical marijuana costing anywhere from $425 to $520 an ounce, that adds substantially to the overall cost. “No other prescriptions are taxed, and all the rest are covered by insurance,” DiMaio said. “If our goal is to make health care more affordable, then we should do something about it.”

The Assemblyman also framed his proposal in the context of larger arguments in the state over the balance between revenue and spending, charging that “The problem is nothing will be done immediately because Democrats need to tax wherever they can to support irresponsible spending, even if it’s at the expense of the sick people they claim to want to help.” (The latest state budget has penciled in an expected $20 million in tax revenue from the expansion of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.)

October 22, 2018

Do you love the fall weather but have had your fill of pumpkin picking? Maybe it’s time to try a different type of harvest. New Jersey is third in the nation when it comes to cranberry production — after Wisconsin and Massachusetts — with a crop worth $16.5 million a year from about 2,500 acres.

The cranberry harvest, which is happening right now, is unusual in that it involves flooding bogs with water, so the berries detach from vines and float to the surface. This allows farmers to scoop them up relatively easily. For the next two weeks, there is at least one farm in the Pine Barrens that will let you experience this distinctive harvest, as well as give you a lecture about the history of cranberry farming in New Jersey and a cooking demonstration. It may not be ideal for little children but it should get you in the swing of fall.

October 19, 2018

With the midterm elections less than three weeks’ away, New Jersey’s senior senator, Bob Menendez (D), who is campaigning for a third full term, holds at least a nine-point lead over his Republican rival Bob Hugin. Indeed, Menendez could be leading by up to 12 points, according to the latest Monmouth University Poll.

“Given the national political climate and the big registration advantage enjoyed by Democrats, you might expect an incumbent senator from New Jersey to be up by 20 points. Hugin was successful in making this one competitive by hammering away at Menendez’s ethical baggage,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. But, he said, Menendez “has been able to fight back to get the margin into a range that is closer to the norm for New Jersey.”

Menendez, who went through an 11-week corruption trial last year (it ended in a mistrial) is viewed negatively by New Jersey voters (28 percent favorable, 45 percent unfavorable, 27 percent offer no opinion). And most voters (88 percent) are aware of the senator’s corruption trial. But, here’s the salient point: The majority of poll respondents (64 percent) said that whatever Menendez did was about the same as what other politicians get up to. Just 22 percent said Menendez’s behavior was worse than most other politicians.

Moreover, the poll found that regardless of how they feel about Menendez, voters said President Donald Trump is a bigger factor in their choice for Senate than the candidate. And, crucially among likely New Jersey voters, Trump’s job rating is negative (42 percent approve, 55 percent disapprove). So, perhaps the key finding in the poll — apart from Menendez’s lead over Hugin — is that Trump is a very important factor for 72 percent of likely voters in their Senate choice, with Trump opponents (84 percent) more likely than Trump supporters (71 percent) to feel this way.

October 18, 2018

The two candidates in New Jersey’s Senate race have spent close to $30 million so far — $29.4 million, to be precise. And if you’re tired of watching those attack ads by Republican candidate Bob Hugin, there’s a good reason: Hugin has way outspent Democratic incumbent Sen. Bob Menendez, $22.7 million to $6.7 million, according to financial reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The total money raised by the two campaigns is $37.1 million — $26.2 million for Hugin and $10.9 million for Menendez. However, the use of the term “raised” is a bit misleading, as Hugin has lent his campaign $24 million. They both have substantial sums left in their warchests for the last weeks of the campaign. Menendez has $5.6 million cash on hand to Hugin’s $3.5 million.

Both candidates have also benefited from spending by outside groups. Menendez has been supported with $3.3 million from Patients for Affordable Drugs Action, a nonpartisan super PAC, as well as $1.2 million from the Democratic super PAC, the Leadership Alliance. Hugin has enjoyed the support of the Republican PAC, Integrity New Jersey.

October 17, 2018

To help meet the ongoing need for subsidized childcare, the New Jersey Department of Human Services has committed $38 million in new funding; the money will go to expand opportunities for low-income families to access safe, high-quality care services for their kids.

Most of the funding will go toward boosting the rates the state pays certain childcare centers for caring for children whose parents are working, in school or in training programs — something advocates have long urged. Rates will go up by as much as 25 percent, for infant care, to $904 a month. Toddler rates will rise 6 percent, to $761 monthly, and reimbursement for the care of children of pre-school age will grow 10 percent, to $645 a month.

Additional dollars will be used for incentives to create new spots for babies in need of care and to fund improvements in educational programs and the physical facilities at these childcare centers. The Division of Family Development in the Department of Human Services has information about the program and other childcare services.

“Quality, affordable childcare is vital not only to development but to supporting hard-working parents in helping their families to thrive,” DHS Commissioner Carole Johnson said. “Quality child care is good for everyone.”

October 16, 2018

For a state that’s swimming in a sea of red, the Department of the Treasury’s latest report on revenue collections in New Jersey surely counts as good news. September revenues were above target by $393.7 million; Trenton took in $3.295 billion in total tax revenue last month, or 13.6 percent more than last September.

The 2019 financial year began in July, so the first quarter has just ended; total collections for those three months came to $5.72 billion — up $591.2 million, or 11.5 percent, over the same period last year.

Bottom line: Tax collections seem to be outpacing the targeted growth rates for both the month of September and the quarter. There’s a caveat, of course (Isn’t there always when it comes to what’s in the Garden State’s coffers?): The growth in revenues clearly is being influenced by several tax increases — including on the corporate business tax and on income tax for earnings over $5 million — that Gov. Phil Murphy and lawmakers gave us in early July.

October 15, 2018

Revenue for New Jersey’s gaming industry last month was way up over last September’s total. According to the latest figures from the Division of Gaming Enforcement, September revenue came in at $281.7 million. That compares with $235.8 million in September 2017 and reflects a 19.5 percent increase. “Driven by the explosive growth in sports wagering and continuing improvements in Internet gaming and brick-and-mortar casino win results, the gaming industry produced another month of superb revenue increases,” said David Rebuck, director of the DGE.

The figure is broken into $232 million from casino wins — $166,790,674 at the slot machines and $65,172,399 at the tables — and $25.8 million from internet gaming wins. Gross revenue for sports betting was $24 million for the month. The Borgata accounted for $67,587,143 in total gaming revenue, the Tropicana had $33,280,972, and the Golden Nugget $28,671,858.

For the year to date, the industry’s total gaming revenue is $2.148 billion compared to $2.039 billion in 2017, reflecting a 5.4 percent increase. What does this mean in tax dollars? Total gaming taxes last month were $23 million.

October 12, 2018

For owners who are trying to expand their small businesses, one of the greatest challenges is getting access to capital. In recognition of that fact, Gov. Phil Murphy yesterday announced a new loan program targeted at small businesses.

Administered through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, the so-called Access Program will have a fund of $15 million to disperse in its 12-month pilot phase. Launching the program, Murphy noted that small businesses “employ more than 50 percent” of New Jersey’s workforce. The new program is designed to give borrowers, including women- and minority-owned businesses, more flexibility by establishing requirements that place greater emphasis on cash-flow and less reliance on hard collateral.

October 11, 2018

Each year, roughly 7,350 women in New Jersey learn they have breast cancer, the second most common type of cancer diagnosed in the state. It is also the second most frequent cause of cancer-related deaths for this demographic, ending the lives of 1,320 women in the Garden State each year.

With more people generally being diagnosed with breast cancer in New Jersey year after year, and the state’s incidence and mortality rates outpacing the national average for many demographics, screening for the disease becomes all the more important. “We know that early detection saves lives,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal.

According to New Jersey State Health Assessment Data (NJSHAD), 7,501 women were found to have breast cancer in 2013, up from 6,226 in 1990. In addition, New Jersey is one of eight states with the highest breast cancer rates nationally, according to federal data from 2015 for women of all races. As many as 146 in 100,000 women were diagnosed here, versus an average of 125 in 100,000 nationwide. The mortality rate here is also several points higher than in the country at large.

To mark this as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Elnahal and his colleagues at the New Jersey Department of Health are highlighting the work of the New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection Program (NJCEED), which works with nearly two dozen facilities across the state to provide cancer screenings, case management, and related services for low-income and uninsured residents. The services are free of charge to those who earn less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level ($62,750 annually for a family of four). The program also provides testing for cervical, colorectal and prostate cancers.

“NJCEED ensures all women and men have access to vital cancer screening services, regardless of their insurance status or income level,” Elnahal said. The group has conducted nearly 156,000 mammograms over the last decade, diagnosing nearly 1,800 cases of breast cancer, he said.

October 10, 2018

Despite shattering fundraising records in the state, Democrat Mikie Sherrill holds only a slight lead over Republican opponent Assemblyman Jay Webber in the race to represent the 11th Congressional District. According to the latest Monmouth University Poll, released yesterday, voters favor Sherrill 48 percent to 44 percent over Webber.

“The basic contours of this race have not changed. Even though Republicans have the edge in party affiliation, many are not happy with the president or key GOP initiatives such as the tax reform plan,” Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute said in a press release.

The recent controversy over the nomination — and subsequent confirmation — to the Supreme Court of Judge Brett Kavanaugh amid accusations of sexual assault has not had a measurable effect on the race, the poll found. According to the Monmouth data, a clear majority of 11th District voters (78 percent) reported that Kavanaugh’s confirmation has not caused them to change their intended vote. Ten percent said the Kavanaugh issue has made them more likely to support Webber, 8 percent said it has made them more likely to support Sherrill, and 3 percent said it has made them more undecided.

The results are in line with where the race stood in Monmouth’s June poll, showing Sherrill ahead by 4 points (44 percent - 40 percent), with 15 percent undecided. Although this time around, fewer voters (6 percent) identify as undecided.

October 9, 2018

Gov. Phil Murphy last week signed a new law that reduces the required training hours for African-style natural hair braiders in New Jersey from at least 1,200 to a maximum of 40 hours (50, if a braider has had no prior experience).

African hair braiding is a service that many New Jerseyans of color depend on both as a source of income and as a way to protect their hair. It’s a cultural practice many African-American women learn from family members and have done since a young age. Until this month, braiders were required by state law to spend at least 1,200 hours of training, at a cost of $17,000 and more, to obtain a cosmetology license. The new law exempts braiders from having to go through cosmetology licensing but it requires them to undergo training in sanitation, decontamination and infection control and calls for any hair braiding shops to register with the state. It also adds two members who have owned or operated hair braiding establishments to the New Jersey Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling.

The original bill, sponsored by legislators Angela McKnight (D-Hudson), Shanique Speight (D-Essex), and Arthur Barclay (D-Camden), would have removed the licensing and training requirements altogether but was conditionally vetoed by the governor.

October 5, 2018

Thanks to the expanded coverage offered by the Affordable Care Act, the number of uninsured adults in New Jersey has declined steadily since 2011, dropping from 18 percent to 11 percent in 2017, according to data released by To the Point, a website maintained by The Commonwealth Fund. New Jersey’s ACA coverage stats closely track the nation’s numbers; the percentage of uninsured adults went from 21 percent (2011) to 12 percent (2017).

A total of 274,782 people in the Garden State are covered under a marketplace plan. Some 77 percent of these receive a premium tax credit, to help offset the cost of coverage. Another 1.78 million residents are enrolled through Medicaid and CHIP. (These figures reflect 2018 enrollment.)

The percentage of adults in New Jersey who went without insurance because of cost climbed slightly, starting at 17 percent in 2011 before finishing slightly lower, at 16 percent, in 2017.

The Commonwealth Fund promotes a high-performing healthcare system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, and people of color.

October 4, 2018

Voters in nine New Jersey school districts have approved $174.9 million in school construction projects; that’s out of $345,151,604 originally sought. Voters in five districts, gave a thumbs-down to proposals, and one result is pending in Emerson, Bergen County.

Spending has been OK’d for big items like school additions and renovations as well as for HVAC replacements, new roofs, and safety improvements. Most of the construction would be partially supported by state funds. The largest amount approved was $59,298,000 in Ewing, Mercer County for renovations to five schools and one maintenance building. The New Jersey School Boards Association has a list of the projects — approved, pending, and rejected — on its website.

October 3, 2018

The explosive Senate hearings involving Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh captured attention in the Garden State as elsewhere in the country. But they do not appear to have worked in his favor. Just 32 percent of New Jersey adults support Kavanaugh’s nomination while 49 percent say he should not be seated on the nation’s highest court, according to the latest Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll.

To really understand what’s motivating attitudes toward the Kavanaugh confirmation, you need to look at things “through the lens of partisanship” and attitudes toward President Donald Trump, said Krista Jenkins, director of the poll and a professor of politics at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Most New Jersey Democrats (78 percent) want to see Kavanaugh rejected; voters who disapprove of Trump also give Kavanaugh a big thumbs-down (77 percent). Conversely, Republicans in large numbers favor confirming him to the court (72 percent) as do Trump supporters (81 percent).

There are also marked gender differences on the issue. Most women (55 percent) want Kavanaugh rejected; fewer men (42 percent) favor rejection. Almost twice as many men (42 percent) as women (22 percent) support Kavanaugh for the court position.

Other takeaways from the poll: Millennials in the Garden State are among those least likely to support Kavanaugh’s confirmation (20 percent); people of color largely oppose confirmation (57 percent) as compared with white respondents (44 percent). And, a majority of those with college degrees (54 percent) think he shouldn’t be seated on the court, compared with 39 percent of those without a college degree.

October 2, 2018

New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, the Democrat, holds a slim lead — a mere two points — over Republican Bob Hugin, a former pharmaceutical executive, in the latest statewide poll released yesterday. That’s within the Stockton University Poll’s 4.25-point margin of error, which would indicate the race is a tossup.

But questions about who was polled may mean this isn’t the survey on which to base bets about the eventual winner. For one thing, the demographics of those who answered questions do not come close to reflecting those of the state as a whole. Of survey respondents, about 4 percent were under age 30 and 39 percent were 65 and older. The latest U.S. Census data shows that almost 13 percent of the population was in the 20-29 age bracket last year and 16 percent were senior citizens. Just 4 percent of those polled were Hispanic and 81 percent were white, while non-Hispanic whites comprise just 57 percent of the population and 19 percent of New Jerseyans are Hispanic.

Additionally, just 1 percent of those polled live in Hudson County, compared with close to 8 percent of the actual population. Nine percent of all of New Jersey’s registered Democrats, who would be more likely to vote for Menendez, live in Hudson County, and registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in Hudson sixfold.

The Menendez campaign issued a statement contending that the Stockton Poll “historically underestimates Democratic performance,” including undercounting the eventual performances of Hillary Clinton, Sen. Cory Booker and Menendez himself in the past.

John Froonjian, a Stockton senior research associate, said that over the last two years, Stockton’s polling correctly identified election winners and their spreads were within the margins of error. The poll also corrects for the demographics by “weighting” the responses of underrepresented groups so they count more.

He said the poll is not meant to predict the winner, just show what people were thinking when the poll was conducted two weeks ago, adding, “I think even with these limitations, the results are still valid as a picture of a tight race.” As to the specific results, Stockton found Menendez getting the backing of 45 percent of likely voters, compared with 43 percent for Hugin. Libertarian Murray Sabrin got support from 3 percent; 8 percent were undecided.

Both skeptics and supporters of the poll will have another way to gauge its results very soon. Fairleigh Dickinson University plans to release the results of its own survey on the Senate race tomorrow.

October 1, 2018

The Garden State places 25th among the top 40 markets in the country this year for the development of office space. It achieves that ranking by virtue of 864,000 square feet of new office space due this year, with the 450,000-square-foot Ironside Newark building the largest office project on track here. (The report is by the real-estate blog, CommercialCafé.)

It probably will come as no surprise that California’s Bay Area and New York City lead the rankings, with 11 million square feet and 10 million square feet of new offices, respectively. The single largest office development this year is the 80-story, 2.8 million-square-foot 3 World Trade Center in New York City.

September 28, 2018

More than 13,000 students in New Jersey will be able to attend one of 13 community colleges free of tuition and educational fees, starting in January 2019, as part of a new pilot program. It’s the first tangible step in Gov. Phil Murphy’s plan to eventually make education at all community colleges free.

New Jersey has 19 community colleges, all of which applied to participate in the program, known as the Community College Innovation Challenge. The 13 chosen colleges will receive a $250,000 grant for such things as student outreach, recruitment, and support.

The 13 are: Atlantic Cape Community College; Bergen Community College; Camden County College; Cumberland County College; Hudson County Community College; Mercer County Community College; Middlesex County College; Ocean County College; Passaic County Community College; Rowan College at Gloucester County; Salem Community College; Union County College; and Warren County Community College.

“For many students, the net price of community college remains out of reach even after accounting for the financial aid they could receive,” said David J. Socolow, executive director of HESAA. “Removing the barrier of tuition and educational fees can make the difference that enables students to complete their studies.”

September 27, 2018

The New Jersey Hall of Fame is to get a permanent home, and a pretty fancy one at that — a 16,000-square-foot facility in American Dream Meadowlands, the entertainment-retail complex that’s been under construction on and off for years in East Rutherford. Tom Bracken, president of the NJ Chamber of Commerce, said the hall is “a great way for New Jersey to put its best foot forward and celebrate some of its most accomplished citizens.” Residents of the Garden State can nominate anyone they fancy for the honor of membership in the hall. Last year’s inductees included writer Harlan Coben; singers Gloria Gaynor, Debbie Harry, and the Four Seasons; astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly; and in the sports category, Al Leiter and Carli Lloyd.

September 26, 2018

The number of human cases of West Nile virus reported in New Jersey so far this year (31) marks a worrying trend and is the highest since 2012. Last year, eight cases were reported.

Two Bergen County residents, a 62-year-old man and an elderly woman, have died after being infected this year. Between 2013 and 2017 nine deaths were associated with the virus: two in Gloucester and Morris counties (2013), three in Cumberland, Monmouth and Passaic counties (2015), two in Ocean and Union counties (2016), and two in Mercer and Middlesex counties (2017).

The virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Even when infected, many people do not become ill or develop symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may be mild: flu-like illness with fever, headache, body aches, nausea and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a rash on the chest, stomach and back. Severe symptoms include high fever, neck stiffness and swelling of the brain (encephalitis) which can lead to coma, convulsions and death. Less than 1 percent of infected people develop severe symptoms.

“The pattern of hot and wet weather this summer has led to an increase in mosquito populations and associated viruses,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal. He noted that the number of mosquito pools which have tested positive for the virus is the highest ever reported, particularly in the northwestern and central parts of the state where levels usually are not high. There has also been an increase in reports of dead and ill birds.

“The number of West Nile virus cases in New Jersey is of great concern,” Assistant Commissioner for Natural and Historic Resources, Ray Bukowski, said. “The warm and wet weather we have experienced increases the mosquito population. Even as the weather cools, it is very important for the public to eliminate even the smallest amounts of standing water from their properties, to reduce the risk of exposure to mosquito bites and mosquito-borne illnesses. Safeguarding public health is critical.”

September 25, 2018

Many of the almost 4 million New Jerseyans with pre-existing health conditions (3,846,000, to be precise) will probably be watching the results of the midterm elections more closely than most. That’s because the protections they receive under the Affordable Care Act are considered to be in peril, depending on how Republicans do in the upcoming elections. The number in New Jersey with pre-existing conditions includes 477,000 children.

In the view of Families USA, “The 2018 midterm elections could determine if health insurance protections stay in place, or if the nation goes back to the days when children and adults with preexisting health conditions were denied the care and coverage they needed to be healthy or even to survive.” (Families USA is a national nonprofit that’s focused on high-quality, affordable healthcare.)

The Trump administration has worked to gut the ACA and has signaled its support of a lawsuit seeking to overturn the landmark legislation. If that happened, maintains Families USA, “health insurers could return to abusive practices that were widespread before protections were in place.” Some Republicans in tough re-election races have stated they don’t want to take away the specific ACA regulation that prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions.

September 24, 2018

The South Jersey Transportation Authority is to get $300,000 (well, the exact sum is $299,898) from the U.S. Department of Transportation Authority for upgrades to the Atlantic City Airport. The money is specifically for rehabilitation of the airport’s deteriorating runway.

Describing the investment as essential, Sen. Bob Menendez said, “Modernizing New Jersey’s airports is vital to our economy and the safety of air travelers.” Sen. Cory Booker said that “By making key federal investments like this in the modernization of our region’s aging infrastructure, we are taking important steps to create jobs, strengthen our economy and bolster New Jersey’s economic competitiveness.”

September 21, 2018

The election race in New Jersey’s 7th District, where U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R) is battling to keep his seat, has tilted away from him, according to the Monmouth University Poll. Democrat Tom Malinowski now holds a narrow lead and is supported by 47 percent of potential voters compared to 39 percent support for Lance, the latest poll results show. (Potential voters are those who have participated in an election since 2010 or have newly registered to vote; they represent about 84 percent of all registered voters in the district.)

It is to Malinowski’s advantage that the 7th District has a large population of college-educated voters, who have swung more Democratic in the past two years. While Lance leads among white voters without a college degree (50 percent to 36 percent), Malinowski is ahead among college-educated white voters (50 percent to 39 percent) and among nonwhite voters regardless of education (64 percent to 20 percent).

But Lance “is still in the hunt,” the poll concludes, despite the low ratings in the 7th for President Donald Trump — the district is home to the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, where the president has spent a lot of time since taking office. “The fundamentals of this swing district favor Malinowski, but he has not been able to break clear of Lance’s deep roots here,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Where things get really interesting is in the poll’s breakdown of support in different parts of the district: Lance is leading in his home base of Hunterdon County (49 percent to 38 percent), but nowhere else. Malinowski is running slightly ahead in the Morris and Warren portion of the district (44 percent to 38 percent), an area that usually supports Republicans. Not surprisingly, Malinowski has a large lead in the historically Democratic-leaning Union and Essex portion of the district (54 percent to 35 percent). Maybe the most interesting section of the district is in Somerset County, where Malinowski is ahead of Lance, 49 percent to 38 percent. This part of the district backed Republican Mitt Romney by five points in the 2012 presidential election but gave Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton a nearly six-point win four years later. (The president’s golf club is in this part of the district.)

September 20, 2018

If you are a woman in New Jersey who worked a full-time job in 2017, chances are you took home a lot less than your male counterparts. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that last year in the Garden State, women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median usual weekly earnings of $929. That was 81.6 percent of the $1,138 median usual weekly earnings of their male counterparts and it was almost identical with the national earnings ratio (81.8 percent) last year.

In New Jersey, the women’s-to-men’s earnings ratio has ranged from a low of 74.3 percent in 2004 to a high of 84.8 percent in 2010. The national earnings ratio has been in the 80 - 83 percent range since 2004. The state with the highest earnings ratio last year was New Mexico (90.9 percent); Wyoming had the lowest (76 percent) — although the BLS points out that state-by-state differences can reflect variation in the occupations and industries found in each state as well as differences in the demographics of each state’s labor force.

September 19, 2018

Newark placed first for how it integrates immigrants into the community, in the New American Economy “Cities Index.” In the NAE’s first-ever such index, the 100 largest cities in the country were assessed on a range of issues that could affect integration such as government leadership, economic empowerment, inclusivity, legal support, job opportunities, and livability.

Out of a possible score of 5, Newark attained 4.03. Baltimore and New York City placed second and third, and two cities in California — Chula Vista and San Francisco — rounded out the top five. (The NAE is made up of more than 500 Republican, Democratic and Independent mayors and business leaders who support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans.)

September 18, 2018

Expanding access to medical marijuana in New Jersey has been the order of the day under the administration of Gov. Phil Murphy. Thirty-one thousand patients, 1,200 caregivers, and 743 doctors are now involved in the program.

Those numbers are only set to rise: Five new medical conditions are now eligible for treatment (anxiety, migraines, Tourette’s syndrome, chronic pain related to musculoskeletal disorders, and chronic visceral pain). Fees have been reduced, mobile access is being allowed and the go-ahead has been given for the number of Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) in the state to double. Currently, there are six (Montclair, Woodbridge, Cranbury, Bellmawr, Egg Harbor Township and Secaucus). When the Department of Health opened the licensing application process for the new ATCs earlier this month, it received 146 applications from 106 organizations.

Research is limited on the medicinal efficacy of marijuana, although studies have shown that it can help patients with a range of illnesses.

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