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December 21, 2018

New Jersey’s accountants are in agreement: The state’s minimum wage should be raised. Just not to $15 an hour. A new survey released by the New Jersey Society of certified public accountants (NJCPA) shows that just over 55 percent of the 1,204 accountants polled supported a minimum wage hike even without exemptions for seasonal or teenage workers. However, 63 percent of those same accountants said raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would hurt New Jersey’s economy even if it happened gradually over a period of years.

Gov. Phil Murphy has been pushing for a $15 minimum wage since his time on the campaign trail but his efforts fizzled as he was unable to reach a breakthrough with the Legislature before the end of the year. Senate President Steve Sweeney told reporters this week that he thinks “we’re close on minimum wage,” but there is still much to be discussed concerning carveouts for some groups, including seasonal and teen workers.

December 20, 2018

Six businesses have been OK’d by New Jersey’s Department of Health to apply for permits to open new medical marijuana dispensaries — two each for the northern, central, and southern parts of the state. Six dispensaries — or Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs), as they are formally known — are already in operation here.

The winners were chosen from 146 applications and, said Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal, the six were “very strong applicants… including minority-owned and women-owned businesses.” The successful applications were by NETA NJ, Phillipsburg and GTI New Jersey, LLC, Paterson in the north; Verano NJ LLC, Elizabeth (dispensary), Rahway (cultivation site) and Justice Grown, Ewing for central New Jersey; MPX New Jersey, Atlantic City (dispensary), Galloway (cultivation), and Columbia Care New Jersey, Vineland in the south.

Now they’ve made it this far, they’ll have to go through a stringent process, including background checks, proof of a dispensary location and municipal approval, as well as compliance with Division of Medical Marijuana regulations on safety, security, etc. That will all begin in the new year, Elnahal said, when officials will meet with the six “to refine their timetable for growing product and opening their doors.”

It’s all part of the Murphy administration’s expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program, which now has 38,000 participating patients, an increase of more than 20,000 since Gov. Phil Murphy took office.

December 19, 2018

A study released by a national smart growth-group shows that of New Jersey’s 169 so-called Opportunity Zones, many rank among those with the most potential when measured against zones elsewhere in the country.

The Opportunity Zones program was enacted in 2017 to drive long-term capital investments into low-income rural and urban communities. The federal program is designed to attract private investment in distressed communities through Qualified Opportunity Funds.

The report, by LOCUS, a national coalition of real-estate developers and investors, analyzed and ranked the nearly 8,000 opportunity zones in the country and placed many in the Garden State at the very top.

It ranked Newark’s Downtown and Ironbound neighborhoods as top performers, second and fifth in the nation. Jersey City’s Journal Square ranked third in one smart-growth category. Downtown Newark also ranked fourth in the nation for providing areas that are considered both walkable urban places and socially and economically inclusive.

December 18, 2018

If you thought you heard a big sound very like a giant “phew!” in Newark yesterday, it might have been emanating from NJ Transit headquarters as it marked 100-percent completion of federally mandated train safety measures, just getting in under the wire for an important deadline.

The Federal Railroad Administration had given until December 31 of this year for NJ Transit to install Positive Train Control (PTC). That meant installing equipment on locomotives and cab control cars, along with 326 miles of wayside equipment including radios, transponders and poles, as well as initiating PTC testing and employee training. Failure to meet the deadline could have incurred federal fines.

Gov. Phil Murphy’s office trumpeted the achievement in a press release, one in which the governor also noted that “There’s still a lot of work left to do on PTC.” That work — both installation and training — is set to continue for two more years. Full implementation of PTC won’t come until the end of 2020.

Now, if only the transit agency could do better at meeting some of its workaday deadlines, such as running trains on schedule or just running trains at all. The governor’s satisfaction at the PTC success was quickly overtaken yesterday evening by the chaos caused when NJ Transit canceled trains right and left, blaming “equipment availability,” “mechanical problems” and “manpower shortage.” It canceled 14 trains on various lines, leaving a lot of tired and angry commuters at Penn Station for hours.

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.”

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