Presented by Pre-K Our Way
Good Friday morning!
Since Trump supporters aren’t marauding through the Capitol at the moment, I’ll lead off with some policy news: legal marijuana, once again, appears to be on track.
It seems that after a couple weeks of back and forth, lawmakers and Gov. Murphy have settled on a penalty for underage users: Fines for those ages18 to 21, and soft punishments like “stationhouse adjustments” and “curbside warnings” for minors (aka what middle-class white kids, like me in the late 1990s, have been getting for years).
The version of the weed clean-up bill that had initially been in the Assembly was vaguer on punishments for minors and left open the possibility — albeit it probably remote — that judges could incarcerate kids for possession.
The voting sessions are scheduled for Monday, with the Assembly voting remotely and the Senate in session in-person. And then, after all this, officials can go about setting up legal weed.
Read more from Sam Sutton.
WHERE’S MURPHY? In Rockaway for an 8:30 a.m. vaccine event, followed by another at 10:30 a.m. in West Orange. Then three swearing-in ceremonies: Somerset County at noon, Perth Amboy at 1 p.m., and a virtual Middlesex County swearing-in ceremony at 6 p.m.
CORONAVIRUS TRACKER: 6,314 newly-reported cases for a total of 510,839. 123 more deaths for a total of 17,587 (and 2,059 confirmed deaths). 3,711 hospitalizations, 654 in intensive care. 137,829 vaccines administered of 406,500, or 33.9 percent.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rutgers Law’s Frank Askin, Progressive activist Bertin Lefkovic, Covenant House’s Kevin Ryan
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’m starting to feel like Sisyphus of Greek mythology — the guy that rolls the rock up the hill only to get run over by the rock, and then he has to do it over and over and over again.” — State Sen. Nicholas Sctuari (D-Union) on legalizing weed
IMAGE OF THE DAY: From AP: “Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J., helps ATF police officers clean up debris and personal belongings strewn across the floor of the Rotunda in the early morning hours of Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021” More here
THEY NEEDED TO PASS IT IN 5 DAYS SO HE COULD WAIT 2 WEEKS TO SIGN IT — Murphy signs bill reviving New Jersey’s controversial tax incentive programs, by POLITICO’s Katherine Landeragn: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday signed into law a sweeping, multi-billion-dollar bill that revitalizes the state’s controversial tax incentive programs after years of intense debate and investigations …. The new programs include annual caps, something Murphy had long sought, including a $2.5 billion cap over the length of the programs for “transformative” projects, such as an Amazon facility locating to New Jersey. The law also expands the state’s film tax credit program by a couple billion dollars and extends the length of it from six years to 13 years. Some estimates say the total bill offers about $14 billion in incentives. The new law includes a litany of smaller incentives, including a program that aids in the redevelopment of environmentally contaminated properties, as well as another program that encourages the restoration of historic buildings … Republicans have argued the bill doesn’t go far enough for small businesses that have been ravaged by the pandemic … The state’s previous tax incentive programs became one of the most divisive issues in Trenton during Murphy’s first term. An investigation by a task force appointed by Murphy found examples in which companies that either already planned to locate in New Jersey or stay in the state falsely threatened to leave in order to qualify for millions in incentives.”
— “Trenton’s hypocrisy on school funding,” by David Sciarra for NJ Spotlight: “The contrast between the eagerness of New Jersey lawmakers to fund corporate-incentive programs and their commitment to our public schools couldn’t be starker. In 2018, upward of 196 New Jersey school districts were funded below ‘adequacy,’ that is, the level required by the state’s school-funding formula to deliver a thorough and efficient education. That year, the state owed public school students close to $1.5 billion. When Murphy took office that same year, he promised to wipe out the state’s public education debt … In short order, the state’s debt to public education is now back up to $2 billion, and lawmakers have abandoned their high-sounding rhetoric promising to close the funding gap by 2024.”
LUCKILY FOR THEM LOYALTY TO TRUMP ALWAYS PAYS OFF — In anti-Trump New Jersey, GOP gubernatorial candidates are sticking with him, by POLITICO’s Matt Friedman: Even during the final, desperate days of Donald Trump’s presidency, the two main Republicans running for governor of New Jersey — a state where Trump has repeatedly proven to be electoral poison for the GOP — are maintaining their support for him. On Thursday, a day after a mob of pro-Trump rioters incited by the president’s false claims that the election was stolen from him stormed the U.S. Capitol, one of the candidates, Doug Steinhardt, a no-holds-barred supporter of the president, put no distance between himself and Trump. “The actions of violent criminals do not speak for Republicans and supporters of President Trump,” Steinhardt, a former state GOP chair, said in a statement. “The conservative grassroots movement that I’m proud to represent here in New Jersey supports democracy and the rule of law.” Steinhardt’s main primary opponent, former Assemblymember Jack Ciattarelli, refused to fault Trump by name for the riot, saying “political leaders in both parties share responsibility for the hyper-partisan rhetoric that inflamed it.” “No one is innocent here. We need a bipartisan, zero tolerance policy on this behavior — both in word and action,” Ciattarelli said in a statement Thursday.
— Blaming Trump for riots, Murphy deploys 500 N.J. National Guard members to Washington
HE WAS JUST RAZZING THOMPSON — “Razzoli will not run against Senator Thompson in LD12 GOP primary,” by InsiderNJ: “Old Bridge GOP Councilman Mark Razzoli has decided not to run for the state senate after all. ‘It’s been something that’s been weighing on me,’ the retired Jersey City Police Officer told InsiderNJ. Razzoli had originally wanted to pursue a Republican Primary run against incumbent state Senator Sam Thompson (R-12). But after numerous conversations with friends and other GOP party members, he said he decided to instead pursue reelection locally to his Old Bridge council seat this year.”
—“If Assembly seat opens up, Somerset GOP might invoke 2011 deal to claim it”
—“Deputy attorney general benched following complaints that he never consulted client”
—“Chris Christie returning to WFAN as part of Craig Carton’s gambling addiction show”
—“GOP lawmakers ask for veto override of bill to help restaurants”
—Edelstein: “The coronavirus vaccine rollout in New Jersey is a disaster and needs to change ASAP”
GOOD LUCK LOWERING THE TEMPERATURE — Don’t ‘censor’ Trump, top House Republican says after Facebook locks president’s account, by POLITICO’s Nick NIedzwiadek and Cirstiano Lima: President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts will be locked through at least Inauguration Day, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday, amid Democratic calls for social media companies to expel him permanently for inciting Wednesday’s deadly violence in the Capitol. But a leading House Republican on tech issues warned against “censoring” the president, saying Trump should instead use his access to tens of millions of followers to “lower the temperature” on social media. “Censoring the sitting President of the United States has serious free speech consequences that will extend far beyond President Trump’s time in office,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state. “President Trump needs to do the right thing and unequivocally condemn yesterday’s violence,” she said. The panel’s Democratic chair, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), had called Wednesday for the tech companies to “remove” Trump for “inciting violence and spreading dangerous misinformation” online after his supporters swarmed the Capitol building.
SURE, THE SUPREME COURT JUSTICES HAVE JURIS DOCTORS. BUT DO ANY OF THEM HAVE A DDS? — “Van Drew explains opposition to Biden certification, after riot,” by The AP: “U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew is the only member of New Jersey’s congressional delegation to oppose certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s win over President Donald Trump. The pro-Trump protesters who overtook police to mob the Capitol on Wednesday didn’t change his mind, said Van Drew, a Republican. “It’s two different things. I know some people might not agree with me on the certification process,” he said in an Associated Press interview Wednesday. ‘It’s not so much that I want to overturn the election. It is the fact that some really, really — if everybody would clear their head and look at this — that some really wrong things did happen … Van Drew said he has met constituents who tell him they believe in the unproven fraud.”
ONE THING VAN DREW HAS GOING FOR HIM IS HIS NAME RHYMES WITH ‘22 — “Some Democrats want Kennedy to challenge Van Drew In ’22,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “Democrats in New Jersey’s 2nd district are beginning to recruit a candidate to take on Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) next year, with some insiders and activists urging Amy Kennedy to seek a rematch. Kennedy has remained visible in South Jersey since losing her 2020 congressional race to Van Drew by a 52%-46% margin. In a statement sent out by the Democratic State Committee on Thursday, Kennedy slammed Van Drew for voting to reject President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory. ‘Jeff Van Drew has chosen to fan the flames and support phony conspiracy theories that threaten to do permanent damage to our democracy and our country,’ Kennedy said. With the last election just two months ago, Kennedy has not yet considered running again in 2022, according to one of her campaign advisors.”
THE REAL WORLD/ROAD RULES CHALLENGE? — “Palatucci, N.J.’s top RNC official, faces his toughest challenge,” by ROI-NJ’s Tom Bergeron: “As he drove the final 50 miles or so of his 14-hour trek to Amelia Island, Georgia — site of the winter meetings of the Republican National Committee — Bill Palatucci very well knew that his political reality had changed dramatically since he left New Jersey the day before … ‘We’re going to have to talk about the future of the party and how we repair this damage,’ he said — acknowledging it won’t be as easy as one might think. The Republican Party, he concedes, is in danger of splitting into warring camps over Trump. ‘I don’t think that’s a fear, it’s a reality,’ he said.
—Pizarro: “NJGOP Chairman Lavery’s non-statement on the day Trump’s followers besieged the U.S. Capitol”
—Moran: “Will Republicans wake up now?”
—“Menendez ‘fearful’ of what Trump is capable of doing”
—“At least half of New Jersey’s congressional delegation backs impeachment”
—“N.J. presses Supreme Court not to hear PennEast Pipeline case after feds throw support behind it”
—BPU approves PSE&G’s $707M smart meter plan
—“Trump’s conduct ‘selfish and self-centered,’ long-time ally Chris Christie says”
‘THIS IS EMBARRASSING’ — “N.J. councilman charged with DWI in Christmas Eve crash that caused car to flip,” by NJ Advance Media’s Avalon Zoppo: “A Roselle Park councilman was charged with drunken driving after he ran a stop light and hit another car on Christmas Eve. Michael R. Connelly, 59, was stopped at a red light in a 1995 Ford Explorer on Locust Street and Route 28 and made a right turn onto Route 28 before the signal turned green, striking a Honda Civic at the intersection around 9:21 p.m., according to an accident report filed by Roselle Park police. The Honda Civic struck a divider and overturned onto its roof, according to an incident report. An officer who was stopped at the traffic light and witnessed the crash helped free the driver from their vehicle using a seat belt cutter and window hammer, according to an incident report. Connelly told police he had been at an American Legion that night drinking, according to the incident report and body camera footage from the scene. ‘This is embarrassing. I’m a councilman, you know,’ he told one of the officers on scene.”
APRIL SHOWERS BRING STUDENT GLOWERS — “N.J’s largest school district to stay all-remote until April due to COVID outbreak,” by NJ Advance Media’s Rebecca Panico: “Newark Public Schools announced Wednesday that students would continue with remote class until April 12 due to the coronavirus outbreak. Students were scheduled to begin returning to in-person classes on Jan. 25. But the plan was opposed by Newark Teachers Union President John Abeigon, Chalkbeat first reported. ‘We don’t want to play ping pong with the economy of our parents,’ Abeigon told NJ Advance Media on Thursday, adding that it wouldn’t make sense to reopen schools just to close them again in a week. ‘Right now everyone is a groove. The parents are in a groove. The teachers and students are in a groove.’ In-person classes will begin on April 12 with a hybrid model in Newark, the district said.”
—“‘We don’t think it’s safe’: Newark Teachers Union opposes plan to reopen classrooms this month”
NEPOTISMENASHE — “Lakewood appoints deputy mayor’s wife to paid utilities authority post,” by The Asbury Park Press’ Gustavno Martinez Contreras: “The township didn’t look very far in filling the latest opening on the Municipal Utilities Authority. The pick: The wife of Deputy Mayor Menashe Miller. The Lakewood Township Committee appointed Yechoved Miller on Nov. 12. She took over the unexpired term of commissioner Rabbi Pinchos Gershon ‘PG’ Waxman, who died of COVID-19 complications on Oct. 27. Miller’s term will expire on Jan. 31, 2025 … Commissioners receive a yearly stipend of $5,000, and newly appointed members don’t receive health benefits. Time served as a commissioner counts towards a state pension, Coles said.”
TODAY, ON A VERY SPECIAL EPISODE OF MELROSE PLACE — “Pickleball’s popularity skyrocketed in Ridgewood but not everyone is happy about it,” by The Record’s Marsha A. Stoltz: “Pickleball courts will remain closed while the Village Council seeks solutions to noise complaints from neighboring residents. The courts were closed Dec. 31 ‘for the season,’ according to the village. Council debated off and on until 11:45 p.m. Wednesday without reaching a decision on what balls, racquets, rotations, hours, distance and sound suppression would make the game’s continual pop-pop-pop more palatable to those living nearby. And some residents remained unconvinced that any of it would help. ‘Noise is subjective,’ said Doug Rhoten of Melrose Place. ‘I’ve talked to someone who lives 1,000 feet from the courts who says the noise bothers her. The neighbors just don’t want it. If you spread it around, you will exacerbate the problem.’”
—“State judge keeps Cumberland County Jail injunction in place after looking at plan”
—“South Jersey school district reaches $950,000 settlement with family of girl lured and attacked by cyber predator”
—“Toms River awaits decision in BASF tax appeal; here’s how it could hit your wallet”
—“Hoboken council OKs measure opposing Sacco, Stack’s Palisade Cliffs Protection Act”
—“Pinkin sworn as Middlesex Clerk, creating Assembly vacancy”
—“Jersey City Police Chief Kelly set to retire next month after over three decades of service”
—“Cresskill offers $25K incentive to longtime employees to retire”
—“Newly renamed Sussex County Board of Commissioners appoints first director”
WE’RE NOT SENDING OUR BEST — “N.J. man among those arrested during Trump-inspired storming of U.S. Capitol, officials say,” by NJ Advance Media’s Kevin Shea: “A New Jersey man is among the arrests made by police during Wednesday’s storming of the U.S. Capitol building, an attack led by President Trump loyalists that left four dead, authorities said Thursday. Leonard Guthrie, of Cape May, is charged with unlawful entry, the U.S. Capitol police said in a press statement Thursday. His age was not listed. The Capitol police reported 10 arrests for unlawful entry, and four people charged with assaulting police, or firearms charges.”
—“Man in video from Capitol ambush is 28-year-old from N.J., ex-Peace Corps volunteer,” by NJ Advance Media’s Jessica Remo: “The man in a widely circulated news video from Wednesday’s ambush on the United States Capitol is Thomas Baranyi, a 28-year-old from New Jersey who served in the Peace Corps as recently as last year. In the video interview with a reporter from WKRG, a CBS affiliate, Baranyi holds up his his right hand to show a reporter the blood still there after he ambushed the Capitol building with other rioters and a woman next to him was killed … Baranyi explained how he ambushed the building with others, saying ‘we tore through the scaffolding, threw flash bangs and tear gas, and blitzed our way in through all the chambers.’”