Around New Jersey



TRENTON - Progressive ideas and one nagging issue highlighted an annual address to state legislators and their constituents.

On Jan. 14, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy stood before a packed house at the Statehouse in Trenton to deliver the mandated state address. After some lamentations on the Jersey City shootout from Dec. 10, Murphy would delve into issues such as healthcare, state investment, the lead water crisis, NJ Transit and more. He also brought up the bugaboo about a millionaire’s tax.

Here now are excerpts from Murphy’s 2020 State of the State Address:

“Over the past year, by working together, we have made New Jersey a better, more hopeful place to call home. And, we will continue to do so. And, because of this, I am proud to report that the state of our state is stronger and fairer than ever…

…Every family worries about how they will make ends meet or how they can cover an unexpected expense. That’s why we’re raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, why we created and expanded tax breaks for working families, why we’re attacking the sources of high property taxes, and why we’re providing more property tax relief than ever.

Too many families wrestle with how they balance work and family - particularly at a moment of need. So, we expanded paid family leave and guaranteed the right to earned sick leave.

Some families - our military families - are also anxious about their futures, and whether they may soon be deployed. We owe it to them, and to the veterans who preceded them, to create a state where their place is secured, and where they feel supported.

Our families lose sleep over the cost of health insurance coverage, how to pay their medical expenses or about the financial turmoil an unexpected accident or illness will cause. 

In stark contrast to President Trump, we’re protecting the Affordable Care Act, which has benefited millions of our residents. I remain incredibly proud of the work we have done to protect the tenets of the ACA and to establish the State-Based Health Exchange which will go online later this year…But we can do more.

So, I am establishing an Office of Health Care Affordability and Transparency, in the Governor’s Office, to work across state agencies and lead critical efforts to reduce consumer health care costs, make insurance more affordable, and improve price transparency.

And - to ensure we have the facts - I am directing the Department of Banking and Insurance to work with this new Office to track the actual costs residents pay for the health care services they receive. Armed with this data, we will make smart decisions to limit cost increases and set new standards for quality and transparency…

…This will also be a powerful tool to further combat our opioid epidemic – as well as the broader fight against addiction and mental health illnesses that, when left untreated, lead to tragedy.

The preliminary numbers suggest New Jersey saw a three-percent decrease in the number of individuals lost to opioids last year, after three years of double-digit increases. This is not a number to celebrate - 3,021 lives lost is still 3,021 precious lives too many. But, it should give us a measure of confidence that our targeted, evidence-based, and data-driven whole-of-government approach is the right one…

Our people want New Jersey to stand at the forefront of the national fight for justice, so we worked together, to allow the expungement of records of residents whose futures have been held back because of past convictions, to once again give residents on parole or probation their right to vote, and to give our proud immigrant community the ability to earn a driver’s license. 

We received the far-reaching and transformative recommendations of the Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission, led by former Chief Justice Deborah Poritz and former president of NOBLE Jiles Ship. And, I thank Senators Sandra Cunningham and Nellie Pou for serving on the commission.

Let’s recommit to enacting its recommendations, which include the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses. Let’s lead the way for creating safe communities and neighborhoods through a criminal justice system that lives up to that all-important word, ‘justice.’

And, let’s do this not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because our state will only be stronger - and better - when everyone is a full participant in our economy, our democracy, and our society… 

…Two years ago, when our administration took office, New Jersey’s clean energy future was stalled. Today, we are on the way to an ambitious goal of 7,500 MW of offshore wind energy by 2035 - enough to meet half of New Jersey’s entire retail electric needs, remove billions of tons of fossil-fuel pollution from our air, and create tens of thousands of good-paying union jobs.

And, in two weeks, I will unveil New Jersey’s new Energy Master Plan, our comprehensive roadmap for arriving at our goal of a 100-percent clean-energy economy by 2050.

We’re working to protect every school and home in New Jersey from the dangers of lead. I applaud Mayor Ras Baraka, Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, Freeholder President Brendan Gill, and many legislators, for their partnership to fast-track the elimination of lead service lines in the City of Newark.

But, we all know this is a statewide problem. It extends far beyond just lead in old water lines - lead paint is a much bigger problem - and it extends to our suburban and rural communities…

…Over the past two years, since the beginning of our administration and of our work together, our economy has responded by adding and supporting more than 72,000 new private-sector jobs.

In 2019, we set, and then reset, record lows for unemployment since the state began keeping records in 1976. Wages are increasing. More people are entering our workforce. 

I think we can all agree, our collective task is to fix the gimmicks in Trenton, not raise property taxes that hit the middle class the hardest…

…Some in Trenton claim the best way to make our state stronger is to undo the commonsense, middle-class-building accomplishments that we’ve made together. They want us to make the same false and failed choices made a decade ago.

Trenton tried their way. And, history is clear - that way failed. New Jersey hobbled its way through economic recovery because their choices failed to create jobs and failed to raise incomes…I am going to fight every day for the middle-class values that built New Jersey in the first place.

It’s why I am not giving up the fight for a millionaire’s tax, so we can ease the property tax burden on millions of middle-class families and seniors, and do more to help fund our public schools. Overwhelming majorities of residents - of all political stripes - support this. We should, too.

The millionaires and corporate CEOs made out just fine in the last recession - and, I assure you, they will again when the next one hits. Thanks to the federal tax system, the richest 400 Americans now pay a lower tax rate than the nation’s middle class - the first time that has ever happened.

The answer to ensuring we come out of any recession stronger than when we went in is not to tell the middle class and the most vulnerable, ‘perhaps another day, but not now.’ That choice was made in the last recession. And, the middle class paid the price…

…NJ TRANSIT is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in new rolling stock - rail cars, locomotive engines, and buses - to update its fleet for increased commuter comfort and greater reliability.

These steps, as we all know, are long overdue. The prior administration left NJ TRANSIT to wither on the vine. They allowed the ranks of rail engineers to be depleted. I want to thank the union men and women who have hung in there despite some very difficult working conditions.

Soon, NJ TRANSIT will announce a 10-year strategic plan, and, beyond that, a five-year capital plan, to guide the agency through this new decade. These aren’t just ‘new’ plans - it’s actually the first time these have ever been done…

We all must be disgusted by the stories which women - across the entire spectrum of race, age, and experience - tell of their mistreatment by men who felt empowered, if not protected, by Trenton’s culture.

For too many years, too many people in power have turned their eyes away from behavior they knew was not only happening, but was pervasive in Trenton. We know that Trenton is often resistant to change, and this is a most egregious failure.

Today, I am calling for us all to work together to tear down the existing system and replace it with one that treats everyone with equal dignity and respect. I am calling on my partners in government to join me in this mission. And, I am calling on those who have stood idly by and allowed this behavior to flourish to start speaking up and speaking out whenever they witness injustice.

To my fellow men, we can and must do better, not just by changing our own behavior, but by making the conscious choice to not ignore the behavior of others…

I am not going to lose sight of who it is we have to look out for. In our effort to make New Jersey stronger, we will not leave out our middle class, or those striving to join its ranks.

Our job is to lift New Jersey up, and to make it stronger, fairer, and more resilient to the unknowns of tomorrow - so our residents can feel more secure not just in their futures, but also in their children’s.

We’re now two years into this journey together, and look how far we’ve come. And, yet, we have so much more to do and so much more to fix. And, as we do so, we will continue to be who we said we’d be.

And, we will keep making New Jersey stronger and fairer for everyone who calls our state home.

Thank you, may God bless us and the people we represent, and may God continue to bless the great State of New Jersey and the United States of America.”


By Dhiren Shah and William Hathaway

The City of Newark has a lot of history, and the pride of the city was showcased this past Sunday with the 52nd Anniversary of the legendary African American Heritage Statewide Parade.

The event kicked off on the newly christened Mayor Kenneth A. Gibson Blvd., named after the city’s first black mayor. In the City Hall Rotunda, there was a breakfast/brunch, thanking the sponsors of this year’s event, and a brief ceremony hosted by the African American Heritage Parades Organization (AAHPO) along with city officials.

There was a brief prayer and pre-parade ceremony held in front of the grandstand. AAHPO President Charles N. Hall Jr. and Vice President Curtia Orr co-hosted this year. Also, there were a reading from the Holy Quran, call of the drums, and the Black National Anthem before the march down the former Broad Street. 

One good part about the parade is that it started right at 1 pm on the dot.

Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. served as this year’s Grand Marshal, and was presented a sash by Hall at the start of the parade. 

Payne said, “I am humbled to be the Grand Marshal. This is important to our legacy and it’s an honor to be part of this year’s event.”

The were some Newark city council members who attended the event as well. Central Ward councilwoman LaMonica Mclver said this event has been legendary event in Newark. Other groups who attended and marched down Gibson Blvd. were the Malcolm X. Shabazz High School Marching Band and the Orange High School Band. There was even a marching band from Hillside.

Members of the Newark Fire Department and the Newark Police Department Motorcycle unit were on hand. There were floats of legendary African Americans Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and Crispus Attacks. Newark’s current mayor Ras J Baraka presented a proclamation to the African American Heritage committee.

This year, about 5,500 to 6,000 spectators and participants were there to enjoy the parade, which is growing. Also, on Friday and Saturday the community enjoyed the festival celebration for a three-day event in all.

The event also featured some Spanish music, and the audience was encourage throughout the African American Heritage Parade.