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It was a busy Monday at the State House for NJPP Policy Analyst Marleina Ubel, who testified in opposition to numerous proposals that would roll back bail reform and upgrade criminal penalties for a variety of criminal offenses. Marleina joined dozens of policy experts, civil rights leaders, and residents harmed by the criminal justice system in opposing the “tough on crime” bills, telling lawmakers that they would be better served by investing in diversion programs, local violence intervention initiatives, harm reduction services, housing, and mental health services. In total, eight crime bills advanced through the committee despite mounting evidence showing that increased criminal penalties do not result in safer communities or less crime. “We all want safe communities. These bills might actually make it worse,” said NJPP’s Marleina Ubel. [NJ Monitor / Sophie Nieto-Muñoz]
Two of the “tough on crime” bills passed out of committee on Monday would increase criminal penalties for fentanyl possession even though direct service providers on the front lines of the overdose crisis warned lawmakers that these proposals would result in more deaths and a more toxic drug supply. “[Demand] has not gone away in the 50-plus years of harsher and harsher drug war enforcement. What these bills will do is destroy any faith that people who use drugs and people who live in neighborhoods targeted by the drug war once had in calling 9-1-1 to respond to an overdose and help someone,” said Caitlin O’Neill, co-director of the New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition. [WHYY / Tennyson Donyéa]
As we rapidly approach budget season here in New Jersey, climate and transit advocates are urging lawmakers to sustainably fund NJ Transit and stop raiding the Clean Energy Fund. Over the last 13 years, state lawmakers have raided $2 billion from the Clean Energy Fund to pay for things unrelated to clean energy like mass transit, as reported by NJPP Policy Analyst Alex Ambrose last month. Now, all eyes are on the Governor to see if he keeps his promise of ceasing the raids on the Clean Energy Fund during his budget address in just a few short weeks. [NJ Spotlight News / John Reitmeyer]
Speaking of NJ Transit, New Jersey residents are fighting three proposed gas-fired backup power plants — including one to power NJ Transit in Kearny. Black and brown communities often bear the brunt of pollution, and the proposed areas for the new plants are no exception. With Governor Murphy’s latest clean energy proposal only a few days old, community members and local leaders like Newark Mayor Ras Baraka are urging lawmakers to turn to cleaner sources of energy and advance climate justice. [ABC News / Wayne Perry]
More clean energy news: Governor Murphy announced a new executive order on Wednesday setting 2035 as a target date for New Jersey to be a 100 percent clean energy state. New Jersey consistently ranks among states with the worst air quality in the nation, which shouldn’t be a surprise given that 95 percent of energy consumed and 90 percent of energy produced in the state come from nonrenewable sources. The governor also announced that, by 2035, all new vehicles sold will be electric, helping remedy decades of air pollution from gas- and diesel-powered vehicles. [NJ.com / Steven Rodas]
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