Friday Facts and Figures is a weekly newsletter with data points, analysis, and commentary on the biggest policy debates in New Jersey and beyond.
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COVID-19 Cases: 633,731 | Deaths: 19,606
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
Abolish the Drug War
On Monday, advocates and community leaders from across the state came together to launch a new coalition to abolish the War on Drugs. The coalition, Abolish the Drug War NJ, recognizes that prohibition simply does not work, and drug use should be treated as a public health issue. “New Jersey lawmakers must understand that, for decades, oppressive drug laws have dehumanized and harmed the very communities they are sworn to serve,” NJPP President Brandon McKoy said. “The people of this state support decriminalization efforts – as we saw most recently in November’s election. Now it’s time for Trenton to step up to the plate and build a system that addresses drug use with humanity, compassion, and restoration.” [NJ Globe / Nikita Biryukov]
In one of his first acts as President, Joe Biden has chosen to reimburse states for costs incurred during the early stages of the pandemic. Specifically, the administration has eliminated a local cost-share measure tied to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds; the move will bring another $300 million to New Jersey. This is good news for the state’s finances and will free up additional funding for pandemic relief efforts. The state will need significantly more federal aid, however, to fully recover from the economic damage brought on by COVID-19. [NJ.com / Jonathan D. Salant]
A new report by the Office of the State Comptroller identified a big loophole in New Jersey’s workers’ compensation policy. For the last 15 years, the state Department of Labor shielded insurance companies from paying workers’ comp claims and, instead, shifted the costs onto the state’s pension system. While the report did not include an estimate of how much this policy has cost the state, Acting Comptroller Kevin Walsh described it as “substantial.” The Divison of Workers’ Compensation has already closed the loophole, and they have pledged to follow the report’s recommendations to stop further waste. [NJ Spotlight News / John Reitmeyer]
The Budget, Explained
The state budget is an enormous document — drafted through a long and arduous process — with big implications on all of the programs and initiatives we hold near and dear. Fortunately, NJPP’s 2020-2021 Crotty Fellow Marleina Ubel is helping demystify the budget document and process with this thorough explainer. As Marleina writes, “The budget is drafted with input from the Governor, state departments and agencies, the Legislature, residents, and after reading this explainer, you!” Click the link to read more and please consider sharing this with anyone in your network who may find this information useful. [NJPP / Marleina Ubel]
The state Attorney General (AG) is investigating the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, the state’s only prison for women, after guards brutally beat a woman incarcerated in the facility last month. This incident is the latest in a long pattern of abuse by guards. Last April, the Justice Department found that guards regularly sexually assaulted women in the prison. The state has suspended 31 people at the prison, including the top administrator, while the AG, State Comptroller, and Legislature investigate the matter. [The New York Times / Tracey Tully]
In an op-ed published by The Star-Ledger earlier this week, NJPP President Brandon McKoy and Men4Chocie Co-Executive Director Oren Jacobson called on pro-choice men to get off the sidelines and call on their representatives to pass the Reproductive Freedom Act. The proposal would codify Roe v. Wade in state law and expand access to abortion care for all. Join the conversation on Twitter using the #PassTheRFA hashtag! [NJ.com / Brandon McKoy and Oren Jacobson]
Pets of NJPP
Meet Gunner, the co-working pup of Loren Greene from New Jersey Citizen Action. Gunner is a 3-year-old rescued labrabull. He loves to go on hikes, eat ice and snow, is afraid of the rain, has an ongoing feud with an outdoor cat that he barks at from the window, and is a big supporter of Medicare for All after he tore his CCL and wasn’t able to afford his surgery. Woof!
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