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Vaccine Doses: 9,535,641
Fully Vaccinated People: 4,863,135
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
Nature must really be healing, because earlier this week state lawmakers rammed through a $46.4 billion budget bill in one of the least transparent processes in recent memory. The 281-page budget was voted on in the Senate Budget Committee on Tuesday a mere 11 minutes after the bill text was made public. This gave no time for press, outside policy experts, advocates, members of the public, and even some lawmakers to read the bill before it was approved. “We thought that the number, going into this budget, that we’d all remember would be $10 billion, because that’s the surplus. It’s really going to be 11 minutes, because that’s how long the [budget] language was available before lawmakers voted on it,” said NJPP President Brandon McKoy at a press conference outside the State House on Thursday. [NJ Spotlight News / Joanna Gagis]
Speaking of the budget, Stacey Barchenger of The Record provides a great summary of what made it into the spending bill — and what’s missing. While it lacked a transparent process, the $46.4 billion budget includes some great investments, namely a record pension payment, tuition-free college for low- to moderate-income students, tax relief for seniors and low- to moderate-income families, and billions of dollars to both pay off existing debt and prop up the state’s depleted “rainy day fund.” [NorthJersey.com / Stacey Barchenger]
Missing from the budget? Pandemic relief for undocumented immigrants. Last month, Governor Murphy announced a $40 million excluded worker fund for immigrants excluded for federal relief, but that will only cover a small fraction of the state’s nearly 500,000 immigrant residents. When asked if additional relief would be included in the Legislature’s budget, Senate Budget Chairman Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) said it’s “not in the budget process,” despite the state having a $10 billion surplus. A budget resolution introduced by Senator Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) and Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro (D-Hudson) would have deposited an additional $988 million to the Excluded Worker Fund so it could provide relief to all immigrant families. [NJ.com / Sophie Nieto-Munoz]
Big health care news: the Senate and Assembly have passed Cover All Kids legislation! By improving and expanding NJ FamilyCare, the bill would provide access to affordable and comprehensive health care to the 88,000 children in New Jersey who are currently uninsured. Specifically, the legislation would eliminate premiums and waiting periods in NJ FamilyCare, increase outreach initiatives to enroll more residents, and establish new coverage options through a buy-in program. This legislation would not be possible without years and years of hard work by advocates, policy experts, and legislative champion Senator Joe Vitale. A big congrats and thank you to everyone who made this possible, especially the New Jersey Citizen Action team, former NJPP Health Policy Director Ray Castro, and everyone in the NJ for Health Care coalition. [NJ.com / Susan Livio]
A controversial bill that would allow police officers to review their body camera footage before writing incident reports was fast-tracked through the Legislature this week, despite strong pushback from civil rights organizations and public defenders. By allowing police to review body cam footage, the bill would allow officers to tailor their reports to what’s on video instead of providing an independent account of their intentions and behaviors. “It’s incredibly concerning that in the year since George Floyd’s death, a lot of lawmakers have called for reform but the bills that actually serve for accountability are languishing, while the only bill that’s moved is the one that gives more power to police,” Amol Sinha, executive director of the ACLU-NJ. [Politico NJ / Matt Friedman]
Did you miss this week’s #Progress2021 event on alternatives to policing and the War on Drugs? If so, I’m sorry, because you missed out on a a truly inspiring conversation on ways to reimagine public safety. But fret not! We have a recording up on the NJPP Facebook page — click the link to tune in. [NJPP / Progress 2021]
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