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: 777,521 | Deaths: 21,795
[New Jersey Department of Health / COVID-19 Dashboard]
New Jersey is one step away from enacting early voting! On Thursday, the Senate passed S3203 by a 28-8 vote, sending the proposal to Governor Murphy’s desk. The bill would require each county to open between three and seven polling places for nine days, including weekends, prior to general elections. This stands in stark contrast to efforts in other states, namely Georgia, to pass voter suppression laws. “There are few rights more important than a citizen’s ability to vote,” said Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex), a longtime sponsor of early-voting legislation. “Passing early voting and implementing electronic poll books will ensure our fundamental right to have our voices heard.” [NJ Spotlight News / Colleen O’Dea]
On Wednesday, the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice unveiled a new policy platform to make the state fairer and more welcoming for immigrants and their families. The platform calls for: banning new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention contracts; making public places like schools and hospitals safer and their data more secure; strengthening the Immigrant Trust Directive and making it permanent; and removing harmful terms like “alien” from state language. The campaign launch coincided with the release of new research by NJPP Policy Analyst Vineeta Kapahi which found that more than 15,000 immigrants have been ordered deported in New Jersey over the last five years. [NJ 101.5 / Michael Symons]
As the 50 year anniversary of the War on Drugs approaches, advocates across the state are calling on lawmakers to follow Oregon’s lead by decriminalizing all drugs and treating substance use as an issue of public health. Rooted in racism, the drug war has not met any of its stated goals; it has not reduced drug use, limited drug supply, nor has it kept people who use drugs or their communities safe. Instead, it has deepened racial inequities, as Black residents make up 74 percent of those imprisoned for drug use even though Black and white residents use drugs at similar rates. “There is a throughline between slavery, the failure of Reconstruction, through redlining to the chain gangs, all the way to the drug war,” said the Rev. Charles Boyer, a member of Abolish the Drug War coalition and Director of Salvation and Social Justice. “It’s critically important that we see it that way, that we see it as a moral issue and see people in full humanity.” [NorthJersey.com / Dustin Racioppi]
Earlier this week, the city of Evanston, Illinois approved a first-of-its-kind reparations program for Black residents. The policy is meant to help close the racial wealth gap and provide restitution for the harms of slavery and racist housing policies. The program, which could act as a model for states like New Jersey, will grant qualifying households with up to $25,000 for down payments or home repairs; the initiative is funded by revenue from the city’s tax on recreational cannabis. Spearheaded by Alderwoman Robin Rue Simmons, the new policy was guided by a historical report on city policies and practices that impacted Black residents over the last century.”The strongest case for reparations by the City of Evanston is in the area of housing, where there is sufficient evidence showing the City’s part in housing discrimination as a result of early City zoning ordinances in place between 1919 and 1969 when the City banned housing discrimination,” city officials wrote. [NPR / Rachel Treisman]
Great news for commuters: the Biden administration is moving ahead on approving the Gateway Tunnel. In a House Transportation Committee hearing on Thursday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg underscored the importance of the project and the consequences of inaction on the nation’s economy. After years of delays and inaction under the Trump administration, the Department of Transportation now hopes to complete the project’s environmental impact statement by the end of June. [NJ.com / Jonathan D. Salant]
Act now to urge your lawmakers to support New Jersey’s immigrant communities with policies that are fair, humane, and reflect our values of inclusion and respect for human dignity. This action alert lifts up the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice’s new Fair and Welcoming Platform. [New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice]
On Thursday, frontline workers and advocates from across the state called for a state budget that meets the needs of the moment and funds New Jersey’s pandemic recovery. If you missed the virtual roundtable, you can watch a recording by clicking the link. [For The Many NJ / Facebook Live]
Pets of NJPP
Last week you met Lucky, now meet his dog brother Bear! Like Lucky, Bear is also a rescue dog — he’s also really big. Bear can be a bit jealous and possessive, but he’s a good boy nonetheless. In addition to play fighting and snuggling up with his brother, Bear likes walking around “The Island” in Trenton with the other neighborhood pups. Woof!
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