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    New Jersey’s Democratic-led Legislature has teed up a vote on a record budget of over $50 billion that boosts spending 9% over last year, sets aside $2 billion for property-tax payers and renters, and carries a $6 billion surplus into the new fiscal year. The spending blueprint emerged from closed-door negotiations late Monday and sped through the Democratic-led Assembly and Senate committees soon after. Republicans issued what has become an annual refrain that there was little transparency and short time to review the plan. Among the new proposals is a property tax relief program that will offer credits to property owners and rebates to renters.

      Hundreds of protesters have marched on New Jersey’s Capitol to urge Gov. Phil Murphy to deny permits to any future project that involves the burning of fossil fuels. Environmentalists listed a litany of proposed projects around the state that they want the governor to reject, including power plants and transport facilities for liquefied natural gas. The Democratic governor did not see or hear Thursday's protest because he was in Washington attending a White House meeting on offshore wind energy development. Seventeen-year-old Rey Watson of Whitehouse Station says she came to the protest out of frustration that those in power are not doing enough to address climate change.

        A former communications director at a pharmaceutical company has pleaded guilty in what authorities say was an insider trading scheme. Lauren Wood pleaded guilty Wednesday in Newark to one count of securities fraud. Wood and former executive Usama Malik were charged in December. A Securities and Exchange Commission complaint identifies Malik as the former CFO of Immunomedics, based in Morris Plains, New Jersey. Immunomedics was sold in 2020. Charges against Malik are pending. Federal authorities say Malik shared nonpublic information with Wood about the drug's effectiveness in pre-market clinical trials, and Wood used it to make more than $200,000 in profits from stock sales.

          New Jersey would change the age for purchasing rifles and shotguns from 18 to 21 under legislation an Assembly committee has advanced. The Assembly Judiciary Committee passed bills Wednesday aimed at tightening the state’s already strict gun laws. The measure comes after fatal shootings in Texas and New York in which authorities identified the shooters as 18-year-olds. The fate of the age bill is uncertain because the state Senate has not so far taken up the measure. Under current law, New Jersey requires residents to be 21 to purchase a handgun. The new measure would raise the age threshold to 21 for those seeking to purchase rifles and shotguns.

          Back-to-school shoppers will get a break on New Jersey’s sales tax later this summer. Gov. Phil Murphy and fellow Democrats in the Legislature announced an agreement on Wednesday to implement a short sales tax holiday. Murphy and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senate President Nicholas Scutari said they reached an agreement as part of ongoing budget negotiations to halt the state’s 6.625% sales tax from Aug. 27 to Sept. 5 on school supplies. The covered items include pens, pencils, notebooks, binders, art supplies, books and computers.

          A former New Jersey Transit bus driver who caused the death of a passenger who was dragged when his arm became trapped in the bus door has been sentenced to five years in state prison. Essex County prosecutors say Fayola Howard was sentenced Monday. The 36-year-old Bloomfield resident had pleaded guilty last month to reckless vehicular homicide and other charges in connection with the Dec. 31, 2019, incident in Newark. Authorities say the passenger, 55-year-old Newark resident Kevin Thomas, had stepped off the bus to return a pocketbook to a woman who had left it on the vehicle. When he attempted to return to the front door of the bus, Howard closed the door on his arm and drove off.

          It could be another year before the dispute between New York and New Jersey over the future of their joint port watchdog commission is resolved. The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday released a schedule for the two states to file legal arguments. The last deadline is in late November, indicating the high court wouldn't hear the case until early 2023, and then rule months later. New Jersey has sought to withdraw from the bistate Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor formed in the 1950s to investigate corruption at the ports. In March, the Supreme Court sided with the state of New York, which had petitioned the court to block New Jersey from leaving.

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          Content by Brand Ave. Studios. The annual Amazon Prime Day is coming July 12 and 13, and per usual will offer discounts on many of your favorite things.

          Content by Brand Ave. Studios. The annual Amazon Prime Day is coming July 12 and 13, and per usual will offer discounts on many of your favorite things.

          New Jersey officials are suing Ford Motor Company, alleging the automaker contaminated the ancestral homeland of a Native American tribe by dumping paint sludge and other pollutants into a former mine. It seeks unspecified damages to restore the land, and to compensate the state and local communities for losses they sustained when natural resources were damaged at the former Ringwood Mine site in northern New Jersey. Much of that land is the ancestral home of the Ramapough Lenape Nation, whose members believe cancer deaths and other illnesses are attributable to the contamination. Ford did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

          A New Jersey man who killed his ex-girlfriend and drove their toddler son to Tennessee with her body in the trunk last July has been sentenced to 30 years in prison. Tyler Rios pleaded guilty in April to aggravated manslaughter and desecrating human remains in the death of 24-year-old Yasemin Uyar. The Union County Prosecutor's Office in New Jersey says Rios killed Uyar in her Rahway home, then fled with their 2-year-old son. The boy eventually was found unharmed at a hotel in Monterey, Tennessee. Uyar's body was found nearby in a wooded area off Interstate 40.

          In this episode, Kelli Lemon and Michael Paul Williams talk with The New York Times Magazine and 1619 Project contributor Linda Villarosa about her new book "Under the Skin: Racism, Inequality, and the Health of a Nation." In the conversation and book, Villarosa shares troubling statistics t…

          Two popular Jersey Shore towns are going to court to try to block so-called “pop-up parties” at which thousands of people gather on the beach. They're acting after previous events resulted in public drinking, drug use, fights and vandalism. At least two such parties planned for later this month are currently being advertised in online fliers that encourage attendees to bring their own liquor and marijuana, and promise public boxing matches. Long Branch and Point Pleasant Beach are seeking court orders blocking such parties without a permit and want financial damages from the organizers. Point Pleasant Beach also plans to go to court against many of the same individuals by Monday.

          A New Jersey man has admitted to illegally selling unregistered pesticides as a COVID-19 defense to government and municipal entities. Paul Andrecola pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Camden to wire fraud and other charges. A criminal complaint alleges the 63-year-old Burlington County man made and sold pesticides that weren't registered with the EPA as required, and weren't on the EPA's list of products deemed to be effective against COVID-19. Andrecola and others allegedly put another company's EPA registration numbers on his products and sold them to federal and local entities for $2.7 million. He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 11.

          The busy George Washington Bridge connecting New Jersey and New York City is moving to cashless tolls, and in the process removing a reminder of a notorious piece of history. Beginning in July, drivers paying cash tolls will have their license plates scanned and will be billed by mail. The tollbooths on the bridge's upper level were at the center of 2013's “Bridgegate” scandal when political operatives realigned traffic lanes to create gridlock near the bridge to punish a local mayor who didn't support then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. As part of the transformation, the tollbooths and islands will be demolished.

          One of the companies alleged to have polluted Newark’s Passaic River decades ago is moving closer to building a waterfront park as part of remediation efforts. The Department of Justice announced an agreement with the BASF Corp. on Tuesday. The river suffered extensive environmental damage from the production of toxins including the herbicide Agent Orange at the former Diamond Alkali site in Newark in the 1950s and 1960s and is on the national list of Superfund sites. BASF would receive a $73 million credit for building and managing the park that would offset its potential liability stemming from the Superfund site.

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