Saturday, April 18, 2015

POSTED: Friday, April 10, 2015, 5:13 AM

The state is on a path to meet its goals to reduce greenhouse-gas pollution by 2020, but achieving its ambitious 2050 targets will take much more work, according to an updated inventory of those emissions by the Rutgers Climate Institute and Rutgers Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy..

The 16-page inventory is the first prepared by the institute and Bloustein. It focuses on greenhouse-gas emissions in 2012. It shows that New Jersey is ahead of its 2020 target of reducing emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels, a point frequently made by the Christie administration.

But achieving an 80 percent reduction by 2050 from 2006 levels will be much more difficult to attain, according to the study.

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POSTED: Friday, April 10, 2015, 5:12 AM

It was no surprise when advocates for low-wage workers and groups representing business came to different conclusions this week about a report on the impact of local earned-sick-leave rules in Jersey City.

After all, the two sides have not seen eye to eye since the city introduced and passed its ordinance in 2013, and they have remained at odds as eight other towns have passed their own sick-leave rules. Business groups have filed suit to stop a Trenton ordinance passed by voter referendum from taking effect.

This disagreement also frames the debate in the Legislature. Democrats are touting an Assembly bill that would require all New Jersey companies to provide earned sick leave, and its sponsor, Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden), expects it to come up for a vote before the legislative session ends in June. Republicans have criticized the bill, and Gov. Chris Christie has said earned-sick-leave mandate would cost the state jobs.

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POSTED: Friday, April 10, 2015, 5:11 AM

For years, employers have been offering their workers incentives to improve their health, with rewards ranging from reimbursing gym memberships to offering free screening tests.

But a possible conflict between two federal laws is leading companies to seek clearer guidance on what exactly they can include in their wellness programs.

While the Affordable Care Act allows employers to charge workers more for insurance if they don’t take steps to improve their health, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from forcing workers to undergo medical exams or requiring them to disclose disabilities.

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POSTED: Friday, April 10, 2015, 5:10 AM

New Jersey lawmakers are making a new effort to control the presence of a toxic chemical in drinking water six years after the Department of Environmental Protection failed to act on a recommendation from a scientific panel that the chemical should be regulated.

A bill that would call on the DEP to establish a maximum contaminant limit, or MCL, for 1,2,3 Trichloropropane (TCP) -- which has been classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a likely carcinogen -- was released by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee on March 19 and now heads for a vote in the full Assembly.

The measure, A-3954, would direct the Drinking Water Quality Institute, a panel that advises the DEP, to recommend an MCL for the chemical’s presence in drinking water.

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POSTED: Friday, April 10, 2015, 5:09 AM

Gov. Chris Christie’s administration has officially closed the books on one of its most tumultuous budget years.

The state earlier this week released the comprehensive financial audit for the 2014 fiscal year, which saw the administration struggle with a $1 billion budget shortfall and a court challenge of its plan to remedy the gap before the fiscal year ended back on June 30.

Lawmakers last month complained that the audit was not yet available for review, saying it would make it harder for them to evaluate the $33.8 billion spending plan Christie has proposed for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

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POSTED: Friday, April 10, 2015, 5:05 AM

The average New Jersey taxpayer spent $4,540 to support our national military, according to a data tool called “State Smart,” created by the National Priorities Project, a nonpartisan research organization.

That amount includes $983.44 for military personnel and $115.01 for nuclear weapons. It is the biggest slice of the $16,831 State Smart said was the average federal tax receipt for New Jerseyans in 2015.

The next-largest chunk of the tax bill was $4,457.56, which went to healthcare, including $1,990.82 for Medicaid. Interest on the federal debt was third, at $2,576.04.

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POSTED: Thursday, April 9, 2015, 5:15 AM

Plans for sweeping restructuring of state-run Camden school district, including turning over four schools to charter operators, faced its first open challenge yesterday when lawyers contended that the moves violated state law and regulations on several fronts.

The Education Law Center, the Newark-based advocacy group, released a statement that said the plans failed to meet both the letter and spirit of the Urban Hope Act, the 2012 law that cleared the way for the charter-operated “renaissance schools.”

It is these “renaissance school” projects that would expand under the reorganization plan announced by Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard last month.

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POSTED: Thursday, April 9, 2015, 5:14 AM

The Obama administration’s plan to lower greenhouse gas emissions from power plants will also lower electric bills for customers, particularly low- and fixed-income households, as well as provide health benefits to those residents, according to a new study.

The Natural Resources Defense Council report offers a defense of the so-called Clean Power Plan, a proposal that has come under intense criticism from many in Congress and the Christie administration, which called the plan fundamentally flawed in a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this past December.

Proposed by the EPA in June 2014, the plan virtually everyone agrees could lead to the retirement of many coal-fired power plants -- a prospect critics say would hurt the economy, shed thousands of jobs, and lead to higher costs for consumers on their electric bills.

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