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Stories about New Jersey

Governor Phil Murphy (D) issues one executive order from Jan. 31-Feb. 6

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) issued one executive order from Jan. 31-Feb. 6. As of Feb. 6, Murphy has issued one executive order in 2023—nine fewer than he did at this point a year ago.

Governors use executive orders to manage executive branch operations. During the week of Jan. 31-Feb. 6, the nation’s governors issued 13 executive orders. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) issued the most with three. Governors in 40 states issued zero. Republican governors issued seven of the 13 orders, while Democratic governors issued six.

Murphy has served as governor since Jan. 16, 2018. He issued 37 executive orders in 2022 and 66 in 2021. Nationally, governors issued at least 1,559 executive orders in 2022. Governors have issued 197 executive orders in 2023. Republican governors issued 134, while Democratic governors issued 63.  New Jersey is a Democratic trifecta, meaning Democrats control the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature. 

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Incumbent Tom Malinowski (D), Tom Kean Jr. (R) in rematch for New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District

Incumbent Tom Malinowski (D) and Tom Kean Jr. (R) are running in the general election for New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District on Nov. 8, 2022.

Malinowski, who was first elected in 2018, defeated Kean 50.6% to 49.4% in the 2020 election for the 7th District.

New Jersey’s congressional district boundaries were redrawn after the 2020 census. Joe Biden (D) defeated Donald Trump (R) 54.2% to 44.3% in the 7th District in the 2020 presidential election. According to data from Daily Kos, the redrawn 7th District voted for Biden 51.1% to 47.3%.

NJ Spotlight News‘ Colleen O’Dea wrote, “On Oct. 1, registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats by about 17,000 in the district. At the same time two years ago, there were 9,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. Malinowski beat Kean two years ago by about 5,000 votes.” According to O’Dea, “The voter registration split is 30% Democrats, 33% Republicans and 35% unaffiliated.”

Malinowski says that during his time in Congress he “[helped] pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill to fund the Gateway Tunnel, [brought] manufacturing and supply chains home to America, and [won] real progress on health care costs, gun safety and the environment.” He said, “Tom Kean Jr. doesn’t seem to have a platform or a solution to anything, even on the economy – the one issue he beats the drum on.”

Kean, a former minority leader in the New Jersey Senate, says, “I have consistently fought to lower taxes and grow jobs as a leader in the state legislature and that is priority number one for me in Congress.” He said, “Tom Malinowski ignored the warning of economists, listened to Nancy Pelosi and backed billions in wasteful spending. Now we are all paying more. I’m running for Congress to work across the aisle to get prices down and stop the reckless spending.”

The Democratic House Majority PAC, Republican Congressional Leadership Fund, and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) have run ads in this district. According to the New Jersey Globe‘s Joey Fox, “Outside Republican groups have invested much more in the 7th district than Democratic groups. … The 7th district is the only district in New Jersey to have seen significant outside spending this cycle.”

The outcome of this race will affect the partisan balance of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 118th Congress. All 435 House districts are up for election. Democrats currently hold a 220-212 majority in the U.S. House, with three vacancies.

Hillsborough Board of Education votes to approve K-12 social studies curriculum revisions

The Hillsborough Board of Education in New Jersey voted on September 19, 2022, to approve a revised K-12 social studies curriculum. Board members announced they would delay voting on the curriculum until October, but decided to vote to pass the curriculum after hearing public comments from educators and parents. The revisions include a variety of changes including civics standards and new diverse resources for instruction.    

Some board members, such as John Oliver, argued that the vote should have been delayed to address concerns regarding certain content in the curriculum guides. Oliver said, “There are a couple of topics that I found on there to be a little bit controversial, a little bit offensive. I don’t have… I haven’t had a chance to really go through it and look at it but my point is to hold this off to give the public a little more chance to review this and give them an opportunity to weigh in as well,” according to Patch. 

During the period for public comments, educators argued that the curriculum outlines in question adhered to state standards and are meant to be used as guides for teachers. Dr. Kim Feltre, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, said, “A board will never see individual worksheets because that’s not what… that’s up to the teachers. The teachers take the guide and they turn it into what goes on in the classroom and that’s where they are the professionals,” according to Patch. 

The Hillsborough Board of Education is responsible for establishing curriculum guides for teachers to use to develop instructional materials that adhere to state standards. The K-12 social studies curriculum guides can be found on the Hillsborough Township Public Schools website.  

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New Jersey incorporates climate change into K-12 curriculum standards for public schools

New Jersey became the first state to incorporate climate change into K-12 curriculum standards at the start of the 2022-2023 school year. The State Board of Education first announced that they would adopt the new curriculum standards in June 2020, after the curriculum changes were initiated by New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy. The updated standards aim “to prepare students to understand how and why climate change happens and the impact it has on our local and global communities as well as to act in informed and sustainable ways.”

The state board is responsible for updating the state’s curriculum standards every five years. The board establishes required curriculum standards that local districts must adhere to and provides recommendations to assist local districts in implementing the curriculum. New Jersey school districts can find resources for teaching climate change on the New Jersey Climate Education website.  

Governor Phil Murphy (D) wrote on Twitter on September 6, 2022, “Our children are our future, and the lessons New Jersey students will learn with this new curriculum will bring us one step closer to building our green economy and reaching and sustaining 100% clean energy by 2050.”

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New Jersey committee approves bill that includes unemployment insurance tax credits for small businesses

The New Jersey Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee on May 19 approved A-3683, a bill that would give tax credits to some small businesses with an aim to offset increasing unemployment insurance taxes following the coronavirus pandemic. The New Jersey Business and Industry Association estimates businesses in the state face about $250 million in additional taxes this fiscal year and will owe an additional $600 million over the next two years.

The solvency of New Jersey’s unemployment trust fund decreased during the coronavirus pandemic. New Jersey uses a formula that triggers automatic unemployment insurance tax increases when the unemployment fund is depleted. The bill aims to reduce that increased tax burden for small employers. If the bill becomes law, companies can receive unemployment tax credits if they meet the U.S. Small Business Administration’s definition of a small business.

The bill would also require the state Department of Labor to provide a 30-day notice to employers before changes in the unemployment insurance tax rate can take effect.

The full state Assembly, the state Senate, and Gov. Phil Murphy (D) still need to approve the bill before it becomes law.

Unemployment insurance is a joint federal and state program that provides temporary monetary benefits to eligible laid-off workers who are actively seeking new employment. Qualifying individuals receive unemployment compensation as a percentage of their lost wages in the form of weekly cash benefits while they search for new employment.

The federal government oversees the general administration of state unemployment insurance programs. The states control the specific features of their unemployment insurance programs, such as eligibility requirements and length of benefits.

For more information on New Jersey’s unemployment insurance program, click here. For information about unemployment insurance programs across the country, click here.

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New Jersey sees the most candidates running for the U.S. House since at least 2014

The filing deadline for candidates running for Congress in New Jersey this year was April 4, 2022. Fifty-five candidates are running for New Jersey’s 12 U.S. House districts, including 20 Democrats and 35 Republicans. That’s 4.58 candidates per district, more than the 4.17 candidates per district in 2020 and the 4.08 in 2018.

Here are some other highlights from this year’s filings:

  • This is the first election to take place under new district lines following the 2020 census. New Jersey was apportioned 12 districts, the same number it was apportioned after the 2010 census.
  • Fifty-five candidates are running for U.S. House in New Jersey. That’s the highest number of House candidates since at least 2014, the earliest year for which we have data.

  • Rep. Albio Sires (D) is retiring, making the 8th district the only open seat this year. That’s one more than in 2020, when there were no open seats, and one less than in 2018, when the 2nd and the 11th districts were open.
  • Nine candidates — seven Republicans and two Democrats, including incumbent Rep. Tom Malinowski (D) — filed to run in the 7th district, the most running for one seat this year. That’s two more than in 2020, when seven candidates ran in the 2nd district, and one less than in 2018, when 10 candidates ran in the 11th district.  
  • There are six contested Democratic primaries this year, the lowest number since 2016, and 10 contested Republican primaries, the most since at least 2014. 
  • Five incumbents — all Democrats — are not facing any primary challengers this year. That’s one more than in 2020, when four incumbents did not face any primary challengers. 
  • Candidates filed to run in the Republican and Democratic primaries in all 12 districts, so no seats are guaranteed to either party this year. 

New Jersey and six other states — California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, and South Dakota — are holding primary elections on June 7. Winners in New Jersey primary elections are determined via plurality vote, meaning that the candidate with the highest number of votes wins even if he or she did not win more than 50% of votes cast.

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Note: this story has been updated to reflect the years for which we have data available for U.S. House Seats. A previous version of this story omitted that information.

New Jersey Legislative Reapportionment Commission enacts new legislative maps

The New Jersey Legislative Reapportionment Commission voted to enact new state legislative district maps on Feb. 18, 2022. The maps will take effect for New Jersey’s 2023 state legislative elections.

The commission voted 9-2 to approve the maps. Thomas Kean Jr. (R) and Cosmo A. Cirillo (D) were the two dissenting votes. The New Jersey Monitor’s Nikita Biryukov wrote that the vote was “an unprecedented compromise for a commission that has historically relied on a court-appointed tiebreaker to end partisan gridlock.”

New Jersey’s Legislative Reapportionment Commission included five Democratic members and five Republican members, each respectively appointed by the chairs of the state’s Democratic and Republican parties. New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner named Philip Carchman as a tiebreaking eleventh member.

Regarding the enacted maps, Republican Chairman Al Barlas said “We all said we were looking to end in a day where everyone would be proud and we would do something potentially historic and give the residents of the state a map they could all be proud of and I think we did that today.” 

Democratic Chairman Leroy Jones said that “consensus cannot be achieved without compromise from all parties. […] Many of our commissioners and party leaders were left with very difficult choices, which includes some very longtime and very well-respected Democratic state senators who now find themselves in the same district.” 

As of Feb. 23, 36 states have adopted legislative district maps for both chambers, and one state has adopted maps that have not yet gone into effect. The state supreme courts in two states have overturned previously enacted maps, and 11 states have not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans after the 2020 census. As of Feb. 23, 2012, 39 states had enacted legislative redistricting plans after the 2010 census.

Nationwide, states have completed legislative redistricting for 1,532 of 1,972 state Senate seats (77.7%) and 3,545 of 5,411 state House seats (65.5%).

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Upcoming state supreme court vacancy in New Jersey

New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Faustino J. Fernandez-Vina is scheduled to retire from the court on Feb. 15 upon reaching the state’s mandatory retirement age of 70 years old. Fernandez-Vina’s replacement will be Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) third nominee to the seven-member supreme court. 

In New Jersey, state supreme court justices are selected through direct gubernatorial appointment. Justices are appointed directly by the governor without the use of a nominating commission. As of Jan. 4, there are five states that use this selection method. To read more about the gubernatorial appointment of judges, click here.

Justice Fernandez-Vina joined the court on Nov. 19, 2013, following an appointment by Gov. Chris Christie (R). Before serving on the state supreme court, Fernandez-Vina served as a legal associate and as a partner with private law firms.

He received a B.A. in history from Widener University in 1974 and a J.D. from Rutgers University in 1978. After law school, Fernandez-Vina clerked for New Jersey Superior Court Judge E. Stevenson Fluharty.

In 2022, there are four supreme court vacancies pending in three of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies were caused by retirements.

Three of the vacancies—in Maryland and Wyoming—are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement. One vacancy—in New Jersey—is in a state where a Democratic governor appoints the replacement.

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Phil Murphy becomes the first Democrat to win re-election as governor of New Jersey since 1977

Incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy (D) defeated former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R), becoming the first Democrat to win re-election as governor of New Jersey since 1977.

As of 9:00 p.m. ET on Nov. 3, Murphy led Ciattarelli by a margin of 19,440 votes or 0.8 percentage points. If this margin holds, it will be 13 percentage points narrower than Murphy’s initial election in 2017. It would also make this election the closest gubernatorial election in New Jersey since Thomas Kean (R) defeated James Florio (D) by a margin of 0.1 percentage points in 1981. The results may also be subject to a recount. In New Jersey, any candidate can request a recount within 17 days of the election.

Charles Stile of NorthJersey.com called the election a “race to the bottom” in a September 2021 article, citing Murphy and Ciattarelli’s negative attacks targeting the other. Murphy used campaign ads and events to portray Ciattarelli as out of touch with the state’s electorate and wanting to introduce former President Donald Trump‘s (R) agenda to the state. Ciattarelli highlighted issues such as taxes and the handling of sexual abuse allegations to frame Murphy as an elected official who does not understand the needs of average New Jerseyites.

Murphy’s win preserves New Jersey’s Democratic trifecta, as well as its Democratic triplex. A win for Ciattarelli would have broken New Jersey’s Democratic trifecta and replaced the state’s Democratic triplex with a Republican triplex.

In New Jersey, gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial candidates run together on joint tickets. Along with Murphy, incumbent Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver (D) was re-elected.

Learn more here.

New Jersey voters reject expanded sports betting amendment, approve change to raffle law

Voters in New Jersey decided two constitutional amendments on Nov. 2, approving one and rejecting the other. Proposal 1 was rejected by 56.8% of voters. It would have allowed wagering on all college sports competitions. As of 2021, the state constitution permitted sports betting except on games held in New Jersey and on games featuring New Jersey-based college teams. Therefore, the ballot measure would have expanded sports betting to include all college sports competitions.

Proposal 2 was approved by 64.1% of voters. The ballot measure allowed organizations that are permitted to hold raffles to keep the raffle proceeds to support themselves. As of 2021, the New Jersey Constitution limited bingo and raffles to several types of organizations, including veterans, charitable, educational, religious, and fraternal organizations; civic and service clubs; senior citizen associations; and volunteer fire companies and volunteer first-aid and rescue squads. Of these organizations, veterans and senior citizen organizations were allowed to use proceeds from bingo or raffles to support their groups. The other organizations were prohibited from doing so.

Both of the constitutional amendments were put on the ballot by the New Jersey General Assembly. Legislative Democrats and most Republicans voted to put Proposal 1 on the ballot. Legislators unanimously voted to put Proposal 2 on the ballot.

Between 1995 and 2020, New Jersey voters decided 35 constitutional amendments, approving 32 (91.4%) of them. Before 2021, the last amendment to be rejected was Question 1 of 2016. It would have authorized two casinos in northern New Jersey.