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Last updateMon, 29 Apr 2019 1pm

Politics

Top New Jersey Lawmakers Delay Vote to Legalize Marijuana in the State

NJ Marijuana VoteState Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and state Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), scrapped a plan to vote on a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in New Jersey, on Oct. 29.

The two top lawmakers in the New Jersey state Legislature said that the reason for the delay is because they remain at odds with Governor Phil Murphy over what the law should say.

Sweeney and Coughlin also stressed that “very few” points of contention are left to work out with the Murphy administration, and remain optimistic that they could reach an agreement and vote to pass the bill before the end of the year.

There has been push for the legalization of marijuana in New Jersey. Murphy made the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana a central part of his platform when he was running for Governor in 2017.

One of his main reasons is to help raise tax revenue and to help eradicate the black market for weed within the state.

A Rutgers-Eagleton poll released on Oct. 30 shows that not only do residents in the state want legal marijuana, they also believe that low-level marijuana convictions should be cleared and that legalization would be good for the economy.

“As marijuana legalization approaches reality in the state, New Jerseyans are fully on board,” said Ashley Koning, Director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers.

“Support has built up slowly in the past five decades, with this being the first time a majority has ever sided with legalization,” she explained.

The University’s Polling Institute from earlier this year also found similar results, showing that 60 percent of New Jersey residents support legalization.

Kenneth Mitchell, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Political Science and Sociology, and an associate professor of political science, also explained that making marijuana legal for recreational use within the state could help the state save money in regards to the conviction of crimes involving marijuana.

 For instance, taxes would no longer be going to prisons, and police officers would no longer be spending as much time or effort to catch people in non-violent acts involving the potentially legal drug.

Junior marketing student Adrian Pacheco believes that marijuana should be legal at this point, noting that the use of marijuana is not comparable to the use of other drugs such as cocaine. He also stated that New Jersey already taxes weed for medicinal use, so there is no reason not to tax weed for recreational use as well.

Joseph Patten, Ph.D., an associate professor of political science agreed with Mitchell in terms of decriminalizing weed. He also mentioned the idea of there being a middle ground in place of a bill that would completely legalized recreational use of marijuana.

He proposed paying a fine for using recreational marijuana rather than going to prison, as is often the current case.

Mitchell continued, and noted that just because marijuana would become legal in the state, not everyone in the state is going to start smoking marijuana recreationally.

He also mentioned how the culture behind doing drugs wouldn’t change; parents would probably still teach their children drug safety. “Do you know a parent who does not smoke pot and would answer yes to the question, ‘Do you want your kids to smoke pot,” he asked.

Mitchell stated that he would be surprised if it doesn’t pass, and that prohibiting something only encourages children to “rebel.”

More states have legalized both the medicinal and recreational uses of marijuana, since Colorado did so back in 2014, with only nine states and Washington, D.C. to have legalized it completely. New Jersey’s proposed tax rate on the sales of marijuana would be the lowest in the country.

New Jersey towns have already opposed such a bill The Freehold Township Committee unanimously voted earlier last month to ban marijuana sales, both medicinal and recreational, causing potential trouble to a statewide bill passing.

IMAGE TAKEN from NJ.com

Democratic Victories in New Jersey

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Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) won a third time and Democratic candidate Mikie Sherrill flipped the Republican-leaning 11th Congressional District in the General Election on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Despite his best efforts, Republican Senate candidate Robert Hugin, former executive chair of Celgene, a biopharmaceutical company, could not separate himself from President Donald Trump, a factor which Patrick Murray, Director of the University’s Polling Institute, noted in a report of the race this month.

The Senate race was closer than what would be expected in the predominately Democratic state of New Jersey. Hugin spent nearly $27.5 on TV ads against Menendez over the 2017 trial on charges against the incumbent Senator.

Poll results from Stockton, Quinnipiac, Rutgers-Eagleton, and the University’s polling institute all showed Menendez with a double-digit advantage leading up to the General Election. In his analysis, Murray explains that Menendez’s lead was largely due to the state’s disapproval of Trump, who has 55 percent disapproval rate, according to the report.

“If these poll results hold, the first person Bob Menendez should thank in his election night victory speech is Donald Trump,” Murray says in the published poll.

Trump eventually endorsed Hugin on Election Day, and after contributing $200,000 to help the president get elected and hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican committees that supported the president’s agenda in 2016, Hugin had a difficult time distinguishing himself from the administration.

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Khashoggi: U.S. and Saudi Relations

default article imageJamal Khashoggi, a dissenter and columnist for The Washington Post, was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, on Oct. 2

Khashoggi’s murder has provoked scrutiny of the kingdom’s pursuit of critics and the ethics of U.S. relations with the Saudi royal family. The effort to silence Saudi critics has stretched decades, but Crown Prince Mohamad bin Salman has pursued the practice.

When speaking about Khashoggi’s apparent murder by Saudi agents, Michael Phillips-Anderson, Ph.D., an associate professor of communication, said, “At this point it is still alleged. The evidence of the Turkish investigation seems to point conclusively towards the royal family. When you have a country that is solely a monarchy, there’s the idea that the members of that government can behave with impunity,” stated Phillips-Anderson.

Saliba Sarsar, Ph.D., professor of political science, believes that like most countries in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is “authoritarian” in nature and “does not tolerate opposition.” Bin Salman’s crackdown on corruption in early 2018, consisted of detaining members of the Saudi royal family in the Ritz Carlton, where 17 detainees were hospitalized for physical abuse is one example of the king’s disapproval of opposition.

Sarsar acknowledges the precedent for speculating that bin Salman might be responsible; however, he expressed the importance of not assigning guilt without due process.

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Trump Administration Seeks to Redefine Gender, LGBTQ+ Community Responds

default article imageThe Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, according to a Department of Health and Human Services memo obtained by the New York Times on Sunday, Oct. 21.

The department argues in this memo that government agencies need to implement an explicit and coherent definition of gender as determined, “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.”

The proposed redefinition would determine gender as unchangeable and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, indistinguishable from one’s biological sex.

If one were to dispute their gender, genetic testing would be required to prove that their claim corresponds to the newly defined term.

Some have criticized that these efforts to redefine gender conflates the classifications of sex and gender, and causes further confusion of the terms’ meaning.

Corey Wrenn, Ph.D., a lecturer of sociology and gender studies, explained, “Sex refers to one’s biological category. Gender refers to the social roles and cultural expectations that are assigned to people, often based on sex.”

The previous administration under then-President Barack Obama lessened the restrictions on the legal concept of gender in federal programs, including in education and health care, recognizing gender more as an individual’s choice, rather than as an absolute factor determined by one’s biological sex or genitalia.

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New Jersey Senators Booker and Menendez Speak at Wilson Hall Auditorium

NJ Senators Wilson Hall 1The Political Science Club hosted Senators of New Jersey, Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, on campus to speak about the midterm elections and the importance of voting at an event on Monday, Oct. 29.

The hour-long event was held in the Wilson Hall Auditorium, and was open to all those on campus who were interested in attending. 

“Our students did a terrific job this campaign season in raising awareness on campus and in organizing get out the vote events,” said Joseph Patten, Ph.D., an associate professor of political science and the adviser to the Political Science Club. “Landon Myers (a senior political science student and President of the Political Science Club) and the students in the Political Science Club did a fantastic job in organizing the event with NJ Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez and U.S. Congressman Frank Pallone.”

He continued and said, “Mike Manning (a senior political science student and President of the College Republicans) and the College Republicans did a terrific job in organizing an event with the Senate Republican challenger Bob Hugin two weeks back. For me the best thing is that political science students from both parties helped each other organize their events. We need that type of cooperative spirit in government.” 

Paul Dement, Director of Government and Community Relations for the University, explained that he sent an invitation to the Menendez campaign to come to the University after it was announced that his opponent in the Senatorial race, Bob Hugin, was scheduled to be on campus meeting with students a couple of weeks ago. “Monmouth University does not endorse any candidate but does provide equal opportunity for candidates to engage with students on campus,” he said.

“When the Menendez campaign contacted me last weekend to say they were interested in coming to Monmouth with Senator Booker, I put them in touch with Monmouth student Landon Myers to organize the logistics. I just think it’s terrific that the students were able to hear from both the Republican and Democratic candidates for a United States Senate seat,” said Dement. 

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Former White House Counsel Discusses Trump and Nixon

default article imageThe University hosted John Dean, the White House Counsel during the Watergate scandal, and James D. Robenalt, Esq., a presidential historian and attorney, for a discussion comparing Presidents Richard Nixon and Donald Trump, on Monday, Oct. 29.

The discussion was held in Wilson Hall Auditorium as part of the H.R. Young and Stephen B. Siegel Endowed Lecture Series. An estimated 225 alumni, community members, students, and professors were registered for attendance.

Peter Reinhart, Esq., Director of the Real Estate Institute, is responsible for bringing these two men to campus. “This event is a follow up event from December 2015 when John Dean and Jim Robenalt first spoke on campus,” Reinhart said.  “I had met them in summer 2015 when I attended their Continuing Legal Education program.  I was so fascinated by their presentation that I invited them to come to Monmouth.” 

“Their appearance is important to the Monmouth community for several reasons,” continued Reinhart.  “First, is the appearance of a living historical figure discussing very significant historic events in which he was a central figure. Second, the timing of the event is important given the fact that the midterm Congressional elections are just eight days away.”

In their discussion, Dean and Robenalt compared leadership styles of Trump and Nixon. Dean found their leadership styles to be “strikingly authoritarian” and considers them to be “social dominators.”  In U.S. history, he believes there have been four of these Commanders-in-Chief: Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon, and Donald Trump. He explained these leaders, “oppose equality, have intimidating/bullying personalities, amoral, and crave personal power.”

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Amid National Controversy, Kavanaugh Confirmed to the Supreme Court

Kavanaugh ConfirmedThe Senate voted 50-48 to send Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday, Oct. 6.

After an extensive confirmation process in the midst of allegations of sexual misconduct and a supplemental FBI investigation of the nominee, Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court later Saturday evening.

Just 24 hours prior to the confirmation vote, there was confusion as to whether or not Senate Republicans had enough votes to confirm him to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh’s status was sealed when Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine who supports reproductive rights, announced that she would vote to confirm him, expressing her confidence that he would not attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade.

In an interview with 60 Minutes, Collins said that, while she felt one of Kavanaugh’s accusers Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony about the alleged sexual assault “very compelling,” she was also concerned about the lack of witnesses to support Ford’s accusations.

“I feel very comfortable that I’ve made the right decision,” Collins told 60 Minutes in their interview. “I could not come to another decision, based on the testimony and the evidence that I reviewed.”

Joseph Patten, Ph.D., an associate professor of political science, pointed to the Kavanaugh hearings as proof of the deep social divisions in American society.

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Democrat Ahead in Republican District

default article imageDemocratic candidate Mikie Sherrill holds a lead over Republican candidate Jay Webber in New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District (NJ-11) race, according to a recent poll released by the University’s Polling Institute on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI), the district has a score of R+3, meaning it tends to vote Republican.

Currently, Sherrill has 50 percent of the vote in the race, and Webber has 43 percent.

President Donald Trump won the district by one point in the 2016 election, but according to the recent poll, only 43 percent of NJ-11 voters approve of his performance in office.

“Even though Republicans have the edge in party affiliation, many are not happy with the president or key GOP initiatives such as the tax reform plan,” Patrick Murray, Director of the University’s Polling Institute, says in the report.

The poll reported that the Republican tax reform plan passed in December is particularly unpopular in the district.

 Despite its largely wealthier demographic, due to the adverse impact of the plan’s cap placed on the deduction for state and local income, property, and sales taxes in New Jersey, many voters in NJ-11 disapprove of the GOP.

34 percent of voters in the district “strongly disapprove” and 25 percent “strongly approve” of the tax reform.

“This is a tough year for Republicans to run in Democratic states or in swing districts, particularly because the president’s party does not do well in the first midterm election,” said Joseph Patten, Ph.D., an associate professor of political science.

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Narrow Republican Lead in Pennsylvania Congressional Race

default article imageRepublican incumbent Brian Fitzpatrick has a four point advantage over Democratic challenger Scott Wallace in the race for Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District (PA-01), according to a recent poll released by the University’s Polling Institute on Wednesday, Oct. 3.

Stephen Chapman, Ph.D., an assistant professor of political science, explained that the most important aspect at play in the PA-01 race is that it will be one of the first general elections in which the state will be using its redrawn Congressional District maps, after the former maps were considered unconstitutionally gerrymandered by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

 “Pennsylvania was seen as one of the most gerrymandered states in the country,” he said. “State-wide, this should offer Democrats an advantage in terms of vote share and seat distribution. Specifically for [PA-01], Fitzpatrick is the incumbent in [PA-08, from the previous map].”

 Fitzpatrick won his election with nearly 54 percent of the vote in 2016. At the time, his district included Philadelphia suburbs, which leaned more Republican.

But the new PA-01 district now includes parts of Lansdale, which tends to lean much more Democratic, Chapman explained.

The newly drawn districts create the potential for a close race on Election Day.

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White House Limits Kavanaugh Probe

default article imageThe Trump administration has prevented the FBI from investigating Julie Swetnick’s allegations of sexual assault against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, multiple White House officials briefed on the matter told NBC News on Saturday, Sept. 29.

Multiple White House officials, under anonymity, confirmed to NBC News that the White House counsel’s office has given the FBI a list of specific witnesses they are permitted to interview in the reopened background investigation into Kavanaugh, an unexpected method which deviates from Senator Jeff Flake’s (R-Arizona) request following the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote for floor confirmation last Friday, Sept. 28.

Under the administration’s restrictions, FBI investigators are not permitted to obtain information about witness and co-conspirator Mark Judge’s employment at the supermarket where Dr. Blasey Ford testified she saw him working which, “would [otherwise] help better narrow the date of the assault she testified about to the Senate Judiciary Committee,” said Katherine Parkin, Ph.D., a professor of history and gender studies.

The FBI is also prohibited from investigating Kavanaugh’s multiple accounts of drinking in college, which Parkin said, “will of course have tremendous bearing on the testimony provided by his second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, and her account that he stuck his penis in her face, as they hung out in a group of friends at Yale.”

Because of the recent limitations on the FBI’s probe, Parkin said, “The sincere call for a FBI investigation, sparked by two women [Maria Gallagher and Anna Maria Archilla] who confronted Senator Flake about their experience having been sexually assaulted, has instead immediately devolved into a farce.”

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The “Trade-Off” of U.S. Tariff War with China

default article imagePresident Donald Trump issued new tariffs on approximately $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, on Monday, Sept. 17.

The first cycle of ten percent tariffs were already been in effect since Monday, Sept. 24.

The administration’s recent tariffs are set to reach a rate of 25 percent by Jan. 1, 2019, and come in addition to the $50 billion worth of goods that were already taxed earlier this year.

In response to the first round of tariffs, China countered by implementing tariff’s they import from the U.S.

As a result, the Trump administration enacted the new tariffs. Nearly half of all Chinese imports to the U.S. now have levies or tariffs on them.

The tariffs will only affect certain Chinese goods; selective products established or listed by the Trump administration.

The first round of tariffs focused primarily on industrial equipment, whereas these tariffs affect a range of products such as electronics, food, and clothing.

Kenneth Mitchell, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Political Science and Sociology, explained that it is important to keep in mind that China and the U.S. are two of the biggest economies in the world.

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