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Politics

NJ Anti-Smoking Bill Looks to Ban Smoking on Public Beaches and Parks Across the State

NJ Bill A1080 passed the Assembly and would prohibit smoking on public beaches and in public parks. This bill would be an extension of the “New Jersey Smoke Free Air Act” and would go into effect 180 days after its enactment.

Bill sponsor, Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle, said in a press release regarding the bill, “The prohibition of smoking at public parks and beaches would better preserve the natural assets of this state by reducing litter and increasing fire safety in those areas, while lessening exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke among the public. This is the right thing to do.”

Dr. Patricia Sciscione, a specialist professor of nursing, is in favor of the bill and believes it could help public health. “Cigarette butts are a form of toxic waste since they contain many chemicals that are known carcinogens, yet they are frequently discarded into the sand or onto the ground. Immediate risks include the possibility that small children, birds, animals, and fish may ingest these butts which could be lethal for them due to the possibility of choking and/or poisoning due to the toxic chemicals they contain,” Sciscione said.

She continued, “Long-term risks exist because the filters are made of a substance that is not biodegradable and they can exist in the environment for decades causing harm to marine life, land animals, and the environment.”

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Asbury Park Beach Replenishment Program is Doing More Harm than Good

Major backlash has come from the environmental damages and dangers created from the Jersey Shore replenishment plan founded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers developed a plan for beach replenishments along the Jersey Shore due to post-Sandy damages. From Asbury Park to Avon, beaches will be pumped with more sand in order to extend where the water meets the landline. This extension will act as a buffer to protect the beach towns from extreme storm damages. The project estimated to cost $18.3 million dollars, which was approved by Congress for Sandy Relief.

The replenishment program will last until 2048, according the Asbury Park Press, with the sand being pumped onto the beaches every six years. The Asbury Park Press also released that the project covering from Sea Bright to Manasquan will cost around $300 million dollars, with roughly $100 million of it coming from NJ taxpayers pockets.

Replenishments also bring about environmental damage to the ecosystems and the marine life within these beach areas. Protestors from environmental organizations, civic groups, surfers, anglers and residents of the beach town gathered in Asbury on Friday March 21, to rally against the project.

Dr. Michael Phillips-Anderson, assistant professor of communication said, “The beaches are obviously a huge part of the shore’s economy. The environmental concern is that what might make the beach better to sit on will hurt the overall environment and wildlife. With significant public attention and education, it is unlikely that residents will get a say in the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan.”

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NJ State Senator Introduces Recreational Marijuana Bill

NJ state Sen. Nicholas Scutori recently introduced a bill that would legalize the sale as well as possession of marijuana for recreational use and allow people to grow there own.

Scutori said in a press release, “Legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana for those who are age 21 and older could bring in considerable revenue for the state at a time when it is struggling to meet its financial obligations. The states of WA and CO have already implemented marijuana laws.”

WA State began issuing its first marijuana business licenses this month. CO began allowing recreational marijuana sales to adults on Jan. 1. CO initially expected to bring in $67 million in tax revenue from marijuana this year, but projections are now as high as $107 million due to higher-than-anticipated sales. Legalization is also expected to create thousands of jobs in sales, production and related services in that state, a result that could be duplicated in NJ.”

The Daily Caller explains, “Decriminalization simply removes criminal and monetary penalties for possessing any amount of marijuana, including the “manufacture,” transportation, or storage of the substance. It does not address in any way the actual usage of marijuana, the sale of it, taxation, quality, driving under the influence, age restrictions, etc.”

Noah Lipman, lecturer of history explained, “The bill will be controversial because many legislators are afraid of the legalization process.  Polls indicate that many voters in NJ favor decriminalization over legalization.”

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NJ’s Most Expensive Budget Plan Unvield for 2014-2015 Fiscal Year

Major Costs Include: State Workers’ Pensions and $159 Million Set Aside for Higher Education Expenses


NJ Gov. Chris Christie proposed a $34.4 billion budget, the state’s most expensive budget ever, on Feb. 24.

In his Fiscal Year 2014-2015 budget proposal, there is a required $2.25 billion payment to the public worker pension funds without raising taxes, however it leaves no money left over to fund major new programs or initiatives.

Part of Christie’s spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1, gives slight increases in K-12 and municipal aid. The budget for some school districts has increased by five million dollars, allowing them to implement longer school hours. There is also an increase in the funding for higher education by eight percent, or $159 million.

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New Bill Could Provide $100 Textbook Relief

NJ bill, A1823, which could provide a tax credit to college students for textbook purchases, has been proposed with the intention of encouraging taxpayers and their dependents to choose NJ educational institutions over out-of-state schools.

The tax credit, introduced in the State Assembly on Jan. 16, would equal 10 percent of textbook costs and cannot exceed $100. Students may be full time or part time and must be pursuing an undergraduate education at a four-year school, county college or accredited post-secondary school in NJ. Taxpayers with a gross income of up to $150,000 would be eligible for the credit.

Douglas Stives, Specialist Professor of Accounting, said if a student pays more than half of his/her own college costs the credit would go to them rather than their family.

Alexis Morrison, a junior communication major, said this bill would be good for students. “I know, not just myself, but all of my friends spend hundreds of dollars on textbooks and we either don’t use them or we try to return them and we don’t get our money back,” said Morrison. “It would be beneficial for us to get that money back because I feel like a lot of times we waste it on textbooks.”

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Is This Search or Seizure Legal?

United States Supreme Court Rules on Two Cases This Year That Could Impact Students


The United States Supreme Court recently ruled on two search and seizure cases that involved searching an individual to avoid evidence destruction and house searches that could affect college students.

In California, there was a recent case about a robbery that turned violent. Abel Lopez was attacked and robbed near an alleyway. The cops were called and the victim identified the attacker as Walter Fernandez.

They reached the door of where bystanders saw the robber run to and Walter Fernandez answered the door refusing to let the police in. He was arrested and taken in for questioning. The police came back and preceded to search the residency because of Roxanne Rojas, the co-tenant of the home allowed the search  through both written and verbal consent Even though Walter did not approve, he was then detained and police were permitted to search the apartment, which revealed a plethora of gang weaponry.

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A Conversation About Unrest in Ukraine with Dr. Charles Cotton

Dr. Charles Cotton, an adjunct political science professor, sat down with me to explain and discuss the current situation happening in Ukraine.

Jasmine Ramos: What exactly is happening in Ukraine?

Charles Cotton: Well, there obviously was some civil dissatisfaction with the previous government that was backed by the Russian government and thus, this lead to some civil unrest in the capital, Kiev which ultimately lead to the Russian-backed leader fleeing the country.

During the whole maul of things, he was also kicked out by the parliament, from what I understand and a more pro-western government is now currently in place. The civil unrest in Kiev has for the most part subsided.

There were a few days during the Olympics where things were getting quite out of hand and things escalated out of control very quickly, but then also died down very quickly, as a result.

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A Panel Clears Christie of Involvement in “Bridgegate”

Legislative Investigation Still Ongoing and Searching for Answers


A legal review board of Governor Chris Christie’s involvement in “Bridgegate” has cleared the governor of any wrong doing or prior knowledge of the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in September, according to Politico.com on March 24, 2014.

However, two more investigations are still in place by the New Jersey State Legislature and the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Jersey.

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The California Six: Petition Filed to Split CA into Six States

Proposed Split Looks to Increase Tax Revenue but Could Weaken Representation in Congress


There is a petition started by Tim Draper, founding partner of DraperFisher Jurvetso, to split California into six separate states claiming that California is too large of a state to govern.

The question is frequently asked: will the splitting of California really solve the numerous issues that are occurring? Or will the State fall into anarchy?

California’s population and diverse culture has led the state to become practically ungovernable. All the different religions, cultures, and each city having their own niche of ideals has made it a great impossibility for the government to have control, according to the Huffington Post

When Professor Gregory Bordelon, lecturer of the political science department, was asked if diversity makes a state harder to govern he responded, “Concededly yes. Every entity to go through any state shouldn’t be the driving source for a succession movement. The separate sections of the state have more things in common than separate to make a split. Californian presence in the Congress will weaken if they separate. If they lose that, they will not have a strong influence. No one will want to go to California.”

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Negative: Fracking Causes Major Environmental Issues

Political Showdown: Is Fracking an Environmental Issue or Economic Stimulus?


The Up-shot

While the positive aspects of fracking and gas-drilling may seem appealing to those searching for domestically produced and protected sources of energy, the negative impacts these practices have upon the environment, the economies, and the people who exist locally and nationally are too big to ignore. In evaluating whether or not fracking is a viable option in changing America’s energy dependence, there cannot be a unanimous decision made without seriously evaluating the negative effects fracking has.

Until legislation can be passed and practices can be perfected, fracking should be kept as a back-burner option in trying to establish energy dependence. Without a healthy environment, a successful economy and an invested population, fracking will really serve no purpose, as there will be no outlet for the fracking’s energy to flow.

Safety and Health:

The health and safety risks associated with fracking are insurmountable and should be taken seriously. Air pollution, earthquakes, global warming emissions and associated health problems arise from the process of fracking, impacting residents surrounding such areas both environmentally and medically.

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Pro-Fracking: Shale Gas is Most Effective Form of Energy

Political Showdown: Is Fracking an Environmental Issue or Economic Stimulus?


Hydraulic fracturing or “Fracking” is a process where the injection of water along with other chemicals into well boreswhich creates fractures in rock deep into the ground. The fractures can free up natural gas, petroleum, and shale gas, allowing for the creation of well used to extract the resources. Fracking has been most known for:

1) Growing the shale gas industry

2) Its connection to environmental and health concerns. With all the media attention and controversy that Hydraulic Fracturing has aroused the question remains: Is fracking a harmful and dastardly process that we should fight to end, or is it a safe and reliable way to ensure energy independence for the US now and in the future?

From protesters surrounding drill sites, to multiple documentaries, fracking has created quite a stir. But has the opposition, the likes of Matt Damon and Rolling Stone looked at the full picture when it comes to the net value of fracking.

There is no doubt that the extraction of natural gas can have negative consequences for the local environment, but this is a common hazard of any fossil fuel extraction. The most telling place to look for solid evidence is Pennsylvania.

The Marcellus Shale which runs predominantly under most of the state has been seen as a “mecca” for natural gas. The geological formation is estimated to have enough natural gas to fuel American homes for 50 years. As for the communities within Penn, there has been no evidence of chemicals seeping into the drinking water which is drilled hundreds of feet underground. The shale deposit sits thousands of feet underground, nowhere near drinking water. 

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