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    Weather forecasters say isolated tornadoes are possible in parts of the Northeast, but New Jersey is likely to be hit by severe thunderstorms with damaging winds and large hail.

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    The bill seeks to address a number of items off of Gov. Murphy's wish list in terms of the medical marijuana program's expansion.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: Interested in the marijuana business industry? NJ Cannabis Insider is a new premium intelligence briefing that features exclusive weekly content geared toward entrepreneurs, lawyers and realtors. View a sample issue.

    New legislation designed to "significantly increase" access to New Jersey's medical marijuana program would allow more dispensaries and cultivation centers to open and permit more medical professionals to refer their patients, NJ Advance Media has learned.

    The bill was introduced Tuesday by Sens. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, and Declan O'Scanlon, R-Monmouth, in response to Gov. Phil Murphy's call to reform New Jersey's medical marijuana program. 

    Vitale told NJ Advance Media the bill would allow the Department of Health to expand the medical marijuana program by issuing licenses to new dispensary operators to meet the increased patient demand.

     "It is our belief that this legislation will significantly increase access for patients, caregivers and providers, and additional forms of medical marijuana that may better suit a patient's need," Vitale said.

    "Among other elements, it will also establish workable permitting guidelines based on patient need and further ensuring new businesses will be able to enter the marketplace and remain viable. Increasing patient access and care is the cornerstone of our proposed new law." 

    Check out the NJ Cannabis Insider

    New Jersey currently has just five open dispensaries, with a sixth -- Harmony Foundation in Secaucus -- set to open in the coming weeks pending final approval from the health department. There are about 20,200 registered patients.

    The bill would take several other big steps: 

    • Raise the monthly allowed amount of medical marijuana from 2 ounces to 2.5 ounces in 2019 and three ounces in 2020;
    • Remove the limit on how much medical pot terminally ill patients and hospice patients can receive;
    • Remove the ban on edible medical pot to minors;
    • Permit multiple written instructions for patients authorizing up to a 180-day supply at one time, up from 90 days;
    • Allow patients to receive medical cannabis from any dispensary, known as Alternative Treatment Centers;
    • Permit two designated caregivers for patients, with the ability to petition the state for additional caregivers;
    • Remove the requirement for a psychiatric evaluation of minors prior to enrollment. 

    Murphy in January ordered a 60-day review of the medical marijuana program. A report issued by the  health department in late March provided a slew of recommendations.

    Some could be accomplished by changing  regulations, like allowing current operators to open satellite locations. One dispensary has already been allowed to open up a new location following Murphy's executive order. 

    Other recommendations, such as allowing new operators, require legislation.

    The Vitale bill would also set guidelines for doses of medical pot, and protect medical marijuana patients when it comes to employment, housing and education -- as well as patients and caregivers enrolled in out-of-state programs.

    Vitale said the proposed legislation would allow patients enrolled in other state programs to possess medical cannabis obtained from out-of-state, but it wouldn't permit them to purchase it from a New Jersey dispensary. 

    This bill also seeks to put into law another recommendation from the health department report: that physicians no longer be required to register with the state in order to be able to recommend and prescribe cannabis.

    Vitale's bill goes a step farther by including any medical professional who is able to write prescriptions for controlled substances -- including advanced practice nurses and physician assistants.

    Before the expansion of the medical program, there were only 536 doctors on the state's list of who could recommend marijuana out of the 28,000 licensed doctors in New Jersey.

    Vitale said the proposed legislation leaves much of the decision-making on  licenses for cultivation, manufacturing and retail up to the Department of Health.

    However, he said, this bill does require 15 percent of licenses be set aside for women-owned, minority-owned and veteran-owned businesses. 

    A cannabis advocate and a dispensary operator praised the bill, which they said will undoubtedly expand access to deserving patients.

    "What is in this bill is what advocates have been asking for over the last eight years," said Roseanne Scotti, director of the Drug Policy Alliance in New Jersey, referring to Gov. Chris Christie's administration. The restrictions, such as requiring patients to get doctor approval every three months, "are ridiculous, done for political, not medical reasons."

    Julio Valentin of Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, the state's first medical dispensary to open in 2012, said allowing patients six months instead of three months between doctor visits will save patients money.

    Letting all medical professionals legally permitted to write prescriptions to also recommend marijuana "is helping patients by giving them access to an alternative to opioids," Valentin said    

    Both Scotti and Valentin questioned why the bill would only gradually allow patients to buying up to 3 ounces by 2020. 

    "The whole point is to keep people from the illegal market, and at 3 ounces, depending upon their medical condition, they are still going to run out," Scotti said.  

    Valentin also suggested the state give the existing dispensaries a chance to expand and meet the demand before new players are admitted to the program.

    The health department has permitted Garden State Dispensary in Woodbridge to open a satellite location, state spokeswoman Donna Leusner said. The dispensary's General Manager Aaron Epstein confirmed he is seeking local approval for a location in Union Township in Union County.

    The department also has approved a dispensary expansion for Compassionate Sciences at its same location in Bellmawr, she said.

    Vitale said he expects there will be some changes to the bill as it proceeds through the legislative process. 

    Another bill seeking to expand the medical marijuana program was introduced in the Assembly, but sources familiar with the process say it isn't likely to move forward because Vitale's bill was written in collaboration with the Murphy administration. 

    Are you interested in the N.J. cannabis industry? Subscribe here for exclusive insider information from NJ Cannabis Insider

    Susan K. Livio may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find Politics on Facebook.

    Justin Zaremba may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinZarembaNJ. Find on Facebook.

    Have information about this story or something else we should be covering? Tell us.


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    County prosecutors said he demanded compensation in exchange for a 'yes' vote on a pending redevelopment designation.

    RICHARD LEONARDRoseland Councilman Richard Leonard (file photo).

    One year ago, Roseland councilman Richard Leonard sparked a public furor when he helped publicize a string of racially and religiously insensitive text messages between borough officials.

    Now, Leonard is facing a brewing controversy of his very own: a criminal misconduct charge.

    According to the Essex County Prosecutor's office, Leonard allegedly demanded a right-of-way to property he owns in exchange for a "yes" vote on a redevelopment designation for a neighboring property.

    The prosecutor's office on Tuesday charged Leonard with conspiring to commit official misconduct, a second-degree offense, according to spokesperson Katherine Carter.

    Leonard made the threat in the presence of several other members of the borough council, Carter said, and later abstained from a vote on the redevelopment designation after the right-of-way issue was resolved.

    Leonard, who owns Arcadia Realtors on Eagle Rock Avenue, did not immediately respond to a message requesting comment Tuesday evening. His attorney also was not immediately available to comment on the charges.

    In 2017, Leonard shared a series of group text messages with the The Progress newspaper in which councilmen Thomas Tsilionis and David Jacobs made a series of racially and religiously charged jokes. In the wake of the controversy, both men indicated they planned to resign from the borough council, but later changed their minds.

    Staff writer Ted Sherman and Jessica Mazzola contributed to this report.

    Thomas Moriarty may be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty.

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    Of the 47 hospitals in New Jersey that deliver babies and submitted data for analysis, only 9 met Leapfrog's standard of an acceptable number of c-sections.

    New Jersey hospitals' longstanding problem of unnecessarily delivering babies by Cesarian-section got worse last year, a practice that puts mothers and their infants at a greater risk of complications, according to a new report released Tuesday.

    New Jersey, Florida, Kentucky, New York and Texas recorded the highest number of C-section deliveries in the nation, according to the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization that issues biannual report cards on hospital safety. 

    Of the 47 hospitals in New Jersey that deliver babies and submitted data for analysis, only nine met Leapfrog's standard of performing no more than 23.9 percent C-sections, according to the report. In last year's report, 11 hospitals met that standard.

    C-sections put mothers at risk of infection and blood clots, prolong the recovery process, create chronic pelvic pain and may cause problems in future pregnancies. For infants, C-sections put them at greater risk of developing breathing problems, such as asthma, and diabetes, according to the report.

    Linda Schwimmer, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, a research and consumer advocacy group, said the report provides critical information the public needs to know when choosing a hospital.

    "At the Quality Institute, improving maternity care is an essential part of our over all mission. The Leapfrog findings show the absolute need for our work," Schwimmer said. 

    "New Jersey can and must do better to reduce C-section rates, which vary widely among hospitals. There are times when a C-section is needed. But, the hospital where an expectant mother delivers her baby should not be the determining factor of whether or not she has a surgical birth, Schwimmer said.

    "Now is the time for hospital leadership to prioritize maternal and child health throughout New Jersey."

    N.J. among the worst states for high numbers of C-sections

    The warnings about unnecessary C-section deliveries are not new. The medical community has been trying for years to reduce the frequency of the procedure if it is not medically recommended.

    The Leapfrog Group, a non-profit group that focuses on hospital safety has taken on the issue with health benefits consultant Castlight by issuing these periodic reports.

    "Childbirth is the number one reason for hospitalization among all populations and age groups," Castlight Chief Product Officer, Maeve O'Meara said in a statement.

    "That alone tells us how critical it is to provide this information not just to consumers but to employers as well, who have a high stake in the care their employees receive. Employers should understand how hospitals are performing and we're pleased to partner with Leapfrog to bring this information into the sunlight."

    The Leapfrog survey looked solely at births among first time mothers of single babies - not twins - that were in the conventional head-down position. The findings are based on data from calendar year or fiscal year 2017.

    Christ Hospital in Jersey City reported the lowest C-section rate, at 14 percent, according to the report. CentraState Medical Center in Freehold recorded the highest C-section rates, at 42.1 percent.

    "CentraState readily acknowledges our current C-section trends and we are working with our physicians and clinicians on improving processes to lower the number of c-sections performed at CentraState," Abbey Dardozzi, a hospital spokeswoman, said in an email. "We are also very proud of our low infant and maternal mortality rates."

    In addition to Christ Hospital, the other hospitals that met the safety standard were:

    Capital Health Medical Center, Hopewell;

    Hoboken University Medical Center;

    Cooper University Hospital, Camden;

    Holy Name Medical Center, Teaneck;

    Inspira Medical Center, Elmer;

    Trinitas Regional Medical Center, Elizabeth;

    University Hospital, Newark;

    Virtua Voorhees Hospital.

    Atlantic Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City and Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus, which recently changed its name to Hudson Regional Hospital, did not supply data and are not included in the findings.

    Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal praised Leapfrog for focusing attention on this important public health issue. 

    "A number of hospitals perform quite well," Elnahal said. "Our goal is to create a maternal care quality collaborative to spread the best practices that the highest performing hospitals are achieving and make sure that as many hospitals as possible can replicate them."

    The report also highlighted the need to cut down the number of early deliveries they perform, defined as delivering a baby before 39 weeks without medical necessity. Babies delivered too early are at risk of pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, and in rare cases, death.

    Only two hospitals exceeded the 5 percent maximum: Hackensack University Medical Center, at 7.1 percent, and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, at 10.3 percent. 

    Susan K. Livio may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find Politics on Facebook.

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    A burst of powerful thunderstorms pummeled northern New Jersey on Tuesday with lighting, drenching rain and powerful gusts of wind that left a path of destruction across the state. Watch video

    UPDATE: More rain, T-storms in forecast Wednesday as thousands remain without power

    A line of earth-shaking thunderstorms quickly turned day to night in New Jersey early Tuesday evening, sparking numerous fires, felling countless trees, stranding frightened commuters and leaving thousands without power as it sped southeast across the state.

    The damaging outbreak of soaking rain, destructive wind and scary lightning moved in from the northwest shortly before 5 p.m. As it did, Tuesday's bright sun quickly gave way to damaging winds, dark skies and drenching rain that almost immediately knocked out power to much of Sussex and Warren counties.

    Several lightning strikes were reported in Sillwater, in Sussex County, leading to structure fires, a 67 mph wind gust was logged in Lebanon and half-inch hail (which the National Weather Service terms "M&M-sized") pelted Wantage, according to preliminary reports.

    As the storm raced across the state, news of damage were almost too widespread to track, as reports of trees into houses and across roads, and homes struck by lightning poured in.

    Trees were reportedly down on major roadways around the northern portion of the state as commuters set out for a brutal evening trek home. NJ Transit began closing lines as rails became impassable. The transit agency posted a photo showing trees down across the tracks near Little Falls blocking the Montclair Boonton Line. 

    Emergency crews rushed to a stretch of Route 46 in Clifton after what appeared to be a power line came down and sparked a fire near a Chevrolet dealership.

    Video posted on Twitter and Facebook showed the fire burning as police blocked one side of the highway.

    In Maywood, the storm downed a tree and two utility poles, leaving one pole resting against a house and leading to a fire, according to police Chief David Pegg.

    "An electrical primary wire came in contact with the aluminum gutter, energizing the metal," chief said. "A fire then started at the roof line."

    Once utility crews cut the power, firefighters doused the blaze on Grove Avenue, Pegg added. 

    Officials reported a downed tree blocking the right lane on I-287 southbound near Exit 39 in Hanover. There were also lane closures on Route 17 northbound in Saddle River and the ramp to Exit 163 off the southbound Garden State Parkway in Paramus.

    Route 208 was closed in Wyckoff near Grandview Avenue because of a fallen tree. In Essex County, Bloomfield police were responding to several reports of downed tree limbs and power lines, including on the Garden State Parkway. 

    Newton police Chief Michael Richards said about 10 trees fell onto roads, houses or cars and part of a roof on Spring Street was blown off a building and landed in a parking lot in the town. There were no reported injures in the approximately 3-square mile town.

    "It just sort of swept in," Richards said of the storm.

    West Caldwell police had a blunt message for residents, "Stay Home," the department said in a Facebook post.

    Rutherford police warned residents to stay indoors until the weather cleared as authorities responded to storm damage.

    "Please stay inside until this storm passes. We are seeing full trees coming down throughout town," the department said in a social media post.

    Cranford police said there were "multiple trees down" near the Kenilworth line.

    Gov. Phil Murphy was monitoring the storm after being briefed by top officials, his office said. The governor remained concerned about the impacts of any flash flooding, isolated tornadoes and localized hail, and was prepared to deploy state resources as needed.

    Noah Cohen may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @noahycFind on Facebook.



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    With a net worth of at least $11B, the former Livingston resident who once called Trump a "scumbag" is set to pay $2.2B for the Carolina Panthers.

    Billionaire hedge fund manager David Tepper, once New Jersey's wealthiest man before he fled the state for less-taxed Florida, is set to buy the Carolina Panthers, according to published reports Tuesday.

    Tepper will pick up the NFL team for a record-breaking $2.2 billion, and the Charlotte Observer reported, citing sources. Three-quarters of league owners must approve the deal and a vote is expected next week.

    With a net worth reported at north of $11 billion, Tepper's 2016 decision to move his Appaloosa Management to Miami prompted one state official to warn lawmakers of an income tax hit for the Garden State. Tepper earned $700 million from the hedge fund in 2016.

    Jersey taxes reportedly played a role in the 60-year-old's decision to leave, along with quality of life, and wanting to be closer to family. Florida has no personal income tax.

    Tepper, a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, emerged as a vocal critic of President Donald Trump during the 2016 election. He slammed Trump for not making donations to help victims of Hurricane Sandy and the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

    "During Sandy, the big Sandy benefit, the big 9/11 benefit, not one dime. Not one dime! You can't tell me this is a charitable, generous person," Tepper told CNBC in November 2016.

    "Trump masquerades as an angel of light, but he is the father of lies," said the billionaire, who has given millions to charities, including a New Jersey food bank.

    In appearance at Carnegie Mellon University, the former Livingston resident called Trump a "scumbag" and "demented."

    NFL Network reported Tepper is not expected to bring "major" changes to the Panthers.

    Noah Cohen may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @noahycFind on Facebook.


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    RoseAnn Trezza, the executive director of Associated Humane Societies in Newark, will be able to return to her previous job at the shelter after a two-year probation as part of a plea deal that dismissed all 16 counts of animal cruelty against her.

    The head of a Newark animal shelter who was charged with 16 counts of animal cruelty amid health violations and reports of gruesome conditions, accepted a plea deal that bans her from the shelter for two years. But, could return to work there after that probationary period is up. 

    RoseAnn Trezza, 70, is prohibited from being involved with the shelter for two years as part of the agreement that dismisses all the charges, according to the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA). Trezza will also have to pay $3,500 in fines to the Newark Health Department. 

    NJSPCA said in a statement it was "disappointed" with the outcome and opposed the deal.  

    "The fact is the prosecutor had control over the disposition in this case, not the NJSPCA," agency spokesman Matt Stanton said in a statement. "This is not an acceptable outcome in our opinion and the prosecutor was and is well aware of our objections."

    Stanton said the NJPSCA wanted the case to go to trial or seek a plea that included all or some of the 16 animal cruelty charges. 

    Trezza was charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty in November. The NJSPCA said as the executive director of the shelter, she failed to care for some animals by providing filthy water bowls and mixing sick animals with healthy ones. 

    Trezza has served on the board of directors since 1973 and according to the nonprofit's 990 tax filing, reported $112,000 in compensation in 2016.

    She did not immediately return a request seeking comment. 

    dscn3167.JPGIn a joint site visit by local and state Department of Health officials on Aug. 22, inspectors slapped the agency on Evergreen Avenue with 40 violations. (NJ Department of Health)

    Harry Jay Levin, an attorney for the shelter, said last year that Trezza would no longer be involved in the day-to-day operations and instead assume a marketing role until her case was resolved. It is unclear if she will return after the two year probation, and in what capacity.

    Former and current volunteers at the shelter who spoke to NJ Advance Media last year blamed poor management and lack of oversight for the shelter's problems. 

    Associated Humane Societies in Newark contracts with more than a dozen municipalities to provide animal control and sheltering services for about $1.3 million.

    The Newark Health Department did not immediately return a request for comment. 

    Societies has two other facilities in Tinton Falls and Forked River, including the Popcorn Park animal sanctuary.

    Karen Yi may be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook

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    Highlight the favorites and contenders, plus predictions for all 20 sections.

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    Sydney McLaughlin set an NCAA record, Keturah Orji reached a milestone no other SEC athlete has achieved. And there's more.

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    The South Orange-Maplewood school district plans to reconfigure its schools and redraw district lines to integrate its schools and build more space for students.

    Amid an ongoing federal lawsuit alleging South Orange-Maplewood schools segregates its students, district leaders have announced a $127 million plan to renovate buildings and reconfigure the schools so they reflect the district's demographics. 

    "We think we got it right but we're not going to rush out assuming we know everything," Interim Superintendent Thomas Ficarra said during a public meeting this week announcing the plan. He said the district would take the next few weeks to solicit feedback from the community before seeking school board approval. 

    The integration plan would combine all fifth- and sixth-graders at Maplewood Middle School and seventh- and eighth-graders at South Orange Middle School. The 7,000-student district has seven elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. Columbia High School would remain the same. 

    "That configuration guarantees that (grades) 5-12 will be a fully integrated school situation for all of those children," Ficarra said. 

    The elementary schools will have their district lines redrawn -- which determine which students attend what schools. Redrawing district lines will take a few months to finalize, Ficarra said, and will "probably cause lots of debate."

    "We want to have a completely integrated school district at the elementary level," Ficarra said. The rule of thumb, he added, was that every school reflect the demographics of the entire district. 

    The $127 million plan includes $34.5 million to build an additional 62,800 square feet of space at the schools to accommodate the changes. The rest will fund repairs that prioritize the health and safety of the students. 

    The $93.1 million in capital improvements includes: 

    • $5.3 million in security systems
    • $15.1 million to improve ramps, stairs, railings
    • $5.6 million in roofing repairs
    • $1.1 million in window improvements
    • $10.5 million for interior fixes, including the high school pool and library
    • $8.2 million in ADA improvements
    • $1.5 million in site improvements
    • $3.8 million for electrical changes
    • $41 million for boilers, radiators, insulation, etc.
    • $410,000 in plumbing
    • $85,000 for transgender bathrooms and private rooms for staff
    • $456,000 in asbestos abatement 

    The lawsuit against the district, filed by a community group earlier this year, claims a wide range of racial issues in the district, including segregated lower grades and a tracking system in the high school.

    Karen Yi may be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook

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    The bus was en route to Newark Penn Station from the Livingston Mal when the crash took place

    One person was killed and four injured when a New Jersey Transit bus and a car collided on South Orange Avenue in Livingston on Wednesday afternoon, authorities said. 

    The No. 70 bus was traveling to Newark Penn Station from the Livingston Mall when it collided with a car around 1:15 p.m., according to a New Jersey Transit spokeswoman. The spokeswoman referred other questions to Livingston police. 

    Livingston police confirmed they are investigating a fatal crash but declined to provide additional information. South Orange Avenue is closed between Walnut Street and JFK Parkway, Livingston police said. 

    Four passengers and the driver were aboard the bus.

    The Essex County Prosecutor's Office said it didn't have any information available yet. 

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find on Facebook. 



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    A day after the state was hit with severe weather, JCP&L again finds itself with thousands of customers waiting to turn on their lights.

    Tuesday's severe thunderstorms again pummeled Jersey Central Power & Light Co., which a day after the heavy weather still had thousands of customers in the dark and said utility crews may not get them all back into service until Thursday.

    "There was a great deal of damage, which brought down lots of trees, lines and poles," said JCP&L spokesman Ron Morano.

    As many as 108,000 customers of the utility were without power at the height of the storm and as of Wednesday afternoon, 38,000 people still could not turn on their lights.

    The worst of the damage was centered in Morris County, where 14,825 customers had no electricity as of 2 p.m., and Sussex County, where another 15,622 customers were affected.

    JCP&L has come under fire in the past for the pace of getting power back to customers in the wake of big weather events and many were again getting fed up with the delay on Wednesday.

    Earlier this year, a big nor'easter tore through its service territory, knocking out thousands of customers--when the company's service territory got slammed again by a snowstorm. Gov. Phil Murphy later ordered a state investigation into how New Jersey utility companies responded to the winter storms.

    JCP&L is often particularly susceptible to outages because there are many trees and wooded areas throughout its service territory, and falling branches are the most common cause for blackouts.

    The company serves 1.1 million customers in Burlington, Essex, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren counties.

    Public Service Electric & Gas Co., the state's largest utility with more than 2.2 million electric customers, reported 5,467 people had not power on Wednesday afternoon, with the largest number of outages in Essex County.

    Morano said the JP&L has 1,400 linemen and other crews working to bring service back, and hopes to get the majority of people back by 11:30 p.m. on Thursday.

    "When you do restoration work like this, it's meticulous and you have to do it safely," he said.

    Keep track of power outages, from the major utility companies as they happen across the state using the N.J. Outage Tracker below


    Ted Sherman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TedShermanSL. Facebook: @TedSherman.reporter. Find on Facebook.

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    A look back at the top 50 performances from the first round of the girls lacrosse state tournament.

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    Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad is heard using profanity and complaining when issued a ticket Watch video

    A South Orange-Maplewood School Board Member was caught on camera using foul language and apparently calling a police chief a "skinhead" after being pulled over for speeding last month.

    In the dash-cam video, obtained from police by NJ Advance Media, Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad can be heard using profanity and complaining when issued tickets by a village police officer.

    During the traffic stop, a hysterical Lawson-Muhammad threatens to "call Sheena...and your skinhead cop chief, too," apparently referencing South Orange Village President Sheena Collum and village Police Chief Kyle Kroll. 

    Earlier in the video, the board member can also be heard telling the officer, "I'm scared of cops because you guys hurt black people."

    In the video of the April 27 incident, Lawson-Muhammad was pulled over at just before 8 a.m. on Walton Avenue near the border of South Orange and Maplewood. She is heard telling the officer, "My name is Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad, I'm on the school board, I'm a community member of this town and I am sorry if I was speeding. I didn't realize I was speeding." 

    When the officer tells her that she is getting summonses for speeding and for not having a valid insurance card, Lawson-Muhammad starts to argue, saying, "for me to have to go to court, for me to have to go to court, now you want me to go to court? I don't want to go to court, I have insurance."

    The board member threatens to call the high-ranking town officials after the officer says he cannot void a ticket that has already been written. Reached Wednesday, Kroll declined to comment on the incident. Collum did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

    Lawson-Muhammad and Maplewood South Orange School Board spokesperson Suzanne Turner did not respond to requests for comment.

    Walter Fields, Chairman of local advocacy group the Black Parents Workshop, which is suing the school district on an unrelated matter, issued a statement Wednesday condemning the board member.

    "Ms. Lawson-Muhammad must issue a public apology to this officer. Given the lengths to which efforts are underway nationwide and locally to address the real issue of police brutality against African Americans, it is appalling that this Board Member would conduct herself in this way," he said in the statement.

    "The officer should be commended for his professionalism, demeanor and the respect he showed a citizen who immediately tried to use her position to intimidate him."

    The incident comes less than a month after Port Authority Commissioner Caren Turner resigned in the wake of a dash cam video that showed her cursing at cops and apparently trying to use her position to stop them from impounding a car her daughter was in.

    Olivia Rizzo may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @LivRizz. Find on Facebook

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    "In ancient times, cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this." -- Terry Pratchett

    Over the years, New Jersey has been home to quite a few famous animals -- Elsie the Cow, MGM's Leo the Lion, Tarzan's original Cheetah the Chimp and Petey the Dog from the Our Gang series.

    un0129historyOn March 4, 1929, Rin Tin Tin and his owner, Leo Duncan, had this photo taken with Elizabeth Mayor John Kenah and local children Charles Coriel and Jane Seymour. 

    But the most famous animals in New Jersey were and are those that become a part of our lives.

    They're pets, ranging from dogs, cats, rabbits and horses to more exotic species like snakes, toucans and insects. And they're animals that were and are part of the Garden State's agricultural history - draft horses, sheep, cattle, chickens and even bees.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    I've heard a lot of quotes, statements and opinions about animals over the years, but the one that sums them up best, at least for me, came from scientist Irene Pepperberg, who has performed extensive studies on animal cognition: "Clearly, animals know more than we think, and think a great deal more than we know."

    Here's a vintage photo gallery of pets and animals from New Jersey, as well as links to other galleries you may enjoy.

    Vintage photos of pets and their people in N.J.

    Vintage photos of horses and horse racing in N.J.

    Vintage photos of why N.J. is the Garden State

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    University Hospital is proposing outsourcing its inpatient pediatric services to Newark Beth Israel because of declining volume and problems retaining professionals at the unit.

    There will be fewer beds for children at University Hospital in Newark if a proposal to cut back its inpatient care services goes through. 

    The prospect, which could take effect as early as July 1, is roiling many nurses and doctors who say transferring inpatient pediatric services from University to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, a hospital three miles away, would be detrimental to the community. 

    University Hospital is the only Level 1 trauma center in North Jersey and houses New Jersey Medical School's primary teaching hospital. 

    "This is a death blow for our medical school's commitment for that segment of the population's children," Dr. James Oleske, a professor of pediatrics, said during an often-testy Community Oversight Board meeting on Wednesday. "To abandon the Central Ward and take pediatrics away from University Hospital ... I think, is a terrible mistake."

    Hospital CEO Jon Kastanis said during the meeting the move was a difficult one but necessary because of a decline in pediatric inpatients. Only three to four children require such services a day and sometimes the intensive care unit for pediatrics is closed, he said.

    "We're at an all-time low on volume," Kastanis said. Transferring inpatient services to Newark Beth Israel, he assured, was "not a threat to this organization or community." The Children's Hospital of New Jersey is housed there. 

    The small number of pediatric patients means resident pediatric physicians have been sent elsewhere, Kastanis said. 

    "We're not abandoning pediatrics," he added. University Hospital still sees about 34,000 pediatric outpatients a year through emergency, ambulatory and trauma services and will continue to do so, he said. 

    But David Livingston, chief of the New Jersey Trauma Center at University Hospital, said there's no way outsourcing pediatric inpatient services won't impact trauma care.

    "Trauma is much bigger than what we do downstairs when people first come in ... being a trauma center is about inpatient care," he said. "It's not just being seen right after your car crash, right after your industrial accident, you need ongoing care, you need people who understand pediatric trauma, people who understand how to take care of you not just in the first five, 10 minutes, hour."

    Livingston said the move could risk the hospital's trauma designation. "We are required to have inpatient pediatric services to be a Level 1 trauma center," he said.

    Hospital officials said patients would be treated and stabilized before being transferred and sufficient staff would be retained to admit pediatric patients who need it, though few details have been released on what that would look like.

    The Health Professionals and Allied Employees union, which opposes the plan, said members were concerned about how outsourcing inpatient services would impact the community's ability to access care or travel to Newark Beth Israel.  

    "Is this a necessary step to take? Rather than close the unit are there are other alternatives to reduce beds in the unit?" asked Bridget Devane, public policy director for the union. "It's a pretty rash move."

    The hospital submitted an application to the state Department of Health on April 2 to reduce pediatric services, a spokeswoman for the DOH confirmed. She said the DOH sent the hospital questions about the application and it has until June 15 to respond. Those answers, along with any correspondence in response or in opposition to the application will be reviewed by the DOH. 

    According to the application, provided by HPAE, the hospital plans to reduce the number of beds from 23 to four. The application said pediatric beds were typically less than 30 percent occupied. 

    The details of the arrangement with Newark Beth Israel were not disclosed but Kastanis said residents and faculty from University Hospital will be housed at Newark Beth Israel. 

    "We will have clinical control and say," he said. He added that the pediatric unit staff would likely be absorbed into other positions and retrained as necessary. An ambulance will be designated especially for the transport of pediatric patients to Newark Beth Israel. 

    Robert Johnson, dean of the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and chair of University Hospital's Board of Trustees, said the hospital "wasn't built to have pediatrics in it.

    "Let me make clear that this will not affect our commitment to the children of this community," Johnson said, adding that he had been trying to move pediatrics out of the hospital since the late 1990s. 

    "Why all of a sudden this change now?" Livingston asked. "And why is this being done sort of below the radar in a precipitous fashion?" 

    Dr. Iris Herrera, University Hospital's interim Chief Medical Officer, said the priority is maintaining the highest quality of care, staff and services for the community's children.

    "What will not change is our commitment and responsibility to provide emergency and trauma services as well as outpatient care to children," she said in a statement. 

    Karen Yi may be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook


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    Which newcomers made the list? And where did everyone else land?

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    The incident took place at Montclair High School and involved two minors

    Authorities are investigating an alleged sexual assault that took place in a gender-neutral bathroom at Montclair High School.

    Police confirmed to NJ Advance Media there was an incident involving two minors but would not disclose any other information other than to say their investigation began before Monday afternoon. obtained an email sent to parents that read in part, "there is an ongoing investigation regarding an alleged sexual assault in the all gender restroom at Montclair High School. The safety of our students is of primary concern. While the matter is being fully investigated, we have increased security in the building.

    "Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation and student confidentiality, the district is unable to share additional information with the community at this time. However, the district remains committed to ensuring that the Montclair Public School system remains a safe and welcoming place for all students."

    A secretary who answered the phone at Superintendent Dr. Kendra Johnson's office told NJ Advance Media, "it's an open investigation so we're not allowed to comment."

    Johnson didn't immediately return the call seeking further details. 

    Montclair police Lt. David O'Dowd said the incident was documented into the department's record system at 3:18 p.m. Monday. 

    Montclair High added a gender-neutral bathroom in September 2016, according to

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find on Facebook.


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    The 32-year-old goaltender is signed until 2022.

    New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider, who inked a seven-year, $42 million contract in 2014 to stay with the team, put his 6,900-square-foot Short Hills home on the market Wednesday for just under $2.9 million, according to its Trulia listing.

    Schneider, and his wife, Jill, bought the home in 2015 for just over $2.8 million, according to property records. The 32-year-old goalie has been on the Devils since he was traded to the franchise from the Vancouver Canucks in 2013.

    Located on half an acre in ritzy Short Hills, the 2015-built home has six bedrooms, five-and-a-half bathrooms and has "a fabulous modern vibe for today's lifestyle," according to the listing.

    On the first floor, the home has a chef's kitchen that is adjoined by a breakfast area and a butler's pantry that has a wet bar and wine fridge.

    The master suite, which has a gas fireplace and a marble bathroom with a steam shower and heated floors, is on the second floor, as are four other bedrooms, according to the listing.

    The home also has various entertainment options. The basement level of the home features a recreation room, an exercise room, a full bathroom and a humidity-controlled wine cellar. The private backyard has a fire pit and an outdoor kitchen.

    A55I7914.JPGNew Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider's Short Hills home went on the market Wednesday for nearly $3 million. 

    According to property records, the home was last assessed at $2.98 million. Property taxes for the home were $47,560 in 2017.

    After making the All-Star game in 2016, Schneider had an up-and-down, injury-plagued 2017-18 season in which a groin injury suffered in January sidelined him after a solid start to the season.

    Devils coach John Hynes elected to start Keith Kinkaid over Schneider in the first two games of the opening round against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the team's first playoff appearance since 2011. Schneider relieved Kinkaid in Game 2 of the series before starting the next three in a 4-1 series loss to the Lightning.

    Earlier this month, Schneider underwent surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left hip.

    Schneider has made over $33 million in his nine-year NHL career, according to He and his wife have two young children.

    Joe Atmonavage may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jatmonavageNJFind on Facebook

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    A coalition of civil rights groups says the state's school system is unconstitutional and prevents students of color from reaching their full potential.

    New Jersey has been hit with a major legal challenge calling for the statewide desegregation of its public schools, which remain some of America's least integrated despite the state's increasingly diverse population.

    Led by a retired state Supreme Court justice, a coalition of civil rights groups filed a lawsuit Thursday to challenge the state's school system as unconstitutional and request sweeping action to end segregation. 

    "The fight to integrate New Jersey's schools is the great unfinished civil rights struggle of our time," said Christian Estevez, president of the Latino Action Network, one of the plaintiffs in this suit. "This lawsuit is the next step in building a future where all children get the chance to succeed."

    Though the majority of New Jersey's school-age population is non-white, the state's schools remain staggeringly segregated, according to recent studies. 

    New Jersey is America's sixth most segregated state for black students and the seventh most segregated for Latino students, according to a 2017 analysis by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. 

    A recent Center on Diversity and Equality in Education study found almost 25 percent of New Jersey schools are "desperately segregated," with student enrollment more than 90 percent white or more than 90 percent non-white. 

    About 66 percent of New Jersey's African American students and 62 percent its Latino students attend schools that are more than 75 percent non-white, according to the lawsuit.

    Such segregation prevents hundreds of thousands of students of color from reaching their full potential, the suit says. 

    "New Jersey's segregated schools have failed our children for far too long," said Richard T. Smith, president of the New Jersey NAACP, another plaintiff in the case.

    Gov. Phil Murphy's administration declined to comment on whether it will fight the litigation, but spokesman Dan Bryan said, "Gov. Murphy believes strongly that we must combat the deeply rooted problem of segregation."  

    The lack of integration stems from residential segregation, school district boundaries and the high correlation between race and socioeconomic status, the suit claims. Because of the dearth of affordable housing outside of low-income urban areas, children of many minority families are subject to de facto segregation, something the state Supreme Court has already called unconstitutional, the suit contends. 

    The desegregation effort is spearheaded by the New Jersey Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools, a new nonprofit organization chaired by former state Supreme Court Justice Gary Stein.

    Stein's son, Michael, will represent the plaintiffs, along with Lawrence Lustberg, a prominent attorney who argued New Jersey's high-profile same-sex marriage case in state court. 

    The complaint, filed in Mercer County, asks the court to strike two key aspects of state law: the requirement that students (with few exceptions) must attend the school district in which they live, and the requirement that charter schools give priority to students in the district the school is located. 

    "We are now tackling the root causes that allow segregation in our schools to continue decades after the Supreme Court outlawed explicit racial segregation," said Elise Boddie, a civil rights attorney and board member of the new nonprofit organization. 

    The suit calls on the state education commissioner to come up with a desegregation plan that could include an array of tactics used in different communities. 

    Potential options include consolidation of school districts, regional magnet schools or voluntary transfer programs that allow students in predominantly minority districts to attend other schools, according to the lawsuit. 

    "It would not blow up the whole system, it would simply knock down a fence that is a barrier to diversity," Gary Stein said. 

    The case is not an attack of Murphy and is not meant to be a hostile one, Gary Stein said. 

    "It is brought in the state's own interest to require New Jersey to deal with its unfinished business - ending segregation by race and poverty in its public schools," he said. 

    The group chose Thursday to file the lawsuit because it is the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision that banned racial segregation in schools. 

    Along with the civil rights groups, the plaintiffs include nine children and the United Methodist Church of Greater New Jersey. 

    Adam Clark may be reached at Follow him on twitter at @realAdamClarkFind on Facebook


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