Speaking at a State House news conference with Democratic leaders, Gov.-elect Phil Murphy repeated his campaign promise to increase New Jersey's minimum wage to $15 from $8.44, James Nash writes in The Record. Murphy said he hoped to sign a bill on the pay issue early in his term. The state's minimum hourly pay is scheduled to increase to $8.60 on Jan. 1 under provisions of a 2013 constitutional amendment.
ATHEISTS FILE SUIT TO BLOCK BLESSING OF ANIMALS AT SHELTER
An atheist group based in Cranford has filed suit in federal court to halt the annual blessing of the animals at the Bergen County Animal Shelter, Sara Jerde reports for NJ.com. The group, American Atheists Inc. of Cranford, contends that the event, in which the animals are blessed by a Franciscan priest, violates the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
NJ JUDICIARY REVISES DECADES-OLD JUDGE DISQUALIFICATION RULES
For the first time since 1983, the rules governing when trial judges in criminal and civil cases must disqualify themselves have been updated, Michael Booth reports in the New Jersey Law Journal. The acting administrator of the state court system, Appellate Division Judge Glenn Grant, issued the new guidelines last week and they were made public on Monday. Grant said the rules were meant to “reinforce” the circumstances in which judges should disqualify themselves from presiding over criminal cases “without exception.”
PROPOSAL TO INCREASE MENTAL-HEALTH SCREENING ADVANCES
The Senate budget committee approved legislation that would extend the adult mental health early-intervention system to all 21 counties from 11, Lilo H. Stainton writes for NJ Spotlight. The measure, which was introduced in the Assembly in January, still needs full Senate approval and the signature of Gov. Chris Christie before the end of his term in January.
ACCREDITING AGENCY PUTS ESSEX COUNTY COLLEGE ON PROBATION
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which accredits area colleges, has placed Essex County College in Newark on probation, Elana Knopp reports for TAP Into Newark. The college received a warning a year ago that its governance, student retention policies and institutional resources did not meet accreditation standards. While improvement has been shown in admissions and student retention, the commission still finds deficiencies in governance and institutional resources.