By Vin Goal – Educators across the county have reached out with concerns about COVID-19 testing, which I brought to Governor Murphy’s attention in numerous phone conferences with the Governor’s Office leading up to his executive order lifting the testing requirement for unvaccinated teachers, state employees and childcare workers.
The testing is costly and testing unvaccinated folks isn’t reliably halting the spread of COVID because the latest variants are being transmitted by both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. The state’s federal COVID relief funds will eventually run out, so we need to make sure we’re making the most of them. The decision to end routine testing also follows the CDC guidance regarding responsible steps states can take as we continue to adjust to the endemic reality of COVID-19.
We all want to feel that kids are safe in school. But with 27 school shootings already this year, and 119 school shootings since 2018, violence against children and teachers is never far from any parent’s thoughts. That’s the reason behind my co-sponsorship with Senator Vince Polistina of a bipartisan bill to allow County Sheriffs to hire retired police officers to work in schools during the classes and at events. Many towns don’t have large enough police departments to assign officers to individual schools. This bill would help ensure that students are able to learn in a safe environment by making it easier to put professional, well-trained, and experienced law enforcement officers in schools.
On the subject of starting school, my Senate Office in Ocean Township is conducting a Back-to-School Supplies Drive for students in need. Families spend an average of just under $700 on back-to-school items, according to the National Retail Federation. You can help children and families in need meet the challenges of the new school year by donating school supplies at my Senate Office, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays through August 31, at 802 West Park Avenue, Suite 302, Ocean Township. To donate and ship items directly from Amazon, visit tinyurl.com/GopalBTS</a> for the Amazon link and instructions.
Safety is the reason behind two other of my bills, co-sponsored with Assemblywoman Shanique Speight, of Newark, to strengthen penalties for car thieves and to create an Automobile Theft Prevention Authority. Other states have proven the authorities helped them mount quick, targeted responses to car theft activity. Police departments and prosecutors say the increase is partially driven by car theft “rings” recruiting juveniles to steal cars since they face more lenient punishments. We are attempting to curb this trend by increasing the penalties for juveniles, while being mindful that we also need to help these juveniles build pathways for rehabilitation as part of the law.
As Labor Day approaches, we continue to work in the Senate through bipartisan efforts to support local businesses. A bill to help local craft breweries by easing recently imposed restrictions is a good example. The legislation would increase the number of special events craft breweries can hold each year and remove a prohibition on breweries working with food vendors. I introduced the bill because New Jersey has a vibrant craft brewing sector that is creating jobs and the state should be working to facilitate, not inhibit, its growth,
We want to encourage collaboration between breweries and other homegrown producers because when local businesses do well they keep the economy strong and improve the quality of life for all of us.
Stay safe and have a happy Labor Day.