** The Jaffe Briefing will be on a socially-distanced spring break from Monday, March 29 to Friday, April 2 **

ON THE RAILS – In what could be the biggest story of the decade – and, yes, we may be overwriting this lede to grab your attention – it looks as if the long-awaited, long-suffering Gateway rail project may be back on track. You may recall how Gov. Chris Christie famously nixed this key, multi-billion dollar infrastructure plan to build another rail tunnel under the Hudson River and finally modernize an antiquated system built in the early 1900s. According to our favorite Transportation Secretary of all time, Pete Buttigieg, this “is a regional issue but one of national significance because if there was a failure in one of those tunnels, the entire U.S. economy would feel it.” Amen, brother. The feds hope to fast track the environmental impact statement by the end of June. It is a far cry from the previous administration, which had a president who hated this Blue State project so much that he threatened to shut down the federal government, rather than spend a nickel on a new tunnel. Elections matter.

NEW BRUNSWICK – Rutgers students will be warmly welcomed back to the banks of the Old Raritan this fall; they just better be vaccinated. In what is sure to stir some protest – as well as plenty of public policy debate at competing universities – Rutgers has issued the sweeping mandate to require all 71,000 students on its three campuses be inoculated before enrolling. RU becomes one of the first mega-colleges in the nation to hinge enrollment on vaccination, with many others closely monitoring any potential blowback. To get the impending controversy stirred a bit, the university is requiring all students to get a shot, but not faculty and staff. (Hmm. Labor unions?) The hope here is that everyone just keeps quiet and gets vaccinated, so things can finally return to normal. But, hey, this is Rutgers.

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TRENTON – One sticking point in the legalized marijuana bill won’t be as sticky. State lawmakers now agree with pretty much everybody that cops should inform parents if their kids are busted with a joint or booze. Cops still have some rightful concerns, as the strong odor of marijuana is still not justification to search juveniles and the police could be criminally liable for unwarranted searches. This clean-up bill continues to be cleaned up.

BRIEFING BREATHER

It is possible to turn peanut butter into diamonds.

ATLANTIC CITY – At first, it made perfect sense. Spread the word of the “Black Lives Matter” movement by painting the important message on busy thoroughfares. The problem, as the AP reports, is how drivers are expected to still navigate the road. Mayor Marty Small says “Black Lives Matter” now needs to be repainted on a repaved, four-lane road in a way that does not obscure the painted lane dividers. It will cost the city $36,000 to redo the road, now blocked off from confused motorists. “Black Lives Matter” was painted curb to curb on a busy section of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard smack in the city’s downtown as a compromise with activists, who originally wanted the slogan prominently painted on the city’s iconic boardwalk.

STATEWIDE – New Jersey sure loves its puppies. But don’t take our word for it – rely on one of those unscientific internet polls. A “TOP Data” study – which purports to have captured data about 500,000 adopted dogs – reports that New Jersey ranked 13th highest in the nation in our interest in adopting a puppy since the onset of the pandemic, when the number of national adoptions soared by 34%. And, amongst our preferred pooches? Chihuahua, Yorkshire Terrier and Shih Tzu. And the state who hates puppies the most? That would be Mississippi, with the lowest adoption numbers over the past year.

IN THE MEDIA

LAKEWOOD – There is yet another update in the story of this sexist, crazy photo caption that appeared in the Asbury Park Press on Sunday. After politicians and others piled on the newspaper, prompting the editor to fire the reporter and publish an apology – the hits keep coming. The Monmouth County Board of Commissioners is pulling its legal advertising – a key source of ongoing revenue. “We are not going to continue to give money to an organization that is sending these kinds of messages to anybody who is on the Internet, including kids,” said Commissioner Sue W. Kiley. Look: No one questions the caption was outrageous. The employee was rightfully canned and the newspaper has pledged safeguards. Why now go after all the other reporters and editors who had nothing to do with it? Monmouth and Ocean counties need a strong, daily newspaper. Don’t use this isolated incident to choke free press, in search of easy PR. The commissioners jumped the shark on this one.

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

FAYETTEVILLE, VA – A former employee was finally paid for his last weeks of work – just not in the way he had envisioned. The man quit his job at an auto repair shop in November, and then battled with the employer to get his final payment of $915. The issue got so bad that it required intervention from the state labor department. His final payment arrived earlier this month: 90,000 grease-covered pennies dropped in his driveway. On top of the pile? His final pay stub and an “explicit parting message” from his former boss. The former employee is now spending his nights trying to wash off the pennies and will attempt to deposit them with some poor, unnamed bank teller in the Atlanta area. WGCL-TV reached out to the former boss, who said he didn’t know if he did or didn’t drop off the pennies. Clearly, he has no cents.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

It was this day in 1976 that the American League approved the sale of a baseball franchise in Toronto for $7 million. Current value? $1.65 billion.

WORD OF THE DAY

Hobbit – [HAH-bit] – noun

Definition: A member of a fictitious peaceful and genial race of small humanlike creatures that dwell underground

Example: Does this blouse make me look like a hobbit?

WIT OF THE DAY

“Scratch a dog and you’ll find a permanent job.” 

– Franklin P. Jones 

BIDEN BLURB

“Dogs may help cure cancer. It’s not a joke.”

-Joe Biden

WEATHER IN A WORD

70s!