OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY
TRENTON - Some think it isn't Kool that state officials are calling for a ban on menthol cigarettes. Our lawmakers are looking to mess with one-third of the cigarette market, citing research that shows menthol encourages even more addiction. The cooling effect also makes smokers suck even more toxins into their blackened lungs. New Jersey would be the first US state to ban menthols, but they're already banned in Brazil. Meanwhile, the European Union wants them out by 2022. NJ 101.5 reports some American cities also ban sales, like Minneapolis, Oakland and San Francisco. But obviously not Salem or Newport.
TRENTON - In his first couple of weeks as governor, Phil Murphy's approval numbers are double those of his predecessor. But it is clear many New Jersey voters are still getting to know the new guy, with a "wait and see" approach, reports the Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll. Interestingly, Murphy is most tied to the word "marijuana" among poll recipients, followed by "taxes." More people are now thinking New Jersey is moving in the right direction, which is certainly good. But interesting to see how long the new governor will get a free pass before voters get antsy for magical solutions to decades-old problems.
STATEWIDE - As Democrats gain steam on some pet issues, after eight years of Christie control, the Urban Enterprise Zones may be reignited. The former governor thought the UEZ program was a waste, stripped its money and sent it into the black hole known as the state treasury. Lawmakers are now pushing for a 10-year extension of the program, which offers shoppers a 50 percent sales tax break if they patronize dozens of struggling, urban downtowns. Unclear where Murphy stands on all this, but one can hope for smart analysis and a plan to boost these shopping districts desperate to compete with malls and online retailers.
HIGHLAND PARK - Rep. Frank Pallone is bringing along a guest tonight to the State of the Union address: Highland Park resident Esder Chong, a Rutgers University student who received protection against deportation under Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the Asbury Park Press reports. The invitation comes as the fate of nearly 800,000 DACA recipients is in limbo, and several Indonesian Christians are taking sanctuary in a Highland Park church to avoid deportation. While Pallone is obviously eager to highlight the immigration crisis, don't expect Trump to warmly welcome Chong and ask for standing-room applause.
IN THE MEDIA
ON AIR - If you can't beat `em, join `em. And that's perhaps why Chris Christie is the newest member of the fourth estate, joining ABC News as, gulp, a "contributor." Christie waged a scorched earth war with the New Jersey media throughout his eight years as governor. He was also the guy who famously said: "When reporters act like jerks, you need to treat them that way back. They don't have some vaulted status in our society that they get to act like jerks and not be treated like a jerk back." Fascinated to see what it will be like for Christie if he is asked to actually gather news for ABC, rather than just blindly opine as a Trump backer.
IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS
WASHINGTON, DC - Are you a big-time Trump donor? We bet you are. And that means you would love to have your name proudly flashed on your computer screen during the broadcast of the State of the Union speech. Trump is offering supporters the golden opportunity to see their names proudly displayed during a live stream on his campaign website, the Washington Post reports. Tasteless? Sure. Un-presidential? Of course. But, to be fair, Stephen Colbert used the same tactic during his mock 2012 run for a North Carolina U.S. Senate seat, mocking how Super PACs unapologetically raise unlimited cash from special interests. Trump is doing it because... well, we all know why.
THIS DAY IN HISTORY
It was on this day in 2015 that an outbreak of measles at Disneyland sickened 67 guests. Of course, everyone blamed Donald.
WORD OF THE DAY
Obsequious - [uhb-SEE-kwee-uhs] - adjective
Definition: Characterized by or showing servile complaisance or deference; fawning
Example: Will Trump give an obsequious bow to Congress tonight? That's a funny one.
WEATHER IN A WORD