OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

TRENTON - As state lawmakers are set to announce a bill at 11 a.m. to decriminalize pot - an issue that has consumed the Statehouse -  the Record is reporting on an often-ignored issue: the state's ridiculously antiquated liquor laws. For example, supermarkets in the state can only have up to two liquor licenses, stemming from a law created during the Kennedy Administration to appease the liquor store lobby and organized crime. So, in most towns in the state, people must buy their groceries in one place, and then run someplace else to get wine or beer. This flies in the face of logic, as well as the common practices in most states in the country, where people freely buy liquor in supermarkets. There is a bill in the state Legislature that would allow supermarket chains to finally have more liquor licenses - which would certainly put us all in better spirits.

TRENTON - As America comes to grip with the latest mass shooting, it is somewhat reassuring to know New Jersey has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. But with 2017 being the deadliest year for mass shootings in U.S. history, and 2018 off to an awful start, the Murphy administration is talking about additional safety measures. Ammunition limits, the adoption of smart gun technology and stricter concealed carry rules are all on the table, the Record reports, following a round-table discussion this week in Cherry Hill led by Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald. In light of yesterday's tragedy in Parkland, Fla., and 273 school shootings nationwide since the unthinkable happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, our hope is the gun lobby finally falls on deaf ears.

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TRENTON - The state's health department has a $2.8 billion budget.So, a $7.5 million bill the Assembly is set to pass today shouldn't be newsworthy. Except it is, Politico notes, because the legislation will fund family planning services that Gov. Chris Christie had repeatedly cut from the state budget. It was widely considered a political move up by an aspirational Republican, eager to show hard-liners that, he too, can gut Planned Parenthood. The Democrat-controlled Legislature restored the budget line each year, but Christie continued to veto. Thankfully, to the relief of many women in this state, that veto pen has finally dried up.

JERSEY CITY - As the city wraps up the first complete citywide revaluation in 30 years, residents in the gleaming towers on the Hudson may be in for some sticker shock. There is talk the city's upscale downtown could take the biggest hit as property valuations potentially increase ten-fold to better align with the million-dollar views, concierge services and 24-hour freshly-ground espresso. In the spirit of fairness, property taxes could plunge by more than 60 percent in the city's low- and middle-income neighborhoods, evidence of who has been subsidizing all this glorious gentrification in recent decades, according to NJ.com. As our urban core continues to be reignited by martini-swilling professionals, expect this scenario to play out again and again.

MORRISTOWN - The former chief of Morristown Medical Center is learning about life in the Trump fish bowl, as Veterans Affairs Secretary. And now the world knows David Shulkin took a taxpayer-funded, $122,234 trip to Europe last July to participate in a summit in London. The Star-Ledger, on its front page, is telling everyone about Shulkin's tickets to Wimbledon and sightseeing around England and Copenhagen, accompanied by his wife and a traveling party, including security detail. The trip - of which about 65 percent appeared to be recreational - was all laid out in an inspector general's report. The publicity will hopefully be a red flag for other government leaders who consider a business trip to be a vacation on the taxpayer's dime.

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

CHESTERFIELD, ENGLAND - A British man thought he would dazzle his girlfriend this Valentine's Day weekend by whisking her off to Belfast to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  He plunked down his hard-earned money to buy a pair of tickets in Row Q. The couple then headed up to Belfast for the Feb. 10 show, soon realizing they had tickets to see "the Red Hot Chilli Pipers," a bagpipe cover band. Silver lining: the band considers itself, according to the website, as the "most famous bagpipe band on the planet."

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

It was this day in 1964 that a college basketball player named Bill Bradley put up 51 points for Princeton University.

WORD OF THE DAY

Tetchy - [TETCH-y] - noun

Definition: Easily annoyed or irritated; peevish, testy or irascible 

Example: An awful lot of Wall Street wizards who reside in Jersey City may soon get tetchy when they see their next property tax bill.

WEATHER IN A WORD

Spring?