Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sweeney & Oliver Promise to Extend Unemployment Benefits for Laid-Off New Jerseyans Before Current Session Ends

(Trenton) - Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver on Thursday announced plans to help laid-off New Jersey workers take advantage of extended federal unemployment benefits, vowing to pass new legislation authorizing the benefits before the current legislative session ends on Jan. 9.

"With thousands of New Jerseyans still desperately seeking work, they can take full advantage of the extended federal benefit is the right thing to do," said Sweeney (D-Salem/Cumberland/Gloucester).  "Not only will these benefits keep the unemployed and their families afloat during this difficult period, but they are also the best form of economic stimulus.  This is money that does right back into the economy."

"With the economy only showing intermittent signs of recovery, the federal extension of unemployment benefits is a life-saver for many New Jersey families," said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic).  "Businesses, while signaling that they intend to start hiring in the New Year, have yet to do so in a healthy enough dose to make a considerable dent in our statewide unemployment rate, making the extension of these benefits all the more imperative."

With New Jersey's unemployment rate still hovering around 9 percent and 15,000 more individuals applying for benefits last week, the leaders welcomed the federal extension to help beleaguered New Jersey residents desperately trying to find work.

The legislation, which is being drafted, would implement the option provided under legislation signed by President Obama last week, which will extend federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits until Feb. 29, 2012, two months after they were set to expire.

The legislature unanimously passed similar legislation (S-2680/A-3795) earlier this year after the federal government extended UI benefits until January 3, 2012.  The legislation was signed by Governor Christie in April.  Sweeney and Oliver said the new legislation that will be introduced will include a trigger that will automatically extend the benefits at the state level should the federal government extend them again at any future date.

The continuation of benefits will incur no costs to New Jersey's unemployment fund or employers in the state because the federal act provides 100 percent federal funding of the benefits throughout the extension.

"We've seen our unemployment rate improve in fits and starts, but have yet to see a sizeable and sustained improvement, as evidenced by the jump in applicants for unemployment benefits last week," added Oliver.  "The lack of available work for our residents makes the extension of these benefits all the more crucial while we work towards creating long-term employment opportunities."

"I am glad Washington was able to overcome the gridlock for the time-being, and hope they can develop a more permanent solution.  In the meantime, Democrats in the Legislature will continue to do everything we can to provide not just benefits for the working middle class families who need them, but also the jobs that produce a paycheck.  We hope our colleagues across the aisle will work with us on these efforts and that Governor Christie will sign the benefits extension into law the second the bill hits his desk," said Sweeney.

The legislative leaders hope to have the legislation ready for introduction when both houses reconvene on January 5.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Johnson, Vainieri Huttle & Quijano Bill to Promote Online Donations OK'D by Senate Panel

(Trenton) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly members Gordon M. Johnson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Annette Quijano to encourage more online donations to many of the beneficial programs intrinsically linked to New Jersey was recently advanced by a Senate committee.

The bill (A-2727) would provide easy, online access to make donations to the special funds listed on New Jersey's gross income tax return forms.  It was approved 77-0 by the Assembly in February, and released earlier this month by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.  The bill still requires final legislative approval from the Senate.

"In this day in age, it's just common sense to let people donate online and not just on their tax returns," said Johnson (D-Bergen).  "If we can provide residents with the knowledge and access to lend a helping hand, I have no doubt that we can increase support for many of New Jersey's worthwhile programs."

"We know that New Jerseyans have big hearts and, if given the opportunity, they always rise to the occasion," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).  "With more and more people filing their taxes online, it's important that we take advantage of these tools to promote the worthwhile programs near and dear to our state, which are in need of support."

"People already use the web to shop and pay their bills, so it makes sense to allow them to donate to these worthy causes online," said Quijano (D-Union).  "Online donations are practical, and will go a long way in helping these wonderful programs.  New Jerseyans are generous, and I'm certain that given an even simpler way to donate, they will step up to the plate."

Currently, only the New Jersey Children's Trust Fund to Prevent Child Abuse, one of a handful of specific tax check-off items listed on New Jersey's gross income tax return, allows for online donations.

This bill would require the state Division of Taxation to create a separate online donation form for any of the special funds designated under current law, including the NJ Endangered Wildlife Fund, the NJ Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Fund, the NJ Breast Cancer Research Fund, the state's Low-Cost Spray/Neuter Program, and the U.S.S. New Jersey Educational Museum Fund.

According to a June report from the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, total charitable contributions nationwide declined for the first time since 1987. down 3.6 percent in 2009.  It was also just the second decline in contributions since the foundation began publishing annual reports in 1956.

Roughly 50 to 60 percent of organizations that provided data to the Giving USA Foundation reported lower gift receipt in 2009 than in 2008.  Hit particularly hard were charities that promote education and the arts, which suffered two consecutive years of decline.  They lost 8.8 percent and 8.7 percent of donations, respectively, between 2007 and 2009.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Milam, Tucker & Conaway Bill to Improve Oversight for Facility That Helps Homeless Veterans Gets Final Legislative Approval

(Trenton) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Matthew W. Milam, Cleopatra Tucker and Herb Conaway, M.D., to create a council to oversee Veterans Haven, a state operated facility for homeless veterans serving veterans from all over New Jersey, has received final legislative approval, and now heads to the governor's desk.

"The council will make sure that this facility is indeed a haven for veterans in need," said Milam (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland).  "They put their lives on the line for our country.  It is now time for us to return the favor at a time in their lives when they most need it."

"This group will play the very important role of ensuring the needs of our veterans are being met," said Tucker (D-Essex).  "It's tragic that men and women who served their country find themselves without a home to call their own, but this is one way for us to try to help."

"This council will be responsible for developing policies to better the lives of those veterans receiving services at Veterans Haven," said Conaway (D-Burlington/Camden).  "If this bill becomes law, we'll know there is a group of people who will see that those who have given so much will receive the life-affirming care they need."

The bill (A-4111) was approved 78-0 by the Assembly in June.  It was approved 37-0 by the Senate earlier this month.

The Veterans Haven Council will formulate policies for the coordination of services for the veterans housed at Veterans Haven located in Camden County; will consult with and advise the Deputy Commissioner of Veterans Affairs and the Director of Veterans Services with respect to the work of Veterans Haven; recommend standards and procedures for application and termination of eligibility for admission to Veterans Haven; and recommend standards of care, treatment and discipline governing the relationship between Veterans Haven and the persons admitted there.

The council will consist of seven members.  The Deputy Commissioner of Veterans Affairs will serve as a nonvoting ex-officio member.  Each member will be appointed by the Adjutant General with the approval of the Governor.  The term of each member will be three years.  Council members are subject to removal by the Adjutant General at any time for good and sufficient cause.

The bill was also initially sponsored by Jack Connors, who recently resigned from the Assembly.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Assembly Approves Riley Measure To Help Patients Determine Health Insurance Coverage

Legislation Would Require Insurance Companies to Specify Whether a Procedure is Covered When Authorization is Required

(Trenton) - A measure sponsored by Assemblywoman Celeste Riley that would help consumers determine which services are covered under their health insurance policies has been approved by the full Assembly by a vote of 65-4-1.

"Currently, when a hospital calls an insurance company to get authorization the insurance company only has to declare if it is medically necessary.  However, in some instances, the procedure is not covered by the benefit plan," said Riley (D-Salem/Cumberland/Gloucester).

The bill (A-3247) would amend the "Health Claims Authorization, Processing and Payment Act" by requiring health insurance carriers to classify health care services that are deemed medically necessary as a covered benefit.

Currently, carriers that receive a request for authorization from a health care provider are only required to respond to the request with a determination as to whether the health care service is medically necessary under the member's health benefits plan.

Under the measure, carriers that provide authorization would be required to determine that the health care services are a covered benefit under the insured's health benefits plan, in addition to being medically necessary.

"This bill will eliminate any ambiguities that might confuse a patient and remedy the loopholes that exist in our current law," added Riley.  "Insurance companies would be required to specify whether a procedure is a covered benefit when it gives authorization for that procedure."

The bill also would require carriers to remit payment to a hospital if the carrier remits payment to a health care provider who performs services on a patient in that hospital.

Finally, the bill would provide that while a patient remains in the hospital awaiting authorization from the carrier to be transferred to another facility to receive medically necessary health care services that are not rendered by that hospital, the carrier shall remit payment to the hospital in connection with the contracted acute care rate until the patient is transferred to another health care facility.

Currently, if it is determined that a patient needs to be transferred to another health care facility, carriers will begin to remit payment to a hospital at a rate that is less that the amount contracted for between hospital and the carrier.  This bill provides that the carrier shall remit payment to the hospital at a rate based on the actual setting of care.

The requirements would take effect on the 90th day after the date of the bill's enactment.  The bill now awaits consideration by the Senate.

Vainieri Huttle Legislation to Address Youth Suicide Prevention Receives Final Legislative Approval

(Trenton) - Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle paving the way for the creation of a statewide plan to address youth suicide prevention received final legislative approval by the full Senate.

"This is about protecting our children from themselves by ensuring that we have the necessary resources readily available for young people and their families to access in a time of crisis," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).  "My goal is to ensure that we save as many lives as possible."

This bill (A-3659), which was approved 75-0 by the full Assembly in May and 36-0 by the Senate last week, now heads to the Governor's desk.

The measure would require the Commissioner of Children and Families (DCF), in consultation with the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services and the New Jersey Youth Suicide Prevention Advisory Council, to develop and adopt a statewide youth suicide prevention plan within 180 days of the bill's enactment.

Specifically, the plan would be required to:
  • Identify existing state and local sources of data concerning youth suicide deaths, youth suicide attempts, and self-inflicted injuries by youths;
  • Coordinate and share this data among identified state and local sources;
  • Promote greater public awareness about youth suicide prevention services and resources;
  • Identify barriers to accessing mental health and substance abuse services, as well as opportunities to enhance this access; and
  • Promote evidenced-based and best practice programs, listed on the Suicide Prevention Resource Center's Best Practices Registry, for the prevention and treatment of youth suicide and self-injury.
According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, there are more than 140 crisis centers that currently participate in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network.  Each center receives calls from designated areas of the country, and calls are routed to the closest available crisis center.

New Jersey operates three crisis centers in the Lifeline network:  CONTACT We Care in Westfield, CONTACT of Mercer County in Ewing, and CONTACT of Burlington County in Moorestown.  However, an August 2010 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline report stated that from August 2009 through July 2010, 60 percent of New Jersey's crisis calls were answered by Lifeline crisis counselors in other states, primary New York and Nebraska, who likely do not have access to specific information regarding New Jersey's youth suicide prevention services and resources.

"It's crucial that our suicide prevention resources are easily accessible and fully equipped to direct youths in crisis to the appropriate support service.  In a critical moment, having the right person available with the right knowledge can mean the difference in a life saved," added Vainieri Huttle.

Additionally, the bill would require the commissioner of DCF to review the department's grant application procedures to ensure that grant applications submitted by the department for youth suicide prevention initiatives are completely accurate and in a timely manner.  Further, the bill would require the commissioner of DCF to give thorough consideration and, where appropriate, apply for grants from the federal government, and contributions and donations from other public or private sources as may be used for the purposes of the bill.

The Commissioners of Human Services and Children and Families, in consultation with the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, would prepare a report reviewing the effectiveness and sufficiency of services provided by the New Jersey-based suicide prevention hotlines, and transmit the report to the Governor and the Legislature, no later than 12 months after the effective date of this bill.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Quijano, DeAngelo, Ramos & Wagner Bill to Promote Solar Energy Facilities Signed into Law

(Trenton) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Wayne P. DeAngelo, Ruben J. Ramos, Jr., and Connie Wagner to permit the development of solar and photovoltaic energy facilities on closed landfills has been signed into law.

The law (A-3139) permits the development of solar and wind facilities and structures on closed landfills and quarries.

"New Jersey has already taken strong steps to promote alternative energy and reduce reliance on fossil fuels, but this is another strong step," said Quijano (D-Union).  "Closed landfills and quarries can be eyesores and obstacles to better land use, but by using them for solar farms and alternative energy facilities, we will boost New Jersey as a leader in the clean energy industry while helping clean the environment."

"This is more than just cleaning the environment and promoting alternative energy," said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex).  "This will create jobs and drive economic activity in communities throughout the state."

"Allowing businesses to take advantage of closed landfills and quarries to provide clean, alternative energy is a win for everyone," said Ramos (D-Hudson).  "It will improve our environment and drive economic development at a time when it's especially needed."

"Turning landfills and quarries into sites that produce clean, sustainable energy is almost poetic," said Wagner (D-Bergen).  "This is a concrete example of what we mean when we talk about sustainable, green initiatives."

Wisniewski Statement On House Republican Rejection of Compromise To Extend Payroll Tax Cut

(Trenton) - New Jersey Democratic State Chairman John Wisniewski issued the following statement on the House of Representatives rejection of the Senate compromise measure to extend the payroll tax cut and long-term unemployment benefits:

"With today's vote in the House of Representatives, Republicans now rival the Grinch who stole Christmas as America's #1 holiday villain.  By rejecting the Senate compromise measure, they are threatening working families with higher taxes and to take away unemployment benefits from the long-term unemployed.  They have once again catered to "Tea Party" ideology rather than defend the interests of America's hardworking middle class."

"I am particularly disturbed by New Jersey's Republican Members of Congress for their refusal to stand up to this Tea Party extortion.  They have again rejected New Jersey values to placate the right-wing of their party."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Benson, Vainieri HUttle, Riley Measure to Raise Awareness of Ovarian Cancer, Increase Survival Rates Receives Final Legislative Passage

(Trenton) - The full Assembly has granted final legislative approval to a measure sponsored by Assembly Democrats Dan Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Celeste Riley that would establish a statewide ovarian cancer public awareness campaign to help increase survival rates among women.

The measure, which was unanimously approved by the Senate last year, was approved by the Assembly a vote of 70 to 0 and now heads to the Governor's desk.

"Because early detection and treatment often mean the difference between life and death, it's important to increase awareness of the factors that put certain women at a higher risk for the disease," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex).  "Because many of the symptoms are vague and non-specific, women and their physicians often attribute them to more common conditions so that by the time the cancer is diagnosed the tumor has often spread.  Simple awareness can make all the difference."

This bill (S-1711/A-3837) would require the state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to establish the public awareness campaign to inform the general public about the clinical significance of ovarian cancer and its public health implications.  The campaign would include risk factors, symptoms, the need for early detection and methods of treatment.

"If found and treated in its earliest stages, the five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is 95 percent," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).  "Unfortunately, most women who suffer from ovarian cancer are not diagnosed until the later stages when the disease has spread and the five-year survival rate decreases roughly 30 percent.  Bringing this issue to the forefront of women's minds is paramount to the survival of many."

The symptoms of ovarian cancer include:  general abdominal discomfort or pain, such as gas, indigestion, pressure, swelling, bloating or cramps; nausea, diarrhea, constipation or frequent urination; loss of appetite; feeling of fullness after a light meal; weight gain or loss with no known reason; and abnormal bleeding from the vagina.

"Although development of a screening test to detect ovarian cancer remains a very active area of research, currently there is no definitive prevention strategy," said Riley (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem).  "The best way to decrease the overall risk of dying from ovarian cancer is to have regular pelvic examinations, something this measure will hopefully help make more women aware of."

The sponsors underscored the importance of the public awareness campaign, noting that ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system and ranks fourth as a cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States.  Additionally, more than half of the deaths from ovarian cancer occur in women between 35 and 54 years of age.

In order to carry out the public awareness campaign, the legislation requires DHSS to, at a minimum:
  • develop printed educational materials and public service announcements in English and Spanish; and
  • distribute the information to the public, through a variety of means, including, but not limited to, local health agencies and clinics, physicians, health care facilities, county offices on aging, pharmacies, libraries, senior citizen centers, other community-based outreach programs and organizations, and the department's official website.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chivukula & Burzichelli Push to Protect Small Businesses From Red Tape

Bill Part of Ongoing Democratic Job Creation & Economic Development Effort

(Trenton) - Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Upendra Chivukula and John Burzichelli to cut through the bureaucracy strangling New Jersey small businesses continues to advance toward law.

The bill (A-2129) would revise the New Jersey Regulatory Flexibility Act to force the state, when implementing a new regulation, to minimize the rule's impact on small businesses so long as the public health, safety, or general welfare is not endangered.

The measure is part of the ongoing Assembly Democratic job creation and economic development effort.

"Untangling red tape for all businesses is a priority, and I'm enthused that we've been moving forward on that goal because small businesses in particular are hit hard by bureaucracy that can strangle their ability to create jobs," said Chivukula (D-Somerset/Middlesex).  "This is a key step toward helping small businesses avoid getting roped into a morass of red tape."

Current law sets forth various approaches a government agency must utilize to accomplish statutory objectives, keeping in mind the limited resources available to small businesses.

The legislation requires an agency to, when developing rules, minimize the impact on small businesses so long as the public health, safety or general welfare is not endangered.

"We need to do a lot more to make it clear to agencies that the impact on small businesses must get special attention," said Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem), who as chairman of the Assembly Regulatory and Oversight Committee has been pushing regulatory reform bills.  "Small businesses are the ones that create jobs and drive our economy."

Under the bill, a small business is defined as one that employs fewer than 100 full-time employees or having gross annual sales of less than $6 million.

The bill establishes a process by which a small business that is adversely affected economically or aggrieved by final rule-making action may file a petition objecting to all or a part of the rule subject to regulatory flexibility analysis.

For cases in which the agency rejects the petition, this process addresses concerns about frivolous appeals without creating unprecedented procedures with respect to the courts.

Specifically, the bill:
  • Establishes a petition process as a prerequisite for a court appeal;
  • Requires the appeal petition to be filed within 90 days after final rule-making action;
  • Creates an optimal summary disposition process based on affidavits;
  • Sets sanctions for frivolous appeals; and
  • Places a restriction on appeals based on compliance with the regulatory flexibility process.
The bill was approved 75-0 by the Assembly in September 2010 and released Thursday by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

Diegnan, Jasey & Coughlin Bill to Include Cheerleading in the Student-Athlete Head Injury Program Gets Final Legislative Approval

(Trenton) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly members Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr., Mila M. Jasey and Craig J. Coughlin requiring the state Department of Education to include cheerleading in the student-athlete head injury safety training program received final legislative approval Thursday, and now heads to the governor's desk.

The bill (A-4008) would extend the safety training requirement to cheerleading coaches in public school and nonpublic school interscholastic sports programs, and amend the current law which requires the training solely for school physicians, sports coaches and athletic trainers in public school and nonpublic school interscholastic sports programs.

"This bill would ensure the safety of students involved in cheerleading, which has become more competitive and pushes the limits of gymnastics and dance," said Diegnan (D-Middlesex).  "These students run the risk of serious injury when they perform, and deserve the same level of protection given to other students involved in school athletics."

"The cheerleaders of today do more than wave pompoms; they are performing athletically difficult routines including high pyramids, leaps and tosses," said Jasey (D-Essex).  "This offers them the same level of protection as other student athletes, and ensures their coaches will have the training to properly recognize and deal with head injuries."

"Cheerleading is competitive and can be as dangerous for students as high-contact sports like football," said Coughlin (D-Middlesex).  "Making sure trainers and coaches have the knowledge to recognize symptoms, and when it's safe for a student to return to the sport will help keep student athletes safe from further injury or even worse."

The bill was approved 78-0 by the Assembly in June, and approved 36-0 Thursday by the Senate.

The training covers how to recognize symptoms of head and neck injuries, concussions, and injuries related to second-impact syndrome; and the appropriate amount of time to delay the return to competition of a student who suffers a head injury.

A report from the National Center for Catastrophic Injuries said statistically speaking; cheerleading is the most dangerous sport - even more so than football.  The report cited 44 fatalities or serious injuries during the course of study and those injuries continue to rise.

A study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2006 reported cheerleading injuries increased by 110 percent between 1990 and 2002.  The most common injuries were arm and leg strains and sprains, but 3.5 percent of the cases involved head injuries.  Research by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2007 found the number of emergency room visits to treat cheerleading injuries of any kind jumped from 4,954 in 19080 to 28,414 in 2004.

Wagner & Gusciora Measure to Protect Pets During Domestic Disputes Approved by Assembly

(Trenton) - A measure sponsored by Assembly members Connie Wagner and Reed Gusciora to protect pets during domestic disputes was approved by a vote of 71-0 by the full Assembly on Monday.

"We've heard so many stories of pets being abused or even killed as retaliation against a partner when a relationship goes sour," said Wagner (D-Bergen).  "Often times it's done without thinking as an attempt to hurt the other partner, but whether it's intentional or not, animals should not have to suffer.  This is a humane measure designed to protect innocent pets from being the victim of a domestic dispute."

"For many pet owners, a pet is a member of their family.  To harm or even kill a defenseless pet simply to get back at a partner is cowardly and cruel," said Gusciora (D-Mercer).  "No animal deserves to be mistreated or abused, especially out of revenge.  This will protect pets caught in the middle of a domestic dispute from potentially dangerous situations."

The bill (A-1633) would authorize the courts to issue orders protecting animals in situations where a person abuses or threatens to abuse an animal as part of a domestic dispute.  Animals are not directly addressed in New Jersey's current domestic violence law.

Under the bill, the court may issue an order prohibiting a defendant charged with a crime or offense involving domestic violence, who is released from custody before trial on bail or personal recognizance, from having any contact with any animal owned, possessed, leased, kept or held by either party, or a minor child residing in the household.

The bill also allows the court to mandate who will have possession of the animal, and that the animal not be disposed of before the final disposition of the crime or offense.

In addition, the bill would allow the court to issue, as part of a restraining order, an order directing who should have possession of the animal, and mandating that the animal not be disposed of before a final restraining order is issued.  Lastly, the bill would amend the statute governing final restraining orders to direct who should have possession of the animal.  There would be a presumption that the animal would be awarded to the non-abusive party.

The bill is modeled on a recently enacted Maine law.  Currently, animals are not directly addressed by domestic violence law in New Jersey.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Coutinho & Conaway 'Grow New Jersey' Job Creation & Economic Development Bill Approved By Assembly

(Trenton) - Legislation Assembly Democrats Albert Coutinho and Herb Conaway M.D. sponsored to create jobs and economic development to combat New Jersey's continued high unemployment rate was approved 60-2-4 Thursday by the Assembly.

The bill (A-4306) builds upon ongoing Democratic job creation efforts and would establish the Grow New Jersey Assistance Program tax incentive program for New Jersey-based companies that retain and create new jobs.

"Nothing is more important right now than doing whatever we can to help New Jerseyans and the businesses that employ them survive this difficult economy," said Coutinho (D-Essex), Chairman of the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee that released the bills.  "Creating jobs and economic growth is a must, and with this bill package, we're positioning New Jersey businesses to succeed in the 21st century.  That can only be a good thing for our residents."

"Incentive programs designed to grow New Jersey companies who retain and create new jobs is a smart approach," said Conaway (D-Burlington/Camden).  "It ensures subsidies are aligned with real job creation that benefits our working families.  Targeted incentives like this will strengthen New Jersey's economy and build a stronger middle class."

The bill establishes a $200 million tax credit incentive program that emphasizes growth of New Jersey-based companies through capital investment, creation of new jobs and retention of existing jobs.

To be eligible for program tax credits, the bill requires a business to make capital investments of at least $20,000,000 at a qualified business facility at which it will employ at least 100 full-time employees in retained full-time jobs, or create at least 100 new full-time jobs in an industry deemed desirable by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

Eligibility for program tax credits will also be based upon a determination by the EDA that the capital investment will yield a net positive benefit to the state and that the award of tax credits is a material factor in the business decision to create or retain the minimum number of full-time jobs.

The program's cost falls under the $1.5 billion cap established under the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit program.  The bill allows the initial $200 million program allocation to be increased by the board of the EDA if the board determines the credits to be reasonable, justifiable, and appropriate.

The bill requires that all applications for eligibility under the program shall be made to the EDA by July 1, 2014.

The bill requires final legislative approval from the Senate.

Milam, DeAngelo & Benson Bill Cracking Down On Road Rage & Reckless Drivers Gains Assembly Approval

'Jessica Rogers' Law' Making Road Rage a Criminal Offense Stems from Incident in Hamilton, Mercer County

(Trenton) - Legislation Assembly members Matthew Milam, Wayne DeAngelo and Dan Benson sponsored to crack down on reckless and aggressive drivers after a Mercer County incident left a teen-age girl paralyzed was approved by the full Assembly on Thursday by a vote of 69 to 0.

"Far too many motorists have been put in harm's way, or worse, because another driver let their emotions run wild," said Milam (D-Cumberland/Atlantic/Cape May).  "On our increasingly crowded roads, we need to send a message to reckless drivers that rank indifference to their fellow motorists will not go unpunished."

The bill (A-676) - dubbed "Jessica Rodgers' Law" - would include road rage in the state's assault-by-auto statute and lead to enhanced punishments for individuals convicted under that law.  The bill has been named after Jessica Rogers, a young woman from Hamilton, Mercer County, who suffered severe injuries and was left paralyzed from the chest down following a March 2005 auto accident that resulted from road rage.

"Any driver who allows their rage to control their actions behind the wheel essentially turns their vehicle into a deadly weapon," said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex).  "A simple slap on the wrist or ticket can no longer do."

Jessica, who was 16 at the time of the accident and is now 23, testified at the Assembly Committee hearing last year and was in attendance with her family today for the Assembly vote.  She was a passenger in a vehicle that slammed into a telephone poll after the driver - angered that he had been cut off - attempted to illegally pass another car on the shoulder.

Both Jessica and another passenger were seriously injured in the wreck.  The driver was convicted of two counts of assault by auto and sentenced to six months in jail and five years probation.

"Road rage is more than just an attitude; it can be a real threat to others.  Drivers who senselessly disregard the safety of the public must be held accountable," said Benson (D-Middlesex/Mercer).  "I hope this bill will serve as a wake-up call for many and help prevent road rage in New Jersey."

The bill now awaits consideration by the Senate.

Mainor Bill to Promote Investment in Small & Minority- & Women-Owned Businesses Approved By Assembly

(Trenton) - Legislation Assembly Democrat Charles Mainor sponsored to create jobs and economic growth by promoting investment in small and minority- and women owned businesses was approved 42-29 Thursday by the Assembly.

The bill (A-4343) establishes a Small Business and Minority Linked Deposit Program, under which money from the State of New Jersey Cash Management Fund would be deposited with eligible banks at rates 3 percent below the standard interest rate on a two-year certificate of deposit.

The bank would then make loans equal to the amount deposited by the state treasurer to eligible small businesses and minority- women-owned businesses at rates 3 percent below the standard loan rate offered by the bank.

"We cannot have a full economic recovery unless everyone is included," said Mainor (D-Hudson).  "Small and minority- and women-owned businesses need to be a part of our effort to create jobs, and this program would encourage investing in them to boost our economy.  New Jersey is strong only if everyone stands strong, and this bill helps ensure that everyone is included."

The program would be administered by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority in consultation with the state treasurer.  The executive director of the EDA shall have final approval over loans after a bank has approved a loan through its standard approval process.

"The executive director will approve loans based upon the ability of the loans to generate jobs, improve the competitiveness and profitability of businesses receiving the loans and the significance of the loan to the business," Mainor said.  "It will be a fiscally responsible approach to job creation and economic development."

Loans issued under this program must be offered at similar terms to those the lender offers to other borrowers with the exception of the lowered interest rate.  In addition, no loan can be issued for more than $200,000.  The lender and borrower can agree to any loan term but the reduced interest rate will only apply for the initial two years of the loan.  In the event that the borrower defaults or renegotiates the loan, the state will not be held liable in any way and the state deposit backing the loan shall be mature within 30 days of the default.

The bill still requires final legislative approval from the Senate.

Burzichelli Bill To Make New Jersey More Attractive For Jobs And Businesses Advances

(Trenton) - A measure sponsored by Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli that would make New Jersey more attractive for businesses and more competitive for good-paying jobs was approved 70-1 on Thursday by the Assembly.

The bill (A-4359) would modernize the rules governing the formation of Limited Liability Companies in New Jersey.

Burzichelli is a member of the Red Tape Review Commission formed to find ways to eliminate unnecessary regulation and help stimulate economic development.

"Streamlining the ways companies can form in New Jersey is a smart step toward increased job creation and economic growth," said Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland).  "Common sense bills like this to make it easier for businesses to grow and prosper in our state are what's needed to help navigate through this difficult economy.  After all, stronger businesses mean better jobs for New Jersey residents."

The bill would modernize regulations for creating and operating LLCs - a form of unincorporated business organization that provides corporate-style limited liability to its owners with partnership-like capacity.

Significant changes would include:
  • Eliminating the default and overlooked rule that LLCs have a limited duration;
  • Allow LLC operating agreements to be oral, written or implied;
  • Allocating profits and losses on a per capita basis; and
  • Providing remedies when members of a company act in an oppressive or harmful way to other members.
The bill will now be referred to the Senate.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Assembly Panel Advances Jasey, DeAngelo Bill to Help 9/11 Veterans Become Teachers

Pilot Program Would Expedite Certification Process and Help Fill Anticipated Teacher Shortage

(Trenton) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey and Wayne DeAngelo to help 9/11 veterans find employment through an expedited teacher certification program was approved by the Assembly Education Committee on Monday.

"This program will help provide veterans with a path to higher education and employment opportunities, while filling a predicted critical shortage in the teaching profession, a win-win," said Jasey (D-Essex).  "Our state veterans have already proven themselves in terms of leadership and would serve the students of our state well in the classroom.  This is one more way to help repay the debt of gratitude we owe them."

The bill (A-4377) would establish the "VETeach Pilot Program" in the Department of Education, which will create a 36-month teacher participation program at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey for veterans who served in the armed forces on or after September 11, 2001.  The educational expenses incurred by eligible students would be covered under the "Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act," also known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

"Who better to have in the classroom teaching our children than those who bravely dedicated themselves to serving our country," said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex).  "The high unemployment rate among our veterans is unacceptable and there will be a great need for a new generation of teachers in coming years.  We need to establish initiatives such as VETeach that will provide an avenue for veterans to pursue careers in education while helping to place role models in the classroom."

The establishment of the pilot program represents on of a series of veteran employment initiatives to be advanced under the auspices of Operation College Promise, which provides resources to help veterans maximize the education benefits they have earned.

The program will lead to a baccalaureate degree and completion of the requirements necessary to apply to the State Board of Examiners for a certificate of eligibility with advanced standing, which will authorize veterans to seek employment as a teacher in grades K through 8, and in certain secondary education fields.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans who served since September 11, 2001, was 11.5% in 2010, much higher than the national average.

Additionally, a 2009 report by the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future found that more than a third of the nation's 3.2 million teachers could retire in the next four years.

"The high attrition rate among new teachers of nearly 33% is also troubling, and leavers school districts with a loss of teaching talent that is becoming more difficult to replace.  The program may also serve to attract a greater number of men and minorities, groups which are currently underrepresented in the teaching progression," added Jasey.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quijano Bill to Combat Cyber Terrorism Advanced by Assembly Panel

Bill Comes After Testimony on NJ's Vulnerability

(Trenton) - Legislation Assembly Homeland Security Chairwoman Annette Quijano sponsored to protect New Jersey's critical infrastructure and guard the state against cyber terrorism and cyber attacks was advanced Monday by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-4369) establishes a Cyber Security Bureau within the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness dedicated to the protection of the state's cyber security infrastructure, including the identification and mitigation of vulnerabilities, deterring and responding to cyber events and promoting cyber security awareness within the State.

The bureau is required to work in conjunction with the Office of Information Technology to establish statewide policies, standards, programs and services relating to cyber security and geographic information systems.

"Cyber terrorism represents one of the greatest challenges to national security in this country because of the complex and technical nature of computer information systems and the ability of terrorists to initiate an attack on critical infrastructure from a remote location," said Quijano (D-Union), who heard testimony on New Jersey's vulnerability to cyber terrorism and attacks before her committee advanced the bill.  "New Jersey's critical infrastructure increasingly relies on computer networks and information technology, so it's imperative that we combat the threat of cyber terrorism that would disrupt the state's computer networks and ultimately jeopardize the State's critical functions, including law enforcement and public works.

The bill also requires the Director of the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness to appoint a Chief Cyber Security Officer from among his staff.  The chief cyber security officer would be authorized to maintain electronic data relating to the state's critical infrastructure, and to coordinate activities with private sector entities and not-for-profit groups regarding cyber incidents and potential cyber threats.

"This much is clear - we need to be actively protecting the state's computer networks, responding to cyber events and promoting cyber security awareness within the state," Quijano said.  "We need the dedicated and full-time focus a Cyber Security Bureau would provide as a single, cohesive office.  Right now we have separate agencies handling different cyber security issues, and one of the big reasons this bill was drafted was to consolidate those efforts into a single, dedicated department."

The bill was released by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Assembly Panel Approves Lampitt Bill Requiring Schools to have Defibrillators On Hand to Help Save Lives

(Trenton) - Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt requiring every public school district to provide and maintain an automated external defibrillator (AED) on-site at each school complex was approved by an Assembly panel on Monday.

"This is a simple move that can potentially save lives, especially when we've seen a number of tragic deaths among student athletes in recent years," said Lampitt (D-Camden).  "Because of recent technological advances, portable automated external defibrillators have become an important, life-saving medical tool.  With broad deployment of AEDs among trained responders, as many as 50,000 deaths due to sudden cardiac arrest can be prevented each year."

Each year, more than 250,000 Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest.  According to medical experts, the key to survival is timely initiation of a "chain of survival". including CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).  Trained non-medical personnel can use these simplified electronic machines to treat a person in cardiac arrest.  The American Heart Association notes that at least 20,000 lives could be saved annually by prompt use of AEDs.

Lampitt noted that at least 16 other states require or encourage schools to have portable defibrillators on hand.

Under the bill's (A-1036) provisions, the board of education of the district would determine what constitutes a school complex which could be a single public school building or a group of public school buildings.  The district would make its determination based upon the grade levels of the district, distance between buildings, and the type of communication system in place in the district.

The bill also requires the school district to arrange for training in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and the use of a defibrillator for school nurses and any other staff members the district may designate.  The district must ensure the presence of a staff person who is certified in the operation and use of an automated external defibrillator for any school-sponsored or school approved curricular or extra-curricular event or activity which occurs at the school complex.

Additionally, the bill provides immunity from civil liability for a public school district and its employees in accordance with current law on the use of defibrillators.

The measure was unanimously approved by the Assembly Education Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.

Assembly Panel OK'S Diegnan's 'Tabitha's Law' Requiring Parents to Notify School of a Child's Absence

Measure Inspired by Nashville Teen's Disappearance is Designed to Help Law Enforcement in the Event of a Missing Child

(Trenton) - An Assembly panel on Monday approved "Tabitha's Law," legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr., which would require parents to notify a school if a child will be absent, a move inspired by the disappearance of a Nashville teen.

"It's well known that the first few hours of a child's abduction are the most vital to the recovery process," said Diegnan (D-Middlesex).  "Tabitha's Law is meant to provide families and law enforcement with an early warning trigger during that critical time.  Our hearts go out to the family of Tabitha Tudor who, to this day, still has not received complete closure."

The bill (A-416) would require parents to notify school administrators whenever their child will be absent from school, and requires administrators to contact parents whenever a pupil is absent without the parent's having provided prior notice.

On the morning of April 29, 2003, 13-year-old Nashville, Tennessee student, Tabitha Tudor, did not show up to school.  Although school administrators had received no notification from Tabitha's parents that she would be absent that day, the school failed to alert the Tudors of their daughter's unexplained absence.  As a result, her parents did not learn that Tabitha was missing until after her father arrived home at 4:45 p.m.  Due to the delay, law enforcement officials and Tabitha's parents lost an entire day before their search could begin.  Tabitha is still missing.

The measure was unanimously approved by the Assembly Education Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.

Assembly Panel OK's Conaway Bill to Allow Military Personnel Serving Overseas To Get Married in NJ

(Trenton) - Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Herb Conaway, M.D. (D-Burlington/Camden) that would make it possible for military men and women serving overseas to marry their significant other back home was approved Monday by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-4170) would authorize marriage and civil union by proxy for men and women in the military whose service in a war or conflict prevents them from appearing in person to obtain the marriage or civil union license and participate in the actual wedding ceremony.

"For service men and women, the call to serve can come at any moment.  Putting civilian life on hold is part of the course for deployed soldiers, but not being able to get married because the law requires them to be in the state is wrong," said Conaway.  "This measure will allow soldiers serving overseas to exchange 'I do's', even when they are thousands of miles away."

Under the bill, a member of the Armed Forces or National Guard who is stationed overseas and serving in a conflict or a war and is unable to appear for the licensure and solemnization of his or her marriage or civil union may enter into that marriage or civil union by the appearance of an attorney-in-fact, commissioned and empowered in writing for that purpose through a power of attorney.

The attorney-in-fact must personally appear before the licensing officer with the person who is not serving overseas, and present the original power of attorney signed by the party stationed overseas and acknowledged by a notary or witnessed by two officers of the Armed Forces or the National Guard.

The power of attorney would state that its purpose is solely to authorize the attorney-in-fact to obtain a marriage or civil union license on the person's behalf, and to participate in the solemnization of the marriage or civil union.  The original power of attorney would be a part of the marriage or civil union certificate upon registration.

"Military life is filled with sacrifices for those who serve.  Their commitment to our country is commendable; it should not keep them from fulfilling a marriage proposal," said Conaway.  "The hope is that every soldier deployed returns home safely.  But if a soldier wants to get married while stationed overseas, then he or she should have the option to do so."

The bill was released 5-0 by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Albano & Milam Bill to Ensure Fallen New Jersey Armed Forces Members Receive Honors Advanced By Assembly Panel

(Trenton) - Legislation Assemblymen Nelson T. Albano and Matthew W. Milam sponsored to ensure New Jersey honors its fallen members of the Armed Forces was released Monday by an Assembly committee.

The bill (A-3507) requires the Governor to direct the Adjutant General of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs to notify local government to fly United States and state flags half-staff upon death of member of Armed Forces who was a state resident.

"The purpose of the bill, quite simply, is to honor all brave service members who have served this state and our country so selflessly and who have given the ultimate sacrifice for freedom - their lives," Albano said.  "Flying flags at half-staff to honor their bravery may already be a regular practice, but it's right to make it a requirement."

"Requiring the state to honor the brave sacrifice of our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and neighbors is the proper thing to do," Milam said.  "They have given the greatest sacrifice to defend our freedoms, so the least we can do is require their memories to be appropriately honored."

The bill was released 5-0 by the Assembly Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee.

Greenwald Bill to Expand NJ Wedding Market OK'D by Assembly Committee

(Trenton) - Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) to invigorate the state's wedding market was released Monday by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-4366) gives New Jersey's tourism and hospitality industry a competitive advantage over states across the region and the country by eliminating the current 72-hour waiting period and streamlining residency requirements.

"This bill provides New Jersey's small weddings market with a shot in the arm," said Greenwald.  "By gaining a competitive edge over our neighboring states, we will create jobs and jump-start the small businesses that make up New Jersey's wedding and tourism industry."

The bill would eliminate the current mandatory 72-hour waiting period for issuance of a marriage or civil union license after an application is made, giving New Jersey a competitive edge over neighboring states.  The current waiting period, established in 1934, makes it cumbersome for out of state residents to plan weddings at New Jersey's many tourism destinations, depriving local economies of needed tourism dollars.

In addition, A-4366 streamlines residency requirements for New Jerseyans applying for marriage and civil union licenses.  Under current law, residents must apply for a marriage or civil union license in a municipality where either applicant resides, making it less convenient for residents to wed at one of the state's over 50 destination wedding facilities and other premier accommodations.  A-4366 allows residents to apply for licenses in the municipality where the wedding ceremony is to be performed as well.

By eliminating the waiting period, A-4366 also makes New Jersey more competitive with neighboring states, including Pennsylvania (72 hour waiting period), New York (24 hours), Delaware (24 hours), and Maryland (48 hours).  Under A-4366, New Jersey would join Connecticut and Rhode Island as the only states in the Northeast with no waiting period.  27 other states do not require a minimum waiting period for issuing a marriage or civil union license.

"In streamlining the marriage and civil union license application process, New Jersey will offer a new benefit that our biggest competitors do not," said Greenwald.  "With unemployment still at 9 percent, this common-sense bill will stimulate local economies and create jobs in our state."

This bill was released by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Assembly Panel OK's Barnes, McKeon, Gusciora Bill to Halt DEP from Waiving Environmental Rules

(Trenton) - A measure sponsored by Assembly Democrats Peter J. Barnes III, John F. McKeon and Reed Gusciora aimed at halting the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from circumventing various environmental regulations was approved by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

"The DEP does not have the statutory authority to promulgate one set of rules and regulations in order to waive other rules and regulations previously adopted as a result of legislation," said Barnes (D-Middlesex).  "Not only does this go against the very purpose of creating legislation, but it also has the potential to harm the environment and the residents of this state."

The resolution (ACR-206) notes that the rules and regulations DEP proposed for public comment in the New Jersey Register on March 7, 2011 to establish a procedure to waive existing rules are not consistent with the original intent of the Legislature.

The waiver, proposed by the DEP in March, would allow the DEP Commissioner to exempt companies from longstanding environmental regulations, potentially harming the environment as well as workers employed in hazardous industries who depend on safe working conditions.

"This is an attempt by the department to completely circumvent a great deal of the environmental protections we have put in place to protect the people of this state," said McKeon.  "This is a classic example of this administration acting without regard for the laws of this state, a pattern we've seen repeatedly over the last two years."

"This is the equivalent of letting the fox guard the hen house," said Gusciora.  "Without rules in place to preserve our environment, protect the public health and safeguard workers in dangerous industries, the private sector would have carte blanche to do whatever they want."

The measure approved today would give the DEP Commissioner 30 days from the date of transmittal of the resolution to amend or withdraw the proposed rules and regulations, or the Legislature may, by passage of another concurrent resolution, exercise its authority under the Constitution to invalidate the rules and regulations in whole or in part.

The measure was approved by the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee and now awaits consideration before the full Assembly.

Burzichelli Bill To Make New Jersey More Attractive for Jobs and Businesses Advances

(Trenton) - A measure sponsored by Assemblyman John J. Burzichelli that would make New Jersey more attractive for businesses and more competitive for good-paying jobs was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

The bill (A-4359) would modernize the rules governing the formation of Limited Liability Companies in New Jersey.

Burzichelli is a member of the Red Tape Review Commission formed to find ways to eliminate unnecessary regulation and help stimulate economic development.

"Streamlining the ways companies can form in New Jersey is a smart step toward increased job creation and economic growth," said Burzichelli, Chair of Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland).  "Common sense bills like this to make it easier for businesses to grow and prosper in our state are what's needed to help navigate through this difficult economy.  After all, stronger businesses mean better jobs for New Jersey residents."

The bill would modernize regulations for creating and operating LLCs - a form of unincorporated business organization that provides corporate-style limited liability to its owners with partnership-like capacity.

Significant changes would include:
  • Eliminating the default and overlooked rule that LLCs have a limited duration;
  • Allowing LLC operating agreements to be oral, written or implied;
  • Allocating profits and losses on a per capita basis; and
  • Providing remedies when members of a company act in an oppressive or harmful way to other members.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee by a vote of 5-0 and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Prieto Statement on Transitional Aid

(Trenton) - Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen) released the following statement Monday on the 67-11-1 Assembly vote on the bill (A-4373) he sponsored to appropriate $140.5 million for the state's transitional aid program, including $139 million for eligible municipalities and $1.5 million for oversight:

"The governor's unfortunate decision put public safety, vital services and financial stability at risk in many of New Jersey's cities, but we've taken a major step toward providing this direly needed help.  I look forward to this becoming law.

"I applaud today's bipartisan vote, and I hope from this point forward everyone will put public policy above partisan politics when making key decisions that impact public safety and the ability of a city to make its debt payments."

Mainor: Shame on DEP for Greenlighting Gas Pipeline Project, Despite Potential Danger to Jersey City Residents

(Trenton) - Assemblyman Charles Mainor today criticized the decision by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to award permits to energy company Spectra for the building of its controversial natural gas pipeline, which will be built partly in Jersey City:

"I'm flabbergasted by the lack of concern for residents in DEP's decision to grant Spectra the permits needed for the building of a gas pipeline through Jersey City.

"The pipeline will be built through some of Jersey City's most densely populated neighborhoods, putting countless residents at terrible risk if there is an accident.

"We saw the dangerous potential of these pipelines in San Bruno, California, where eight people were killed and dozens were injured after a natural gas line explosion last year.  With the population density in our city, the potential for catastrophe is simply too great.

"This project doesn't just put lives at risk, but threatens our city's economic vitality, with developers thinking twice about investing in our city because of the pipeline.

"The administration should be ashamed of itself for placing the interests of this energy giant over the safety of our residents, and the prosperity of our city."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

O'Donnell Hails Effectiveness of New Infant Heart Screening Law

Second Newborn Saved Since Law Went Into Effect

(Trenton) - Upon learning of the second newborn's life saved within months of the implementation of a new law he sponsored (A-3744) mandating a pulse oximetry test on newborns at least 24 hours of age, Assemblyman Jason O'Donnell (D-Hudson) released the following statement:

"I am happy to learn of a second baby whose life has been saved because of a pulse oximetry test.

"The effect of this legislation speaks for itself.  This test has now saved two lives -- that we know of -- and prevented two families from having to experience a potentially inconceivable loss.

"This simple, low-cost, non-invasive test, when performed on newborns at least 24 hours of age, is saving lives just as we knew it would.  Other states should follow New Jersey's example and implement this life-saving procedure, nationwide.

"I will continue to work in the legislature to find real solutions to problems that affect our families and our children.

"I commend the staff both hospitals for their exemplary work, and I wish the Diallo family and the Gordon family all the best."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Johnson Bill to Eliminate Cosmetic Surgery Tax Advanced by Assembly Panel

(Trenton) - Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Gordon Johnson to phase out a cosmetic medical procedures tax that has proven burdensome and ineffective was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-3646) phases out the tax implemented in 2004.

"This tax has proven ineffective and an economic hardship to New Jersey residents and businesses," said Johnson (D-Bergen).  "This phase-out will gradually alleviate the financial and administrative burdens associated with the tax.  Since it was imposed, the tax has increased overall costs for recipients of cosmetic medical procedures, and imposed an administrative burden on the medical offices billing the procedures and the state agencies charged with the administration and enforcement of the tax.  It's time to get rid of it."

Under the bill, the 6 percent rate of tax currently imposed on the gross receipts from cosmetic medical procedures is reduced by two percent per year over a three-year period:
  • On or after July 1, 2011 but before July 1, 2012 the rate of tax imposed will be 4 percent;
  • On or after July 1, 2012 but before July 1, 2013 the rate of tax will be percent; and
  • On or after July 1, 2013 the rate of tax will be eliminated.
The cosmetic medical procedures gross receipts tax is a state tax imposed on the purchase of cosmetic medical procedures.  The tax applies to amounts paid for services and for any property or occupancy required for, or associated with, the performance of a cosmetic medical procedure, and is paid by the subject of the procedure and collected by persons responsible for billing the services.

Examples of taxable procedures include cosmetic surgery, hair transplants, cosmetic injections, cosmetic soft tissue fillers, dermabrasion and chemical peel, laser hair removal, laser skin resurfacing, laser treatment of leg veins, sclerotherapy and cosmetic dentistry.

"As we're looking to create jobs and economic development, an ineffective tax like this that very likely is chasing jobs and medical work to other states quite simply needs to go," Johnson said.

The bill was released 12-0 by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Schaer Asks Christie To Investigate Port Authority's Pattern of Misleading Public In Light of Latest Toll Hike Revelations

(Passaic) - Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer on Thursday wrote to Governor Christie asking the administration to immediately investigate whether the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) has repeatedly misled the public after the latest revelation that the agency no longer intends to use funds from the recent toll hikes to rebuild the World Trade Center site, a claim the agency initially made numerous times when requesting the hikes.

In Schaer's letter to Christie, he calls for the investigation in light of a series of recent events in which the agency appears to have "purposely misled the public in matters regarding toll increases, infrastructure replacement, allocation of funds to he World Trade Center and employee compensation."

"If true, some of the actions taken by the PANYNJ appear to be abusive to commuters and business people, many of whom are concentrated in my own Bergen and Passaic County legislative district," Schaer (D-Bergen/Essex/Passaic) noted in his letter.  "Respectfully, I ask on behalf of my constituents, that your Administration, in concert with the State of New York, immediately investigate what was obviously and unfortunately become a recurring pattern of behavior at an independent authority critical to the economic viability of our region."

"At a time of historic lack of public faith in the institutions of government, this behavior continues to undermine the public's trust," he concluded.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Coutinho and Johnson Bill to Preserve Biological Evidence in Unsolved Crimes Approved by Assembly Panel

(Trenton) - Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Albert Coutinho and Gordon M. Johnson that would help law enforcement with cold cases by requiring certain agencies to preserve biological evidence in unsolved crimes has been approved by an Assembly committee.

"The evolution of forensic science has helped law enforcement apprehend people who committed a crime, but managed to escape the law for years.  The technology has caught up to criminals, but it is useless if the biological evidence that can crack a cold case and bring a criminal to justice is lost," said Coutinho (D-Essex/Union).  "By ensuring that this evidence is preserved in cases that remain unsolved, we can assist law enforcement agencies in capturing criminals who have eluded the law, and provide justice for victims and their families."

The bill (A-3994) would require agencies responsible for collecting, storing, and retrieving biological evidence secured in relation to the investigation or prosecution of a crime to preserve that state's custody.  The bill would also require the agency to produce the preserved evidence at the request of the court.  Under the bill, biological evidence means any item that contains blood, semen, hair, saliva, skin, fingernail scrapings, bone, bodily fluids, or other identifiable biological material.

The chief evidence custodian of an agency that could not locate evidence it was required to preserve under the bill, would be required, under penalty of perjury, to provide an affidavit describing the efforts taken to locate it, and how despite those efforts, it could not be located.  The bill also specifies that any inmate, who was denied a court motion to have DNA testing conducted because the biological evidence could not be found, would be entitled to request a new search.  The responsible agency would have 30 days to conduct such a search.  If the evidence is located, the agency would have 10 days to notify the person responsible for submitting a new motion to the court requesting the DNA testing.  If the evidence is not found, the chief evidence custodian would be required, under penalty of perjury, to provide an affidavit describing the efforts taken to locate it, and how despite those efforts, it could not be located.

Any person who destroys, or otherwise tampers with evidence or who knowingly fails to produce evidence in the agency's custody would be guilty of a disorderly persons offense.

"Just like new technologies can help solve cold cases, they can also help clear people who were convicted of a crime they never committed.  There have been numerous reports of innocent people released after years spent in prison after they were cleared by DNA testing," said Johnson (D-Bergen).  "Keeping the wrong person in prison is an injustice to the person serving the wrongful sentence, and the victim of whom justice was supposed to be served.  If there is evidence that can prove the innocence of a person who is incarcerated, then it must be made available."

The bill was released by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.

Assembly Panel to Continue Job Creation & Economic Development Effort

Job Training, Small Biz Expansion, Job Creation & Retention on Agenda

(Trenton) - The Assembly Appropriations Committee will meet Thursday to continue the Assembly's job creation and economic development push by considering bills to promote job training for out-of-work residents, encourage small business expansion and entice businesses to engage in economic development, job creation and the preservation of existing jobs.

Thursday's hearing is slated from 11 a.m. in Committee Room 11 on the 4th Floor of the State House Annex in Trenton.  Audio of the hearing will be streamed live at:

The following will be considered:
  • Renewed legislation Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) sponsored to create the Back to Work NJ program to help out-of-work residents receive on-the-job training from potential employers (A-4332).  The program has proven effective in Georgia and been included in President Obama's jobs plan, but Gov. Christie vetoed a previous version earlier this year.
  • Legislation to establish the Grow New Jersey Assistance Program tax credit incentive program for New Jersey-based companies that retain and create new jobs (A-4306).  It's sponsored by Albert Coutinho (D-Essex) and Herb Conaway M.D. (D-Burlington/Camden).
  • A bill to create a loan program within the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to help small businesses expand (A-4336).  It's sponsored by Daniel R. Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex), Coutinho, and Troy Singleton (D-Burlington/Camden).
  • Legislation sponsored by Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) to phase out over three years the cosmetic medical surgery tax (A-3646).
  • A bill (A-4048) to allow for voluntary income tax return contribution to support NJ SHARES, which provides assistance to individuals and families who are in need of temporary help in paying their energy bills.  It's sponsored by Elease Evans (D-Passaic/Bergen), Upendra Chivukula (D-Somerset/Middlesex), Charles Mainor (D-Hudson), Jason O'Donnell (D-Hudson), and Ruben J. Ramos Jr. (D-Hudson).

Riley and Albano Bill to Further Protect Crime Victims Advanced by Assembly Committee

(Trenton) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly members Celeste M. Riley and Nelson T. Albano to bolster the rights of crime victims has been approved by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-2558) would enhance existing law by making several amendments and additions to the "Crime Victim's Bill of Rights", including the right to be treated with dignity and compassion by the criminal justice system, the right to be advised of case progress and final disposition and the right to make an in-person statement directly to the sentencing court.

"A trial can be a trying experience for crime victims and surviving relatives and friends," said Riley (D-Salem/Cumberland/Gloucester).  "Strengthening the rights rendered to these victims ensures they are afforded the best legal means to present their case, and are treated with respect and compassion as they seek justice for the crime committed against them."

"The road to justice is not an easy one.  Crime victims must often relive the damage committed against them during arduous criminal proceedings," said Albano (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland).  "We owe it to these victims to ensure they are protected during the trial process, and are given the resources to hold responsible those who caused them harm."

The bill would ensure crime victims are entitled to the following:
  • protection from harassment or abuse by anyone involved in the criminal justice process
  • medical assistance reasonably related to the incident
  • be notified in a timely manner, if his or her presence in court is not needed, or if any scheduled court proceeding has be adjourned or cancelled
  • be compensated for loss sustained whenever possible
  • be able to confer with the prosecution to keep adequately informed about the case
  • submit a written statement prior to the prosecution deciding whether it will accept a negotiated plea or request by the defendant for pretrial intervention program
The bill would also allow survivors of the victim to wear a button with the picture of the victim during any judicial proceeding involving the accused (as long as the court determines it will not deprive the defendant of his or her sixth amendment right), and display a photograph or computer generated or video presentation of the victim when a statement is given.

The bill was released by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wagner, Gusciora Bill protecting NJ From Contaminated Fracking Water Advances

(Trenton) - A key Assembly panel on Monday advanced legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Connie Wagner and Reed Gusciora to protect New Jersey residents from contaminated wastewater produced by the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking."

"We don't want think process in New Jersey, and we don't want the wastewater either," said Wagner (D-Bergen).  "Radioactive water can go elsewhere, especially places that promote and encourage drilling practice for whatever reason.  For me, protecting New Jerseyans and their families are always my priority."

Fracking is a drilling technique used to expand existing fractures or create new fractures in rock by injecting water, often laced with chemicals, sand, and other substances, and often under high pressure, into or underneath the surface of the rock, typically for the purpose of natural gas exploration and production.  The wastewater can be polluted with contaminants such as radium, benzene, barium, and strontium.

The measure approved on Monday (A-4321) would prohibit hydraulic fracturing wastewater produced in any state from being treated, discharged, disposed, or stored in New Jersey.

"Even with federal regulators finally agreeing to take a look at this issue, it's important that we make this move to protect both the public and our natural resources," said Gusciora (D-Mercer).  "The last thing we want is this radioactive water ending up in our streams and rivers where it would cause environmental and health problems."

Wagner has been a leader in sponsoring legislation to protect New Jerseyans by prohibiting fracking in the state.  Both sponsors said they were especially concerned that the wastewater could end up in rivers and streams.

The measure was approved by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee by a vote of 4-1-1 and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.

Ramos, Caputo & Johnson Bill Promoting Car-Sharing Programs Continues Advancing

Measure Stems from Hoboken Program

(Trenton) - Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Ruben J. Ramos, Jr., Ralph R. Caputo and Gordon Johnson to promote car-sharing initiatives by exempting nonprofit car-sharing organizations from the $5 surcharge on motor vehicle rentals continues advancing toward law.

"This is a new and innovative program that can bring savings to taxpayers and dramatically improve the quality of life for urban residents by reducing congestion, eliminating parking hassles and cutting pollution," said Ramos (D-Hudson).  "Anything we can do to entice people to use services like this is a plus."

A car-sharing organization offers members an alternative to car ownership by allowing members to schedule time to utilize vehicles from a fleet on an hourly basis.

The Hoboken car sharing program - Corner Cars - is a public-private partnership though which car-sharing vehicles are distributed citywide at reserved on-street locations.  Started in June, 2010, the program has over 1,000 members.  City officials estimate that the program will result in removing 750 cars from Hoboken streets.

Under the legislation (A-3233) non-profit car-sharing organizations would be completely exempt from the $5 surcharge on New Jersey motor vehicle renters put in place in 2002.  For profit companies would be allowed to offer a pro-rated surcharge of $0.25 an hour for vehicles scheduled for less than 24 hours of use by an individual.

"With this legislation, we're making it clear that we support this concept and want to see it succeed, not just in Hoboken, but in urban communities across the state," said Caputo (D-Essex).  "Car-sharing programs benefit everyone, especially low-income residents who might need the mobility a car provides but who do not have the means to purchase one outright."

"Tackling congestion in our urban areas through innovative programs that make life easier for working class families is always a good thing," said Johnson (D-Bergen).  "This is a smart approach and one we should be promoting throughout the state."

The Assembly Appropriations Committee recently released the measure 9-3.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Vainieri Huttle, Coutinho, Quijano & Spencer Bill to Protect Sexually Abused Children Advanced by Assembly Panel

(Trenton) - An Assembly panel on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly members Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Albert Coutinho, Annette Quijano and L. Grace Spencer to protect sexually exploited minors.

The bill (A-3700-3934) would provide an affirmative defense to any person under 18 who engages in prostitution.  An affirmative defense is an explanation for a defendant's actions that excuses or justifies his behavior.  The bill intends to address situations where minors are charged criminally as a result of being a victim of sexual abuse.  Currently, a person is afforded an affirmative defense to a charge of prostitution only if the person is a victim of human trafficking.

"Making a criminal out of an exploited child who was forced into prostitution under tragic circumstances is a complete moral failure," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).  "Prostitution is not a choice for these children.  This bill ensures that these young victims are helped, not hurt even more by being treated as criminals."

The bill would also require that care services be provided for sexually exploited juveniles charged with prostitution or juvenile victims of human trafficking.  The bill would amend various sections of the current juvenile code to ensure these services are rendered.

"We rightfully protect children who have been victims of human trafficking and forced into prostitution.  Why are we not extending the same level of protection to our children here in this country?" asked Coutinho (D-Essex/Union).  "These children have been exploited over and over again by adults who failed them; they should not be victimized again by the legal system."

"Most of these children escaped an abusive environment only to find themselves in another one even worse.  Turning them into criminals for unspeakable acts being done to them doesn't serve justice," said Quijano (D-Union).  "These children were failed by those entrusted with their safety.  It is our responsibility to rectify the injustices committed against them."

"This bill strengthens our current laws so that children who have been exploited are not only protected, but will receive the care they need," said Spencer (D-Essex/Union).  "These children fell prey to horrendous circumstances and unscrupulous individuals.  We must ensure children who have been sexually exploited are treated as victims and are provided with appropriate services, including shelter, care, counseling and crisis intervention services."

The bill was released by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Wagner Bill to Make Use of Mass Transit on Weekends During Special Events Easier Advanced by Assembly Panel

(Trenton) - Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Connie Wagner requiring publicly owned or operated parking facilities associated with rail service be open on weekends when a special event is taking place in New Jersey was approved Monday by an Assembly panel.

"New Jersey has a tradition of providing its citizens with the finest in sports and entertainment, namely at the Meadowlands, but the state hasn't always made it convenient to use mass transit to get to these events," said Wagner (D-Bergen).  "The Meadowlands rail line, for instance, provides the public with the ability to enjoy these events while avoiding the stress and hassle associated with driving and parking, but public parking at the local rail passenger service, would have to be open to the public on the weekends and other times outside weekday commuting hours during a special event.

Special events would include spectacular sporting events, trade shows, expositions, concerts and other public events in the state.

"When the public cannot easily access public transit on the weekends when big events are taking place at the Meadowlands, the rail station is underutilized, wasting the extensive monetary investment made in the facility," Wagner said.  "We should be doing all we can to promote mass transit use in this state, and this bill is a common sense step forward."

The bill was released by the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee for consideration.

Moriarty Bill to Help Businesses & Workers Avoid Layoffs Advanced by Assembly Committee

(Trenton) - Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Paul Moriarty to help both New Jersey businesses and workers avoid layoffs was released Monday by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-3818) is designed to encourage employers who must reduce their employees' work hours because of economic conditions to avoid layoffs by sharing the remaining work.

That would be achieved by permitting, under certain circumstances, a full-time employee to receive unemployment benefits when the employee's weekly work time is reduced by 10 percent or more.  The bill also permits the employee to attend an approved training program while receiving those benefits.

"This is a creative and unique approach to helping New Jerseyans stay on the job," said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden).  "Anything we can do to avoid layoffs is a good thing, and this is a way for both workers and businesses to benefit while keeping people off full-time unemployment.  This is the sensible and decent thing to do for hard-working New Jerseyans and the businesses that employ them."

The bill provides that an employer of at least 10 full-time non-seasonal employees may provide a shared work program if approved by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The program may be approved for one year with annual renewals up request.

"Job creation and economic development needs to be our priority," Moriarty said.  "We can approach that goal in many ways, and this is a new way to keep people employed and give them the financial security while providing stability to businesses working their way through this difficult economy."

The employer is required to sustain existing fringe benefits levels, not to hire additional part-time or full-time employees or make unreasonable revisions of workloads; to provide information needed to monitor compliance and to certify that if a labor union represents the employees, it has agreed to the terms of the program.

Under an approved program, an employee is eligible for "short-term" unemployment benefits if:
  • The employee's weekly work hours are reduced at least 10 percent of normal full-time hours;
  • The employee would be eligible for regular unemployment benefits during the week if the employee was entirely unemployed; and
  • The employee is available to work normal full-time hours.
Short-time weekly benefits paid to an eligible individual would be equal to the individual's weekly benefit rate multiplied by the percentage of reduction of his wages for the week.

The benefits are limited to 26 weeks during a benefit year, but the weeks may be nonconsecutive.  No person may receive both short-term benefits and regular unemployment benefits during the same week.  The combined total of regular and short-term unemployment benefits for an employee during a benefit year is limited to the maximum amount of regular unemployment benefits allowed.

All short-time benefits are charged to the account of the employer that provides the shared work program.  The bill requires the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, three years after the effective date of this bill, to submit a report to the Legislature assessing the implementation of the bill's provisions and their impact on the State Unemployment Compensation Fund, evaluating the effectiveness of shared work programs approved by the division and making any recommendations for appropriate legislative or administrative action necessary to further the purposes of this bill.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

With Holiday Shopping Kicking Into High Gear, Diegnan & Moriarty Target Christie's Anti-Business Anti-Consumer Law

(Trenton) - With the holiday shopping season kicking into high gear, Assembly Democrats Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. and Paul Moriarty are advancing legislation to reverse Gov. Chris Christie's anti-business and anti-consumer law that made it easier for the state to claim unused money orders, traveler's checks and gift cards.

The bill (A-3250) was advanced Monday by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.  It reverses changes governing the state's treatment of unclaimed property that were made as part of the budget signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie in June 2010.

"The governor's changes aggressively shortened the abandonment periods for money orders and travelers checks and created a state claim on unused gift cards," said Diegnan (D-Middlesex).  "These changes have caused a significant amount of uncertainty for consumers and businesses alike.  It was anti-business and anti-consumer.  It was the wrong thing to do and must be fixed."

"The governor's changes were decidedly anti-consumer and anti-business at a time when we should be protecting both," said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden).  "This bill restores sanity to the system and protects the public's rights to their unclaimed property.  The last thing we should do is allow a terrible law to continue creating uncertainty for consumers and businesses."

As a component to the state fiscal year 2011 budget proposal, Gov. Christie and Republicans made revisions to the state's statutory treatment of unclaimed property, aggressively shortening the periods of abandonment for money orders and travelers checks.

The law also authorized state escheatment of unused stored value cards.

The Diegnan-Moriarty bill reverses the 2010 changes.

It restores the 15-year abandonment period for travelers checks and the seven-year abandonment period for money orders.

Under the Christie and legislative Republican 2010 changes, travelers checks and money orders were subject to a three year abandonment period.

The bill also provides that stored value cards issued on or after the bill's date of enactment are not subject to state escheatment.

DeAngelo Encourages Holiday Shoppers to Participate in "Small Business Saturday'

Assemblyman Urges New Jerseyans to Invest in their Community by Shopping At Local Small Businesses

(Hamilton Twp.) - With holiday hunters planning their Thanksgiving weekend shopping excursions, Assemblyman Wayne P. DeAngelo today urged New Jerseyans to participate in the second annual "Small Business Saturday" - held this year on Saturday, November 26, 2011 - to help reinvigorate local small businesses that can spur economic growth in our communities.  The Small Business Saturday initiative is a national effort to encourage customers shopping at one of the busiest times of year to purchase goods sold at their local community small businesses.  By purchasing goods at these local shops, a significant portion of the money spent on items return to the community through payroll for employees, taxes, and other expenses.

"In between Black Friday and Cyber-Monday, consumers should spend Small Business Saturday of their holiday weekend by shopping locally to help support their friends and neighbors who are working to keep their businesses viable through this tough economy," said DeAngelo (D-Hamilton).  "Small businesses are the backbone of our communities and should be on top of everyone's list of stores to visit this weekend whether it's a toy store, bike shop, clothing store of hobby shop."

According to the Small Business Administration, there are almost 780,000 small businesses in our state.  Small businesses account for 98.4 percent of New Jersey employers.

"While many shoppers tend to gravitate toward the big box retailers who have launched heavy advertising campaigns geared toward the holiday bargain shoppers, Small Business Saturday is aimed at keeping shoppers in the stores close to their homes that offer quality merchandise at affordable prices.  Holiday shoppers will be able to cross gifts off their 'to-buy' lists while retailers will benefit from the added number of customers that will hopefully return to the stores throughout the year."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

11/22/11 Thoughts

Reading Doc’s blog I am happy to read that he has given my running mates and I credit for running a professional, clean campaign, in which my running mates and I discussed the issues impacting the State of New Jersey. In fact, I do not recall with all the mailings that we sent out, us ever mentioning our opponents by name. I campaigned very hard in every town in my district (over a year of campaigning!). I want to congratulate my two opponents for running a clean campaign.

In fact, the Board of Education in Clark invited me back five times to participate in different programs dealing with education in Clark. So, I am very proud of the results we received on Election Day. Winning by over four thousand votes showed me that the hard work paid off.

There is one area that I would like to bring to some of the bloggers here in the City of Plainfield in reference to why in the City of Plainfield that my running mates received more votes than I did. The first is that I knew there would be a backlash with me supporting a new law that now prevents a person with a record from running for the Board of Education. I accepted the fact that I got blamed for it, when there were other legislators, especially in Atlantic and Burlington counties, that had similar concerns. I was one of the sponsors of the bill. Both houses, the Senate and the Assembly, voted almost unanimously in support of the bill, with the Governor signing the bill into law. So I knew, especially when some members of the Plainfield Board of Ed, came out openly against what I did, I knew it would cause a backlash.

Secondly, I have not at this particular time, committed to any candidates for future elections, because I have publicly made it clear that I would like to spend next year working to get President Obama re-elected. So when people feel that you are not committed to them, they are not going to raise money, or knock on doors, because they feel a lack of commitment; and I accept that.

The last issue is one that has been going on for quite some time here in the City of Plainfield in which this year I had more support than I had in the past when it came down to the support my colleagues received and what I received, especially in the 2nd Ward. As Chairman of the Party in the City of Plainfield, it is my job to get Democrats elected in November. When that happens, some do a good job, and some do a bad job. Whether they do good or bad, I get blamed for their actions.

I had numerous people call me up, some being Democrats outside of Plainfield, who told me they were getting phone calls and emails saying, “Vote for everyone in Column A except for Jerry Green.” Although there were some people reminding white voters in the district that I was a black male who is responsible for the condition of Plainfield; as well as saying that my opponent who ran opposite of me, and I do not know if this was done by design even though I believe it was, who was a white female lawyer, would bring more credibility to the district than I have done. I feel these sorts of phone calls cross the line. That is why I am not blaming my opponents because this is something that has been going on for a long time.

In the City, with all of these things that I have mentioned, and everyone else in Column A receiving roughly 200 more votes than I did, I consider that a victory. I am hoping that moving forward; they would realize that this handful of people will not cause me to get into the gutter because everyone who worked for me, including myself, supported all the Democrats in Column A. Again, in the entire District, we all received roughly the same amounts of votes. For me to feed into that type of nonsense would not have worked to my advantage.

So I am proud of those who ignored these phone calls and emails, as well as those who voted for me, still believing in me after serving 20 years in the Assembly, and am looking forward to the next two years in representing the 22nd District.

I am going to continue to be Chairman of Housing and Local Government. I look forward taking on housing issues, as well as working with towns to improve the quality of life for the people here in the State of New Jersey. I will also be Speaker Pro Tempore, which gives me the opportunity to be part of leadership.