Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Greenwald, Caputo & Quijano Bill to Invigorate New Jersey’s Wedding Market by Eliminating Waiting Period Approved by Assembly

   (TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Lou Greenwald, Ralph Caputo and Annette Quijano sponsored to invigorate the state's wedding market    was approved Thursday by the Assembly.
             The bill (A-1335) 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 (D-Camden). "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."
             “Making the licensing application process more convenient for couples will push the wedding market in New Jersey ahead of the competition,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “With the economy still recovering, this will give the wedding and hospitality industries in our state a great boost.”
             “This bill makes planning a wedding at one of the many wonderful destination wedding facilities in our state more practical,” said Quijano (D-Union). “New Jersey will be able to offer a new benefit that the competition does not, which will help stimulate local economies and create jobs.”
             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, the bill 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 the 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. The bill allows residents to apply for licenses in the municipality where the wedding ceremony is to be performed as well.
             By eliminating the waiting period, the bill 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). 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.
             The bill was approved by a vote of 44-33-1 and now awaits action by the Senate.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Moriarty, Conaway & Benson Bill Targeting Identity Theft through Digital Copy Machines OK’d by General Assembly

    (TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Paul Moriarty, Herb Conaway, M.D., and Dan Benson sponsored to combat identity theft by requiring the hard drives of all digital copy machines to be wiped clean to protect sensitive, personal information was approved 51-28 Thursday by the Assembly.The information is stored on each machine, in some cases in perpetuity, unbeknownst to millions of consumers.
             “Most digital copy machines use internal hard drives, which store every document that has been scanned, printed, faxed or emailed by the machines, many times numbering in the tens of thousands by the time a copier is resold or returned at the end of a lease agreement,” said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden), who chairs the committee. “According to news reports, most businesses do not erase the hard drive on a copier before getting rid of it, putting the highly sensitive information of millions of consumers at serious risk of theft.”
             “Besides the serious threat of identity theft, consumers are also vulnerable to repercussions posed by sensitive medical records or police documents,” said Conaway (D-Burlington) “There’s a simple way to eliminate these risks and we need to make sure it’s instituted.”
             According to a 2008 survey commissioned by electronics manufacturer Sharp, 60 percent of consumers are not aware that copiers store images on a hard drive.
             The bill (A-1238) requires that a person destroy, or arrange for the destruction of, all records stored on a digital copy machine, which is no longer to be retained by that person, by erasing or otherwise modifying those records to make the records unreadable, undecipherable or nonreconstructable through generally available means.
             “It probably wouldn’t even occur to most people that documents they scan or print on a copier are stored on that machine, sometimes for the entire life-time of the machine,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex).  “Given how often electronics are leased or resold these days, it’s important that measures safeguarding against identity theft are put into place.”
The bill provides that a lessor of a digital copy machine, and the lessee to whom the digital copy machine is leased, are responsible for the destruction, or arranging for the destruction, of all records stored on that machine. 
Additionally, the fee a lessor may charge a lessee for the destruction, or arranging for the destruction, of the records cannot exceed one week’s value of the lease, up to $100, and may only be charged if the lessee has not destroyed, or arranged for the destruction of the records.
             A person that willfully or knowingly violates the provisions of the bill is liable to a penalty of up to $2,500 for the first offense and up to $5,000 for the second and each subsequent offense. 
             The provisions of this bill shall be enforced by the Attorney General.
             A person damaged in business or property as a result of a violation of this bill may sue the actor in the Superior Court and may recover compensatory and punitive damages and the cost of the suit including a reasonable attorney's fee, costs of investigation and litigation.
             The bill requires manufacturers of digital copy machines to include instructions with each copier explaining how to destroy or arrange for the destruction of the records stored on that machine.
The measure shall take effect on the 60th day following enactment, and applies to lease agreements of digital copy machines which are in effect or entered into on or after the effective date, and sales which are concluded on or after the effective date.
             The bill will now be referred to the Senate for consideration.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Vainieri Huttle, Wagner, Ramos, & Wisniewski Port Authority Overhaul Package Approved by Assembly

Bills Would Increase Municipal Revenues & Enhance Accountability at Multi-Billion Dollar Bi-State Agency

(TRENTON) – An Assembly Democratic bill package aimed at enhancing legislative oversight and public transparency at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority) was approved Thursday by the full Assembly.
The bills were inspired by a series of increasingly alarming news reports in recent months, which have prompted sharp criticisms about how the multi-billion dollar agency conducts its business.  Concerns have been raised over overtime costs in excess of $90 million; contradicting statements about where the majority of the money raised by the agency’s September toll hike was being spent; $4 million in Christie administration patronage hires; and borderline-ridiculous levels of perks for authority members and retirees.
The first bill (A-1011) – sponsored by Assembly members Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Connie Wagner, Ruben J. Ramos, Jr. and John S. Wisniewski – entitled the “PANYNJ Transparency and Accountability Act,” would implement reforms at the bi-state agency to ensure that it operates as an open, transparent, and accountable authority.
“With at least 55 percent of Port Authority bridge and tunnel tolls and 80 percent of PATH fares paid by New Jersey residents, we have a vested interest in seeing our hard-earned commuting money being properly spent,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).  “Recent news stories indicate that this is not the case, something this legislation seeks to rectify.”
“It is simply no longer acceptable for the Port Authority to continue to conduct its business behind closed doors,” said Wagner.  “New Jersey taxpayers and commuters deserve to know precisely how their toll and tax dollars are being spent.”
“This is an agency that annually spends billions of dollars in taxpayer money,” said Ramos.  “The New Jersey taxpayers and commuters who provide this funding have a right to know that their money is being spent on projects and salaries that are appropriate and fiscally sound.”
“This is a public agency with a larger budget than most states, yet it’s run behind closed doors like a private country club,” said Wisniewski. “It’s time the agency learned that those days are over.”
Specifically the act would create specific requirements for:
  • An independent auditing of the Port Authority;
  • Open public meetings and the publication of minutes of the meetings of the authority’s Board of Commissioners;
  • Public hearings to be held in the port district of New York and New Jersey to discuss any proposed fee, toll, charge or fare increase;
  • The establishment of audit, finance and governance committees;
  • Financial disclosures and training for commissioners;
  • Financial reports certified by the chair and vice-chair of the board of Commissioners of the Port Authority and the executive director, deputy executive director and chief financial officer of the authority; and
  • The creation of a fiduciary responsibility for commissioners.
The second bill (A-699) would require the Port Authority, a tax exempt entity, to make payments to municipalities on properties it owns in New Jersey in the amount that would have otherwise been paid in property taxes on those properties.  The bi-state agency owns properties in 15 counties in New York and New Jersey and, according to the sponsors – Assembly members Ruben J. Ramos, Jr., and Connie Wagner – the measure would attempt to mitigate the loss of tax revenue faced by towns where the Port Authority owns property.
“We essentially have an agency funded by tolls and taxpayer dollars more or less operating with no outside oversight,” said Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), the chairman of the Assembly transportation panel.  “In light of the litany of disturbing news reports about the agency’s operations, it seems apparent that a legislative intervention on behalf of taxpayers and commuters is necessary.”
The bill contains a hold-harmless provision that would allow any current or future negotiated payment amounts in excess of the bill’s minimums to continue unabated.
“We’ve had conflicting reports about what the Port Authority has been doing with its extra revenue since raising PATH fares by almost 14.5 percent,” said Ramos (D-Hudson), a member of the Assembly transportation panel.  “Since the authority can’t seem to tell us what, if anything, the extra money is going to, it should be used to reimburse towns for their lost property tax revenue.”
“If the Port Authority can afford to pay $90 million a year in overtime and waive toll payments for present and former commissioners, then it stands to reason that it can afford to pay New Jersey municipalities for the use of their land,” said Wagner (D-Bergen).
             Bill A-1011 received final legislative approval and now heads to the governor’s desk. It was approved 61-0-18 Thursday by the full Assembly and 29-0 by the full Senate back in March.
Bill A-699 was approved 48-28-2 by the Assembly and now awaits further action from the Senate.
Due to the bi-state nature of the Port Authority, in order for any of these measures to take effect, New York would have to enact identical legislation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Assembly Speaker: Stop the Blame Game, Governor

(TRENTON) – Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) released the following statement on Gov. Christie’s Wednesday comments in Trenton toward nonpartisan legislative staff:

“The governor has apparently lost control of himself.
“If your child acted this way, you would scold him. If your neighbor acted this way, you would have nothing to do with him. If a business leader or a school principal acted this way, they would be dismissed.
“It is not acceptable for the governor of the state of New Jersey to act this way.
“The governor may not like the budget projections, but that’s not Dr. Rosen’s fault. Dr. Rosen is a professional who works for both parties and has been over time a more accurate revenue forecaster than the executive branch.
“Gov. Christie and his administration are to blame for overly optimistic revenue forecasts designed to boost the governor’s national image. The governor may enjoy myth-making. The rest of us are dealing with reality, and the governor is welcome to come join us.”

Monday, May 21, 2012

Benson, DeAngelo, Quijano, Lampitt & Giblin Bill to Incentivize Life Science Companies to Create Internships for College Students Approved by Assembly Panel

  (TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Monday released legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Wayne P. DeAngelo, Annette Quijano, Pamela R. Lampitt and Thomas P. Giblin that would provide tax credit subsidies to small companies in the life sciences field as an incentive to create paid internship opportunities for college students.
            The bill (A-1596) would create “The New Jersey Life Sciences Internship Challenge” program, which provides a tax credit subsidy to small life science companies to establish a limited number of paid summer internships in the life sciences field for undergraduate students from New Jersey and undergraduate students attending New Jersey schools.
            “This bill helps New Jersey students attain paid work experience in the life sciences field,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “These companies represent well-paying jobs for our graduates. By targeting smaller companies, we are helping them to grow and bolster this vital segment of our state’s economy.”
            “It’s almost expected for college students to build up their work experience by participating in internship programs,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This particular program gives our college students a paid option in a burgeoning field that offers good wages to its workers, while strengthening the companies that will one day be looking to hire the best prospects.”
            “Many careers began with a well-placed internship. Unfortunately, not all college students can afford to take an unpaid internship,” said Quijano (D-Union). “This program affords them the opportunity of experience and a paycheck, and gives the participating companies the chance to cultivate these students to be the type of professionals they will want to hire after graduation.”

            “This bill helps New Jersey students attain paid work experience in the life sciences field, which is an integral part of our state’s economy,” said Lampitt (D- Camden/Burlington). “It also helps smaller life sciences companies hire from among our talented pool of college students and prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow. By helping these smaller life sciences companies grow here in the state, we help bolster this very vital segment of our economy.”
            “Internships help build a student’s resume, but not every college student can afford to pass on a paycheck to take an unpaid internship,” said Giblin (D-Essex/Passaic). “This program provides more opportunities for students who cannot afford to take unpaid internships, and helps prepare them to enter today’s competitive workforce in a growing field that offers good wages to its workers.”
            Under the bill, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority would administer the program and set the number of internships eligible to receive a tax credit subsidy each year, which may be up to 150.
            The amount of the tax credit would be equal to the wages paid to the intern, up to a limit of 20 hours per week at $15 per hour, for a maximum of 12 weeks. The bill does not prevent a participating company from paying a higher wage to its interns or for hiring them for more hours, but any wages paid beyond the limit set by the bill would not be eligible for the tax credit subsidy.
            Any life science company with a research laboratory within New Jersey may hire summer interns through the program, but only companies that have their principal place of business in the state and have fewer than 100 employees are eligible to receive the tax credit subsidy.
            Eligible students must be either New Jersey residents or full-time students at a college or university located within New Jersey, or have completed at least two full-time academic years at a college or university, or its equivalent in part time credits. Students who graduated more than a year before the start of the internship would not be eligible.  
            The bill was released by the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.

Assembly Panel Ok’s Gusciora, Watson Coleman, Spencer, Barnes Bill to Decriminalize Possession of Small Amounts of Marijuana

Measure Would Put New Jersey in Line with 14 Other States, Including Neighboring NY & CT

(TRENTON) – Bipartisan Legislation sponsored on the Democratic side by Assembly members Reed Gusciora, Bonnie Watson Coleman, L. Grace Spencer and Peter Barnes III that would decriminalize the possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana was approved by an Assembly panel on Monday.
“This bill would put us in line with neighboring states like Connecticut and New York, which recently decriminalized marijuana possession,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).  “The bill recognizes the realities of our current drug laws, which are overly punitive for marijuana and taxing on our criminal justice system.”
Under the bill (A-1465), a person who is caught possessing 15 grams or less of marijuana would be subject to a $150 fine for a first violation, a $200 fine for a second violation, and a $500 fine for a third or subsequent violation.
Additionally, a person who is caught possessing drug paraphernalia for the personal use of 15 grams or less of marijuana would no longer have committed a criminal violation but would be subject to a $100 civil penalty.
“Possession of a relatively small amount of marijuana can have serious long-term consequences on many aspects of a person’s life,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).  “Once a person has a criminal record, it can affect their job, schooling, home life, and personal perception.  Decriminalizing small possession would ease these burdens while also taking taxpayers off the hook for the cost of prosecuting these crimes.”
The bill would also require anyone under 21 who is caught with marijuana and anyone 21 and over who is caught three times, to undergo a drug education program.  The person would be responsible for paying any costs associated with his participation in the program, consistent with his ability to pay. If the violation is committed by a person under the age of 18, the person would be referred to the Family Part of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court for an appropriate disposition.
“Fourteen other states have already made the move to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana,” said Spencer (D-Essex).  “To continue to take such a heavy-handed approach to the situation will only exact further tolls on taxpayers and the otherwise law-abiding citizens who get caught with simple possession.”
Additionally, this bill would establish that it is no longer a disorderly persons offense to be under the influence of marijuana or to fail to voluntarily deliver 15 grams or less of marijuana to the nearest law enforcement officer. This bill would also eliminate the requirement that a person who operates a motor vehicle while in possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana must pay a $50 fine and forfeit the right to operate a motor vehicle for a period of two years.
The Commissioner of Human Services would be charged with adopting any rules or regulations necessary to carry out the bill.
“This is not about turning a blind eye, this is about taking a realistic approach to the situation,” said Barnes (D-Middlesex), Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.  “Marijuana is known to be far less addictive than alcohol or cigarettes and yet we spend untold dollars every year to arrest and prosecute individuals for simple possession.”
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report, marijuana arrests now comprise more than one-half (approximately 52 percent) of all drug arrests reported in the United States, with more than 800,000 people arrested for marijuana-related charges each year, the vast majority of them for simple possession.
A decade ago, marijuana arrests comprised just 44 percent of all drug arrests. Approximately 46 percent of all drug prosecutions nationwide are for marijuana possession. Of those charged with marijuana violations, approximately 88 percent (758,593 Americans) were charged with possession only.
Studies also indicate that users of marijuana have a relatively low rate of dependence.  According to a federal Institute of Medicine study in 1999, fewer than 10 percent of those who try marijuana ever meet the clinical criteria for dependence, compared to 32 percent of tobacco users and 15 percent of alcohol users.  Furthermore, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, there is no convincing evidence that heavy long-term marijuana use permanently impairs memory or other cognitive functions.
In addition to being supported by a number of advocacy organizations, including the Drug Policy Alliance, fourteen other states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.  Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada and Oregon have decriminalized possession of one ounce (about 28 grams) of marijuana or less.  Connecticut and North Carolina have decriminalized one half ounce or less.  Minnesota has decriminalized 42.5 grams or less; Mississippi: 30 grams or less; New York: 25 grams or less; and Ohio: 100 grams or less.
The legislation was unanimously approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee by a vote of 7-0 and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Greenwald: April Jobs Report Shows Christie Obsession with Tax Cuts for Wealthy Misguided

(VOORHEES) -- Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington) released the following statement on Friday in light of a report showing that New Jersey's unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent in April, despite adding 2,600 jobs:
"Time after time, the Governor has zealously defended massive tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, saying that they are the job creators in our state. If that's the case, Governor, where are the jobs?
"New Jersey's unemployment rate rose to 9.1% in April, significantly trailing both the national average and the unemployment rates of our neighboring states. And yet, the Governor continues to push for a $7,000 tax break for millionaires while middle-class families would get less than a grocery bill's worth of relief.
"Despite the slogans and sound bites of the Governor's taxpayer-funded pep rallies, New Jersey's middle-class families and senior citizens need property tax relief. It's time for the Governor to stop his national Vice-Presidential audition tour and stand with Assembly Democrats fighting for real property tax relief for New Jersey's middle-class,” said Greenwald.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A letter from Bob Menendez

Stop student loan rates from doubling on June 30! Add your name.After all our middle-class families have gone through, I can’t believe we’re discussing increasing the interest rates on student loans. I really can’t.
Jobs are scarce; the need for skilled workers is critical. Yet Republicans are filibustering legislation that would keep student loan interest rates from doubling on June 30. They’re doing it to protect tax loopholes for their billionaire supporters.
It’s as if they’re from another planet.
We can’t have this kind of thing happen when people are fighting so hard just to get by. A little common sense, reason and fairness can get a bill passed.
Our families and students deserve more from us. It’s time for the games to end and Republicans to help us stop student loan rates from doubling.
I was the first in my family to go to college. I’m proud of that, and my family is too.
The son of a carpenter and a seamstress, my parents taught me early on how important it was to learn, to grow, to value education. It took federal grants and student loans to see our dream of higher education through.
We’re really on the verge of taking that opportunity away to preserve unnecessary tax loopholes? Our kids deserve better.
For students struggling to pay for college and racking up debt, this argument’s not academic or theoretical. The extra $1,000 that the average student would have to pay each year if we can’t get this done is real money. To them, the jump from 3.4% to 6.8% means something.
It’s the difference between being able to repay their loans and enter the workforce with good credit – opposed to being overwhelmed by debt to the point that they may never catch up.
That, to me, is unacceptable. I know it is to you, too.
Let’s stand with our students, right now.
My best,

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Oliver: Revenue Shortfall Requires Responsible Steps Forward

Notes Assembly Dem Prop Tax Relief Plan Built on Strong Foundation

(TRENTON) – Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) released the following statement Tuesday on Christie administration revenue figures that show a $230.3 million shortfall for this fiscal year:

“These numbers are cause for concern, especially for middle-class families, women and seniors who have already suffered major cuts under Gov. Christie. They also don’t bode well for the projections made for next fiscal year, so those will bear close watching.
“We must move forward responsibly, and that means doing so with a reliable property tax relief plan premised on economic fairness and significant help for the middle-class and senior and disabled citizens.
“The Assembly Democratic plan to provide a 20 percent property tax relief credit to the middle-class and a 25 percent property tax relief credit for seniors is built on a strong foundation and is the responsible plan going forward.”

Assembly Democratic Bills to Expunge Criminal Records of Nonviolent Offenders in Certain Cases Approved by Assembly Panel

Coutinho, Green, Gusciora and Watson-Coleman Bills Aim to help nonviolent offenders avoid recidivism and become productive members of society

            (TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Monday advanced two separate Democratic measures that would allow the automatic expungement of criminal records of nonviolent offenders in certain situations.
            The first bill (A-355), sponsored by Assembly members Reed Gusciora, Jerry Green and Albert Coutinho, would automatically expunge a person’s criminal record under certain circumstances.
            The second bill (A-2829), sponsored by Assembly members Jerry Green and Bonnie Watson Coleman, would automatically expunge the criminal record of nonviolent drug offenders who have completed New Jersey’s drug court program.
            The bills would not affect crimes with an absolute bar to expungement.
            The first bill (A-355) would eliminate the requirement that a petition must be filed by the person seeking the expungement. Instead, an expungement would be automatically provided to the person once the requisite amount of time has lapsed since the conviction, provided the conviction appears in a criminal history record maintained by the state police. In addition to authorizing automatic expungement, the bill reduces the statutory waiting periods for the expungement of records for various crimes. To see the reduced statutory waiting periods proposed under the bill, click here.
            “A criminal record can be an extended prison sentence. A person who has paid his or her debt to society should have the opportunity to make a better life for themselves,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “We’re not talking about hardened criminals, but people who, given the resources, could become productive members of society. Making the expungement process simpler in these specific cases would help facilitate their transition and help avoid a relapse into criminal activity.”

            “Job prospects today are scarce as it is. Having a criminal record makes the prospects of finding employment that much more difficult,” said Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset). “These individuals have served their time. Many of them will return to the communities where they lived prior to incarceration. It makes sense to give them the opportunity to become contributing members of society not just for their sake, but for the sake of the communities they are rejoining.”
            “Bad habits can be hard to break, especially if you feel like you have no other options. Many people with criminal records revert to their old ways because of the difficulty they face in finding a job, renting an apartment or getting an education,” said Coutinho (D-Essex). “Simplifying the expungement process and reducing some of the statutory waiting periods will help keep these individuals from falling back, and spare taxpayers from the would-be expense of reincarceration.”
            The second bill (A-2829) would grant automatic expungement to certain individuals who have completed a sentence to a term of special probation, commonly referred to as the drug court program.
            “This bill is about second chances. A criminal record can make it difficult to get a job, an apartment and may even impact financial aid eligibility,” said Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset). “The justice system thought these offenders would be better served by treatment rather than prison. This bill continues that support, by giving individuals who have gone through and completed the program the chance to start over and do right without a criminal record holding them back.”
            To qualify for automatic expungement, the person cannot have been convicted of any prior crime or have been adjudged a disorderly person or petty disorderly person on more than two prior occasions; the conviction cannot be for any of the crimes that are ineligible for expungement; and the person cannot have had a previous criminal conviction expunged regardless of the lapse of time between the prior expungement and the completion of the sentence of special probation.
            No petition would be required and no fee could be charged for a grant of automatic expungement. Currently, there is a $30 processing fee attached to the petition application.
            “It’s hard enough to find a job in this economy without a criminal record. Why not give these low-level offenders the opportunity to become productive members of our society?” asked Watson-Coleman (D-Mercer). “We’re not talking about murderers and rapists; we’re talking about nonviolent drug offenders who have undergone rigorous treatment. Rather than invest in policies that might lead to recidivism and end up costing the state more in incarceration costs, let’s invest in their recovery.” 

Schaer, Lampitt & Chivukula Bill to Maintain a Child’s Religious Upbringing in Adoption or Foster Care Approved by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Pamela Lampitt and Upendra Chivukula that would require private adoption agencies, the courts, and the state to maintain a child's religious upbringing when placing a child with a guardian, into foster care, or into an adoptive home was approved by an Assembly panel on Monday.
“A child's religious and cultural backgrounds are significant aspects of determining the best interests of the child,” said Schaer (D-Passaic/Bergen/Essex). “That's why it's so important that the placement of a child into foster care or adoption should be consistent with their religious and cultural backgrounds, unless it's proven by convincing evidence that such placement is not in the best interests of the child.”
The legislation (A-2448) would permit agencies and courts to place a child in a setting of a different religion only with a written statement from the child's birth parent or legal guardian.  In the case that such a placement is not feasible or not in the child's best interest, a written statement will be required explaining the placement decision.
“For many children, religion is a guiding force in their life and a strong part of their inherent identity,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “This would preserve and protect that identity, which is important, particularly during times of enormous transition such as adoption or foster care.”
In cases where a court or an agency places a child into a resource family home of a different religion than the child, the bill requires that provisions be made for the child to continue religious observance, education, and training in the new setting. Such provisions are not required when placing a child into an adoptive home.
“A child's religion should not be changed because of placement into foster care or into adoption," said Chivukula (D-Middlesex/Somerset).  “Reasonable effort should be made to ensure the continuity of the child's religious upbringing. It's the right thing to do.”
Various advocates have expressed support for the measure, including Dr. Aref Assaf, the president of American Arab Forum and an advisory board member of the New Jersey Council on American Islamic Relations and David Mandel, the chief executive officer of Ohel Children's Home and Family Services, Inc.
The measure was approved by the Assembly Women and Children Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.

Greenwald: Revenue Report Latest Example of Failed Christie Policies

Revenue Problems Reveal Christie’s Shaky Fiscal Foundation

(TRENTON) – Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington) released the following statement Tuesday on the latest revenue figures that show collections $230.3 million behind what Gov. Chris Christie forecast for this fiscal year:

"Today's revenue report is the latest evidence of why Gov. Christie's proposed income tax scheme is wrong for middle-class families.
"Not only does the Governor's plan to shower $7,000 in tax break handouts to millionaires while giving crumbs to the middle-class, but it's now becoming clear the governor has built his plan on a shaky foundation. New Jersey's middle-class families need more than fuzzy math, a hope and a prayer. They need real property tax relief they can count on.
"By asking millionaires and billionaires to give up the tax breaks they have enjoyed during the past two years, the Assembly Democratic plan has a more fiscally responsible funding mechanism. As a result, our plan delivers real property tax relief to 95 percent of homeowners, not just a town hall slogan built on a house of cards."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Milam, Mosquera, Eustace & Benson Bill to Help Returning Veterans Find Work Released by Assembly Panel

(BORDENTOWN) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Matthew Milam, Gabriela Mosquera, Timothy Eustace and Daniel R. Benson to help veterans find work was released Monday by an Assembly panel.
The bill (A-2882) requires professional or occupational boards that issue professional or occupational licenses or certificates to provide waivers or exemptions for any applicant who received training, education, or experience while serving as a member of the Armed Forces that is substantially equivalent to the training, education, or experience required for licensure or certification.
“The unemployment rate for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is a stunning 29 percent,” said Milam (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland). “That means that nearly one in every three Americans who fought to defend freedom across the globe cannot find work when they return home. That is just unacceptable, and we must find ways like this to change it.”
“The unemployment rate among our returning heroes is shameful,” said Mosquera (D-Gloucester/Camden). “These are men and women who fought for our liberty, yet when they come home they are shuffled off to the unemployment line. We need to focus on changing that with common sense bills like this one.”
“If we trust these men and women with our freedom, then we should be able to trust the training they received from our Armed Forces,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Having nearly one-third of our returning veterans out-of-work is just flat-out wrong. A bill like this is quite simply the right thing to do.”
“Our veterans are among the best trained people you’ll find, so let’s trust that training and put these men and women to work,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “These veterans deserve our best, not red tape that makes it even more difficult for them to find a job. They’ve helped us by defending our freedom, so let’s help them provide for themselves and their families with a good-paying job.”
The bill requires each board to provide for methods of evaluating the equivalence of training, education or experience obtained in the Armed Forces of the United States to the training, education, or experience required by the board for licensure or certification. Each board would also promulgate regulations on the partial or total waiver or exemption from requirements toward licensure or certification to be provided for substantially equivalent training, education, or experience obtained in the Armed Forces of the United States.
Furthermore, this bill requires each professional or occupational board that issues licenses or certificates for which professional training, education, or experience to report to the General Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee concerning that board’s compliance with the requirements of the bill by 180 days following the date of enactment.
The bill was released unanimously by the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, which met Monday at the Bordentown Joint Military Family Assistance and Reintegration Center to get a tour of the recently renovated facility and get an update on its services.
The center is to be a key part of the state’s efforts to assist service members and their families in dealing with problems that occur during and after deployment

Assembly Panel Advances Coughlin, Prieto & Green Bill to Better Help Residents with Special Needs During Emergencies

            (TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Thursday advanced legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Craig J. Coughlin, Vincent Prieto and Jerry Green that would aid emergency responders and special needs residents by authorizing municipalities to create a list of residents requiring special assistance during an emergency.
            “There is no room for surprises during an emergency. The more responders know, the better they’ll be able to assist those who need help,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “Providing emergency personnel with advanced information about residents who require special assistance will ensure these residents receive the care they need quicker and more thoroughly when an emergency arises.”
            “Time makes all the difference when responding to a crisis. Knowing about a person’s specific needs before responding to an emergency helps our emergency responders better serve these residents,” said Prieto (D-Bergen/Hudson). “Not every emergency will be a matter of life and death, but when it is, you want those charged with helping you to be able to do so, as effectively as possible.”
            “When you’re responding to an emergency, the last thing you need is more hurdles. The work of police and firefighters is already stressful. This list would help make their jobs a little easier, and give these residents the peace of mind that in the case of an emergency, their needs will have been taken into account well before help shows up at the door,” said Green (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union)
            The bill (A-1250) authorizes a municipal governing body, by ordinance, to require the municipal clerk to create and maintain a list of municipal residents who identify themselves as being in need of special assistance in the event of an emergency, for public safety purposes.
            The list maintained by the clerk would contain the name, address and special circumstance of each municipal resident who is identified as needing special assistance in the event of an emergency. The list would be cross-indexed by name and address of each resident requesting to be on the list. 
            The clerk would provide a copy of the list solely to the municipal police department, to each fire department or fire district serving the municipality, and to each first aid or rescue squad serving the municipality, and update the list monthly, strictly for the purposes of the bill.
            A notice to municipal residents advising them that such a list is being maintained by the clerk would be included annually with the tax bills mailed to local property taxpayers, and would include information as to how a municipal resident may add his or her name and address to the municipal list.
            The municipal clerk would notify each landlord who has filed a certificate of registration with the municipality pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1974, c.50 (C.46:8-28) of the existence of the list, and would also provide the landlord with a copy of the notice to be forwarded to tenants, including information as to how a tenant may be added to the municipal list. Within 30 days following notification by the municipal clerk and upon the creation of a tenancy thereafter, a landlord would be required to advise each tenant of the existence of the list, and provide a copy of the notice from the clerk.  The Commissioner of Community Affairs would be required to promulgate a model notice.
            The bill was released by the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Prieto: Mythical ‘NJ Comeback’ Still Missing

Urges Governor to Support Middle-Class & Senior Property Tax Relief

(TRENTON) – Assembly Budget Chairman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen) released the following statement Wednesday after hearing testimony from the state treasurer on possible lower-than-expected revenue collections:

“We still need to see the total and complete revenue picture, but at this point Gov. Christie’s so-called ‘New Jersey Comeback’ is a myth rather than reality.
“With unemployment at 9 percent and property taxes higher than ever, Gov. Christie needs to put this ‘comeback’ silliness aside and confront the harsh reality of his fiscal policies and the burden they’ve placed on New Jersey’s middle-class and seniors.
“Helping our middle-class and seniors must be our priority, which is why everyone should support our plan for a 20 percent property tax relief credit for the middle-class and a 25 percent property tax relief credit for senior and disabled citizens.
“We know the governor’s failed policy of tax cuts for millionaires hasn’t improved our economy, so our plan is the right thing to do.”

Monday, May 7, 2012

Letter from NJDOT's Commissioner Simpson

The letter above reads:

May 1, 2012

Dear Assemblyman Green:

Thank you for your letter on behalf of Council Member Adrian Mapp recommending that action be taken to relieve the City of Plainfield from the maintenance responsibiltiy for Route 28. I appreciate the opportunity to address your concerns.

Based on information taken from records dating back to 1927, the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) did not take over jurisdiction of Route 28 in Plainfield. A meeting was held several years ago with representatives of Plainfield and the NJDOT, and it was determined that the NJDOT does not have jurisdiction over this section of roadway. Operationally, the NJDOT does not have a desire to assume responsibiltiy for this section of roadway.

I hope this information is helpful. Should you have any additional questions or concerns please feel free to contact Anthony J. Attanasio, Assistant Commissioner for Government and Community Relations,
at (609)530-3686.

James S. Simpson

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wisniewski Calls on Port Authority to Suspend Further Toll Hikes

Calls on Agency to Rebuild Public Trust

(SAYREVILLE) – Assembly Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewski (D-19), Chair of the General Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee on Wednesday called upon the Port Authority to suspend any further toll hikes until it has rebuilt the public’s trust.

The assemblyman’s request was contained in a letter to David Samson, Chairman of the Port Authority Board of Commissioners.

The text of the letter reads as follows:

Dear Mr. Samson:

As an Assemblyman representing New Jersey’s 19th Legislative District and as Chairman of the General Assembly’s Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee, I have heard from residents and businesses throughout the northern part of our state about the financial burden they face with the Port Authority’s recent toll hikes.  In addition to this burden, there is a growing skepticism about the Port Authority’s justification for the toll hikes fed by the agency’s own conflicting explanations and the negative performance assessment contained in the management audit conducted by Navigant.

Many of the region’s residents use the Port Authority’s crossings on a daily basis and as a result pay more to the Port Authority in tolls than they pay to the State of New Jersey in income taxes. Yet, despite the agency’s demand on their household budgets, they see the agency as unresponsive to their concerns and immune from public accountability.

Given the foregoing concerns, I am writing to request that the Port Authority suspend the implementation of all future toll increases until such time as the public trust can be restored in the agency.

For nearly one hundred years, the Port Authority has played a vital role in the building the economy of the New York metropolitan area. It can continue to play that role for another hundred years, but only if it regains the public trust.


John S. Wisniewski, Assemblyman
Chairman, Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Greenwald: Christie’s Empty Debate Boasting as Unreliable as His Broken Property Tax Relief Promise

Christie’s Sock Drawer Priority Shows Disregard for Middle-Class

(TRENTON) – Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington) released the following statement Monday on Gov. Chris Christie’s refusal to once again live up to his own words – this time when it comes to fulfilling his own vow to debate his own plan to benefit the rich against the Assembly Democratic plan for a 20 percent property tax relief credit for the middle-class and a 25 percent property tax relief credit senior citizens:

“If the governor thinks re-arranging his sock drawer is more pressing than working to boost property tax relief to working families, then that says a lot about his disregard for the middle-class. Still, I’d be more than happy to come over to help him as long as we can have this conversation.
“Gov. Christie’s empty boasting about debating ‘anytime they want’ was as dishonest as his broken promise to fully restore property tax rebates.
“It really isn’t surprising though that governor is afraid to put his income tax scheme to mostly benefit the rich up against our plan for middle-class and senior property tax relief. After all, Gov. Christie’s philosophy of benefiting the rich at the expense of the middle-class is indefensible.
“I couldn’t have said it better myself.
“We will continue our fight to cut the property tax burden for the middle-class and seniors.”