Friday, December 13, 2013


Eustace, Benson, Jimenez & Green Bill to Better Protect Senior Citizens during Emergencies Clears Senate Panel (TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, Daniel R. Benson, Angelica Jimenez and Jerry Green sponsored to better protect senior citizens during extended power outages and emergencies was approved Thursday by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee. The bill (A-3625) requires age-restricted multiple dwelling owners to annually prepare and maintain emergency building operations plans. “We saw too far many instances during Hurricane Sandy of our most vulnerable residents being left without direly needed power for a long period of time,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “For our seniors, this can be a matter-of-life and death, so it’s not too much to ask that building owners prepare and maintain emergency building operations plans.” Under the bill, an owner of a building comprised of more than 20 dwelling units reserved for residents of 55 years and older, will be required to maintain an emergency building operations plan in coordination with the municipal emergency management coordinator. The plan would prepare the building for any possible loss of essential services, such as adequate heat, water, hot water, electricity, gas, or telephone service and any other substantial disruption to daily living that could result during an emergency. A copy of the plan would be filed with the municipal emergency management coordinator, and with any public utility providing service to the multiple dwelling. “Building owners have a basic responsibility to ensure quality living conditions for their tenants,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “That includes emergencies. We cannot have seniors go without adequate heat, water and power simply due to poor planning, a lack of it.” “Hurricane Sandy showed many of these facilities are simply unprepared for emergencies, and that’s not acceptable, especially for vulnerable senior citizens who rely on heat, hot water and power,” said Jimenez (D-Hudson/Bergen). “Requiring planning and preparation from these building owners is quite simply the right thing to do. Our seniors deserve this consideration.” “These building owners need to do better when it comes to emergency planning,” said Green, (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset), the Speaker Pro Tempore. “Sandy left many of our vulnerable seniors without basic needs, and there was no excuse for it. This bill will ensure the failings after Sandy do not happen again.” The bill was approved 76-0 by the Assembly in March and now heads to the full Senate for further consideration.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Muhlenberg Commentary Part 2

After reading the few negative comments about what I have done to try and help our city deal with the Muhlenberg Campus I am responding with what I have done, not just in the last 5 years but the 4 years prior to the Muhlenberg Campus closing.

4 years before Muhlenberg closed I was able to secure millions of dollars in grant money from the state to keep the facility open. That grant money was unfortunately cut from the budget, without that grant money Muhlenberg may have closed 9 years ago.

Also when we were in the process of building the nursing school a private donor gave 8 million dollars; I was able to raise an additional 4 million so that the nursing school could be built with no financial problems.

So I like to feel that for the last 10 years I have played a major part in getting the nursing school built and keeping the hospital open. From the 5 years before it closed and to this day I haven’t stopped trying to bring the best medical services to the campus.

I have worked with Community Healthcare Associates LLC a real estate development firm that that works specifically on healthcare facilities to reintroduce healthcare facilities that offer a wide range of medical services. They previously worked on Kessler Medical Arts Complex and Barnert Medical Arts Complex; they have a history with facilities similar to Muhlenberg. They have worked closely with me on my bill A3043 that I previously mentioned the Governor vetoed and continue to help me push for a way the state can help us.

I live in this city and like every other citizen you never know when you may need to go to the hospital so instead of having a 5 minute trip to the hospital we now have almost a 30 minute drive. And that long of a trip can be the difference between life and death.

So I am just as concerned and will continue to fight so that the campus can give the best medical services for Plainfield and the surrounding area.

Unfortunately there are a handful of people who will never acknowledge the time and effort I have put into working on the Muhlenberg issue I promise I will continue to put in that same time and effort to make sure that the property will be used to help the city. This has been a decade long battle and I am not going to stop now. I will continue to reach out to people to make sure the site benefits all of us here in Plainfield.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Commentary on the Muhlenberg Campus

I have been very busy as the new Democratic Party Chairman trying to move the Union County Democratic Party in a direction that all of Union County can be proud of. I have not spent much time dealing with issues locally that I have no control in making decisions over.

When I read some of the blogs and misinformation put out to the public I try not to respond but unfortunately sometimes when you don’t respond people don’t know whether its true or not. I have no respect for people who anonymously spread lies and rumors. But I can’t sit back and not respond to these lies.

I feel that unless you have a solution to this problem being critical for the sake of being critical isn’t productive and doesn’t serve to help Plainfield.

I am going to be very short and to the point, I have not been critical of anyone when dealing with the Muhlenberg Property. I am in support of what is best for the City of Plainfield. For over a year I have been meeting with people in the medical field people who deal with properties like Muhlenberg and have listened to their recommendations on what the best course of action should be.

I have been working with people with a background in reopening hospitals in urban communities all over the country. Their recommendation was that if the right funding was in place we would be able to offer medical services on the Muhlenberg campus. The key was to get the right financing to accomplish this.

The primary issue is the 20 million dollar debt that comes with the campus that has been one of the main factors. Also there are environmental issues with some of the buildings on the campus that would cost an additional 5 million dollars to correct. With the right financing in place we could offset this debt to create something to better serve the Plainfield community.

I sponsored a bill A3043 just in case anyone would like to go read the bill to see what I was trying to accomplish. It would have “Allowed corporation business tax or gross income tax credits to developers for certain capital investments for repurposing qualified health care facilities.”

This would have given companies the ability to use these dollars to redevelop hospitals like Muhlenberg and others around the state in a similar financial situation as Muhlenberg.

My bill was included in the largest economic development package in our states history the New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act of 2013. The bill passed out of both the Assembly and Senate with Bi-Partisan support. The Governor, knowing how desperately communities like Plainfield needed this portion of the bill vetoed it without giving a reason.

I hope that this answers any questions about my position on the Muhlenberg Campus and what I am trying to help accomplish; which is bringing the best medical services to our community in difficult economic times.

When I am Re-Elected this November I will not stop. The people of Plainfield deserve the best. I would also like to add I support the hiring of someone to look at what’s the best use of the site.

I’m hoping that in the future people will stop being so critical and give suggestions so we don’t end up with an empty lot like Irvington. In Irvington they talked for years and did nothing only for the community to suffer and bring property values in Irvington to an all-time low.

My understanding is that my opponent John Campbell has begun telling people he has found a buyer for the property but has not yet released to the public or City Council who the buyer is. I will be the first person to work with him if such a buyer exists because this is not a political issue. After five years to say you have a buyer I think it’s only fair that you tell the public who this buyer is so that the city won’t have to spend money on a study.

I have just explained what I’m doing to help our community; unfortunately Mr. Campbell hasn’t said what he’s doing or what his plan is. As I drive around town I see giant pictures of Mr. Campbell but he hasn’t said what he has done for Plainfield or what he would do as a Republican member of the Assembly.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Gusciora: History Will Be Made in NJ on Monday

(TRENTON) – Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) issued the following statement on the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision to allow same-sex marriages to begin on Monday by denying the Christie administration’s request for a stay while the court continues to decide the case:
“History will be made in New Jersey on Monday.
“Equality has won out once again and I thank the Supreme Court for ruling on the side of justice.”
“I hope the Christie administration will quickly get its act in gear to give towns the guidance they need to begin making this dream a reality for the thousands of gay couples who have waited too long to be treated equally.”

Speaker Oliver: Marriage Equality Ruling Yet Another Win for Equal Rights

Despite Christie Efforts, Monday will be a Great Day for N.J.

(TRENTON) – Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) released the following statement Friday after the Supreme Court rejected Gov. Christie’s latest attempt to block marriage equality in New Jersey:

“I praise this decision - and I welcome marriage equality to New Jersey starting on Monday. It’s yet another win for equal protection under the law.
“It’s a shame it took this long to get to this point and that it took a court fight for same-sex couples to gain equal rights. New Jersey could have had marriage equality already if it wasn’t for Gov. Christie, who has done everything he could to prevent this from happening, including wasting money and time continuing this court battle.
“Justice has won out, and New Jersey will be a better state for it.
“Monday will be a historic day for New Jersey, and day of great joy and happiness for many of our citizens who have long deserved it.”

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Speaker Oliver Applauds Latest Marriage Equality Ruling; Urges Christie to Drop Appeal Effort

(TRENTON) – New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) released the following statement Thursday on Assignment Judge Mary C. Jacobson’s order denying a request by Gov. Chris Christie to prevent marriage equality starting Oct. 21:

“I applaud this sound decision that supports equality for all New Jerseyans.
“Gov. Christie needs to finally get the message and stop doing everything he can to stand in the way of civil rights. I sincerely hope he now drops his effort to prevent all loving couples from receiving equal treatment under the law.
“Enough is enough, governor. Do the right thing. Let Oct. 21 be a day of celebration across our state.”

Monday, September 30, 2013

Green Hails Court’s Marriage Equality Decision as a Victory for Civil Rights

(PLAINFIELD, NJ) – Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green hailed Friday’s decision by a New Jersey Superior Court to start allowing same-sex marriages on Oct. 21 as a victory for civil rights in New Jersey.
“What the Mercer County Superior Court did was recognize our current law for what it is – an unconstitutional barrier towards true equality in New Jersey.
“Separate but equal can never truly be equal, especially in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on DOMA. 
“It’s time for the Governor to get out of the way and stop wasting taxpayers’ money fighting the inevitable march towards true equality.  As it stands now, he’s already delayed this inevitability once by vetoing the legislature’s approval of marriage equality, essentially telling thousands of couples and their families that they are less equal in the eyes of the law.
“It’s time for the Governor to get out of the way and let true equality be the law of the land,” said Green (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union).

Friday, September 27, 2013

Speaker Oliver Hails Marriage Equality Ruling

Urges Gov. Christie Not to Appeal

(TRENTON) – New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) released the following statement Friday after a state Superior Court judge ruled marriage equality must come to New Jersey starting Oct. 21:

“I’m ecstatic to see today’s ruling. This is a great victory for civil rights and treating everyone equally under the law.
“Sadly, same-sex couples were denied equal rights for too long, and Gov. Christie’s veto only prolonged their struggle unnecessarily. Oct. 21 should be a very exciting day for many loving New Jersey couples, and I hope Gov. Christie does the right thing and does not appeal. Justice has already been denied for far too long. Let’s clear the way for equal rights for all families.
“As Congressman John Lewis reminded us when he visited New Jersey last year, ‘It’s a question of human dignity, a question of human rights.’ This ruling is an answer to that question. This ruling brings justice for all.”

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Ramos, Quijano, Caride & Mosquera Bill to Ensure School Enrollment of Children Regardless of Immigration Status Now Law

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Ruben J. Ramos Jr., Annette Quijano, Marlene Caride and Gabriela Mosquera to require the state to issue reminder notices to school districts of the requirement to enroll resident students in accordance with all applicable statutes and rules and regulations of the state board of education was signed into law on Thursday.
"These children are entitled to an appropriate public education," said Ramos (D-Hudson). "We're talking about children who have no control over their immigration status, and we should want them to be enrolled in school and properly educated so they can become productive members of our society. When you think about it, this is just common sense."
"It's important to regularly remind school districts that a child's immigration status does not affect his eligibility to attend public school," said Quijano (D-Union).
“Requiring the Department of Education to biannually distribute a notice to each school district reminding the district of the obligation to enroll resident students regardless of immigration status is the right thing to do for children,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic).
"We are rightly committed in New Jersey to educating each and every child, and this new law simply reminds everyone of that goal,” said Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester). “This is about fairness and ensuring a better future for our state.”
Under the new law, the state is required to distribute a notice to school districts twice a year reminding them of the requirement to enroll resident students regardless of immigration status. The notice must be distributed by Aug. 1 and Dec. 30 of each school year and must include information on the documentation that may be requested pursuant to state board regulations to demonstrate a students eligibility for enrollment in the district. The law will become effective on the 60th day following enactment.

Gusciora Asks AG to Ensure the “TIDE” Remains in Trenton

Assemblyman Also Asks “How Many Camden Towns Signed up for Its County-wide Police Force?”

(TRENTON) – In the aftermath of the Capital City’s 32nd homicide, Assembly Deputy Majority Leader Reed Gusciora (D-Trenton), requested that the Acting Attorney General, John J. Hoffman, ensure that the state’s Targeted Integrated Deployment Effort (TIDE) initiative remain in place.
“The fact remains gun violence is only going to escalate once the State Police presence goes away,” said Gusciora. “As it is, we have just suffered our 32nd homicide of the year.”
TIDE is a state initiative that has brought State Police to integrate with Trenton Police Department on a temporary basis to stem the gun violence that has plagued the Capital City. The Trenton P.D. has been hampered with over 100 layoffs in recent years. TIDE has enabled the department to maintain its staffing levels and assists the city’s police department in combating crime, but only on a temporary basis.
“Barring TIDE remaining in place, I would hope the state consider installing a ‘Capital Police’ unit to patrol the parameter of all state offices,” continued Gusciora. “This would also substantially lessen the burden of Trenton’s over-stretched police force while creating a greater police presence in Trenton.”
Gusciora also questioned the Governor’s call for a county-wide police force. The Assemblyman questioned how many Camden towns signed up for the force.
“I also do not know why the Governor continues to talk about a county-wide police force in Camden when one does not exist,” said Gusciora. “Essentially, no one has signed up there, and it is silly to call for one in Mercer rather than dealing directly with the lack of staffing levels for the Capital City’s police department.”
Gusciora also repeated his call for the state to adequately compensate the city for its loss of tax revenue from the state.
“We need boots on the ground in Trenton and only the state is in a position to restore Capital City aid,” concluded Gusciora. “Until such aid is restored, Trenton will continue to combat crime without adequate policing levels. And for that, we need the state to recognize that the TIDE needs to continue to roll in.”
Attached is the letter that Gusciora sent to the Acting Attorney General.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Coughlin, Green & Quijano Bill to Allow Local Units to Enter into Joint Purchasing Agreements for Fire Equipment Now Law

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Craig J. Coughlin (D-Middlesex), Jerry Green (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union) and Annette Quijano (D-Union) to allow local units to enter into joint agreements to purchase fire equipment has been signed into law.
            “Budgetary constraints have forced many municipalities to do more with less, but fire equipment is not something you ever want to cut back on,” said Coughlin. “This law will help equip fire departments with the necessary equipment to respond to emergencies and keep the community safe, while easing the financial burden on taxpayers. It’s a win-win.”
            “Shared services is one way for struggling municipalities to reduce costs without sacrificing services and saddling taxpayers already feeling the pinch,” said Green. “This provides local units the chance to purchase essential fire equipment at lower costs through joint purchasing agreements. We should take advantage of every opportunity that allows us to provide a vital service and save money.”
            “Firefighting is a noble, but dangerous profession. It is our responsibility to ensure that our firefighters have the adequate equipment so they can perform their jobs well and with no added risk,” said Quijano. “By allowing joint purchasing of fire equipment, we ensure that fire departments have the needed equipment to perform their jobs while lightening the financial load for taxpayers.”
             The law (A-3263) will allow local units to enter into joint agreements to purchase fire equipment. Fire equipment, including critical and specialized items such as fire trucks, is among the more expensive items that local units purchase. By clarifying that local units have the authority to enter into joint agreements to purchase such equipment, this law will offer local units greater flexibility to lower costs and ease budgetary pressures.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Assembly Woman Riley Criticizes Rutgers Board of Governors for Increasing Tuition for Students, while Allowing RU President to Benefit from Work with Companies that do Business with University

(SALEM) - Assembly Higher Education Committee Chair Celeste M. Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem) issued the following statement on Monday criticizing the decision by the board of governors at Rutgers University to allow University President Robert Barchi to serve on the advisory boards of two firms that do business with the university:

 “The board last week voted to raise tuition and fees for in-state students, making it harder for students of moderate financial means to attend the university. Yet the board sees no issue with allowing President Barchi to get paid to serve on advisory boards for companies that do business with the university. One of the companies has in the last five years received $15 million from Rutgers.
“This is clearly a conflict of interest that should never have been sanctioned. The mere perception of impropriety was reason enough to ask President Barchi to cut ties with these companies.
“President Barchi’s service on these boards have pushed his annual compensation to more than a million. Rutgers has increased its tuition and essentially closed its doors to students who could barely afford the tuition before this most recent increase, while allowing its president to benefit from a business relationship that seems to go against the school’s very own code of ethics.
“That’s a terrible message to send to our young people contemplating higher education in the state.”

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Green: Christie Should Have Signed Democratic Bill Reforming Affordable Housing; Now Must Show Willingness to Compromise

(TRENTON) – Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset), chairman of the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee, released the following statement Wednesday on the Supreme Court ruling invalidating Gov. Chris Christie’s attempt to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing:

“Today’s court ruling is one more example of the governor’s failure to lead on important issues such as affordable housing.
“Everyone agrees the Council on Affordable Housing has been an ineffective agency that has failed to accomplish its goal. That’s why the Legislature voted in January 2011 to abolish COAH, only to have Gov. Christie inexplicably veto it.
“Our bill was backed by a broad range of businesses, housing advocates, legal experts and local officials who understood it was the best way to provide housing for working class residents, create jobs and spark the economy. The governor, sadly, wanted a court fight. That accomplished nothing.
“If Gov. Christie is truly interested in affordable housing reform, he should take another look at the Democratic bill to abolish COAH and truly work to find a compromise that will benefit everyone.”

Speaker Oliver’s Statement on Supreme Court’s COAH Ruling

(TRENTON) – Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver released the following statement Wednesday in response to the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision to bar Gov. Christie from dismantling the state’s Council on Affordable Housing (COAH):
“Today’s decision reinforces the axiom that it is far more fruitful to work together than to pick a fight. 
“We presented Gov. Christie with a responsible bill more than two years ago that recognized the inefficacies of COAH and created a reasonable blue print to ensure that affordable housing remained a priority for struggling, aspiring homeowners in New Jersey. 
“Instead the Governor vetoed it, choosing to waste two years and countless dollars fighting the matter in court.  While today’s ruling represents a long-term win for struggling low and middle income residents, it’s unfortunate that it had to come with this price tag.
“Now it’s clear that we need to work together to resolve this issue once and for all in a manner that benefits all of the constituents we were elected to serve,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic).

Friday, June 28, 2013

Coutinho: Economic Growth Bill Will Make a Better New Jersey

(TRENTON) – Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Chairman Albert Coutinho (D-Essex) released the following statement after the Assembly voted 68-5 to approve The New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act of 2013. Coutinho is lead sponsor of the bill (A-3680):
 “Our tax incentive programs have been invaluable to our state’s economic development planning, but with five programs with varying goals we clearly needed to streamline these programs and make it easier for businesses to understand and take advantage of them.
“We want businesses to bring new jobs to New Jersey and preserve the ones they already provide. This merger of five incentive programs into two will enhance the ability of the state to attract and retain businesses to further the overarching goal of creating and retaining jobs.
“Under this bill, we will see economic growth in areas that have not seen economic growth in decades. With changes to this bill, we will continue to protect our environment. In the end, we will be doing the right thing for New Jersey’s economy and for job creation, and I look forward to seeing the benefits for years to come.”

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Green & Watson Coleman Bill to Extend Development Fee Moratorium; Transform Foreclosed Properties into Affordable Housing & Protect Affordable Housing Funds from State Seizure Clears Assembly

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) to further extend the moratorium on development fees for non-residential construction projects, transform foreclosed properties into affordable housing and protect certain municipalities from having their affordable housing funds raided by the state was approved Monday by the General Assembly.

“New Jersey consistently ranks as one of the most expensive states to live in. Not surprisingly, we also have some of the highest foreclosure rates in the country. Meanwhile, while we have slowly made some gains, our job market is still a long way from recovery,” said Green, who chairs the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee. “This bill would help attract more development and hence create needed jobs by reinstating the moratorium on these fees, while putting in place the controls that will allow New Jersey to meet the affordable housing needs of its residents.”

“Economic realities are forcing many families to foreclose on their homes. Many of these properties end up vacant, undermining the health, safety and economic vitality of neighborhoods, depressing their property values and reducing revenues to municipalities. On the other side of the coin, you have families of lower financial means struggling to find adequate, affordable housing,” said Watson Coleman. “This bill helps address this pervasive problem by taking foreclosed properties that threaten the stability of neighborhoods and turning them into affordable housing. It’s a win-win.”

The bill (A-4251/S-2716) extends the moratorium on the imposition of fees on non-residential construction projects for two and a half years, until January 1, 2016. The statewide non-residential development fees were enacted as part of revisions to the Fair Housing Act and Municipal Land Use Law in 2008. The 2.5 percent fee was charged to office, commercial and industrial real estate developers to help municipalities meet affordable housing obligations. A moratorium of the non-residential fee requirement was initially placed on the imposition of fees in 2009. In 2011, the moratorium on the imposition of the fees was extended by two years, until July 1, 2013. 

The bill also creates the “New Jersey Residential Foreclosure Transformation Act,” which establishes the “New Jersey Foreclosure Transformation Program” as a temporary program within the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) to purchase foreclosed residential properties from institutional lenders and dedicating the properties for occupancy as affordable housing. Under the bill, the HMFA must cease the program’s operations on December 31, 2017.

“Foreclosures in New Jersey continue to rise with no relief in sight. The administration’s answer to this problem has been to hold on to money allocated to help property owners avoid this very situation. Now it wants to take away funds from municipalities meant to create affordable housing,” said Green. “Foreclosed properties can quickly turn into nuisance properties, attracting criminal activity and driving down property values. This bill helps us accomplish two things: it helps reduce the growing number of foreclosure properties, while helping meet the demand for affordable housing.” 

The bill empowers the HMFA to purchase foreclosed residential properties and mortgage assets from institutional lenders in order to produce affordable housing and dedicate it as such for 30 years.

The bill directs the HMFA to enter into contracts or loans, or both, with no more than two experienced, financially sophisticated, community development financial institutions to enhance the ability of the HMFA to fulfill its purpose of producing affordable housing. Under the bill, the HMFA or, if applicable, one of its contractors, must give the municipality where the property is located (1) a right to consent or withhold consent to the proposed purchase and dedication as affordable housing, as well as (2) the right of first refusal to purchase the property and dedicate it as affordable housing.

A municipality may exercise its right to buy and dedicate eligible property for affordable housing, decline the option to buy, or decline to exercise the option and instead authorize the HMFA or its contractors to use monies from the town's affordable housing trust fund to buy the property.

The bill also provides that whenever the HMFA, its contractors or a municipality buys an eligible property using monies deposited in a municipality's affordable housing trust fund, the town is to receive two units of credit toward any Council on Affordable Housing-imposed obligation to provide affordable housing for each eligible unit of affordable housing dedicated and provided.

The bill awards municipalities additional unites of credit, above the actual number of dedicated affordable housing units produced, as an incentive for them to authorize the use of their affordable housing monies for the purchase of eligible properties and to dedicate them as affordable housing.

In addition, the bill establishes a mechanism through which a “foreclosure-impacted municipality” – a municipality that has 10 or more foreclosed homes listed on a multiple listing service for at least 60 days – can insulate its affordable housing trust funds from the laws that will require the transfer of its trust fund monies to the “New Jersey Affordable Housing Trust Fund.”

“To take funds meant to create affordable housing when there is a need for more affordable housing is just mind-boggling,” said Watson Coleman. “These funds have a specific purpose: to create moderately priced housing for families of lower means; not help the administration plug holes in the budget. There is no honor in boasting about a budget balanced on the backs of our most vulnerable residents.”

A foreclosure-impacted municipality can accomplish this by adopting a resolution committing the expenditure of its municipal affordable housing trust fund monies for the production of affordable housing and authorizing the transfer of at least $150,000 of its municipal affordable housing trust fund monies to the HMFA for the HMFA to use to produce affordable housing.  If a municipality adopts the resolution to authorize the transfer within 60 days after the effective date of the bill, the municipality would be deemed to have committed the funds by the deadline established in A-500.

Under the bill, the HMFA must use the funds transferred from a foreclosure-impacted municipality to produce affordable housing within that municipality. If the HMFA is unable to use all of the transferred funds within two years of the date of transfer, it must return the remaining funds to the municipality, which would have at least six months from the date the funds are returned to commit the funds in accordance with other provisions of law. During this time, all municipal trust fund monies designated for the purchase of foreclosed properties would be protected from transfer to the state.

The bill also establishes the “Foreclosure to Affordable Housing Transformation Fund,” a non-lapsing, revolving fund to serve as the repository for funds appropriated or otherwise made available for the HMFA to fulfill its purposes. The HMFA would administer the fund and would be authorized to transfer into the fund any amounts it has that may be used for the production of affordable housing.       
Lastly, the bill requires the HMFA to make an annual report on the program’s activities to the governor and the Legislature, setting forth a complete operating and financial statement covering the program’s operations, transactions, and holdings during the year. The report must be posted on the agency’s website.

The bill was approved 46-27-5 by the Assembly and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Green Praises Preservation of Affordable Housing Funds in FY 2014 Budget

(TRENTON) – Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee Chair Jerry Green applauded the fact that the FY 2014 budget advanced by the Assembly Budget Committee on Thursday preserves the funding for affordable housing that the Christie administration had previously tried to confiscate for the general fund.
“This has been a lengthy battle, but one that was certainly worth it because this funding is crucial to municipalities and low and middle income residents trying to pursue the American dream.
“It’s unfortunate that this money has been tied up by legal battles this year, but thanks to the sound judgment of the courts, I’m pleased that we’ve finally been able to reach an agreement.
“Families throughout New Jersey are struggling to find homes within their means in a state with one of the highest costs of living in the country.  Meanwhile, towns have been powerless to help because they have been kept in limbo for far too long.
“The resolution of this matter is long overdue but certainly welcome,” said Green (D-Somerset/Middlesex/Union).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Albano, Diegnan, Jasey & Andrzejczak Bills to Help Students with Dyslexia & other Reading Disabilities Continue Advancing

(TRENTON) – An Assembly approved legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Nelson Albano (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland), Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr., (D-Middlesex), Mila Jasey (D-Essex/Morris) and Andrew Andrzejczak (D- Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland) to enhance the education of students with dyslexia and other reading disabilities was advanced Wednesday by a Senate panel.
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability characterized by difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition and poor spelling and decoding abilities, resulting in core difficulties with reading, writing, spelling and sometimes spoken language. An estimated 15-20 percent of people have language-based learning difficulties. An estimated 70-85 percent of students in special education for a learning disability have dyslexia, making it the most prevalent learning disability in children.
“All children need basic reading and writing abilities to succeed in school and in life. Children with dyslexia can learn effectively with appropriate teaching, but if the instruction is inadequate, it can have devastating consequences that will follow these children into adulthood,” said Albano. “This struggle can cause significant stress, lead to poor self-image and discourage students from continuing with school. Early identification, support and sustained targeted services for students with dyslexia are essential to increase academic success and allow these students to reach their full potential.”
The first bill (A-3606/3607), sponsored by Albano, Diegnan, Jasey and Andrzejczak, requires 20 hours of professional development devoted to reading disabilities for public school teachers.           Current state Board of Education regulations require all active teachers in a school district to complete 100 hours of approved professional development every five years. Under this bill (A-3606/3607), at least 20 hours of that professional development would have to be made up of instruction on the screening, intervention, accommodation and use of technology for students with reading disabilities, including dyslexia, during each five-year professional development period.
The bill (A-3606/3607) also requires the state Department of Education (DOE) to provide professional development opportunities related to reading disabilities to school district personnel. Under the bill (A-3606/3607), the state DOE must provide professional development opportunities related to reading disabilities, including dyslexia, to a variety of school district personnel. These opportunities would be designed to account for the various manners in which different school district personnel interact with, and develop instructional programs for students with reading disabilities.
“Informed and effective instruction by skilled teachers, especially in the early grades, can prevent or alleviate the severity of dyslexia and related reading and language problems,” said Diegnan, who chairs the Assembly Education Committee. “Students with dyslexia require suitable instruction and educational interventions for their specific disability. In order for educators who teach children with dyslexia to be effective, they need considerable and specialized knowledge and skills, and adequate training to recognize early signs of risk and provide successful teaching methods.”
The second bill (A-3608), also sponsored by Albano, Diegnan, Jasey and Andrzejczak, directs the state Board of Education to incorporate the International Dyslexia Association (IDA)’s definition of dyslexia into its special education regulations. Current state board regulations list dyslexia as one of the specific learning disabilities that may impair a person’s ability to understand or use language or perform mathematical calculations, but do not specifically define it.
Under the bill (A-3608), the state Board of Education would incorporate the IDA definition which reads as follows: “Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”
“All children, regardless of disability, should be given the educational means to succeed. We send our children to school and trust that their teachers will give them the right instruction to do just that. The better equipped our teachers are, the better our children will learn,” said Jasey. “These measures are meant to help and empower children who may have a harder time in school because of their reading disabilities, by making sure that their teachers have the necessary expertise and skills.”

“No child should fail to meet his or her full potential because they did not receive adequate instruction in school. A reading disability is only an impediment to academic success, if it is not met with efficient, specialized instruction,” said Andrzejczak. “A state endorsement, along with the other measures proposed in this package, would help ensure that these children will have access to teachers who are specifically trained in appropriate instructional methods to help them learn and succeed.”
The bills were approved by the Assembly in April and released Wednesday by the Senate Education Committee.

Assembly Democratic Bill Regulating Gun Purchases, Permitting, Internet Ammunition Sales & Mental Health Screening Released by Assembly Panel

Omnibus Bill Includes Provisions from Bills Approved by Assembly in February

            (TRENTON) – Consolidated Assembly Democratic legislation to combat gun violence in New Jersey by improving firearms purchaser identification cards and handgun purchase permits, requiring firearms safety training, enhancing mental health screening and changing how Internet sales of ammunition are tracked was released Monday by an Assembly panel.
            The bill (A-4182) sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington) is part of the Assembly Democratic gun violence prevention effort and features provisions from eight bills approved by the Assembly in February as part of its sweeping gun violence prevention initiative. The consolidated bill includes elements of:
·         A3772-3510-3645-3646-3666-3750 (Greenwald, Johnson, Wagner, Eustace, Cryan, Vainieri Huttle, Mosquera, O’Donnell, Jasey, Quijano, Mainor, McKeon) - Revises statutes concerning firearms purchaser identification cards and handgun purchase permits; makes handgun purchase permit valid for four years.
·         A1683 (Johnson, Eustace) - Criminalizes purchase or possession of firearms ammunition by persons convicted of certain crimes.
·         A3748 (O’Donnell, Mainor, McKeon, Jasey, Cryan) - Requires background check for private gun sales.
“We remain all too familiar with the terrible tragedy the gaps in the law can bring,” said Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). “With this effort, we’ll be making great strides toward making our state safer by updating the rules for gun purchases and permitting and sales of ammunition over the Internet. These are common sense changes that will make our state safer without restricting legal and responsible gun ownership.”
Under the revised bill:
·         The paper firearms purchaser identification card would no longer be issued to New Jersey residents. Rather, the information on the card would be embedded in a firearms purchaser identifier with a picture;
·         The Attorney General and the Superintendent of State Police would be charged with determining whether this information would be embedded in the driver’s license or be a separate, independent card;
·         The transition from the current paper card to having this information embedded in a firearms identifier would take place over a two to five year phase-in period;
·         Residents who do not have a driver’s license would have their information embedded on the identification cards that are issued by the Motor Vehicle Commission;
·         All retail dealers of firearms would be required to use this system;
·         A person who applies for a card or embedded firearms purchaser identifier is still required to submit to a criminal history background check to determine if the applicant is disqualified from owning a firearm under the law;
·         Any person who purchases a handgun is also required obtain a card in addition to a permit to purchase a handgun.  The permit information would be embedded on the identifier and would be valid for four years. 
The bill requires the Attorney General to develop and implement the system that will allow retail firearms dealers to use the embedded firearms purchaser identifier to instantly determine whether that buyer is qualified to purchase a firearm. 
If the superintendent determines after 36 months of testing that the system is seriously flawed, the superintendent is to report to the Governor and the Legislature recommending that implementation be postponed until the Attorney General and the superintendent determine that the system is fully operational. 
After the Attorney General has implemented this system, all retail firearms dealers would be required to use it.  In the case of a handgun purchase, the system would enable a retail dealer to determine whether the transaction violates the state’s prohibition on purchasing more than one handgun in a 30-day period.
“This is all about improved safety and making sure our laws keep pace with the times,” Greenwald said.
The bill further requires applicants for the firearms purchaser identifier to present evidence of the successful completion of a firearms safety class or course approved by the superintendent as a condition for being issued the card, license, or permit. 
In developing the curriculum, the superintendent is to work in cooperation with a firearms safety panel consisting of four members, with two members appointed by the Senate President and two by the Speaker of the General Assembly.
“This will help create safer and more responsible gun ownership,” Greenwald said. “Learning how to properly handle and store weapons can go a long way in helping to avoid unnecessary tragedies.”
The bill also requires the court, upon motion of the prosecutor, to determine whether a person who has been convicted of a crime possesses a card, a permit to carry a handgun or a firearms identifier.  If the court determines that the convicted person possesses such a card, license or permit, the court is to revoke the card, license or permit at sentencing, after notice and a hearing. 
The bill also requires the superintendent to establish an electronic reporting program for dealers to record their Internet sales and transfers of ammunition on a real-time basis. 
The superintendent is to establish an electronic data base containing all the reported information, which is to be available to all law enforcement officers on a real time basis.  The reporting system would include the name, address, age, type of documentation used to establish eligibility to purchase, caliber or gauge of the ammunition sold, numerical amount of ammunition transferred in the sale and any other information deemed necessary by the superintendent.
“By tracking relatedly anonymous sales of ammunition over the Internet and enhancing record keeping, we can help prevent the next tragedy,” Greenwald said. “Gun violence has become too common in this country. These measures are meant to stop individuals whose only interest is to hurt and kill innocent people.”
The measure also requires a person to apply for a duplicate firearms identifier in the case of a change of residence.  A driver’s license or a state-issued non-driver identification card, which includes a photograph of the holder, must be used to provide proof of the change of address.  The person must certify that they are not subject to any of the statutory disabilities. 
It also mandates that the seven day waiting period for a handgun purchase permit under current law would be applicable to sales of handguns under the system implemented by this bill.
It also requires the State Police to access the Civil Commitment Automatic Tracking System when conducting background checks for the purchase of firearms and requires a person to possess a card and a permit or a permit to carry a handgun to purchase or acquire handgun ammunition.
Under amendments made to the bill on Monday, mental health screeners, psychiatrists and doctors would be required to ask whether persons believed to be in need of involuntary commitment to mental health treatment owned a firearm or possessed one of the documents. 
The court would have discretion to determine whether the firearm or documents of a person found to be in need of involuntary commitment should be searched for by law enforcement, seized, and in the case of a firearms purchaser identifier, be operationally disabled. 
The bill was released by the Assembly Budget Committee.

Democratic Measure to Boost Funding for Women’s Health Care Advanced by Assembly Panel

Wagner, Stender, Vainieri Huttle, Quijano, Mosquera, Lampitt, Jasey & Watson Coleman Two-Bill Package Would Restore Funding for Women’s Health Centers & Expand Medicaid Coverage

(TRENTON) – A two-bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats to boost funding for women’s health care in the FY 2014 budget was advanced by an Assembly panel on Monday.
The measures – sponsored by Assemblywomen Connie Wagner, Linda Stender, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Annette Quijano, Gabriela Mosquera, Pamela Lampitt, Mila Jasey and Bonnie Watson Coleman – would restore the funding vetoed by Gov. Christie for women’s health centers and expand Medicaid coverage under new federal law to help serve some of the state’s poorest women.
The first bill (A-4171), sponsored by Wagner, Stender, Vainieri Huttle and Quijano, would expand Medicaid coverage of family planning services to non-pregnant individuals whose income does not exceed the highest income eligibility level established for pregnant women under current state plan, which is currently 200 percent of the federal poverty level in New Jersey.
“This legislation reaffirms our commitment to being fiscally prudent, while maintaining our commitment to provide access to health care for struggling women across New Jersey,” said Wagner (D-Bergen/Passaic).  “With the federal government covering 90 percent of the cost, this is an investment well worth making.”
“This is a wise and financially prudent move.  We simply can’t leave this money sitting on the table when family planning centers throughout the state have been forced to close or turn patients away,” said Stender (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union).
This bill would exercise a state option provided under the federal “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” which permits states to expand family planning services through a state plan amendment.  In doing so, the federal government would pay 90 percent of the costs for these services.
“This supplemental funding is critically important to cash-strapped states and the women and families who depend on it and we should be taking advantage of every available federal resource at our disposal,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).
“One of the fundamental duties we’ve been elected to perform is to maximize available resources to provide basic essential services to the residents of this state,” said Quijano (D-Union).  “Nothing is more essential than access to quality healthcare.”
The second bill (A-4172), sponsored by Mosquera, Lampitt, Stender, Jasey and Watson Coleman, would provide $7,453,000 in supplemental funding for the Fiscal Year 2013 Annual Appropriations Act for Family Planning Services grants through the state Department of Health.
The sponsors noted that Governor Christie has eliminated $7.4 million for women’s health care services from the FY 2011, FY 2012, and FY 2013 state budgets.  In 2009, the funding helped support life-saving services for over 136,000 patients, including cancer screenings, birth control, prevention and treatment of STIs, breast health services, Pap tests and other health screenings. 
Assembly Democrats repeatedly attempted to restore the funding only to have it vetoed by Christie.  As a result, six health centers have closed statewide, many have been forced to cut back or eliminate services and at least 33,000 fewer patients were served in 2012 compared with 2009, a 24 percent drop in patients served. 
The funding has been prohibited from being used towards abortion services, as is expressly stated in the legislation approved today as well.
 “This appropriation does more than just provide healthcare for poor women and newborns, it saves taxpayer dollars that would otherwise be spent treating these women and infants in hospital emergency rooms after they have become seriously ill,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester).
“In difficult economic times, access to critical health services becomes even more strained due to higher unemployment rates. This funding will help ensure that every New Jerseyan, regardless of sex, race, religion or socioeconomic status, has the right to seek certain fundamental healthcare services,” said Lampitt (D-Camden).
 “We can’t afford to continue turning our backs on women and newborns as the Governor has done in his last few budgets,” said Stender.  “Restoring this funding will improve public health for some of our least fortunate, while saving taxpayers money in the long-run.”
 “In difficult fiscal times, the priorities we choose show our character as a state,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris).  “From a financial perspective this is a cost effective way to improve the health and well being of women and children in New Jersey.”
“We continue to take this fight to the budget once again because we believe it is one worth fighting,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).  “Access to life-saving cancer screenings and preventative services should be a right, not a privilege.”
The bills were approved by the Assembly Budget Committee and now await consideration by the full Assembly.

Benson, DeAngelo, Eustace, Singleton, Wagner & Quijano Bill to Ensure Honorably Discharged Service Members Receive Full Benefits Released by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) –Legislation Assembly Democrats Daniel R. Benson, Wayne DeAngelo, Tim Eustace, Troy Singleton, Connie Wagner and Annette Quijano sponsored to ensure ex-service members fully receive their unemployment benefit was released Monday by an Assembly panel.
The bill (A-2993) would provide supplemental unemployment benefits to ex-service members in an amount such that the total benefits they receive between their federally-funded benefits for ex-service members and the supplemental benefits under this bill equals 26 times their weekly benefit amount. The supplemental benefits under the bill will not be paid until the federal benefits are exhausted and will not be charged against any employer.
This bill would become effective immediately.
"A service member may be honorably discharged before completion of their required service, whether for medical reasons, a family emergency, or other uncontrollable circumstance," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "In the event of an early honorable discharge, the ex-service member may not qualify for the full 26 weeks of their federally-funded unemployment benefits. This legislation would ensure that they would receive their full 26 weeks of eligibility, it's unquestionably the right thing to do."
"Our service members sacrifice a lot for our nation," said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "This bill ensures that even in the event of unforeseen but honorable circumstances, we ensure we treat those who defend our freedom the right way."
"These brave men and women protect our freedom, and we should always strive to protect their wellbeing," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "This bill is the least we can do for our heroes who through no fault of their own must leave the service."
"A service member who leaves through an honorable discharge to deal with medical or family concerns should not be punished," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "We need to do the right thing and ensure the sacrifices they made for us do not go unnoticed in their time of need."
"We can never forget the bravery of these men and women, so let's make sure we don't forget them when they need our help," said Wagner (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Let's make sure none of these honorable ex-service members fall between the cracks."
"Quite simply, this bill is common sense," said Quijano (D-Union). "If a service member is honorably discharged, they should not be penalized. It's that simple. With this bill, we’re doing what’s best for our heroes and making sure they are not punished due to unforeseen circumstances.”
The bill was released by the Assembly Budget Committee.

DeAngelo 3-Bill Package to Combat Unemployment Benefits Fraud and Ensure System is Better Protected for Out-of-Work New Jerseyans Advances

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo sponsored to better protect the state’s Unemployment Insurance Fund from fraud and ensure it’s used only by those it was created to assist - unemployed New Jerseyans – was advanced Monday by an Assembly panel.
“Out-of-work New Jerseyans deserve this help, and every taxpayer deserves to know the benefits system they pay into is protected as best as possible from fraud that, in the end, only costs everyone more money,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “The unemployment fund exists to help New Jerseyans get back on their feet as they find work, and it should be protected for their use and their use only. With these few basic steps, we can better ensure that happens.”
DeAngelo based the bills off a report from the Office of the State Auditor, which looked at the Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Unemployment Insurance Services program for the period of July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2011. The audit focused on benefit payments and uncovered various ways the system that could be improved or updated to improve the collection of data and provide a more timely verification of wages earned and beneficiary’s status
The bills:
·         Shortens the time period in which employers are required to file reports on wages earned by their employees from a quarterly report to a monthly report (A-3810);
·         Requires the Department of the Treasury to collect for overpayment of UI benefits (A-3811); and
·         Requires officials to make death and incarceration notifications to eliminate fraud in the UI system (A-3812).
“These are common sense steps that would help unemployed residents and give taxpayers more confidence their money in being protected,” DeAngelo said. “Preventing fraud can go a long way toward ensuring a better system, and that’s something residents and businesses – everyone for that matter – can support.”
The first bill (A-3810) shortens the time period in which employers are required to file reports on wages earned by their employees from a quarterly report to a monthly report.
This would provide a timely reporting of wages to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to assist the department in identifying individuals who may be collecting benefits for which they are not eligible.
The audit detailed the estimated time lag of wage reporting by employers of as much as four months. Employers must report the wages earned by the employee on a quarterly form required to be submitted by the employer within 30 days of the end of the calendar quarter. Therefore, wages earned in the first quarter may not be reported to the department until April 30.
“If an individual is collecting unemployment benefits, but becomes employed at some point in the quarter and does not voluntarily notify the department, it would not be aware for up to 30 days after the end of the quarter,” DeAngelo said. “This would allow the individual to fraudulently collect unemployment benefits for a maximum of 17 weeks. That’s unacceptable.”
The second bill (A-3811) would require the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to file a notice of debt with the Department of the Treasury upon the failure of an individual debtor to pay a debt incurred due to overpayment of unemployment benefits.
Under the bill, the Department of the Treasury must issue a certificate of debt and pursue the collection of the debt from the individual.  The bill provides that the Department of the Treasury may file an application with the Office of Administrative Law for wage garnishment of an individual who has failed to reimburse the department for an overpayment of UI benefits within 60 days of the date that all appeals for that payment have been exhausted.
The amount of garnishment is determined by the department and may not exceed 25 percent of the debtor’s gross earnings, provided that after the garnishment, the debtor’s income will not be less than 250 percent of the poverty level for the individual, taking into account the size of the individual’s family.
The third bill (A-3812) aims to eliminate fraud in the UI system.
Under the bill, the state registrar is directed to facilitate the electronic notification, upon completion of the death record and issuance of a burial permit, of a decedent’s name, Social Security number and last known address to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Additionally, the Department of Corrections is required to provide the Department of Labor and Workforce Development with the name and Social Security number of each inmate at the time of incarceration.
“The department would be instructed to establish a system to cross-check the death records and the list of inmates with files of individuals who are receiving unemployment insurance or temporary disability insurance benefits,” DeAngelo said. “The cross check will act as a safeguard for these public benefit programs and diminish the chance of false payments of unemployment and disability benefits.”
The bills were released by the Assembly Budget Committee.