Thursday, March 28, 2013

Singleton, Giblin, Benson & Quijano ‘Helmets to Hardhats’ Bill Establishing Pilot Program Now Law

Will Help Connect Former Military Personnel with Construction Jobs;
Pilot Program Limits Scope to Turnpike Authority Highway Projects

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Thomas Giblin, Daniel Benson and Annette Quijano that would help out-of-work former military personnel find jobs in the construction industry has been signed into law.
“Young men and women are going to war, serving their country, and coming home to a civilian life without a job,” said Singleton (D-Burlington).  “With post-9/11 veteran unemployment numbers still hovering near 10 percent, we owe these fine men and women more than just a handshake and a welcome home, we owe them an opportunity to gain employment.”
 “Making a successful transition from military life back into the civilian workforce can be difficult in the best of economic times,” said Giblin (D-Essex), a former Air National Guard member.  “For the current crop of vets, coming home to 10 percent unemployment may seem daunting or overwhelming, especially if it seems like meaningful help is unavailable.”
The law (A-2014) will require the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to establish a  “Helmets to Hardhats” pilot program to help New Jersey military personnel and veterans acquire highway construction jobs.
Under the law, the Turnpike Authority will be required to guarantee that at least five percent and not more than 20 percent of the projected labor hours on any highway project are awarded to contractors who employ workers from an apprenticable trade participating in the pilot program, as certified by the New Jersey State Building and Construction Trades Council. The law also requires that these workers be paid the prevailing wage during their employment.
“Returning vets – many of whom have acquired specialized, transferable skills during their military service – aren’t looking for a handout or a free ride,” said Benson (D-Mercer).  “At the end of the day, they’re just looking for honest work and a livable wage.  And this law presents an opportunity to give them both, as a way of saying thank you for their service.”
            “Our veterans have endured their share of challenges; trying to find a job should not be one of them," said Quijano (D-Union).  “We owe it to them to make the employment process as simple and straightforward as possible, so that they can comfortably transition to the next chapter in their lives.”
The pilot program will run for 18 months, during which the Turnpike Authority will evaluate: what impact, if any, the program had on providing former military personnel with jobs; and what impact the program had on the cost of highway construction projects.
The Turnpike Authority will be required to submit their findings in reports to both the governor and the Legislature within 24 months after the law’s effective date.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Greenwald: Violent Drug Gang Bust Shows Need for Assembly Gun Violence Prevention Bills

(TRENTON)—New Jersey Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington) released the following statement Wednesday on preventing gun violence in New Jersey, after federal authorities announced a roundup of a violent street gangdistributing heroin in Atlantic City:
“The outstanding work done by our federal, state and local law enforcement to take down this violent drug gang deserves nothing but the highest praise. However, these arrests bring another potentially deadly problem to light. Critical gaps in New Jersey’s gun laws currently allow many convicted criminals to obtain the means to terrorize our streets with gun violence and dangerous criminal activity far too easily.
“While many convicted felons are barred from purchasing firearms, some of these same criminals can still easily purchase firearms ammunition. This dangerous reality is the latest evidence why New Jersey needs the Assembly package of legislation to prevent gun violence, which closes this dangerous gap in the law.
“A 2007 report from the State Commission of Investigation which randomly surveyed 60 retail outlets across 19 New Jersey counties found that 43 stores (nearly 75%) sold ammunition to people with criminal records. At one store alone, more than 15,000 rounds of handgun ammunition were sold to 42 convicted felons over a four-year period.
“Enough is enough. The time to get serious about preventing gun violence in New Jersey is long overdue, and that is why we need the Assembly package of legislation to become law.”
Part of a 22-bill package to prevent gun violence in New Jersey, A-1683 (Johnson) would close this dangerous gap in state law, prohibiting persons convicted of the following crimes from purchasing or possessing ammunition: aggravated assault, burglary, homicide, kidnapping, robbery, sexual assault, hate crimes, drug trafficking, human trafficking, racketeering, terrorism and other crimes.

NBC10: Takedown Targets Violent A.C. Drug Gang: Feds

At least two dozen men and women were arrested on charges of conspiracy to distribute heroin

By Ted Greenberg
| Tuesday, Mar 26, 2013
Federal authorities say an overnight roundup in Atlantic City significantly disrupted the operations of a violent street gang responsible for drug trafficking and shootings in the resort.
NBC10 was the only media outlet there when the FBI, Atlantic City Police, New Jersey State Police and other law enforcement agencies stormed numerous locations throughout the city. They arrested at least two dozen men and women on charges of conspiracy to distribute heroin. Investigators say the suspects are members and associates of a criminal street gang known as Dirty Block.
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, District of New Jersey, is scheduled to officially announce the “major takedown” at a noon news conference in Camden, along with other federal, county, and local members of law enforcement, according to a news release.
Sources tell NBC10’s Jersey Shore Bureau the arrests were the result of an investigation that began in the summer of 2010, when Atlantic City was hit with a huge increase in gun violence. According to sources, Dirty Block was responsible for a high number of shootings that summer and in subsequent years.
Sources also tell NBC10 that brothers Malik and Mykal Derry, already jailed and charged with murdering a man outside an Adriatic Avenue restaurant on February 10th, are linked to Dirty Block as well.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Vainieri Huttle, Barnes, Tucker, Fuentes, Stender & Sumter Bill to Crackdown on Human Trafficking Gets Final Legislative OK

With Super Bowl Expected to Increase Problem, Lawmakers Takes Aim at Exploitation

(TRENTON) – The General Assembly on Thursday unanimously granted final legislative approval to bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Cleopatra Tucker, Peter Barnes III, Angel Fuentes, Linda Stender and Shavonda Sumter to crackdown on human trafficking.  The measure now heads to the Governor’s desk.
The legislation (A-3352), known as the Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection and Treatment Act, builds upon more than a year’s worth of research and consultations with experts and advocates to tackle a growing crime that is estimated to claim up to 20 million victims worldwide.
 “Human trafficking is a horrific crime that is vastly underreported, making it all that much harder to crack down on,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).  “Because the victims, often children and vulnerable women, are too afraid and dependent on traffickers to break their silence, human trafficking has remained largely in the shadows of society.  Many times they are exploited for years and coerced into prostitution, labor, and drug activity.  This bill will help raise awareness and toughen prosecutorial tools, two key elements needed in the fight to end this modern day slavery.”
The sponsors noted that although the Division of Criminal Justice has reported 179 cases of sex and labor trafficking in New Jersey in the past seven years, experts estimate that there are actually thousands of incidents occurring each year in the state. On a national level, the U.S. State Department estimates that 50,000 men, women and children are trafficked into the United States annually, on top of the 100,000 victims who are already in the country when they are enslaved. This reporting discrepancy is often attributed to victims’ fear of coming forward.
Following passage of the bill, the sponsors joined with advocates from the Polaris Project and the NJ Human Trafficking Coalition to underscore the importance of the bill and the urgent need for Gov. Christie to sign it into law.  Among the many important avenues of redress offered in the bill for victims are:
  • Unjust convictions can be removed from a survivor’s criminal record so they will no longer be denied housing, higher education, or a promising career because of convictions that occurred as a result of being trafficked.
  • A 15-year-old sex trafficking victim will be able to testify against her trafficker via closed circuit television, saving her from a re-traumatizing confrontation.
  • A survivor of labor trafficking whose abuse left him with years of medical bills can sue his trafficker for their cost.
  • The National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline will be posted where victims are most likely to see it, putting them one phone call away from hope and help.
“Human trafficking is a vast and often highly secretive crime,” said Barnes (D-Middlesex), who chairs the Judiciary Committee.  “We must be more coordinated and sophisticated to crack down on this illegal trade, especially with the Super Bowl headed our way in 2014.  Statistics from other bowl games have shown a sharp increase in human trafficking leading up the event.”
The comprehensive legislation would crack down on every aspect of trafficking by revising and expanding the state’s current laws to create a new human trafficking commission, criminalize additional activities related to human trafficking, upgrade certain penalties on existing human trafficking or related crimes, increase protections afforded to victims of human trafficking, and provide for increased training and public awareness on human trafficking issues.
In drafting the legislation, Vainieri Huttle spent the better part of last year gathering input by meeting with experts and advocates, including the NJ Coalition against Human Trafficking, an alliance comprised of diverse organizations, including the Junior League, the NJ Catholic Conference, The League of Women Voters and the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations.
“With the importance President Obama has begun to place on this issue, the world is starting to wake up to the realities of this crime,” said Tucker (D-Essex).  “It’s time for all of us to stand together and send a strong message to those that prey on the weak and vulnerable that we’re not going to take it anymore.”
Specifically, the bill would establish a 15-member Commission on Human Trafficking, to be located in the Department of Law and Public Safety, which would evaluate existing laws concerning human trafficking and enforcement, as well as review existing victim assistance programs, and promote a coordinated response by public and private resources for victims of human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is not just a crime that touches on developing nations or those wishing to immigrate,” said Fuentes (D-Camden/Gloucester).  “It is thriving in the United States and many victims are vulnerable teenagers targeted by predatory criminals looking to profit off their weaknesses.  This bill will help cut traffickers off at the knees and take away many of their resources.”
“I was proud to sponsor the first law in 2005 that cracked down on human trafficking because at the time there was little attention being paid to the issue,” said Stender (D-Middlesex/Somerset/ Union).  “Now I’m pleased that this multi-pronged approach will increase penalties and fines and expand law enforcement training. By turning up the heat on these perpetrators and targeting many of the havens where human trafficking is able to fester, hopefully we can begin to put an end to this horrific industry.”
Additionally, the bill would establish a separate, non-lapsing, dedicated fund known as the “Human Trafficking Survivor’s Assistance Fund,” which would be administered by the Attorney General’s Office with recommendations from the commission, to provide services to victims of human trafficking and promote awareness of the crime.
To that end, the bill takes aim at those that promote or enable human trafficking by sharply increasing fines and penalties for activities associated with human trafficking.  All fines collected would be deposited in the “Human Trafficking Survivor’s Assistance Fund,” including:
§        Any form of criminal human trafficking, such as recruiting individuals or financing an operation, would be a crime of the first degree with a fine of at least $25,000;
§        Anyone who knowingly owns, controls, manages, leases or supervises a premises where human trafficking is carried on, and fails to make a reasonable effort to eject the tenant or notify law enforcement authorities would be charged with a crime of the first degree, carrying a term of imprisonment of 10 to 20 years, a fine of at least $25,000, or both;
§        Anyone who promotes prostitution by transporting a person into or within the state for that purpose or knowingly leases or permits a place to be used for that purpose would be charged with a crime of the third degree, punishable by imprisonment of three to five years; a fine of up to $15,000; or both; and
§        A person would be strictly liable for a crime of the first degree for holding, recruiting, luring, enticing, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining, by any means, a child under 18 years of age to engage in sexual activity, whether or not the actor mistakenly believed that the child was 18 years of age or older, even if that mistaken belief was reasonable.
§        Anyone who advertises commercial sexual abuse of a minor, such as escort services, would be charged with a crime of the first degree, punishable by imprisonment of 10 to 20 years, a fine of at least $25,000 but not more than $200,000; or both.
“Human trafficking is a crime against humanity,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic).  “Perpetrators profit off the exploitation of the weak and vulnerable.  This is not something that should be allowed to continue in 21st century society.  It’s time to pull the rug out from under these profiteers and stand up for those who are being exploited.”
The bill also provides an additional measure of redress for any person injured as a result of human trafficking by allowing them to file a civil claim regardless of whether or not a criminal prosecution of human trafficking occurred.  The bill would also create an expedited removal process for tenants engaged in human trafficking. 
“There are two important messages contained in this bill. To victims: You’re not alone. To perpetrators: We’re coming after you,” added Vainieri Huttle. “We’re taking a spotlight and shining it on this issue so that it can’t operate in the shadows anymore.”
Furthermore, the bill would establish the Prostitution Offender Program, a "Johns School," to educate anyone who has been convicted of engaging a prostitute about the health risks and legal ramifications of their unlawful activity. Each defendant would be subject to a penalty of $500, $200 of which would be deposited in the “Human Trafficking Survivor’s Assistance Fund” with another $200 being used to fund the program and $100 going to the arresting municipality to provide incentives for investigation and enforcement. The program is modeled after similar “john school” programs that have been implemented in Buffalo, New York; Brooklyn, New York; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and West Palm Beach, Florida.
The bill would also mandate law enforcement training on responding to the needs of victims of human trafficking.

Diegnan & Giblin Bill to Protect Young Student Athletes from Sports-Related Injuries Approved by Assembly

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. and Thomas P. Giblin that creates several measures to ensure the health of student athletes, including making physical exams a requirement under New Jersey law for students in grades six through 12 who want to play school-sponsored sports was approved Thursday by the General Assembly.
“Playing sports offer many benefits to young people, but for a student who suffers from asthma, a heart condition or any other serious ailment, they can be dangerous,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “This bill puts in place several provisions to ensure the safety of our young athletes. No student should step onto a field if he or she has an illness that could be exacerbated by playing a sport.”
“Sports can be beneficial to your health, but they can also have the opposite effect if you have a medical condition that can be aggravated by physical activity. Contact sports especially are prone to injuries that can be made worse by certain health conditions,” said Giblin (D-Essex). “This bill helps protect our student athletes from serious injury by putting their safety and well-being first.”
Current State Board of Education regulations require school districts to ensure that students in grades six to 12 have a physical examination prior to participation in school-sponsored athletics, with the findings of the examination documented on a form approved by the Commissioner of Education.
The bill (A-3048) would make it a statutory requirement for public and nonpublic schools to require students enrolled in grades six through 12 who want to play a school-sponsored interscholastic or intramural sport to get a physical examination before they can join the team or squad.
Under the bill, schools would have to use the “Preparticipation Physical Evaluation” form developed by the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Sports Medicine, American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine and the American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine.
The physical examination required under the bill must be conducted within 365 days prior to the first day of official practice in an athletic season, and must be conducted by a licensed physician, advanced practice nurse or physician assistant. If the exam is conducted more than 90 days prior to the first day of practice, the student would be required under the bill to also submit a health history update questionnaire for review by the school nurse and, if applicable, the school athletic trainer.
The bill also directs the Commissioner of Education and the Commissioner of Health, in consultation with the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the American Heart Association, and the New Jersey Chapter of the American College of Cardiology to develop, by the 2013-2014 school year, a Student-Athlete Cardiac Screening professional development module to increase the assessment skills of those health care practitioners who perform student-athlete physical examinations and screenings.
Under the bill, a physician, advanced practice nurse or physician assistant who performs a student athlete’s annual physical examination prior to the student’s participation in a school-sponsored sport must complete the Student-Athlete Cardiac Screening professional development module. Upon performing a physical examination, the physician, advanced practice nurse, or physician assistant must sign the certification statement on the Preparticipation Physical Evaluation form attesting to the completion of the training module. The signed certification statement would be kept by the public school district’s board of education, or the school’s governing board or chief school administrator.
Lastly, the commissioner of education, in consultation with the commissioner of health, the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics must develop a pamphlet that provides information about sudden cardiac arrest to student-athletes and the parents or guardians of student athletes. The bill requires the commissioner to distribute the pamphlet to all school districts in the state at no charge. Individual school districts must distribute the pamphlet to student athletes and their parents or guardians starting in the 2013-2014 school year and each subsequent school year, as part of the student’s preparticipation physical examination. Student athletes and their parents or guardians must certify in writing that they received and reviewed the pamphlet.
Under the bill, the pamphlet and the training module must be posted on the websites of the Department of Education, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, the Athletic Trainers’ Society of New Jersey, the State Board of Medical Examiners, the New Jersey State Board of Nursing, and the New Jersey State Society of Physician Assistants.
The bill was approved 76-0 by the Assembly and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.

Quijano, Cryan, Caride, Jimenez & Prieto Measure Urging U.S. Immigration Reform Passes Assembly

(TRENTON) – The full Assembly on Thursday approved a measure (AR-142) sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Joseph Cryan, Marlene Caride, Angelica Jimenez and Vincent Prieto urging Congress to pass legislation creating a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants currently residing in the United States.
The resolution was approved 57-12-6.
“Few things unite us more as a nation than the belief that America is the land of opportunity,” said Quijano (D-Union).  “But for more recent immigrants, that axiom is slipping out of reach as we’ve failed to update our immigration laws to help them legally become productive, contributing members of our society.  Nothing builds stronger families and a stronger economy than a workable path to citizenship that addresses the current face of our nation.”
The sponsors noted that United States immigration laws have not been updated in 20 years and there are few avenues available for legal immigration. Congress has discussed immigration reform, yet little progress has been made. Much of the concern surrounds the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States.
“America has a long and rich heritage of immigration but our current immigration system is broken,” said Cryan (D-Union).  “Immigrants are faced with an insufficient numbers of visas for workers to support the U.S. labor force, arbitrary visa caps creating backlogs and separating families, exploitation by employers through wage and workplace violations, and inadequate government infrastructure to support the immigrant population.  All of this needs to be addressed.”
“Comprehensive immigration reform must provide law-abiding, tax paying immigrant workers and their families with an opportunity to obtain legal permanent residency and eventually U.S. citizenship through fair and reasonable requirements,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic).  “It must also be mindful of the rights afforded by our Constitution while providing workers with the ability to petition for permanent residency.”
Several immigration reform plans have been introduced over the years, but Congress needs to introduce comprehensive immigration reform to address all ages of the illegal immigrant population.
“The federal government must take action to reform our immigration laws, particularly by incorporating President Obama's Executive Order into law which grants work permits and permission to stay in this country for anyone brought here before they were 16 years of age,” said Jimenez (D-Bergen/Hudson).  “By establishing a path to citizenship for all immigrants who have not committed criminal offenses, we can help protect and strengthen families everywhere.”
Our nation’s immigration system must effectively and fairly regulate how immigrants are allowed to enter, work, and live in the United States. Comprehensive immigration reform policies must accomplish and balance several goals that are in the best interest of the nation, restoring public confidence in a system of laws that promote national security and public safety.
“The federal government has the exclusive authority to develop and enforce immigration policy under our constitution,” said Prieto (D-Bergen/Hudson).  “It’s well past time for Congress to take this issue up seriously.  In doing so, they must focus on comprehensive reform that creates a realistic pathway to citizenship for law abiding immigrants while also strengthening our national security and the public safety of our communities and neighborhoods.”
Duly authenticated copies of the resolution, signed by Speaker Oliver, will now be transmitted to the President and Vice President of the United States, the Majority and Minority Leader of the United States Senate, and the Speaker and Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, and to each member of Congress elected from the State of New Jersey.

Christie undecided on ban of controversial 'gay conversion therapy'

By Jenna Portnoy/The Star-Ledger 
on March 20, 2013 at 7:07 PM, updated March 21, 2013 at 7:37 AM
STONE HARBOR — Gov. Chris Christie said today he's undecided on whether the state should ban the controversial use of "gay conversion therapy," but the Republican governor still opposes same-sex marriage.
Christie said that he only knows little about the method. California enacted a law prohibiting the practice, but a federal court has blocked its implementation.
"I'm of two minds just on this stuff in general," he said at a news conference at Stone Harbor Elementary School. "Number one, I think there should be lots of deference given to parents on raising their children. I don't — this is a general philosophy, not to his bill — generally philosophically, on bills that restrict parents ability to make decisions on how to care for their children, I'm generally a skeptic of those bills. Now, there can always be exceptions to those rules and this bill may be one of them."
As is his practice with most legislation, Christie said he had yet to look at the bill and won't until it gets to his desk.
After a hearing in Trenton on Monday, the Senate’s health committee approved a bill that would ban licensed counselors from using “conversion therapy” on gays. Supporters called the practice damaging and demoralizing, while bill opponents accused state lawmakers of interfering with the counselor-patient relationship and intruding on parents' rights.
Asked about Ohio Sen. Rob Portman's decision this week to support same-sex marriage after his son revealed to him he is gay, Christie praised Portman, a Republican, in general, but didn't budge on his stance.
"But as far as how it affects my view, no," Christie said, "because that question implies that somehow this is a political judgment and for me it's not."

Thank You Letter From Anti-Bullying Event