Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Assembly Democratic Bill to Ensure Equitable Distribution of Sandy Relief Funds Advanced by Budget Panel Green, Prieto, Jimenez, Lagana & Mazzeo Push Fairness Measure amid Concerns about Christie Administration Response (TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez and Assemblymen Joseph Lagana and Vince Mazzeo to ensure more equitable distribution of Sandy relief funds going forward was advanced Monday by an Assembly panel. “The administration’s handling of the first round of funds has been lackluster and done little to nothing for many residents who had their homes severely damaged by the storm,” said Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset). “This tragic storm inflicted immense damage to this state, and has driven more than a quarter-million state residents to seek governmental assistance, but the fact that residents are still struggling to rebuild more than a year after the storm is a disgrace. This bill can help avoid the same problems that plagued the first round of funds, and get these residents the help they need to finally get back on their feet.” In autumn 2012, Superstorm Sandy ravaged New Jersey’s shoreline, as well as many other communities in the state. Sandy inflicted more than $36 billion of damage on New Jersey, and destroyed or damaged more than 72,000 of the state’s homes and businesses, “It is clear from the numerous complaints from residents and communities affected by the storm that the administration’s initial distribution plan was flawed,” said Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen). “The state cannot afford to make the same mistakes twice. This bill creates clear guidelines for the state to follow as it readies to distribute a second round of Sandy relief funds, and ensures there are no further delays in getting residents and municipalities still waiting for help the assistance they need to fully rebuild.” Since the recovery effort began, the sponsors noted, too many victimized individuals, businesses and communities have experienced unreasonable suffering, inconveniences, and unfair treatment in their efforts to obtain governmental assistance. These problems have arisen in the form of: · Unclear application and appeals processes; · Difficulties in obtaining the status of applications’; · Rejections without any reasoning offered; · Waiting lists provided without any clear order; · Disparities in funding offered for African-American and Latino applicants; · Insufficient and often inaccurate program information; · State funding offered to certain communities in amounts disproportionate to the amount of damage endured; · Insufficient resettlement funding offered to low and moderate income individuals; and · An overall lack of transparency and refusals to respond to requests for information under the state’s open public records law. “The state’s distribution of Sandy relief aid has been plagued by one question after another,” said Jimenez (D-Hudson/Bergen). “We need clear guidelines and planning to ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past that have left many Sandy victims still suffering. This is a common sense bill that is sadly sorely needed at this point.” “The administration needs to do better when it comes to Sandy relief funding,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Aid should be distributed by county and municipality in proportion to the damage sustained within each county and municipality, and we need clear rules and regulations to ensure that happens. This is a step in the right direction.” “Sandy aid needs to be distributed fairly and sensibly,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “The state cannot afford to make the same mistakes again. A year and a half later many of my constituents are still rebuilding their homes. We must ensure that the countless victims of Sandy across our state get what they proportionately deserve in a timely and more efficient manner, and that’s the goal of this bill.” The bill (A-2568) would require that any state action plan or amendment submitted to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development for the proposed use of Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery aid for relief efforts associated with Sandy include provisions to make the distribution of aid more equitable and transparent. The provisions would be as follow: · Aid be distributed by county and municipality in proportion to the damage sustained within each county and municipality; · A county or municipality which did not receive aid from a prior ad distribution in such proportion, receive priority in the receipt of aid from a future aid distribution to compensate for the difference; · Aid be distributed to renters and homeowners in urban communities in proportion to the damage sustained by each category of residents in urban communities and be distributed to renters and homeowners in suburban communities in proportion to the damage sustained by each category of residents in suburban communities. These proportions would be based upon the percentage of affected renters of homeowners in urban or suburban communities, as applicable; · Aid for infrastructure only be distributed to a county or municipality if it allows and facilitates rebuilding and, if necessary, replacing homes for both renters and homeowners; · The Department of Community Affairs investigate the low participation rates and high rejection rates of applicants from African-American and Hispanic-American communities; · Aid be used to conduct outreach efforts to these underserved communities, including paid media campaigns and direct outreach to community organizations; · Additional be set aside for Spanish speaking individuals who did not receive aid from a prior aid distribution due to the state’s provision of incorrect information in Spanish; · The DCA post on its Internet website information about how aid has been and will be allocated, including information about every step in the allocation process, for all prior and future aid distributions; · The DCA establish clear and uniform procedures by which aid is applied for and granted for each aid program it administers; · The DCA post these procedures on its Internet website; · The DCA post on its Internet website and include in its application materials a complete list of all documents required to apply for aid from these programs; · These procedures include an opportunity to correct any deficiency with an application; · The DCA establish a tracking system on its Internet website, and that may also be accessed by telephone or in-person, that allows each applicant to check on the status of an application and whether any additional documentation or materials are needed for aid to be granted; · The DCA establish clear and uniform standards for the grant of aid to applicants who live or used to live, at the time of Superstorm Sandy, in a manufactured home or mobile home; · The DCA establish a clear, predictable and transparent appeals process in which applicants are given clear and specific reasons for any denial of aid or other related determinations; · The DCA establish a reasonable time frame for the appeals process; · The DCA provide applicants on a wait list for aid a statement that explains the wait list process, indicates their location on the wait list and advises how updated information regarding the wait list may be obtained; · The DCA establish clear guidelines and procedures for local contractors to obtain relief work in accordance with section 3 of the “Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968;” and · Aid be set aside to assist applicants who did not receive aid from a prior ad distribution due to the lack of clarity or transparency in the process by which aid was distributed. The measure was advanced by the Assembly Budget Committee and can now be considered by the full Assembly.
Assembly Panel Advances Sumter, Caride, Egan & O’Donnell Bill to Increase the Minimum Wage for Tipped Employees (TRENTON) – An Assembly committee on Monday advanced legislation sponsored by Assembly members Shavonda E. Sumter, Marlene Caride, Joseph V. Egan and Jason O’Donnell that would raise the minimum hourly wage for tipped employees. “The minimum wage for tipped workers in New Jersey is $2.13 per hour, a paltry sum that has been frozen for more than 20 years and is lower than most states, including all of our surrounding states,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “It is time for New Jersey to catch up.” “The minimum hourly wage rate for tipped employees has been stagnantly low for way too long. In an economy that has been slow to recover, it is imperative that we raise the rate for the sake of employees who rely on tips to supplement their income,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). The bill (A-857) would increase the minimum hourly wage that must be paid to employees that customarily and regularly receives gratuities or tips. The bill would provide that: · after Dec. 31, 2014, an employer may claim a credit for gratuities or tips received by an employee against the hourly wage rate paid to the employee in an amount not to exceed 60 percent of the minimum hourly wage rate required by law or the state constitution, whichever is greater; and · after Dec. 31, 2015, an employer may claim a credit for gratuities and tips in an amount not to exceed 31 percent of the minimum hourly wage rate required by law or the state constitution, whichever is greater. By allowing the employer to claim these credits, the bill would effectively require employers to compensate their employees at an hourly rate of at least 40 percent of the minimum wage ($3.37 per hour) after Dec. 31, 2014, and an hourly rate of at least 69 percent of the minimum wage ($5.93 per hour) after Dec. 31, 2015 and beyond. The remainder of the employee’s compensation may be comprised of tips or gratuities, as long as the employee earns at least the current minimum wage required by state and federal law ($7.25 per hour). Most employees who rely on tips or gratuities are currently paid the federal minimum wage for tipped workers of $2.13 per hour. “Workers who depend on tips are at the mercy of consumers. Not everyone is nor can afford to be a good tipper. Raising the minimum hourly wage for these employees ensures they are taking home an adequate paycheck to provide for themselves and their families,” said Egan (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “This is a matter of fairness and equitable pay,” said O’Donnell (D-Hudson). “Tipped employees in New York and Connecticut are earning more than twice what tipped workers are earning here in New Jersey. Let’s give these employees a better foundation to build from and increase their minimum wage.” The bill would also require every employer, for every pay period and for every employee that customarily and regularly receives gratuities or tips, to provide substantial evidence that the amount claimed for the credit of gratuities or tips was received by the employee and that no part of the amount claimed was returned to the employer. Lastly, the bill would require that every employer provide notification to any employee for which the employer claims the credit of gratuities or tips. The bill was released by the Assembly Labor Committee.
Eustace Introduces Bill to Allow Direct Sale of Electric Cars in NJ Legislation intends to rectify shortsighted decision by Christie administration to ban the sale of electric cars in New Jersey which hinders consumer choice & economic growth (TRENTON) – Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic) has introduced a bill to allow consumers in New Jersey to buy electric cars directly from a manufacturer. The bill looks to remedy a recent decision by the state Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) that hurts business in the state by banning Tesla Motors Inc. and other electric car retailers from selling directly to consumers. The decision has been widely panned, but defended by the governor. “Because of this new rule, an interested buyer looking for more fuel-efficient, environmentally-friendly vehicle options can go look and ask questions about an electric car in New Jersey, but will have to go to Pennsylvania or New York if he or she actually wants to buy the car,” said Eustace. “How does sending business to other states help New Jersey’s economy?” The bill (A-2986) amends current law to allow any motor vehicle franchisor who manufactures electric motor vehicles to directly buy an electric motor vehicle from, and directly sell, offer to sell, or deal an electric motor vehicle to a consumer, if the manufacturer is licensed by the MVC. Earlier this month, the Motor Vehicle Commission, made up of Gov. Christie’s cabinet members and appointees, voted unanimously to require that all new vehicle sales go through franchised retail dealers. The vote effectively bans Tesla Motors from selling their cars directly to consumers from their two showroom locations at the Garden State Plaza and The Mall at Short Hills. Tesla Founder and Chairman Elon Musk has said the company’s New Jersey stores will become galleries where staff can answer questions, but not discuss price or complete a sale, and that potential buyers will be directed to locations in Manhattan and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. “The governor talks a big game about attracting innovative businesses to the state, but this move does the exact opposite. As criticism has mounted, the governor has tried to point the finger at the Legislature, but no one’s buying it. We need to attract companies that will create jobs and promote economic growth. If the governor is unwilling, then the Legislature will get it done,” said Eustace. Eustace, who drives an electric car himself, is a proponent of electric cars because of the long-term benefits they provide consumers and the environment, and has sponsored a number of bills to help the electric car industry flourish in New Jersey. This bill is his latest effort.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Singleton Introduces Legislative Package to Reignite New Jersey’s Manufacturing Industry (TRENTON) – Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D- Burlington) introduced a comprehensive legislative package Thursday to create jobs and accelerate the state’s economic recovery by reigniting New Jersey’s manufacturing industry. “The manufacturing industry has always been the embodiment of the American ideal that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can provide for your family today and for their brighter future tomorrow,” said Singleton. “Workers in manufacturing jobs earn 22 percent more in annual pay and benefits than the average worker in other industries, which translates into $40,000 more than other non-farm employees in New Jersey. We need to refocus our attention on the fact that the manufacturing industry has enormous potential to.” Singleton also noted that every new manufacturing job created would add another 1.6 jobs to the local service economy, and for every dollar in manufacturing sales, another $1.34 is added to the economy. Additionally, 42 percent of jobs in manufacturing will require some post-secondary education or degree by 2018, according to findings from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “In this vein, investments in manufacturing have a stronger impact than investments in any other economic sector on growing our state’s economy. We need a workforce ready and able to accept these positions,” added Singleton. “By developing jobs in this area, we will be able to narrow the growing income inequality gap that has plagued our state and nation over the last thirty years.” Singleton’s 10-bill package includes: 1. A3019 - Requires the State Employment and Training Commission to prepare AN annual report on the State workforce; 2. A3020 - Requires the Secretary of Higher Education, in consultation with various entities, to design a manufacturing career pathway to provide students with skills necessary to gain employment in the manufacturing sector; 3. A3021 - Directs the Secretary of Higher Education to establish a pilot program to assist certain unemployed and underemployed individuals in completing a career and technical education certificate program in 12 months; 4. A3022 - Establishes “The Higher Education Manufacturing Grant Program” for public institutions of higher education to establish or expand programs in manufacturing fields; 5. A3023 - Clarifies that only products assembled in the United States meet the “Buy-American” standards of public contracts laws; 6. A3024 - Establishes a manufacturing reinvestment account program to incentivize capital investment and workforce training in New Jersey with income tax rate reductions, deferrals, and accelerated deductions; 7. A3025 - Provides either a corporation business tax or gross income tax credits for insourcing business to New Jersey. 8. A3026 - Creates the New Jersey Advanced Manufacturing Council. 9. A3027 - Creates a pilot program to fund adult education programs for residents of certain communities. 10. A3028 - Establishes manufacturing machine and metal trade apprenticeships tax credit program. “The proposals and ideas that I am advancing are not steeped in any one party’s political ideology or philosophy,” said Singleton. “Democrats, Republicans and Independents all recognize the enormous power and potential in American ingenuity born out of our nation’s legacy of manufacturing innovation. New Jersey can be at the forefront of this manufacturing renaissance by adopting an approach that builds upon that American spirit.”
Green “Jessica Lunsford Act” Bill to Toughen Penalties for Child Sex Abusers Approved by Assembly (TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green (D- Middlesex/Somerset/Union) to impose a mandatory prison time of 25 years to life for those convicted of sexually abusing children under the age of 13 was approved Thursday by the Assembly. The bill is modeled after Florida’s “Jessica Lunsford Act,” named after a nine-year-old Florida resident who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a registered sex offender in 2005. “The fate that these children endured is an affront to human decency. The trauma of sexual abuse does not end when the abuse stops or when the victim grows up. This type of abuse leaves wounds that follow victims into adulthood that many are unable to recover from,” said Green. “Right now, an individual who is convicted of abusing a child younger than 13 could face anywhere from 10 to 20 years in prison. This bill would upgrade the punishment to a mandatory 25 years before parole could even be considered. No one deserves this, never mind a defenseless child. A person who is capable of such an atrocious crime deserves nothing less,” added Green. The bill (A-892) would impose mandatory terms of imprisonment for individuals convicted of aggravated sexual assault against a child under the age of 13. Under the bill, the individual would be sentenced to a specific term of years fixed by the court. The term would be between 25 years and life imprisonment. The person shall serve 25 years before being eligible for parole. However, if there is a longer term of parole ineligibility provided by law, the person would be sentenced to the longer term. The bill would allow for a negotiated reduction of the mandatory term under certain circumstances. Under the bill, the prosecutor, in consideration of the interests of the victim, can offer a negotiated plea agreement in which the defendant would be sentenced to a specific term of imprisonment of not less than 15 years, during which the defendant would be ineligible for parole. The court may accept the negotiated plea agreement and impose the term of imprisonment and period of parole ineligibility as provided for in the plea agreement. The court may not impose a lesser term of imprisonment or parole or a lesser period of parole ineligibility than that expressly provided in the plea agreement. The bill requires the Attorney General to develop guidelines to ensure discretion when determining a negotiated reduction in the term of imprisonment and period of parole ineligibility. Under current law, aggravated sexual assault is a crime of the first degree, if the perpetrator commits an act of sexual penetration with a victim under the age of 13. A crime of the first degree is ordinarily punishable by a term of imprisonment of 10 to 20 years, a fine of up to $200,000 or both. The bill would take effect immediately. The bill was approved 77-0 and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.
***MULTIMEDIA PACKAGE*** Greenwald, Quijano, Eustace, Johnson & Jasey Bill Banning High-Capacity Ammunition Magazines in NJ Passes Assembly (TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Lou Greenwald, Annette Quijano, Albert Coutinho, Tim Eustace, Gordon Johnson and Mila Jasey to ban the sale of high-capacity magazines capable of carrying more than 10 rounds in New Jersey was approved 46-31 Thursday by the Assembly. "High-capacity magazines have only one purpose - to inflict the most damage possible in the shortest amount of time,” said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington), the Assembly Majority Leader who has long pushed for the bill. “We’ve made a commitment to these parents make public safety a priority and ban these magazines that have fueled horrible shootings throughout this country. We owe it to the children lost in Newtown and the countless other victims to ensure we do everything we can to prevent another tragedy. With this bill, we continue to respect law-abiding gun owners, but make it more difficult for those who are intent on hurting others. That’s common sense.” Under current law, magazines capable of holding a maximum of 15 rounds of ammunition are legal in New Jersey. The bill (A-2006) would reduce the lawful maximum capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds. The limit proposed by the bill would bring New Jersey's laws in line with the magazine limits contained in the original 1994 assault weapons ban. The bill has been part of the Assembly Democratic gun violence prevention effort. The multimedia package consists of video commentary from Majority Leader Greenwald and excerpts from Newtown parent advocates and audio of same. The video can be accessed directly via our website – www.assemblydems.com – or by pasting the following link into a Web browser: https://vimeo.com/89617673 The audio file is available upon request. “Large capacity magazines were used in the mass shootings in Arizona, Columbine and Virginia Tech. They serve no other purpose but to allow a shooter to shoot longer without having to reload. In the debate over gun safety, saving lives should always come first,” said Quijano (D-Union). “This bill is not meant to restrict law-abiding gun owners, but rather make it more difficult for individuals intent on hurting others to unleash the type of carnage we saw in Newtown,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “When defenseless children are slaughtered, I think it is time to reevaluate our priorities.” “We have seen the level of damage that these high-capacity magazines can cause too many times. We may not be able to stop an individual who is intent on gunning down innocent people, but we can at least try to limit the extent of the damage that they can inflict,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “High-capacity magazines allow weapons to fire longer without being reloaded. They are used in mass shootings for this very reason,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “This ban alone will not end gun crime, but it can help save lives. I think we can all agree that is worth pursuing.” The bill is in response to the 2011 mass shooting in Arizona which left six people dead and 13 others injured, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The shooter used a large capacity ammunition magazine. High-capacity magazines were also used in Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Texas and the Pettit & Martin Law Offices in San Francisco. The bill will be referred to the Senate.
Riley & Cryan Unveil 20-Bill Package Aimed at Making College Affordable and Attainable Once Again for NJ Students **11 AM Teleconference Scheduled** Lawmakers Will Discuss Comprehensive Plan to Address Factors Leaving More and More Students Saddled with Debt and Without a Degree (TRENTON) –Assembly Higher Education Committee Chair Celeste Riley and Assemblyman Joseph Cryan on Thursday unveiled a comprehensive package of bills aimed at addressing the systemic factors pushing more and more New Jersey students into the real world saddled with debt and without a college degree. The comprehensive 20-bill package being introduced today addresses many of the critical factors standing in the way of whether a student successfully completes college and in the most cost-effective manner possible. Among the major areas addressed by the bills are: college readiness, completion rates, cost, data collection, accountability, and pathways to success. Cryan and Riley will hold an 11 a.m. teleconference call this morning to discuss the specifics of the proposals with reporters. The call-in number for the teleconference is: (877) 322-9654 and the participant code is: 607578. “This might be the first proposal of its kind to be so all-encompassing,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “But that doesn’t mean what we’ve put forth is written in stone. We’re open to ideas from anyone as long as it reduces costs and enhances achievement. While visiting colleges during my legislative tenure we were able to hear what’s working and what’s not at many of our schools. This is a chance for us to take those success stories and make them a reality for every school and student.” “Our goal was to put forth a set of specific proposals in order to spark a debate that will lead to meaningful change,” said Cryan (D-Union). “One of the statistics that really stood out to me was the number of students that were ‘down and out’ - meaning after so many years enrolled in college they were down money and still without a degree. Now they’re carrying a huge debt burden with hardly any means to pay it down. After reviewing these statistics, I started asking why.” Growing reports of the escalating costs of college prompted the lawmakers to act. They spent the better part of the last three months researching the issue and meeting with advocates and relevant stakeholders, including the NJ Student Alliance, numerous college presidents, the Working Families Alliance, the AFT and the IFPTE and various student groups. Moving forward, the sponsors intend to hold hearings for students, families, college officials and other stakeholders to offer their insight in order to ensure the bills adequately address the needs of New Jersey’s students. Riley and Cryan noted that as tuition and fees continually increase at New Jersey’s public and private higher education institutions, so too has the number of students saddled with student loan debt who have failed to complete a degree after six years, which is evidenced in the attached “down and out” data sheet. “Smart, well-thought-out programs like the government G.I. Bill helped transform college from an opportunity only afforded to the privileged to a path anyone could take to the American Dream,” added Riley. “Sadly, that is not so much the case anymore. However, as a legislative body, we have the ability to improve New Jersey’s approach to higher education to make it a reality, once again, for any student who wants it.” “The present system is almost untenable for working and middle-class families,” added Cryan. “Unless we find ways to make college more affordable and achievable, our higher education system will only serve to reinforce socio-economic inequalities rather than reduce them. That has to change and it starts with a concerted, coordinated effort on our part.” It is with that in mind that Riley and Cryan introduced the bill package below on Thursday: COLLEGE READINESS A2800 - Requires high school students to be assessed using college placement cut scores to determine their readiness for college-level course work and the Commissioner of Education to develop plans to improve college and career counseling for students. COLLEGE COMPLETION A2801 - Provides that no more than 120 credits will be required for a bachelor degree awarded by a public institution and no more than 60 credits for an associate degree. A2802 - Establishes a statewide reverse transfer agreement under which at least 30 credits that a student earns towards a bachelor degree at a four-year public institution are transferrable to any county college for credit toward an associate degree to help encourage re-enrollment and degree completion and help a student know their time and money was not wasted. A2803 – This bill will mandate transparency by requiring four-year public institutions to provide information on their website regarding cost of attendance, graduation rates and information on faculty. Four-year public and independent institutions will also be required to report on their website regarding the number of students required to take remedial instruction and the graduation rates for those students. A2804 - Mandates that county college presidents develop a plan to graduate 33 percent of students by 2020 to help increase graduation rates. A2805 – Directs the Secretary of Higher Education to oversee the development of a common core course numbering system for general education core classes leading to an associate or bachelor degree. COST A2806 – Establishes the NJ School Counts County College Scholarship Program, modeled after a similar program that has worked at Cumberland County College, in which qualifying students will receive a two-year scholarship at a county college. A2807 – Freezes tuition and fees at the same rate for nine semesters following a student’s initial enrollment at a four-year public or independent institution, potentially saving some students upwards of $10,000 over the course of a six-year degree completion program. A2808 – Directs the Secretary of Higher Education to study the prevalence and cost of online courses and if any cost savings achieved are passed onto students. A2809 – Requires higher education institutions to develop open online textbooks available to students at no charge and requires the buyback of used textbooks at 50 percent of the purchase price as a remedy for the growing costs of college textbooks, which have gone up in price 82 percent in 10 years. A2810 – Establishes a state income tax deduction for student loan interest paid equivalent to the federal levels. This would apply to all loans for New Jersey residents as remedy to what has been labeled the “brain drain.” A2811 - Prohibits four-year public and independent institutions from requiring students to purchase meal plans. DATA COLLECTION A2812 – Requires the development of a longitudinal statewide data system capable of retaining individual-level information starting when a student enrolls in pre-school through entry into the workforce to better inform education and labor policies. ACCOUNTABILITY A676 - Directs Secretary of Higher Education to establish performance-based funding plans for public institutions of higher education. A2813 – Requires the closure of a four-year public institution that fails to achieve a six-year graduation rate of at least 50 percent for full-time undergraduate students. A2814 – Directs the Secretary of Higher Education to revoke a proprietary school’s license to award academic degrees if the school fails to achieve a six-year graduation rate of at least 75 percent for full-time students enrolled in a four-year degree program. A-2815 – Requires NJ Educational Facilities Authority to annually prepare report on debt held by public institutions of higher education. A2816 –Directs State Auditor to conduct audit of fees charged by public institutions of higher education in order to tell how these fees are being distributed and how they are benefiting the college student. PATHWAYS TO SUCCESS A2817 – Requires institutions participating in dual enrollment programs to charge a reduced tuition rate to high school students participating in the program. A2818 - Requires undergraduate students enrolled in a four-year degree program to file a degree plan with the institution by the completion of 45 credit hours of course work and requires degree-seeking county college students to file a degree plan upon entering the institution. Also requires public institutions of higher education to develop pathway systems that establish graduation progress benchmarks for each major. A copy of each bill is available at the following link: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/12717665/Riley_Bill_Package_FINAL_032014.pdf
Friday, March 14, 2014
Conaway & Lagana Measure Helping EMTs Save More Lives from Drug Overdose Advances in the Assembly (TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Herb Conaway M.D. and Joseph Lagana to reduce the number of overdose deaths from opioid abuse cleared the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee on Thursday. “Saving more lives is what this is about,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “Opioid fatalities have become more and more prevalent over the years with the growing popularity of prescription pills and heroin. Emergency medical technicians are the first on the scene in many overdose cases. Opioid antidotes such as Naloxone are as widely used to reverse the effects of overdose as epinephrine is used in severe allergic reactions and, with training, just as simple to administer. We must give EMTs the tools they need to do their jobs – saving lives.” The bill (A-2770) provides for the training and certification of EMTs in the administration of opioid antidotes. The bill directs the Commissioner of Health to establish the written standards and procedures that an EMT must meet in order to obtain certification. “The number of deaths from overdose has escalated tremendously in recent years,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “EMTs are our first responders. They must be prepared to handle these situations and save every life they can. Expanding their scope and practice will enable them to help more residents in such an emergency.” The bill provides that he commissioner would be required to certify a candidate who provides evidence of satisfactory completion of an educational program that is approved by the commissioner and includes training in the administration of opioid antidotes. The bill also requires the commissioner to maintain a registry of all persons certified to administer opioid antidotes pursuant to the bill, and to compile a list of persons who have obtained certification that will be made available to the public. Each administration of an opioid antidote under the provisions of this bill must be reported to the Department of Health. The commissioner may revoke certification for violations of the bill. A fee also may be charged to an enrollee in a training program to cover the cost of training and testing for certification, if the entity providing the program is not reimbursed for the cost of that training and testing from the "Emergency Medical Technician Training Fund." In addition, the bill precludes liability for an EMT certified to administer an opioid antidote pursuant to the bill, or to a licensed physician; a hospital or its board of trustees, officers, and members of the medical staff, nurses, paramedics or other employees of the hospital; or officers and members of a first aid, ambulance, or rescue squad for any civil damages as the result of an act or the omission of an act committed while in training to administer, or in the administration of, an opioid antidote.
***MULTIMEDIA PACKAGE*** Wisniewski on Transportation Committee Hearing Into Super Bowl Mass Transit Failings (TRENTON) – Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee Chair John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) issued a multimedia package Thursday of comments and testimony from his committee’s investigation into the mass transit failures surrounding New Jersey’s recent hosting of the Super Bowl. The multimedia package consists of commentary from Wisniewski and excerpts of testimony from invited guests and audio of same. The video can be accessed directly via our website – www.assemblydems.com – or by pasting the following link into a Web browser: https://vimeo.com/89008729 The audio file is available upon request.
Diegnan, Egan & Benson Bill Requiring Health Insurers to Use Standard Explanation of Health Benefits Forms Clears Assembly Panel (TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Patrick Diegnan, Joseph Egan and Daniel Benson that would create a standard written explanation of benefits form to be used by all health insurance providers in New Jersey was approved Thursday by an Assembly Committee. The bill (A-1447) requires health insurance carriers issuing health benefits plans in New Jersey to provide a standardized written explanation of benefits form (commonly referred to as an EOB) to a covered person whenever a claim is generated under the covered person's health benefits plan. “People should be able to follow these forms explaining health services rendered, especially when it can end up costing them,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “Standardizing these forms not only makes their production more efficient, but it can help make EOBs easier to follow and understand.” “Using standard forms can help make confusing EOBs, which can vary in length and detail, more user friendly,” said Egan (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “It is important that people be well-informed about their benefits, especially what services are covered since they would be footing the difference.” “Many of these forms, with their convoluted industry terms, can be hard for the average person to decipher,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Having one standard form that is simple and straightforward is not only practical, but it makes for a more knowledgeable health consumer.” Under the bill, the Commissioner of Banking and Insurance would be charged with designing a standardized form that is clear and easy for a covered person to understand, and is consistent with the “Life and Health Insurance Policy Language Simplification Act” for insurance carriers to use. The form would include, but not be limited to, a summary of current services, including the cost of service, the amount paid by the carrier and the amount to be paid by the covered person; an explanation of the reason for benefit denial, if any; and a summary of the covered person's policy. The bill was released by the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee.