Monday, April 21, 2014
Prieto, Jimenez & Garcia Bill to Help Improve Drug & Alcohol Treatment for Inmates Signed Into Law (TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez and Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia to help improve drug and alcohol treatments for inmates as part of their rehabilitation has been signed into law. The new law requires the Division of Addiction Services to grant residential treatment program licenses to programs operating in state correctional facilities and county jails that meet or substantially meet requirements for licensure. The purpose of this law is to ensure that these programs are not denied licensure because they are located within a correctional setting. Previously, a person convicted under federal or state law of any felony or crime that involves the possession, use or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, and who would otherwise be eligible for general public assistance benefits, is ineligible to receive the benefits unless the person has enrolled in or completed a licensed residential drug treatment program. The new law (A-2295) would ensure that incarcerated individuals who participate in and complete drug treatment programs that meet or substantially meet requirements for licensure as residential programs are not denied eligibility for general public assistance benefits upon release. “The only thing that sets these drug treatment programs apart from those that are licensed is that they are located within a correctional facility,” said Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen). “If the purpose and scope of the program is the same and an individual has completed the program, then he or she should be able to receive these benefits, which can improve his or her chances of successfully reintegrating into society.” “This is a matter of fairness. The only thing keeping these programs from benefitting from grants and other benefits, and the offenders they treat, from receiving public assistance upon release is their location,” said Jimenez (D-Hudson/Bergen). “If they meet the licensure requirements, then we should extend them the same benefits we do to others, especially when those treated will be returning to our communities.” “Giving people a second chance to succeed is vital if we’re going to have an effective corrections system, and part of accomplishing that goal is comprehensive drug treatment,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “We need to cut out the bureaucracy and make sure we’re doing all we can to help offenders overcome their problems and rebuild their lives. This law is a step in the right direction.” The law will also make drug treatment programs in correctional facilities – which meet or substantially meet the licensing criteria – eligible for certain grants and additional benefits that now are only available to licensed residential drug treatment programs.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Riley & Cryan Join RU Students in Calling for Tuition Freeze Students Pleas Come on the Heels of Recent Tuition Freeze Proposal Lawmakers Introduced as Part of 20-Bill Higher Ed Reform Package (TRENTON) – New Jersey Assembly Democrats Celeste Riley and Joseph Cryan on Wednesday joined with Rutgers University students in supporting their call for a tuition freeze to help make college more affordable amidst ever-escalating costs. The lawmakers recently unveiled a comprehensive 20-bill package to address many of the critical factors standing in the way of whether a student successfully completes college in the most cost-effective manner possible and cited tuition stability as a major concern. Chief among their reform proposals is a bill (A-2807) that would freeze 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. “Essentially our bill recognizes that no one should have to beg for a freeze and instead incorporates it into a long-term financial plan,” said Cryan (D-Union). “Using Rutgers, for example, last year the Board approved a 3.3 percent hike in tuition and a 1.5 percent hike in room and board in mid-July. Students enrolled for the fall semester then had less than two months to figure out how they were going to accommodate that increase.” “Many of the students who attended the Board of Governors meeting noted that they’re either working full-time while going to school or have been forced to take semesters off to work and save additional money to afford tuition,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem), Chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee. “We need to do more to not only make college affordable again, but also to help students plan accordingly so they’re not hit out of the blue with these increases that might derail their education.” Riley and Cryan are hoping to begin holding hearings on their higher education reform package in the next month or so.
Friday, April 4, 2014
Green “Jessica Lunsford Act” Bill to Toughen Penalties for Child Sex Abusers Heads to Governor’s Desk (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 received final legislative approval on Thursday and now heads to the governor’s desk. 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 34-0 by the Senate on Thursday, and 77-0 by the Assembly last week.
Assembly Democratic Bill to Ensure Equitable Distribution of Sandy Relief Funds Granted Final Legislative Ok 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 received final legislative approval on Thursday. “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 approved 71-0-1 today by the Assembly and 33-0 by the Senate. It now heads to the governor’s desk.
Diegnan, Jasey, Jimenez & Caride Bill to Again Object to Christie School Funding Changes for At-Risk & Bilingual Students Approved by Assembly (TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., Mila Jasey, Angelica Jimenez and Marlene Caride sponsored to notify the governor that the Legislature does not accept his school funding recommendations for at-risk and bilingual students was approved 44-26-2 Thursday by the Assembly. "The current law is designed to determine school funding based on extensive analysis of the cost of delivering a quality education to all students, including low-income students wherever they live in New Jersey. These recommendations seem designed to reduce funding available to at-risk children," said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). "This proposal seems to lack regard to the implications for at-risk children. That approach is simply unacceptable, especially without any apparent thoughtful analysis.” During the last session, the Legislature rejected Gov. Chris Christie's proposed school funding changes targeting at-risk and bilingual students. That resolution informed Governor Christie that the Legislature objected to recommendations included in his administration's Educational Adequacy Report that could sharply reduce funding for at-risk children. That concurrent resolution directed the Commissioner of Education to submit a revised report to the Legislature that responds to these objections. “To date the governor has failed to provide any information to respond to the Legislature’s specific objections,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “That’s unacceptable. The parents, children and educators of our state deserve better.” "These recommendations are not supported by any research or analysis demonstrating the school funding law has provided schools with more resources than required to provide for the needs of these students," said Jimenez (D-Hudson/Bergen). "In the absence of substantive analysis, the weights for at-risk and bilingual children should remain the same as those established under the school funding law when enacted.” "The current law is designed to determine school funding based on extensive analysis of the cost of delivering a quality education to all students, including low-income students wherever they live in New Jersey, but these recommendations seem designed solely to sharply reduce funding available to at-risk children," said Caride (D-Passaic/Bergen). "Saving money is vital, but this proposal seems motivated by an ideological desire to slash without any regard to the implications for at-risk children. That cannot be allowed to stand." The new resolution (ACR-118) again notifies the governor that the Legislature objects to school funding recommendations for at-risk and bilingual students. It also recognizes that the state aid notices issued by the Commissioner of Education for the 2014-15 school year did not notify school districts of the maximum amount of aid payable pursuant to the provisions of the School Funding Reform Act of 2008, and did not notify school districts of their adequacy budgets for the 2014-15 school year, as required. The resolution directs the commissioner, within 10 days of the adoption of the concurrent resolution, to notify school districts of the maximum amount of aid payable pursuant to the provisions of the school funding law, and, within 14 days of the adoption of the concurrent resolution to notify school districts of their adequacy budgets for the 2014-15 school year. The bill will be referred to the Senate for consideration. It requires no action by the governor.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Assembly Approves Quijano & Sumter Measure to Help Save NJ’s Port Economy, End Hiring Crisis Legislation Urges NY to Join NJ in Passing Legislation to End Waterfront Commission’s Stranglehold on NJ’s Port (TRENTON) – The General Assembly on Monday unanimously approved a measure sponsored by Assemblywomen Annette Quijano and Shavonda Sumter to help end the Waterfront Commission’s stranglehold on New Jersey’s port economy and bring relief to neighboring communities that are suffering as a consequence. “The Waterfront Commission’s reign over our ports is impeding commerce, stifling job creation, and impacting security” said Quijano (D-Union). “The impact of the current manpower shortage reaches far and wide, affecting both local and Turnpike traffic and the retailers and independent truckers who rely on the timely delivery of these goods to earn a living. At a time when our ports are under intense pressure from other Atlantic Coast ports and we’re still struggling to revive our economy, we can’t afford to sit back while one of the nation’s busiest ports is held hostage by this arcane bureaucracy.” The measure (AJR-61) urges the governor and legislature of New York to pass stalled legislation, which would free port employers and unions to hire more employees without being subject to approval by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. New Jersey enacted the legislation (A-3123) in 2007, but because the Waterfront Commission is a bi-state agency, it needs to be passed by New York as well to become effective. “Without legislative action, the Port of New York and New Jersey will be denied the flexibility necessary to hire and train workers in a timely manner, which will continue to impede the economic growth of the port,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “We’re already at a crisis point. That will only be compounded by the imminent retirement of hundreds of port workers this spring and the future expansion of the Bayonne Bridge. It’s imperative that our New York counterparts recognize the severity of the situation and work with us to expedite this stalled legislation on their side.” Specifically, the measure would require the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor to accept any application for the inclusion of new employees in the longshoremen’s register of the Port of New York District. The sponsors noted that despite clamoring from port employers and labor unions to hire roughly 600 more workers, the Waterfront Commission has delayed the hiring approval, creating a shortage in workers to help unload cargo at the ports which has consequently slowed down commerce and created a backlog of idling trucks that are choking out neighborhoods surrounding areas like Port Elizabeth. The lawmakers also pointed out that when the Waterfront Commission was formed in 1953, the New York side of the Hudson River dominated in terms of the volume of cargo, number of terminals and number of longshore workers employed. Today, more than 82 percent of the cargo and work hours are located on the Jersey side of the river and 80 percent of the workforce resides in New Jersey, many of them right in Quijano’s 20th legislative district. An identical measure now awaits consideration by the Senate. Upon approval, copies of the resolution will be sent to the Governor of New York, each member of the New York State Legislature, and the New York and New Jersey Commissioners of the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.
Caputo, Prieto, Tucker, Eustace & Wimberly Bill to Ward-Off Blight on Foreclosed Homes Heads to Governor’s Desk Measure Would Require Mortgage Lenders to Maintain Foreclosed Homes (TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Ralph Caputo, Vincent Prieto, Cleopatra Tucker, Tim Eustace and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to allow municipalities to require mortgage lenders to maintain vacant homes during foreclosure proceedings received final legislative approval Thursday and now heads to the governor’s desk. The bill would help municipalities prevent residential properties that have gone through foreclosure from deteriorating and promoting neighborhood blight. “The ongoing foreclosure crisis has caused vacant residential properties to crop-up in communities across the state,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “Homes have been abandoned everywhere from urban to rural and suburban communities across New Jersey. We must do all we can to ensure New Jersey neighborhoods continue to be vibrant and thriving communities as we work our way through this crisis.” This bill (A-347) allows a municipality to require a creditor who initiates a foreclosure proceeding against a residential property located in the municipality to maintain the property in accordance with state and local housing codes if the property becomes vacant during the foreclosure proceeding. “We have a responsibility to help our communities that have been crippled by the mortgage crisis by requiring mortgage companies to be responsible and support the quality of life our residents deserve,” said Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen). “The foreclosure crisis has hit many communities hard, but we must make sure the problem isn’t exacerbated by vacant homes that begin to deteriorate and drag down entire neighborhoods,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “The foreclose crisis is real and it’s hit our homeowners hard, but also our neighborhoods, so requiring mortgage lenders to do the right thing and maintain these properties is common sense and good for everyone,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “A vacant home that is unkempt is an eyesore to the entire neighborhood, but if mortgage lenders are controlling a property then clearly they should be held responsible for maintaining it for the betterment of everyone,” said Wimberly (D-Passaic/Bergen). The bill requires a creditor that serves a notice of intention to foreclose on a mortgage on residential property in this state to serve the public officer or municipal clerk of the municipality in which the property is located, with a copy of the notice at the same time that the creditor serves the notice on the owner of the property. The creditor shall include the full name and contact information of a person located within the State who is authorized to accept service on behalf of the creditor with the copy of the notice served on the public officer or municipal clerk. The bill also provides that if the residential property becomes vacant at any time after the creditor files the notice of intention to foreclose, but prior to vesting of title in any third party, and the municipality determines that the property is in violation of any applicable state or local housing code, the municipality may provide the creditor with notice of the violation, and may require the creditor to correct the violation. Further, the bill requires municipalities to include a description of the conditions that gave rise to the violation with the notice of violation and shall provide a period of not less than 30 days from the creditor's receipt of the notice for the creditor to remedy the violation. If the creditor fails to remedy the violation within that time period, the municipality may impose penalties allowed for the violation of municipal ordinances. The bill was approved 36-0 by the Senate on Thursday, and 72-2-0 by the Assembly in February.
Tucker, Johnson Bill to Create Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery Clears Final Legislative Hurdle (TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Cleopatra Tucker and Gordon Johnson to designate a burial site for North Jersey Veterans and an option on the State tax return for residents to contribute to the fund received final legislative approval by the Senate on Thursday. “Designating burial sites for veterans in the Northern part of the state would allow families to be closer to their loved ones. This would be an honorable recognition of the sacrifices made by our service men and women and their families,” said Tucker (D-Essex). The bill (A-126) establishes the "Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery Development Fund" and provides for a designation on the State gross income tax return that will permit taxpayers to make voluntary contributions to the fund. “Our veterans deserve a resting place within the community they live and where their family resides. This is the right thing to do to honor our veterans’ in Northern New Jersey,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). The fund will facilitate the development and operation of the Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery. The bill passed the Senate 34-0.
Wisniewski & Weinberg Statement on Christie Office’s Internal Report (TRENTON) – Legislative Select Committee on Investigation Co-Chairs, Assemblyman John Wisniewski and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, released the following statement Thursday on the Governor’s internal report surrounding the investigation into the GWB lane closures and the abuse of government power: “Lawyers hired by and paid by the Christie administration itself to investigate the governor’s office who then say the governor and most of his office did nothing wrong will not be the final word on this matter. “The people of New Jersey need a full accounting of what happened. This review has deficiencies that raise questions about a lack of objectivity and thoroughness. "We will continue to pursue our investigation wherever the facts lead. We want a full accounting of the lane closings and any related abuses of power and what can be done to ensure this doesn’t happen again.” # # #
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
**MEDIA ADVISORY** Wisniewski to Hold Teleconference to Discuss Latest Developments in GWB Investigation (TRENTON) – Assembly Select Committee on Investigation Co-Chair John Wisniewski will host a teleconference call this afternoon to discuss the latest developments in the ongoing investigation into the GWB lane closures and the abuse of government power. The teleconference will take place today, Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 3 p.m. Call-in information is as follows: USA Toll-Free: (888) 285-4585 International Calls: (304) 345-7354 Participant Code: 930012
Watson Coleman Bill to Help Families Avoid Foreclosure Released by Assembly Panel (TRENTON) – Legislation Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman sponsored to create a fund to help struggling New Jersey families pay for foreclosure prevention activities such as legal and mediation services was released Monday by an Assembly panel. The bill (A-1994) establishes a Foreclosure Prevention and Neighborhood Stabilization Trust Fund in the Department of Community Affairs. Money allocated to the fund will be utilized for foreclosure prevention activities, such as legal services to low- and moderate-income homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. It could also pay for mediation services and training for non-governmental groups who assist homeowners in addressing the foreclosure process. The fund will be financed through a temporary $800 surcharge placed on each foreclosure complaint filed in the state. The surcharge will expire five years after the effective date of this bill, or when the number of foreclosure complaint filed Statewide is less than 20,000, whichever occurs first. “Many thousands of New Jersey residents have lost their homes and thousands of other homeowners are at risk of losing their homes in the immediate future as a result of the mortgage foreclosure crisis,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Foreclosure involves the loss of a family’s home, which is often the family’s most valuable asset, and foreclosure undermines the stability, health and economic vitality of neighborhoods, particularly the in urban neighborhoods where the a disproportionate share of foreclosures take place. We cannot stand idle. We need to find a way to help.” The Department of Community Affairs shall provide up to $500,000 from the fund to train qualified vendors to provide training to local governments and non-profit entities undertaking neighborhood stabilization efforts. The Department may utilize $500,000 in the first year of the fund, and $300,000 each year thereafter, for the purpose of collecting and disseminating foreclosure data. Following these disbursements from the fund, the next $10 million collected during the fiscal year shall be allocated to qualified non-profit entities for the purpose of maintaining or expanding their foreclosure prevention programs. Entities receiving these funds shall issue quarterly reports detailing the success of their foreclosure prevention programs. “It is possible to reduce the number of foreclosures, and thus mitigate the negative secondary effects that result from foreclosures, by providing resources to both public and not-for-profit entities to assist individuals at risk of foreclosure, and to acquire, and rehabilitate or demolish vacant and abandoned properties resulting from foreclosures,” Watson Coleman said. “In light of the direct relationship between foreclosure and family and neighborhood instability the imposition of a fee on creditors filing complaints for foreclosure will partially mitigate the harmful effects of foreclosures on the neighborhoods of the state.” Any funds disbursed in excess of $10 million shall be provided to local governments, public authorities or non-profit community development or housing organizations to mitigate the negative secondary effects of foreclosures in residential neighborhoods. These funds may be used to purchase, repair, or demolish vacant properties on which a notice of foreclosure has been served. This legislation requires a municipality that utilizes money from the fund for code enforcement or nuisance abatement purposes to make a diligent effort to recover the expended funds from the property owner or the creditor seeking to foreclose on the property. “Foreclosures lead to billions of dollars in lost property value and result in millions of dollars of additional expenses to state and local governments,” Watson Coleman said. “Foreclosures, particularly in urban neighborhoods, often result in abandonment and deterioration of the property, creating additional financial pressures on local governments and severely destabilizing the neighborhoods where the properties are located. We need to find a way to help, and this is a common sense approach.” The bill was released by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.
TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (both D-Bergen/Hudson) to grant residential treatment program licenses to programs operating in state correctional facilities and county jails in order to make certain offenders eligible for public assistance upon release was approved Thursday by an Assembly panel. Under current law, a person convicted under federal or state law of any felony or crime which has an element of the possession, use, or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, and who would otherwise be eligible for general public assistance benefits, is ineligible to receive the benefits unless the person has enrolled in or completed a licensed residential drug treatment program. This bill (A-2295) would ensure that incarcerated individuals who participate in and complete drug treatment programs which meet or substantially meet requirements for licensure as residential programs are not denied eligibility for general public assistance benefits upon release. “The only thing that sets these drug treatment programs apart from those that are licensed is that they are located within a correctional facility,” said Prieto. “If the purpose and scope of the program is the same and an individual has completed the program, then he or she should be able to receive these benefits, which can improve his or her chances of successfully reintegrating into society.” “This is a matter of fairness. The only thing keeping these programs from benefitting from grants and other benefits, and the offenders they treat, from receiving public assistance upon release is their location,” said Jimenez. “If they meet the licensure requirements, then we should extend them the same benefits we do to others, especially when those treated will be returning to our communities.” The bill requires the Division of Addiction Services in the Department of Human Services to grant residential treatment program licenses to programs operating in state correctional facilities and county jails which meet or substantially meet requirements for licensure. The purpose of the bill is to ensure these programs are not denied licensure because they are located within a correctional setting. In addition, the bill would make drug treatment programs in correctional facilities – which meet or substantially meet the licensing criteria – eligible for certain grants and additional benefits that right now are only available to licensed residential drug treatment programs. The bill was released by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.
Wisniewski, Green & Jasey Bill to Require Fire Suppression Systems in New Homes Approved by Assembly Panel (TRENTON) – Fire safety legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Wisniewski, Jerry Green and Mila Jasey requiring the installation of a fire suppression system in new single and two-family homes was approved by an Assembly panel on Thursday. “Requiring fire suppression systems in new home construction is a simple, commonsense step that will save lives, limit property damage and reduce insurance costs,” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). “They should be as commonplace in home construction as windows and doors.” The bill, named the “New Home Fire Safety Act,” requires the installation of a fire suppression system in new single and two-family homes. “Installing fire safety equipment in newly constructed homes is an important step towards improving public safety,” said Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset). “A change like this can go a long way toward saving the lives of both residents and firefighters, and that’s always a good thing.” “Protecting lives should always be our first priority,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “Making these fire suppression systems routine will provide peace of mind for families while minimizing the risks for firefighters who put their own lives on the line to protect us.” Under the bill (A-1698), a certificate of occupancy would not be issued for a new home until the state or local code enforcement agency determines that the home is equipped with a fire suppression system that conforms to State Uniform Construction Code systems promulgated by the Commissioner of Community Affairs. The bill would exempt manufactured homes and single and two-family homes that are not connected to public water systems. The bill permits municipalities and the Commissioner of Community Affairs to each establish a fee that covers the cost of inspection and the issuance of a certificate of occupancy. The bill was approved by the Assembly Housing Committee. The requirements of the bill would go into effect the first day of the seventh month after final enactment.
Assembly Panel OKs Cryan, Quijano, Coughlin & Lagana Bill Creating College Financial Aid “Shopping Sheet” Prospective Students Would Be Given Details on Costs, Loans Offered and Debt Repayment (TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joseph Cryan, Annette Quijano, Craig Coughlin and Joseph Lagana to better inform prospective students about college financing by creating a financial “shopping sheet.” The sponsors stated that the intent of the legislation is to provide students and their families with clear information on the costs, loan options, and estimated debt that will allow them to easily compare financial aid packages from different schools. “Let’s think of this as a ‘truth in lending’ disclosure for college financing,” said Cryan (D-Union). “The shopping sheet would provide information that will help students shop for the opportunity that works best for their education needs and budget. New Jersey families considering college deserve to know how much and how long they will be paying for it.” The bill (A-668) would require four-year public and independent institutions of higher education to provide a financial aid shopping sheet to each prospective student as part of the school’s financial aid offer. Under the bill’s provisions, the state Secretary of Higher Education would provide a model format for the shopping sheet to be used by the institutions. “Higher education is the first of a few major financial decisions a person will have to make in their lifetime,” said Quijano (D-Union). “Families should have at their fingertips the information they need to make the right decision for them. Hopefully, it will help prevent many graduates from carrying the heavy burden of unpaid college debt.” “The shopping sheet would include valuable information on costs and anticipated debt that a student can expect to incur while attending a particular school,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “In addition, the sheet must include information on the school’s graduation rate, student retention rate and student loan default rate, all important indicators of a student’s long-term outcome.” “Honest details on loan amounts, repayment schedules and other financing options will give students an idea of their potential long-term liability and how to avoid debt pitfalls,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This legislation will empower families and students with the information needed to make the best decision for their future.” The model shopping sheet prescribed by the Secretary of Higher Education shall include, at a minimum, the following information: 1) the total cost for one year of attendance at the institution, including tuition, student fees, room and board, books and materials, and transportation and other educational costs; 2) the total amount per year of grants and scholarships awarded to that student, including any grants and scholarships from the institution, federal grants, state grants, including state tuition aid grants, or other scholarships; 3) the total net amount the student will owe for one year of attendance at the institution, after taking into account any grants and scholarships; 4) the total amount per year of student loans and work study funds that the student is eligible for, broken down by federal Perkins loans, federal Direct Subsidized loans, federal Direct Unsubsidized loans, New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students (NJCLASS) loans, and federal, state, or institutional work study funds; 5) the total estimated amount the student will owe in student loan debt after graduating from the institution, broken down by federal loan debt and NJCLASS loan debt; 6) the total estimated monthly payment the student will owe on his student loans after graduation, broken down by monthly payment owed for federal loans and monthly payment owed for NJCLASS loans; 7) the percentage of students from the institution who defaulted on their student loans; and 8) the percentage of students at the institution who graduate within four years and within six years, as compared to the average rates at other four-year public or independent institutions of higher education. The measure was approved by the Assembly Higher Education Committee.