Assembly Democrats

TUESDAY: Eustace Continues to Raise Awareness of Native Bat Population in NJ

Asm. Tim Eustace Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee Chair Tim Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic) on Friday announced plans to observe the state's native bat species in its natural habitat and discuss "White Nose Syndrome," a deadly disease affecting North American bats.

"Just in the last few years, nearly 80 percent of all bats in New Jersey have been wiped out due to White Nose Syndrome. The severe decline in the bat population has forced farmers to spend a great deal more on pesticides to fight against insects that bats would normally eat," said Eustace, who has sponsored a number of bills to raise awareness and revitalize the native bat population in New Jersey. "Tuesday will be an enlightening excursion for all who attend. By learning more about this species, we will be able to determine more ways that we can help fight against extinction of the native bat population."

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Assembly Democratic Bill Package to Provide Free Mental Health Services, Extend Certain Benefits to Gold Star Families Now Law

Bills Sponsored by Greenwald, Johnson, Land, Andrzejczak, Mazzeo, Houghtaling, Benson, Jones, Mukherji & Danielsen
A legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Lou Greenwald, Gordon Johnson, Bruce R. Land, Bob Andrzejczak, Vince Mazzeo, Eric Houghtaling, Dan Benson, Patricia Jones, Raj Mukherji and Joseph Danielsen to provide mental health services and other resources to Gold Star families has been signed into law.

The term "Gold Star" describes a family member who has lost a loved one in military service. A Gold Star Family member is defined to mean a spouse, domestic partner, partner in a civil union, parent, brother, sister, child, legal guardian, or other legal custodian.

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Quijano Statement on Airbnb Bill Veto

Asw. Annette Quijano Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union) issued the following statement on Friday in response to Gov. Christie's veto of her "Airbnb" bill (A-4587), which would have imposed the same taxes and fees that hotels and motels must pay to the state on residences used as temporary lodging:

"This bill was about tax fairness and leveling the playing field among hospitality providers in the state. Hotels and motels must pay taxes on the rooms they occupy. Rooms booked through Airbnb are exempt. This gives Airbnb an unfair advantage over the competition, and denies municipalities important tax revenue. …"

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Taliaferro, Andrzejczak, Lampitt, Mosquera & Holley Bill Creating 'Nourishing Young Minds Initiative Fund' to Support School Nutrition Programs Now Law

Asm. Adam Taliaferro Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Adam Taliaferro, Bob Andrzejczak, Pamela Lampitt, Gabriela Mosquera and Jamel Holley to establish the "Nourishing Young Minds Initiative Fund" is now law.

"Establishing a more stable fund for school nutrition programs is exactly what is needed for their survival," said Taliaferro (D-Salem/Cumberland/Gloucester). "Without these programs, many children in the state would go without having at least one nutritional meal a day. Nutritional programs are a great service to our communities and deserve a stable funding mechanism in place to ensure they will be around for future generations."

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Greenwald, Vainieri Huttle, Schaer, Mukherji, Holley, Mosquera, Muoio, Sumter & Mazzeo Bill to Prohibit Suspension of Professional Licenses Due to Inability to Pay Student Loans Now Law

Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald Repeal of Previous State Law Ends 'Modern-Day Debtors' Prison' in New Jersey

Legislation Assembly Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald and Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Gary S. Schaer, Raj Mukherji, Jamel Holley, Gabriela Mosquera, Elizabeth Muoio, Shavonda Sumter and Vince Mazzeo sponsored to rescind a state law that jeopardized the careers of professionals who have overwhelming student debt was signed by the governor on Friday.

"If someone earned a license to practice a profession, their performance should be the sole factor that affects their ability to retain that license," said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). "Using a professional license as a bargaining chip when someone cannot pay his or her student loans is not only wrong but nonsensical. There is no logic in removing a borrower's ability to pay back a loan as a punishment for inability to pay in the first place."

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Sumter, Jasey, Muoio, Lagana, Downey & Benson HESAA Transparency Measure Now Law

Asw. Shavonda Sumter Law Aimed at Better Protecting Families Planning for College from Taking on Unmanageable Student Loan Debt

Legislation Assembly Democrats Shavonda Sumter, Mila Jasey, Elizabeth Maher Muoio, Joseph Lagana, Joann Downey and Daniel Benson sponsored to combat student loan debt in New Jersey is now law.

"The only concern a college student should have after graduating is choosing which job will lead them closer to their goals," said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). "It has become the norm for families and students to take on an overwhelming amount of debt to pursue educational goals. This new law will increase transparency under NJCLASS loan programs, better educate families on loan repayment options and requirements and help families understand how much they can realistically handle in student loans."

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Sumter, Vainieri Huttle & Lampitt Bill to Establish Career Training Program for Low-Income Women Now Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Shavonda Sumter, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Pamela Lampitt to help make women more competitive in the workforce and encourage financial stability among women was signed into law on Friday.

The bill (S-2403/A-3717) would establish the Women's Vocational Training Pilot Program in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD) to promote the economic self-sufficiency of low-income women through increased participation in high-wage, high-demand occupations.

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Lampitt, Coughlin, Conaway, Vainieri Huttle, Lagana & Mukherji 'Telemedicine' Bill Signed into Law

Asw. Pamela Lampitt New Law Will Improve Access to Health Care by Allowing Use of Technology to Treat Patients Remotely

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Craig Coughlin, Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D., Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Joseph Lagana and Raj Mukherji to improve access to health care by allowing practitioners to use technology to treat patients remotely in a more efficient and cost-effective manner is now law.

"The benefits to telemedicine are enormous," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "It will make it quicker and easier to access treatment, drive up practices, lower costs and, most importantly, make sure patients get the treatment they need, when they need it, to improve their long-term health."

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Vainieri Huttle & Caride Bill to Create Safe & Welcoming School Environment for Trans Students Now Law

Legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Marlene Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic) to help create a safe, inclusive and accepting school environment for transgender students was signed into law on Friday.

According to a study by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 41 percent of trans people attempted suicide in their lifetimes, compared to 1.6 percent of the general population.

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Schaer, Vainieri Huttle, Coughlin, McKnight & Mukherji Measure to Create Real-Time System to Track Available Psych Beds Signed into Law

Asm. Gary Schaer Legislation Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Craig Coughlin, Angela McKnight and Raj Mukherji sponsored to create a real-time system to track the number of psychiatric beds available statewide to treat mental health and substance use disorders is now law.

"In 2015, we hosted a number of roundtable discussions and meetings on issues related to behavioral and mental health care, and professionals in the field continuously raised the need for increased information sharing on bed availability across the state," said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Therefore, this new law is designed to help providers and emergency rooms to quickly place patients in need of behavioral health services for the appropriate treatment."

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Vainieri Huttle, Eustace, Pinkin, Jasey & Johnson Bill to Protect Transgender Persons from Discrimination in Health-Care Coverage Now Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Tim Eustace, Nancy Pinkin, Mila Jasey and Gordon Johnson to prohibit health insurers from denying transgender individuals health care coverage based on gender identity has been signed into law.

"Now more than ever, we need to stand up for those who are being marginalized," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Antiquated policies and attitudes towards transgender individuals have led to discrimination, violence, depression and suicide. While tremendous strides have been made in recent years to advance equality for members of the 'LGB' community, much more still needs to be done to help protect our brothers and sisters in the 'T' community."

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Prieto Statement on Christie’s Gutting of Bill to Expand & Improve New Jersey’s Paid Family Leave Program

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Bergen/Hudson) weighed in Friday on Gov. Christie's conditional veto that gutted legislation he sponsored to expand and improve New Jersey's Paid Family leave program to help working families throughout the state.

The bill (A-4927) would have expanded leave times, provided higher compensation to those taking leave, covered more family members, improved job protections and boosted awareness of the program.

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New Jersey Becomes Just Third State to Raise Tobacco Purchasing Age to 21 as Vainieri Huttle & Conaway Bill is Signed into Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D. to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco and electronic cigarette devices from 19 to 21 was signed into law on Friday, making New Jersey just the third state in the nation, behind Hawaii and California, to raise the minimum age to 21.

"Many people start smoking in their teens because of peer pressure or the desire to fit in," Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Most teens feel invincible at that age and can't fully comprehend the potential for addiction as well as the devastating long-term effects smoking can have on their health. Raising the purchasing age will give them the chance to mature more before making this potentially life-altering decision."

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Lagana & Moriarty Bill to Protect Consumer Privacy & Prevent Identity Theft Signed into Law

Bill Stems from Concerns About Information Collected When Driver's License is Scanned
Legislation Assembly Democrats Joseph Lagana and Paul Moriarty sponsored to help protect sensitive consumer information was signed into law on Friday.

The law (S-1913/A-2794), called the "Personal Information and Privacy Protection Act," was prompted by recent reports about the personal information that is collected when a driver's license is scanned and how businesses use and store that information.

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McKeon, Jasey & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Ensure Stiff Penalties for Vehicular Homicide while Drunk Driving Now Law

Asm. John F. McKeon 'Ralph & David's Law' is Named in Honor of Morris County Man & Sussex County Boy Killed by Drunk Drivers

Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Mila Jasey and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to ensure stiff penalties for anyone who commits vehicular homicide while driving drunk is now law.

"In the case of both Ralph and David, this law's namesakes, their tragic deaths, and their family's grief, were compounded by the leniency of their perpetrator's sentence," said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). "This law will help close that loophole and send a stronger message that we will not tolerate this type of negligent and reckless behavior."

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Quijano Will Introduce Resolution Urging US Department Of Education to Maintain Campus Sexual Assault Protections Created under Obama Administration

Legislation comes as department considers dismantling protections; group of Democratic attorney generals have sent letter to department asking that it keep the protections in place
Amid concerns that Obama-era rules to protect victims of campus sexual assault might be dismantled, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union) said Friday she will introduce a resolution asking the U.S. Department of Education to maintain the protections.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is considering changes to how the department enforces the gender equality law Title IX as it pertains to school responses to sexual assault reports.

"Rolling back these protections sends a terrible message to students," said Quijano. "We have seen case after case where school officials failed to properly address claims of sexual assault, and we have seen the impact of this negligence on victims. This is not the time to reverse course."

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Schaer, Jasey, Benson & Wimberly College Affordability & Preparedness Bill Now Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Mila Jasey. Daniel R. Benson and Benjie Wimberly aimed at helping New Jersey residents better navigate the college process has been signed into law.

"Too many students today are unprepared entering into a higher education system that leads them to incur crushing student loan debt," said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). "We need to provide a path forward for New Jersey students by allowing them access to college curricula in high school, opening higher education possibilities and exposing them to the academic rigor ahead, and then providing them an option for a debt-free future."

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DeAngelo, Giblin, Singleton, Holley & Benson Bill to Ask Voters to Support Creation & Expansion of Public Libraries Now Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Wayne DeAngelo, Thomas Giblin, Troy Singleton, Jamel Holley and Dan Benson to ask voters to provide grants for the construction, expansion and equipping of public libraries in New Jersey has been signed into law.

"Some might question the relevance of libraries when technology is so prevalent, but for one, not everyone has access to technology, and secondly, libraries are more than just a place to get books..," said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex).

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Vainieri Huttle, Prieto & Downey Bill to Crackdown on Child Pornographers, Stiffen Penalties Now Law

Legislation is Designed to Address Technological Advances which have Made Mass Distribution Easier
Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Speaker Vincent Prieto and Assemblywoman Joann Downey to broaden the state's child pornography laws and substantially boost penalties in order to keep pace with changes in technology has been signed into law.

The law (A-4859) establishes additional penalties for child pornography crimes by expanding the definition of child pornography to include the portrayal of a child in a sexual manner; establishing the crime of "leader of child pornography network"; and enhancing penalties and revising the sentencing provisions for these crimes.

"This law is designed to address the disturbing changes in the child pornography industry that have unfortunately been aided by technology, but are not adequately addressed by our current laws..," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).

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Vainieri Huttle & Jimenez Bill to Modify Law on Certain Heinous Crimes against Minors Now Law

'Joan's Law' Honors Girl Scout Who Was Raped, Murdered by Neighbor
Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Angelica Jimenez to amend a state law expanding the penalties for murdering a minor while in the act of committing a sex crime has been signed into law.

The newly signed law (A-373) requires life imprisonment without parole for persons convicted of the murder of a minor under the age of 18 during the commission of a sex crime. Current law requires such a penalty only when the victim is under age 14.

"The crimes covered in this legislation are atrocious regardless of the victim's age," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "The pain, suffering and anger would continue to manifest every time there is a new parole hearing. No family member should ever be subjected to the painful reminders of such horrifying events. A minor is a minor in all aspects of the law, and this law eliminates an irrational discrepancy in New Jersey."
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Prieto & Giblin Bill to Crack Down on Plumbing, HVACR Contractors Practicing Without a License Now Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Assemblyman Thomas Giblin that would make it a fourth degree crime to advertise or perform plumbing or heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration services without proper credentials has been signed into law.

"Through increased penalties, we aim to better protect the public interest and safety by deterring unscrupulous and unqualified contractors from swindling residents out of time and money," said Prieto (D-Hudson).

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Caride & McKeon Bill to Ensure County College Students Who Transfer Attain Associate's Degree if Eligible Now Law

(TRENTON) - Legislation Assembly Democrats Marlene Caride and John McKeon sponsored to ensure that eligible students' receive an associate's degree from the community college even after transferring to a four-year institution has been signed into law.

"Too many students are walking away -for various life reasons - from college after investing two years and thousands of dollars in loans without, at least, an associate's degree simply because they earned some of the credits at a community college..," said Caride (D- Bergen, Passaic).

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McKnight Introduces Bill to Equip Teachers, School Staff to Help Victims of Child Trafficking

Asw. Angela McKnight Assemblywoman Angela V. McKnight has introduced legislation to prepare public school teachers in New Jersey to help students who may be victims of child trafficking.

The bill (A-5024) would establish the Child Trafficking Awareness Pilot Program in the Department of Education to train school district staff on how to identify victims of child trafficking.

"Sadly, many human trafficking victims in our country are first targeted when they are in middle school, at an age when they may be beginning to gain independence but also are still vulnerable to exploitation by adults with bad intentions," said McKnight (D-Hudson). "Increasing awareness among educators can help protect New Jersey's children."

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McKeon: NJ Transit to be Subpoenaed

Assembly Judiciary Chairman John McKeon Agency Unresponsive to Legislative Requests for Correspondence with Gov's Office on Summer Commuting Plan, Revenues & Fares; Subpoenas will Also Seek Info on Patronage

Assembly Judiciary Chairman John McKeon (D-Essex/Morris) released the following statement Wednesday as the Assembly Judiciary Committee held a joint hearing with the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee on Amtrak's New York Penn Station repairs and continued NJ Transit commuter woes:

"We have been more than patient. It is now time for the Assembly Judiciary Committee to invoke its subpoena power to force NJ Transit to be responsive..."

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Muoio Questions Amtrak’s Failure to Address Aging Wire System Powering Northeast Corridor

Notes System Dates Back to FDR Administration, Yet No Plans in Place for Upgrades
Assemblywoman Elizabeth Maher Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) questioned Amtrak officials Wednesday on the fragility of the aging electrical wires that power trains along the Northeast corridor during a joint legislative hearing with officials from NJ Transit, Amtrak, PATH, and New York Waterways.

Amtrak trains running along the Northeast and Keystone corridors are powered by overhead wires called a catenary system, which provide electrical power to trains, enabling them to move up and down the corridor. However, dramatic swings in temperature can cause the catenary wires to expand and contract, causing components in the system to fail and forcing power to be shut down along segments of the corridor in order for repairs to be conducted - causing consistent disruptions in service.

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Zwicker Book Drive Donates Thousands of Books for Children

Asm. Andrew Zwicker A month-long summer book drive organized by the legislative district office of Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker has donated 4,000 books for local students in kindergarten through grade 12.

"Research shows that daily reading is a critical way to keep kids engaged and learning year-round. I am so proud of the way our community came together to donate books for children," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "I'm grateful to all those who participated in this effort to provide children with the opportunity to foster their imagination, challenge themselves and tap into their full potential through the pages of a book."

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McKnight Introduces Measure to Establish Task Force Focused on Improving Housing Access for Senior Citizens

Asw. Angela McKnight Assemblywoman Angela V. McKnight has introduced legislation aimed at improving senior citizens' access to housing in New Jersey.

The measure (AR-275) would establish the "Assembly Task Force on Senior Housing." The task force would study and make recommendations concerning access to, and the affordability of, housing for senior citizens, particularly housing constructed using federal and state subsidies, and other housing constructed as part of a municipality's affordable housing obligation.

"As they age, many New Jersey residents face new challenges in terms of the supports and services they require. Caring for our senior citizen population requires us to examine whether the housing available to them meets their needs," said McKnight (D-Hudson). "Ensuring that our state has adequate safe and affordable housing options for seniors is essential to helping older New Jerseyans maintain the highest possible quality of life."

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McKeon: The first we will see the Gateway Tunnel is 2030 - if everything goes right

McKeon: The first we will see the Gateway Tunnel is 2030 - if everything goes right

Zwicker: There is a lot more work that still needs to done

Zwicker: There is a lot more work that still needs to done

McKeon: On the average commuters have been delayed by an hour this Summer

McKeon: On the average commuters have been delayed by an hour this Summer

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Assembly Democrats, P.O. Box 098 Trenton NJ 08625 Phone 609-292-7065, Fax 609-292-2386