Gusciora: Heartbreaking & Infuriating Superstorm Sandy Nightmare Stories Demand a Resolution
Assemblyman Held Hearing Today to Receive Update from Victims on the Eve of the Four-Year Anniversary of the StormOn the eve of the four-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Assembly Regulatory Oversight Committee Chairman Reed Gusciora held a hearing today to receive an update from families devastated by the disaster.
During the hearing Gusciora and committee members heard from residents who have encountered nightmares ranging from contractor fraud to bureaucratic mistakes and incompetency, including one woman whose family was defrauded by a state-approved contractor that cheated residents up and down the state post-Sandy; another man who had to contact his federal representative in order to get answers from his own state government; and another woman whose family was awarded a $150,000 RREM (Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation) grant and was later told they owed the state $50,000 back and had 30 days to repay it, pushing them to the edge of financial insolvency.
Vainieri Huttle, Tucker and Lampitt Bill to Ensure Safe Transition to Community Housing for Individuals with Development Disabilities AdvancesLegislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Cleopatra Tucker and Pamela Lampitt to overhaul the procedures that are used to transition an individual with a developmental disability from a state developmental center to a community placement gained approval from an Assembly panel on Thursday.
"Moving can be stressful for anyone, but for someone with developmental disabilities the transition can be detrimental at times," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "The State Auditor has identified a number of concerns related to the high volume of transitions due to the closure of several developmental centers. Based on these recommendations, we've developed a comprehensive plan to ensure a safer transition for some of our most vulnerable..."
Mazzeo & Andrzejczak Bill to Spur Residential Housing Development & Homeownership in AC Clears Assembly PanelLegislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo and Bob Andrzejczak to help spur owner-occupied housing development in Atlantic City to promote investment and help alleviate the property tax burden placed on taxpayers due to the downturn of the casino industry was approved Thursday by an Assembly panel.
"While there is some promising news coming out of the remaining casinos in Atlantic City, we must continue to find ways to spur development and investment in the city while growing the property tax base to help alleviate the burden on local taxpayers," said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). "Giving developers and investors an incentive to build housing that will attract new homeowners to Atlantic City to live in the city year round is good for the city and good for local businesses and taxpayers..."
Gusciora & Muoio Bill to Provide Lifeline to Urban Cities in the Wake of Christie's UEZ Bill Veto Continues AdvancingAn Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora and Elizabeth Maher Muoio (both D-Mercer/Hunterdon) to provide a critical lifeline to urban cities in the wake of Gov. Christie's conditional veto of a previous bill they sponsored to extend the duration of Urban Enterprise Zones (UEZ) for an additional ten years.
"The Governor's conditional veto struck all provisions from the bill that would have effectuated a UEZ extension," Gusciora explained. "This executive overreach was essentially an absolute veto. It wasn't the same bill we sent him and it did none of the things we intended and needed it to do to continue fostering urban revitalization..."
Downey & Houghtaling Legislation to Promote Small Business Growth Gains Committee Approval
Bill Would Help Businesses Learn How to Increase Revenue, Build Brand(TRENTON) - Legislation Assemblywoman Joann Downey and Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling sponsored to help promising small businesses grow and thrive in New Jersey was advanced Thursday by an Assembly committee.
"Small businesses are the lifeblood of communities throughout the state. Many remember the business owner who gave them their first after-school job or sponsored their Little League team. When small businesses succeed, the entire community succeeds," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "Taking action to bolster Main Streets in New Jersey is about lifting up municipalities statewide."
Assembly Panel Approves Greenwald, Johnson & Moriarty Bill to Lure More Film & TV Productions to New Jersey to Spur Job & Revenue Growth(TRENTON) - An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald and Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson and Paul Moriarty to create a powerful new incentive program to encourage more nationally distributed film and television productions to work from New Jersey.
According to the NJ Motion Picture and Television Commission, 946 projects were filmed in New Jersey during 2015, generating $62.5 million for the New Jersey economy.
"This legislation looks to build upon that investment, keep the Garden State competitive in this market place and boost job creation and revenue growth," said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). "There is more competition then ever from other states and foreign countries that are looking to attract this industry. New Jersey's location provides a competitive edge and this bill looks to capitalize on that and ensure that we see continued growth in this area."
Vainieri Huttle, Mosquera, Tucker & McKnight Bill to Protect Children & Adults with Developmental Disabilities OK'd by Assembly PanelLegislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Gabriela Mosquera, Cleopatra Tucker and Angela McKnight to better protect children and adults with development disabilities from potential abuse and neglect from caregivers was unanimously released Thursday by an Assembly committee. The bill (A-2503), known as "Stephen Komninos' Law," honors the memory of Stephen, an individual with developmental disabilities who died at the age of 22 while under the care of a private state-licensed facility for individuals with developmental disabilities. Stephen was a non-verbal, young man who suffered through many substantiated incidents of abuse and neglect by caregivers. Tragically, the last incident resulted in his death.
"After suffering the tragic loss of their son, our goal is to prevent future tragedies," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This bill will institute a major overhaul to our system to put protections in place to help uncover any incidents of abuse or neglect before they end in tragedy and ensure that these incidents are addressed as swiftly as possible and those responsible are held accountable. Ultimately, our goal is to create an environment that does not tolerate abuse, neglect, or exploitation of individuals with developmental disabilities..."
Singleton, Coughlin & Lampitt Bill to Protect Mortgage Holders from Exorbitant and Hidden Fees Advanced by Assembly Panel(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly members Troy Singleton, Craig Coughlin, and Pamela Lampitt to protect homeowners from the rise in exorbitant and often hidden fees being charged by mortgage servicing organizations was approved by an Assembly panel on Thursday.
The sponsors noted that the bill was inspired, in part, by the rise in so-called "convenience fees" being charged by mortgage servicers for online payments, which eventually precipitated a rise in a host of other fees.
"Homeowners, particularly in this economy, are struggling as it is to make ends meet. The last thing they need is predatory or unscrupulous mortgage servicers compounding their financial situation with hidden or unexpected fees," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "This bill balances much-needed protections for mortgage holders without imposing burdensome regulations on servicing organizations."
Assembly Panel Approves Conaway Bill to Allow Health Insurance Carriers Provide Info on Tissue and Organ Donation(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrat Herb Conaway to require health insurance carriers, SBHP, and SEHBP to disseminate information about organ and tissue donation cleared an Assembly panel on Thursday.
The bill (A-4230), which supplements the "Health Care Quality Act," would require carriers to provide to subscribers written informational materials about organ and tissue donation and registration at each contract renewal.
According to the NJ Sharing Network, over 2.5 million New Jersey are registered organ and tissue donors. More than 122, 000 people nationwide are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant and nearly 5,000 in New Jersey residents. In 2015, 95 people died while waiting at a New Jersey transplant center.
"An opportunity to share information on tissue and organ donation is a chance to save a life," said Conaway (D-Burlington). "One person can help or save more than 50 lives through tissue and organ donation. With this legislation, we can reach more residents and, hopefully, encourage more people to consider becoming a donor."
Coughlin, Schaer, Singleton & Lampitt Legislation to Increase Transparency in Out-of-Network Health Care Costs Clears Assembly PanelLegislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Craig Coughlin, Gary S. Schaer, Troy Singleton and Pamela Lampitt intended to eliminate surprise out-of-network health care charges when an individual receives medically-necessary emergency services or inadvertent out-of-network care was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.
"Far too many New Jersey families - even those with quality health benefits plans - find themselves fighting over thousands of dollars in out-of-network charges they never even had the opportunity to review, let alone agree to, prior to receiving medical attention," said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). "This legislation is about putting patients first and defending the consumer's right to be able to make an informed decision about how to proceed with his or her health care. It is first and foremost a consumer protection bill..."
Mosquera, Greenwald, Downey, Houghtaling, Sumter, Benson & Lampitt Bill to Protect Domestic Violence Victims from Gun Violence Clears CommitteeLegislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera, Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald and Assembly Democrats Joann Downey, Eric Houghtaling, Shavonda Sumter, Daniel R. Benson and Pamela Lampitt to strengthen New Jersey's gun laws and protect victims of domestic abuse from gun violence was advanced Thursday by an Assembly committee.
"For victims and their children, domestic violence turns a chance to live the American Dream into a horrific nightmare. I know, because I've lived that nightmare," said Mosquera (D-Gloucester/Camden). "Too many victims are killed at the hands of abusers who have easy access to firearms before they ever have a chance to get out. This legislation will change that, strengthening our gun violence laws in order to protect victims of domestic violence..."
Johnson, Vainieri Huttle & Sumter Bill to Allow Witnesses of All Ages to Testify via Live Video in Sexual Assault Trials Clears CommitteeLegislation Removes Restriction Requiring Open Court Testimony for Those Over Age 16
Legislation Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Shavonda Sumter sponsored to allow adult victims and witnesses of sexual assault to testify against a defendant via video was advanced Thursday by an Assembly committee.
"Victims of crime - regardless of their age - have the right to be treated with fairness, compassion and respect by the criminal justice system," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "All witnesses who fear subsequent emotional distress and wish to testify via CCTV should be able to seek that protection from the trauma of testifying in the defendant's presence."
Muoio, Gusciora & Mukherji Bill to Help Reduce Recidivism, Provide Post-Prison Assistance Gains Committee ApprovalAn Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Elizabeth Maher Muoio, Reed Gusciora and Raj Mukherji that would provide services to help reintegrate prisoners into the community after they have served their full term.
The bill (A-3523) would require the Division of Parole to offer the same post-release services to defendants who have served the maximum term of incarceration that are provided to defendants who are released on parole.
"Unlike parolees who receive intense supervision and guidance, maxed-out inmates are essentially on their own the minute the door closes behind them," said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "This leads to high rates of recidivism and little chance of rebuilding their lives. In order to truly end this cycle, we need to boost services to help them reintegrate into society."
Chaparro, Vainieri Huttle, Benson & Jimenez Bill to Establish Alert System for Hit-and-Runs Clears Assembly CommitteeLegislation Honors Zackhary Simmons, 21-Year-Old Man Killed In June Accident
Legislation Assembly Democrats Annette Chaparro, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Daniel R. Benson and Angelica Jimenez sponsored to establish an emergency alert system to help more quickly apprehend drivers responsible for fatal hit-and-run accidents cleared an Assembly committee on Thursday.
"I hope this bill reminds drivers thinking of fleeing an accident that the whole state will be looking for you, and you will be caught," said Chaparro (D-Hudson).
Holley, McKnight & Kennedy Bill to Ban Sale of Unsafe Supplemental Mattresses Clears CommitteeMeasure Would Protect Babies At Risk of Suffocating in Cribs, Playpens
Legislation Assembly Democrats Jamel Holley, Angela McKnight and Jim Kennedy sponsored to protect infants from safety hazards posed by supplemental mattresses was advanced Thursday by an Assembly committee.
"There is this perception that if a product is sold by a major retailer, it must unequivocally be safe," said Holley (D-Union). "But we continually hear stories of babies being injured or killed when a supplemental mattress is used in a soft-sided play yard. Manufacturers of this product are quick to deny the obvious harm, while retailers are focused on selling product."
Schaer, Jasey, Benson, Vainieri Huttle & Muoio College Affordability & Preparedness Legislation Advanced by Higher Ed PanelThe Assembly Higher Education Committee on Thursday advanced a four-bill legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Mila Jasey, Daniel R. Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Elizabeth Muoio aimed at helping New Jersey residents better navigate the college process before, during and after their time on campus.
"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..."
Speaker Prieto Statement on Lt. Gov. TTF Ballot Question CommentsAssembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen) released the following statement on Thursday regarding public question #2, which responsibly constitutionally dedicates all fuel tax revenue to transportation needs. Prieto was the prime sponsor of the ballot question resolution (ACR-1 from 2014-15):
"The lieutenant governor seems to have a complete and total misunderstanding of the ballot question, which is very troublesome. The lieutenant governor doubles as the Secretary of State, who is in charge of our elections. Has our elections chief even read the ballot question?..."
Speaker Prieto: Proposed Change on Student Loan Death/Disability Rules a Step Forward but Not EnoughAssembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen) released the following statement Wednesday after the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority proposed a new regulation to forgive student loans for a student who dies or becomes permanently disabled, beginning with requests for discharge received on or after June 1, 2017:
"This should never have been implemented, but I'm glad to see this step toward change. I still look forward to the governor signing the bill the Legislature sent to his desk. Changing a regulation is a positive, but this change needs the force of state law, especially since our bill is stronger in that it covers temporary disability and takes effect immediately..."
McKeon, Vainieri Huttle, Caputo, Jasey & Downey Bill to Create Law Enforcement Assisted Addiction Safe Havens Becomes Law(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Ralph Caputo, Mila Jasey and Joann Downey that would establish law enforcement assisted addiction and recovery referral programs throughout the state was signed into law on Wednesday.
"The nation's heroin and opioid related overdose deaths have increased dramatically in recent years. In New Jersey, alone, the overdose death rate is currently three times the national rate. Clearly more needs to be done," said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). "Similar programs we've studied have shown marked success in cultivating a safe environment where those suffering from addiction feel comfortable coming forward to seek treatment. The new law will hopefully help improve the lives of those struggling with addiction."
Chairman McKeon Statement on Atlantic City Recovery Plan HearingAssembly Judiciary Committee Chair John McKeon issued the following statement on Wednesday after his committee concluded a hearing on the status of Atlantic City's recovery plan, as required by the "The Municipal Stabilization and Recovery Act" enacted in May to help save the resort city from bankruptcy:
"The plan detailed publicly today by Atlantic City represents an encouraging step forward for this city that is vital for the state's future.
Mosquera, Holley, Moriarty & Quijano Bill to Promote Communication Between Comptroller, Governor & Legislature Regarding Audits Clears AssemblyLegislation Assembly Democrats Gabriela Mosquera, Jamel Holley, Paul Moriarty and Annette Quijano sponsored to ensure that both the executive and legislature branches are familiar with the steps government entities are taking to increase efficiency recently gained approval from the General Assembly.
"The governor and the legislature determine how much of the taxpayers' money goes toward certain government agencies," said Mosquera (D-Camden/Mosquera). "The people of New Jersey deserve to know that these agencies are making the best use of their hard-earned money. It's important that the executive and legislature branches are apprised of all the comptroller's reviews and thus able to keep state entities accountable."
Out-of-Network Health Care Costs, College Affordability Bill, Protecting Domestic Violence Victims from Guns & 4-Year Sandy Recovery Update Highlight Thursday Assembly CommitteesAtlantic City Housing Incentives, Child Safety, Tamper-Resistant Opioid Drugs & Zackhary's Law Among Bills Also on Tap
The Out-of-network Consumer Protection, Transparency, Cost Containment and Accountability Act, along with a four-bill Assembly college affordability package, protecting domestic violence victims by restricting access to firearms for abusers and - to mark the fourth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy - testimony on the recovery work that remains to be done and the challenges that its victims are still facing as they try to rebuild highlight Thursday's Assembly committee hearings...
McKeon Discusses Assembly/Senate Hearing Investigating NJ Transit Safety & Operations (NJ.com video)
McKeon Opening Statement on NJ Transit Inquiry
Chaparro Opening Statement on NJ Transit Inquiry
Johnson Opening Statement on NJ Transit Inquiry
Muoio Opening Statement on NJ Transit Inquiry
For all previous Assembly Majority videos, please click here.