Bills Promoting Green Building & Helping N.J. Track Uninsured Children Also on Tap

(TRENTON) — Legislation to stimulate creation of technology industry clusters around New Jersey colleges and research hospitals, streamline corporate laws, stabilize the education of foster children, promote green building and allow the state to get a better handle on the number of uninsured children and parents top Thursday’s Assembly agendas.

All hearings will be streamed live here.

The Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee will meet at 10 a.m. in Room 9 at the State House Annex. It will consider legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Upendra Chivukula, Linda Greenstein, Pamela R. Lampitt and Joseph Egan to establish innovation zones to stimulate technology industry clusters around research universities and hospitals in the Newark, Camden and Central Jersey regions.

“By drawing on existing research and academic facilities, we will do a better job of fostering innovation and creating new entrepreneurial opportunities,” said Chivukula (D-Somerset/Middlesex). “New Jersey already boasts one of the most highly educated population centers in the country. Now we can do more to firmly establish this with new businesses, new opportunities and good jobs.”

“By creating a means for a collaborative support system among universities, hospitals and businesses across the state, New Jersey will continue to lead the way academically, technologically and economically and see business and job growth,” said Greenstein (D-Middlesex/Mercer). “Innovation zones create a network for businesses in New Jersey and maintain a pipeline of new employees through relationships with our higher education institutions.”

“Innovation zones are a win-win for universities, businesses, hospitals and the state as a whole,” said Lampitt (D-Camden). “These zones will make New Jersey more inviting to businesses planning to move here as well as keeping the state regionally competitive.”

“Taking advantage of the talent and expertise already available in this state to improve our business climate and help our workers is a smart approach,” said Egan (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “This is especially important in tough economic times.”

This bill (A-904) requires the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to establish three innovation zones, with each zone surrounding a New Jersey research university, college or research hospital and located in the Camden area, Newark and Greater New Brunswick.

Under the bill, the Camden area includes Camden, Glassboro, Mantua in Camden County.

The Greater New Brunswick Area includes New Brunswick, South Brunswick, North Brunswick, Piscataway in Middlesex County, Franklin in Somerset County and Princeton Township, Princeton Borough, Plainsboro, East Windsor and West Windsor in Mercer County. The sponsors noted the Central Jersey zone, for instance, would draw on such prestigious institutions as the Sarnoff Center, Rutgers University, Princeton University and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and would spur new levels of investment in Central Jersey communities along the Route 1 corridor.

The panel will also consider legislation sponsored by Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex) to permit developers to qualify for low-interest loans from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority when building a high-performance green building.

It will also consider legislation sponsored by five Assembly Democratic lawmakers to streamline New Jersey’s corporate laws to make the state more attractive to businesses.

The bill is sponsored by Assembly members Patrick J. Diegnan Jr, Peter J. Barnes III, Craig J. Coughlin, Bonnie Watson Coleman and Lampitt and is the final piece of an Assembly Democratic reform package signed into law during the last legislative session.

“For New Jersey to be competitive as a home for industry in the global marketplace, we need laws that will allow them to operate in real time, using 21st century technology,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex), who crafted the bill package.

The bill (A-2420) eliminates the 10-day waiting period for certain shareholder actions not concerning mergers and acquisition activity governed by state law. This 10-day waiting period can create inefficiencies in transactions and delay closings while the notice period runs.

“This is common sense proposal that modernizes our law and puts and makes us even more competitive with nearby states when it comes to luring and attracting businesses that employ our residents,” said Barnes (D-Middlesex).

“We need to always be sure we’re updating our laws and keeping pace with change as we work to enhance New Jersey’s business climate and ensure a strong economy for our workers,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex).

“With continued turbulence in our national economy, we must do everything we can to ensure that New Jersey remains an excellent place to do business,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer).

The Assembly Human Services Committee will meet at 2 p.m. in Committee Room 16. It will consider legislation (A-2068) sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle to require hospitals to detail the uninsured children and parents they handle.

“If we’re going to tackle this problem realistically, we need as detailed a take as possible on how hospitals are handling uninsured children and parents,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “We know caring for the uninsured costs taxpayers and hospitals hundreds of millions per year, so trying to better track how many our hospitals handle is not too much to ask.”

The bill requires a hospital, as a condition of receiving charity care funding, to file a report with the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) on the number of:

  • Children who present themselves for treatment at the hospital and are deemed presumptively eligible for NJ FamilyCare; and
  • Parents or caretakers of children deemed presumptively eligible by the hospital for NJ FamilyCare or Medicaid coverage, who complete an application for the NJ FamilyCare or Medicaid programs at the hospital.

The panel will also consider legislation Assemblymen Jack Conners and Herb Conaway, M.D, sponsored to ensure New Jersey foster children receive a stable education.

The bill (A-2137) would revise state policy that automatically places a foster child in the school district of their foster family. Instead, the bill would allow a child to remain in their current school if they are moved to a different foster family. If it becomes law, the bill would put New Jersey in compliance with federal law and ensure the state doesn’t risk losing about $125 million in federal aid.

“This will establish a system to support educational stability for children placed in foster care,” said Conners (D-Burlington/Camden). “We know that foster children can often be uprooted from their schools and suddenly placed in new environments, which can be difficult for anyone let alone a child. It’s hard enough for a child placed in foster care, so a simple step like this can provide some stability with that all important tool for their future — education.”

“Moving from school to school can be stressful for any child, but especially so for children in foster care,” said Conaway (D-Burlington/Camden). “With this bill, we can keep children with their friends, classmates and teachers and provide some stability amid a difficult situation. That would be healthy for them both academically and psychologically.”

Assemblymen Conaway and Conners also lauded the bill for shifting financial responsibility for foster education back to the child’s sending district. Under current law, towns receiving foster children are responsible for paying for the education of foster children, causing a hardship for taxpayers in towns like Willingboro in the 7th Legislative District, which takes in many more foster children than it loses to other towns.

en citizens open their homes to foster children, their goal is to provide a safer and healthier living environment for a child in need,” Conners said. “This legislation will allow communities to continue to embrace foster children without overburdening local taxpayers.”

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