BILLS PROMOTING N.J. FARMING & PROTECTING FREE SALTWATER FISHING; DISCUSSIONS ON ENVIRONMENTAL BUDGET CUTS & STUDENT CONCUSSIONS TOP MONDAY AGENDAS

Hearings Also on U.S. Census; Attorney General & Homeland Security Priorities

(TRENTON) — Legislation to promote New Jersey farming, protect free saltwater recreational fishing and discussions on school sport concussions, Gov. Christie’s cuts to key environmental programs and post-traumatic stress disorder among New Jersey veterans top the Assembly’s Monday committee agendas.

Also on tap are hearings on the U.S. Census and meetings with New Jersey’s new homeland security director and attorney general.

All hearings will be streamed live at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/media/live_audio.asp.

The Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee will take testimony on the environmental impacts of Christie’s cuts to Highlands and clean energy programs.

“The environment should not be mortgaged for a quick fix,” said Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex), the Assembly environment chairman.

The Assembly Agriculture and Natural ReDests Committee will consider legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Nelson Albano – the committee chairman – and Matt Milam (both D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland) to ensure free recreational saltwater fishing continues in New Jersey. The bill (A-823) answers a federal law that authorized the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to collect a fee beginning in 2011 to cover costs associated with a new saltwater angler registry.

“The idea that fisherman should have to pay to use the open ocean is absurd,” Milam said. “This has always been free in New Jersey and should remain that way forever.”

“New Jersey is expensive enough without charging people looking for fun and relaxation to fish the open sea,” Albano said. “Fish conservation and management is a smart thing, but we don’t need to be charging saltwater anglers to make it reality.”

The panel will also consider legislation (A-812) that would establish a statewide motorist sign system – not paid for by taxpayers – that would be easily identifiable and promote agricultural tourism attractions.

“Tourists represent a largely untapped market for agricultural establishments,” Milam said. “The very nature of farming establishments means they’re often not on heavily traveled routes, so we should do anything we can to help tourists and others from out-of-state, as well as New Jersey residents, find these gems.”

Also on the agenda is a bill (A-2305) to promote foods prepared with “Jersey Fresh” ingredients. The bill would designate baked goods and other food products prepared with “Jersey Fresh” produce as “Made With Jersey Fresh.”

“Farmers are New Jersey’s heritage and lifeblood, but they also need our support, especially in these difficult economic times,” Albano said. “This simple step would encourage and support not only the manufacture of home-grown products but would give consumers an opportunity to buy goods that use locally grown fruits and vegetables.”

The Assembly Judiciary Committee will meet with new Attorney General Paula Dow regarding her legislative priorities, while the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee will hear from Charles B. McKenna, the state’s new homeland security director, to discuss that department’s priorities.

The Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee will discuss whether post-traumatic stress disorder from combat service should be a mitigating factor during sentencings. It will also consider legislation sponsored by Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee chair Jack Conners (D-Burlington/Camden) to create a New Jersey Honor Guard Ribbon for the New Jersey National Guard.

“The men and women in uniform who stand guard over those who make the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country are deserving of recognition,” said Conners, a former Army Reservist and Army National Guard member. “This ribbon would be a small nod to the invaluable service they provide to the families, friends and communities of ‘Those Who Served.'”

The Assembly Education Committee will hold a hearing to examine the impact of concussions and other head injuries on the health and well being of student athletes and will discuss the necessity of creating guidelines for addressing these injuries.

“Head injuries are always traumatic, doubly so when they affect the life of a young athlete,” said Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. (D-Middlesex) the panel’s chair. “With the competitive, high impact nature of high school sports continuing to intensify, we owe it to these student athletes to look not just at the effects of these injuries, but at the underlying cause of them and how to prevent them.”

The Assembly State Government Committee will hear further testimony on the 2010 U.S. Census and what it means for New Jersey. The committee is expected to hear testimony from invited guests, including civic leaders, community groups, local and county officials and other leaders.

For full agendas please visit http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/legislativepub/calendar/030210.htm

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