DEMOCRATIC PLAN TO SAVE SENIOR CITIZENS FROM CHRISTIE TAX & FEE HIKES; HOMEBUYER TAX CREDIT; TEEN DRIVING LAW ANALYSIS & TOUGHER AIRPORT SECURITY BREACH LAW TOP THURSDAY ASSEMBLY AGENDAS

UI Fund Fix, Amber Alert Update, ‘Jessica Lunsford Act’ Also on Tap

(TRENTON) – Legislation to protect senior citizens from Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to increase their prescription drug fees and slash their property tax relief, provide a New Jersey homebuyer tax credit for 2010 and analyze the newly implemented teen driver safety law top Thursday’s Assembly committee agendas.

Also on tap is legislation to stave off a massive unemployment fund tax on businesses, improve the state’s Amber Alert law and enact the Jessica Lunsford Act to increase sentences for sex offenders and people who harbor them.

Meanwhile, the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee will meet with New Jersey’s homeland security director to discuss state readiness following the recent Times Square bombing attempt.

The committee will also hear legislation (A-2288) Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer and Assemblyman Albert Coutinho sponsored to toughen penalties for airport security breaches.

Spencer and Coutinho (both D-Essex) introduced the bill after the Jan. 3 incident at Newark Liberty International Airport involving Haisong Jiang, 28, a Rutgers University graduate student who lives in Piscataway.

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

The Assembly Appropriations Committee will meet at 10 a.m. to consider legislation (A-10 and A-20) to eliminate Christie’s proposals to hit senior and disabled citizens with increased prescription drug fees and slash their property tax relief.

The plan protects New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents calls by restoring a one-year income tax surcharge on the 16,000 New Jerseyans with taxable incomes of at least $1 million. The millionaire’s tax would raise $637 million and eliminate Christie’s plans to force senior citizens to pay more for prescription drugs while slashing their property tax relief.

Under the bill (A-10) sponsored by Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) and Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan (D-Union), the income tax rate on those earning $1 million would be restored to 10.75 percent from 8.97 percent for next fiscal year.

Under the bill (A-20) sponsored by Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden) and Assemblywomen Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex/Mercer) and Celeste Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem):

Christie’s plan to charge a new $310 deductible to 105,000 senior and disabled citizens in the Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled prescription drug program and 23,000 senior citizens enrolled in the Senior Gold prescription drug program would be eliminated.

Christie’s plan to more than double prescription drug co-payments on those senior and disabled citizens would be eliminated.

Property tax rebate checks for more than 600,000 senior homeowners and tenants would be restored to last year’s levels, providing as much as $1,295 in property tax relief to senior and disabled residents.

An analysis prepared last month by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services reported that under the Christie plan, a retired couple living on a fixed income of $40,000 would see a $1,320 increase in taxes while a family making $1.2 million would receive a tax cut of $11,598.

That analysis did not include estimates for the higher prescription drug costs, which the New Jersey Foundation for Aging estimates will cost the average senior citizen an extra $430 per year.

The committee will also consider legislation sponsored by Assembly Budget Chairman Lou Greenwald (D-Camden) and Assemblymen Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) and Albert Coutinho (D-Essex) to establish a New Jersey Homebuyer Tax Credit Program for home purchases during 2010.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee will meet at 10 a.m. to consider the legislation (A-2730) sponsored by its chairwoman, Greenstein, to revise the state’s AMBER Alert system when a family member abducts a child. The bill stems from the tragic death of a baby girl who allegedly was thrown from the Discroll Bridge by her father in February.

The committee will also consider the Jessica Lunsford Act (A-1767) sponsored by Assemblywoman Joan Voss (D-Bergen), along with legislation (A-231) sponsored by Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex) to create a civil rape shield law.

The Assembly Labor Committee will meet at 10 a.m. to consider legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Joseph Egan (D-Middlesex/Somerset) and Nelson Albano (D-Cumberland/Cape May/ Atlantic) to reduce employer unemployment taxes during the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee will consider legislation (A-515) sponsored by Assemblyman Jack Conners (D-Burlington/Camden) to expand to Korean and Vietnam veterans a program offering high school diplomas to students who left school to serve in the military.

It will also consider legislation (A-2200) sponsored by Conners and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) to allow a child whose parent is called into active service to remain enrolled in their school district.

The Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee will meet at 10 a.m. to consider legislation (A-2740) sponsored by Assembly members Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex), Elease Evans (D-Passaic/Bergen), John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem) and Greenstein to require the Attorney General to study and report on the new teen driving law.

It will also consider legislation (A-2407) sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden) to permit commercial advertising and sponsorship signs on toll taking equipment to help ease the burden on taxpayers.

Also on tap is legislation (A-2592) sponsored by Assemblymen John Wisniewski and Craig Coughlin (both D-Middlesex) to require the Motor Vehicle Commission to establish a next-of-kin program in case of emergency.

The Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will consider legislation (A-828) at 2 p.m. to establish a conflict resolution program to protect commercial fishing docks and fish processing plants from nuisance complaints. The bill is sponsored by Albano and Assemblyman Matt Milam (D-Cumberland/Cape May/Atlantic).

The Assembly Education Committee will meet at 2 p.m. to receive testimony from state Education Commissioner Bret Schundler on the Alternative High School Assessment.
The Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee will meet at 2 p.m. to hear testimony from state Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin and hear legislation (A-1052) sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union), Cryan and Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-Somerset/Middlesex) to require the state, when cost effective, to purchase biofuels in place of fossil fuels.

The Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee will meet at 2 p.m. to hear from state Homeland Security Director Charles B. McKenna on New Jersey’s preparedness following the attempted Times Square bombing.

It will also consider the legislation sponsored by Spencer and Coutinho to toughen the airport security laws.

The Assembly Human Services Committee will meet at 2 p.m. to hear from Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez and Children and Families Acting Commissioner Kara Wood, and receive testimony on services available to children who age out of the child welfare system.

It will also consider legislation (A-905) sponsored by Chivukula, Oliver and Assemblywoman Joan Quigley (D-Hudson) to provide a bill of rights for senior citizens living in a state housing program.

The Assembly State Government Committee will meet at 2 p.m. to hear from invited speakers on the state’s use of a pharmacy benefits manager.

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