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    State assemblyman criticizes Murphy’s plan to remove lead water pipes

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    A Democratic state assemblyman is criticizing Gov. Phil Murphy’s plan to remove lead water service pipes around the state.

    Union County Assemblyman Jamel Holley says that Murphy has been “asleep at the switch” on the issue of lead contamination in New Jersey.

    “I’m choosing people over politics,” Holley says. “I like the governor. I think he’s a great man. But we’re just not on the same page on this issue.”

    Holley says that he thinks that the governor’s $500,000 plan is more of a reaction than anything else.

    “What we need is a comprehensive Marshall environmental plan instead of a reaction,” he says.

    Gov. Murphy revealed his administration's lead strategy last Thursday. Working off a report by New Jersey Water Works task force, the governor says he plans to replace every lead service line in the state by 2029, remove lead paint and remediate lead-contaminated soil.

    RELATED: Newark halts free bottled water program; gives out filters instead 
    RELATED: Gov. Murphy seeks $500M bond to replace lead paint, pipes 

    Holley, in August, asked for a state of emergency to be called to deliver bottled water in Newark. He says that he spoke to the governor by phone on Aug. 20.

    “The conversation quite frankly wasn't very respectful. In fact, the governor hung up the phone on me and we haven't talked since but I have been communicating with his administration,” Holley says.

    FULL COVERAGE: Lead-contaminated water crisis

    A spokesperson for the Murphy administration says in a statement, "Assemblyman Holley should focus on passing legislation to solve this issue instead of engaging in political theatrics from the backbench. His recent attacks on the Governor and Mayor are just pathetic attempts to make himself relevant."

    The governor's office also defended administration efforts and the work of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to replace over 1,000 service lines to date.

    Holley says that he agrees with Newark state Sen. Ron Rice, another Democrat, who recently wrote a letter accusing the governor of patronizing African American leaders.

    “There's several other issues that we are confronted with, in particular in urban communities, in regard to social justice none of which have been resolved,” Holley says. “Water is a liberty, it is a right, but we have to get it right. And we are not getting it right here in the state of New Jersey."

    Holley says he's worked with the Elizabethport Presbyterian Center to collect more than 60,000 donated cases of water for places like Newark and Flint, Michigan.

     

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    Holley says Murphy ignored lead crisis

    Assemblyman Jamel Holley said Gov. Phil Murphy’s been asleep at the wheel on the state’s waterborne lead crisis.

    The Assembly Democrat took aim at Murphy’s handling of Newark’s water crisis, saying the governor slow-played action on the issue despite promising to focus on it during his 2017 gubernatorial campaign.

    Holley cited a list of recommendations the legislature sent Murphy in early 2018. Most of those recommendations went nowhere, and some were implemented with a fraction of the resources the joint legislative committee sought.

    For instance, the committee recommended issuing a $400 million bond to address the state’s lead water service lines. Only a quarter of that amount was issued, and it came as part of a separate $500 million bond.

    Holley’s criticisms of Murphy come days after State Sen. Ron Rice, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, claimed Murphy and legislative leaders patronized black officials and activists.

    Rice accused the governor, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin of slow-playing issues like marijuana decriminalization.

    Holley was one of the legislature’s biggest advocates for marijuana legalization.

    “No wonder Senator Ron Rice, the longest-serving African-American state senator in New Jersey history called out Governor Murphy for not listening to the plight of minority communities across the state,” Holly said. “It’s time for the Governor to act. Too many innocent lives are impacted.”

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    Outraged Holley: Newark and Area Residents ‘Remain Victims of Ecoside Purported by Environmental Racism’

    Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20) was unimpressed by the press conference led by Gov. Phil Murphy and other elected officials this afternoon as they reported on the preliminary findings of lead contamination testing in the City of Newark.

    In fact, it infuriated him.

    “Until the City of Newark [that provides water to several municipalities including Elizabeth, Hillside, Belleville & Bloomfield] and the State of New Jersey can prove through comprehensive tests the water is safe to drink sadly the residents of those municipalities remain victims of ecoside purported by environmental racism.

    “Today’s press conference failed to include the validation and confirmation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency that the water is safe to drink without using a filter,” added the Roselle-based assemblyman.

    “What’s the point of testing only filters and not the full testing of the water flowing into the service lines,” he wanted to know. “Bottled water still needs to be distributed!”

    The NJ Sierra Cluub issued a similar response to the news.

    According to local sources in Newark, officials found houses using filters have lead levels of 10ppb. In August, The EPA tested and found high levels of lead with filters in two residences in Newark. The agency strongly encouraged the city of Newark to take immediate action.

     “The city of Newark has sampled 300 homes and found that of lead levels are at 10ppb. This levels are still too high given the impact of lead to children. Filters should be removing 99% of the lead in water. The CDC and the EPA said there should be no traces of lead in the water. The private well drinking act sets the standard for houses on wells for 5ppb. 10ppb but it is still way to high that will have serious health impacts on children and the people of Newark. Its shows we are doing too little too late,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. Newark tried the Brita Solution that hasn’t worked, they tried the Poland Spring solution that also has not worked. The city needs a long term solution, the lead problem in Newark has been going on for far too long.”

    Lead levels in Newark’s water supply tested at 52 parts per billion between January 1 and June 30 of 2019. These are the highest levels ever recorded in Newark, an increase from 48 parts per billion during the last 6 months of 2018. Newark officials say orthophosphate corrosion control systems should begin to reduce the lead levels over the second half of 2019.

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    State Assemblyman Holley Calls on Gov. Murphy to Declare State of Emergency Over Newark Lead Water Crisis

    NEWARK, NJ - A state Assemblyman from a legislative district neighboring Newark called on Gov. Phil Murphy to declare a state of emergency in the face of the city's deepening lead water crisis.

    "I am pleading and suggesting to you as the Governor of this great State that a State of Emergency be called. This request comes on the backs of each human being in New Jersey that fears government has not appeared to show protection to them, nor has been transparent in this process that we together now face," Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D - Roselle) wrote in a letterpdf that he sent on Tuesday to Murphy and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. 

    "When it comes to complex environmental issues such as lead and contamination, we know the effects it can have on human health and the sense of safety and well-being perceived by the community," Holley said in the letter first provided to TapInto Newark. "Government is there to ensure security, not display doubt. This matter has doubt. The public's faith in its government is at stake here."

    Holley, whose district includes the Union County municipalities of Elizabeth, Hillside, Roselle and Union, has already been publicly outspoken regarding the ongoing lead water crisis in Newark.

    "I am not going to divulge how disappointed I am with the leadership within this State on the handling of the water crisis our Newark community is facing," Holley said in an August 12 Facebook post. "However, as a State elected leader in Union County and former Mayor of the Borough of Roselle, I cannot idly stand by and watch our most vulnerable human beings particularly our children, seniors, and families suffer from poisonous lead levels."

     

    In the same post, Holley announced the beginning of a bottled water collection drive or behalf of Newark residents. A series of subsequent posts on Facebook indicate that the scope of the drive has spread, with donations coming from as near as Westfield and as far Brooklyn.

    Holley also indicated in a NJTV interview broadcast on August 13 that he would ask Murphy to call a state of emergency if the situation did not improve.

    Holley's call to Gov. Murphy to declare a state of emergency comes after a series of dramatic events related to the ongoing crisis of lead contamination in Newark's water.

    On August 9, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed testing results showing that out of three filters provided to Newark residents by the city to reduce lead in the water to safe levels, two had failed to work.

    At the same time, the EPA urged Newark residents to use bottled water for drinking and cooking until the results of the filter testing are fully understood and additional sampling is performed. 

    Meanwhile, bottled water distribution began last week at several locations throughout the city, but only for Newark residents of the western half of the city who are serviced by the Pequannock water treatment plant with lead service lines who have received filters. 

    Holley's letter was also sent to Belleville Mayor Michael Melham and Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia. Both municipalities are serviced by the Pequannock water treatment plant. He also sent the letter to Hillside Mayor Dahlia Vertreese. About 50 houses in Hillside are impacted by the water problem.

    Gov. Murphy has weighed in on the lead water crisis in Newark, visiting the city last week where he offered help distributing bottled water to city residents and pointed to the federal government's responsibility to improve water infrastructure. A federal district court judge is now deciding whether the city of Newark will be compelled to expand its emergency bottled water distribution to include residents of the eastern half of Newark, who are serviced by the Wanaque water treatment plan.

    In his letter to Murphy, Baraka, and other officials, Holley refers to the infamous lead water contamination crisis that began in Flint, Michigan five years ago. State and federal authorities ultimately declared a state of emergency in Flint in January 2016. Flint city officials recently announced they hope to complete lead service line replacement by the end of this year.

    Holley lists a series of steps that should be part of the enactment of the state of emergency, including an immediate take over by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the management of Newark's water system, dispatching the New Jersey National Guard to help distribute unexpired, bottled water to all municipalities affected, weekly test results of the Pequannock and Wanaque water systems, as well as the Cedar Grove filtration system, and additional lead testing locations for families and children. 

    Holley also suggested the governor petition the U.S. Attorney's Office to appoint a social prosecutor to review, investigate and make public all water, sewer, and repair contracts related with the Pequannock and Wanaque water systems,  as well as the Cedar Grove filtration system. 

    Alexandra Altman, a spokeswoman for Murphy, said, "The Governor is reviewing Assemblyman Holley's request and is considering all options."

    Holley acknowledged that he is a representative from a neighboring county, and is getting involved as he has in the past with humanitarian efforts around the state and country. "I am not going to sit idly by and not pitch in to help those who are vulnerable here," he said.

    "Humanitarian efforts are about people, not politics," he said. "Those who want to get involved in political pushback are not humanitarians."

    When asked if by calling for a state of emergency he was creating a panic, he pointed out that it was the opposite. The state of emergency "puts all hand on deck" and commits city, county, state and federal resources to provide comfort to citizens as solutions are found. 

    Mayor Baraka could not immediately be reached for comment. 

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    Help Newark Families

    I am not going to divulge how disappointed I am with the leadership within this State on the handling of the water crisis our Newark community is facing.

    However, as a State elected leader in Union County and former Mayor of the Borough of Roselle, I cannot idly stand by and watch our most vulnerable human beings: particularly our children, seniors, and families suffer from poisonous lead levels.

    Now is not the time to point fingers.

    I would like to focus solely on the immediate!

    While I do not represent the City of Newark, nor do I reside in Essex County, my heart has propelled me to help.

    I need your assistance! I am asking for all my Union County residents, #teamholley supporters, and those of you reading this post to please assist me in collecting cases of bottled water for our pre-schoolers, children, seniors, and families.

    My relief team has two available drop off locations. At your convenience, can you please drop off cases of water to send to our brothers and sisters in need:

    Elizabethport Presbyterian Center
    184 First Street
    Elizabeth, NJ
    9a - 7p
    Monday - Saturday
    James Carey 908-576-5089

    Heard AME CHURCH
    310 E 8th Ave
    Roselle, NJ
    10a - 2p
    Tuesday - Friday
    Ricky or Aeisha at 908-368-1331

    I humbly thank you in advance from the bottom of my heart. I am hoping that you can help us at any level possible.

    We welcome anyone that can help.

     

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    Houghtaling, Downey, Mukherji & Holley Bill to Raise Awareness for Property Tax Relief Programs Passes Senate

    “It’s no secret that New Jersey has one of the highest property tax rates in the country,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth).  “But what may be a secret to many is that there are a number of tax relief programs that they might be eligible for. This bill will ensure that taxpayers are aware of the relief that is available.”

    The bill (A-1048) would require each tax bill to include information about the Division of Taxation’s website outlining various state property tax relief programs and eligibility requirements.

    “Through no further cost to the state or local governments, this simple change can help ensure that residents, particularly seniors, are well-informed of the tax relief programs that might go a long way towards offsetting the property tax burden,” said Downey (D-Monmouth).

    Current state statute already requires that certain information be included with tax bills, such as a brief tabulation showing the distribution of the amount raised by taxation, along with links to information on the website of the Department of Community Affairs.

    “These tax relief programs were designed to help put more money in the pockets of the average resident,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson).  “Seniors, especially, might not be aware that they even exist so we want to ensure that they’re taking advantage of every program available to them to offset the cost of living.”

    “This bill is informative and beneficial to New Jersey residents,” said Holley (D-Union). “This legislation will help people understand what tax relief programs are available by making the information more accessible by simply including it on existing forms, which will be of no additional cost to municipalities and will ultimately save time, stress, and money for our residents.”

    The measure was approved by the full Assembly in June by a vote of 73-2-2.

     

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    Pinkin, Conaway, Giblin, Holley, Danielsen, Mukherji & Wimberly Bill to Help Promote Compassionate Palliative Treatment Options Approved by Assembly

    Legislation Would Establish Statewide Palliative & Hospice Care Information & Education Program

    In an effort to ensure that the public, health care providers, and health care facilities receive comprehensive and accurate information and education about palliative care and terminal illness, a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Nancy Pinkin, Herb Conaway, Jr., MD, Thomas Giblin, Jamel Holley, Joseph Danielsen, Raj Mukherji and Benjie Wimberly was approved 75-0-1 Thursday by the full Assembly.
    The bill (A-312) would establish the “Palliative Care and Hospice Care Consumer and Professional Information and Education Program” in the Department of Health (DOH). It will require all facilities identified by the Commissioner of Health to provide information about appropriate palliative care and hospice care services to patients and residents with a serious illness.
    “Given that the state’s population is aging, with greater incidence of cancer and a higher prevalence of chronic conditions, the demand for high quality hospice and palliative care services will undoubtedly increase,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex).
    “Palliative care optimizes a patient’s quality of life by anticipating, preventing, and treating suffering caused by serious illness,” said Conaway (D-Burlington).  “It’s a compassionate approach to treatment that we should be promoting for the benefit of New Jersey families.”
    “With palliative care, a patient often receives comprehensive pain and symptom management, as well as discussions on treatment options that are appropriate to the individual, such as hospice care,” said Giblin (D-Essex, Passaic).  “It’s important that we promote these benefits.”
    “Palliative care has become an increasingly important part of treatment because it often involves addressing physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs,” said Holley (D-Union).  “Equally important, it also helps ensure a patient’s autonomy and their access to information and choice.”
    “Hospice care is comprehensive in nature because it coordinates care between a home setting, as well as with outpatient and inpatient services,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset).  “Given the delicate nature of this end-of-life situation, it’s important that we provide patients and families with the resources necessary to cope.”
    “Hospice care is critical in meeting the physical, psychological, social, spiritual, and other special needs that are experienced during the final stages of illness, dying, and bereavement,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson).  “We need to ensure that more families are aware of this important option.”
    “Through a medically directed interdisciplinary team, hospice care provides services to patients and their families,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic).  “This targeted type of care is critical to a patient’s overall well-being when dealing with life-threatening illnesses.”
    Under the bill, the Commissioner of Health may require a facility that fails to comply with these requirements to provide a plan of action to bring the facility into compliance.  In implementing these requirements, DOH would be required to take into account the size of the facility; access and proximity to palliative care and hospice care services, including the availability of hospice and palliative care board-certified practitioners and related workforce staff; geographic factors; and any other factors that may impact the ability of a hospital, nursing home, or facility to comply.
    Additionally, the bill establishes the Palliative Care and Hospice Care Advisory Council within DOH.  In collaboration with the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the council would be charged with implementing the provisions of the bill, developing the information to be provided to patients and residents by hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities and facilitating the provision of this information, and developing resources and programs to facilitate access to palliative care and hospice care services for patients and residents.
    The council shall be comprised of 11 members, to be appointed as follows: one member of the Senate appointed by the Senate President; one member of the General Assembly appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly; three public members appointed by the Senate President; three public members appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly; and three public members appointed by the Governor. The public members should be individuals who have experience, training, or academic background in issues related to the provision of palliative care or hospice care.
    The bill will now head to the Senate for further consideration.

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