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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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    Holley, McKnight & Wimberly Bill Revising State Expungement Procedures Approved by Assembly Panel

    On legislation (A-4498) that would revise procedures for expunging records of conviction, approved by Assembly Appropriations Monday, sponsors Assembly Democrats Jamel Holley, Angela McKnight and Benjie Wimberly issued the following statements Monday:

     

    Holley (D-Union): “Revising state expungement law forges a path to real social justice for our citizens. Over 200,000 individuals will be eligible in New Jersey under expungements. Broader regulation will give residents the opportunity to right the wrongs of the past and clean the slate, enabling them to gain employment and seize the opportunities life presents them. I’m proud of what we have accomplished here.”

          

                McKnight (D-Hudson): “This was a heavy-lift with many moving parts but it had to be done in New Jersey. Making it possible for residents to clear their records, clean the slate will open the doors for employment opportunities, advancement and economic growth for those affected. Creating an avenue for residents to clear their name and their record moves New Jersey closer to equity and justice in the expungement process.”

     

              Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic): “Reevaluating the process of expungement ensures fairness in implementation for all residents of all socio-economic backgrounds. Minor convictions that could have well been removed from a person’s record with an easier process in place could change the lives and the direction of many youth in our communities. An opportunity to expunge a criminal record could mean the difference between working and not working.”

     

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    Kennedy, Holley & Zwicker Bill to Aid 9/11 First Responders Clears Assembly Panel

    Aiming to assist first responders who voluntarily participated in 9/11 rescue and recovery efforts, legislation sponsored by Assemblymen James Kennedy, Jamel Holley and Andrew Zwicker expanding eligibility for accidental disability allowance to include members or retirees of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS) and the State Police Retirement System (SPRS) who voluntarily responded to the attack was approved Monday by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee.

    “When police and firefighters in New Jersey, received word that two planes had struck the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, many of them didn’t hesitate before responding to the scene, even though they were not specifically ordered to go,” said Kennedy (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union). “Unfortunately, some suffered permanent or total disability. Due to the fact that they responded as volunteers, they are not entitled to the same compensation as their counterparts who were considered to be ‘on the job that day. It’s time to change that.”

    The bill (A-4882) would provide that a member or retirant of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS) and the State Police Retirement System (SPRS) is eligible to receive an accidental disability retirement allowance for a permanent and total disability resulting from participation in 9/11 World Trade Center rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations, whether or not they are instructed by an employer to participate. If a member participated in World Trade Center rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations for a minimum of eight hours, a disability resulting from a qualifying condition or impairment of health would be presumed to have occurred during and as a result of a member’s regular or assigned duties and not the result of the member’s willful negligence, unless the contrary can be proved by competent evidence. The presumption is available whether or not the member was assigned to participate.

    A member who did not participate in those operations for a minimum of eight hours would be eligible for the presumption provided that:

    · the member participated in the rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations at the World Trade Center site between September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001;

    · the member sustained a documented physical injury at the World Trade Center site between September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001 that is a qualifying condition or impairment of health resulting in a disability that prevented the member from continuing to participate for a minimum of eight hours; and the injury that resulted in a disability that prevented the member from doing so is the qualifying condition or impairment of health for which the member is seeking a presumption.

    “All of the heroic men and women who responded to Ground Zero deserve our utmost respect and admiration, regardless of whether they were on the clock,” said Holley (D-Holley). “They all saw the same terror, took the same risks, and worked towards the same goal. If their health has been affected in the time since, they all should be eligible for the same disability allowance.”

    “Our country is still feeling the effects of 9/11 today. The impact on those who were there – particularly our first responders – remains even more prevalent,” said Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex and Hunterdon). “We can go further to honor our first responders by ensuring they are recognized and compensated for their service on 9/11, voluntary or otherwise. They deserve nothing less.”

    The bill would also provide for a reclassification of a service retirement or an ordinary disability retirement as an accidental disability retirement if the retirant, while a member of the retirement system, participated in the World Trade Center rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations a minimum of eight hours and incurred a disability in retirement caused by a qualifying condition or impairment of health which the medical board determines to be caused by the member’s participation in World Trade Center rescue, recovery or cleanup operations. The board of trustees would be required to promulgate rules and regulations and to notify members and retirants in the retirement system of the enactment of the bill within 30 days of enactment.

    Additionally, the measure would delineate the diseases recognized as qualifying conditions or impairments of health, and defines “World Trade Center rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations” to mean the rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations at the World Trade Center site between September 11, 2001 and October 11, 2001. The bill also defines “World Trade Center site” to mean any location below a line starting from the Hudson River and Canal Street, east on Canal Street to Pike Street, south on Pike Street to the East River, and extending to the lower tip of Manhattan.

    The measure now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.

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    Mukherji & Holley Bill to Allow Electric Bicycles on NJ Roadways Clears Assembly

    (TRENTON) – The full Assembly approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji and Jamel Holley to permit operation of low-speed electric bicycles on New Jersey roads.

    E-bikes are defined as a “motorized bicycles,” and require registration, licensing, and insurance requirements that apply to motor vehicles under federal law. The New Jersey’s Department of Motor Vehicles, however, does not currently recognize e-bikes as vehicles with these requirements due the lack of a system in place to supply registration and licensing.

    Under the bill (A-1810), low-speed electric bicycles may be operated on the streets, highways, sidewalks, and bicycle paths. An operator of a low-speed electric bicycle is not required to register the bicycle, furnish proof of insurance, or have a driver’s license.

    “Permitting the use of low-speed electric bikes supports our efforts to protect the environment by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “By bringing our motor vehicle laws into the 21st century, we will enable the rollout of e-bikes in Jersey City’s bike share program and expand the transportation options available to New Jerseyans.”

    The bill defines a low-speed electric bicycle as a two or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts, whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by a motor while operated by a person weighing 170 pounds, is less than 20 miles per hour.

    “We can make room for all vehicles can share the road with the proper guidelines in place,” said Holley (D-Union). “For the residents who must use electric scooters or those who borrow an electric bike from a bike share, regulations will provide for their safety on New Jersey.”

    The bill was voted 76-0 out of the Assembly.

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    McKnight, Chiaravalloti, Pintor Marin, Holley, Wimberly & Quijano Bill to Teach 6-8 Students Financial Literacy Now Law

    In order to teach students about the importance of money management at a young age, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Angela McKnight, Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Eliana Pintor Marin, Jamel Holley, Benjie Wimberly and Annette Quijano that requires school districts in New Jersey to teach financial literacy to elementary and middle school students was signed into law by Acting Governor Sheila Oliver on Thursday.

    “One of the most important lessons a person can learn is how to manage their money. Many young people go into adulthood knowing little about finances, and end up making decisions that cost them in the long run,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Teaching our kids early about the importance of managing their money and making sound financial decisions can prevent them from making costly mistakes and set them on the right financial path.”

    The new law (A-1414) would direct the State Board of Education to require school districts to incorporate financial literacy instruction into the curriculum for students enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade.

    “Many young people don’t understand the importance of being financially responsible until they’ve already taken a few missteps. These poor decisions can hurt their credit when they are branching out on their own and need it the most,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “We don’t expect them to be experts, but they should have a basic understanding of how money works and how it affects their lives.”

    “The earlier we instill this message in our children, the better financial decisions they will make as adults,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “It is not uncommon for students to have their first job in high school, and by teaching financial lessons in grades kindergarten through eight, they will be ready for the responsibility of earning their own income as that time comes.”

    “The purpose of the instruction will be to provide elementary and middle school students with the basic financial literacy necessary for sound financial decision-making,” said Holley (D-Union). “By instilling these lessons in students’ minds even before high school, they will undoubtedly be more prepared for when they are in college which is, for many, the first time they are financially independent.”

    “This is an added benefit that will hopefully go a long way toward teaching young people how to make sound financial decisions as they get older,” said Wimberly (D-Passaic/Bergen). “The earlier students learn how to handle their money, the better prepared they will be to live independently and responsibly as they get older.”

    “The instruction must include information about debt which helps at an appropriate time when so many students are taking out college loans,” said Quijano (D-Union). “By providing students with a plan for how to handle debt, they will be more prepared for when they graduate college and are faced with significant loan payments.”

    Under the new law, the instruction must include content on budgeting, savings, credit, debt, insurance, investment, and other issues associated with personal financial responsibility as determined by the state board.
    The state board must provide curriculum and sample instructional materials that may be used by school districts to support the implementation of the financial literacy instruction requirement.

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    Holley on the Passing of Longtime Legislator, Friend Jerry Green

    (TRENTON) – Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union) issued the following statement on the recent passing of Union County Assemblyman Jerry Green:
    “Jerry Green is an inspiration for any young man or woman growing up in humble means and wondering what will become of them.

    “He spent his childhood in Roselle and never forgot what is was like to see people struggling to get ahead. In fact, Assemblyman Green, lived a public service-focused life to improve our communities.

    “Jerry was a hard-working man his entire life; he never retired. He never stopped trying to help others get ahead.

    “I will never forget his service to New Jersey, as he was focused on creating better policy and inspiring conversation on the issues that truly matter in our state.

    “I will miss my friend, my mentor and the reason why I am committed to serving others.
    “My sincerest condolences to his wife Wanda Green and family. Thank you for sharing Jerry with all of us for so many years.”

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    Assembly Dems Bill to Ensure Safety of Students Transported on School Buses Heads to Governor

    (TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joseph Lagana, Reed Gusciora, Raj Mukherji, Jamel Holley, Daniel R. Benson, Joe Danielsen, Benjie Wimberly and Joann Downey to prevent individuals who have had their driving privileges suspended or revoked from operating a school bus received final legislative approval Monday and now heads to the governor’s desk.

    “Individuals who’ve had their driving privileges suspended or revoked have no business being on the road, never mind transporting children to school,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Losing your driving privileges is no small infraction. This will keep irresponsible individuals from transporting school children, and ensure the safety of students who depend on school bus transportation.”

    “The road is already a dangerous place. Parents should be assured that the person charged with safely transporting their children to and from school is qualified to do so,” said Gusciora (D-Hunterdon/Mercer). “This ensures that those individuals who knowingly drive a school bus despite not being allowed to drive are punished and are never allowed behind the wheel of a school bus.”

    The bill (A-597) would establish that a person who knowingly operates a school bus transporting one or more students while his or her driving privileges have been suspended or revoked is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. A crime of the fourth degree is ordinarily punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months or a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

    The bill also would establish that a person knowingly operating a school bus while his or her driving privileges have been suspended or revoked who is involved in an accident resulting in bodily injury to another person is guilty of a crime of the third degree. Such a crime ordinarily is punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years or a fine of up to $15,000, or both.

    Under the bill, the Chief Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission would be required to revoke for life the passenger and school bus endorsements on the commercial driver’s license of a person convicted of either offense. Lastly, the bill specifies that a person convicted of either offense is permanently disqualified from employment as a school bus driver.

    “Operating a school bus when your driving privileges have been revoked is incredibly irresponsible. This bill would make it a crime,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Having a clean driving record is imperative to this job. Anyone willing to jeopardize the lives of New Jersey children by lying about their credentials should not only be punished but banned from this line of work.”

    “Losing your driving privileges demonstrates poor judgement. Anyone who has displayed such carelessness cannot and should not be entrusted with the safety of our students,” said Holley (D-Union). “This not only makes it a crime to operate a school bus with a suspended or revoked licensed, but ensures the person at fault is never allowed to operate a school bus ever again.”

    “Parents should be assured that the person transporting their sons and daughters to and from school each day respects the rules of the road,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex), chair of the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee. “A driver who has demonstrated disregard for those rules should not have such an immense responsibility.”

    “Every parent’s worst nightmare is getting a call that their child was in a bus accident and was seriously injured,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex/Somerset), vice-chair of the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee. “Prohibiting those who have had their driving privileges revoked or suspended from driving a school bus is about keeping New Jersey’s kids safe and giving parents some peace of mind.”

    “As a father, like all parents in New Jersey, I expect every possible precaution to be taken in order to protect my children,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “No one who cannot legally drive a car in New Jersey should ever get behind the wheel of a school bus.”

    “Our most valuable, most precious resource in New Jersey is our children,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “A bus driver who has a record of irresponsible driving cannot be put in charge of getting them to and from school.”

    The bill was approved 38-0 today by the Senate, and 72-0 by the Assembly on Sept. 29, 2016.

     

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    Coughlin & Holley Bill to Permit Municipalities to Create, Maintain Emergency Special Needs Registries Becomes Law

    Legislation Would Facilitate Administration of Assistance to Vulnerable Individuals During Emergencies

    (TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Craig Coughlin and Jamel Holley sponsored to advance disaster preparedness by helping ensure that New Jersey’s seniors, people with disabilities and others in need of special assistance receive aid during emergencies was signed into law Monday by the Governor.

    “In an emergency situation, time is of the essence. The faster authorized personnel can find and assist those who need help, the better,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “If they have a directory with the names and addresses of individuals in need of special assistance, municipal police, fire and first aid and rescue units will be better equipped to locate these members of their community quickly, deliver the necessary services and save lives.”

    The bill (A-2741) would authorize municipal governing bodies to pass ordinances requiring the municipal clerk to create and maintain confidential contact lists to help ensure the safety of residents who may require special assistance during an emergency.

    The municipal list would include the name, address and special circumstance of each resident who voluntarily self-identifies as being in need of special assistance in case of an emergency. The clerk would provide copies of the list, which would not be a public record, only to police departments, fire departments and first aid or rescue squads serving the municipality.
    Under current law, counties already are authorized to maintain such registries.

    “A disaster can be catastrophic for everyone in a community, but when it comes to vulnerable individuals – for example, our seniors and those with disabilities or illnesses that may limit mobility – not being to leave the situation or call for help may be particularly tragic,” said Holley (D-Union). “When municipalities know to be on the lookout for these individuals, it can help ensure that no one in the community gets left behind.”

    The measure gained unanimous approval in the Assembly in September and approval by the Senate in December, 36-0.

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    Wimberly, Singleton, Holley, Tucker, Sumter & Quijano Bill to Require Racial and Ethnic Impact Statements in Proposed Legislation Goes to Governor for Signing

    (TRENTON) – The full Assembly voted on Monday to concur with the Governor’s recommendations on legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Benjie Wimberly, Troy Singleton, Jamel Holley, Cleopatra Tucker, Shavonda Sumter and Annette Quijano to encourage lawmakers to consider the impact proposed legislation would have on racial and ethnic minorities. The bill -approved, 64-2-2 — will now return to the Governor for signature.

    “The disparity between the number of minorities in the general population and the number of minorities in the prison population is a civil rights issue that warrants far more attention,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “In a state where black people are 15 percent of the general population but 60 percent of the prison population – a statistic largely due to a failed and misguided war on drugs – we have a responsibility to give closer scrutiny to how the policies the state enacts affect racial and ethnic minorities.”

    The measure (A-3677) would require bills and regulations affecting sentencing to include a racial and ethnic community criminal justice and public impact statement. Similar to fiscal impact statements that summarize how legislation may affect taxpayers and environmental impact statements that summarize how legislation may affect the environment, the racial and ethnic community criminal justice and public impact statements would outline how policies may affect the state’s minority populations. The measure would require racial and ethnic community criminal justice and public impact statements to be prepared for bills, resolutions or amendments that may result in an increase or a decrease in the state’s adult and juvenile pretrial detention, sentencing, probation or parole populations.

    Criminal justice policies, while ostensibly neutral, often adversely affect minority communities, the sponsors noted. The legislation reflects their belief that it would be more judicious to consider the implications of policies in a racial and ethnic context prior to voting than to enact and then work to reverse laws that have a damaging effect on minorities.

    “Given the numerous, lasting effects of mass incarceration – among them the psychological damage done to inmates, the daunting economic challenges they face thereafter due to being shut out of much of the legal economy and the overall splintering of families and communities – New Jersey must consider the long-term consequences of our approach to criminal sentencing,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “Requiring racial and ethnic impact statements would allow policymakers to proactively assess how proposed sentencing initiatives would affect racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system before legislative deliberation or rule adoption.”

    “Racial and ethnic bias – both implicit and explicit – has destroyed communities of color throughout history, and it continues to do so today,” said Holley (D-Union). “In a country where we hold liberty paramount, New Jersey must be more conscientious as we take steps to reform a criminal justice system that perpetuates inequality and makes social mobility difficult for men and women who often already struggle to get by.”

    “If someone doesn’t have personal experience or a constituent base that may be affected to inform his or her thoughts about legislation, that person may not even realize its potential to do harm,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “A racial and ethnic impact statement can offer some perspective regarding how a bill that sounds good in theory may do damage in practice.”

    “Part of the process of reforming the criminal justice system overall is first acknowledging the injustices that exist and then taking active steps toward fairness,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Racial and ethnic impact statements will allow lawmakers in New Jersey to make more informed decisions about legislation.”

    “Certain statutes, like the Rockefeller drug laws, for example, have had multi-generational detrimental effects on communities of color. To avoid repeating these negative outcomes, public policy formation must include assessments of legislation’s potential racial and ethnic impact,” said Quijano (D-Union). “Just like lawmakers discuss the potential fiscal or environmental impact of a bill, they also ought to evaluate measures through a social justice lens.”

    Under the legislation, the Legislative Services Commission would direct the Office of Legislative Services to prepare a racial and ethnic community criminal justice and public impact statement for each proposed criminal justice bill, resolution or amendment that would affect adult and juvenile pretrial detention, sentencing, probation or parole policies prior to any vote being taken in either house of the legislature.

    Prior to adoption, amendment or appeal of any rule, except as may be otherwise provided, the agency will give at least 30 days’ notice of its intended action; distribute a public notice on the agency website, in the register and issue a statement; provide all interested parties an opportunity to submit, orally or written, data, views, comments or arguments; and, lastly, make available to the public these submissions through publication on the agency’s website.

    The measure gained approval 66-3-5 in the Assembly on March 17. The Senate approved the bill with governor’s recommendation, 39-0.

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