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Ricky Stephens

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  • Kennedy, Holley & Zwicker Bill to Aid 9/11 First Responders Signed Into Law – New Jersey Assembly Democrats

    Legislation to assist first responders who voluntarily participated in 9/11 rescue and recovery efforts was signed into law Monday by Governor Phil Murphy.

    The new law, sponsored by Assemblymen James Kennedy, Jamel Holley and Andrew Zwicker, expands 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.

    “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 law (A-4882) provides 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 law also provides 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 is 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 delineates 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 law 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 law was approved in June by the full Assembly, 76-0, and the full Senate, 37-0.

  • Holley statement of legalization of marijuana

    Holley statement of legalization of marijuana


    “The New Jersey Legislature has delivered the most progressive legislation in the nation regarding marijuana legalization, incorporating critical components of social justice and social equity that communities of color and others have been demanding for years.

    “This is a defining moment in the history of our state, as we finally put an end to a failed ‘War on Drugs’ that has shattered the lives of many, forced into lengthy, senseless incarceration. Families have been destroyed; neighborhoods have suffered for generations.”

    “Today, we begin to rebuild. This legislation serves as an opportunity to welcome many back into our community through expungements and the adjudication of minor drug offenses. I applaud my colleagues and Gov. Phil Murphy, who I know will quickly sign this bill for the sake of so many residents of this state.”

  • Assembly Committee Passes Quijano, Holley, Timberlake, McKnight, Danielsen & Wimberly, Bill Guiding Regulation of Adult-Use Cannabis in New Jersey

    Legislation to Provide for Infrastructure Regulation of Recreational Cannabis Use Acted on After NJ Voters Overwhelmingly Approved Legalization Ballot Question Nov. 3

    On November 3, New Jersey voters approved a ballot question, by roughly 67 percent, which asked to amend the State constitution to provide for the legalization of adult-use cannabis in New Jersey. Moving forward on the discussion of the over 200-page legislation to provide the infrastructure for cannabis regulation, the Assembly Federal Relations, and Oversight Reform Committee on Monday held a hearing and voted to advance A-21 that aims to set new, unprecedented guidelines in the state for the possession, personal use, and sale of cannabis.

    The bill’s sponsors, Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Jamel Holley, Britnee N. Timberlake, Angela McKnight, Joseph Danielsen, and Benjie Wimberly issued the following statements on its advancement in the Legislature:

    “This is the first step toward the long-overdue need to end cannabis prohibition,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union). “So much time, effort, and thought have gone into this bill and although it is not perfect, today is the first conversation for what I believe will produce a stronger piece of legislation with a focused eye toward social justice and equity. Once the legislation is enacted, it will be the beginning of a new era of economic opportunity, social justice for marijuana possession, and hope for a better future for thousands of New Jersey residents.”

    “With legalization comes an unprecedented opportunity for residents to clean the slate with expungement provisions and for communities to grow their economic base with businesses,” said Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union). “A key component of cannabis legalization is addressing social justice concerns. The fact that Black New Jerseyans are 3 or 4 times more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges has contributed to the disenfranchisement of black communities. We have the opportunity here to also right the wrongs in our society in regards to past criminal possession of cannabis. No matter where you stand in the legalized marijuana debate, there has been a clear understanding that minorities within our urban communities have been hit hardest in the so-called War on Drugs. During this entire campaign for legalization, there has been one united vocal stance: There was harm done in the past and it must be corrected.”

    “Today is a great day in New Jersey as we begin this discussion. This legislation includes real, enterprising opportunities for New Jersey communities that have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition, along with more defined employment opportunities and a commission that requires diversity,” said Assemblywoman Timberlake (D-Essex). “This will be a clear revenue generator for the State, and the social justice and diversity portion in the legislation remains imperative.”

    “Undoubtedly, this is the largest regulatory undertaking the state has considered since the Casino Control Commission,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Hudson). “Remaining at status quo meant continued disparity in arrests for African Americans and teens for amounts now to be considered personal use.  We are moving the state in a direction more compassionate for cannabis and in line with what is happening across the country in regards to legalization. Most importantly, NJ voters want it.”

    “This legislation has been a long time coming in our State. My committee is proud to have initiated the conversation on this issue important to our communities and mandated by New Jersey voters, “ said Assemblyman Danielsen (D-Somerset, Middlesex, who chairs the Assembly Federal Relations and Oversight Reform Committee led the discussion on the bill in today’s hearing. “Nearly 50 witnesses testified today in committee. Their input was welcomed and, as we move forward to get this bill to where it must be to help all communities, we will continue to listen and incorporate ideas. Social justice for black and brown communities, which have been generationally impacted by cannabis prohibition, and equity in business are priorities in this legislation. We cannot fairly, or effectively provide regulation without ensuring these communities stay at the forefront of the conversation.”

    “New Jersey voters on November 3rd issued the Legislature a mandate: to provide the infrastructure for the legalization of cannabis in New Jersey. Today, we have acted on that directive by presenting legislation for discussion with fellow legislation and statewide stakeholders,” said Assemblyman Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “The War on Drugs in many ways became a war on particular communities, incarcerating millions of black and brown people and affecting families irreparably for decades. This legislation also aims to correct the economic and social justice disparities surrounding cannabis use. This hearing marks the first step toward a greater goal.”


    A full copy of the legislation can be found here. Here are several key points of the bill:

    • Personal Rights – Legalizing the consumption, transportation, and possession of cannabis for personal use by persons age 21 and older of up to one ounce. Public consumption would remain unlawful.
    • Encourages Safer Communities, Lessens Impact of the Black Market, Dealers- Specific provisions are included in the bill for sale, purchase, deterring products from getting into the hands of young people, and on operations and sanitation that will keep residents informed of the contents of the product.
    • Reduces burden on the court system- The state would significantly reduce the cost that is approximately $127 million per year to enforce current marijuana possession offenses.
    • Creates Jobs, Economic Driver- Legalization and authorizing the taxation of cannabis sales would generate hundreds of millions of dollars to reinvest in New Jersey communities creating jobs for New Jersey residents.
    • Opens the job market to more residents- By setting providing expungement relief and providing a clean slate for residents with minor cannabis offenses, they can qualify for more jobs that offer stable employment with competitive salaries.
    • Promotes Social Equity- Creating an Office of Minority, Disabled Veterans, and Women Business Development to promote diversity in the marketplace ensuring women, minorities, and NJ veterans a seat at the table.
    • Impact Zones – Impact Zones are select priority municipalities for the Cannabis Regulatory Commission to issue licenses to residents in the Zones. There is established a 25% set-aside for applicants residing in these zones which were established based on four criteria: population size; marijuana arrests; crime index; and rate of unemployment.


  • New Jersey Lawmaker Calls for Immediate Suspension of All Minor Marijuana Arrests

    New Jersey Lawmaker Calls for Immediate Suspension of All Minor Marijuana Arrests

    Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20th Dist.) is calling for a suspension of all marijuana arrests for petty possession as the state is expected to pass a ballot question legalizing recreational marijuana. Credits: TAPinto File Photo

    ELIZABETH, NJ – With strong statewide expectation that voters will approve a ballot question tonight that legalizes recreational marijuana, Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20th Dist.) is calling today for a suspension of all marijuana arrests for petty possession.

    Moreover, Holley said, all current cases for marijuana possession should be dismissed in municipal courts, freeing up any backlog in cases. One particular case, he noted, is taking place in Beach Haven, where the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office has argued favorably before an appellate court to reinstate dismissed municipal court charges against two college students arrested for smoking pot in the beach last August.

    “It is more obvious than ever that New Jerseyans want our lawmakers to focus on serious crimes that affect the safety and welfare of the people,” Holley said. “As we will quickly see at the ballot box, there is no patience anymore for prosecuting people caught smoking and possessing marijuana. It will be a legal, regulated recreational drug, similar to a glass of wine. There is no longer a need for our courts to deal with such petty offenses.”


    Holley said legislation needs to be quickly drafted and approved that will modify the state’s marijuana laws, with the expectation of tonight’s vote. While the legislative process can take weeks to move from introduction to being finalized, it is important that local law enforcement recognize the mandate of voters and refrain from charges, all of which will likely be dismissed.

    Moreover, Holley is calling for the passage of swift legislation – of which he would sponsor – that will jumpstart the cannabis industry while making it easier for New Jersey-based residents to own and operate a cannabis business.

    Holley said it is vital that this industry benefit the “mom and pops” in towns across the state, as opposed to large, out-of-state conglomerates who will profit from the business, yet give proportionately little back to the state. He points to a recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll, which reports that 64% of New Jerseyans would support a marijuana dispensary in their town.

    Holley anticipates a full roll-out of thousands of dispensaries in the state, with tax benefits and other incentives offered to minority, veteran and women owners.  That would be compared with the current number of 2,774 pharmacies, 1,800 liquor stores and 7,500 bars/restaurants in the state.

    According to cannabis industry leaders, New Jersey has the potential to create a cannabis industry that will generate an annual $6 billion economic impact (direct sales, taxes, ancillary market, and multiplier effect) on an economy in desperate need of jobs and the businesses that creates them.


    “We need to focus on how responsibly and quickly we can grow the cannabis industry and the potential annual economic impact it can bring New Jersey,” Holley said. “Considering that voters will be approving legalization, and considering we are living through an economic crisis of historic proportions, it is in the best of interests of New Jersey residents to create a large, responsible, robust, and inclusive industry as quickly as possible.”

    It all begins, the assemblyman said, by ordering law enforcement officials to stop arresting residents for marijuana possession, and clearing the courts of such cases.

  • Wimberly, Johnson & Holley Bill to Ensure Diversity Among NJ Law Enforcement Now Law

    To ensure law enforcement agencies reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, legislation requiring all law enforcement agencies in New Jersey to establish minority recruitment and selection programs was signed into law on Monday.

    The law (formerly bill A-2394) will further require annual reporting on recruitment, retention and promotion of officers providing information specific to age, gender, race and ethnicity. This information will be published in a yearly report and made available online by the Attorney General.

    Sponsors of the bill, Assembly Democrats Benjie E. Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic), Gordon M. Johnson (D-Bergen) and Jamel C. Holley (D-Union), issued the following joint statement:

    “The Black community in America is in pain and reeling in the wake of senseless police-perpetrated violence. A breakdown of trust between communities of color and police in America is evident.

    “We must start with being intentional about the way our law enforcement agencies mirror the evolving racial diversity of the communities they protect and serve. Being more deliberate in hiring minorities will make our police departments more inclusive and ultimately translate into better relationships with communities.

    “It all comes down to breaking cycles of bias. In building the mechanisms to tackle underrepresentation and keep agencies accountable to greater diversity, we have an opportunity to do just that.”

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