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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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Vainieri Huttle, Holley, Mukherji Bill to Help Protect State Government from Ransomware Cyber Attacks Clears Assembly Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Assemblymen Jamel Holley (D-Union) and Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson) to help protect state government computer systems against ransomware cyber-attacks was approved Thursday by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee.

Cybersecurity is a growing concern for state government and the private sector. Ransomware is a type of malware that gets into people’s computers, often because they click on a link or open an attachment in an email, which causes the encryption of files or otherwise locks users out until they pay for the key.

In 2016, the town of Plainfield, NJ had its computer system taken hostage. The hijacker demanded a ransom after an employee clicked an infected link. City officials scrambled to pull the computer servers offline, but three were compromised, leaving emails and other city files inaccessible. The hijacker demanded roughly 650 euro to be paid through bitcoin.

“These attacks have enormous implications for government security, economic prosperity, and public safety,” said Vainieri Huttle, who chairs the committee. “A simple click on the wrong link can jeopardize the state’s computer networks and put sensitive information at risk.”

The bill (A-3922) would require state employees to receive training regarding using best safety practices while utilizing state computers.

“Ransomware attacks are a serious problem that must be addressed,” said Holley. “In 2015, the FBI received over 2,400 complaints and victims lost over $24 million. We need to train our State employees in best practices when using State computers if we’re going to stem the tide of this menace.”

The bill would require the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell (NJCCIC) in the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, to establish the cybersecurity training program for all state employees in the executive and legislative branch of government who have access to a state computer. The bill would require the Director of the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness to adopt guidelines to implement the program.

The training should include a review of best practices for using state computers including updating passwords; detecting phishing scams; preventing ransomware, spyware infections, and identity theft; and preventing and responding to data breaches.

The NJCCIC provides cybersecurity information sharing, threat analysis, and incident reporting. Located at the Regional Operations Intelligence Center (ROIC), the NJCCIC promotes statewide awareness of local cyber threats and widespread adoption of best practices.

“Many businesses and local governments targeted by hackers have had no option but to pay the ransom demands. We don’t ever want to find ourselves in that position,” said Mukherji. “This training will provide state employees with best practices so they don’t inadvertently leave our computers systems vulnerable to these types of attacks.”

The bill now goes to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.

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Mukherji & Holley Bill to Allow Electric Bicycles on NJ Roadways Signed into Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji and Jamel Holley to permit operation of low-speed electric bicycles on New Jersey roads is now law.

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 new law (formerly 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 law now 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.”

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Lopez, Holley & Kennedy Bill Creating “Anti-Hunger Link” on State Executive Department Websites Signed by the Governor

In an effort to make emergency food programs easily accessible to New Jersey residents, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Yvonne Lopez, Jamel Holley and James Kennedy establishing an “Anti-Hunger Link” on the official website of every state executive department was signed into law today by the Governor.

The new law (formerly bill A-4703) requires the link to direct website users to a dedicated internet page that lists all of the emergency food programs in the state, including but not limited to: emergency meal providers, food pantries, soup kitchens, child and senior feeding programs, and faith-based anti-hunger initiatives along with several other food programs.

“1 million New Jersey residents go to bed hungry,” said Lopez (D-Middlesex). “Many of whom do not have the means or are simply unaware of the various programs, food providers and anti-hunger initiatives our state has to offer. By adding an ‘Anti-Hunger Link’ to multiple state websites, we hope to raise awareness and reach those in need of food assistance in an effort to create a completely hunger-free state.”

Under the new law, the Chief Technology Officer of the Office of Information Technology, in consultation with the Commissioner of Human Services and the Secretary of Agriculture, a nonprofit organization may maintain and update the “Anti-Hunger Link” and emergency food program website.

“With the way some of our state websites are currently laid out, it could be difficult for users to navigate and register for food insecurity programs,” said Holley (D-Union). “By making this link a prominent, relevant feature on our websites, it will limit the challenges and sometimes even stresses that many hungry residents experience when trying to learn more about and apply for food programs.”

“The goal is to significantly decrease the time and energy our residents spend in order to access food,” said Kennedy (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “With just one click on a website, those who are in need will be taken to a list of food programs along with ample information to either gain access to food or apply for various programs.”

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Downey, Johnson & Holley Measure Designating Annual “Food Waste Prevention Day” Signed into Law

Working to raise awareness for food waste prevention, a measure (formerly AJR-172) sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joann Downey, Gordon Johnson and Jamel Holley to designate Thursday of the third week in September as “Food Waste Prevention Day” was signed into law Thursday by Governor Phil Murphy.

The law’s sponsors released the following statements:

Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Monmouth): “Each year in the United States, approximately 160 billion pounds of food end up as food waste, while about 12 percent of households lack consistent access to adequate food. This is unacceptable. By dedicating a day to our country’s food waste epidemic and educating the public on this critical issue, we can reduce the financial, environmental and social impacts of food waste, and make sure that good food ends up with people who need it rather than in the trash.”

Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen): “Many businesses are wary of donating their excess food due to the threat of liability for food related injuries or death. While we have both federal and state laws absolving those who donate food in good faith to nonprofit organizations from civil and criminal liability, many businesses and individuals are unaware of this. By creating Food Waste Prevention Day, we can expand awareness of laws and programs that help get food in the hands and stomachs of those who need it most. Our goal is to reduce our food waste by 50 percent by 2030, and this law will assist us in achieving this goal.”

Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union): “There is no reason why the United States wastes up to 40 percent of the food we produce while there are millions of hungry people all across the country and hundreds of thousands right here in our state alone. We must increase awareness of the sheer amount of good food that ends up in landfills, and I have no doubt that this will cause many of our businesses and residents to reconsider throwing out food unnecessarily. The goal of Food Waste Prevention Day is to bring light to a solvable issue which negatively impacts our environment, finances, and most importantly, our hungry residents.”

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Jasey, Holley & Mazzeo Measure to Ensure Continuation of Mediation Program to Combat NJ’s Ongoing Foreclosure Crisis Becomes Law

New Jersey has had Highest Rate of Foreclosures in the Country Over the Last Several Years

Working to reduce the staggering number of foreclosures in New Jersey and help homeowners keep their homes, a measure to codify the state’s Foreclosure Mediation Program was signed into law Monday. Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, Assemblyman Jamel Holley and Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo are sponsors of the law.

For the last several years, New Jersey has had the highest rate of foreclosures in the country. The Foreclosure Mediation Program was established in 2009 by the New Jersey Judiciary system in response to an alarming increase in residential foreclosures.

“Foreclosures not only affect homeowners, but neighborhoods and the state as a whole,” said Jasey (D-Essex, Morris). “For far too long, we have led the country in foreclosures. The mediation services provided by this program can help homeowners avoid foreclosure and reinvigorate our housing market by reducing our dismal foreclosure rates. It is essential that we keep these services going.”

The law (A-664) requires that, at the time the homeowner receives a notice of intention to foreclose, a homeowner must receive written notice of the option to participate in the Foreclosure Mediation Program. Upon the filing of a mortgage foreclosure complaint against an eligible property, the homeowner must again receive written notice of the option to participate in the Foreclosure Mediation Program. The written notice must be available in both English and Spanish.

The law also authorizes eligible homeowners to submit a mediation request in accordance with court rules, which will then initiate the process of scheduling a mediation session with their lender. Along with the mediation request, the homeowner will be required to submit a certification document, signed by a foreclosure prevention and default mitigation counselor, to verify that this professional is providing the homeowner with counseling.

“No homeowner wants to lose their home,” said Holley (D-Union). “Making this program a permanent fixture will ensure that homeowners facing foreclosure will always have an alternative. It will also help chip away at the foreclosure crisis that has loomed over the state for too long.”

“Foreclosed properties can sit vacant for extended periods of time, which can affect property values of nearby homes,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “We should give homeowners who are struggling the opportunity to keep their homes and avoid the ripple effects of foreclosures on neighborhoods.”

The law also creates a dedicated, non-lapsing fund within the General Fund to be known as the “Foreclosure Mediation Fund.” The fund will be comprised of $60 out of each $155 payment added to every foreclosure complaint filing fee, along with all fines imposed on lenders for noncompliance with obligations of the mediation program.

The law was introduced January 9, 2018. It will take effect November 1.

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Quijano, Holley, Timberlake & McKnight: We Remain Committed to Adult-Use Cannabis Bill

(TRENTON) – Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano (D-Union), Jamel Holley (D-Union), Britnee Timberlake (D-Essex) and Angela McKnight (D-Hudson) released the following statement today regarding the future of their legislation (A-4497) that would legalize adult-use cannabis in New Jersey:

“We remain committed to enacting fair and responsible legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis in New Jersey. We have listened to the will of the majority of New Jerseyans and taken a common-sense approach to regulation of cannabis. We’ve placed the necessary focus on expungement for cannabis offenses within this bill and created a new, more expedited process for residents to request expungement.

“Undoubtedly, this is the largest regulatory undertaking the state has considered since the casino commission. We are proud of what we have accomplished with this legislation. 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.

“Our work is not done. We will continue to work with Speaker Coughlin, our colleagues and advocates to pass a bill that will be a model for the nation.”

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Holley, McKnight & Wimberly on Future of Expungement Legislation

(TRENTON) – Assembly Democrats Jamel Holley (D-Union), Angela McKnight (D-Hudson) and Benjie Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic) issued the following statement today regarding the future of their expungement legislation (A-4498):

“An opportunity for a clean slate for someone who has committed minor offenses is the best thing we can do to enable them to seize the opportunities life presents them.

“I remain firmly committed to moving this bill alongside legislation concerning the legalization of adult-use cannabis. It is critically important to correct the wrongs of the past as we now look forward to the future of adult-use cannabis in New Jersey.

“Expanding definitions and creating a process for residents to clear their name and their record has to be a part of, a critical part of, cannabis regulation.”

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