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KARABINCHAK, HOLLEY ‘SAFE STOP’ BILL TO EDUCATE DRIVERS ON RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES WHEN STOPPED BY POLICE CLEARS LEGISLATURE, ON GOVERNOR’S DESK

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COUGHLIN, LAMPITT & HOLLEY BILL TO ELIMINATE COST OF SCHOOL MEALS FOR ELIGIBLE STUDENTS, COMBAT CHILD HUNGER HEADS TO GOVERNOR

Measure to Provide Over a Third of All NJ Students Access to Free Meals

Expanding access to free meals for families struggling to afford the cost of reduced-price school meals, a measure requiring the State to cover the cost of reduced price breakfast and lunch for eligible public school students was given final legislative approval after passage in both the full Assembly 71-0-2 and Senate 35-0 on Monday.

The bill (A-5855) is sponsored by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin along with Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt and Jamel Holley.

“It’s critically important that children have access to regular and nutritious meals while at school, but the sad fact is that for many families the financial burden is too great,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “Children who eat breakfast and lunch show improved concentration, greater alertness, stronger comprehension, better memory and advanced learning skills. Under this legislation, all eligible children will be afforded the opportunity to a free healthy and nutritious breakfast and lunch.”

Right now, students from households living under 130% of the federal poverty line, recognized as an annual income of less than $33,475 for a family of four, qualify for free school meals. In four person households where income is between $33,475 and $47,638, families only have access to reduced price meals.

This legislation would appropriate $4.5 million enabling the State to pay the difference between federal allocations for reduced priced breakfasts and lunches and the total cost of these meal programs.

In doing so, the bill expands access to school meals at no cost to roughly 518,910 students. And, according to 2017-2018 enrollment data from the New Jersey Department of Education, that equates to just over one third of all New Jersey school children becoming eligible for free meals under this measure.

“Food insecurity is an issue facing families in too many communities throughout our state,” said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “This bill would have a tremendous impact in expanding access to school meals ensuring children aren’t going hungry during the school day and empowering them to be more engaged learners. It also lifts the burden on school districts facing meal debts, who could be allocating their financial resources to provide student services in other critical areas.”

Under the legislation, the Department of Agriculture would be directed to adopt regulations for the scheduling and management of reimbursements to school districts.

“One in every eight children in New Jersey don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said Holley (D-Union). “That fact is startling. By expanding access to free meals in school, we can lessen the burden of hunger and powerfully alter a child’s potential for success allowing them to lead healthy, happy lives.”

The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.

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BURZICHELLI, HOLLEY & CALABRESE BILL ALLOWING STATE LOTTERY WINNERS TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS GETS FINAL LEGISLATIVE APPROVAL

To protect the safety of lucky New Jerseyans who win the lottery, Assembly Democrats John Burzichelli, Jamel Holley and Clinton Calabrese sponsored legislation allowing for winners of the State Lottery to remain anonymous. The bill received final legislative approval 74-1 in the full Assembly on Monday.

“While winning the lottery is a dream come true for those lucky individuals who are able to call themselves winners, they are sometimes harassed, both verbally and physically, by family members, friends, acquaintances and others as a result of their newfound wealth and fame,” said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem). “In some cases, lottery prizes have resulted in winners being robbed and even killed, such as in places like Chicago, Georgia and West Virginia, to name a few. If a lottery winner wishes to remain anonymous, they should have the right to not have their information publicly distributed.”

The bill (A-3616) directs the State Lottery Commission to allow lottery winners in New Jersey to remain anonymous indefinitely.

“With lottery winners being very susceptible targets of crime, from blackmail to kidnapping or worse, it only makes sense to enact legislation that challenges the status quo to better safeguard their anonymity,” said Holley (D-Union). “New Jersey lottery winners should be able to enjoy their winnings without the bombardment of press and other prying eyes that naturally follow when their identity is revealed.”

Current regulations provide that the State Lottery may use names, addresses, prize amount and photographs of winners, but the addresses listed do not include a street or house number. Additionally, under current law, a winner’s name, town and country are available through a formal request under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

This bill would also provide an exemption from such OPRA disclosure.

“We’re living in an age where virtually anything is searchable on the internet,” said Calabrese (D-Bergen, Passaic). “With this mass proliferation of information comes an extreme vulnerability for personal information to be out there and readily available for anyone to see. Making sure lottery winners can remain anonymous is fundamentally necessary to protect New Jersey residents and their privacy.”

There is precedent for a bill such as this one, with states like Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas providing at least some anonymity for lottery winners, while winners in Colorado, Connecticut and Vermont can bypass having their names released by claiming winnings through a trust or a limited liability company.

The bill was approved 39-0 in the Senate on January 9, 2020 and now heads to the Governor’s desk.

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Holley whipping against vaccine bill

Assemblyman Jamel Holley is whipping votes against an amended version of a bill eliminating religious exemptions for vaccinations due for a vote in the legislature’s lower chamber on Monday.

The Assembly passed the original version of the bill 45-25 with six abstentions last month. The new version creates a carveout for private schools and daycares, though it requires those institutions report the number of enrolled children who inoculated.

“With these new amendments, I can guarantee that a majority, if not all of the African American Members of the Assembly will not be voting in support of this bill that discriminates based on wealth, address and ability to afford private education,” Holley said. “I’m working the phones, and we have gained traction to defeat the bill.”

Holley voted against the original bill, though 10 of the chamber’s black lawmakers voted in its favor. Two of those legislators, Assemblyman Herb Conaway and Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, are sponsoring the bill.

Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake abstained, and Assemblymen Benjie Wimberly and Gordon Johnson did not vote on the measure.

The new version is a result of negotiations with Republican State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, whose vote is needed to pass the bill in the legislature’s upper chamber, where defections from five Democratic senators stalled the bill last month.

Even with O’Scanlon, the measure’s fate is far from guaranteed in the Senate, as the watering down the bill could push more Democrats to vote no.

The amendments could have a similar effect in the Assembly.

“Senator O’Scanlon’s vaccine amendments cuts into the fiber of all we have accomplished,” Holley said. “To suggest that we begin to segregate our students is an abomination of what every righteous leader should be standing up against.”

 

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KARABINCHAK, HOLLEY ‘SAFE STOP’ BILL TO EDUCATE DRIVERS ON RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES WHEN STOPPED BY POLICE CLEAR ASSEMBLY PANEL

Many new drivers are unaware of their rights and proper protocol when being pulled over by a police officer. To help educate residents to that extent, a bill encouraged by national dialogue on incidents occurring during routine law enforcement stops advanced in the Assembly Thursday.

“Teaching drivers their rights as wells as how to safely interact with police during a stop must be a part of the driver curriculum. Surprisingly, the New Jersey Driver’s Manual currently does not include any language referencing what to do if stopped for a traffic violation,” said Karabinchak (D-Middlesex). “We are a diverse state comprised of many cultural backgrounds. Many new drivers may have their own perceptions of the police and do not know what a police stop entails. This bill aims to correct that discrepancy with a visual aid and tutorial of a standard police stop. An equally prepared driver and officer will make for more ‘safe stops’.”

The legislation — sponsored by Assembly Democrats Robert Karabinchak and Jamel Holley—would require a potential driver to watch a video, created by the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) and the Attorney General, before they take a written examination for a validated permit.  The video will explain the rights and responsibilities of a driver stopped by a law enforcement officer.

“Over the years, police-involved shootings of unarmed people of color has made national news time and time again. These particular incidents have fueled conversations on how we can better prepare our communities for interactions with police,” said Holley (D-Union). “The one way we can, in conjunction with the policies many police departments have already put into place, is to help drivers understand their rights and what to expect as the driver of the vehicle if they are ever pulled over. At the end of the day, we want to make sure the members of our community and our police officers get home safely.”

The bill also requires the MVC to expand the written examination to include a question, developed in conjunction with the Attorney General, testing the applicant’s knowledge of the rights and responsibilities of a driver stopped by a law enforcement officer.

The measure approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee and will now be considered to be posted for a floor vote.

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NOW LAW: SUMTER, TUCKER, HOLLEY & TIMBERLAKE BILL TO REPEAL VOTING PROHIBITION FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH CONVICTIONS

Asserting the right to vote as both fundamental and critical to democracy, a bill restoring voting rights to individuals on parole or probation was signed into law by the Governor on Wednesday. The legislation is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Shavonda Sumter, Cleopatra Tucker, Jamel Holley and Britnee Timberlake.

The law removes the prohibition on voting by persons on parole and/or probation convicted for an indictable offense under any federal or state laws, which in New Jersey are offenses for crimes of the first through fourth degree.

“New Jersey will now lead the nation as a model of racial justice and inclusive democracy,” said Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). “The privilege to participate in the election process is a constitutional right afforded every American regardless of background, race or status. Every person of voting age should have the ability to cast their ballot without interference and without judgement of their personal history.”

States across the country have sought to ease voting restrictions on people with criminal convictions in recent decades. Under this law, New Jersey will provide for automatic restoration of voting rights upon release, where it previously provided for automatic restoration only after the completion of a sentence including periods of parole and probation.

“Voting is an opportunity for all residents to have their say in who leads their communities and state,” said Tucker (D-Essex).  “No one population should be disproportionately denied their right to vote. These are outdated laws that have no place in a modern democracy.”

Under Article II, Section I, paragraph 7, the New Jersey Constitution authorizes the Legislature to disqualify certain persons from the right to vote in primary, municipal, special or general elections. This law eliminates the voting disqualification levied against the roughly 79,000 people on either probation and/or parole in New Jersey.

“Withholding the right to vote from people who have served their time while incarcerated, and who have paid their dues, sends the wrong message,” said Holley (D-Union). “We need to successfully reintegrate individuals into their respective communities and that requires reinstating rights to participate in the political process as soon as they step foot outside of the horrors of the incarcerated walls.”

“The story of mass incarceration and disproportionate disenfranchisement in America can no longer be the narrative for New Jersey,” said Timberlake (D-Essex, Passaic). “People with criminal records face enough trials post-incarceration in searching for employment, paying down debt and reconnecting with their families. Ending the prohibition on voting for probationers and parolees gives them a chance to move forward, to have their voices heard.”

The law, accordingly, also repeals statutory provisions that permit a person to challenge a voter’s right to vote in an election on grounds that the voter is disenfranchised due to a criminal conviction (N.J.S.A.19:15-19); require the commissioner of registration in each county to compare voter registration records with criminal conviction records to prevent disenfranchised persons from voting and registering to vote (N.J.S.A.19:13-17): and criminalize the act of voting while disenfranchised (N.J.S.A.19:34-4).

The law will take effect 90 days from its enactment.

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Holley, Quijano, McKnight, Wimberly & Reynolds-Jackson Bill Enabling Residents to Clear Certain Convictions Through Easier Expungement Process Signed into law

Legislation (A-5981) that would revise expungement eligibility and procedures, including a new “clean slate” automated process to render convictions and related records inaccessible; create an e-filing system for expungements; and eliminate expungement filing fees for affected residents was signed into law by the Governor Wednesday.

Sponsors, Assembly Democrats Jamel Holley, Annette Quijano, Angela McKnight, Benjie Wimberly and Verlina Reynolds Jackson issued the following statements:

Holley (D-Union): “This is a fight for social justice –for the many residents who need a clean slate. This new law forges a path to real justice for over 2,000 eligible citizens and opens the doors to them for economic opportunity and a second chance. By shifting from the current system to one that is automated and carries a lesser financial burden, we can help more people gain employment and seize the opportunities life presents them.”

             Quijano (D-Union): “Taking New Jersey’s expungement process from antiquated and onerous to one that can actually be navigated by a resident with success is major step toward justice for all. This move will make it possible for thousands of residents now and in the future to truly be able to turn the corner and not have long forgotten mistakes marking them like a ‘scarlet letter’ for the rest of their lives. After meeting all of their obligations, the ability to expunge these incidents from their record mean the difference in the type of job they can apply for and how much money they can make for their families. Most importantly, it will allow people to simply move on.”

            McKnight (D-Hudson): “Making it possible for residents to clear their record and clean the slate will create 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): “Changing the expungement system 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.”

            Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon): “A more advanced and manageable expungement process will bring us a step closer to social equity and social justice for offenders who have not committed a law violation in years. Removing barriers to work opportunities and housing will help to raise the status of many African American and Latino American residents, providing them with the ability to move up in the workplace and climb the economic ladder. We needed to get this done for all of those who have been held back because of their record.”

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Holley claims Murphy playing politics on voting rights bill signing

Assemblyman Jamel Holley claimed Gov. Phil Murphy excluded him from a bill signing for a measure restoring voting rights to persons on probation or parole.

“They invited me to get a pen, but all the other main sponsors are a part of the program. He excluded me specifically,” Holley said. “I think what it is is that I’ve been very vocal against him and Ras regarding the water in Newark, and I think this is my sort of retribution, payback, whatever you want to call it. But at the end of the day, it’s disrespectful.”

In October, Holley attacked Murphy and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka over their plan to remediate lead water lines in Newark, and he’s previously criticized Murphy for what he said was a slow-moving response on a bill allowing people expunge marijuana offenses from their criminal records.

That bill will also be signed tomorrow.

Murphy’s office denied playing politics, saying they had to limit the number of speakers because of time constraints.

“The reality is this: We can’t have every sponsor speak at these events,” Murphy spokesman Dan Bryan said. “That’s never how it’s been, and we’re hoping that the event is about all those that are being helped by the legislation that’s being signed.”

Holley is one of the measure’s six primary sponsors. He is the first prime sponsor on the expungement bill and the only first prime not offered a speaking role at the bill signing.

The incident is another in a series of spats between top Trenton Democrats and members of the Legislative Black Caucus.

State Sen. Ronald Rice, who in October claimed Murphy and other legislative leaders patronized black lawmakers, was invited to speak at the bill signing in Newark Wednesday morning but is declining to appear over Holley’s exclusion.

“I know that we’re not perfect and we don’t treat other people the right way sometimes also, but I’m chairman of the caucus, and I stand by my members,” Rice said.

Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter lost her post as majority conference leader after splitting with Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin on a number of key issues, including a millionaire’s tax backed by Murphy.

It remains to be seen whether the incidents lead to a greater split within the party, but this tiff won’t do much to ingratiate Murphy to the legislature’s non-white members.

“The petty politics the front office has displayed by excluding me from the program as a Primary sponsor of these great achievements is yet another example of how this Governor treats the black leadership of this state,” Holley said. “He will now parade around this state as if he is truly a social justice Governor when in fact he is not.  Let me clear, this Governor did not produce one vote in the Assembly or Senate, nor was he directly involved in assisting leadership to get this through. “
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COUGHLIN, LAMPITT & HOLLEY BILL TO ELIMINATE COST OF SCHOOL MEALS FOR ELIGIBLE STUDENTS, COMBAT CHILD HUNGER ADVANCED BY COMMITTEE

Measure to Provide Over a Third of All NJ Students Access to Free Meals

Expanding access to free meals for families struggling to afford the cost of reduced-price school meals, a measure requiring the State to cover the cost of reduced price breakfast and lunch for eligible public school students was advanced by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

The bill (A-5855) is sponsored by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin along with Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt and Jamel Holley.

“It’s critically important that children have access to regular and nutritious meals while at school, but the sad fact is that for many families the financial burden is too great,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “Children who eat breakfast and lunch show improved concentration, greater alertness, stronger comprehension, better memory and advanced learning skills. Under this legislation, all eligible children will be afforded the opportunity to a free healthy and nutritious breakfast and lunch.”

Right now, students from households living under 130% of the federal poverty line, recognized as an annual income of less than $33,475 for a family of four, qualify for free school meals. In four person households where income is between $33,475 and $47,638, families only have access to reduced price meals.

This legislation would appropriate $4.5 million enabling the State to pay the difference between federal allocations for reduced priced breakfasts and lunches and the total cost of these meal programs.

In doing so, the bill expands access to school meals at no cost to roughly 518,910 students. And, according to 2017-2018 enrollment data from the New Jersey Department of Education, that equates to just over one third of all New Jersey school children becoming eligible for free meals under this measure.

“Food insecurity is an issue facing families in too many communities throughout our state,” said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “This bill would have a tremendous impact in expanding access to school meals ensuring children aren’t going hungry during the school day and empowering them to be more engaged learners. It also lifts the burden on school districts facing meal debts, who could be allocating their financial resources to provide student services in other critical areas.”

Under the legislation, the Department of Agriculture would be directed to adopt regulations for the scheduling and management of reimbursements to school districts.

“One in every eight children in New Jersey don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said Holley (D-Union). “That fact is startling. By expanding access to free meals in school, we can lessen the burden of hunger and powerfully alter a child’s potential for success allowing them to lead healthy, happy lives.”

The bill’s Senate counterpart, sponsored by Senators M. Teresa Ruiz and Shirley Turner, was advanced by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on December 5, 2019.

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

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HOLLEY, QUIJANO, MCKNIGHT, WIMBERLY & REYNOLDS-JACKSON BILL ENABLING RESIDENTS TO CLEAR CERTAIN CONVICTIONS THROUGH EASIER EXPUNGEMENT PROCESS CLEARS COMMITTEE

On legislation (A-5981) that would revise expungement eligibility and procedures, including a new “clean slate” automated process to render convictions and related records inaccessible; create an e-filing system for expungements; and eliminate expungement filing fees for affected residents was approved Thursday by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Sponsors, Assembly Democrats Jamel Holley, Annette Quijano, Angela McKnight, Benjie Wimberly and Verlina Reynolds Jackson issued the following statements on its passage:

Holley (D-Union): “This is a fight for social justice –for the many residents who need a clean slate. This legislation forges a path to real justice for over 2,000 eligible citizens and opens the doors to them for economic opportunity and a second chance. By shifting from the current system to one that is automated and carries a lesser financial burden, we can help more people gain employment and seize the opportunities life presents them.”

          Quijano (D-Union): “Taking New Jersey’s expungement process from antiquated and onerous to one that can actually be navigated by a resident with success is major step toward justice for all. This move will make it possible for thousands of residents now and in the future to truly be able to turn the corner and not have long forgotten mistakes marking them like a ‘scarlet letter’ for the rest of their lives. After meeting all of their obligations, the ability to expunge these incidents from their record mean the difference in the type of job they can apply for and how much money they can make for their families. Most importantly, it will allow people to simply move on.”

            McKnight (D-Hudson): “Making it possible for residents to clear their record and clean the slate will create 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): “Changing the expungement system 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.”

          Reynolds-Jackson (D- Mercer, Hunterdon): “A more advanced and manageable expungement process will bring us a step closer to social equity and social justice for offenders who have not committed a law violation in years. Removing barriers to work opportunities and housing will help to raise the status of many African American and Latino American residents, providing them with the ability to move up in the workplace and climb the economic ladder. It’s time we get this done for all of those who have been held back because of their record.”

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