Jamel Holley is a Democrat representing New Jersey’s 20th Legislative District. He’s been an outspoken leader for his constituents since his term started in 2015. Although we don’t agree on every issue, Jamel is a thoughtful, smart and effective voice who can look at issues beyond partisan politics and cut to the core issue of how something is impacting people.
He was a champion as Newark struggled through the lead water crisis and now he’s got your back again fighting for transparency as the government pushes for contact-tracing. Jamel stands with us on pushing back against this infringement on privacy and liberty. He’s unafraid to oppose the leaders in his own party when it comes to standing up for his constituents. He understands that New Jersey has to get back to normal business and the idea of essentially untrained college kids using personal laptops to probe into your personal and medical history is unsettling at best.
Very few members of our legislature have the courage to shout from the rooftops when something is clearly misguided and potentially more harmful than the virus it allegedly is designed to fight. In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by an approximately two to one, it’s important that Democrats start evaluating the leaders who are not acting in the best interest of the public. Where are the primary challenges to the bosses? From my perspective, it looks like Jamel Holley may be in a strong position to challenge Murphy in the Democratic primary in 2021.
He took on the incumbent Mayor in Roselle in the Democratic primary and despite being opposed by the ‘machine’, he won in June 2011. He went on to run unopposed and served as the youngest elected Mayor in the town’s history. Can he do it again, this time on a bigger stage? Time will tell. If you’re asking me I say, go get ‘em Jamel.
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Assemblyman Holley Calls for Public Hearings About “Contact Tracing”
New Jersey Lawmaker Expresses Concern Regarding Personal Information Accessed by Corporations and Government; Calls for State Legislatures Across Country to Hold Hearings, As Well
TRENTON – May 11, 2020 – As state and federal leaders plan for the slow, steady reopening of New Jersey, “contact tracing” is a strategy that will likely be used to limit the spread of COVID-19.
But how would “contact tracing” be used and how does it affect personal privacy?
Those are questions from Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20th Dist.), vice chair of the Assembly Homeland Security and Domestic Preparedness Committee and member of the Assembly Health Committee, who is calling for in-person public hearings on the topic as soon as New Jersey lifts the ban on public gatherings.
“Contact tracing takes us to an entirely new level of invasiveness, in which we no longer have any control of who has information about us and what that information is being used for,” Holley said.
The problem is that such little information is known, as thousands of contact tracers would fan across the state, mapping the exposure risk between infected individuals and those who come in contact. Holley is concerns about a potential over reach; tracking people’s whereabouts could produce data ripe with potential abuse.
In many cases, contact tracing hinges on mobile applications, which require data from GPS or Bluetooth tracking, following a person’s movement and who they interact with. According to published reports, Apple and Google have paired up to provide software to public health authorities that they claim is sensitive to user privacy and can help automate the notification of people who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
That software relies on Bluetooth, in which public health authorities can make applications that exchange anonymous identifiers between users when they’re a few feet apart from one another. If one user is diagnosed with the virus and inputs it into the app, the other user’s phone will be notified that they came into contact with someone who tested positive. The public health authority that operates the app can then offer more guidance.
Holley said he appreciates any efforts to maintain privacy, but questioned what happens when different states use different applications. Moreover, once companies begin this nationwide roll-out, will they ever stop collecting this data?
“My concern is invasive surveillance,” Holley said. “When will it end? Before New Jerseyans and others across the country agree to an initiative that involves the release of their personal information, they need to know what they will be sacrificing. That is why I am calling for these public hearings. We are desperate for more information.”
I am expressing deep concerns about proposed legislation, A. 3910, designed to provide civil and criminal immunity to certain health care professionals and health care facilities during this public health emergency.
Under this bill, an individual or family affected by COVID-19 would not have the strong grounding to pursue possible legal malpractice action. I voted not to participate in the vote roll call Monday. This bill is inhumane.
At a time when state lawmakers should be providing resources to families, I’m disappointed that such legislation would be disguised as part of a public policy emergency. In the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, it was reassured to me that controversial or highly debatable legislative bills would not be brought forth without proper discussion.
I’m dismayed that days after public discussion regarding how minorities are more affected by COVID-19 that the state Legislature would consider a bill that selectively strips the rights of individuals their right to pursue legal actions, if need be.
This fast-moving bill was introduced on Thursday, the day before Good Friday and amended in the Senate on Monday. The bill skipped both the Assembly and Senate Health and/or Judiciary committee review and appears to be on the board list for a vote today.
No public discussion. No public input.
I am hoping that Gov. Phil Murphy provides a conditional veto that strikes the immunity aspect, allowing families the options and legal right without legislative interference or interpretation. I'm recommending the governor support the remainder of the bill, which actually provides assistance to the ongoing efforts of this pandemic.
I believe we all can agree that at times, swift legislative actions must be necessary for various reasons. However, unjust, rushed legislation that removes the constitutional right of an individual(s) through legislation should have reasonable public hearings and input, even remotely, if needed.
The proposed legislation would be retroactive to March 2020 – requiring the need for further public debate about back dating a law.
As elected officials, it is with great hopes that we would want to provide thoughtful legislation to the public. But impacting the constitutional rights of the citizenry without its input hits all aspects of governmental failure.
Mosquera, Moen & Holley Resolutions Promoting Awareness and Involvement in 2020 Census Pass Full Assembly
In an effort to raise awareness about the 2020 Census, three Assembly Democrats sponsor resolutions that would encourage increased participation throughout the state.
Counties and municipalities would be urged to form Complete Count Committees upon passage of the first resolution (AR-78), sponsored by Assemblywoman Mosquera and Assemblyman Bill Moen (D-Camden, Gloucester). These committees would be comprised of government and community leaders who would create an awareness campaign encouraging participation in the Census, based on their understanding of the community.
The second resolution (AR-79), sponsored by Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester) and Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union), would designate March 12th – 20th as “Get out the Count Week.”
Both resolutions were previously advanced by the Assembly Women and Children Committee after committee members received testimony from various experts regarding how the Census will impact New Jersey residents. Advocates for Children of New Jersey, the regional director of the Census Bureau and the New Jersey Secretary of State were among the guests who spoke.
Upon the resolutions unanimously passing the full Assembly Monday, the sponsors released the following joint statement:
“Many people don’t realize just how important the Census is to their community and how it will impact various aspects of their lives. We need to make our residents more aware of how the data gathered during the Census will affect their friends and family.
“The number of people recorded within a region influences federal allocation of funding for various social programs, including Medicare and SNAP. It also affects funding for school programs and infrastructure improvements, while determining the amount of Congressional delegates that will represent New Jersey.
“Business owners, non-profit organizations and lawmakers alike use the collected data to determine what daily services, products and support will be provided to communities.
“An awareness campaign with the help of county and municipal committees can help spread this information to get more residents involved in the Census.”
The resolutions will now go to the Senate.
Prominent anti-vaccination activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. held a fundraiser for Assemblyman Jamel Holley at da Benito in Union Township Tuesday morning.
Holley said the event, which comes weeks after Holley lobbied against a bill eliminating a religious exemption for vaccination, raised roughly $100,000 dollars.
That bill died in the lame duck session because lawmakers in the Senate failed to secure enough votes to pass it. An amended version of the bill that drew support from Republican State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon also failed to reach 21 votes.
Holley said Kennedy met with members of the Legislative Black Caucus to talk about anti-vaccine arguments earlier in the morning.
Three of the five senators who opposed the original vaccine bill — Sens. Nia Gill, Ronald Rice and Shirley Turner — are members of the caucus.
Lawmakers are poised to make another push at reforming the legislative exemption, though it’s not likely that bill will closely resemble the version they attempted to pass during the lame duck session.
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.”
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.
A Democratic state assemblyman is criticizing Gov. Phil Murphy’s plan to remove lead water service pipes around the state.
Union County Assemblyman Jamel Holley says that Murphy has been “asleep at the switch” on the issue of lead contamination in New Jersey.
“I’m choosing people over politics,” Holley says. “I like the governor. I think he’s a great man. But we’re just not on the same page on this issue.”
Holley says that he thinks that the governor’s $500,000 plan is more of a reaction than anything else.
“What we need is a comprehensive Marshall environmental plan instead of a reaction,” he says.
Gov. Murphy revealed his administration's lead strategy last Thursday. Working off a report by New Jersey Water Works task force, the governor says he plans to replace every lead service line in the state by 2029, remove lead paint and remediate lead-contaminated soil.
Holley, in August, asked for a state of emergency to be called to deliver bottled water in Newark. He says that he spoke to the governor by phone on Aug. 20.
“The conversation quite frankly wasn't very respectful. In fact, the governor hung up the phone on me and we haven't talked since but I have been communicating with his administration,” Holley says.
FULL COVERAGE: Lead-contaminated water crisis
A spokesperson for the Murphy administration says in a statement, "Assemblyman Holley should focus on passing legislation to solve this issue instead of engaging in political theatrics from the backbench. His recent attacks on the Governor and Mayor are just pathetic attempts to make himself relevant."
The governor's office also defended administration efforts and the work of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to replace over 1,000 service lines to date.
Holley says that he agrees with Newark state Sen. Ron Rice, another Democrat, who recently wrote a letter accusing the governor of patronizing African American leaders.
“There's several other issues that we are confronted with, in particular in urban communities, in regard to social justice none of which have been resolved,” Holley says. “Water is a liberty, it is a right, but we have to get it right. And we are not getting it right here in the state of New Jersey."
Holley says he's worked with the Elizabethport Presbyterian Center to collect more than 60,000 donated cases of water for places like Newark and Flint, Michigan.