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McKnight, Chiaravalloti & Holley Bill to Require 24-Hour Security in Senior Apartment Buildings in High Crime Areas Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Angela V. McKnight, Nicholas Chiaravalloti and Jamel Holley that would require high-rise apartment buildings for seniors that are located in high crime areas to provide 24-hour security.

“Everyone deserves to feel safe in their homes. Sadly, if you live in an area with rampant criminal activity, that feeling can be fleeting,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Seniors are often seen as easy targets by criminals. Having 24-hour security in these buildings can help prevent bad individuals from getting in, and give residents a much needed sense of security in their own homes.”

“As rent payers, these residents have a right to feel safe,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “Having a security guard posted in these buildings can help prevent unwanted individuals from getting inside and causing trouble. A building owner may not be able to prevent what goes on outside the building, but should provide tenants with a sense of security inside the building.”

“Security is integral whether you live in a house or an apartment building. In neighborhoods where crime is a problem, even more so,” said Holley (D-Union). “Seniors are especially vulnerable because many live alone and criminals see them as easy marks. Having around the clock security can help keep people with bad intentions out, and give these tenants some much needed peace of mind.”

The bill (A-3431) would require the owners of senior citizen high-rise buildings with 50 units or more to provide 24-hour security, if the building is located in a municipality with a violent crime rate exceeding six per 1,000 persons, according to the average of the three most recent Uniform Crime Reports issued by the New Jersey State Police.

If the building consists of 75 dwelling units or more, the security obligation must be met through 24-hour monitoring by on-site security guards. If the building consists of at least 50, but fewer than 75 dwelling units, this obligation may be satisfied through the use of video surveillance cameras operated 24 hours a day, recording all building exits and entrances, as well as any common areas, including parking lots, where criminal incidents have occurred within the past 12 months.

The Commissioner of Community Affairs, in consultation with the Attorney General, would be responsible for annually notifying the owners of those buildings of their security obligations under the law. The Commissioner of Community Affairs could order a building owner in a municipality with a violent crime rate of six or less per 1,000 persons to provide security in the lobby or other common area upon evidence of persistent criminal activity against residents in the building.

The bill also gives the commissioner the power to issue regulations concerning the security of residents in lobbies and interior common areas of hotels and multiple dwellings in general.

The bill has a delayed operative dare of about six months to allow time for the promulgation of rules, regulations and notices.

The bill was released by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.

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Democratic Bill to Ensure Safety of Students Transported on School Buses Approved by Assembly

(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 was recently approved by the full Assembly.

“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 gained unanimous approval in the Assembly on Sept. 29, and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.

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DeAngelo, Eustace, Mukherji & Holley Bill to Create Registry of Organizations Providing Services to Veterans Passes Assembly

Legislation Assemblymen Wayne DeAngelo, Tim Eustace, Raj Mukherji and Jamel Holley sponsored to create a “one-stop shop” for military veterans seeking assistance in New Jersey cleared the Assembly on Thursday.

The bill (A-3748) would require the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs to create a comprehensive online registry of organizations providing services to veterans. Inclusion on the webpage would not constitute an endorsement of an organization by the department or state.

“Men and women in uniform make sacrifices to help people here at home and all around the world, but when they need a little help themselves, they sometimes find the system difficult to navigate,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex), vice-chair of the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Creating a registry is a simple task that can go a long way toward making life easier for some of our nation’s finest citizens.”

“New Jersey must embrace its obligation to honor veterans and do everything possible to serve them, just as they’ve served this nation,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “By providing these upstanding men and women with a directory where they easily can connect to organizations that are familiar with the needs of veterans, the state can eliminate confusion and significantly reduce the amount of time veterans have to spend researching what’s available to them.”

“A single website listing resources for veterans is a common-sense solution that will help those who served navigate the maze of organizations providing services,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson), a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. “We owe it to our vets to help them avoid unnecessary frustration and simplify their access to organizations that understand their needs.”

“Veterans should never have to go searching from place to place to find answers,” said Holley (D-Union). “Putting all the organizations that can help them under one roof is a smart, easy way to support those who answered their nation’s call to serve.”

The measure, which received unanimous Assembly approval, now awaits further consideration in the Senate.

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McKnight, Holley, Vainieri Huttle, Houghtaling, Chiaravalloti & Quijano Bill to Provide Free Snow Removal Services for Seniors, Disabled Residents Ok’d by Full Assembly

The Snow Removal Service Would Be Provided Through A Volunteer Program
Created Under The Bill

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Angela McKnight, Jamel Holley, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Eric Houghtaling, Nicholas Chiaravalloti and Annette Quijano to create a municipal volunteer program that would provide free snow removal services for seniors and disabled residents cleared the Assembly, 73-0, on Thursday.

“Even the most able bodied person can have a hard time clearing out snow after a heavy snow fall. For seniors and disabled residents, the task can be strenuous and even risky. For some, it’s simply not doable,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “This bill would help connect seniors and disabled residents with volunteers in their communities who can help clear out snow and ice so these residents can safely enter and exit their homes and carry on their usual activities in the aftermath of a severe storm.”

The bill (A-3381) would give each municipality the option to establish a volunteer program for the free removal of snow and ice from the entrance ways, driveways, and abutting sidewalks of residential properties in the municipality that are occupied by seniors and disabled persons.

“This volunteer program would promote service to our most vulnerable residents,” said Holley (D-Union). “It is an excellent way to ensure our seniors and disabled residents receive the help they need to clear out after winter storms.”

“Shoveling out after a snow storm can be an enormous task for our seniors and disabled residents,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Encouraging resident to help each other, especially the older and disabled population, after a snowstorm is what this bill accomplishes.”

“Whether it’s going to the grocery store or filling prescriptions, having to shovel out after a snowstorm can impede important daily activities for seniors and disabled,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “A volunteer program will help ensure that our most vulnerable residents receive the help they need after a snow fall.”

“Seniors and disabled residents should be able to lean on their communities for the support they need,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “Shoveling out after a storm can be a hard task for many but we must realize how difficult the task may be for our seniors and disabled. This is an excellent initiative that will help many residents in the most critical times after a snow storm.”

“This is legislation that promotes goodwill to your neighbors and encourages volunteerism in our communities,” said Quijano (D-Union). “The winter season is especially hard on our senior and disabled neighbors. A little extra help shoveling snow and clearing walkways will go a long way for residents who truly need it.”

The bill would encourage each municipality to appoint a coordinator to administer the volunteer program and recruit volunteers. Each municipality that coordinates a volunteer program will post information about the volunteer program on its website, as well as community notices, newsletters, or other communications made to municipal residents. The municipality would also share information about the program with local schools as students may provide a good source of volunteers.

It is the intention of the sponsor that this bill establishes a purely volunteer program, not a municipal or governmental entity that does not incur any costs to the municipality or to the recipients of its snow and ice removal services.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on May 12. It now awaits further consideration by the Senate.

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Muoio, Schaer, Coughlin, Benson, Holley, Wisniewski & Gusciora Bill to Protect Local Governments from Costs of TTF Shutdown Gains Assembly Approval

Bill Will Also Ensure Continuation of Vital Projects & Shield Property Taxpayers from Shouldering Costs for Governor’s Shutdown

By a vote of 52-13-8 the full Assembly on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Elizabeth Maher Muoio, Gary Schaer, Craig Coughlin, Daniel Benson, Jamel Holley, John Wisniewski and Reed Gusciora to ensure the continuation of vital transportation projects and protect local governments from costs incurred by delays as a result of Gov. Christie’s initial executive order (210) issued in June shutting down transportation projects until the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) crisis is resolved.

“Local governments are not to blame for the lack of a TTF plan, yet they could ultimately be on the hook for the potential cost overruns resulting from the Governor’s executive order. That means local property taxpayers, who fund the bulk of local government spending, will have to bear these costs,” stated Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “To add insult to injury, local governments willing to front the costs to ensure these projects get finished in a timely manner are being told they may not be reimbursed with the TTF funds promised to them. This is not fair, and it is not in the best interest of our state.”

The bill (A-4114) would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to compensate municipalities, counties, or other local government entities for delay damages on transportation projects supported through the local aid program, if those delay damages resulted from the shutdown of TTF projects pursuant to Executive Order No. 210.

“This unfortunate stalemate has forced many vital projects to grind to a halt, senselessly punishing residents, inconveniencing motorists and endangering public safety. This legislation will rectify the matter,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic).

“Now is prime construction season when the weather is great. If towns want to wisely take advantage of this window to make sure their projects get finished before winter, they should have the prerogative to do so,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex).

“Local governments, and more importantly residents, should not be penalized for something outside their control,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This will ensure projects get completed in a timely manner without further burdening taxpayers.”

“Our aim is to protect taxpayers financially and, more importantly, protect them from the hazards of navigating deteriorating roads and bridges, as well as idle construction projects,” said Holley (D-Union).

“The Governor’s decision to halt transportation projects is effectively punishing local governments and residents for his own inability to find a solution to our funding crisis. This bill will insulate taxpayers from this misguided decision,” said Wisniewski, Chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee (D-Middlesex).

“It’s not fair to foist the financial responsibility for this self-created ’emergency’ on the backs of our local governments and property taxpayers. The Governor and the state must take responsibility for these costs and the commitments made to our local governments,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).

The bill also permits a local government entity to use its own funds to continue or complete a transportation project that was halted as a result of the executive order. The bill prohibits DOT or any other executive branch agency from withholding, revoking, or otherwise canceling certain local aid due to the local government entity’s decision to use its funds to continue or complete the transportation project.

The legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration.

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Coughlin & Holley Bill to Permit Municipalities to Create, Maintain Emergency Special Needs Registries Clears Assembly

Legislation Would Facilitate Administration of Assistance to Vulnerable Individuals During Emergencies

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 gained approval Thursday in the General Assembly.

“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, which gained unanimous approval in the Assembly, now awaits Senate consideration.

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DeAngelo, Holley, Mazzeo & Downey Bill to Establish Plan to Publish Missing Persons Alerts on Social Media Advances

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Wayne DeAngelo, Jamel Holley, Vincent Mazzeo and Joann Downey to expand the reach of missing persons notices via social media cleared a Senate panel on Thursday.

The bill (A-2519) would require the attorney general, in consultation with the New Jersey State Police (NJSP), to develop a plan to disseminate Amber and Silver Alert information via NJSP social media accounts.

Any other appropriate state, county or municipal entity may also choose to broadcast the information using its social media accounts.

“Just as people use outlets like Facebook and Twitter to connect with friends and family, law enforcement officials can also use social media to reach the public when someone is missing,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex) “By employing networks we already have in place to further publicize Amber and Silver Alerts, we can reach a far larger audience at no additional cost and help reunite families as soon as possible.”

“Most people connect and receive their news through social media,” said Holley (D-Union). “Using social media to broadcast information about people who have gone missing is so simple, yet so smart. Anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account knows the power of sharing a post or retweeting. In missing persons cases, the more people we can reach can make a difference in the outcome.”

“Being able to get information out to as many people as possible about a missing person is crucial in these cases,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “Most people are plugged into social media and use it consistently. There is no reason why law enforcement should not be able to use it to spread the word about Amber and Silver Alerts, and help bring people who are in danger safely back home.”

“Law enforcement should be able to use any effective means of communication to help locate people who have gone missing,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “The fact that these cases involve children and people who are debilitated makes the situation more urgent. This is an effective way to get the word out to the public and increase the chances of finding people who have gone missing.”

Under the bill, information posted on social media may include, but not be limited to, a description and recognizable photograph of the missing person and any known details of the abduction or disappearance.

Under New Jersey law, broadcast media may use Amber Alerts to transmit an emergency alert to inform the public of child abduction. Similarly, Silver Alerts provide for the rapid dissemination of information about a missing person who is believed to be suffering from dementia or other cognitive impairment.

The measure was advanced by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. The bill was approved 75-0 by the Assembly in June. It now awaits further consideration by the Senate.

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Holley & Chaparro Introduce Pro-Consumer Bill to Reduce Insurance Premiums for Certain Coverages for Residents Who Use Dashboard Cameras

(TRENTON) – Assembly Democrats Jamel Holley and Annette Chaparro recently introduced legislation that would require insurance companies to provide a reduction in certain automobile insurance premiums for residents who have installed dashboard cameras in their vehicles.

Most car insurers offer discounts for vehicles that have anti-lock brakes, air bag and passive restraint systems, and anti-theft vehicle recovery systems. However, the sponsors note that since dashboard cameras are a relatively new technology available to drivers, insurance provisions and regulations for dashboard cameras have yet to be developed in the state.

“Air bags, a collision-avoidance system and dashboard cams are all safety devices created to help decrease accidents,” said Holley (D-Union). “A dashboard camera and the actual video footage it provides of an accident will become an invaluable tool for insurance companies. Consumers who install dash cams in their vehicles should see a discount in their insurance rates for providing such transparency in their driving.”

The bill (A-4192) requires a 10 percent premium reduction for personal injury protection coverage, bodily injury liability coverage, property damage coverage, and physical damage coverage for a named insured who has installed a dashboard camera in the insured private passenger automobile.

Under the bill, the insurer may require reasonable proof that a private passenger automobile is equipped with a dashboard camera and that the camera is in operating condition before providing the reduction in premiums. A visual inspection of the automobile in accordance with the existing provisions of the law would be considered reasonable proof. An insurer may also require proof of ownership of the dashboard camera before providing any reduction in the premiums for that coverage.

“There are many benefits to a driver using a dash cam in their vehicle,” said Chaparro (D-Hudson). “The video obtained from a dash cam can give a clear picture of an accident, hit and runs and even help insurance companies ward against fraudulent claims. Drivers who use dashboard cams are going the extra mile to ensure the safety of their vehicle, themselves and passengers. There should be a discount on insurance premiums for their effort.”

The bill also provides that in the settlement of any claim involving a private passenger automobile, an insurer will review any available images from a dashboard camera (s) installed in any of the motor vehicles to which that claim relates.

The Commissioner of Banking and Insurance, in consultation with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, would be directed to establish standards for the size, location and use of dashboard cameras installed in private passenger automobiles. The commissioner may maintain a list of those dashboard cameras approved as conforming to the specifications and requirements established for those cameras.

In addition, the bill specifies that the commissioner may suspend an insurer’s obligation to provide the premium reduction required pursuant to this bill if the commissioner determines that compliance with this requirement will result in an insurer’s financial condition becoming unsafe or unsound.

The bill was introduced on Monday, September 19. It has not yet been referred to a committee.

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Singleton, DeAngelo, Caride, Mukherji & Holley Bill to Augment STEM Education in NJ’s Schools Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Wayne DeAngelo, Marlene Caride, Raj Mukherji and Jamel Holley to enhance science, technology, education and math (STEM) education in New Jersey’s schools and better prepare students for the 21st century workforce was released earlier this week by an Assembly panel.

The bill (A-2195) would establish the four-year “New Jersey Innovation Inspiration School Grant Pilot Program” in the state Department of Education. The pilot program would award grants to school districts to support non-traditional STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teaching methods for students in grades 4 through 12, support the participation of students in nonprofit STEM competitions, foster innovation and broaden interest in careers in STEM fields, and encourage collaboration among students, engineers, and professional mentors.

“This program can help broaden and encourage student access and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics order to advance our competitiveness and innovation in these fields,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “The reality is that we are lagging behind other countries when it comes to STEM education, which places our students at a disadvantage if they want to pursue these fields professionally. Employment opportunities in STEM fields are only expected to grow. If we want our students to be able to compete, we have to expand STEM education in New Jersey.”

Under the bill, a school district may submit to the commissioner an application that includes a description of how the school district will establish STEM teaching programs that use a non-traditional STEM teaching method, identify and recruit partners and mentors to help implement these programs, and support teachers and participants. The application must also contain information on how the district will assess the impact of the STEM teaching programs on participating students.

“Job opportunities in these fields are projected to increase over the next decade,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “We have to do a better job of making STEM a substantial part of early education in our schools so students will be better equipped to compete for these jobs.”

“There is concern that American students, compared with their international counterparts, may not have the necessary skills or education to enter into a STEM field,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). “If we want our students to succeed in these fields, we have to invest early.”

“Biotech and high-technology businesses play a key role in our state economy,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “It is vitally important that the state support programs that ensure that our students have the educational foundations that will help them advance to a career in those industries.”

“These are the jobs of the future. Unless we make a concerted effort to strengthen STEM education in our classrooms, our students will get left behind,” said Holley (D-Union). “Enhancing STEM education in our schools will give our students the edge that others already benefit from.”

Under the pilot program the commissioner will award a total of six one-time, up-front grants of up to $150,000 each. Two grants will be awarded to districts located in the northern region of the State, two to districts in the central region, and two to districts in the southern region. In awarding the grants, the commissioner will give priority to applications from districts that intend to target activities in a rural or urban school, a low-performing school, or a school or school district that serves low-income students. The districts will be permitted to use the grant funds for a period of up to four years.

A school district that receives a grant is to use the funds to: promote STEM education and career activities; purchase supplies needed for participation in non-traditional STEM teaching programs; finance the expenses of student participation in regional and national nonprofit STEM competitions; and provide incentives and stipends for teachers involved in non-traditional STEM teaching methods outside of their regular teaching duties.

The measure was advanced by the Assembly Education Committee on Sept. 19.

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Zwicker, Benson, Schaer & Holley Legislation Urging Congress to Ensure Students Access to Debt-Free Higher Education Clears Assembly

Legislation Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Daniel Benson, Gary Schaer and Jamel Holley sponsored urging Congress and the President of the United States to enact legislation ensuring students have access to debt-free higher education at public colleges and universities gained approval from the General Assembly on Thursday.

The cost of college has risen more than 250 percent over the last three decades while income for typical families grew by only 16 percent, making it difficult for a student to graduate without debt, as reported by the White House.

“A college education is one of the most valuable investments a family can make, but it has never been more difficult for families to afford the dream of a college education, as the cost has grown exponentially in decades,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “As a result, an increasing number of young Americans, including many from New Jersey, have been forced to assume significant student loan debt to afford the cost of higher education.”

“Student loan debt saddles the very students who most depend on a college degree to level the economic playing field. This debt constrains their career choices, hurts their credit ratings and prevents them from fully participating in the economy,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Excessive student loan debt places in jeopardy the quintessential milestones of the American Dream, such as buying a home or car, starting a family and saving for retirement. Our goals for higher education in this country must include providing a debt-free education for college-bound students.”

“Young people in New Jersey and throughout the country should have the same opportunity offered to those who went to college in previous generations, including the ability to attend public colleges and universities without taking on burdensome debt,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “It should be a public policy goal of the federal government to establish a debt-free public higher education system to enable students to attain a college degree without burdensome debt.”

“Given the importance of higher education to the nation’s economy, the national goal should be to expand the opportunity to pursue and attain a college degree in this country,” said Holley (D-Union). “It should become easier not harder for students to meet their educational goals and obtain a degree. Establishing a debt-free public higher education system should be included in national public policy objectives for higher education.”

New Jersey ranks ninth in the country in student loan debt, with the average student loan debt for New Jersey’s public and private college and university graduates at more than $30,000 in 2016, according to a study conducted by LendEDU.

The Assembly passed the measure 61-0-13.

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