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

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 was advanced Monday by an Assembly committee.

“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 was advanced by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee.

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DeAngelo, Eustace, Mukherji & Holley Bill to Create Registry of Organizations Providing Services to Veterans Clears Committee

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 was advanced Monday by an Assembly committee.

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). “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 was advanced by the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, of which DeAngelo is vice-chair.

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Assembly Panel OKs Oliver, Conaway, Tucker, Sumter & Holley Bill Requiring Attorney General’s Office to Handle Investigation of Police-Related Homicides

Bill is Designed to Bring Fairness & Impartiality to the Process after High-Profile Acquittals Across the Country

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Sheila Oliver, Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D., Cleopatra Tucker, Shavonda Sumter and Jamel Holley to help ensure impartiality when a law enforcement officer kills someone in the line of duty was approved by an Assembly panel on Monday.

The bill (A-1115) provides that, whenever a person’s death occurred during an encounter with a police officer or other law enforcement officer acting in the officer’s official capacity or while the decedent was in custody, the state Attorney General would supersede the local county prosecutor, utilizing existing supersession authority, and conduct, personally or by a designated deputy or assistant attorney general, any investigation, criminal action or proceeding concerning the incident.

“The failure of grand juries to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed African-American victims across the nation has led to widespread concern for many, many reasons, including a stark lack of confidence by some in the criminal justice system,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “These high-profile cases are sensitive enough without local communities having to wonder whether the collaborative relationship between the local prosecutor’s office and local law enforcement gives rise to a conflict of interest that would influence the proceedings. While every case is different, this is a very legitimate concern that can be addressed with this common sense bill.”

The bill was inspired by the failure of grand juries to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed African-American victims Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, among others, which have led to widespread protests and calls for reforms to the criminal justice system. A Houston Chronicle investigation also that found “police have been nearly immune from criminal charges in shootings” in Houston and other large cities in recent years. In Harris County, Texas, for example, grand juries haven’t indicted a Houston police officer since 2004; in Dallas grand juries reviewed 81 shootings between 2008 and 2012 and returned just one indictment. Separate research by Bowling Green State University has found that officers are rarely charged in on-duty killings.

“This bill is designed to address the perception of bias in police misconduct investigations,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “Recent high-profile decisions by grand juries not to charge police officers in cases of police-involved fatalities have eroded the public’s trust when it comes to allowing county prosecutors to investigate the local police officers with whom they regularly work and rely upon. Under this bill, these cases would be handled by a special prosecutor.”

Under the bill, the Attorney General or designee would present evidence concerning the incident to a county grand jury or a state grand jury, either one regularly impaneled or one requested to be impaneled by the Attorney General or the Director of the Division of Criminal Justice for this specific purpose, in order to determine if the evidence supports the return of an indictment against the officer.

“By design, the relationship between police and prosecutors is a close one and that closeness has led to doubts as to the fairness of having local prosecutors bring charges against local police to grand juries,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “A bill likes this removes the appearance of a conflict, and that alone is a giant step forward in bringing greater fairness and impartiality to the criminal justice process.”

Additionally, any further investigation, criminal action or proceeding, following an indictment, would be conducted under the law as any other investigation, criminal action or proceeding resulting from a grand jury indictment; provided that the venue for any such criminal action or proceeding would occur in a court located in a county other than the county in which the incident, resulting in the officer’s indictment, occurred.

“The simplest way to remove the appearance of a conflict created by putting prosecutors in charge of investigating police officers they regularly work directly with is, in fact, to no longer have them be in charge of prosecuting those police officers,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “For grieving families this may help provide a measure of closure, rather than living the rest of their lives with the sense that justice was never served.”

“This is all about justice. Communities in New Jersey – and everywhere – deserve to know that fatal incidents involving police will be handled with the utmost fairness. The current system is prone to many questions that only continue to foment unrest and mistrust with our judicial system. This bill would create a better approach,” said Holley (D-Union).

The legislation was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. The bill would take effect four months following enactment.

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Holley Bill to Fund Counseling for Victims of Sexual Assault Gains Assembly OK

Legislation Assemblyman Jamel Holley sponsored to fund counseling for victims of sexual assault gained approval Thursday in the General Assembly.

The bill (A-927) would establish the Sexual Offender Victim Counseling Fund and create a $100 assessment for convictions of certain sexual offenses in order to fund counseling for victims and their families. This assessment would be in addition to any other fine, fee or assessment imposed upon the convicted person.

“Victims of sexual violence often feel alone. They need to know support and resources are available to them as they work to move forward,” said Holley (D-Union). “The Sexual Offender Victim Counseling Fund would allow for the provision of counseling for individuals who have been through traumatic experiences.”

Among the offenses for which the $100 assessment designated in the bill would be imposed are: aggravated sexual assault; sexual assault; aggravated criminal sexual contact; kidnapping; endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of the child; creating child pornography; luring or enticing a child; criminal sexual contact if the victim is a minor; criminal restraint if the victim is a minor and the offender is not the parent of the victim; or an attempt to commit any of the aforementioned offenses.

The measure gained unanimous Assembly approval.

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Mazzeo, Eustace, Gusciora & Holley Bill Allowing PTSD Victims to Qualify for Medical Marijuana Treatment Signed into Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Tim Eustace, Reed Gusciora and Jamel Holley allowing victims suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to qualify for the use of medical marijuana was signed into law on Wednesday.

“Veterans – especially post-9/11 veterans – are the group most affected by PTSD,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “The VA has stated that it wants each veteran to find the medication with the least amount of side effects that allows them the optimum level of independence. For many, medical marijuana is the drug that best fits that criteria and the only one to provide veterans with significant relief from the anxiety associated with PTSD.”

The new law (A-457) adds post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of debilitating medical conditions that would qualify a patient to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program.

“For many veterans, the effects of PTSD are not always healed by time and can be lasting and profound,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “When it comes to PTSD, medical marijuana holds the promise of providing significant relief as it does for many other illnesses and conditions that are not easily treatable with traditional medication.”

PTSD is a mental health condition that is triggered by a traumatic event such as a physical or sexual assault, childhood neglect or physical abuse, a natural disaster, exposure to combat, or other extreme or life-threatening events. Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, uncontrollable thoughts about the event, emotional distress, physical symptoms, feelings of numbness or detachment, engaging in dangerous or self-destructive behavior, and experiencing suicidal thoughts.

“Statistics show that roughly one out of five military personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have experienced PTSD,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Meanwhile, medical marijuana has been reported to alleviate many of the debilitating side effects of PTSD without the anesthetizing quality of many traditional medications. Given PTSD’s prevalent and debilitating nature, we should be doing whatever we can to help victims cope and overcome it.”

“New Jersey is home to an estimated 428,000 veterans, with as many as 20 percent of them suffering from PTSD,” said Holley (D-Union). “If medical marijuana holds the promise of helping more veterans overcome combat-related trauma and assimilate back into civilian life, we should be helping, not hindering that.”

To qualify for medical marijuana, the patient’s PTSD symptoms would have to be resistant to conventional medical therapy, which generally combines psychotherapy with antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. To be authorized for use of medical marijuana, the patient would have to meet the other requirements of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act as well, including obtaining certification of the patient’s condition from a physician with whom the patient has a bona fide physician-patient relationship.

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Holley, Jasey, McKnight and Quijano Legislation to Enhance Security & Safety Measures in NJ’s Schools Continues Advancing

Assembly approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Jamel Holley, Mila Jasey, Angela McKnight and Annette Quijano to enhance security in New Jersey’s schools and better protect students and teachers from a wide range of potential threats was advanced Monday by the Senate Education Committee.
Both bills were approved by the Assembly in April.

“We’ve learned some hard lessons over the years about the dangers facing our schools and our students,” said Holley (D-Union). “It is critical that we educate school staff about the best safety practices, and keep security and safety measures at the forefront when building new schools and renovating existing ones. Investing in the safety of our students and school staff is a must.”

“The prevalence of school shootings in this country has made it abundantly clear that schools need to be prepared to respond to safety threats that were unimaginable in the past,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “We owe it to students and the staff charged with their safety to give them the resources needed to protect themselves if they are ever faced with a life-threatening emergency.”

“When a school is attacked, people will often ask how the perpetrator was able to get in. This is a valid question and one of many that should be considered when building new schools or renovating existing ones,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Making safety an integral part of a construction or renovation project can help better protect schools from indiscriminate attacks.”

“This bill is important because it stresses the importance of preparedness and training for instances when the difference of acting immediately can save lives,” said Quijano (D-Union). “Requiring law enforcement, emergency responders, and all school employees to train together annually ensures that wherever and whenever an emergency situation occurs, we have provided everybody there with the tools and training they need to protect our children. This is common-sense legislation that I’m proud to support.”

The first bill (A-3348) would implement safety and security recommendations from the 2015 New Jersey School Security Task Force report for new school construction projects and existing buildings. The task force determined that “school renovations and new construction must strike a balance between providing a welcoming educational environment and a safe environment in which students can learn and teachers can teach. Well-reasoned school design will encourage proper security measures to be employed by school districts and save the cost of retrofitting buildings.”

By enacting these task force recommendations, the bill seeks to strike that balance.

The bill is also sponsored by Holley, Jasey and McKnight.

Under the bill, the following items, among others, should be considered in the architectural design for the construction of new school buildings: marked school entrances with a uniform numbering system, keyless locking mechanisms, access control systems which allow for remote locking and unlocking, sufficient space for evacuation in the event of an emergency, and areas in the school building intended for public use separated and secure from all other areas.

When it comes to new construction projects and existing school buildings, in addition to employing Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles, the bill would require that design plans include items such as a requirement that school security personnel be in uniform, limiting the number of doors for school staff access, having exterior doors remain locked, creating secure vestibules at the school’s main entrance, and using surveillance cameras as a target-hardening tool.

The other bill (A-3349) would revise current law on school security drills. Under the bill, all employees in school districts and nonpublic schools would be provided with annual training on school safety and security. Under current law such training is only provided once to certificated staff members. The bill would also provide that the training be conducted collaboratively by the district or nonpublic school and emergency responders in order to identify weaknesses in school safety and security procedures and to increase the effectiveness of emergency responders. It would also require that a law enforcement officer be present for at least one school security drill in each school year to make recommendations on any improvements or changes to drill procedures deemed necessary.

The bill is sponsored by Holley, Jasey, McKnight and Quijano.

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Holley, Schaer & Kennedy Bill to Facilitate Stockholder Disclosure By Entities Seeking Public Contracts Now Law

A bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Jamel Holley, Gary S. Schaer and James Kennedy to facilitate transparency and protect taxpayers is now law.

Previous law required all bidders for public contracts to submit the names and addresses of all stockholders owning at least 10 percent interest in the entity prior to receiving a public contract. Recently, a number of bids were disqualified because of a new interpretation of the law that required disclosure of all 10 percent owners, including mutual funds and other institutional investors, and each 10 percent owner of every company or fund up the line until there are no other 10 percent owners.

The new law (A-3540) permits a bidder with any direct or indirect publicly-traded parent entity to submit the aforementioned names and addresses as of the last annual filing with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission and requires submission of links to the websites containing the last SEC filings.

“The SEC filing businesses already are required to submit shows their ownership annually to ensure transparency,” said Holley (D-Union). “This law removes red tape in an effort to make New Jersey more business-friendly while protecting taxpayers from paying more for the same services.”

“Despite the best intentions and success of prior legislation regarding bid documents, differing interpretations of the law unfairly burdened businesses and made compliance almost impossible” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This measure will allow publicly traded companies to more appropriately, fairly and efficiently comply with laws that foster transparency and accountability.”

“Transparency certainly is a priority, but so is making sure New Jersey doesn’t prevent good businesses from pursuing opportunities,” said Kennedy (D-Middlesex/Union/Somerset). “By amending the prior law, the state has taken action to make sure contracts go to the best bidders while maintaining its standards for open government.”

The measure received unanimous approval from both houses of the legislature before being signed into law by the governor.

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Mazzeo, Eustace, Gusciora & Holley Bill Allowing PTSD Victims to Qualify for Medical Marijuana Treatment Heads to Gov

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Tim Eustace, Reed Gusciora and Jamel Holley allowing victims suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to qualify for the use of medical marijuana was approved 29-9 by the Senate on Monday. The bill will now go to the Governor’s desk.

“Veterans – especially post-9/11 veterans – are the group most affected by PTSD,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “The VA has stated that it wants each veteran to find the medication with the least amount of side effects that allows them the optimum level of independence. For many, medical marijuana is the drug that best fits that criteria and the only one to provide veterans with significant relief from the anxiety associated with PTSD.”

The bill (A-457) would add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of debilitating medical conditions that would qualify a patient to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program.

“For many veterans, the effects of PTSD are not always healed by time and can be lasting and profound,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “When it comes to PTSD, medical marijuana holds the promise of providing significant relief as it does for many other illnesses and conditions that are not easily treatable with traditional medication.”

PTSD is a mental health condition that is triggered by a traumatic event such as a physical or sexual assault, childhood neglect or physical abuse, a natural disaster, exposure to combat, or other extreme or life-threatening events. Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, uncontrollable thoughts about the event, emotional distress, physical symptoms, feelings of numbness or detachment, engaging in dangerous or self-destructive behavior, and experiencing suicidal thoughts.

“Statistics show that roughly one out of five military personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have experienced PTSD,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Meanwhile, medical marijuana has been reported to alleviate many of the debilitating side effects of PTSD without the anesthetizing quality of many traditional medications. Given PTSD’s prevalent and debilitating nature, we should be doing whatever we can to help victims cope and overcome it.”

“New Jersey is home to an estimated 428,000 veterans, with as many as 20 percent of them suffering from PTSD,” said Holley (D-Union). “If medical marijuana holds the promise of helping more veterans overcome combat-related trauma and assimilate back into civilian life, we should be helping, not hindering that.”

To qualify for medical marijuana, the patient’s PTSD symptoms would have to be resistant to conventional medical therapy, which generally combines psychotherapy with antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. To be authorized for use of medical marijuana, the patient would have to meet the other requirements of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act as well, including obtaining certification of the patient’s condition from a physician with whom the patient has a bona fide physician-patient relationship.

The bill was approved by the Assembly 56-13-7 on June 16.

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Tucker, Johnson, Holley & Downey Measure to Increase PTSD Awareness Gains Final Legislative Approval

Measure Would Make June 27 Annual ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day’

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Cleopatra Tucker, Gordon Johnson, Jamel Holley and Joann Downey to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder, which affects millions of Americans, gained approval from the Senate on Monday. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

“The combat-related post-traumatic stress America’s veterans experience often is misunderstood and stigmatized in a nation that owes its freedom to them,” said Tucker (D-Essex), chair of the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Raising post-traumatic stress awareness can help create a climate in which New Jersey’s veterans feel more comfortable seeking help if they need it.”

The joint resolution (AJR-91) would designate June 27 of each year as “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day.” The legislation aims to bring awareness to those suffering from PTSD and to encourage people to reach out to their fellow citizens to provide support and remove the stigma associated with the disorder.

“Post-traumatic stress is more pronounced among those who have served in the military,” said Johnson (D-Bergen), who served in the U.S. Army Reserve. “One of the most important ways in which we all can express our gratitude to them is by knowing the signs and helping them overcome barriers to treatment.”

“Many individuals who go through a traumatic experience then have to deal with reliving that experience every day, and they don’t know where to turn,” said Holley (D-Union). “This legislation is about equipping New Jersey residents with the tools they need to help family members, friends and neighbors who may be suffering.”

“It can be difficult for someone who hasn’t experienced post-traumatic stress to understand what a loved one is going through, even if it’s clear that something isn’t right,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “Taking action to remove the stigma and encourage those who are suffering to seek proper and timely treatment can save lives.”

The measure gained unanimous approval from both houses of the legislature.

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Assembly Democratic Bill to Expand Primary Voting Rights, Encourage Youth Participation in Elections Heads to Governor

Legislation Would Allow Certain 17-Year-Olds to Vote in Primaries

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Jamel Holley, Elizabeth Muoio, Tim Eustace, Arthur Barclay, Angela McKnight and Raj Mukherji that would allow more young New Jersey residents to participate in elections recently received approval from both houses of the legislature. It now awaits the governor’s consideration.

The bill (A-3591), the “New Voter Empowerment Act,” would allow 17-year-olds to vote in a primary election provided they will turn 18 on or before the next succeeding general election.

“Young people in New Jersey are eager to raise their voices and make a difference,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “More than 23,000 of them will have a birthday after the primary but before the general election. Under this legislation, they would be able to vote in both elections. It’s an important step forward to fully empower thousands of new voters every year.”

New Jersey would join 21 states and the District of Columbia in allowing 17-year-olds who will turn 18 during the interim period between a primary or caucus and the general election to participate in the nomination process, Zwicker noted.

“There’s a whole set of young people in New Jersey who want to – and should – fulfill their civic duty during the general election but are shut out of making their voices heard during the primary,” said Holley (D-Union). “Allowing 17-year-old New Jersey residents who ultimately will choose a candidate in the general election to vote in the primary will make the electoral process more fair.”

“Many states permit eligible 17-year-olds to vote, because they recognize that making voters choose a candidate they had no say in nominating is fundamentally undemocratic,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “All who can vote in a general election should be afforded the opportunity to engage in the primary, too.”

“As a matter of principle, all eligible voters should be able to take part in both the primary and the general election,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This legislation will make that basic notion the law in New Jersey.”

“Those who turn 18 in between a primary and a general election are expected to participate in one part of the democratic process but are excluded from another very important part entirely,” said Barclay (D-Camden/Gloucester). “New Jersey must ensure that these young voters have a say in both June and November.”

“It’s important for our state to establish a culture of voting in both primaries and general elections among young people,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Making this simple change will enable thousands more first-time voters to get involved in elections.”

“Increasing voter turnout is integral to ensuring that all voices are heard and all people are represented in our democracy,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “If 17-year-olds are allowed to enlist and serve in the Armed Forces with parental consent or upon emancipation, then they should certainly be allowed to participate in selecting party nominees when they will turn 18 in time to vote for that nominee.”

The General Assembly passed the legislation 57-17 in May. The Senate voted 31-8 on June 27.

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