Sign in with Facebook, Twitter or email.

McKeon, Jasey, Eustace & Holley Bill to Study the Condition of NJ Drinking Water Infrastructure Clears Senate

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John McKeon, Mila Jasey, Tim Eustace and Jamel Holley to create a task force to review the state’s drinking water sources was approved, 39-0, by the Senate on Thursday.
The sponsors note the water crisis in Flint, Michigan has raised concerns across the country about the water filtration process and the risk of contaminates in the water system, especially lead.

“The situation in Flint Michigan should be a lesson to us all to ensure protection of our water supply,” said McKeon (D-Essex, Morris). “This should be a priority for New Jersey as well. A task force can help us identify the areas in need of strengthening in regards to the state’s water supply.

“This is critically important to New Jersey’s families,” said Jasey (D-Essex, Morris). “A task force will allow us to assess the current infrastructure and understand what needs to be done to ensure protection of our water supply.”

“Just like roads and railways, our water infrastructure needs to be assessed, repaired or updated,” said Eustace (D-Bergen, Passaic). “The task force will first learn the extent of what needs to be done and then inform us of where we must begin to correct the ailing system. This panel will be an essential part of the process to protect New Jersey’s water infrastructure.”

“An aging water infrastructure means New Jersey’s communities will become more and more vulnerable to flooding, contamination or even loss of power during severe storms,” said Holley (D-Union). “We need to know the good and bad pertaining to the state’s water system before we can take the necessary steps to repair it. This legislation helps us do that.”

In the legislation, the sponsors also note that New Jersey has history of being proactive in this area and has enacted numerous statutes aimed at protecting the state’s water supply. However, an aging infrastructure and the deterioration of the physical assets of water supply systems present serious risks to the integrity of drinking water and to the environment.

The concurrent resolution (ACR-161) establishes the “Joint Legislative Task Force on Drinking Water Infrastructure” to study and make recommendations concerning issues related to drinking water infrastructure in New Jersey. The task force is charged with identifying both short-term and long-term solutions and making recommendations to address the quality and condition of drinking water infrastructure in the state.

In conducting its business, the task force is directed to call upon the Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust, the Division of Water in the Board of Public Utilities and representatives of investor-owned and government-owned water utilities to offer their respective expertise and experience concerning the condition of the state’s drinking water infrastructure, and what improvements are necessary to ensure a safe drinking water supply.

The task force is to be composed of six members: three members of the Senate appointed by the Senate President, and three members of the General Assembly appointed by the Speaker.

Within six months after the date the task force organizes, it is directed to prepare and submit a report containing its findings and recommendations, including any proposals for legislation and other appropriate legislative or regulatory action.

The concurrent resolution was approved by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee on May 3. The Assembly approved the bill on May 26, 64-0.

Add your reaction Share

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

(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 was approved Thursday by the General Assembly.

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 bill was approved 75-0 and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.

Add your reaction Share

Vainieri Huttle, Lampitt, McKnight, Holley, Mukherji, Zwicker & Wimberly Bill to Create Ombudsman for Individuals with Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Advances

Legislation Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Pamela Lampitt, Angela McKnight, Jamel Holley, Raj Mukherji, Andrew Zwicker and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to create an ombudsman to serve as an advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities recently gained approval from the General Assembly.

“Navigating state and federal laws and bureaucracy can be overwhelming for anyone,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), chair of the Assembly Human Services Committee. “For those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, it can be downright frustrating, which can deter some individuals and families from accessing much-needed services that may be available to help them. This is counterproductive and in no one’s best interest. By creating an ombudsman to help guide them through the state and federal labyrinth of services, we can help individuals become more self-sufficient, thriving members of the community.”

The bill (A-3824) would establish the independent Office of the Ombudsman for Individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities and Their Families in, but not of, the Department of the Treasury. The ombudsman is to be appointed by the governor.

“The loved ones of individuals who have intellectual and developmental disabilities want them to be able to take advantage of all the programs and services available, but doing the research alone is like a full-time job,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Having a single office people can contact with questions and concerns will be invaluable.”

“All New Jersey residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve the opportunity to live happy, healthy lives,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “It’s so important that these individuals and those who care for them know how to access the resources that can make that possible.”

“The services New Jersey makes available to those with disabilities can only be useful if people know they exist and understand how to access them,” said Holley (D-Union). “The ombudsman will be dedicated to knowing the issues that affect individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities thoroughly and making it easier for people to access health care, pursue an education, seek employment and live independently.”

“Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities require a strong support system in order to thrive and reach their full potential,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Establishing this office will fortify that system and open doors for more New Jersey residents.”

“Parents and guardians who are raising children with disabilities face challenges that can often make them feel alone and helpless,” said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Hunterdon/Middlesex). “Knowing the ombudsman is there to help will provide peace of mind as they navigate what may seem to be a complex and daunting system.”

“Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have a right to the opportunity to thrive and be happy,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This legislation will help parents, caregivers, educators and everyone involved in the lives of people with disabilities access tools to ensure that they have the best possible quality of life.”

The ombudsman would organize and direct the work of the office with duties that would include, but not be limited to, the following:

1) serving as a source of information for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their families and interested members of the public, to help them better understand state and federal laws and regulations governing individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities;

2) providing, in coordination with the State Council on Developmental Disabilities: information and support to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their families in navigating and understanding the process for obtaining services and support from the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) and the Division of Children’s System of Care (CSOC), including information and support for those who transition from receiving services and supports; and assistance in obtaining appropriate, services, support, and opportunities from CSOC or DDD that focus on personal goals and making those goals become a reality;

3) providing information, communication strategies and available options when it comes to resolving disagreements with CSOC, DDD, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or the Department of Human Services (DHS) regarding the evaluation, placement, or provision of services and supports; and to educate individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their families;

4) working neutrally and objectively to help ensure that a fair process is followed in the resolution of disputes concerning the provision of supports and services to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities receiving services from CSOC or DDD;

5) identifying patterns of complaints regarding the rights and services of individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities and recommending strategies for improvements; and

6) assisting CSOC and DDD in creating public information programs designed to acquaint and educate individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, their families, and the public about the duties of the ombudsman.

The bill also requires the ombudsman to issue a written report annually to the Commissioner of Human Services and the Commissioner of Children and Families, which would include a summary of the services the ombudsman provided during the year and any specific recommendations the ombudsman deems appropriate and necessary to provide services and support to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The report also would be issued to the governor and the legislature.

The measure passed the Assembly 68-7-4 on Monday. It now awaits further Senate consideration.

Add your reaction Share

Holley, Barclay, Wimberly & McKnight Introduce Legislation to Expand Eligibility for Criminal Records Expungement

Bill Would Enable More People to Clear Records of Non-Violent Offenses

Assembly Democrats Jamel Holley, Arthur Barclay, Benjie Wimberly and Angela McKnight have introduced legislation to reform New Jersey’s criminal justice system by amending the state’s laws governing expungement.

“If an individual who made a mistake has paid his or her debt to society, that person should have the right to a fresh start. Instead, there are people in New Jersey who cannot find a job or secure housing decades after they committed a crime,” said Holley (D-Union). “This legislation is about providing people with a real opportunity to put the past behind them.”

The bill (A-4012) would allow an individual with more than one criminal conviction to apply to have his or her records expunged 20 years after the most recent conviction, payment of fine, completion of probation or parole or release from incarceration, whichever is latest.

Current law, which allows a person with a single conviction to file an expungement application after 10 years, does not allow for expungement of multiple convictions. Similarly, a criminal conviction involving the sale or distribution of illegal drugs generally may not be expunged under current law.

“A person who commits a crime may be sentenced to a set number of years, but the reality for some is that the punishment truly lasts for a lifetime,” said Barclay (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Reforming the law will give ex-offenders a second chance.”

“The implications of a criminal conviction affect not only the person who serves the time, but also his or her entire family and community. Without a clean slate, it’s much harder to be a provider and a productive member of society,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “So many men and women who were once incarcerated have so much to offer. All they need is a chance.”

“Many formerly incarcerated individuals come back home feeling like they have no future, because they know their criminal record always will be there to haunt them,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “In addition to opening doors to employment, housing and public assistance to help people restore their lives, this bill will provide hope, which is fundamental to successful re-entry.”

Records of a conviction for a violent or serious offense, such as homicide, sexual assault or arson, may not be expunged under the bill.

Add your reaction Share

Prieto, Muoio, Oliver, Schaer, Holley, Mukherji & Quijano Bill to Increase Assistance to Low-Income Families to Help Ease Poverty Heads to Governor

Bill Boosts Work First New Jersey Benefits

Legislation Assembly Democrats Speaker Vincent Prieto, Elizabeth Muoio, Sheila Oliver, Gary Schaer, Jamel Holley, Raj Mukherji and Annette Quijano sponsored to increase the maximum cash assistance benefit for families participating in the Work First New Jersey program gained final legislative approval from the Senate on Monday.

The bill (A-30) is part of efforts by Assembly Democrats to lift people out of poverty and rebuild New Jersey’s middle-class. It was approved by the Assembly in March and is part of the Democratic state budget proposal.

The Work First New Jersey program provides cash and other assistance to low-income families with dependent children in order to alleviate the negative effects of poverty.

The bill comes after a report by New Jersey Policy Perspective detailed the devastating economic and social impact of New Jersey’s decision not to increase assistance or eligibility for 29 years.

“As I’ve said as part of the Assembly’s ongoing effort to combat poverty and rebuild the middle-class, fixing this problem isn’t just about social responsibility. It’s also about fiscal responsibility,” said Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen). “It’s appalling that New Jersey has the lowest grant level in the Northeast and that we’ve accepted this as child poverty increases steadily, along with all the costly problems that come along with it. If we’re going to help lift people out of poverty by increasing access to work and job training, then we need to do the right thing and reform and modernize this system.”

“The statistics in this report are staggering and frankly, shameful,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Considering the well documented and costly effects of poverty on a child’s development, and long term educational and health outcomes, increases and reforms to benefits is not only the right thing to do morally, but is a wise and sensible investment in our state’s future.”

“This is a fiscally responsible bill that will save taxpayers money in the long run,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “The more we do now to provide a helping hand, the less we’ll have to do later to relieve the difficulties that come with poverty. We must act and act now.”

“Sitting back and accepting this status quo is unacceptable,” said Schaer (D-Passaic/Bergen). “The erosion of assistance has, among other concerns, harmed the state’s poorest children. We cannot let that continue.”

“As a result of this stagnation, this vital assistance is worth less than half what it was worth in 1987,” said Holley (D-Union). “This has been harmful to our state and exacerbated the problems that coincide with poverty. We need to do more.”

“New Jersey’s monthly assistance is about 700 percent less than what the Department of Human Services says is needed to maintain a decent and healthy standard of living,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Needless to say, this damage cannot be allowed to continue. Standing idle is not an option.”

“More than 8 in 10 New Jersey children living in poverty do not receive any such assistance,” said Quijano (D-Union). “That’s appalling and, quite frankly, embarrassing. If we want better outcomes, we need better programs.”

Under the bill:
· For Fiscal Year 2017, the maximum benefit levels shall be 10 percent higher than the maximum benefits levels in effect during Fiscal Year 2016;
· For Fiscal Year 2018, the maximum benefit levels shall be 20 percent higher than the maximum benefits levels in effect during Fiscal Year 2016;
· For Fiscal Year 2019, the maximum benefit levels shall be 30 percent higher than the maximum benefits levels in effect during Fiscal Year 2016; and
· For Fiscal Year 2020 and each year thereafter, the maximum benefit levels shall be annually adjusted according to the cost of living adjustment applied under the federal Social Security program.

The legislation now heads to the Governor’s desk.

Add your reaction Share

Prieto, Muoio, Oliver, Schaer, Holley, Mukherji & Quijano Bill to Increase Assistance to Low-Income Families to Help Ease Poverty Advanced by Senate Budget Panel

Bill Boosts Work First New Jersey Benefits

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Speaker Vincent Prieto, Elizabeth Muoio, Sheila Oliver, Gary Schaer, Jamel Holley, Raj Mukherji and Annette Quijano sponsored to increase the maximum cash assistance benefit for families participating in the Work First New Jersey program was advanced Thursday by the Senate budget panel.

The bill (A-30) is part of efforts by Assembly Democrats to lift people out of poverty and rebuild New Jersey’s middle-class. It was approved by the Assembly in March and is part of the Democratic state budget proposal.

The Work First New Jersey program provides cash and other assistance to low-income families with dependent children in order to alleviate the negative effects of poverty.

The bill comes after a report by New Jersey Policy Perspective detailed the devastating economic and social impact of New Jersey’s decision not to increase assistance or eligibility for 29 years.

“As I’ve said as part of the Assembly’s ongoing effort to combat poverty and rebuild the middle-class, fixing this problem isn’t just about social responsibility. It’s also about fiscal responsibility,” said Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen). “It’s appalling that New Jersey has the lowest grant level in the Northeast and that we’ve accepted this as child poverty increases steadily, along with all the costly problems that come along with it. If we’re going to help lift people out of poverty by increasing access to work and job training, then we need to do the right thing and reform and modernize this system.”

“The statistics in this report are staggering and frankly, shameful,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Considering the well documented and costly effects of poverty on a child’s development, and long term educational and health outcomes, increases and reforms to benefits is not only the right thing to do morally, but is a wise and sensible investment in our state’s future.”

“This is a fiscally responsible bill that will save taxpayers money in the long run,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “The more we do now to provide a helping hand, the less we’ll have to do later to relieve the difficulties that come with poverty. We must act and act now.”

“Sitting back and accepting this status quo is unacceptable,” said Schaer (D-Passaic/Bergen). “The erosion of assistance has, among other concerns, harmed the state’s poorest children. We cannot let that continue.”
“As a result of this stagnation, this vital assistance is worth less than half what it was worth in 1987,” said Holley (D-Union). “This has been harmful to our state and exacerbated the problems that coincide with poverty. We need to do more.”

“New Jersey’s monthly assistance is about 700 percent less than what the Department of Human Services says is needed to maintain a decent and healthy standard of living,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Needless to say, this damage cannot be allowed to continue. Standing idle is not an option.”
“More than 8 in 10 New Jersey children living in poverty do not receive any such assistance,” said Quijano (D-Union). “That’s appalling and, quite frankly, embarrassing. If we want better outcomes, we need better programs.”

Under the bill:

  • For Fiscal Year 2017, the maximum benefit levels shall be 10 percent higher than the maximum benefits levels in effect during Fiscal Year 2016;
  • For Fiscal Year 2018, the maximum benefit levels shall be 20 percent higher than the maximum benefits levels in effect during Fiscal Year 2016;
  • For Fiscal Year 2019, the maximum benefit levels shall be 30 percent higher than the maximum benefits levels in effect during Fiscal Year 2016; and
  • For Fiscal Year 2020 and each year thereafter, the maximum benefit levels shall be annually adjusted according to the cost of living adjustment applied under the federal Social Security program.
Add your reaction Share

Tucker, Johnson, Holley & Downey Legislation to Increase Post-Traumatic Stress Awareness Gains Assembly Approval

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

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Cleopatra Tucker, Gordon Johnson, Jamel Holley and Joann Downey to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress injury, which affects millions of Americans, gained approval from the General Assembly on Thursday.

“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). “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 Injury Awareness Day.” The legislation aims to bring awareness to those suffering from post-traumatic stress injury and to encourage people to reach out to their fellow citizens to provide support and remove the associated stigma.

“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 Assembly passed the measure unanimously.

Add your reaction Share

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

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 55-14-7 by the full Assembly on Thursday.

“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 now awaits consideration by the Senate.

Add your reaction Share

Assembly Democratic Bill to Expand Primary Voting Rights, Encourage Youth Participation in Elections Continues Advancing

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

(TRENTON) – 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 was approved on Thursday by a Senate panel.

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 my 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 bill was approved by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee. The General Assembly passed the legislation, 57-17, in May.

Add your reaction Share

Schaer, Vainieri Huttle, Pinkin, Holley, McKnight & Quijano Measure to Help Spur Cure for Zika Virus Gains Approval by the Assembly

(TRENTON) – The General Assembly on Thursday cleared a measure sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Nancy Pinkin, Jamel Holley, Angela McKnight and Annette Quijano backing the federal government’s recent move to prioritize a cure for the Zika virus, which has caused widespread concern because of the devastating impact it has on children born to infected pregnant women. The measure passed 64-0-1.

The resolution (AR-142) applauds the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for recently adding the Zika virus to the list of eligible Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) under the FDA’s Tropical Disease Priority Review Voucher Program, which incentivizes drug companies to develop a cure for such diseases.

“With the spread of Zika in Latin America and its arrival in the United States, this was an important move on the part of the FDA to add Zika to the list of diseases eligible under the voucher program,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Incentivizing drug companies to put their ingenuity to work could save countless lives and prevent thousands of children from being born with devastating health consequences that could impair them for the rest of their lives.”

“Zika’s continuing spread will only be compounded by the imminent arrival of summer, posing a greater threat to women and newborns,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “It’s crucial that the federal government use whatever resources it has at its disposal to incentivize the pharmaceutical research industry to advance a cure or vaccination.”

“Adding the Zika virus to the list of eligible Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) is critical to finding a cure,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “Although, we have seen few cases in New Jersey, we are not sure what the next few months will bring. Zika’s placement on this list will, hopefully, speed the development of a vaccine.”

In many people, the illness associated with Zika – a disease caused by a viral infection that is primarily spread by mosquitos – is usually undetected or presents mild symptoms lasting for several days to a week. However, Zika has been making headlines as it continues to spread because of the dangers it poses to pregnant women.

“The designation of Zika on the Neglected Tropical Disease list was crucial to ensuring we begin to get ahead on curbing the spread of the virus,” said Holley (D-Union). “This was a smart move on behalf of the food and drug administration as we head into warmer weather and mosquito season.”

“Placing Zika on the priority disease list gives find a cure for the virus the proper sense of urgency,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has done well to raise awareness of the disease and incentivize drug companies to work harder to develop a cure.”

“Zika’s effect on pregnant women and children as well as the recent discovery of the virus’ ability to be transferred sexually is disturbing,” said Quijano (D-Union). “Allowing the Zika Virus on the NTD list and eligible for the voucher program brings the nation one step closer to a finding a cure. This was the right thing to do.”

According to health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), Zika represents a significant danger to pregnant women because it can lead to congenital malformations and neurological complications in infants born to infected women, causing children to be born with abnormally small heads and potential developmental problems. According to the WHO, the Zika outbreak meets the conditions for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Accordingly, the FDA had the statutory authorized to add Zika to the voucher program. The program incentivizes a drug company to develop a cure for NTDs by providing a voucher that can be used to acquire priority review from the FDA for the approval of a new drug or allowing them to sell the voucher to another company.

The measure was approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee on May 12. The bill will now go to the Senate for further consideration.

Add your reaction Share