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State Legislature Should Not Strip Patients’ Rights as Part of Emergency Response

I am expressing deep concerns about proposed legislation, A. 3910, designed to provide civil and criminal immunity to certain health care professionals and health care facilities during this public health emergency.

Under this bill, an individual or family affected by COVID-19 would not have the strong grounding to pursue possible legal malpractice action. I voted not to participate in the vote roll call Monday. This bill is inhumane.

At a time when state lawmakers should be providing resources to families, I’m disappointed that such legislation would be disguised as part of a public policy emergency. In the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, it was reassured to me that controversial or highly debatable legislative bills would not be brought forth without proper discussion.

I’m dismayed that days after public discussion regarding how minorities are more affected by COVID-19 that the state Legislature would consider a bill that selectively strips the rights of individuals their right to pursue legal actions, if need be.

This fast-moving bill was introduced on Thursday, the day before Good Friday and amended in the Senate on Monday. The bill skipped both the Assembly and Senate Health and/or Judiciary committee review and appears to be on the board list for a vote today.

No public discussion. No public input.

I am hoping that Gov. Phil Murphy provides a conditional veto that strikes the immunity aspect, allowing families the options and legal right without legislative interference or interpretation. I'm recommending the governor support the remainder of the bill, which actually provides assistance to the ongoing efforts of this pandemic.

I believe we all can agree that at times, swift legislative actions must be necessary for various reasons. However, unjust, rushed legislation that removes the constitutional right of an individual(s) through legislation should have reasonable public hearings and input, even remotely, if needed.

The proposed legislation would be retroactive to March 2020 – requiring the need for further public debate about back dating a law.

As elected officials, it is with great hopes that we would want to provide thoughtful legislation to the public. But impacting the constitutional rights of the citizenry without its input hits all aspects of governmental failure.

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Mosquera, Moen & Holley Resolutions Promoting Awareness and Involvement in 2020 Census Pass Full Assembly

In an effort to raise awareness about the 2020 Census, three Assembly Democrats sponsor resolutions that would encourage increased participation throughout the state.

Counties and municipalities would be urged to form Complete Count Committees upon passage of the first resolution (AR-78), sponsored by Assemblywoman Mosquera and Assemblyman Bill Moen (D-Camden, Gloucester). These committees would be comprised of government and community leaders who would create an awareness campaign encouraging participation in the Census, based on their understanding of the community.

The second resolution (AR-79), sponsored by Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester) and Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union), would designate March 12th – 20th as “Get out the Count Week.”

Both resolutions were previously advanced by the Assembly Women and Children Committee after committee members received testimony from various experts regarding how the Census will impact New Jersey residents. Advocates for Children of New Jersey, the regional director of the Census Bureau and the New Jersey Secretary of State were among the guests who spoke.

Upon the resolutions unanimously passing the full Assembly Monday, the sponsors released the following joint statement:

“Many people don’t realize just how important the Census is to their community and how it will impact various aspects of their lives. We need to make our residents more aware of how the data gathered during the Census will affect their friends and family.

“The number of people recorded within a region influences federal allocation of funding for various social programs, including Medicare and SNAP. It also affects funding for school programs and infrastructure improvements, while determining the amount of Congressional delegates that will represent New Jersey.

“Business owners, non-profit organizations and lawmakers alike use the collected data to determine what daily services, products and support will be provided to communities.

“An awareness campaign with the help of county and municipal committees can help spread this information to get more residents involved in the Census.”

The resolutions will now go to the Senate.

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Holley fires back at Conaway

Assemblyman Jamel Holley fired back at Assemblyman Herb Conaway after the latter suggested Holley’s vocal opposition to a leadership-backed bill eliminating a religious vaccination exemption could be losing him some support in the chamber.

“This legislation stripping the rights of human beings is indicative of the virus that has infected our politics in New Jersey and this country,” Holley said. “When elected officials support legislation that segregates our citizens for the benefit of special interest, you can trust and believe that I’ll be on the side of the people, always. If this is a threat to silence my voice, I have one simple message: Bring it on.”

Holley has been the vaccine bill’s chief opponent in the Assembly. He lobbied members of the Legislative Black Caucus against an amended version of the bill that would have created a carveout for private schools and day cares.

Last week, prominent anti-vaccine activist Robert Kennedy held a fundraiser for Holley and met with members of the LBC to discuss anti-vaxx arguments.

It’s not yet clear whether Holley’s opposition to the vaccine bill will affect his chances at re-election, but a dissatisfied leadership team could complicate the contest.

“I have every right just as well as every other member of the Legislature to support or oppose any legislation that comes before me,” Holley said “When it came to a segregated piece of legislation and an attack on removing religious exemptions and the right to parental choice to make medical decisions for their children by class, wealth, and zip code, I chose to stand with the people.”

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Robert Kennedy Jr. headlines Holley fundraiser

Prominent anti-vaccination activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. held a fundraiser for Assemblyman Jamel Holley at da Benito in Union Township Tuesday morning.

Holley said the event, which comes weeks after Holley lobbied against a bill eliminating a religious exemption for vaccination, raised roughly $100,000 dollars.

That bill died in the lame duck session because lawmakers in the Senate failed to secure enough votes to pass it. An amended version of the bill that drew support from Republican State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon also failed to reach 21 votes.

Holley said Kennedy met with members of the Legislative Black Caucus to talk about anti-vaccine arguments earlier in the morning.

Three of the five senators who opposed the original vaccine bill — Sens. Nia Gill, Ronald Rice and Shirley Turner — are members of the caucus.

Lawmakers are poised to make another push at reforming the legislative exemption, though it’s not likely that bill will closely resemble the version they attempted to pass during the lame duck session.

 

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Quijano, Pinkin, Karabinchak & Holley Bill Promoting Increased Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in NJ Passes Committee

In an effort to improve the convenience of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), including electric and hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars, Assembly Democrats have sponsored legislation that would require New Jersey municipalities to consider the inclusion of fueling and charging infrastructure in their redevelopment projects.

Upon the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee advancing the bill (A-1653), sponsors Annette Quijano (D-Union), Nancy Pinkin (D-Middlesex), Robert Karabinchak (D-Middlesex) and Jamel Holley (D-Union) released the following joint statement:

“More people are using zero-emission vehicles now than ever before. This is due in part to the hundreds of dollars ZEV drivers save each year on gas. These vehicles are also better for our planet than gasoline cars because they don’t create byproducts that can harm the environment.

“The Assembly passed quite a few bills last session to encourage the purchase of ZEVs, and we must continue our efforts of finding ways to make these cars more convenient for both current and prospective owners.

“This legislation will encourage municipalities to incorporate charging and refueling stations in their redevelopment plans to increase the number of stations throughout our state. The more places our residents can go to recharge or refuel their ZEV, the more practical and appealing these vehicles will be.”

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Coughlin, Lampitt & Holley Bill to Eliminate Cost of School Meals for Eligible Students, Combat Child Hunger Signed into Law

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

Expanding access to free meals for families struggling to afford the cost of reduced-price school meals, a measure requiring the State to cover the cost of reduced price breakfast and lunch for eligible public school students was signed into law by the Governor on Tuesday.

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

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

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

This law appropriates $4.5 million, which enables the State to pay the difference between federal allocations for reduced priced breakfasts and lunches and the total cost of these meal programs.

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

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

Under provisions of the new law, the Department of Agriculture is directed to adopt regulations for the scheduling and management of reimbursements to school districts.

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

The law takes effect 180 days from the date of enactment.

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Wimberly, Holley Bill to Study the Impact of Poverty on Children Signed into Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Benjie Wimberly and Jamel Holley to examine the effect of poverty on the development of children in economically distressed areas of the state, and develop recommendations to improve their lives was signed into law Tuesday by Governor Phil Murphy.

The law (formerly A-1146) establishes the “New Jersey Investing in You Promise Neighborhood Commission” to examine the effect of poverty on the development of the children in the state’s most fiscally distressed urban and rural areas, and to develop recommendations about how local nonprofits, civic organizations, religious institutions, and institutions of higher education in the state can help to support and improve the lives of children living in these areas.

“The detrimental effects of poverty on children are wide-raging. This not only hurts families, but entire communities,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Children are the future. We have to make a concerted effort to help these families climb out of poverty so these children will not be scarred by the chaos created by poverty and are able to reach their full potential.”

There are currently two federally-designated Promise Neighborhoods in the state. They are located in Newark and Camden. Under the law, the commission is tasked with:

  • analyzing the current status of the state’s two federally-designated Promise Neighborhoods, located in Newark and Camden, and its impact on the residents of those municipalities, and creating a report describing its successes, identifying areas in need of improvement, determining whether it is possible to expand the program to other municipalities, and if so, identifying funding that would be available to do so;
  • creating a master action plan to expand the number of Promise Neighborhoods in the state by 2017, with a focus on Trenton, Paterson, and Vineland. The plan shall outline the strategies and target the logistics specific to the expansion throughout the state of the program; and
  • designing a plan for the creation of a Promise Neighborhood that will replicate, guide, and provide technical assistance for all programs throughout the State, and a plan for the efficient use of federal or State funds that may be allocated for the expansion of the Promise Neighborhood Initiative in New Jersey.

“It is difficult to plan and have aspirations for the future when you’re on survival mode,” said Holley (D-Union). “Poverty takes a tremendous toll on families. If we want our children to grow up to be successful, we have to invest in solutions that will help these families overcome poverty.”

The commission will be composed of 20 members, including the mayors of Newark, Camden, Trenton, Paterson and Vineland, and the presidents of Thomas Edison State College, the College of New Jersey, Rowan University, Rutgers University and Passaic County Community College. The law makes a $2 million appropriation for the operation of the commission.

The law takes effect immediately, and the commission will expire on the 30th day next following the submission of its report.

Earlier this month, the law was approved by the Assembly 73-0 and the Senate 34-1.

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Sumter, Holley, Jones & Wimberly Bill Aimed at Improving Rehabilitation, Reducing Criminal Recidivism Rate Now Law

Moving on criminal justice reform, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Shavonda Sumter, Jamel Holley, Patricia Egan Jones and Benjie Wimberly aiming to end the school-to-prison pipeline, assist individuals in recovery and rehabilitation, reduce the number of repeat offenders and provide savings was signed into law Monday.

“The majority of the more than 10,000 inmates who are released from prison each year in New Jersey will be rearrested, and two in five will return to prison. In addition to the direct impact this has on their own lives, it also affects their families, their communities and the entire state,” said Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). “It’s critical that we stop this woeful pattern by making sure that these men and women have the education, job skills and other resources they need in order to be productive members of society after leaving prison.”

The law (formerly bill A-1986) – called the “Earn Your Way Out Act” – enacts various corrections and parole reforms, including requiring the Department of Corrections (DOC) to develop a reentry plan for each inmate, establishing administrative parole release for certain inmates, providing for parole compliance credits, creating an inmate disciplinary database and mandating an impact study of the law’s reforms by an institution of higher education’s criminal justice program.

“For far too long, we have allowed the school-to-prison pipeline to remain intact,” said Holley (D-Union). “Now, we have a law that will finally allow us to break this pipeline, and help make incarcerated New Jerseyans truly gain a second chance.”

Under the law, the DOC Commissioner will be required to establish a Division of Reentry and Rehabilitative Services to coordinate reentry preparation and other rehabilitative services within all State correctional facilities, and to act as a liaison to the State Parole Board. Staff within the division will be responsible for developing and implementing an individualized, comprehensive reentry plan designed to prepare each inmate for successful integration as a productive, law-abiding citizen upon release.

The law also enables all eligible parolees to earn compliance credits, which will be used to reduce their time by five days for each month they remain in compliance with the conditions of parole and does not commit a serious or persistent infraction.

“The Earn Your Way Out Act is supportive of second chances,” said Patricia Egan Jones (D-Camden). “Preparing a pathway to reentry and providing access to needed resources is the only way to help these individuals during their next steps in life.”

“This is exactly where our emphasis should be when it comes to reforming the system, reducing crime and shutting the revolving door on prisons,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Comprehensive and effective rehabilitation programs will restore hope, dignity, and provide former inmates the second chance they deserve to do better once released. There’s a lot more to be done; however, this is a critical step to stabilizing families, reforming a broken system that has burdened our state and society with unquantifiable costs.”

Additionally, the law provides that inmates may be awarded commutation credits following arrest for time served in a county jail. Currently, commutation credits are not available to inmates who serve time in a county jail prior to serving time in a State correctional system.

The law also creates a centralized database of information contained in each disciplinary report prepared by a corrections officer in response to an inmate committing a prohibited act.

Any cost savings realized will go to the Office of Victim Services for the operating costs of the Focus on the Victim Program, as well as other services to facilitate successful recovery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.

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