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Assembly Panel Advances Sumter, Tucker, Holley & Timberlake Bill to Repeal Law Prohibiting Voting for Individuals with Convictions

Bill to Restore Voting Rights to Persons on Parole or Probation

Asserting the right to vote as both fundamental and critical to democracy, a bill restoring voting rights to individuals on parole or probation was approved in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday. The legislation is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Shavonda Sumter, Cleopatra Tucker, Jamel Holley and Britnee Timberlake.

The bill (A-5823) would remove the prohibition on voting by persons on parole and/or probation convicted for an indictable offense under any federal or state laws, which in New Jersey are offenses for crimes of the fourth through first degree.

“New Jersey can lead the nation as a model of racial justice and inclusive democracy with the enactment of this bill,” said Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). “The privilege to participate in the election process is a constitutional right afforded every American regardless of background, race or status. Every person of voting age should have the ability to cast their ballot without interference and without judgement of their personal history.”

States across the country have sought to ease voting restrictions on individuals with criminal convictions in recent decades. Under the proposed legislation, New Jersey’s law would be amended to provide for automatic restoration of voting rights upon release, where it currently provides for automatic restoration only after the completion of a sentence including periods of parole and probation.

“Voting is an opportunity for all residents to have their say in who leads their communities and state,” said Tucker (D-Essex).  “No one population should be disproportionately denied their right to vote. These are outdated laws that have no place in a modern democracy.”

Under Article II, Section I, paragraph 7, the New Jersey Constitution authorizes the Legislature to disqualify certain persons from the right to vote in primary, municipal, special or general elections. This bill would eliminate the voting disqualification currently levied against the roughly 79,000 people on probation and parole in New Jersey.

“Withholding the right to vote from people who have served their time while incarcerated, and who have paid their dues, sends the wrong message,” said Holley (D-Union). “We need to successfully reintegrate individuals into their respective communities and that requires reinstating rights to participate in the political process as soon as they step foot outside of the horrors of the incarcerated walls.”

“The story of mass incarceration and disproportionate disenfranchisement in America can no longer be the narrative for New Jersey,” said Timberlake (D-Essex, Passaic). “People with criminal records face enough trials post-incarceration in searching for employment, paying down debt and reconnecting with their families. Ending the prohibition on voting for probationers and parolees gives them a chance to move forward, to have their voices heard.”

The bill, accordingly, also repeals statutory provisions that permit a person to challenge a voter’s right to vote in an election on grounds that the voter is disenfranchised due to a criminal conviction (N.J.S.A.19:15-19); require the commissioner of registration in each county to compare voter registration records with criminal conviction records to prevent disenfranchised persons from voting and registering to vote (N.J.S.A.19:13-17): and criminalize the act of voting while disenfranchised (N.J.S.A.19:34-4).

It now goes to the Assembly Speaker for further review.

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State assemblyman criticizes Murphy’s plan to remove lead water pipes

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A Democratic state assemblyman is criticizing Gov. Phil Murphy’s plan to remove lead water service pipes around the state.

Union County Assemblyman Jamel Holley says that Murphy has been “asleep at the switch” on the issue of lead contamination in New Jersey.

“I’m choosing people over politics,” Holley says. “I like the governor. I think he’s a great man. But we’re just not on the same page on this issue.”

Holley says that he thinks that the governor’s $500,000 plan is more of a reaction than anything else.

“What we need is a comprehensive Marshall environmental plan instead of a reaction,” he says.

Gov. Murphy revealed his administration's lead strategy last Thursday. Working off a report by New Jersey Water Works task force, the governor says he plans to replace every lead service line in the state by 2029, remove lead paint and remediate lead-contaminated soil.

RELATED: Newark halts free bottled water program; gives out filters instead 
RELATED: Gov. Murphy seeks $500M bond to replace lead paint, pipes 

Holley, in August, asked for a state of emergency to be called to deliver bottled water in Newark. He says that he spoke to the governor by phone on Aug. 20.

“The conversation quite frankly wasn't very respectful. In fact, the governor hung up the phone on me and we haven't talked since but I have been communicating with his administration,” Holley says.

FULL COVERAGE: Lead-contaminated water crisis

A spokesperson for the Murphy administration says in a statement, "Assemblyman Holley should focus on passing legislation to solve this issue instead of engaging in political theatrics from the backbench. His recent attacks on the Governor and Mayor are just pathetic attempts to make himself relevant."

The governor's office also defended administration efforts and the work of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka to replace over 1,000 service lines to date.

Holley says that he agrees with Newark state Sen. Ron Rice, another Democrat, who recently wrote a letter accusing the governor of patronizing African American leaders.

“There's several other issues that we are confronted with, in particular in urban communities, in regard to social justice none of which have been resolved,” Holley says. “Water is a liberty, it is a right, but we have to get it right. And we are not getting it right here in the state of New Jersey."

Holley says he's worked with the Elizabethport Presbyterian Center to collect more than 60,000 donated cases of water for places like Newark and Flint, Michigan.


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Holley says Murphy ignored lead crisis

Assemblyman Jamel Holley said Gov. Phil Murphy’s been asleep at the wheel on the state’s waterborne lead crisis.

The Assembly Democrat took aim at Murphy’s handling of Newark’s water crisis, saying the governor slow-played action on the issue despite promising to focus on it during his 2017 gubernatorial campaign.

Holley cited a list of recommendations the legislature sent Murphy in early 2018. Most of those recommendations went nowhere, and some were implemented with a fraction of the resources the joint legislative committee sought.

For instance, the committee recommended issuing a $400 million bond to address the state’s lead water service lines. Only a quarter of that amount was issued, and it came as part of a separate $500 million bond.

Holley’s criticisms of Murphy come days after State Sen. Ron Rice, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, claimed Murphy and legislative leaders patronized black officials and activists.

Rice accused the governor, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin of slow-playing issues like marijuana decriminalization.

Holley was one of the legislature’s biggest advocates for marijuana legalization.

“No wonder Senator Ron Rice, the longest-serving African-American state senator in New Jersey history called out Governor Murphy for not listening to the plight of minority communities across the state,” Holly said. “It’s time for the Governor to act. Too many innocent lives are impacted.”

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This is a call to action! Governor Murphy needs to step up efforts on the lead crisis in New Jersey. Children and family lives are affected everyday!

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Outraged Holley: Newark and Area Residents ‘Remain Victims of Ecoside Purported by Environmental Racism’

Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20) was unimpressed by the press conference led by Gov. Phil Murphy and other elected officials this afternoon as they reported on the preliminary findings of lead contamination testing in the City of Newark.

In fact, it infuriated him.

“Until the City of Newark [that provides water to several municipalities including Elizabeth, Hillside, Belleville & Bloomfield] and the State of New Jersey can prove through comprehensive tests the water is safe to drink sadly the residents of those municipalities remain victims of ecoside purported by environmental racism.

“Today’s press conference failed to include the validation and confirmation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency that the water is safe to drink without using a filter,” added the Roselle-based assemblyman.

“What’s the point of testing only filters and not the full testing of the water flowing into the service lines,” he wanted to know. “Bottled water still needs to be distributed!”

The NJ Sierra Cluub issued a similar response to the news.

According to local sources in Newark, officials found houses using filters have lead levels of 10ppb. In August, The EPA tested and found high levels of lead with filters in two residences in Newark. The agency strongly encouraged the city of Newark to take immediate action.

 “The city of Newark has sampled 300 homes and found that of lead levels are at 10ppb. This levels are still too high given the impact of lead to children. Filters should be removing 99% of the lead in water. The CDC and the EPA said there should be no traces of lead in the water. The private well drinking act sets the standard for houses on wells for 5ppb. 10ppb but it is still way to high that will have serious health impacts on children and the people of Newark. Its shows we are doing too little too late,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. Newark tried the Brita Solution that hasn’t worked, they tried the Poland Spring solution that also has not worked. The city needs a long term solution, the lead problem in Newark has been going on for far too long.”

Lead levels in Newark’s water supply tested at 52 parts per billion between January 1 and June 30 of 2019. These are the highest levels ever recorded in Newark, an increase from 48 parts per billion during the last 6 months of 2018. Newark officials say orthophosphate corrosion control systems should begin to reduce the lead levels over the second half of 2019.

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Quijano, Holley and Lopez Bill Extending Employment Training Program for SNAP Recipients Signed into Law

(TRENTON) – A demonstrative project to professionally assist Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients will be extended beyond its initial approval period with legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Jamel Holley and Yvonne Lopez. The bill was signed into law Friday by Governor Murphy.

SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, helps certain qualifying low-income individuals and families purchase food they would otherwise have difficulty obtaining. The goal of the associated Employment and Training (E&T) program is to help improve the economic self-sufficiency of SNAP recipients by providing them with the skills, training and experience needed to get a job.

The federal government provides funding to states that choose to operate this program, so New Jersey initiated its own four-year trial program in 2014 called the SNAP Employment and Training Provider Demonstration Project, by partnering with two organizations to work toward those goals.

With the program coming to an end, the bill (A-3647) was introduced to extend the program beyond the original timeframe, rename the program to indicate that it’s no longer a demonstration project, and expand it by having the Department of Labor and Workforce Development consider the inclusion of additional participants each year.

“This initial program helped many New Jersey residents gain useful skills essential to obtaining employment,” said Quijano (D-Union). “We have a program that works, which is why it’s so important to involve more partners and continue carrying out its goals.”

“We owe it to our residents to give them every opportunity to succeed,” said Lopez (D-Middlesex). “The participants in this program benefit from the training provided, as it helps them find and maintain steady employment.”

“SNAP recipients want to work and be financially independent, which is why we must provide them with the tools they need to do just that,” said Holley (D-Union). “This program offers invaluable lessons that are relevant to the professional world and will ultimately last participants a lifetime.”

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State Assemblyman Holley Calls on Gov. Murphy to Declare State of Emergency Over Newark Lead Water Crisis

NEWARK, NJ - A state Assemblyman from a legislative district neighboring Newark called on Gov. Phil Murphy to declare a state of emergency in the face of the city's deepening lead water crisis.

"I am pleading and suggesting to you as the Governor of this great State that a State of Emergency be called. This request comes on the backs of each human being in New Jersey that fears government has not appeared to show protection to them, nor has been transparent in this process that we together now face," Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D - Roselle) wrote in a letterpdf that he sent on Tuesday to Murphy and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. 

"When it comes to complex environmental issues such as lead and contamination, we know the effects it can have on human health and the sense of safety and well-being perceived by the community," Holley said in the letter first provided to TapInto Newark. "Government is there to ensure security, not display doubt. This matter has doubt. The public's faith in its government is at stake here."

Holley, whose district includes the Union County municipalities of Elizabeth, Hillside, Roselle and Union, has already been publicly outspoken regarding the ongoing lead water crisis in Newark.

"I am not going to divulge how disappointed I am with the leadership within this State on the handling of the water crisis our Newark community is facing," Holley said in an August 12 Facebook post. "However, as a State elected leader in Union County and former Mayor of the Borough of Roselle, I cannot idly stand by and watch our most vulnerable human beings particularly our children, seniors, and families suffer from poisonous lead levels."


In the same post, Holley announced the beginning of a bottled water collection drive or behalf of Newark residents. A series of subsequent posts on Facebook indicate that the scope of the drive has spread, with donations coming from as near as Westfield and as far Brooklyn.

Holley also indicated in a NJTV interview broadcast on August 13 that he would ask Murphy to call a state of emergency if the situation did not improve.

Holley's call to Gov. Murphy to declare a state of emergency comes after a series of dramatic events related to the ongoing crisis of lead contamination in Newark's water.

On August 9, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed testing results showing that out of three filters provided to Newark residents by the city to reduce lead in the water to safe levels, two had failed to work.

At the same time, the EPA urged Newark residents to use bottled water for drinking and cooking until the results of the filter testing are fully understood and additional sampling is performed. 

Meanwhile, bottled water distribution began last week at several locations throughout the city, but only for Newark residents of the western half of the city who are serviced by the Pequannock water treatment plant with lead service lines who have received filters. 

Holley's letter was also sent to Belleville Mayor Michael Melham and Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia. Both municipalities are serviced by the Pequannock water treatment plant. He also sent the letter to Hillside Mayor Dahlia Vertreese. About 50 houses in Hillside are impacted by the water problem.

Gov. Murphy has weighed in on the lead water crisis in Newark, visiting the city last week where he offered help distributing bottled water to city residents and pointed to the federal government's responsibility to improve water infrastructure. A federal district court judge is now deciding whether the city of Newark will be compelled to expand its emergency bottled water distribution to include residents of the eastern half of Newark, who are serviced by the Wanaque water treatment plan.

In his letter to Murphy, Baraka, and other officials, Holley refers to the infamous lead water contamination crisis that began in Flint, Michigan five years ago. State and federal authorities ultimately declared a state of emergency in Flint in January 2016. Flint city officials recently announced they hope to complete lead service line replacement by the end of this year.

Holley lists a series of steps that should be part of the enactment of the state of emergency, including an immediate take over by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the management of Newark's water system, dispatching the New Jersey National Guard to help distribute unexpired, bottled water to all municipalities affected, weekly test results of the Pequannock and Wanaque water systems, as well as the Cedar Grove filtration system, and additional lead testing locations for families and children. 

Holley also suggested the governor petition the U.S. Attorney's Office to appoint a social prosecutor to review, investigate and make public all water, sewer, and repair contracts related with the Pequannock and Wanaque water systems,  as well as the Cedar Grove filtration system. 

Alexandra Altman, a spokeswoman for Murphy, said, "The Governor is reviewing Assemblyman Holley's request and is considering all options."

Holley acknowledged that he is a representative from a neighboring county, and is getting involved as he has in the past with humanitarian efforts around the state and country. "I am not going to sit idly by and not pitch in to help those who are vulnerable here," he said.

"Humanitarian efforts are about people, not politics," he said. "Those who want to get involved in political pushback are not humanitarians."

When asked if by calling for a state of emergency he was creating a panic, he pointed out that it was the opposite. The state of emergency "puts all hand on deck" and commits city, county, state and federal resources to provide comfort to citizens as solutions are found. 

Mayor Baraka could not immediately be reached for comment. 

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Help Newark Families

I am not going to divulge how disappointed I am with the leadership within this State on the handling of the water crisis our Newark community is facing.

However, as a State elected leader in Union County and former Mayor of the Borough of Roselle, I cannot idly stand by and watch our most vulnerable human beings: particularly our children, seniors, and families suffer from poisonous lead levels.

Now is not the time to point fingers.

I would like to focus solely on the immediate!

While I do not represent the City of Newark, nor do I reside in Essex County, my heart has propelled me to help.

I need your assistance! I am asking for all my Union County residents, #teamholley supporters, and those of you reading this post to please assist me in collecting cases of bottled water for our pre-schoolers, children, seniors, and families.

My relief team has two available drop off locations. At your convenience, can you please drop off cases of water to send to our brothers and sisters in need:

Elizabethport Presbyterian Center
184 First Street
Elizabeth, NJ
9a - 7p
Monday - Saturday
James Carey 908-576-5089

310 E 8th Ave
Roselle, NJ
10a - 2p
Tuesday - Friday
Ricky or Aeisha at 908-368-1331

I humbly thank you in advance from the bottom of my heart. I am hoping that you can help us at any level possible.

We welcome anyone that can help.


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