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Now Law: Murphy, Holley, Benson and Moriarty Measure to Criminalize Animal Fighting Paraphernalia

To close a loophole in New Jersey law regarding animal fighting, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Carol Murphy, Jamel Holley, Daniel Benson and Paul Moriarty to criminalize the possession of animal fighting paraphernalia was signed into law Friday by Governor Phil Murphy.

The new law (A-4698) makes it illegal to possess animal fighting paraphernalia for the purpose of promoting, facilitating or participating in animal fighting or baiting. Owning, possessing, selling, transferring or manufacturing such materials will be a crime of the third degree under State animal cruelty statutes, punishable by three to five years in prison or a fine of up to $15,000, or both.

Animal fighting is a felony in New Jersey, but it previously was not illegal to possess paraphernalia used in animal fighting activities.

“Dog fighting, cock fighting and animal combat of any kind is downright cruel,” said Murphy (D-Burlington). “We do not condone or tolerate this behavior in New Jersey. However, it can be difficult for law enforcement to charge suspects without actually having seen them facilitate animal fighting. By criminalizing paraphernalia, we will make it easier for officers to gather evidence and hold violators accountable.”

“Animal fighting is among the most callous and inhumane forms of animal cruelty,” said Holley (D-Union). “We must to do all we can end this practice in our state, starting with ensuring law enforcement are able to charge suspects accordingly when they see signs of trouble.”

“This law takes a comprehensive approach to combatting animal fighting in our State,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “If officers find clear evidence of fighting activity, they should be able to charge a suspect regardless of whether they’ve seen the act take place. When more abusers are brought to justice, the lives of more animals will be saved.”

“No domesticated animal is born knowing how to viciously fight another animal; they are trained to do so by people who want nothing more than to profit off of their suffering,” said Moriarty (D-Camden, Gloucester). “Strengthening our animal cruelty laws will undoubtedly help us reduce incidents in New Jersey and rescue animals from abusive situations.”

Additionally, the law establishes a civil penalty of between $3,000 and $5,000 for owning, possessing, buying, selling, transferring or manufacturing animal fighting paraphernalia.

The measure passed the Assembly in June, 76-0, and the Senate in May, 38-0.

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Benson, DeAngelo & Holley Statement on New Law Clarifying Eligibility of Part-Time Students for NJ STARS & NJ STARS II

Assembly Democrats Dan Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex), Wayne DeAngelo (D-Mercer, Middlesex), and Jamel Holley (D-Union) issued the following joint statement on the bill they sponsored (A-4115) being signed into law Friday. The new law will clarify who is eligible for New Jersey’s collegiate scholarship programs in order for the programs to be utilized as originally intended.

“NJ STARS and NJ STARS II are incredibly important programs designed to assist all New Jersey residents to pursue their academic dreams. Education is the most crucial step in attaining professional and socioeconomic advancement, and we must make higher education as accessible as possible for all of our residents. This law will allow NJ STARS and NJ STARS II to be utilized to their fullest extents, the way in which they were intended to be utilized.”

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Holley on Toms River School Board Member’s Facebook Posts: “This is a Clear Example of the Game ’Follow the Leader’.”

Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union) comments on the recent news regarding Toms River School Board member Dan Leonard’s social media posts:

“As with the President’s comments regarding Congresswomen Omar, Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley, Toms River school board member Dan Leonard’s recent social media posts are just as foul and unbecoming of an elected official. It’s unfathomable that in 2019 and in one of the most diverse states and nations in the world, we must continue to deal with unrelenting hatred surfacing in our communities.

“This is a clear example of the game ’follow the leader.’ The racist and personally degrading remarks we’ve heard out of the White House over the last week have given a false perception to many that it is acceptable to insult and threaten others even from an elected office.

“This is not the America we’ve fought to become. These views cannot and should not be tolerated anywhere, including in Toms River. The children of the school district and the care of their overall well-being should be a priority here. No elected official should be serving if their views and priorities are harmful to our democracy and those who work hard to righteously uphold its principles. Leonard should resign from his post immediately.”

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Houghtaling, Downey, Mukherji & Holley Bill to Raise Awareness for Property Tax Relief Programs Passes Senate

“It’s no secret that New Jersey has one of the highest property tax rates in the country,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth).  “But what may be a secret to many is that there are a number of tax relief programs that they might be eligible for. This bill will ensure that taxpayers are aware of the relief that is available.”

The bill (A-1048) would require each tax bill to include information about the Division of Taxation’s website outlining various state property tax relief programs and eligibility requirements.

“Through no further cost to the state or local governments, this simple change can help ensure that residents, particularly seniors, are well-informed of the tax relief programs that might go a long way towards offsetting the property tax burden,” said Downey (D-Monmouth).

Current state statute already requires that certain information be included with tax bills, such as a brief tabulation showing the distribution of the amount raised by taxation, along with links to information on the website of the Department of Community Affairs.

“These tax relief programs were designed to help put more money in the pockets of the average resident,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson).  “Seniors, especially, might not be aware that they even exist so we want to ensure that they’re taking advantage of every program available to them to offset the cost of living.”

“This bill is informative and beneficial to New Jersey residents,” said Holley (D-Union). “This legislation will help people understand what tax relief programs are available by making the information more accessible by simply including it on existing forms, which will be of no additional cost to municipalities and will ultimately save time, stress, and money for our residents.”

The measure was approved by the full Assembly in June by a vote of 73-2-2.

 

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Pinkin, Conaway, Giblin, Holley, Danielsen, Mukherji & Wimberly Bill to Help Promote Compassionate Palliative Treatment Options Approved by Assembly

Legislation Would Establish Statewide Palliative & Hospice Care Information & Education Program

In an effort to ensure that the public, health care providers, and health care facilities receive comprehensive and accurate information and education about palliative care and terminal illness, a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Nancy Pinkin, Herb Conaway, Jr., MD, Thomas Giblin, Jamel Holley, Joseph Danielsen, Raj Mukherji and Benjie Wimberly was approved 75-0-1 Thursday by the full Assembly.
The bill (A-312) would establish the “Palliative Care and Hospice Care Consumer and Professional Information and Education Program” in the Department of Health (DOH). It will require all facilities identified by the Commissioner of Health to provide information about appropriate palliative care and hospice care services to patients and residents with a serious illness.
“Given that the state’s population is aging, with greater incidence of cancer and a higher prevalence of chronic conditions, the demand for high quality hospice and palliative care services will undoubtedly increase,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex).
“Palliative care optimizes a patient’s quality of life by anticipating, preventing, and treating suffering caused by serious illness,” said Conaway (D-Burlington).  “It’s a compassionate approach to treatment that we should be promoting for the benefit of New Jersey families.”
“With palliative care, a patient often receives comprehensive pain and symptom management, as well as discussions on treatment options that are appropriate to the individual, such as hospice care,” said Giblin (D-Essex, Passaic).  “It’s important that we promote these benefits.”
“Palliative care has become an increasingly important part of treatment because it often involves addressing physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs,” said Holley (D-Union).  “Equally important, it also helps ensure a patient’s autonomy and their access to information and choice.”
“Hospice care is comprehensive in nature because it coordinates care between a home setting, as well as with outpatient and inpatient services,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset).  “Given the delicate nature of this end-of-life situation, it’s important that we provide patients and families with the resources necessary to cope.”
“Hospice care is critical in meeting the physical, psychological, social, spiritual, and other special needs that are experienced during the final stages of illness, dying, and bereavement,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson).  “We need to ensure that more families are aware of this important option.”
“Through a medically directed interdisciplinary team, hospice care provides services to patients and their families,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic).  “This targeted type of care is critical to a patient’s overall well-being when dealing with life-threatening illnesses.”
Under the bill, the Commissioner of Health may require a facility that fails to comply with these requirements to provide a plan of action to bring the facility into compliance.  In implementing these requirements, DOH would be required to take into account the size of the facility; access and proximity to palliative care and hospice care services, including the availability of hospice and palliative care board-certified practitioners and related workforce staff; geographic factors; and any other factors that may impact the ability of a hospital, nursing home, or facility to comply.
Additionally, the bill establishes the Palliative Care and Hospice Care Advisory Council within DOH.  In collaboration with the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the council would be charged with implementing the provisions of the bill, developing the information to be provided to patients and residents by hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities and facilitating the provision of this information, and developing resources and programs to facilitate access to palliative care and hospice care services for patients and residents.
The council shall be comprised of 11 members, to be appointed as follows: one member of the Senate appointed by the Senate President; one member of the General Assembly appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly; three public members appointed by the Senate President; three public members appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly; and three public members appointed by the Governor. The public members should be individuals who have experience, training, or academic background in issues related to the provision of palliative care or hospice care.
The bill will now head to the Senate for further consideration.

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Holley, McKnight & Wimberly Bill Revising State Expungement Procedures Approved by Assembly Panel

On legislation (A-4498) that would revise procedures for expunging records of conviction, approved by Assembly Appropriations Monday, sponsors Assembly Democrats Jamel Holley, Angela McKnight and Benjie Wimberly issued the following statements Monday:

 

Holley (D-Union): “Revising state expungement law forges a path to real social justice for our citizens. Over 200,000 individuals will be eligible in New Jersey under expungements. Broader regulation will give residents the opportunity to right the wrongs of the past and clean the slate, enabling them to gain employment and seize the opportunities life presents them. I’m proud of what we have accomplished here.”

      

            McKnight (D-Hudson): “This was a heavy-lift with many moving parts but it had to be done in New Jersey. Making it possible for residents to clear their records, clean the slate will open the doors for employment opportunities, advancement and economic growth for those affected. Creating an avenue for residents to clear their name and their record moves New Jersey closer to equity and justice in the expungement process.”

 

          Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic): “Reevaluating the process of expungement ensures fairness in implementation for all residents of all socio-economic backgrounds. Minor convictions that could have well been removed from a person’s record with an easier process in place could change the lives and the direction of many youth in our communities. An opportunity to expunge a criminal record could mean the difference between working and not working.”

 

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Vainieri Huttle, Holley, Mukherji Bill to Help Protect State Government from Ransomware Cyber Attacks Clears Assembly Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Assemblymen Jamel Holley (D-Union) and Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson) to help protect state government computer systems against ransomware cyber-attacks was approved Thursday by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee.

Cybersecurity is a growing concern for state government and the private sector. Ransomware is a type of malware that gets into people’s computers, often because they click on a link or open an attachment in an email, which causes the encryption of files or otherwise locks users out until they pay for the key.

In 2016, the town of Plainfield, NJ had its computer system taken hostage. The hijacker demanded a ransom after an employee clicked an infected link. City officials scrambled to pull the computer servers offline, but three were compromised, leaving emails and other city files inaccessible. The hijacker demanded roughly 650 euro to be paid through bitcoin.

“These attacks have enormous implications for government security, economic prosperity, and public safety,” said Vainieri Huttle, who chairs the committee. “A simple click on the wrong link can jeopardize the state’s computer networks and put sensitive information at risk.”

The bill (A-3922) would require state employees to receive training regarding using best safety practices while utilizing state computers.

“Ransomware attacks are a serious problem that must be addressed,” said Holley. “In 2015, the FBI received over 2,400 complaints and victims lost over $24 million. We need to train our State employees in best practices when using State computers if we’re going to stem the tide of this menace.”

The bill would require the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell (NJCCIC) in the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, to establish the cybersecurity training program for all state employees in the executive and legislative branch of government who have access to a state computer. The bill would require the Director of the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness to adopt guidelines to implement the program.

The training should include a review of best practices for using state computers including updating passwords; detecting phishing scams; preventing ransomware, spyware infections, and identity theft; and preventing and responding to data breaches.

The NJCCIC provides cybersecurity information sharing, threat analysis, and incident reporting. Located at the Regional Operations Intelligence Center (ROIC), the NJCCIC promotes statewide awareness of local cyber threats and widespread adoption of best practices.

“Many businesses and local governments targeted by hackers have had no option but to pay the ransom demands. We don’t ever want to find ourselves in that position,” said Mukherji. “This training will provide state employees with best practices so they don’t inadvertently leave our computers systems vulnerable to these types of attacks.”

The bill now goes to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.

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Mukherji & Holley Bill to Allow Electric Bicycles on NJ Roadways Signed into Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji and Jamel Holley to permit operation of low-speed electric bicycles on New Jersey roads is now law.

E-bikes are defined as a “motorized bicycles,” and require registration, licensing, and insurance requirements that apply to motor vehicles under federal law. The New Jersey’s Department of Motor Vehicles, however, does not currently recognize e-bikes as vehicles with these requirements due the lack of a system in place to supply registration and licensing.

Under the new law (formerly bill A-1810), low-speed electric bicycles may be operated on the streets, highways, sidewalks, and bicycle paths. An operator of a low-speed electric bicycle is not required to register the bicycle, furnish proof of insurance, or have a driver’s license.

“Permitting the use of low-speed electric bikes supports our efforts to protect the environment by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “By bringing our motor vehicle laws into the 21st century, we will enable the rollout of e-bikes in Jersey City’s bike share program and expand the transportation options available to New Jerseyans.”

The law now defines a low-speed electric bicycle as a two or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts, whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by a motor while operated by a person weighing 170 pounds, is less than 20 miles per hour.

“We can make room for all vehicles can share the road with the proper guidelines in place,” said Holley (D-Union). “For the residents who must use electric scooters or those who borrow an electric bike from a bike share, regulations will provide for their safety on New Jersey.”

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Lopez, Holley & Kennedy Bill Creating “Anti-Hunger Link” on State Executive Department Websites Signed by the Governor

In an effort to make emergency food programs easily accessible to New Jersey residents, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Yvonne Lopez, Jamel Holley and James Kennedy establishing an “Anti-Hunger Link” on the official website of every state executive department was signed into law today by the Governor.

The new law (formerly bill A-4703) requires the link to direct website users to a dedicated internet page that lists all of the emergency food programs in the state, including but not limited to: emergency meal providers, food pantries, soup kitchens, child and senior feeding programs, and faith-based anti-hunger initiatives along with several other food programs.

“1 million New Jersey residents go to bed hungry,” said Lopez (D-Middlesex). “Many of whom do not have the means or are simply unaware of the various programs, food providers and anti-hunger initiatives our state has to offer. By adding an ‘Anti-Hunger Link’ to multiple state websites, we hope to raise awareness and reach those in need of food assistance in an effort to create a completely hunger-free state.”

Under the new law, the Chief Technology Officer of the Office of Information Technology, in consultation with the Commissioner of Human Services and the Secretary of Agriculture, a nonprofit organization may maintain and update the “Anti-Hunger Link” and emergency food program website.

“With the way some of our state websites are currently laid out, it could be difficult for users to navigate and register for food insecurity programs,” said Holley (D-Union). “By making this link a prominent, relevant feature on our websites, it will limit the challenges and sometimes even stresses that many hungry residents experience when trying to learn more about and apply for food programs.”

“The goal is to significantly decrease the time and energy our residents spend in order to access food,” said Kennedy (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “With just one click on a website, those who are in need will be taken to a list of food programs along with ample information to either gain access to food or apply for various programs.”

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Downey, Johnson & Holley Measure Designating Annual “Food Waste Prevention Day” Signed into Law

Working to raise awareness for food waste prevention, a measure (formerly AJR-172) sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joann Downey, Gordon Johnson and Jamel Holley to designate Thursday of the third week in September as “Food Waste Prevention Day” was signed into law Thursday by Governor Phil Murphy.

The law’s sponsors released the following statements:

Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Monmouth): “Each year in the United States, approximately 160 billion pounds of food end up as food waste, while about 12 percent of households lack consistent access to adequate food. This is unacceptable. By dedicating a day to our country’s food waste epidemic and educating the public on this critical issue, we can reduce the financial, environmental and social impacts of food waste, and make sure that good food ends up with people who need it rather than in the trash.”

Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen): “Many businesses are wary of donating their excess food due to the threat of liability for food related injuries or death. While we have both federal and state laws absolving those who donate food in good faith to nonprofit organizations from civil and criminal liability, many businesses and individuals are unaware of this. By creating Food Waste Prevention Day, we can expand awareness of laws and programs that help get food in the hands and stomachs of those who need it most. Our goal is to reduce our food waste by 50 percent by 2030, and this law will assist us in achieving this goal.”

Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union): “There is no reason why the United States wastes up to 40 percent of the food we produce while there are millions of hungry people all across the country and hundreds of thousands right here in our state alone. We must increase awareness of the sheer amount of good food that ends up in landfills, and I have no doubt that this will cause many of our businesses and residents to reconsider throwing out food unnecessarily. The goal of Food Waste Prevention Day is to bring light to a solvable issue which negatively impacts our environment, finances, and most importantly, our hungry residents.”

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