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Jasey, Holley & Mazzeo Measure to Ensure Continuation of Mediation Program to Combat NJ’s Ongoing Foreclosure Crisis Becomes Law

New Jersey has had Highest Rate of Foreclosures in the Country Over the Last Several Years

Working to reduce the staggering number of foreclosures in New Jersey and help homeowners keep their homes, a measure to codify the state’s Foreclosure Mediation Program was signed into law Monday. Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, Assemblyman Jamel Holley and Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo are sponsors of the law.

For the last several years, New Jersey has had the highest rate of foreclosures in the country. The Foreclosure Mediation Program was established in 2009 by the New Jersey Judiciary system in response to an alarming increase in residential foreclosures.

“Foreclosures not only affect homeowners, but neighborhoods and the state as a whole,” said Jasey (D-Essex, Morris). “For far too long, we have led the country in foreclosures. The mediation services provided by this program can help homeowners avoid foreclosure and reinvigorate our housing market by reducing our dismal foreclosure rates. It is essential that we keep these services going.”

The law (A-664) requires that, at the time the homeowner receives a notice of intention to foreclose, a homeowner must receive written notice of the option to participate in the Foreclosure Mediation Program. Upon the filing of a mortgage foreclosure complaint against an eligible property, the homeowner must again receive written notice of the option to participate in the Foreclosure Mediation Program. The written notice must be available in both English and Spanish.

The law also authorizes eligible homeowners to submit a mediation request in accordance with court rules, which will then initiate the process of scheduling a mediation session with their lender. Along with the mediation request, the homeowner will be required to submit a certification document, signed by a foreclosure prevention and default mitigation counselor, to verify that this professional is providing the homeowner with counseling.

“No homeowner wants to lose their home,” said Holley (D-Union). “Making this program a permanent fixture will ensure that homeowners facing foreclosure will always have an alternative. It will also help chip away at the foreclosure crisis that has loomed over the state for too long.”

“Foreclosed properties can sit vacant for extended periods of time, which can affect property values of nearby homes,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “We should give homeowners who are struggling the opportunity to keep their homes and avoid the ripple effects of foreclosures on neighborhoods.”

The law also creates a dedicated, non-lapsing fund within the General Fund to be known as the “Foreclosure Mediation Fund.” The fund will be comprised of $60 out of each $155 payment added to every foreclosure complaint filing fee, along with all fines imposed on lenders for noncompliance with obligations of the mediation program.

The law was introduced January 9, 2018. It will take effect November 1.

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Quijano, Holley, Timberlake & McKnight: We Remain Committed to Adult-Use Cannabis Bill

(TRENTON) – Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano (D-Union), Jamel Holley (D-Union), Britnee Timberlake (D-Essex) and Angela McKnight (D-Hudson) released the following statement today regarding the future of their legislation (A-4497) that would legalize adult-use cannabis in New Jersey:

“We remain committed to enacting fair and responsible legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis in New Jersey. We have listened to the will of the majority of New Jerseyans and taken a common-sense approach to regulation of cannabis. We’ve placed the necessary focus on expungement for cannabis offenses within this bill and created a new, more expedited process for residents to request expungement.

“Undoubtedly, this is the largest regulatory undertaking the state has considered since the casino commission. We are proud of what we have accomplished with this legislation. Remaining at status quo meant continued disparity in arrests for African Americans and teens for amounts now to be considered personal use. We are moving the state in a direction more compassionate for cannabis and in line with what is happening across the country in regards to legalization.

“Our work is not done. We will continue to work with Speaker Coughlin, our colleagues and advocates to pass a bill that will be a model for the nation.”

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Holley, McKnight & Wimberly on Future of Expungement Legislation

(TRENTON) – Assembly Democrats Jamel Holley (D-Union), Angela McKnight (D-Hudson) and Benjie Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic) issued the following statement today regarding the future of their expungement legislation (A-4498):

“An opportunity for a clean slate for someone who has committed minor offenses is the best thing we can do to enable them to seize the opportunities life presents them.

“I remain firmly committed to moving this bill alongside legislation concerning the legalization of adult-use cannabis. It is critically important to correct the wrongs of the past as we now look forward to the future of adult-use cannabis in New Jersey.

“Expanding definitions and creating a process for residents to clear their name and their record has to be a part of, a critical part of, cannabis regulation.”

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Holley, McKnight & Wimberly on Bill Concerning Expungement of Certain Cannabis Offenses Continuing to Advance in Assembly

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

Holley (D-Union): “This legislation is critically important as we move toward legalization of adult-use cannabis in New Jersey. Without this bill, many residents would continue to be affected by the criminalization of small amounts marijuana as a result of prior convictions long after the laws change. Broader regulation around expungement 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.”

McKnight (D-Hudson): “Creating a process for residents to clear their name and their record had to be a part of -and is a critical part of–adult-use cannabis regulation in New Jersey. Too many of our residents have been marked for life over a mistake they made once in their youth. For there to be equity and justice in legalization, there must be legislation providing residents affected under the old laws to remove those convictions from their records and begin anew. This legislation is the start of that process.”

Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic): Legalization of adult-use cannabis requires many steps to ensure fairness in implementation of the new regulations for all residents of all socio-economic backgrounds. Convictions and incarceration for the small amounts of marijuana, now to be deemed as “personal use,” has changed the lives and the direction of many youth in our communities. An opportunity to expunge a criminal record of a cannabis-related charge could mean the difference between working and not working for an individual. It will be a process, and it will take a little effort but expungement will be possible for many residents.

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Quijano, Holley, Timberlake & McKnight Bill Guiding Regulation of Adult Use Cannabis in NJ Clears Assembly Approps Panel

New Jersey would become the 11th state to legalize recreational cannabis use,
not including Washington, D.C.

(TRENTON) – Continuing to advance legislation paving the way for legalization of the adult-use cannabis, the Assembly Appropriations Committee Monday approved measure A-4497 that will set new, unprecedented regulation in the state for the possession, personal use, and sale of cannabis.

Currently Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts and Michigan have legalized the adult-use of cannabis that permits the cultivation and sale of cannabis establishing regulated revenue producing markets. Vermont and Washington D.C. allow for growing but prohibit the sale of cannabis.

If the bill is enacted, New Jersey would become only the second state in the country to set regulations for cannabis as an act of the legislature.
“There have been far too many people, especially those from Black and Hispanic communities, who have been negatively impacted by the criminalization of cannabis,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union). ‘I became interested in legalization due to the inequalities in the enforcement of cannabis laws and there long term impacts on the lives of all people in this state, but considerably those of color.

“It is time we listen to the will of the majority of New Jerseyans and take a common-sense approach to regulation of cannabis. This bill is a huge first step.”

The bill (A-4497), named the NJ Cannabis Regulatory and Expungement Modernization Act, would legalize for persons 21 years of age or older the possession and personal use of cannabis in the amount of one ounce or less or the equivalent of one ounce or less of cannabis infused product in solid, liquid or concentrate form. The measure also establishes an expungement relief process for arrests under the enforcement of previous marijuana laws.

“Black New Jerseyans are 3 or 4 times more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges than their white counterparts which has disenfranchised a number of residents and specific communities for far too long,” said Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union). “A key component to cannabis legalization is how we address these social justice concerns as we lay a new path for personal use in New Jersey. This is a long time coming to the state and expungement consideration is a key part of the regulations suggested under this bill.”

New Jersey law enforcement officers made over 24,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, more than in the previous 20 years – approximately one every 22 minutes. African Americans are nearly three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis passion than white New Jerseyans, despite similar usage rates with white counterparts. Cannabis possession arrests constituted three out of five drug arrests also in 2012.

The state spends approximately $127 million per year on cannabis possession enforcement costs.

“As a prime sponsor, it was important to ensure the legislation included real enterprising opportunity paired with decriminalization and expungement for the minority population that has been disproportionately incarcerated for marijuana. The bill includes diversity and economic development opportunities for start-up and existing minority businesses to flourish through participation in this new emerging multi-billion dollar market. This, along with more defined employment opportunities and a commission which requires diversity, was pivotal to include,” said Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake (D-Essex). “In addition to legalization being a clear revenue generator for the State, the social justice and diversity portion was imperative.”

“This is possibly the largest regulatory undertaking the state has considered since the casino commission and even more possibly, since the prohibition era,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Hudson). “The components of this bill listen to New Jersey residents who are not happy with the status quo and would like to move the state in a direction more compassionate for cannabis for medical use and discreet personal use. This bill is the start of the process.”
Highlights of the legislation include:

· Establishes a Five-Member Commission to oversee the development, regulation and enforcement of activities associated with the personal use of cannabis, as well as for medical.

· Encourages Safer Communities, Lessens Impact of the Black Market, Dealers- Specific provisions are included in the bill for sale, purchase, deterring products from getting into the hands of young people and on operations and sanitation that will keep residents informed of the products contents.

· Reduces burden on court system- The state would significantly reduce the cost that is approximately $127 million per year to enforce current marijuana possession offenses.

· Creates Jobs, Economic Driver- Legalization and authorizing the taxation of cannabis sales would generate hundreds of millions of dollars to reinvest in New Jersey communities creating jobs for New Jersey residents.

· Opens the job market to more residents- By setting providing expungement relief and providing a clean slate for residents with minor cannabis offenses, they can qualify for more jobs that offer stable employment with competitive salaries.

· Promotes Social Equity- Creating an Office of Minority, Disabled Veterans and Women Business Development to promote diversity in the marketplace ensuring women, minorities and NJ veterans a seat at the table.

· Takes Action for Social Justice- Includes additional guidelines that will allow for residents to clear minor offenses from their records through electronic filing of expungement petitions.

· Sets New Jersey apart as leader in the tristate area, country- The reality is New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware have already begun to consider and take action.

The legislation was one of three bills considered by the joint meeting of the Senate Budget Committee and the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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Kennedy, Holley & Zwicker Bill to Aid 9/11 First Responders Clears Assembly Panel

Aiming to assist first responders who voluntarily participated in 9/11 rescue and recovery efforts, legislation sponsored by Assemblymen James Kennedy, Jamel Holley and Andrew Zwicker expanding eligibility for accidental disability allowance to include members or retirees of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS) and the State Police Retirement System (SPRS) who voluntarily responded to the attack was approved Monday by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee.

“When police and firefighters in New Jersey, received word that two planes had struck the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, many of them didn’t hesitate before responding to the scene, even though they were not specifically ordered to go,” said Kennedy (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union). “Unfortunately, some suffered permanent or total disability. Due to the fact that they responded as volunteers, they are not entitled to the same compensation as their counterparts who were considered to be ‘on the job that day. It’s time to change that.”

The bill (A-4882) would provide that a member or retirant of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS) and the State Police Retirement System (SPRS) is eligible to receive an accidental disability retirement allowance for a permanent and total disability resulting from participation in 9/11 World Trade Center rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations, whether or not they are instructed by an employer to participate. If a member participated in World Trade Center rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations for a minimum of eight hours, a disability resulting from a qualifying condition or impairment of health would be presumed to have occurred during and as a result of a member’s regular or assigned duties and not the result of the member’s willful negligence, unless the contrary can be proved by competent evidence. The presumption is available whether or not the member was assigned to participate.

A member who did not participate in those operations for a minimum of eight hours would be eligible for the presumption provided that:

· the member participated in the rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations at the World Trade Center site between September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001;

· the member sustained a documented physical injury at the World Trade Center site between September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001 that is a qualifying condition or impairment of health resulting in a disability that prevented the member from continuing to participate for a minimum of eight hours; and the injury that resulted in a disability that prevented the member from doing so is the qualifying condition or impairment of health for which the member is seeking a presumption.

“All of the heroic men and women who responded to Ground Zero deserve our utmost respect and admiration, regardless of whether they were on the clock,” said Holley (D-Holley). “They all saw the same terror, took the same risks, and worked towards the same goal. If their health has been affected in the time since, they all should be eligible for the same disability allowance.”

“Our country is still feeling the effects of 9/11 today. The impact on those who were there – particularly our first responders – remains even more prevalent,” said Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex and Hunterdon). “We can go further to honor our first responders by ensuring they are recognized and compensated for their service on 9/11, voluntary or otherwise. They deserve nothing less.”

The bill would also provide for a reclassification of a service retirement or an ordinary disability retirement as an accidental disability retirement if the retirant, while a member of the retirement system, participated in the World Trade Center rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations a minimum of eight hours and incurred a disability in retirement caused by a qualifying condition or impairment of health which the medical board determines to be caused by the member’s participation in World Trade Center rescue, recovery or cleanup operations. The board of trustees would be required to promulgate rules and regulations and to notify members and retirants in the retirement system of the enactment of the bill within 30 days of enactment.

Additionally, the measure would delineate the diseases recognized as qualifying conditions or impairments of health, and defines “World Trade Center rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations” to mean the rescue, recovery, or cleanup operations at the World Trade Center site between September 11, 2001 and October 11, 2001. The bill also defines “World Trade Center site” to mean any location below a line starting from the Hudson River and Canal Street, east on Canal Street to Pike Street, south on Pike Street to the East River, and extending to the lower tip of Manhattan.

The measure now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.

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DeAngelo, Mukherji, Holley on Resolution Designating "Military Caregivers Week" Clearing Assembly

Would Mark Fourth Week in March to Honor Military Caregivers

Highlighting a resolution that would honor a herculean task that often goes unnoticed, Assembly Democrats Wayne DeAngelo (D-Mercer, Middlesex), Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson) and Jamel Holley (D-Union) released the following joint statement Wednesday regarding a bill to honor military caregivers.

If adopted, the resolution (AJR-11) would designate the fourth week of March each year as “Military Caregivers Week.” It recently cleared the full Assembly 76-0-0:

“Whether a spouse, parent, child, loved one, friend or neighbor, more than five million people in our country provide voluntary caregiving services to members of the United States military and to veterans. Their care is the result of genuine love, respect and commitment. These military caregivers go beyond the call of duty, in their own right, and make tremendous personal, professional, financial and emotional sacrifices to care for military men and women.

“Recognizing these caregivers with a Military Caregivers Week would be New Jersey’s way of thanking these caregivers. It also will let them know that they are appreciated and that the United States military is stronger because of them.”

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Lopez, Holley & Kennedy Bill Creating “Anti-Hunger Link” on State Executive Department Websites Clears Assembly, Heads to Governor

(TRENTON) – 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 that would establish an “Anti-Hunger Link” on the official website of every state executive department was approved Monday by the Assembly by a 75-0-0 vote to gain final legislative approval.

The bill (A-4703) states that the link would 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 bill, 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 of this bill 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.”

This measure is part of a 14-bill package recently approved by the Assembly Human Services Committee and cleared by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on December 10.
The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.

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Benson, DeAngelo & Holley Statement on Advancement on Passage of Bill Clarifying that Part-Time Students are Eligible for NJ STARS & NJ STARS II out of Assembly

(TRENTON) – Assembly Members Dan Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex), Wayne DeAngelo (D-Mercer, Middlesex), and Jamel Holley (D-Union) issued the following statement on the advancement of their bill clarifying who is eligible for New Jersey’s collegiate scholarship programs in order for the programs to be utilized as originally intended. The bill (A-4115) cleared the full Assembly Monday by a 76-0-0 vote. The bill will now move on to the Senate.

“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 bill will allow NJ STARS and NJ STARS II to reach their fullest potential to improve the lives of our students and their families.”

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Mukherji & Holley Bill to Allow Electric Bicycles on NJ Roadways Clears Assembly

(TRENTON) – The full Assembly approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji and Jamel Holley to permit operation of low-speed electric bicycles on New Jersey roads.

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 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 bill 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.”

The bill was voted 76-0 out of the Assembly.

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