(TRENTON) – Two bills Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker sponsored to fund farmland preservation were signed into law by the governor on Monday, after receiving unanimous approval in both houses of the legislature.
“Agriculture is one of the largest components of New Jersey’s economy, so supporting that industry is critical for our state,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “Some of the biggest challenges in farming are access to land and capital. These appropriations will help ease that financial burden.”
The first new law (A-4582) provides a total of $32.5 million in farmland preservation grants around the state. The sum includes $4 million in grants for communities in the 16th Legislative District, with $1 million each going to Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset counties. The legislation also makes each of these counties eligible for additional grants of up to $5 million. In total, the funds would cover up to 80 percent of the cost of acquiring easements for farmland preservation purposes.
The second new law (A-4584) appropriates $7.5 million in farmland preservation grants, including a $500,000 grant for Delaware Township in Hunterdon County.
“Farmland preservation is the foundation of the agriculture industry,” said Zwicker. “In addition to providing direct economic benefits to the entire state, investing in farmland preservation creates stability for New Jersey’s farmers, helps limit sprawl and preserves the beauty of our communities.”
Now Law: Mosquera, Moriarty, Lagana, Zwicker & Downey Bill to Help Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Victims Seek Justice Against Their Abusers
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gabriela Mosquera, Paul Moriarty, Joseph Lagana, Andrew Zwicker and Joann Downey to allow victims and witnesses of domestic violence and sexual assault to testify against their abusers via closed circuit television under certain circumstances was signed into law on Monday.
"Having to recount an abusive relationship in front of your abuser can be unnerving for an individual who's been battered," said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). "For children who may have witnessed their mother being abused, it can be equally frightening to have to testify in a courtroom with the abuser, especially if the abuser is a parent. Permitting victims and young witnesses to testify via closed circuit television will allow them to confront their abusers without fear."
The new law (A-1199) permits witnesses and victims to testify against the defendant via closed circuit television in prosecutions for a crime involving domestic violence, certain sex crimes or crimes involving the abuse or neglect of a child.
"Domestic abuse is traumatic. Some victims are so frightful of their abusers that they would rather not press charges or even testify in court for fear of retribution," said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). "This law makes it easier for victims to come forward and get justice."
"Oftentimes victims struggle over whether or not to report their abusers because they fear for their safety," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "This law will help victims hold their abusers accountable without fear of doing so under their glare in a courtroom."
"This is the right thing to do for victims who have already suffered too much," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex). "We need to take whatever humane steps we can if there's a substantial likelihood that the witness would suffer severe emotional or mental distress if required to testify in open court."
"The criminal justice system works most effectively when witnesses and victims can provide the testimony necessary to assess the facts of a case," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "When these individuals have a means of talking without fear, it helps ensure that the judicial process functions the way it should."
Under previous law, the court may order the taking of the testimony of a witness 16 years of age or younger on closed circuit television in prosecutions for aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal sexual contact, human trafficking involving sexual activity, child abuse or in any action alleging an abused or neglected child if the court finds that there is a substantial likelihood that the witness would suffer severe emotional or mental distress if required to testify in open court.
The new law will expand previous law to encompass victims and witnesses of any age, and provide that the court, in granting an order to allow closed circuit testimony, shall assure that: the victim or witness will testify under oath; the victim or witness will submit to cross-examination by the defendant's attorney; and the defendant, jury, and judge will be permitted to observe the demeanor of the victim or witness when making testimonial statements using closed circuit television.
In addition, the measure clarifies certain procedural provisions, including that the defendant's counsel would be present in the same room as the victim or witness at the taking of testimony on closed circuit television, and that the defendant and defendant's attorney may confer privately with each other during the testimony by a separate audio system.
Under the law, the video portion of the closed circuit testimony would not be recorded and would not be part of the record on appeal. Only the audio portion of the testimony would be recorded. Such audio recording could be part of the record on appeal, depending on the age of the victim or witness and the order of the court.
Law Sponsored by Lampitt, Quijano, Eustace, Kennedy, Benson, Muoio, Zwicker & Mukherji
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Annette Quijano, Tim Eustace, James Kennedy, Dan Benson, Elizabeth Muoio, Andrew Zwicker and Raj Mukherji to establish a statewide food waste reduction goal of 50 percent by 2030 has been signed into law.
“Food waste is a major issue nationally and globally,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Unwanted and discarded food squanders water, land, energy, labor and capital resources. When food waste is dumped in a landfill, it rots and creates methane, a very hazardous greenhouse gas. We should begin to look at alternatives to ridding surplus food, especially if it is still unspoiled, instead of just tossing it in a landfill.”
“One third of the food produced in the world for human consumption –about 1.3 billion tons – is lost or wasted every year,” said Quijano (D-Union). “We must take steps to reduce New Jersey’s contribution to food waste and plan for the future.”
“If a quarter of the food lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people globally,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic), chair of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee and sponsor of a bill (A-1760) that would offer farmers an incentive to donate leftover food to local food banks. “By taking the right steps and encouraging donations of surplus food by farmers we can stock our food banks with fresh fruits and vegetables for residents and reduce unnecessary waste.”
“Food loss and waste is the single largest component of disposed municipal solid waste in the U.S.,” said Kennedy (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “We must come up with a plan to decrease food waste in New Jersey that will support families and foster a healthier environment.”
“The EPA and the Secretary of Agriculture announced a national goal to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “With this law, New Jersey will adopt the same goal and support national efforts to reduce waste. We can make sure fewer people go hungry and decrease the potential of unnecessary waste in New Jersey by participating in this effort.”
"Hunger is a sad reality for far too many New Jerseyans, which makes it doubly outrageous that such a large percentage of our food supply ends up in landfills and trash heaps,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Setting this new sustainable goal will put our state on the road to ending this unconscionable waste of critical food resources."
“A recent report by Feeding America revealed that close to 12 percent of the state's population does not have access to enough food to lead healthy lives,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/ Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “Yet billions of tons of food are discarded a year in this country. We can as a state make smarter decisions by planning for the distribution of unused, surplus food, helping more families put food on their table and reducing food waste.”
“Ending food waste in New Jersey starts with setting a goal and making a conscious effort to achieve it,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “In addition to putting an emphasis on getting food to hungry people, this measure aims to benefit the environment by ensuring that less food waste – the largest component of municipal waste in the country – ends up in landfills.”
The law (A-4631) establishes a state goal of reducing, by the year 2030, the amount of food waste generated annually in the state by 50 percent.
The law requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in consultation with the Department of Agriculture (DOA), to develop and commence implementation of a plan to accomplish the 50 percent state food waste reduction goal within one year.
The DEP is required to hold at least three public hearings during the development of the plan to seek public input. The departments are also authorized to consult and coordinate with other governmental entities and private, nonprofit or charitable associations, organizations or businesses – such as those in the agricultural, grocery, restaurant, food manufacturer, food supply, food bank, food pantry, and healthcare sectors of the food industry – in developing and implementing the plan.
A month-long summer book drive organized by the legislative district office of Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker has donated 4,000 books for local students in kindergarten through grade 12.
"Research shows that daily reading is a critical way to keep kids engaged and learning year-round. I am so proud of the way our community came together to donate books for children," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "I'm grateful to all those who participated in this effort to provide children with the opportunity to foster their imagination, challenge themselves and tap into their full potential through the pages of a book."
Zwicker partnered with numerous local nonprofit organizations from early June through July 6 to collect reading material for children in the 16th Legislative District.
"We applaud Assemblyman Zwicker's summer reading book drive and appreciate all who donated to support this worthwhile initiative. Hunterdon Medical Center will make these books available to our pediatric patients throughout our system's waiting rooms and patient care areas," said Robert P. Wise, president and CEO of Hunterdon Healthcare. "As much as we care about keeping our children healthy, reading is fundamental to a child's development and encourages imagination and growth."
"This book drive is a tremendous help to the YWCA Princeton and our Young Wonders childcare," said Judy Hutton, CEO of the Princeton YWCA. "It is so important that our children stay engaged and keep up with their reading, especially in the summer."
"Hugs for Brady Foundation is extremely grateful to be a recipient of books. Books help very sick children pass the time during long hospital stays," said Sherrie Wells, founder of the Hugs for Brady Foundation, a nonprofit established to help children battling cancer. "A very heartfelt thank you goes out to Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker and his devoted team for organizing this drive to help ease the pain of children battling cancer."
"SWEET READS is a nonprofit organization based out of Neshanic Station that distributes books to children, particularly those in need. We are thrilled to have received the generous book donation from Assemblyman Zwicker's office, as it will help us in our mission of getting books into the hands of children and inspiring an early love of reading," said Tamiko Hubbard, executive director of SWEET READS, a local organization that provides new and gently used quality books to children from underserved communities.
"Thank you to Assemblyman Zwicker and his staff for the multitude of donated books, which has allowed us at The Arc of Somerset and The Jerry Davis Center to happily give to almost 30 children and their families who are part of our specialized childcare/preschool program," said Jill Glassman, director of Early Childhood Services at The Arc of Somerset County. "This donation has continued to help our daily efforts to strongly encourage the love, excitement and lifelong skill of reading from the very youngest of ages."
Zwicker noted that interns in his district office played an integral role in coordinating the book drive and thanked them for an exceptional commitment to constituent services.
"Students completing internships in my office displayed an impressive sense of selflessness throughout the book drive," said Zwicker. "The success of this endeavor is due in large part to their hard work and dedication to improving their community."
Contributors to the book drive include the following groups: the Amick Family, the Chorney Family, the Craft Family, First Presbyterian Church at Dayton, the Hillsborough Library, the Montgomery Democrats, the Padulo Family, Princeton Library, the Sloan Family, the Somerset County Young Democrats and the South Brunswick Library.
Book recipients, who will distribute the books, include: AGAPE House Fellowship, The Arc of Middlesex County, The Arc of Somerset County, Arm and Arm Trenton, Family Support Organization of Hunterdon, Somerset & Warren Counties, the Flemington Food Pantry, GiGi's Play House, the Hillsborough YMCA, HiTOPS, Hugs for Brady, Hunterdon Healthcare, the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, the Princeton Blairstown Center, the Princeton Learning Cooperative, the Princeton YWCA, SAFE in Hunterdon, the Somerset County Food Bank, South Brunswick Parks and Recreation, South Brunswick Social Services and SWEET READS.
Zwicker, Conaway, Land, Downey & Houghtaling Bill to Fund Historic Preservation Projects in NJ Now Law
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Herb Conaway Jr., M.D, Bruce Land, Joann Downey and Eric Houghtaling to invest in the preservation of places of historical significance in New Jersey is now law.
The new law (A-4583) appropriates approximately $3 million to the New Jersey Historic Trust to provide grants for various historic preservation projects in Burlington, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Somerset, Sussex and Union counties. The funds are derived from the 2009 Historic Preservation Fund and the unexpended balance of constitutionally-dedicated corporation business tax revenues in the Diesel Risk Mitigation Fund.
"The Daniel Robert House, which houses Borough Hall and the borough's library, is a center of civic life in Somerville," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "Historic sites like this are all over our state. These sites bind us not just to each other, but also to our state's rich past. We must invest in preserving them."
"There is economic value in preserving our historical places and sites," said Conaway (D-Burlington). "Preservation can make our state more appealing as a heritage tourism destination."
"New Jersey is rich in history," said Land (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). "We should make every effort to preserve this history for future generations."
"Historic sites like All Saints' Memorial Church and the Count Basie Theatre add a great deal of value to life in New Jersey," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "Investing in their upkeep is critical to ensuring that they are appreciated long into the future."
"A visit to a place like the Burrowes Mansion forces us to stop and realize just how much of America's history happened right in our own backyard," said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). "That's a huge point of pride for New Jersey. This money will go a long way toward preserving some of our state's most celebrated historic sites."
The measure received unanimous approval from both houses of the legislature before being signed into law by the governor on Thursday, July 13th.
Easing Consolidation Between Municipalities Can Improve Efficiency, Reduce Burden on Taxpayers
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, Andrew Zwicker, Joann Downey, John Wisniewski and Nancy Pinkin to facilitate municipal consolidation in New Jersey is now law.
"New Jersey leads the nation in property taxes, which often leads our residents to consider moving to a state that's more affordable," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Making it easier for some of the more than 500 municipalities in New Jersey to consolidate can help lower property taxes and ultimately keep people here."
The new law (A-2202) authorizes municipalities to adopt ordinances for special emergency appropriations in order to cover non-recurring expenses they incur to implement a municipal consolidation. The authorization of the special appropriation is subject to the approval of the director of the Division of Local Government Services.
The use of special emergency appropriations to fund the non-recurring costs associated with the consolidation process will allow consolidating municipalities to immediately begin to realize the financial savings of municipal consolidation, the sponsors noted.
"Over the long term, consolidation can help streamline services and ultimately lower property taxes, but at the beginning, municipalities have to determine how to pay for the associated one-time, upfront costs," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "With greater access to money to cover these costs, more municipalities can get on the road to consolidation and with it, a reduction in the tax burden on their residents."
"If municipalities find that consolidating can deliver benefits for their residents, the initial financial obstacle should not prevent them from implementing a practical means of decreasing taxes," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "With this new law, municipalities will be able to cut costs and provide immediate savings for taxpayers."
"Municipal consolidation is an important step in achieving property tax reform in New Jersey," said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). "It may not be the answer for all municipalities, but those that see it as a viable avenue to lower taxes should be able to pass the benefits on to taxpayers as soon as possible."
"High property taxes are driving people out of New Jersey. Consolidation isn't a panacea, but it can help," said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). "If one-time expenses associated with consolidation are reasonable and consolidation will result in long-term savings, then making a special emergency appropriation ought to be permissible."
The governor signed the legislation into law on Friday, July 7th.