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Zwicker, Muoio, McKeon, Prieto, Kennedy, Eustace, Wimberly & Chaparro Measure Urging Governor to Join Climate Alliance Gains Assembly Approval

Legislation Follows Trump's Decision to Withdraw from Paris Agreement

(Trenton, NJ) -- Legislation Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Elizabeth Muoio, John McKeon, Speaker Vincent Prieto, James Kennedy, Tim Eustace, Benjie Wimberly and Annette Chaparro sponsored to urge the governor to join a multi-state climate change coalition formed in response to President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord gained approval Thursday in the New Jersey General Assembly.

The resolution (AR-264) urges the governor to join the United States Climate Alliance. Twelve states and Puerto Rico have joined the bipartisan alliance aimed at adhering to the conditions of the Paris Agreement since June 1, when Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the global climate change pact. Because the Paris Accord is an international agreement, individual states cannot join, but they can agree to adhere to its standards independently. 

"The anti-science, anti-fact policies of the Trump Administration resulted in a decision that will have deleterious effects on the Earth, our children's future and our economy if we do not stand up for evidence-based policy-making," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "With this resolution, we urge Gov. Christie to join a growing number of states, dozens of mayors and more than 100 businesses in fundamental opposition to President Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement."

"When nearly 200 countries around the globe adopted the Paris Agreement, they acknowledged that climate change is one of the world's greatest challenges and that we have a collective responsibility to respond in order to save the planet," said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "Joining the Climate Alliance would be a declaration that, regardless of what happens at the White House, New Jersey is committed to those ideals." 

"President Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord was a deliberate decision to choose political expediency over science and reason," said McKeon (D-Morris/Essex), vice-chair of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee. "The Climate Alliance is working not only to continue the fight against climate change but also to reassert the nation's position as a global leader when it comes to one of the most pressing matters of our time."

"Only three countries in the world are refusing to participate in a landmark effort to save the planet, and it is nothing short of a shame that the United States of America is among them," said Prieto (D-Bergen/Hudson). "The president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement does not represent the views of the majority of Americans, and it most certainly does not represent the views of the majority of New Jersey residents. For the sake of our state, the nation and the entire world, New Jersey must join the United States Climate Alliance." 

"Since the year 2000, we've had 16 of the hottest years in history, yet President Trump ignored scientific evidence and chose to endanger both the planet and the nation's status as a global leader by withdrawing from the Paris Agreement," said Kennedy (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). "New Jersey has to join the Climate Alliance, because - regardless of whether you live in Paris or Pittsburgh or Plainfield - climate change is a global problem that requires a united global response."

"New Jersey has a history of leadership when it comes to the environment. If ever there were a time to stand up and proclaim our commitment to combatting climate change, it is now," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic), chair of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee. "Becoming part of the Climate Alliance would be a signal to the world that the state of New Jersey remains steadfast in the fight against climate change." 

"President Trump said he was withdrawing from a monumental effort to respond to climate change because he 'was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.' Well, the people of Paterson - where residents with asthma represent two-thirds of Passaic County's asthma-related emergency department visits - deserve better," said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Climate change and environmental injustice are inextricably linked. Members of the Climate Alliance, like the people of New Jersey, understand that connection." 

"Top scientists and military officials have concluded that climate change is a threat to our planet and to our national security. We cannot take their warnings lightly," said Chaparro (D-Hudson). "The president, unfortunately, has failed to lead on this issue, which means New Jersey now has to double down when it comes to standing up for the environment."

The resolution gained approval 51-17-6 from the Assembly.


Assembly Democratic Bill to Ensure Safety of Special Needs Students on School Buses Clears Assembly Panel

Bill sponsored by Muoio, Benson, Vainieri Huttle, Gusciora, Caputo, Zwicker & Eustace

 

(Trenton, NJ) -- Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Elizabeth Muoio, Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Reed Gusciora, Ralph Caputo, Andrew Zwicker and Tim Eustace to protect special needs students who ride school buses was released Monday by an Assembly panel. 

This bill (A-4332) would establish a minimum ratio of school bus aides to special needs students on a school bus. The bill is in response to a series of assaults that occurred on school buses in the Trenton School District, including incidents against young children with special needs. 

"This is a parents' worst nightmare," said Muoio (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "Students with special needs are especially vulnerable, as they may be seen as easy targets. This helps ensure there is adequate supervision on school buses to help prevent such a terrible incident from happening again."

Under the bill, a board of education or a contractor that provides pupil transportation services under contract with a board of education must ensure that a school bus has at least one school bus aide on board for every 15 students with special needs. The aide-to-student ratio must be maintained at all times when a school bus is transporting students with special needs or a combination of students with special needs and general education students. 

"We cannot be lax when it comes to the safety and security of our children," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "This can help prevent such unfortunate incidents by ensuring there is always an adult on a school bus who can monitor student behavior and step in when problems arise."

"Parents who have no other means to get their children to school should not have to worry every time their child gets on a school bus," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Providing the necessary supervision on school buses to ensure the safety of all students should be a top priority."

"We have a responsibility to students and the parents who trust us with their well-being," said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "What occurred on those buses should have never happened. Having ample coverage on school buses can help deter such behavior and help keep student safe."

"We can't expect bus drivers to supervise students while keeping their eyes on the road," said Caputo (D-Essex). "Making sure that there is sufficient oversight on school buses can help prevent such attacks, and help ensure the overall safety of our most vulnerable students."

"We must protect students who might be more vulnerable to attacks," said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunterdon). "Children should not have to forfeit their safety when they get on the school bus. This can help prevent such reprehensible incidents and keep students safe."

"Parents should feel comfortable knowing that when their children board the school bus, they will be safe," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Expecting children to supervise themselves is impractical. This can help ensure that kids get to and from school without incident."

The bill would take effect immediately.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Education Committee.

Zwicker & Johnson Bill to Protect Freelance Workers Advanced by Appropriations Committee

(Trenton, NJ) -- Legislation Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker and Gordon Johnson sponsored to ensure fair treatment of freelance workers was advanced Thursday by the Assembly Appropriations panel.

The bill (A-4410) provides that a freelance worker must be paid the compensation earned according to work terms agreed to by the freelance worker and its client, and requires the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to act as a regulatory agency regarding these work agreements.

"Freelance workers aren't free," said Zwicker (D-Mercer/Somerset/Hunterdon/Middlesex). "Freelance workers must be paid the compensation they've earned, and we need to ensure this basic fairness afforded to every other worker. Freelancers are a valuable part of our workforce, and they provide many services, but too often they lack basic protections. This bill will ensure they're treated fairly, benefiting our economy and, in the end, everyone."

"Freelance workers are invaluable," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "Many businesses rely on them for all types of work, and that's great, but these workers deserve equal protections under the law. This bill is fairness, plain and simple."
The bill defines "client" as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability company, association or other business entity or a nonprofit organization contracting with a freelance worker for compensation equal to or greater than $600. 

Under the bill, a freelance worker must be paid the compensation earned in accordance with the agreed work terms, which must be reduced to writing. If a freelance worker and client did not agree on a date for payment of compensation earned or a mechanism by which that date is determined, then the freelance worker must be paid the compensation earned not later than 30 days after the completion of the freelance worker's services under the written contract. The bill also provides that the contract must be signed by the freelance worker, kept on file by the client for a period of not less than six years, and made available to the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development upon request.

It is a violation of the bill if a client is found to threaten, intimidate, discipline, harass, deny a work opportunity to or discriminate against a freelance worker, or take any other action that penalizes a freelance worker for, or is reasonably likely to deter a freelance worker from, exercising or attempting to exercise any right provided under this act, or from obtaining a future work opportunity because the freelance worker has done so.

The bill provides that any freelance worker may file with the commissioner a complaint regarding a violation of the provisions of the bill by a client, for an investigation of the complaint and a statement setting the appropriate remedy, if any. The bill provides that the commissioner may bring any legal action necessary, including administrative action, on behalf of any freelance worker that alleges a violation of the provisions of the bill. The commissioner may also assess against the client an amount as liquidated damages, unless the client proves a good faith basis for believing that its violation was in compliance with the provisions of the bill. Liquidated damages must be calculated by the commissioner as no more than 100 percent of the total amount of the underlying contract.

The bill also provides that if the Commissioner determines that a client has failed to pay the compensation of its freelance workers, the commissioner shall issue to the client an order directing payment, which will describe particularly the nature of the alleged failure to pay.

Each freelance worker who files a complaint regarding a violation of a provision of this bill will be provided with a description of the anticipated processing of the complaint, including the investigation, case conference, potential civil and criminal penalties, and collection procedures by the commissioner, in addition to a referral to a navigation program established by the commissioner. Each freelance worker and the representative of the freelance worker, if any, will be notified in a timely manner by the commissioner of the following:

  • any case conference before it is held, with the opportunity to attend; and
  • any award, collection of back compensation, civil penalties, any intent to seek criminal penalties, and, in the event that criminal penalties are sought, a notification of the outcome of prosecution.

 

The bill provides that any client who does not pay the compensation of all of its freelance workers in accordance with the provisions of this bill, and the officers, agents, or representatives of any client who knowingly permit the client to violate the provisions of this bill, will be guilty of a disorderly persons offense for a first offense, and in the event that any second or subsequent offense occurs within six years of the date of conviction for a prior offense, will be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. A disorderly persons offense is punishable by a term of imprisonment up to six months or a fine not to exceed $1,000, or both. A crime of the fourth degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment up to 18 months or a fine not to exceed $10,000, or both.

The bill also provides that a freelance worker alleging a violation of a provision of the bill may bring an action in any court of competent jurisdiction for certain damages. The remedies provided by the bill with respect to a private action brought by a freelance worker, and any other remedies provided in the bill, may be enforced simultaneously or consecutively so far as not inconsistent with each other.

Finally, the navigation program established by the commissioner under the bill must include assistance from a natural person by phone and electronic mail and shall also include information accessible via an Internet website maintained by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The navigation program must provide the following: general court information and information about procedures under the bill; information about available templates and relevant court forms; general information about classifying persons as employees or freelance workers; information about obtaining translation and interpretation services and other courtroom services; a list of organizations that can be used for the identification of attorneys; and other relevant information, as determined by the commissioner, related to the submission of a complaint by a freelance worker or the commencement of a civil action under the provisions of the bill by a freelance worker.


Zwicker Appointed to State Beach Erosion Commission

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto has appointed Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker to the New Jersey State Beach Erosion Commission. 

"Like so many others, my children grew up going to the Jersey Shore every summer. After the devastation caused by major weather events in recent years, it's more important than ever for New Jersey to restore and preserve its beaches," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "The threats posed to our coastline by climate change require an innovative, scientific approach to protecting coastal communities."

Originally established in 1949, the 12-member bipartisan State Beach Erosion Commission is responsible for investigating and studying the preservation and protection of New Jersey's beaches and shores from erosion and other damage. 

"The preservation of our coast is both an environmental imperative and an economic one. Thousands of homes and businesses in New Jersey depend on the ongoing safety and viability of our beaches," said Zwicker. "I look forward to contributing to this commission's important work. The health of our entire state's economy relies heavily on the preservation of our beautiful, unique Jersey Shore." 


Eustace, Zwicker, Vainieri Huttle, Gusciora, Kennedy & Benson Bill to Require NJ's Full Participation in RGGI Clears Assembly

(Trenton, NJ) -- Legislation Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, Andrew Zwicker, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Reed Gusciora, James Kennedy and Daniel Benson sponsored to require New Jersey's full participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative gained General Assembly approval on Monday. 

The bill (A-4701) would require the state's full participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cooperative effort among nine states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Gov. Chris Christie withdrew from the program early in his first term.

"From the very beginning, we believed that entering into agreements with other states would further the purposes of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the Global Warming Response Act," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "The governor's withdrawal from RGGI blatantly disregarded the importance of our participation in RGGI to reducing greenhouse gas emission in our state. A return to the RGGI pact with full participation will get New Jersey back on the right environmental track." 

"There are many benefits to our full participation in RGGI," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/ Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "New Jersey would benefit, as other states have, from a carbon dioxide emissions allowance trading program with incentives that will reduce emissions at their sources and the generation and emission of greenhouse gases. Reducing carbon emissions translates to less pollution and cleaner air for future generations."

"Backing out of the RGGI almost eight years ago was not the best path to take for New Jersey," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Funding consumer benefit purposes would have resulted in reduced costs to New Jersey consumers, decreased energy use, decreased greenhouse gas emissions, and substantial and tangible benefits to the energy-using business sector. Other states have benefitted from their participation. Why shouldn't New Jersey?"

"New Jersey's participation in RGGI was a manifestation of a larger commitment to a clean energy economy and an effort to stem the tide of climate change," said Gusciora (D-Mercer). "In order for our state to live up to its values regarding the environment, New Jersey must rejoin RGGI."

"Beyond the intrinsic value of participating in RGGI being good for the environment, the efficiency programs put in place to reduce carbon emissions ultimately reduce energy costs, which is helpful for household budgets," said Kennedy (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). "Returning to RGGI only would stand to benefit the state of New Jersey."

"While neighboring states collectively are taking action to limit their carbon footprints and introduce green jobs to their economies, New Jersey is on the sidelines," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "A cleaner, more efficient, more competitive New Jersey is possible with a return to RGGI."

The RGGI-implementing law was enacted to further the purposes of the "Global Warming Response Act" (GWRA). The law partially implements the policies of the GWRA by creating an emissions auction and trading mechanism to reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions, especially carbon dioxide. Current New Jersey law recognizes the state's participation in RGGI by setting forth the parameters to be followed for allowance auctions, creating the "Global Warming Solutions Fund," and dedicating all proceeds received from the sale, exchange or other conveyance of allowances through a greenhouse gas emissions allowance trading program to the fund.

The measure, which the Assembly approved 46-27-1, now awaits further Senate consideration.


LETTER: Science key to revitalizing New Jersey jobs

Americans who recently thronged the Washington D.C. and Trenton Marches for Science weren’t just calling attention to the need to protect our health and safety and preserve the planet. Their presence also was a statement about the economic value of science and technology.

There is a strong connection between jobs and science and it doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. For that, we pay a price.

Those who deny climate change and denigrate science threaten the nation’s economic wellbeing because history shows good jobs come from innovation and invention, not from ignoring realities our world faces.

Clean energy technology offers tremendous potential to promote prosperity in New Jersey. Today, 32,000 New Jerseyans work in what is broadly defined as energy efficiency, according to a recent analysis by Environmental Entrepreneurs, a national group of business leaders, investors, and advocates for policies that help the economy and the environment.

Most of these energy efficiency jobs are in the construction trades — easing fears that moving to clean, affordable energy sources is a job killer in that area. We’re talking about jobs manufacturing EnergyStar appliances, making and distributing LED lighting, and building and installing more cost-effective heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.

And, nearly 10,000 New Jerseyans work in solar and wind electricity generation — more than the number that gets their paychecks through fossil fuel generation. These are not just jobs for “eggheads.” For every Ph.D. in a laboratory designing new opportunities for renewable energy, there will be many more people installing the results of that work in our neighborhoods and business centers.

Clean-vehicle technology offers even more opportunities. Nationwide, 259,000 people work on the design and manufacture of hybrid and plug-in cars to driverless vehicles. With a little effort to date, 4,000 New Jerseyans work with alternative fuel vehicles and fuel efficiency. As a major transportation hub and a repository for unwanted diesel and other automobile emissions, New Jersey is an ideal place to be the hub of innovation for transportation. Our state would benefit from cleaner air, improved health, and an explosion of new clean-vehicle jobs.

Other common sense initiatives would make New Jersey’s clean energy job future even brighter.

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