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McKeon & Zwicker Bill to Limit Use of Environmental Settlement Funds Gains Assembly Panel Approval

Bill Stems From Christie Administration's Decision To Settle With Exxon For $225 Million Despite Asking For $8.9 Billion In Damages

Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen John F. McKeon and Andrew Zwicker to ensure that money received as part of an environmental violation lawsuit is used to fix the damage created by the infraction gained approval from an Assembly panel on Monday.

The bill is in response to Gov. Christie's decision last year to settle with Exxon Mobil for a fraction of what the state asked for in damages for contamination and loss of use of more than 1,500 acres of wetlands, marshes, meadows and waters in northern New Jersey. The decision has been chastised and many critics have accused the governor of quietly settling to use the money to balance the budget.

"Current law allows the administration to use most of the Exxon settlement money to balance the budget. Residents have been terribly shortchanged by this settlement. Using these funds as a short-term budget fix adds insult to injury," said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). "This bill amends the law so that the bulk of money received from environmental lawsuits is reserved for damage restoration."

"Money from environmental penalties should go toward environmental cleanups," said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Hunterdon/Middlesex). "This is a simple concept designed to protect residents." 

The bill (A-2844) would amend the state budget to provide that one-half of all amounts of environmental lawsuit recoveries received by the state, in excess of $50 million, is deposited into the Hazardous Discharge Site Cleanup Fund and are appropriated for the direct and indirect costs of remediation, restoration and clean up.

These appropriated funds also would be available to cover consulting, expert, and legal service expenses incurred in pursuing claims for damages and grants to local governments and nonprofit organizations to further implement restoration activities of the Office of Natural Resource Restoration in the Department of Environmental Protection. Without the enactment of this bill, all amounts of natural resource recoveries and associated damages recovered by the state in excess of $50 million during the fiscal year would be deposited in the State General Fund as general state revenue.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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Zwicker Introduces Resolution Reaffirming State’s Commitment to Equality, Liberty for All People

Read the Resolution Here: 

(TRENTON) – In an effort to restore civility to public discourse and urge a reconsideration of the beliefs shaping public attitudes nationwide, Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker has introduced legislation condemning bigotry and hatred.

            “People of all faiths, backgrounds, and political ideologies are drawn to New Jersey because of our fundamental commitment to respecting one another. That is a defining characteristic of this state,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “In the midst of national discussions that are increasingly divisive, the people of New Jersey continue to show the world that diversity is an asset, that we can disagree without being disagreeable and that the twin evils of bigotry and hatred have no place here.”

The resolution condemns bigotry and hatred, denounces an increase in hate crimes and declares that the civil rights and civil liberties of all New Jersey residents must be protected and preserved. Zwicker cited a need to embrace tolerance in an effort to build a more inclusive society as the driving force behind the legislation. 

Zwicker was attending an American Muslims for Democracy event when he spoke with a South Brunswick resident named M. Basit Qari.  Mr. Qari was among many who expressed concern about growing levels of intolerance.  As he explained, “It is heartening to see Assemblyman Zwicker's leadership in promoting this anti-bigotry and anti-hatred resolution, celebrating New Jersey's various dimensions of diversity. It strengthens my trust in citizen-centered democracy.”

“I commend Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker for his leadership in standing against bigotry and hatred.  We must always show mutual respect for each other, and never allow our differences to lead to violence or any other form of harm. Instead of seeing diversity as a problem or cause for division or hatred, we must celebrate it as a gift that adds to reverence for all human life,” said Rev. Robert Moore, executive director of the Coalition for Peace Action and Peace Action Education Fund in Princeton. 

 “Standing against hate and intolerance is a strong value of the Jewish community and one shared by our faith-based community partners,” said Mark S. Levenson, president of the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations. “We are proud to stand with Assemblyman Zwicker and speak out together as people of conscience to embrace mutual respect for our diversity.”

 “Our state’s motto – ‘Liberty and Prosperity’ – and our national motto – e pluribus unum, or ‘out of many, one’ – are inextricably linked,” said Zwicker. “A commitment to liberty and prosperity for everyone in New Jersey begins with the recognition that, no matter where we’re from or who we are or what we believe, our fates are tied.  We are one New Jersey, just as we are one nation. Our state, now more than ever, must continue to act with that notion at the forefront.” 

 


Stand with Me in Love and against Hate

Last night, I gave the following statement at a Candlelight Vigil for the Orlando Shooting.  Today, I will take action, as I expect to introduce my Anti-Hatred Resolution to the Assembly.  


View the video on my Facebook Page.

Dear Friend, 

Sunday morning, I woke up, as we all did, to the horrifying news that 49 men and women were murdered in Orlando by a sick individual consumed by hate.  49 beautiful people were massacred in a safe haven, a place that was supposed to be free of society’s judgment, free of fear, free of bigotry yet they were killed simply because of who they loved.  In the hours and days that have followed, some have pointed blame towards millions of Americans that have done nothing but worship and honor their faith in love and in peace. 

Let me be clear.  This individual was not a Muslim.  Islam is a faith of love. This was a radical consumed by hate.  A hatred that has seeped into our society and become a troubling part of our political discourse.  This hatred and bigotry being promoted by political leaders for political gain is bad, but using that hatred and bigotry for agitating people to hurt and kill others is unconscionable. 

Love is not a sin.  Sex is not a sin. Hate is a sin.  To love one another is the most wonderful thing we do, it is what makes us human and fills our hearts with joy.  To love is to be strong.  Yet we live in a society that is more and more consumed by hate and by fear.  Fear of the other.  Fear of people that are different.  But as Americans, we are stronger because of this diversity, we are stronger exactly because we are all different.  New Jersey is one of the most diverse states in America and is strong because we come from different countries, we speak different languages, our skin is brown, black, and white, we have different faiths and we worship or not worship whichever way we choose.

We are here this evening together in solidarity condemning hatred. So what can we do? What must we do as leaders of faith, as activists, as leaders of government?  As citizens of NJ and the United States of America?

About a month ago I had lunch with a group of American Muslims - doctors, lawyers, teachers, business people - and we talked about our children, education, taxes, jobs, and hatred.  From that lunch came this action - New Jersey must take a stand against hatred and bigotry in all its forms.  And so, working with various faith organizations and civil liberty organizations we have crafted a resolution against hatred and bigotry that I will introduce into the General Assembly tomorrow.   I am calling on my colleagues in the Assembly, both Republicans and Democrats, to sign onto this resolution and to take a stand.  Take a stand against hatred, against bigotry, against homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, against every -ism and every -phobia that is rooted in hatred.

That’s a start.  But that’s not enough.  We have learned in the past few days that this troubled individual purchased his weapons legally.  Just like every other mass shooting, he purchased a weapon that has only one purpose - to kill as many people as possible in as short a period of time.  NJ has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country and some of the lowest rates of gun violence.  This is not a coincidence. We must ban the sale of all assault weapons in every state. Will doing so stop all violence?  No.  But it will make it more difficult for these people to kill innocent people.  The rest is up to us.  It is up to us to decide if we want to live in a society guided by hate or love.  This evening and always I ask that you stand with me in love and against hatred.  Thank you.

Sincerely,

Andrew Zwicker

Assemblyman, 16th District   


Zwicker Bill to Expand Primary Voting Rights, Encourage Youth Participation in Elections Continues Advancing

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Jamel Holley, Elizabeth Muoio, Tim Eustace, Arthur Barclay, Angela McKnight and Raj Mukherji that would allow more young New Jersey residents to participate in elections was approved on Thursday by a Senate panel.

The bill (A-3591), the "New Voter Empowerment Act," would allow 17-year-olds to vote in a primary election provided they will turn 18 on or before the next succeeding general election. 

"Young people in New Jersey are eager to raise their voices and make a difference," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "More than 23,000 of them will have a birthday after the primary but before the general election. Under my legislation, they would be able to vote in both elections. It's an important step forward to fully empower thousands of new voters every year."

New Jersey would join 21 states and the District of Columbia in allowing 17-year-olds who will turn 18 during the interim period between a primary or caucus and the general election to participate in the nomination process, Zwicker noted. 

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Should 17-year-olds vote in primary elections?

A New Jersey high school senior can volunteer for a political campaign and display their support for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders on their social media profiles.

But the most they can do about this year's hotly-contest primaries, including a Democratic contest that could be decided in New Jersey, is count down the days until their 18th birthday.

The "New Voter Empowerment Act," passed by the Assembly last week, would allow 17-year-old New Jerseyans to vote in primary elections as long as their birthday falls before the general election date. A Senate vote is still pending.

If enacted, New Jersey would become the 22nd state to allow the practice, including Delaware, Maryland and Connecticut. In New Jersey, people can already register to vote when they’re 17 years old.

“All it says is, look at the primary and general elections as a unit,” said Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-Somerset, the bill's primary sponsor. “Once someone of any age becomes a voter, they tend to stay a voter. This is inspired by the literally thousands of kids from all parts of the political spectrum who want to be involved.

"Once they start, they don’t stop,” he said.

An identical bill in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. James Beach, D-Camden, is awaiting a committee hearing.

Zwicker, 52, estimates that the bill would give about 23,000 17-year-olds the ability to vote in the primaries each year. And if they vote in the primaries, the hope is that they’ll keep it up in future elections.

Andrew Zwicker (district 16) is sworn in by speaker

Andrew Zwicker (district 16) is sworn in by speaker Vincent Prieto (Photo: Bob Bielk/Gannett NJ, Bob Bielk/Asbury Park Press)

The first-term assemblyman takes the mantra of “every vote matters” to heart: Last year, he upset four-year Assemblywoman Donna Simon, R-Hunterdon, by just 78 votes in the general election. And he did it with a campaign team where the oldest staffer was 27 years old.

“These people believe that we can still go ahead, have a grassroots campaign and get behind someone you believe in, whether it’s me or anybody else,” Zwicker said. “This felt like a good place to start.”

The bill cleared the Assembly last week by a 57 to 17 vote, mostly along party lines: No Democrat voted against it, and only eight Republicans voted in favor.

"We do need to have greater accessibility and convenience for all voting, just to ensure that the integrity of the process is maintained," said Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, R-Ocean, who voted for the bill.

When the issue has been raised in other states, opponents generally agree that it would encourage voter turnout -- but those it directly affects generally vote for Democrats or liberal candidates.

The issue came to a head in Ohio in March, when Sanders sued the secretary of state to allow 17-year-olds to vote. A judge ruled in Sanders's favor.

Zwicker said the goal of the bill is simply to get young people to the polls, regardless of their affiliation.

“Some people will say young people tend to vote Democratic, and isn’t that partisan,” Zwicker said. “I just want everyone out there … I don’t care if someone wants to be a Democrat, a Republican or unaffiliated. I want the young people out there and voting.”

By, Mike Davis, APP: View original here.


Zwicker Legislation to Expand Primary Voting Rights, Encourage Youth Participation in Elections Gains Assembly OK

Attach19999_20160526_170937.jpg(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker that would allow more young New Jersey residents to participate in elections gained approval from the General Assembly on Thursday.

The bill (A-3591), the “New Voter Empowerment Act,” would allow 17-year-olds to vote in a primary election provided they will turn 18 on or before the next succeeding general election. It is Zwicker’s first piece of legislation to be advanced out of the Assembly.

“Young people in New Jersey are eager to raise their voices and make a difference,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “More than 23,000 of them will have a birthday after the primary but before the general election. Under my legislation, they would be able to vote in both elections.  It's an important step forward to fully empower thousands of new voters every year.”

New Jersey would join 21 states and the District of Columbia in allowing 17-year-olds who will turn 18 during the interim period between a primary or caucus and the general election to participate in the nomination process, Zwicker noted.

The bill would affect students like Henry Zhu, a 17-year-old high school student who, through his involvement with Junior State of America, advocated in support of the legislation. While Zhu looks forward to voting in the November election, he is ineligible to participate in the June 7 primary election because he will not turn 18 until August.

“This legislation would empower me to actively participate in the primary process just like every other young new voter,” said Zhu. “If an important goal of both parties is to attract young, new voters into their support base, why are New Jersey teenagers who qualify to vote in November turned away from the polls in June?”

          The legislation passed 57-17.