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Assembly Democratic Bill to Require NJ to Join and Uphold Paris Climate Agreement Clears Assembly Panel

Bill Sponsors Include Raj Mukherji, Andrew Zwicker, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Tim Eustace, Joann Downey, James Kennedy and Nancy Pinkin

 

(TRENTON) - An Assembly panel approved legislation on Monday sponsored by Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Andrew Zwicker, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Tim Eustace, Joann Downey, James Kennedy and Nancy Pinkin to require the state to take part in the U.S. Climate Alliance to uphold the Paris Climate Accord and the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The bill (A-5040) would require New Jersey to join the United States Climate Alliance, a group formed to pursue policies to uphold the United States' commitments to the Paris Climate Accord in order to address the threats posed by climate change. The group was formed by the Governors of California, New York, and Washington after President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. 

"Science is a thing, and global warming is real," said Mukherji (D-Hudson). "Abandoning the Paris Climate Accord is a mistake that will be paid for by generation after generation if we do not take action, assuming the world doesn't end under the Trump administration. Aligning ourselves with the U.S. Climate Alliance is the first step."

"This legislation sends the message that we do not agree, along with other states, with pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon). "We should be a part of the international effort to stop global warming. It is only together that we can make a real environmental change."

"The global effort to effect climate change and global warming began here in the United States and we should remain a leader among nations in these efforts," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "As one of four countries that contribute the most global greenhouse gas emissions, we must work with other countries and strengthen the accord with our participation." 

"Pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord would be detrimental to our effect as a nation," said Eustace (D-Passaic, Bergen). "Climate change and global warming is very real and it is not going away unless we join with other nations in the fight to end it." 

"The United States will pay a heavy price for withdrawing from the Paris agreement," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "We must do our part, alongside other nations, in curbing the effects of climate change and global warming on our environment."

"While other nations have taken a step forward, the United States has taken a step back," said McKeon (D-Essex). "It's nonsensical. For this reason, New Jersey should join other states in entering the US Climate Alliance."

"The US, China, India, and the European Union contribute about half of global greenhouse gas emissions," said Kennedy (D- Middlesex, Somerset and Union). "It is imperative that we join the rest of the world in combating the effects of climate change. Future generations depend on our nation to take a proactive stance against these environmental concerns."

"To effectively address global warming, we must stand with our international partners," said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). "This is a global challenge. We must do our part."

The bill was release by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee and will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration. 


Johnson, Zwicker, Benson, Kennedy, Vainieri Huttle & Mukherji Bill to Establish Fund for Emissions Reduction and Air Pollution Control Approved by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) - An Assembly panel approved legislation on Monday sponsored by Gordon Johnson, Andrew Zwicker, Daniel Benson, James Kennedy, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Raj Mukherji to establish a fund with the money from the "Volkswagen Settlement Utilization Fund for Motor Vehicles Emissions Reduction and Air Pollution Control."

"Receiving the second settlement from Volkswagen is tremendous for New Jersey," said Johnson (D- Bergen). "Creating a special fund that aims to reduce exhaust emissions and air pollution will ensure that the money will be protected and used for its rightful purpose."

"Settlements fund from environmental lawsuits over the last eight years has been used to balance state budgets and other purposes that have nothing to do with the environment," said Zwicker (D- Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset). "This legislation will ensure that these settlement funds are used to address environmental priorities in the state."

"Dedicating these settlement funds to programs reducing emissions and air pollution ensures cleaner air and a better environment for all New Jersey residents," said Benson (D- Mercer, Middlesex). 

"With this bill, we send a message to New Jerseyans that these environmental settlements will only be use for its proper purpose - to help clean up the environment," said Kennedy (D- Middlesex, Somerset, Union).

"These settlements won from environmental hazards inflicted on New Jersey's communities are not to be used for any other purpose than righting the wrongs made against our environment," said Vainieri Huttle (D- Bergen). "Establishing a fund with the settlement from Volkswagen will help to do just that."

"Dedicating this settlement to a special fund is the right thing for the government to do," said Mukherji (D- Hudson). "We'll be able to ensure funding for critical programming that will address longtime concerns of air pollution and emission reduction."

Under the bill (A-4749), the fund will be solely for programs to:

1) Promote zero emission vehicle use and the development and construction of charging or filling infrastructure to support such use, including but not limited to, educating the public on the importance and availability of zero emission vehicles;

2) Reduce diesel emissions at the ports of Elizabeth and Newark, the ports in South Jersey Port District, and other ports in southern New Jersey by repowering or replacement of diesel-powered vehicles or cargo handling equipment operating in those port regions through grants, loans or both;

3) Convert diesel-powered airport ground support equipment to zero emission equipment;

4) Reduce air pollution from motor vehicle emissions. 

The bill was released by the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee. It will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.


N.J. lawmakers: Create more good jobs by focusing on businesses already in N.J. | Opinion

For too long, state policy has focused on the wrong things. Instead of taking advantage of a location the rest of the nation envies, we've been squandering that asset by letting our transportation system deteriorate.Instead of doing everything possible to nurture small businesses, we've been trying to lure large, multi-state firms by promising big tax breaks that take away the resources needed for job training and other public investments that make a state attractive to people who want to start a business.

Co-authored with Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti, this op-ed explains what NJ needs to do to grow manufacturing jobs in our state.  

 


Zwicker & Johnson Bill to Protect Freelance Workers Continues Advancing

(Trenton, NJ) -- Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker and Gordon Johnson to ensure fair treatment of freelance workers was approved Monday by the Senate Labor Committee.

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. Freelances 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.

The bill was approved 52-23-0 by the full Assembly in June, and now awaits final legislative approval by the full Senate.


Zwicker, Faith Leaders Call for Action to Protect Environment

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker and leaders from various local faith communities on Sunday called for increased action in the fight against climate change and the effort to protect the environment. 

"Good schools and safe neighborhoods for our children are important, but even the best education and the cleanest streets aren't enough if our kids are drinking contaminated water and breathing polluted air," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "Any plan to secure a brighter future for the next generation has to include a focus on the environment."

Concerned citizens from across the 16th Legislative District gathered at the North Branch Reformed Church in Bridgewater to discuss the common obligation among people of different faiths to care for the planet.

"There is no option but unity when it comes to standing up for the earth we share," said Zwicker. "Regardless of race, color or creed, the state of the environment affects us all."

In addition to Christian, Jewish and Muslim houses of worship in Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset counties, the following organizations sponsored the event: the Raritan Valley chapter of the Citizens' Climate Lobby, Food and Water Watch - New Jersey, GreenFaith, Green Muslims, Jersey Re-news, the New Jersey Audubon Society, the Raritan Headwaters Association, the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club.


Zwicker to Host Fraud Prevention Seminars

Lawmaker Partnering with Division of Consumer Affairs to Protect Seniors

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker will host two fraud prevention seminars in October to educate the public on common scams aimed at senior citizens.

"As our state seeks new ways to crack down on perpetrators who prey on New Jersey's older residents, we also must equip seniors with the tools to recognize and respond to scams appropriately," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "These seminars will help ensure that fewer senior citizens are susceptible to identity theft, online misrepresentation and other common categories of fraud."

The lawmaker will partner with the Division of Consumer Affairs to hold events at senior residential facilities within the 16th Legislative District. A Consumer Affairs representative will be available to discuss various types of fraud, including telemarketing fraud and nuisance robocalls, and provide tips on how seniors can protect themselves.

The first seminar will be held on Monday, Oct. 23 at 6 p.m. at Independence Manor Hunterdon, 188 NJ-31, Flemington, NJ 08822. Parties interested in attending should RSVP directly to Independence Manor by calling 908-788-4893.

The second seminar will be held on Thursday, Oct. 26 at noon at Foothills Acres, 39 East Mountain Road, Hillsborough Township, NJ 08844. Parties interested in attending should RSVP directly to Foothills Acres by calling 908-369-8711.