News

Lampitt, Quijano, Eustace, Kennedy, Benson, Muoio, Zwicker & Mukherji Bill Establishing State Goal to Reduce Food Waste in NJ Gains Final Legislative Approval

The General Assembly on Thursday approved 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.

"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 bill, New Jersey would 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 bill (A-4631) would establish a state goal of reducing, by the year 2030, the amount of food waste generated annually in the state by 50 percent. 

The bill requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in consultation with the Department of Agriculture (DOA) and within one year, to develop and commence implementation of a plan to accomplish the 50 percent state food waste reduction goal. 

The DEP would be required to hold at least three public hearings during the development of the plan to seek public input. The departments also would be 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. 

The bill, which received unanimous approval from both houses of the legislature, now heads to the governor. 


Zwicker & Johnson Bill to Protect Freelance Workers Approved by Assembly

(Trenton, NJ) -- Legislation Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker and Gordon Johnson sponsored to ensure fair treatment of freelance workers was approved Thursday, June 22nd, by the Assembly.

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 will now be referred to the Senate.


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."