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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.

Click HERE to read more

 

 


Zwicker Introduces Legislation to Protect Internet Privacy

Measure Follows Trump Repeal of Federal Broadband Confidentiality Rules

(Trenton, NJ) -- Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker has introduced legislation to prohibit Internet service providers from selling or otherwise disclosing a subscriber’s online browsing history and personal information.

“In today’s world, using the Internet is essential to everyday life, which means that Internet service providers have unparalleled access to a great deal of information about their subscribers’ highly personal habits, preferences, even medical issues,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “That private data should not be up for sale to the highest bidder without subscribers’ knowledge or consent.”

The bill (A-4800) would require ISPs like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T to keep their subscribers’ personally identifiable information confidential unless a subscriber expressly authorizes the ISP to disclose the information. The legislation comes after President Donald Trump signed legislation last month rescinding Federal Communications Commission protections intended to prohibit ISPs from selling their subscribers’ personal data.

“Technology is advancing, but the fundamental principle that consumers have a right to privacy over their information remains unchanged,” said Zwicker.  “It is more important than ever to ensure that consumers can be sure that their personal information is confidential and that they are protected from the potential harm caused by unpermitted disclosure.” 

With the introduction of A-4800, New Jersey joins more than a dozen other states that have introduced similar bills since the federal privacy protections rollback in early April. 

“This is not a political issue. It’s a consumer protection issue,” Zwicker explained, noting that data suggests that a vast majority of Americans across party lines are very concerned about their data privacy and support Internet user privacy protections. 

The measure defines “personally identifiable information” as any information that personally identifies, describes or is able to be associated with a subscriber or users of a subscriber’s account, including, but not limited to:

  • name, address, precise geolocation, Social Security number or telephone number;
  • requests for specific materials or services from an ISP;
  • Internet protocol (IP) addresses or information concerning the access or use of online services;
  • information identifying a device used primarily or exclusively by the subscriber or users of the subscriber’s account; financial or billing information;
  • demographic data;
  • medical information;
  • browser cache or history;
  • the contents of a subscriber’s communications or data-storage devices; or
  • any information pertaining to children.

 

Under the legislation, subscribers who wish to disclose their information must declare so using a form separate from their contract for Internet service. An ISP would be required to provide written notice of this requirement to each subscriber upon his or her first applying for service and when the subscriber renews a contract for service. The subscriber may revoke, in writing, the authorization at any time.

The measure states that there shall be no penalty, either financially or in the quality or speed of delivery of service, for a subscriber prohibiting an ISP from disclosing his or her information. 


Zwicker Bill to Fund Open Space Preservation Now Law

Appropriates $59.5M in Funds to Protect Land, Prevent Damage in Flood-Prone Areas

(Trenton, NJ) -- A bipartisan bill, sponsored by Assembly Andrew Zwicker, among others, to fund open space preservation is now law. The appropriation is the result of a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2014 to allow the state to use corporation business taxes to establish a stable source of financial support for open space preservation.

“The people of New Jersey cast their vote in 2014 and overwhelmingly supported open space preservation,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “By appropriating nearly $60 million in funding to protect land and water, the state is making sure that today’s residents, as well as future generations, can fully enjoy the character and beauty of New Jersey.”  

The new law (A-4597) appropriates $59.5 million to the Department of Environmental Protection to fund state acquisition of land for recreation and conservation purposes, including for Blue Acres projects, and for capital projects and park development on lands administered by the Division of Parks and Forestry and the Division of Fish and Wildlife pursuant to the “Preserve New Jersey Act.”

In addition to funds for outdoor recreation and protection of flood-prone areas, the measure provides funding for preservation endeavors. Projects within the 16th Legislative District that received funding under the new law include:

  • Crossroads of the American Revolution sites in Delaware, Flemington, Raritan, Readington, and Stockton in Hunterdon County, Princeton Borough in Mercer County and Branchburg, Hillsborough, Manville, Millstone, Montgomery, Rocky Hill and Somerville  in Somerset County;
  • the Delaware and Raritan Canal Greenway;
  • the Delaware River Bluffs;
  • the Nishisakawick Greenway;
  • the Lincoln Grove Preserve;
  • the Sourland Mountains; and
  • the Princeton Battlefield

The “Preserve New Jersey Act,” implements for fiscal years 2017 through 2019 the constitutional dedication of CBT revenues for open space, farmland and historic preservation.  The act dictates that of the 60 percent of dedicated CBT revenues allocated each year for the Green Acres program: 

  • 55 percent would be used for open space acquisition and development projects divided equally between open space and development projects
  • 38 percent would be used for grants and loans to fund local government open space acquisition and development projects and
  • 7 percent would be used for grants to fund open space acquisition and development projects undertaken by qualifying tax-exempt nonprofit organizations. 

All projects and appropriations have been approved by the DEP and the Garden State Preservation Trust. The measure was signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie on Monday.