Easing Consolidation Between Municipalities Can Improve Efficiency, Reduce Burden on Taxpayers
Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, Andrew Zwicker, Joann Downey, John Wisniewski and Nancy Pinkin to facilitate municipal consolidation in New Jersey is now law.
"New Jersey leads the nation in property taxes, which often leads our residents to consider moving to a state that's more affordable," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Making it easier for some of the more than 500 municipalities in New Jersey to consolidate can help lower property taxes and ultimately keep people here."
The new law (A-2202) authorizes municipalities to adopt ordinances for special emergency appropriations in order to cover non-recurring expenses they incur to implement a municipal consolidation. The authorization of the special appropriation is subject to the approval of the director of the Division of Local Government Services.
The use of special emergency appropriations to fund the non-recurring costs associated with the consolidation process will allow consolidating municipalities to immediately begin to realize the financial savings of municipal consolidation, the sponsors noted.
"Over the long term, consolidation can help streamline services and ultimately lower property taxes, but at the beginning, municipalities have to determine how to pay for the associated one-time, upfront costs," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "With greater access to money to cover these costs, more municipalities can get on the road to consolidation and with it, a reduction in the tax burden on their residents."
"If municipalities find that consolidating can deliver benefits for their residents, the initial financial obstacle should not prevent them from implementing a practical means of decreasing taxes," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "With this new law, municipalities will be able to cut costs and provide immediate savings for taxpayers."
"Municipal consolidation is an important step in achieving property tax reform in New Jersey," said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). "It may not be the answer for all municipalities, but those that see it as a viable avenue to lower taxes should be able to pass the benefits on to taxpayers as soon as possible."
"High property taxes are driving people out of New Jersey. Consolidation isn't a panacea, but it can help," said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). "If one-time expenses associated with consolidation are reasonable and consolidation will result in long-term savings, then making a special emergency appropriation ought to be permissible."
The governor signed the legislation into law on Friday, July 7th.
(Skillman, NJ)-- Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker announces his summer mobile office hour dates for July and August. Held at various locations across the 16th District, the office hours provide an opportunity to receive support in matters related to state agencies, voice your opinion on state issues and familiarize yourself with services available through our Legislative office.
“Our goal is to make ourselves accessible to constituents, no matter where they live in the district,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “I encourage residents to bring their questions and concerns to these mobile office hours.”
For more information please email: AsmZwicker@njleg.org or call 609-454-3147.
Hillsborough Office Hours:
Monday July 17th, 2017 5:30-7:30PM
379 S Branch Rd, Hillsborough Township, NJ 08844
Somerville Office Hours:
Wednesday August 2nd, 2017 5:30-7:30PM
Somerville Public Library
35 West End Ave, Somerville, NJ 08876
*Manville Office Hours:
Monday August 7th, 2017 5:30-7:30PM
Manville Public Library
100 S 10th Ave, Manville, NJ 08835
Hunterdon County Office Hours:
Wednesday August 16th, 2017 5:30-7:30PM
Hunterdon County Library
314 NJ-12, Flemington, NJ 08822
*Representatives from Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman’s office will be present to address any Federal matters constituents may have.
(Skillman, NJ) -- On July 4th, Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker issued the following statement on the budget being passed and the Horizon Bill:
"Early this morning, we passed the 2017-2018 budget and state parks and beaches are open for all. More importantly, state offices are back on a normal schedule and state workers are back to their jobs. In addition, we are expanding pre-K, beginning to tackle inequities in school funding, and protecting programs that provide needed services for some of our most vulnerable citizens.
Along with the budget, the Legislature passed a bill concerning Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield. Modeled after legislation in other states, any excess funds will be returned to the policyholders and there is no “money grab” or takeover of the company. No matter what you read online, this was an enormous defeat for the Governor as he heads into the last six months of his administration.
Democracy is messy and there is much to do tomorrow and in the days ahead. Today, we pause and gather with family and friends to celebrate the birth of our country."
(Skillman, NJ) -- On Sunday, July 2nd, Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker released the following statement about the current budget impasse and resulting government shutdown:
"Disagreements in politics are inevitable, but the disagreements over this budget were not good faith disputes over funding priorities. Instead, the Governor threatened to eliminate school aid increases and other important programs if we do not meet his demands, and he has now shut down our state government to make good on those threats. This is no way to lead, and the people of New Jersey deserve better.
The controversial proposal on Horizon, which I cannot support in its current form, remains at the center of this harmful impasse and government shutdown. With the attacks on the Affordable Care Act in Washington, D.C., the future of healthcare is uncertain, and tens of millions of Americans in New Jersey and around the country are at risk of losing their health insurance. Lives are literally at stake. While we absolutely must ensure that Horizon is acting in a responsible, accountable way, we should do so through our usual legislative process. Tying the Horizon proposal to the State’s budget is arbitrary and unnecessary.
On Thursday I did not vote on the proposed budget to allow more time for the Legislature and the Governor to strike a compromise that would ensure his signature on the budget as it is, which includes critically important funds for property tax relief, healthcare, infrastructure and school aid. In my legislative district alone, school districts in Manville, Somerville Borough and Montgomery would receive much-needed boosts in funding, to the benefit of thousands of children.
While the budget is not perfect, particularly because of a flawed lottery-pension scheme it incorporates, on Friday I voted yes to ensure that we did not shut down the government.
I am always proud and grateful to serve the 16th Legislative District in the General Assembly. I urge all New Jerseyans to contact the Governor and urge him to commit to signing the budget in its entirety without conditions, and end the shutdown."
Mosquera, Moriarty, Lagana, Zwicker & Downey Bill to Help Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Victims Seek Justice Against Their Abusers Clears Legislature
(Trenton, NJ) -- Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gabriela Mosquera, Paul Moriarty, Joseph Lagana, Andrew Zwicker and Joann Downey to allow victims and witnesses of domestic violence and sexual assault to testify against their abusers via closed circuit television under certain circumstances cleared the Senate, 38-0, on Monday.
"Having to recount an abusive relationship in front of your abuser can be unnerving for an individual who's been battered," said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). "For children who may have witnessed their mother being abused, it can be equally frightening to have to testify in a courtroom with the abuser, especially if the abuser is a parent. Permitting victims and young witnesses to testify via closed circuit television allows them to confront their abusers without fear."
The bill (A-1199) would permit witnesses and victims to testify against the defendant via closed circuit television in prosecutions for a crime involving domestic violence, certain sex crimes or crimes involving the abuse or neglect of a child.
"Domestic abuse is traumatic. Some victims are so frightful of their abusers that they would rather not press charges or even testify in court for fear of retribution," said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). "This bill makes it easier for victims to come forward and get justice."
"Oftentimes victims struggle over whether or not to report their abusers because they fear for their safety," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "This bill would help victims hold their abusers accountable without fear of doing so under their glare in a courtroom."
"This is the right thing to do for victims who have already suffered too much," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex). "We need to take whatever humane steps we can if there's a substantial likelihood that the witness would suffer severe emotional or mental distress if required to testify in open court."
"The criminal justice system works most effectively when witnesses and victims can provide the testimony necessary to assess the facts of a case," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "When these individuals have a means of talking without fear, it helps ensure that the judicial process functions the way it should."
Under current law, the court may order the taking of the testimony of a witness 16 years of age or younger on closed circuit television in prosecutions for aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal sexual contact, human trafficking involving sexual activity, child abuse or in any action alleging an abused or neglected child if the court finds that there is a substantial likelihood that the witness would suffer severe emotional or mental distress if required to testify in open court.
This bill would expand current law to encompass victims and witnesses of any age, and provide that the court, in granting an order to allow closed circuit testimony, shall assure that: the victim or witness will testify under oath; the victim or witness will submit to cross-examination by the defendant's attorney; and the defendant, jury, and judge will be permitted to observe the demeanor of the victim or witness when making testimonial statements using closed circuit television.
In addition, the measure clarifies certain procedural provisions, including that the defendant's counsel would be present in the same room as the victim or witness at the taking of testimony on closed circuit television, and that the defendant and defendant's attorney may confer privately with each other during the testimony by a separate audio system.
Under the bill, the video portion of the closed circuit testimony would not be recorded and would not be part of the record on appeal. Only the audio portion of the testimony would be recorded. Such audio recording could be part of the record on appeal, depending on the age of the victim or witness and the order of the court.
The bill gained unanimous Assembly approval in September; and it now heads to the Governor for further consideration.
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.