News

Zwicker: NJ Transit Compromises Passenger Safety

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset) issued the following statement regarding the Assembly Judiciary Committee's recent joint hearing with the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee on NJ Transit operations:

"Reform is long overdue in a transit system where hostile workplace environments, discrimination and patronage hiring threaten passenger safety and undermine public confidence.

"Conditions described at Friday's hearing again spotlight the governor's failure to take action on this issue.

"Safety must be the first priority at NJ Transit for the sake of employees and passengers alike. More diligence is needed in implementing positive train control and other means of making mass transit safer for commuters. And, safety goes beyond proper equipment. A large part of ensuring the well-being of New Jersey's public transportation network is fostering a culture where workers are respected and do not fear retribution for reporting unsuitable conditions. Unfortunately, the allegations we heard Friday show that NJ Transit has a toxic culture that jeopardizes passengers' safety."


Zwicker Announces Fall Mobile Hour Schedule

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker on Thursday announced upcoming mobile office hour dates. The office hours will provide constituents with opportunities to receive support in matters related to state agencies, voice their opinions on state issues and familiarize themselves with services available through Zwicker's legislative office.

"Mobile office hours give constituents from all over the 16th District the opportunity to ask questions, express their concerns and discuss ways to improve our community," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "These conversations will help shape the future of New Jersey." 

Constituents may visit the locations listed from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on each of the following dates:

Hillsborough Public Library
379 South Branch Road, Hillsborough Township, NJ 08844
Wednesday, September 6
Wednesday, October 4
Wednesday, November 1

Hunterdon County Library
314 NJ-12, Flemington, NJ 08822
Wednesday, September 20
Wednesday, October 18
Wednesday, November 15
Wednesday, December 20

For more information please email AsmZwicker[at]njleg.org or call 609-454-3147. 


Zwicker Measures Yield Millions in Grants for Local Farmland Preservation Projects

(TRENTON) – Two bills Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker sponsored to fund farmland preservation were signed into law by the governor on Monday, after receiving unanimous approval in both houses of the legislature.

“Agriculture is one of the largest components of New Jersey’s economy, so supporting that industry is critical for our state,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “Some of the biggest challenges in farming are access to land and capital. These appropriations will help ease that financial burden.”

The first new law (A-4582) provides a total of $32.5 million in farmland preservation grants around the state. The sum includes $4 million in grants for communities in the 16th Legislative District, with $1 million each going to Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset counties. The legislation also makes each of these counties eligible for additional grants of up to $5 million. In total, the funds would cover up to 80 percent of the cost of acquiring easements for farmland preservation purposes.

The second new law (A-4584) appropriates $7.5 million in farmland preservation grants, including a $500,000 grant for Delaware Township in Hunterdon County.

“Farmland preservation is the foundation of the agriculture industry,” said Zwicker. “In addition to providing direct economic benefits to the entire state, investing in farmland preservation creates stability for New Jersey’s farmers, helps limit sprawl and preserves the beauty of our communities.”


Now Law: Mosquera, Moriarty, Lagana, Zwicker & Downey Bill to Help Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Victims Seek Justice Against Their Abusers

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 was signed into law 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 will allow them to confront their abusers without fear."

The new law (A-1199) permits 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 law 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 law will 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 previous 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. 

The new law will expand previous 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 law, 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.


Assembly Democratic Bill Establishing State Goal to Reduce Food Waste in NJ Now Law

Law Sponsored by Lampitt, Quijano, Eustace, Kennedy, Benson, Muoio, Zwicker & Mukherji

(TRENTON) – 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 has been signed into law.

“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 law, New Jersey will 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 law (A-4631) establishes a state goal of reducing, by the year 2030, the amount of food waste generated annually in the state by 50 percent.

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

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


Zwicker Book Drive Donates Thousands of Books for Children

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A month-long summer book drive organized by the legislative district office of Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker has donated 4,000 books for local students in kindergarten through grade 12.

"Research shows that daily reading is a critical way to keep kids engaged and learning year-round. I am so proud of the way our community came together to donate books for children," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "I'm grateful to all those who participated in this effort to provide children with the opportunity to foster their imagination, challenge themselves and tap into their full potential through the pages of a book."

Zwicker partnered with numerous local nonprofit organizations from early June through July 6 to collect reading material for children in the 16th Legislative District.

"We applaud Assemblyman Zwicker's summer reading book drive and appreciate all who donated to support this worthwhile initiative. Hunterdon Medical Center will make these books available to our pediatric patients throughout our system's waiting rooms and patient care areas," said Robert P. Wise, president and CEO of Hunterdon Healthcare. "As much as we care about keeping our children healthy, reading is fundamental to a child's development and encourages imagination and growth."

"This book drive is a tremendous help to the YWCA Princeton and our Young Wonders childcare," said Judy Hutton, CEO of the Princeton YWCA. "It is so important that our children stay engaged and keep up with their reading, especially in the summer."

"Hugs for Brady Foundation is extremely grateful to be a recipient of books. Books help very sick children pass the time during long hospital stays," said Sherrie Wells, founder of the Hugs for Brady Foundation, a nonprofit established to help children battling cancer. "A very heartfelt thank you goes out to Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker and his devoted team for organizing this drive to help ease the pain of children battling cancer."

"SWEET READS is a nonprofit organization based out of Neshanic Station that distributes books to children, particularly those in need. We are thrilled to have received the generous book donation from Assemblyman Zwicker's office, as it will help us in our mission of getting books into the hands of children and inspiring an early love of reading," said Tamiko Hubbard, executive director of SWEET READS, a local organization that provides new and gently used quality books to children from underserved communities.

"Thank you to Assemblyman Zwicker and his staff for the multitude of donated books, which has allowed us at The Arc of Somerset and The Jerry Davis Center to happily give to almost 30 children and their families who are part of our specialized childcare/preschool program," said Jill Glassman, director of Early Childhood Services at The Arc of Somerset County. "This donation has continued to help our daily efforts to strongly encourage the love, excitement and lifelong skill of reading from the very youngest of ages."

Zwicker noted that interns in his district office played an integral role in coordinating the book drive and thanked them for an exceptional commitment to constituent services.

"Students completing internships in my office displayed an impressive sense of selflessness throughout the book drive," said Zwicker. "The success of this endeavor is due in large part to their hard work and dedication to improving their community."

Contributors to the book drive include the following groups: the Amick Family, the Chorney Family, the Craft Family, First Presbyterian Church at Dayton, the Hillsborough Library, the Montgomery Democrats, the Padulo Family, Princeton Library, the Sloan Family, the Somerset County Young Democrats and the South Brunswick Library.

Book recipients, who will distribute the books, include: AGAPE House Fellowship, The Arc of Middlesex County, The Arc of Somerset County, Arm and Arm Trenton, Family Support Organization of Hunterdon, Somerset & Warren Counties, the Flemington Food Pantry, GiGi's Play House, the Hillsborough YMCA, HiTOPS, Hugs for Brady, Hunterdon Healthcare, the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, the Princeton Blairstown Center, the Princeton Learning Cooperative, the Princeton YWCA, SAFE in Hunterdon, the Somerset County Food Bank, South Brunswick Parks and Recreation, South Brunswick Social Services and SWEET READS.

 

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