Mazzeo, Armato, Zwicker & Murphy Hurricane Sandy Relief Legislation Advanced by Assembly Panel

Providing relief for New Jersey residents who were affected by Superstorm Hurricane Sandy, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vincent Mazzeo, John Armato, Andrew Zwicker and Carol Murphy was approved by the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee on Monday.

"Though a significant amount of time has passed, we fully recognize that far too many of our families and local businesses are still struggling to regain what was lost during the devastating superstorm," said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). "There is certainly more work to be done, but these bills are a great step forward in helping our residents rebuild."

"It is important that the legislature is focused on the work that we, as a state, still have left to do in order to get to a place of full recovery from Hurricane Sandy," said Armato (D-Atlantic). "That is why we have introduced a number of bills to continue to fight for our residents and business owners who are still struggling to rebuild their homes and communities."

The bills sponsored by Mazzeo and Armato include:

A-4529 (Mazzeo, Armato): Concerns reimbursements to Superstorm Sandy-impacted homeowners who were subject to contractor fraud.

A-4530 (Armato, Mazzeo): Concerns information, such as mold damage, on property condition disclosure statements provided by real estate broker, broker-salesperson, salesperson, government employee or a person licensed by the state to inspect homes.

A-4531 (Armato, Mazzeo): Requires New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism prepare report on state travel and tourism industry recovery since Superstorm Sandy.

Additionally, another measure (A-4536) sponsored by Zwicker and Murphy would require the Department of Community Affairs to track, as necessary, natural disaster-related spending from various outlets in New Jersey in an effort to add a layer of transparency to the disaster recovery process.

"After Hurricane Sandy, far too many parts of our state were forced to rebuild their homes, businesses and communities from the ground up," said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunterdon). "The data collected as a result of this bill will allow us to be more prepared for future storms like Sandy as well as become more aware of the funds needed to restore areas of our state if necessary."

"Unfortunately, there is often little to no way of knowing the amount of damage that will come from a superstorm or natural disaster," said Murphy (D-Burlington). "This can result in surprisingly high costs for our taxpayers. Having a natural disaster spending summary to look back at, should another devastating storm hit New Jersey, will be extremely helpful in helping keep our hard-working families safe while saving money."

Assembly Democratic Bill Greatly Expanding Access to Medical Marijuana by Adding Eligible Conditions and Protections for Practitioners and Patients Advanced by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – To expand access to medical cannabis for all eligible patients in New Jersey, Assembly Democrats have sponsored legislation amending the requirements for the regulation of the state's medical cannabis program. The bill was advanced through the Assembly Appropriations Committee Monday.

The bill (A-10) would revise the regulatory structure for New Jersey's medical cannabis program, shifting the primary administration from the Department of Health (DOH) to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC), which is to be formed under the adult-use cannabis bill currently advancing through the Legislature, as well as increase access to and expand licensure for medical cannabis.

"It is about time we remove the unnecessary obstacles in the way of patients getting the treatment that works best for them," said Joe Danielsen (D-Middlesex/Somerset). "By reversing the onerous restrictions previously in place in our state's medical cannabis program, we are doing a service to patients and doctors all across New Jersey."

"The previous model of New Jersey's medical cannabis program forced patients to jump through countless unnecessary hoops in order to receive the treatment they need," said Herb Conaway (D-Burlington). "Finally, this will no longer be the case."

“We are finally removing the burdensome restrictions in place for our state’s medical cannabis patients,” said Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “By doing this, we are ensuring that patients in New Jersey are able to receive the best care possible.”

Highlights of the bill include:

•   changing the term "debilitating medical condition," currently used to be eligible for medical cannabis to "qualifying medical condition," greatly expanding access for individuals in need of medical cannabis;
•   codifying conditions added by the Medical Marijuana Review Panel in January 2018, which would include chronic pain of musculoskeletal or nervous origin, anxiety, migraine, Tourette's Syndrome and menstrual pain;
•   amending requirements for authorizing medical cannabis for patients. This legislation repeals the current requirements for physicians to "certify" patients for the medical use of cannabis and allows physician assistants and advanced practice nurses to authorize patients to use medical cannabis;
•   the establishment of three new basic permit types: Cultivator, Manufacturer and Dispensary, as well as a special integrated curriculum permit and clinical registrant permit, with twenty-five percent of permits dedicated to minorities, women and disabled veterans;
•   amending the requirement for a psychiatrist to approve a minor for medical cannabis to instead require approval from a board certified pediatric specialist, or physician assistant or advanced nurse practitioner with equivalent certification;
•   increasing eligible forms of medical cannabis to include transdermal forms, sublingual forms and tincture forms, as well as removing restrictions under current law for edibles for minors; additionally, the bill also explicitly includes "oils" in the list of edible forms;
•   the phasing out of the sales tax structure for medical cannabis, beginning at 5% for FY20 and FY21, 3% in FY22, 1% in FY23, and no tax commencing in FY24;
•   overhauling regulations on caregivers in order to allow them to provide the best care possible to medical cannabis patients; and
•   adding protections for patients, caregivers, physicians and alternative care centers to treat medical cannabis as any ordinary prescription medication.

"For years, our residents have wanted medical cannabis to be a real option for their ailments," said Andrew Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "Finally, patients will be able to be granted the care they need and deserve."

"What we are doing is making medical cannabis an actual, viable option for patients in need of medical care," said Joann Downey (D-Monmouth). "By treating cannabis as the medicine that the vast majority of health care professionals consider it to be, we are doing a service to practitioners and patients across New Jersey."

"Patients across our state deserve to be able to access their medicine without fear of endangering their professional status," said Eric Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). "By extending protections to patients and practitioners, we are creating a stronger, safer New Jersey.”

"Our hope is that this bill will remove cumbersome restrictions currently in place for New Jersey's alternative care practitioners and patients," said Carol Murphy (D-Burlington). "By allowing professionals to properly care for their patients, our residents can get the health care they need.”

The bill now goes to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.

Benson, Zwicker Statement on Joint Hearing Discussion on Self-Driving Vehicles

The Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities and the Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee met jointly Monday morning to receive testimony from invited guests concerning the development of autonomous vehicles and the regulation of autonomous vehicles operating in New Jersey. Chairmen Daniel Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex) and Andrew Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon) issued the following statements after the hearing:

Benson- "The pathway to fully autonomous vehicles runs first through safer technology assisted vehicles. New Jersey is home to some of the most densely driven roads in the Northeast. We can and should be a leader in this new technology and through stakeholder discussions can make that a reality.

"To do this, New Jersey has to first address how this new technology will impact the state's role in regulating drivers, vehicles and insurance. There's potential here to make our roads safer, to lessen pollution and to provide a new way for people and goods to get around the Garden State. I look forward to continuing this discussion in the Transportation Committee and through the proposed Task Force."

Zwicker- "Autonomous vehicles have the potential to change our mobility options as we know them and shape transportation for the next generation. As with any emerging technology, we must gain a better understanding of the numerous issues related to these vehicles with safety being at the very top of the list. 

"Another factor that will need in depth study is the impact on jobs, as well as cybersecurity, licensing agreements, insurance and cost. The testimonies we heard today will help ensure that we consider these issues in a thoughtful way and create smart legislation that is beneficial to the residents of New Jersey." 

The Assembly Transportation Committee voted to release a measure (AJR-164)--sponsored by Benson, Zwicker and Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt that would establish the "New Jersey Advanced Vehicle Task Force." The task force is to conduct a study of advanced autonomous vehicles and to make recommendations on laws, rules, and regulations that this State may enact to safely integrate advanced autonomous vehicles on the State's highways, streets, and roads.

The Assembly Transportation Committee also considered three bills for discussion concerning autonomous vehicles:

A-1853 Permits testing and use of autonomous vehicles on state roadways under certain circumstances;
A-4541 Directs MVC to establish driver's license endorsement for autonomous vehicles; and 
A-4573 Establishes a fully autonomous vehicle pilot program.

Among the invited guests for today's hearing were representatives from Teamsters Local 469; New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers and the former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Zwicker, Johnson Statements on Joint Assembly Hearing Discussing Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology

(TRENTON) - Following the joint hearing of the Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology and the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committees, Chairman Andrew Zwicker and Chairman Gordon Johnson issued statements on the testimony:

"Today's hearing was a part of the Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee's mission to spur innovation as an economic driver in New Jersey. We wanted to address both the challenges and advantages of hydrogen and fuel cell technology so that we can develop public policies that will put New Jersey at the forefront of innovation technology," said Chairman Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon). "It's now up to us to come up with legislation that makes sense for the people of New Jersey."

"Hydrogen and fuel cell technology is a nearly untapped alternative energy resource with both environmental and economic benefits for the state of New Jersey," said Chairman Johnson (D-Bergen). "Many residents are or will be driving, more and more, environmentally friendly vehicles. New Jersey needs to be prepared to take full advantage of this technology as we act to reduce pollution and greenhouse emissions.

"There's a great potential for opportunity for service stations, manufacturing plants and other businesses centered on hydrogen and fuel cell technology, hydrogen production, and stationary fuel cell use. We thank our guests today who came to share their insight on this topic."

New Jersey Leaders Commend Governor Murphy's Economic Development Strategic Plan

“The program introduced by the Governor today is an innovative approach to kickstarting New Jersey’s innovation economy. Auctioning tax credits to large companies and using those proceeds to provide matching funds that directly invest in emerging companies, creates an ecosystem that is a win-win all around. The end result will be a vibrant culture of investment in the companies of the future that will create high-quality, high paying jobs, grow our economy and positions New Jersey as a national leader.”-Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker

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Zwicker Co-Sponsors Bills Granting Priority College Course Registration to Military Service Members and Veterans, Academic Credit to Certain Veterans

Making the path to higher education easier for New Jersey service members and veterans, two bills sponsored by Assembly Democrats assisting with college course registration and earning credit for their skills were advanced by the Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee Monday.

The first bill (A-790), known as the "Combat to College Act," and sponsored by legislators Bob Andrzejczak, R. Bruce Land, Gabriela Mosquera, Raj Mukherji, Joann Downey, Andrew Zwicker and Vincent Mazzeo, provides military service members and veterans living in New Jersey and attending a public institution of higher education with priority status when registering for courses. The priority registration benefit would apply to current military service members serving on active duty and to veterans honorably discharged or released under honorable circumstances. This registration procedure would occur using the same methods as those used by other segments of the student population, if any, for priority registration purposes at the institution.

"In many instances, military service members and veterans must wait, along with other tuition waiver students, to register for classes," said Andrzejczak (D-Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland). "While such a system is intended to manage class size and allow paying students to register first, it can disrupt a service member or veteran's benefits and career progression, because both are linked to their being registered in school. This bill will help eliminate such disruptions."

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Zwicker, Lopez & Mukherji Legislation to Help Displaced Professionals from Puerto Rico on Mainland Now Law

Measure Revises Law on Out-of-State Licenses to Include Professionals from Storm-Ravaged Island

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Yvonne Lopez and Raj Mukherji to recognize the professional licenses of displaced Puerto Rican doctors, nurses, teachers and other professionals who relocated to New Jersey following Hurricane Maria has been signed into law.

"Prior to Hurricane Maria, New Jersey had one of the highest populations of Puerto Ricans on the mainland. Following the hurricane, we've seen more of our fellow Americans from the island seek safety with family and friends here," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "As they settle into their new lives in New Jersey, we can and should ensure that men and women from Puerto Rico are treated just as professionals moving here from any state would be, so they're able to continue in their professions and support their families here."

The law (A-1531) revises the section of state law involving the reciprocity process for out-of-state professional and occupational licensing. Currently, licensed professionals from jurisdictions with standards that are substantially equivalent to New Jersey's may work in their respective industries in the state provided they supply the state with proof that an out-of-state license is valid, current and in good standing.

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Zwicker, Coughlin Bill to Reinstate, Change Name of NJ Commission of Science and Technology Now Law

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker and Speaker Craig Coughlin to re-establish the former New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology as NJ Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology was signed in to law Wednesday by the Governor.

At the inaugural meeting of the Assembly Science, Innovation, and Technology Committee on February 1, the panel received testimony from invited guests on ways to enhance and promote the state's innovation ecosystem. Zwicker, chair of the Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee recurring theme from all testifying was to breathe new life into the Commission on Science and Technology.

"Reinstating the NJ Commission on Science and Technology and adding "Innovation" to its name both emphasizes the rich history and the importance to NJ of innovation as an economic driver. It also provides a focal point for the work we have already begun this year of spurring the creation of high-quality 21st century jobs for all New Jerseyans," said Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex and Hunterdon). "The past work of the Commission accounted for economic growth, job creation and aid in the positioning of New Jersey as a global leader and I expect great things from this body of science and technology experts as we move forward."

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Zwicker Legislation to Increase Transparency from Candidates Signed into Law

(TRENTON) – Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset) applauded Gov. Murphy’s recent signing of a bill encouraging voter access to candidates running in local and statewide elections.

Zwicker is primary sponsor of the law (formerly bill A-3461) which requires candidates for a state, county, school, or municipal public office to include a functioning e-mail address, in addition to a mailing address, when filing a petition to run. 

“Voters must be able to effectively communicate with candidates and their campaigns,” said Zwicker. “Requiring candidates to include an email address in their petition promotes transparency, accountability and the documentation of communication exchange.”

The law was approved by the Assembly by a vote of 69-2 on June 7 and the Senate 30-8 on March 26.  It was signed into law on July 20.

Zwicker Attends Clean Energy Legislative Academy in Colorado

TRENTON, NJ – Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-16th), whose legislative district includes towns in Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex and Hunterdon counties, is one of 25 state legislators to attend the 2018 Clean Energy Legislative Academy  hosted by the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University July 24-July 27.

The bipartisan group of state legislators from across the nation are discussing strategies for state-led clean energy policy solutions. Attendees will hear from policy experts and discuss topics such as energy storage, grid modernization, electrifying transportation, utility perspectives, and bipartisan policy approaches.

This year marks the second annual Clean Energy Legislative Academy hosted by CNEE. Alumni from the 2017 Clean Energy Legislative Academy sponsored over 100 energy-related bills following their attendance. During this year’s Academy, legislators will collaborate and work with policy experts to develop policy ideas specific to their state.

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