News

ASSEMBLY APPROVES VERRELLI, BENSON, & ZWICKER BILL PROTECTING EMPLOYEE’S FROM EMPLOYER TRACKING DEVICE VIOLATIONS

To protect workers’ privacy, Assembly Democrats Anthony Verrelli (D- Mercer, Hunterdon), Daniel Benson (D- Mercer, Middlesex), and Andrew Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset) sponsor legislation to ensure that employers provide written notice before using a tracking device in an employee’s vehicle.  The bill was approved Monday 47-25-2 by the full Assembly.

The bill (A-3950) would provide regulation declaring companies using a tracking device in an employee’s personal vehicle, or the use of tracking devices in a company-provided vehicle without a written notice to an employee, as a crime of the fourth degree.  A crime of the fourth degree includes potential imprisonment up to 18 months, a fine up to $10,000, or a combination of the two punishments.

There are currently no federal privacy laws barring businesses from tracking employees with GPS systems.  Under the current legal landscape, companies do not always have to inform their employees of tracking devices, which was evident in a recent survey where more than 22 percent of employees claimed to be unaware they would be tracked when first starting a job.

This bill would further the rights of New Jersey employees under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by prohibiting tracking devices in an employee’s personal vehicle and only allowing such devices in a company-provided vehicle after issuing a written notice.

Assemblymen Verrelli, Benson, and Zwicker issued the following joint statement after approval of the legislation:

“In order for the FBI or other law enforcement agencies to track the location of our cars, a judge must first approve a warrant.  Currently, if an employer wants to track an employee’s vehicle, there is no clear regulation prohibiting them from doing so.”

“As long as companies do not have to disclose the use of tracking devices in employee vehicles, or provide a written notice for the use of such devices in company-provided vehicles, employees’ privacy will remain at risk. Our goal is to protect the citizens of New Jersey and the privacies included in the Fourth Amendment. This bill will help accomplish that.”  


ZWICKER & SPEIGHT BILL HELPING NEW JERSEY’S MANUFACTURERS PASSES FULL ASSEMBLY AND SENATE

Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker (D- Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset), and Shanique Speight (D- Essex) sponsor legislation to create a permanent source of funding for the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, Inc. (NJMEP).  This bill would establish a new source of funding up to $1.5 million from an allocation set aside for the Office of Customized Training.  On Thursday, the legislation passed the Assembly 72-0 and the Senate 34-0.

The NJMEP is a private, not for profit organization that improves competitiveness of manufacturers.  The program also enables organizations to enhance productivity and efficiency, improve employee performance, and reduce costs.  The bill (A-3756) would help the NJMEP further their programs and services geared toward helping mid to small-sized manufacturers become more efficient and spur job creation.

Upon passage of the bill in the Assembly and Senate, Zwicker and Speight issued the following joint statement:

“Competition is what propels organizations to give consumers their best products and services and spurs innovation.

“As experts, the NJMEP can advise smaller businesses and increase success for manufacturers in New Jersey.  The program continues to create and develop resources for organizations to utilize.

“The NJMEP understands the unique aspects of New Jersey’s manufacturing industry and customizes products and services to help smaller businesses thrive.  Giving this nonprofit more support will enhance its ability to bolster businesses’ success and create jobs in New Jersey.” 

Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips (R-Bergen) also sponsors the bipartisan legislation.


ZWICKER, CONAWAY & BENSON BILL ESTABLISHING OFFICE TO ASSIST IN EXPANDING INTERNET SERVICE THROUGHOUT NJ TO ADDRESS UNEQUAL ACCESS ADVANCES

As part of ongoing efforts to expand broadband internet service throughout the State, Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Herb Conaway and Daniel Benson sponsor a bill to establish an office within the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to assist in providing and expanding service for those with limited access.

The measure was based on recommendations from the coronavirus recovery Economic Advisory Council, established by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. The council was formed with the purpose of providing the State Legislature with ideas to help New Jersey recover from COVID-19.

Under the bill (A-4808), a ‘Broadband Assistance Office’ would be established in the BPU to handle a number of responsibilities. In conjunction with several other State offices, this office would be responsible for mapping internet connectivity in New Jersey and coordinating financial and technical assistance for communities lacking service.

The Broadband Assistance Office would also be responsible for encouraging public and/or private entity involvement in providing internet service to those communities. The office would not only approve qualified entities’ proposed broadband projects, but also oversee, coordinate and provide assistance to any projects it authorizes.

The BPU would then have to prepare a report each year for the Governor and Legislature explaining the various projects underway and how they are helping local municipalities.

Upon the legislation passing the full Assembly by a vote of 70-0-1, Assemblymen Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset), Conaway (D-Burlington) and Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex) issued the following joint statement:

“In this day and age, it is simply unacceptable that nearly one-third of Americans lack access to broadband internet service at home. We rely on the internet for so many aspects of our day-to-day lives, especially in the middle of a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic we are facing now.

“New Jersey residents in underserved communities, which tend to be low-income urban and rural areas, deserve a concerted effort to bring internet service to their areas. We must make it our goal to address the inequities residents face as a result of limited access to this critical service.

“A central office responsible for gathering information on gaps in service, encouraging broadband projects in those areas and coordinating the execution of those projects would help make that goal a reality.” 


ZWICKER, DANIELSEN & REYNOLDS-JACKSON BILL TO REQUIRE IN-PERSON EARLY VOTING BY MACHINE FOR GENERAL ELECTIONS AFTER 2020 PASSES COMMITTEE

(TRENTON) – Registered voters would be able to cast their ballots in person at designated polling places for about two weeks before future general elections under legislation approved Monday by the Assembly State and Local Government Committee.

Under the bill (A-4830) sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker (D- Middlesex, Somerset, Mercer, Hunterdon) Joseph Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset) and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon), designated polling sites would be available for in-person voting 15 days before a general election up until the Sunday before the election. Polls would be open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Each county board of elections would designate three to seven early polling locations, depending on the number of registered voters in the county. The voting process during the early voting period would be conducted using electronic poll books certified by the Secretary of State and voting machines. Additionally, county boards would create and execute written plans for security of voting machines, ballots and records during the early voting period. 

The bill would go into effect 120 days after enactment and now goes to the Speaker for further consideration.

The sponsors released the following joint statement on the bill: 

“Voting must be easy, convenient and accessible, our democracy depends on participation of the people. However, the current system makes it difficult for the people to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Heading to the polls on Election Day may require voters to take off work on a weekday, find care for their children or demand hours of their time. It shouldn’t be this hard to cast a ballot.

“New Jersey must join the ranks of two dozen other states that allow in-person early voting, giving voters more opportunities to cast their ballots at their convenience. More people voting strengthens our democracy.”

 


Fall Virtual Food Drive

October 1, 2020

Dear Friends:

In early spring, as the pandemic shut down life in New Jersey and unemployment and food insecurity soared, I asked all of you to participate in a virtual food drive by making a donation to the food banks throughout the 16th Legislative District. Today, even though New Jersey has cautiously reopened, food insecurity remains a daily issue for so many. 

I am asking once again for your help in a Fall Virtual Food Drive.

https://yougivegoods.com/district16-fooddrive

Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger-relief organization, projects a 56 percent increase in New Jersey’s food insecurity rate as a direct result of the pandemic. About 13.5 percent of our residents are expected to be food insecure by the end of 2020 and that is higher than the expected increases nationwide and in neighboring states. This translates to an additional 430,000 New Jersey residents becoming food insecure—a total of 1.2 million food insecure New Jerseyans. 

https://yougivegoods.com/district16-fooddrive

For this Fall Food Drive initiative, you can make a donation to the food bank of your choice within the 16th Legislative District or to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.

We have partnered with YouGiveGoods, which will deliver the food items to the food banks. You also can make a monetary donation directly through the food banks’ websites; the links to the various food banks are provided on the website.

The food drive will run from October 1 through November 16, ending in time to get the items to the food banks for distribution before Thanksgiving.

Thank you in advance for your generosity.

https://yougivegoods.com/district16-fooddrive

With gratitude,

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker
16th Legislative District


ZWICKER, BENSON & FREIMAN BILL TO PROTECT VOTER RIGHTS, EDUCATE PUBLIC AND ELECTION STAFF ON VOTE-BY-MAIL HEADS TO GOVERNOR

Protecting people’s right to vote in the midst of a pandemic threatening public health and safety, a measure sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Daniel Benson and Roy Freiman concerning voter rights and public awareness of vote-by-mail (VBM) passed the full Legislature Thursday. The legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 25-12 and the Assembly by a vote of 51-27-0.

The bill (A-4320) would require the Secretary of State to create public awareness materials that include informational posters to be displayed at polling places on VBM, information for voters on how to check the status of a mailed ballot and educational materials for county board of elections employees on standards for accepting or rejecting a mailed-in ballot.

“Safe and fair voting is a pillar of our democracy,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). “Doing everything to ensure voters are fully prepared with the know-how to vote by mail and to ensure this method of voting is fair and transparent is critical to prevent voter suppression and protect the vote.”

During New Jersey’s municipal and school board elections in May, election officials did not count 9.6 percent of ballots sent in. This measure would prohibit a mail-in ballot being rejected due to missing or insufficient glue when such physical defects are outside of the voter’s control. Ballots deemed invalid must also be retained for two years.

“Recent months have revealed concerning flaws in our vote-by-mail system, many the result of simple, avoidable error,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “As we look to the general election in November, this legislation ensures voters are not only armed with the information to vote-by-mail, but also that mail-in ballots aren’t unduly being rejected and left uncounted.”

“With more than six million registered voters in New Jersey and a lot at stake in the upcoming general election, it’s imperative to continually improve the VBM process,” said Freiman (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). “Helping to educate people as well as the county election staff counting mail-in ballots would build more trust and confidence among voters, and combat misinformation to safeguard people’s right to vote.”

The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.


ZWICKER, BENSON & CONAWAY “BALLOT CURE ACT” TO PROTECT VOTING RIGHTS HEADS TO GOVERNOR

Bolstering efforts to keep democracy safe during coronavirus and beyond, Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Dan Benson and Herb Conaway sponsor a bill entitled ‘The Ballot Cure Act.’ The bill passed both the Senate and Assembly Thursday, 31-6 and 51-27-0 respectively.

The bill (A-4276) would enable voters to access a confidential, free-system to see whether their provisional, mail-in or overseas ballot was accepted for counting. It also provides that mail-in ballots would not be rejected for a physical defect in the inner envelope, outer envelope, certificate, or ballot outside the control of the voter.

“One of the foundations of our democracy is the right to vote,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset). “This year, most of us will choose to vote-by-mail because of safety concerns due to COVID-19. It is critical that each person knows that when their ballot is cast their vote is recorded. The purpose of this bill is to make voting more accessible and minimize the likelihood of disenfranchisement. We must make sure that every vote counts.”

Ballot curing provisions included in the bill stipulate that county board of elections must record the rejection of a voter’s ballot, and notify them within 24 hours of decision to reject the ballot. The voter would have up to 48 hours prior to the date for the final certification of election results to provide a cure for their ballot by following the instructions on the ‘Cure Form’ provided via mail or email along with the notification of the ballot’s rejection

“Every eligible voter has the right to participate in our electoral process,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “Doing our due diligence, as this bill does, to ensure voters mailing their ballot can track their vote and can rectify an issue that would invalidate their ballot is absolutely necessary for fair representation.”

This measure would also provide remedies specific for signature deficiencies, allowing voters to return a ‘cure form’ to the county board of elections to verify their ballot. The Secretary of State would additionally need to publish signature matching guidelines to ensure ballots are not needlessly invalidated during the authentication process due to slight and non-fraudulent causes of signature variance.

“In New Jersey we need to establish a modern voting system for the upcoming November election, and beyond, that will largely utilize vote-by-mail,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “This starts with better support and procedures for vote-by-mail, so that all voters and particularly the disabled, elderly and language-minority voters are able to safely and confidently vote from home.”

The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.


BIPARTISAN-SPONSORED BILL TO REPLACE ‘FREEHOLDER’ TITLE WITH ‘COUNTY COMMISSIONER’ NOW LAW

New Jersey will no longer be the only state in the country to still use the colonial-era public office title of ‘freeholder’. Dating back to before the American Revolution, the title was used at a time when only white male owners of debt-free land could hold office. Today, it is a term often derided because of its inability to capture the actual duties of elected county officials.

To remove the outdated and confusing label, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Friday a bill (A-3594) to change ‘Freeholder’ to ‘County Commissioner’. The bipartisan bill was sponsored in-part by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson and Angela McKnight.

“It is beyond time we change the title of ‘Freeholder’,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). “As a term dating back to before the Revolutionary War, whose meaning was historically intended to keep county-level office restricted to white, male, debt-free property owners, it is not only outdated and archaic, but it is offensive to people of color and women. Our racist and sexist laws and conditions historically kept people from voting, owning land, and much more. Removing this exclusionary term from New Jersey’s political titles, while only a small and symbolic part of the work that lies ahead of us to break down the walls of systemic racism and sexism, is a step in the right direction.”

Under the law, the title of “chosen freeholder” and “boards of chosen freeholders” will be renamed to “county commissioner” and “boards of county commissioners” respectively.

Defined in the context of county government as “a member of the board which manages, controls, and governs the property, finances, and affairs of the county, and in which the executive and legislative powers of the county are vested,” the law provides where “freeholder” is referenced in statute it is to be understood as “county commissioner.”

“Removing vestiges of racism and sexism found in names or titles that have no place in our society today is an important step among many needed to bring an end to systemic bias,” said Reynolds-Jackson (D-Hunterdon, Mercer).  “‘Freeholder’ was never an effective title for the county public office holder. For persons of color, it was more of a reminder of the sordid and oppressive ideals of its colonial-era origins. It’s time to end the confusing and hurtful conversation surrounding the term ‘freeholder’ and rename the position.”

“New Jersey is the only state in America that still used the outdated and offensive title ‘freeholder’ for its elected county officials,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “The title dates back to pre-Revolutionary War in an era when county-level office holders had to be debt-free property owners, which, at that time included only white men. It is long overdue that we change the title to ‘county commissioner’ and forever eliminate the archaic and hurtful term of ‘freeholder.’”

Counties will also be required to update their websites to reflect the title change as well as retire letterheads, stationery, and other writings bearing ‘freeholder’ once their stock is exhausted. The update or replacement of signs or other writings will not be required within the law’s timeframe if doing so requires the use of county funds. These changes will, however, need to occur during the ordinary course of business.

Assemblywoman Betty DeCroce (R-Essex, Morris, Passaic) is also a sponsor of this legislation that has now been signed into law.


ZWICKER, BENSON & CONAWAY “BALLOT CURE ACT” TO PROTECT VOTING RIGHTS ADVANCED IN COMMITTEE

Measure to Require Notice of Ballot Rejection, Provide Voters with Remedies

Bolstering efforts to keep democracy safe during coronavirus and beyond, the Assembly State and Local Government Committee on Thursday advanced the ‘Ballot Cure Act’ sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Dan Benson and Herb Conaway.

The bill (A-4276) would enable voter to access a confidential, free-system to see whether their provisional, mail-in or overseas ballot was accepted for counting. It also provides that mail-in ballots would not be rejected for a physical defect in the inner envelope, outer envelope, certificate, or ballot outside the control of the voter.

“One of the foundations of our democracy is the right to vote,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset). “This year, most of us will choose to vote-by-mail because of safety concerns due to COVID-19. It is critical that each person knows that when their ballot is cast their vote is recorded. The purpose of this bill is to make voting more accessible and minimize the likelihood of disenfranchisement. We must make sure that every vote counts.”

Ballot curing provisions included in the bill stipulate that county board of elections must record the acceptance or rejection of a voter’s ballot, and notify them within 24 hours of decision to reject the ballot. The voter would have up to 14 days after the close of the polls on Election Day to provide a cure for their ballot.

“Every eligible voter has the right to participate in our electoral process,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “Doing our due diligence, as this bill does, to ensure voters mailing their ballot can track their vote and can rectify an issue that would invalidate their ballot is absolutely necessary for fair representation.”

This measure would also provide remedies specific for signature deficiencies, allowing voters to return a ‘cure form’ to the county board of elections to verify their ballot. The Secretary of State would additionally need to publish signature matching guidelines to ensure ballots are not needlessly invalidated during the authentication process due to slight and non-fraudulent causes of signature variance.

“In New Jersey we need to establish a modern voting system for the upcoming November election and beyond that will largely utilize vote-by-mail,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “This starts with better support and procedures for vote-by-mail, so that all voters and particularly the disabled, elderly and language-minority voters are able to safely and confidently vote from home.”

The bill now goes to the Speaker for further consideration.


ZWICKER, BENSON & FREIMAN BILL TO PROTECT VOTER RIGHTS, EDUCATE PUBLIC AND ELECTION STAFF ON VOTE-BY-MAIL CLEARS COMMITTEE

Protecting people’s right to vote in the midst of a pandemic threatening public health and safety, the Assembly State and Local Government Committee advanced a measure on Thursday sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Daniel Benson and Roy Freiman concerning vote-by-mail (VBM).

The bill (A-4320) would require the Secretary of State to create public awareness materials that includes informational posters to be displayed at polling places on VBM, information for voters on how to check the status of a mailed ballot and educational materials for county board of elections employees on standards for accepting or rejecting a mailed-in ballot.

“Safe and fair voting is a pillar of our democracy,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). “Doing everything to ensure voters are fully prepared with the know-how to vote by mail and to ensure this method of voting is fair and transparent is critical to prevent voter suppression and protect the vote.”

During New Jersey’s municipal and school board elections in May, election officials did not count 9.6 percent of ballots sent in. This measure would prohibit a mail-in ballot being rejected due to missing or insufficient glue when such physical defects are outside of the voter’s control. Ballots deemed invalid must also be retained for two years.

“Recent months have revealed concerning flaws in our vote-by-mail system, many the result of simple, avoidable error,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “As we look to the general election in November, this legislation ensures voters are not only armed with the information to vote-by-mail, but also that mail-in ballots aren’t unduly being rejected and left uncounted.”

The deadline for receipt of mail-in ballots bearing a postmark on or before Election Day would be extended from two days after the closing of polls to six days.

“With more than six million registered voters in New Jersey and a lot at stake in the upcoming general election, it’s imperative to continually improve the VBM process,” said Freiman (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). “Helping to educate people as well as the county election staff counting mail-in ballots would build more trust and confidence among voters, and combat misinformation to safeguard people’s right to vote.”

The bill now heads to the Speaker for further consideration.