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Benson, Zwicker & Lampitt Measure Creating Task Force to Study Autonomous Vehicles Now Law

(TRENTON) - To ensure self-driving cars are safely integrated on New Jersey roads, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Andrew Zwicker and Pamela Lampitt to establish a task force to evaluate autonomous vehicles was signed into law by the Governor Monday. 

"As major auto companies explore developing semi and fully autonomous cars, we need to prepare for the day when we'll see only self-driving vehicles on our roadways," said Benson (Mercer, Middlesex). "The goal of this task force will be to assess how we can introduce autonomous vehicles to our roadways while keeping drivers safe."

The new mandate (formerly bill AJR-164) creates the New Jersey Advanced Autonomous Vehicle Task Force, comprised of eight members. The panel will be responsible for conducting a study of autonomous vehicles and recommending laws, rules, and regulations that the state may enact to safely integrate these vehicles on the roads.

An advanced autonomous vehicle is defined as a motor vehicle with a driving automation level of three, four, or five, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers International, and is used by the United States Department of Transportation for autonomous vehicle policy guidance. Level three vehicles are classified as having conditional automation, during which an autonomous system operates under certain conditions with human drivers as a back-up; level four vehicles have high automation, such as Google's test cars; and level five cars are fully automated and do not have a steering wheel.

"It may not be long before self-driving cars are commonplace in New Jersey, marking a significant change in how people get around each day," said Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon). "We need to make sure our transportation regulations are up to date to meet this influx of innovation."

"As drivers begin using autonomous cars equipped with new, never-before-seen technology, it's essential to study how to best introduce and regulate these vehicles," said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). "The work of this task force will help us gain a better understanding of how self-driving cars will impact our roads, and how we can improve existing laws to ensure the safety of all drivers."

The task force shall be comprised of the following members: the Commissioner of Transportation (DOT); the Chief Administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC); the Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety in the Department of Law and Public Safety; three public members appointed by the Governor including a member who was recommended by the Division of Banking and Insurance; one public member appointed by the Senate President; and one public member appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly.

The task force will be required to meet within 90 days after the bill's effective date, and within 180 days of the first meeting. It must also issue a report to the Governor and the Legislature evaluating safety standards and recommending best practices. The New Jersey MVC and the DOT will assist the task force with necessary duties.

Additionally, the task force will conduct an evaluation of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's safety standards for advanced autonomous vehicles and whether the state may enact stricter safety standards; an evaluation of existing state and federal law concerning advanced autonomous vehicles with a focus on safety standards; an evaluation of existing legislation and regulations in other states concerning advanced autonomous vehicles with a focus on safety standards; recommendations on how New Jersey could safely integrate advanced autonomous vehicles on the highways, streets, and roads; any other information relevant to the subject of the report; and any draft legislation the task force deems appropriate.

If enacted, New Jersey will join Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Oregon in using a task force to study the implementation of autonomous vehicles.


Pinkin, Zwicker & Downey Bill to Safeguard Public’s Right to Enjoy the Shoreline Heads to Governor

Strengthening efforts to protect resident interest in New Jersey Shores and guard marine life and endangered species, a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Nancy Pinkin, Andrew Zwicker and Joann Downey received final legislative approval on Monday, passing the full Assembly by a vote tally of 71-7-2.

"Generation after generation of New Jersey families as well as visitors from out-of-state spends their summers vacationing at the shore," said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). "Although resident access to our beaches is expressed through the Public Trust Doctrine, formally adopting this principle into law will ensure continued respect of residents' rights to access New Jersey's shoreline for recreational purposes and also allow us to further our environmental efforts to protect marine life and endangered species."

The people's ownership of the tidal waters and adjacent shorelines is held in trust by the State. The bill (A-4221), through the Department of Environmental Protection, directs the State to protect the public's right of physical and visual access to public trust lands in its funding decisions and implementation of multiple State laws, including the Coastal Area Facility Review Act, the Wetlands Act of 1970, and the Flood Hazard Area Control Act, as well as New Jersey's implementation of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972.

"As the state continues to take necessary steps to protect our coastal environment, we have to make sure that the decisions we make in trying to protect our coastline do not come between or inhibit a resident's right to take part in shore activities or simply enjoy the view," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset). "We can protect our tidal waters, our marine life and still preserve the beautiful beaches and shore communities for which New Jersey is best known." 

"The Jersey shore is a source of joy, pride and admiration for residents of our State," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "Our beautiful coastline belongs to the public, from lifelong New Jerseyans to summer visitors. With this bill, the public's right to the shoreline will continue to be protected for years to come." 

Under the measure, the DEP is required to ensure that any approval, permit, administrative order, or consent decree issued, or other action taken, by the DEP pursuant to the above-cited laws or any other law is consistent with the Public Trust Doctrine. 

The landmark 1821 New Jersey Supreme Court Case, Arnold v. Mundy further supported the Public Trust Doctrine reinforced by the Magna Carta and Declaration of Independence, by establishing that New Jersey's tidal waters be applied under the public trust doctrine, and belonged to the state for public use. 

In addition to gaining Assembly approval, the measure on Monday passed the Senate 35-0. It now heads to the Governor's desk.


Armato, Lopez, Zwicker Bill Requiring Hospitals to Include Opioid Addiction Information with Patient Discharge Papers Approved by Assembly

As part of New Jersey's ongoing, integrated approach to preventing and fighting drug addiction, a bill requiring hospitals to include a warning about the risks of addiction, overdose and death associated with opioids in a patient's discharge papers was approved 78-0-0 Monday by the full Assembly. 

The bill (A-4883) is sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Armato, Yvonne Lopez and Andrew Zwicker. As per the measure, acute care hospitals would be required to include the information provided that the patient was discharged from the hospital with a prescription for an opioid drug.

"This bill will put safeguards in place to help prevent addiction," said Armato (D-Atlantic). "It is yet another strategy in our ongoing battle to fight this disease."

"In many instances, the time period immediately following a surgery is when patients are in the most pain and exposed to increased doses of opioids in an uncontrolled setting," said Lopez (D-Middlesex). "This bill aims to educate patients at the time when their risk for becoming addicted is higher, because the more pain they experience, the more medication they may take."

"New Jersey, like many other states, is waging an ongoing battle against opioid abuse," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). "We can win this fight through a comprehensive approach aimed at preventing addiction; through awareness and educational campaigns; helping those already suffering from this addiction with compassion and understanding; and providing resources for the thousands of individuals and families impacted."

The information would include contact information for substance use disorder treatment. The Department of Health would develop the informational materials.

This measure would take effect 60 days after enactment, although the Commissioner of Health could take administrative action in advance if necessary to implement the provisions of the act.

The bill cleared the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee on February7. A companion bill (S-3342) in the Senate has been referred to the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior 


Pinkin and Zwicker Bill to Statutorily Protect Resident Interest in New Jersey Shores, Strengthen Efforts to Guard Marine Life & Endangered Species Advanced by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) - Codifying the public's right to enjoy New Jersey's coastline as designated under the Public Trust Doctrine, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Nancy Pinkin and Andrew Zwicker was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee Monday.

"Generation after generation of New Jersey families as well as visitors from out-of-state spends their summers vacationing at the shore," said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). "Although resident access to our beaches is expressed through the Public Trust Doctrine, formally adopting this principle into law will ensure continued respect of residents' rights to access New Jersey's shoreline for recreational purposes and also allow us to further our environmental efforts to protect marine life and endangered species."

The people's ownership of the tidal waters and adjacent shorelines is held in trust by the State. The bill (A-4221), through the Department of Environmental Protection, directs the State to protect the public's right of physical and visual access to public trust lands in its funding decisions and implementation of multiple State laws, including the Coastal Area Facility Review Act, the Wetlands Act of 1970, and the Flood Hazard Area Control Act, as well as New Jersey's implementation of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972.

"As the state continues to take necessary steps to protect our coastal environment, we have to make sure that the decisions we make in trying to protect our coastline do not come between or inhibit a resident's right to take part in shore activities or simply enjoy the view," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset). "We can protect our tidal waters, our marine life and still preserve the beautiful beaches and shore communities for which New Jersey is best known." 

Under the bill, the DEP is required to ensure that any approval, permit, administrative order, or consent decree issued, or other action taken, by the DEP pursuant to the above-cited laws or any other law is consistent with the Public Trust Doctrine. 

The landmark 1821 New Jersey Supreme Court Case, Arnold v. Mundy further supported the Public Trust Doctrine reinforced by the Magna Carta and Declaration of Independence, by establishing that New Jersey's tidal waters be applied under the public trust doctrine, and belonged to the state for public use. 

The bill recently cleared the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee, of which Pinkin is chair, and now heads to Speaker for further consideration.


Zwicker, Benson & Sumter Bill Establishing Disclosure Requirements for Independent Advocacy Groups Passes Assembly

"Dark Money" Organizations Would be Subject to Greater Transparency under the Measure

(TRENTON) - Under current law, 527 groups and 501(c)4 social welfare organizations are allowed to keep their donors secret. In an effort to provide greater transparency and accountability, a bill (A-1524), sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Daniel Benson and Shavonda Sumter passed the full Assembly on Monday, 60-1-17.

"Information is power and we need to arm voters with the most information possible," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). "More disclosure will inform residents about groups working to influence political and legislative processes. Greater transparency will lead to an increase in voter confidence and that's a good thing for New Jersey and for democracy."

Under the legislation, so-called "dark money" groups would be required to make public their donors and expenditures. An analysis by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission found the top 25 special-interest groups in the Garden State spent $74 million in an attempt to influence elections and policies in 2017, with $41 million coming from "dark money" groups.

"This bill will bring these groups out of the shadows and into the light," explained Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). "Voters deserve to know everything possible about 'dark money' organizations working to influence the political process in New Jersey. This legislation empowers the people."

The bill would revamp "The New Jersey Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting Act" to enact new reporting requirements for contributions over $10,000 and all expenditures over $3,000 by "dark money" organizations.

"Groups that are trying to influence the outcome of any election or legislation should not be permitted to operate under a veil of secrecy," stated Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). "Disclosing donors and expenditures is not a novel idea. It's something we do as candidates. We're just requiring the same of advocacy organizations." 

The bill does not apply retroactively. It is prospective only. 
The measure now heads to the Senate for further consideration


DARK-MONEY BILL ADVANCES, SANS REQUIREMENT FOR RETROACTIVE REPORTING

The requirement to disclose significant contributions and spending by politically active nonprofits — known as “dark money” — is moving ahead in the Legislature, despite the elimination of what seemed to be one of the bill’s goals — to embarrass Gov. Phil Murphy after a group that supports Murphy went back on its word to reveal its donors.

Nonprofit organizations known as 501(c)(4)s engage in electioneering and lobbying, but are not currently covered by state contribution-reporting requirements. Legislation that would require them to reveal contributions of at least $10,000 and expenditures of $3,000 or more had languished in Trenton for years until it got a push from Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester), provided that it be made retroactive to the beginning of last year. That would have required the Murphy-centric group to reveal its donors from 2018.

That retroactive disclosure was not included in the Assembly version of the bill, A-1524 approved Monday by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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Zwicker on New Jersey Innovation Evergreen Fund

(NORTH BRUNSWICK) – Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon) issued the following statement Wednesday on today’s press conference on the New Jersey Innovation Evergreen Fund:

“The Evergreen Fund is an innovative approach to reclaiming New Jersey’s high-tech economy. New Jersey has historically been a hub of innovation, from the manufacturing of textiles and silk in Paterson, to Trenton’s steel cables, to the transistor, radar, and fiber optics, to Edison’s invention of the telephone, to one of our State’s true unsung heroes, Beatrice Hicks, who invented a gas density switch used by NASA on the Apollo mission to the Moon.

“Times, however, have changed, and many of the transformative laboratories where history was made are no longer standing. Other states have already begun to adjust to these changes and we must not fall too far behind.

“By auctioning tax credits to large companies and using those proceeds to provide matching funds that directly invest in emerging companies in our State, we will create a thriving innovation economy that is a win-win for everyone involved.

“Our goal is to once again make New Jersey a true national leader of innovation by developing new public-private partnerships that create technological and economic advancements that improve our lives.

“I’m incredibly excited to help New Jersey reemerge as the premier destination for entrepreneurs and innovators in the world.”


Pinkin and Zwicker Bill to Statutorily Protect Resident Interest in New Jersey Shores, Strengthen Efforts to Guard Marine Life & Endangered Species Advanced by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Codifying the public’s right to enjoy New Jersey’s coastline as designated under the Public Trust Doctrine, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Nancy Pinkin and Andrew Zwicker was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee Monday.

“Generation after generation of New Jersey families as well as visitors from out-of-state spends their summers vacationing at the shore,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “Although resident access to our beaches is expressed through the Public Trust Doctrine, formally adopting this principle into law will ensure continued respect of residents’ rights to access New Jersey’s shoreline for recreational purposes and also allow us to further our environmental efforts to protect marine life and endangered species.”

Read More


Zwicker, Benson & Sumter Bill Establishing Disclosure Requirements for Independent Advocacy Groups Clears Assembly Committee

(TRENTON) - Under current law, 527 groups, 501(c)4 social welfare, and 501(c)6 organizations are allowed to keep their donors secret. In an effort to provide greater transparency and accountability, a bill (A-1524), sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Daniel Benson and Shavonda Sumter was approved Monday by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

"Information is power and we need to arm voters with the most information possible," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). "More disclosure will inform residents about groups working to influence political and legislative processes. Greater transparency will lead to an increase in voter confidence and that's a good thing for New Jersey and for democracy."

Under the legislation, so-called "dark money" groups would be required to make public their donors and expenditures. An analysis by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission found the top 25 special-interest groups in the Garden State spent $74 million in an attempt to influence elections and policies in 2017, with $41 million coming from "dark money" groups.

"This bill will bring these groups out of the shadows and into the light," explained Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). "Voters deserve to know everything possible about 'dark money' organizations working to influence the political process in New Jersey. This legislation empowers the people."

The bill would revamp "The New Jersey Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting Act" to enact new reporting requirements for contributions over $10,000 and all expenditures over $3,000 by "dark money" organizations.

"Groups that are trying to influence the outcome of any election or legislation should not be permitted to operate under a veil of secrecy," stated Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). "Disclosing donors and expenditures is not a novel idea. It's something we do as candidates. We're just requiring the same of advocacy organizations." 

The bill does not apply retroactively. It is prospective only.

The measure now heads to the Speaker for further consideration.


Assembly Democratic-Sponsored Bill to Remove Bureaucratic Hurdles & Make Medical Marijuana More Accessible to Patients in NJ Clears Assembly Approps

(TRENTON) - Legislation to fix the flaws in the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act and make medical marijuana more accessible to patients who could benefit from it cleared the Assembly Appropriations Committee Monday. It now heads to the Assembly floor for a vote on March 25.

The measure, now known as the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, is sponsored by Assembly Democrats, Joann Downey, Joseph Danielsen, Eliana Pintor Marin, Andrew Zwicker, Eric Houghtaling and Carol Murphy.

Assemblywoman Downey is the original sponsor of the bill named after Jake Honig, a seven-year old Howell resident nicknamed "Jake the Tank" who was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive from of brain cancer with a rare genetic mutation at the age of two. After undergoing dozens of rounds of chemotherapy, proton radiation therapy, and surgery, his tumor went into remission for four years, until follow-up scans determined that the tumor had returned and spread to other parts of his body. 

Jake's doctors advised his parents that there was nothing more to be done, and he was released to hospice care in his own home. Jake was prescribed six different medications to treat his side effects which included nausea, vomiting, agitation and acid reflux. Medical marijuana proved to be the most effective way of making Jake more comfortable. It helped to improve his mood, appetite and restore his mental well-being. 

"Although medical marijuana proved to be an effective treatment for Jake, his parents noted the difficulties they encountered with the cost, quantity limits, and issues related to producing their own cannabis oil to administer to their son," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "In honor of Jake, who passed away last year, this bill seeks to remove certain restrictions on access to medical marijuana in order to reduce the suffering experienced by, and improve the quality of life of, New Jersey patients, like Jake, seeking treatment for a life-threatening medical condition." 

The bill (A-10-3740-3437), would expand access to medical marijuana for patients with any diagnosed medical condition, require issuance of additional dispensary permits, revise certain requirements concerning patients and primary caregivers as well as requirements for physicians to authorize qualifying patients and improve the application, ownership, and operational requirements for alternative treatment centers.

"This legislation is about helping residents gain access to new treatments that may help them to live better lives," said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). "The medical marijuana program was left to languish under the previous administration and now deserves proper support from the state to improve access to medical treatments for residents who truly need it." 

"However well intentioned, the current program has failed to meet the needs of many of the residents it sought to help," said Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset). "Too many bureaucratic hurdles have rendered the program ineffective and incapable of meeting the demand for this treatment. This bill would make several revisions to the current law so patients who can benefit from medical marijuana can get it more efficiently and without having to jump through multiple hoops."

"For many suffering from critical illnesses, increased access to medical marijuana will mean the difference between being able to participate in life or having to deal daily with, sometimes, debilitating symptoms," said Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon). "This legislation will provide the opportunity for better doctor-patient care with access to a wider range of treatments to fit the illness."

"Too many restrictions have weakened this program and patients have suffered for it. Either we believe medical marijuana to be an effective treatment for some medical conditions or we don't," said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). "If the goal is to really help people who are dealing with medical conditions, such as Jake, with symptoms that can be treated with a medical form of cannabis, then we have to make it more accessible- to help these individuals live their best lives for themselves and their families."

"We want to put patients and doctors back in charge of a patient's medical care plan," said Murphy (D-Burlington). "The current system works against common sense. We need reasonable changes that make patient care the priority."

The bill changes the regulatory structure for the State's medical cannabis program, placing administration under the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) from the Department of Health (DOH). The CRC will have oversight over both the medical and adult-use programs, and will have broad authority to establish the detailed requirements for each program, issue permits, establish new permits, and determine the locations for new permits.