News

Assembly Bill Would Allow 17-Year-Olds to Vote in Primaries

TRENTON, NJ – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Jamel Holley, Tim Eustace, Arthur Barclay, Angela McKnight and Raj Mukherji that would allow more young New Jersey residents to participate in elections cleared its first legislative hurdle on April 5 with an approval by the Assembly State and Local Committee.

The bill (A-1521), the “New Voter Empowerment Act,” would allow 17-year-olds to vote in a primary election provided they will turn 18 on or before the next succeeding general election.

“Young people in New Jersey are eager to raise their voices and make a difference,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “More than 23,000 of them will have a birthday after the primary but before the general election. Under this legislation, they would be able to vote in both elections. It's an important step forward to fully empower thousands of new voters every year.”

Read More


Curbing the Influence of Special-Interest Groups on NJ Elections

Independent spending in New Jersey elections has grown so large and influential that lawmakers need to act soon and require transparency from special-interest groups, says the state’s election watchdog.

Special-interest groups have proliferated wildly this decade, and legislators have introduced bills in both houses to require them to disclose funders and make other changes designed to strengthen old-fashioned candidate committees and party committees. So far, there has been no action on the measures.

“At this time, when our very democracy is under threat, being able to shine a light on where the money used to influence elections comes from is even more critical than ever,” said Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-Middlesex). He is one of the sponsors of A-1524, a bipartisan bill to revise the state’s campaign-finance laws to include disclosure of contributions by independent spending groups.

Read More


Vainieri Huttle, Gusciora, Zwicker & Chiaravalloti Bill to Revise Requirements for Changing a Birth Certificate Due to Gender Reassignment Advances in the Assembly

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Reed Gusciora, Andrew Zwicker and Nicholas Chiaravalloti to make it easier for an individual undergoing gender reassignment to obtain an amended birth certificate was approved by an Assembly panel on Monday.

“This bill acknowledges that individuals do not necessarily undergo sex reassignment surgery when transitioning genders so it revises the process for obtaining an amended birth certificate to reflect the change in current practices,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Essentially we’re updating a standard state procedure to be more inclusive and reflective of our changing society.” 

The bill (A-1718) would revise the requirements for obtaining an amended certificate of birth due to a change in sex.

Read more

Chiaravalloti, Zwicker & Murphy Bill Package to Uphold Net Neutrality in the Garden State, Ensure Consumers Have Equal Access to Internet Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) - An Assembly panel on Monday released a three-bill legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Andrew Zwicker and Carol Murphy that requires Internet service providers doing business in the state to meet certain net neutrality requirements to ensure New Jersey consumers continue to have equal access to the Internet.

Net neutrality rules created under the Obama administration required internet service providers to treat all content on the Internet equally. Under these rules, providers were prohibited from blocking, slowing down or prioritizing web traffic from some sites or apps, and giving preferential treatment to their own content over rivals, or to content from those willing to pay extra fees. The rules were repealed last year by the Federal Communications Commission.

"The FCC's repeal of net neutrality regulations have made consumers vulnerable to the whims of the cable and telecomm companies," said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). "These measures would help protect New Jersey consumers from potential price-gouging and other unfair practices."

"A fair and open internet is critical to fostering innovation and economic growth, especially for small businesses and startups," said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunterdon). "These bills make clear that while the FCC may have abandoned its responsibility to internet consumers, New Jersey will do what it can to safeguard an open internet for all."

"The decision to repeal net neutrality will change the way people use the internet, and not for the better," said Murphy (D-Burlington). "Weakening consumer protections should never be the goal of any government entity. These conditions can help restore some of the protections lost by forcing these companies to adhere to net neutrality principles if they want to do business in New Jersey."

The first bill (A-2131) would direct the Board of Public Utilities to prohibit an internet service provider (ISP) from installing broadband telecommunications infrastructure on any pole or post located on or over any highway or any right-of-way, or on any underground facility, belonging to a public utility or cable television company, unless the ISP: (1) publicly discloses to customers located in this state accurate information regarding the network management practices and performance, and commercial terms of its Internet service; (2) does not engage in paid prioritization; and (3) permits customers located in this state to access all lawful Internet content, applications, and services, and to use non-harmful Internet-enabled devices, without discrimination and without the impairment or degradation of Internet access speeds, subject to reasonable network management.

The bill is sponsored by Chiaravalloti and Zwicker.

The second bill (A-2132), sponsored by Chiaravalloti, Zwicker and Murphy, would provide that no public contract may be awarded to an Internet service provider that (1) engages in paid prioritization; (2) prevents customers located in this state from accessing all lawful Internet content, applications, and services or using non-harmful Internet-enabled devices; or (3) impairs or degrades Internet access speeds, subject to reasonable network management.

The third bill (A-2139) , sponsored by Chiaravalloti and Zwicker, would require a cable television company (CATV company) to commit to the principle of net neutrality for all Internet service customers as a condition of approval of an application filed with the Board of Public Utilities for a municipal consent or a system-wide franchise for the provision of CATV service.

Under the bill, a CATV company that provides Internet service in this state must commit to provide service that includes: public disclosure of accurate information regarding the network management practices and performance to customers, and commercial terms of its Internet service; the prohibition of paid prioritization; and the grant of permission to customers to: (1) access all lawful Internet content, applications, and services, and to use non-harmful Internet-enabled devices, without discrimination, subject to reasonable network management; and (2) access all lawful Internet content, applications, and services, and to use non-harmful Internet-enabled devices, without the impairment or degradation of Internet access speeds, subject to reasonable network management.

In all three bills, "paid prioritization" means the management of an ISP's network - or in the case of A-2139, the management of a CATV company's Internet network - to directly or indirectly favor some data traffic over other data traffic, including through use of techniques such as traffic shaping, prioritization, resource reservation, or other forms of preferential traffic management, either in exchange for consideration from a third party or to benefit an affiliated entity.

The bills were released by the Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, which is chaired by Zwicker.


Zwicker & Johnson Bill to Protect Freelance Workers Advances

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker and Gordon Johnson to ensure fair treatment of freelance workers was approved Monday an Assembly committee.

The bill (A-1526) provides that a freelance worker must be paid the compensation earned according to work terms agreed to by the freelance worker and its client, and requires the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to act as a regulatory agency regarding these work agreements.

"Freelance workers aren't free," said Zwicker (D-Mercer/Somerset/Hunterdon/Middlesex). "Freelance workers must be paid the compensation they've earned, and we need to ensure this basic fairness afforded to every other worker. Freelances are a valuable part of our workforce, and they provide many services, but too often they lack basic protections. This bill will ensure they're treated fairly, benefiting our economy and, in the end, everyone."

"Freelance workers are invaluable," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "Many businesses rely on them for all types of work, and that's great, but these workers deserve equal protections under the law. This bill is fairness, plain and simple."

The bill defines "client" as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability company, association or other business entity or a nonprofit organization contracting with a freelance worker for compensation equal to or greater than $600. 

Under the bill, a freelance worker must be paid the compensation earned in accordance with the agreed work terms, which must be reduced to writing. If a freelance worker and client did not agree on a date for payment of compensation earned or a mechanism by which that date is determined, then the freelance worker must be paid the compensation earned not later than 30 days after the completion of the freelance worker's services under the written contract. 

The bill also provides that the contract must be signed by the freelance worker, kept on file by the client for a period of not less than six years, and made available to the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development upon request.

It is a violation of the bill if a client is found to threaten, intimidate, discipline, harass, deny a work opportunity to or discriminate against a freelance worker, or take any other action that penalizes a freelance worker for, or is reasonably likely to deter a freelance worker from, exercising or attempting to exercise any right provided under this act, or from obtaining a future work opportunity because the freelance worker has done so.

The bill provides that any freelance worker may file with the commissioner a complaint regarding a violation of the provisions of the bill by a client, for an investigation of the complaint and a statement setting the appropriate remedy, if any. The bill provides that the commissioner may bring any legal action necessary, including administrative action, on behalf of any freelance worker that alleges a violation of the provisions of the bill. The commissioner may also assess against the client an amount as liquidated damages, unless the client proves a good faith basis for believing that its violation was in compliance with the provisions of the bill. Liquidated damages must be calculated by the commissioner as no more than 100 percent of the total amount of the underlying contract.

The bill also provides that if the commissioner determines that a client has failed to pay the compensation of its freelance workers, the commissioner shall issue to the client an order directing payment, which will describe particularly the nature of the alleged failure to pay.

Each freelance worker who files a complaint regarding a violation of a provision of this bill will be provided with a description of the anticipated processing of the complaint, including the investigation, case conference, potential civil and criminal penalties, and collection procedures by the commissioner, in addition to a referral to a navigation program established by the commissioner. Each freelance worker and the representative of the freelance worker, if any, will be notified in a timely manner by the commissioner of the following:

· any case conference before it is held, with the opportunity to attend; and
· any award, collection of back compensation, civil penalties, any intent to seek criminal penalties, and, in the event that criminal penalties are sought, a notification of the outcome of prosecution.

The bill provides that any client who does not pay the compensation of all of its freelance workers in accordance with the provisions of this bill, and the officers, agents, or representatives of any client who knowingly permit the client to violate the provisions of this bill, will be guilty of a disorderly persons offense for a first offense, and in the event that any second or subsequent offense occurs within six years of the date of conviction for a prior offense, will be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. A disorderly persons offense is punishable by a term of imprisonment up to six months or a fine not to exceed $1,000, or both. A crime of the fourth degree is punishable by a term of imprisonment up to 18 months or a fine not to exceed $10,000, or both.

The bill also provides that a freelance worker alleging a violation of a provision of the bill may bring an action in any court of competent jurisdiction for certain damages. The remedies provided by the bill with respect to a private action brought by a freelance worker, and any other remedies provided in the bill, may be enforced simultaneously or consecutively so far as not inconsistent with each other.

Finally, the navigation program established by the commissioner under the bill must include assistance from a natural person by phone and electronic mail and shall also include information accessible via an Internet website maintained by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The navigation program must provide the following: general court information and information about procedures under the bill; information about available templates and relevant court forms; general information about classifying persons as employees or freelance workers; information about obtaining translation and interpretation services and other courtroom services; a list of organizations that can be used for the identification of attorneys; and other relevant information, as determined by the commissioner, related to the submission of a complaint by a freelance worker or the commencement of a civil action under the provisions of the bill by a freelance worker.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Labor Committee.


Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker testifies on Freelancer Bill in Assembly Labor Committee

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker and Gordon Johnson to ensure fair treatment of freelance workers was approved Monday an Assembly committee. The bill (A-1526) provides that a freelance worker must be paid the compensation earned according to work terms agreed to by the freelance worker and its client, and requires the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to act as a regulatory agency regarding these work agreements.


Kennedy, Johnson, Eustace & Zwicker Bill to Encourage Municipalities to Plan for, Build Electric Car Charging Stations Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen James Kennedy, Gordon Johnson, Tim Eustace and Andrew Zwicker to encourage municipalities to plan for the development of electric vehicle charging infrastructure at appropriate locations was released Monday by an Assembly panel.

A report by the New Jersey Energy Master Plan Alternative Fuels Work Group identified the development, installation, and maintenance of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, both at home and at strategically selected public places, as one of the most significant opportunities for, and barriers to, advancing the deployment and use of EVs in New Jersey. 

"Including charging systems in municipal land planning not only benefits the environment and environmentally conscious consumers, but the economy as well," said Kennedy (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). "Planning for and developing this infrastructure can help create jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our reliance on foreign fuels."

The bill (A-1371) would help improve and expand the state's EV charging infrastructure by encouraging each municipality, at the time of the reexamination of its master plan, pursuant to the "Municipal Land Use Law," to identify existing sites of public EV charging infrastructure, and propose locations for future development of public EV charging infrastructure. 

The bill would also amend the "Local Redevelopment and Housing Law" to provide that the development of public electric vehicle charging infrastructure in appropriate locations be considered for inclusion in local redevelopment plans.

"The lack of charging infrastructure can discourage people who are interested in electric vehicles, but are concerned about their recharging options," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "No one wants to get stuck on the side of the road. Ensuring there is sufficient charging stations can help alleviate these consumer fears and encourage more people to invest in environmentally-friendlier vehicles."

"Although most EV charging occurs at home, drivers still rely on publicly available charging," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic), who owns an electric vehicle. "Planning ahead can help ensure that EV owners or consumers interested in electric vehicles will have the supporting infrastructure to meet their needs."

"Limited driving distance between battery charges is a fundamental disadvantage and obstacle to broad consumer adoption of vehicles powered by electricity," said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/ Middlesex/ Hunterdon). "If we want to encourage more people to buy these vehicles, it is essential that a network of convenient electric vehicle charging opportunities be developed." 

The bill was approved by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.


Zwicker: New Jersey Must Be a Leader in Climate Change

The full Assembly on Thursday gave final legislative approval to legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Andrew Zwicker, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Tim Eustace, Joann Downey, James Kennedy and Nancy Pinkin requiring New Jersey to take part in the U.S. Climate Alliance to uphold the Paris Climate Accord and the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Here is the statement Asm. Andrew Zwicker gave on the floor:

 


Assembly Democrats Bill Requiring NJ to Uphold Paris Climate Agreement Reintroduced Approved by Assembly

Mukherji, Zwicker, Vainieri Huttle, Eustace, Downey, Kennedy & Pinkin Legislation would Join NJ with Three other States in Opposition to Trump Decision

(TRENTON) - The full Assembly on Thursday gave final legislative approval to legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Andrew Zwicker, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Tim Eustace, Joann Downey, James Kennedy and Nancy Pinkin requiring New Jersey to take part in the U.S. Climate Alliance to uphold the Paris Climate Accord and the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The measure passed 49-23.

The bill was first introduced last session, and given final approval by the Assembly on January 8. It was among many bills subjected to a pocket veto under the previous Governor.

"Science is a thing, and global warming is real," said Mukherji (D-Hudson). "Abandoning the Paris Climate Accord was a mistake that will be paid for by generation after generation if we do not take action, assuming the world doesn't end under the Trump administration. Aligning ourselves with the U.S. Climate Alliance is the first step."

The bill (A-1929) would require New Jersey to join the United States Climate Alliance, a group formed to pursue policies to uphold the United States' commitments to the Paris Climate Accord in order to address the threats posed by climate change. The group was formed by the Governors of California, New York, and Washington after President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.

"This legislation sends the message that we do not agree, along with other states, with pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon). "We should be a part of the international effort to stop global warming. It is only together that we can make a real environmental change."

"The global effort to affect climate change and global warming began here in the United States and we should remain a leader among nations in these efforts," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "As one of four countries that contribute the most global greenhouse gas emissions, we must work with other countries and strengthen the accord with our participation."

"Pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord would be detrimental to our effect as a nation," said Eustace (D-Passaic/Bergen). "Climate change and global warming is very real and it is not going away unless we join with other nations in the fight to end it."

"The United States will pay a heavy price for withdrawing from the Paris agreement," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "We must do our part, alongside other nations, in curbing the effects of climate change and global warming on our environment."

"While other nations have taken a step forward, the United States has taken a step back," said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). "It's nonsensical. For this reason, New Jersey should join other states in entering the U.S. Climate Alliance."

"The U.S., China, India, and the European Union contribute about half of global greenhouse gas emissions," said Kennedy (D- Middlesex/Somerset/Union). "It is imperative that we join the rest of the world in combating the effects of climate change. Future generations depend on our nation to take a proactive stance against these environmental concerns."

"To effectively address global warming, we must stand with our international partners," said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). "This is a global challenge. We must do our part."

The Assembly State and Local Government Committee released the bill on February 2. It will now go to the Governor for further consideration.


Zwicker, Benson & Barclay Bill to Designate Safe Areas for Online Marketplace Transactions Approved by Assembly

(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Thursday advanced legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Daniel Benson and Arthur Barclay to have police departments establish safe areas with video surveillance for residents to conduct internet purchase transactions.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee and will now be considered for a vote by the full Assembly.  “Searching for the best deal on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace is widely popular today,” said Zwicker (D- Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon). “Unfortunately, meeting up for these purchases are not always safe for residents. Establishing safe, well-lit and surveilled areas outside police stations for these transactions will keep residents safe.”

The bill (A-1522) allows municipal and county police departments to establish designated safe areas which may be used by members of the public to conduct sales transactions for items listed on classified websites, such as craigslist.  “While online marketplace users are encouraged to meet in public places, this bill takes it a step further,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “A public awareness campaign for safe, designated places will help residents make safer decisions when choosing a place to pick up or sell goods.”  

This is an effort to reduce the risk of crime associated with purchases arranged through Craigslist and other online marketplaces,” said Barclay (D-Camden, Gloucester).  “By allowing police departments to reserve safe areas at police stations, we reduce the potential for criminal activity during these transactions and provide protection for residents.”

Under the bill, municipal and county police departments would be allowed to install a video camera capable of recording a clear image of the designated safe area at all times the area is made available to the public.  The local police departments, the bill specifies, and their members would not be responsible for regulating the sales transactions or civilly liable for crimes or offenses committed by participants to the sales transactions.

The bill also requires the Attorney General to notify chief law enforcement officers that they are permitted to establish a designated safe area on municipal and county police department property. The Attorney General would also be required to conduct a public awareness campaign, utilizing the Internet and any other available resources, to inform the general public about designated safe areas established throughout the state.