Zwicker, Conaway, Land, Downey & Houghtaling Bill to Fund Historic Preservation Projects in NJ Now Law

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Herb Conaway Jr., M.D, Bruce Land, Joann Downey and Eric Houghtaling to invest in the preservation of places of historical significance in New Jersey is now law.

The new law (A-4583) appropriates approximately $3 million to the New Jersey Historic Trust to provide grants for various historic preservation projects in Burlington, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Somerset, Sussex and Union counties. The funds are derived from the 2009 Historic Preservation Fund and the unexpended balance of constitutionally-dedicated corporation business tax revenues in the Diesel Risk Mitigation Fund.

"The Daniel Robert House, which houses Borough Hall and the borough's library, is a center of civic life in Somerville," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "Historic sites like this are all over our state. These sites bind us not just to each other, but also to our state's rich past. We must invest in preserving them."

"There is economic value in preserving our historical places and sites," said Conaway (D-Burlington). "Preservation can make our state more appealing as a heritage tourism destination."

"New Jersey is rich in history," said Land (D-Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland). "We should make every effort to preserve this history for future generations."

"Historic sites like All Saints' Memorial Church and the Count Basie Theatre add a great deal of value to life in New Jersey," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "Investing in their upkeep is critical to ensuring that they are appreciated long into the future."

"A visit to a place like the Burrowes Mansion forces us to stop and realize just how much of America's history happened right in our own backyard," said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). "That's a huge point of pride for New Jersey. This money will go a long way toward preserving some of our state's most celebrated historic sites." 

The measure received unanimous approval from both houses of the legislature before being signed into law by the governor on Thursday, July 13th. 

Eustace, Zwicker, Downey, Wisniewski & Pinkin Measure to Facilitate Municipal Consolidation Now Law

Easing Consolidation Between Municipalities Can Improve Efficiency, Reduce Burden on Taxpayers 

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, Andrew Zwicker, Joann Downey, John Wisniewski and Nancy Pinkin to facilitate municipal consolidation in New Jersey is now law.

"New Jersey leads the nation in property taxes, which often leads our residents to consider moving to a state that's more affordable," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Making it easier for some of the more than 500 municipalities in New Jersey to consolidate can help lower property taxes and ultimately keep people here." 

The new law (A-2202) authorizes municipalities to adopt ordinances for special emergency appropriations in order to cover non-recurring expenses they incur to implement a municipal consolidation. The authorization of the special appropriation is subject to the approval of the director of the Division of Local Government Services.

The use of special emergency appropriations to fund the non-recurring costs associated with the consolidation process will allow consolidating municipalities to immediately begin to realize the financial savings of municipal consolidation, the sponsors noted.

"Over the long term, consolidation can help streamline services and ultimately lower property taxes, but at the beginning, municipalities have to determine how to pay for the associated one-time, upfront costs," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "With greater access to money to cover these costs, more municipalities can get on the road to consolidation and with it, a reduction in the tax burden on their residents." 

"If municipalities find that consolidating can deliver benefits for their residents, the initial financial obstacle should not prevent them from implementing a practical means of decreasing taxes," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "With this new law, municipalities will be able to cut costs and provide immediate savings for taxpayers."

"Municipal consolidation is an important step in achieving property tax reform in New Jersey," said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). "It may not be the answer for all municipalities, but those that see it as a viable avenue to lower taxes should be able to pass the benefits on to taxpayers as soon as possible."

"High property taxes are driving people out of New Jersey. Consolidation isn't a panacea, but it can help," said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). "If one-time expenses associated with consolidation are reasonable and consolidation will result in long-term savings, then making a special emergency appropriation ought to be permissible."

The governor signed the legislation into law on Friday, July 7th.  

Assemblyman Zwicker Announces Summer Mobile Office Hours

(Skillman, NJ)-- Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker announces his summer mobile office hour dates for July and August.  Held at various locations across the 16th District, the office hours provide an opportunity to receive support in matters related to state agencies, voice your opinion on state issues and familiarize yourself with services available through our Legislative office.

“Our goal is to make ourselves accessible to constituents, no matter where they live in the district,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “I encourage residents to bring their questions and concerns to these mobile office hours.”

For more information please email: or call 609-454-3147.


Hillsborough Office Hours:

Monday July 17th, 2017          5:30-7:30PM

Hillsborough Library

379 S Branch Rd, Hillsborough Township, NJ 08844


Somerville Office Hours:

Wednesday August 2nd, 2017   5:30-7:30PM

Somerville Public Library

35 West End Ave, Somerville, NJ 08876


*Manville Office Hours:

Monday August 7th, 2017         5:30-7:30PM

Manville Public Library

100 S 10th Ave, Manville, NJ 08835


Hunterdon County Office Hours:

Wednesday August 16th, 2017    5:30-7:30PM

Hunterdon County Library

314 NJ-12, Flemington, NJ 08822


*Representatives from Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman’s office will be present to address any Federal matters constituents may have.


Statement of Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker on Budget Passage and Horizon Bill

(Skillman, NJ) -- On July 4th, Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker issued the following statement on the budget being passed and the Horizon Bill:

"Early this morning, we passed the 2017-2018 budget and state parks and beaches are open for all.  More importantly, state offices are back on a normal schedule and state workers are back to their jobs.  In addition, we are expanding pre-K, beginning to tackle inequities in school funding, and protecting programs that provide needed services for some of our most vulnerable citizens.  

Along with the budget, the Legislature passed a bill concerning Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield. Modeled after legislation in other states, any excess funds will be returned to the policyholders and there is no “money grab” or takeover of the company. No matter what you read online, this was an enormous defeat for the Governor as he heads into the last six months of his administration.

Democracy is messy and there is much to do tomorrow and in the days ahead.  Today, we pause and gather with family and friends to celebrate the birth of our country."



Statement of Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker on Budget Impasse and Government Shutdown

(Skillman, NJ) -- On Sunday, July 2nd, Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker released the following statement about the current budget impasse and resulting government shutdown:

"Disagreements in politics are inevitable, but the disagreements over this budget were not good faith disputes over funding priorities. Instead, the Governor threatened to eliminate school aid increases and other important programs if we do not meet his demands, and he has now shut down our state government to make good on those threats. This is no way to lead, and the people of New Jersey deserve better.

The controversial proposal on Horizon, which I cannot support in its current form, remains at the center of this harmful impasse and government shutdown.  With the attacks on the Affordable Care Act in Washington, D.C., the future of healthcare is uncertain, and tens of millions of Americans in New Jersey and around the country are at risk of losing their health insurance.  Lives are literally at stake. While we absolutely must ensure that Horizon is acting in a responsible, accountable way, we should do so through our usual legislative process.  Tying the Horizon proposal to the State’s budget is arbitrary and unnecessary.  

On Thursday I did not vote on the proposed budget to allow more time for the Legislature and the Governor to strike a compromise that would ensure his signature on the budget as it is, which includes critically important funds for property tax relief, healthcare, infrastructure and school aid.  In my legislative district alone, school districts in Manville, Somerville Borough and Montgomery would receive much-needed boosts in funding, to the benefit of thousands of children. 

While the budget is not perfect, particularly because of a flawed lottery-pension scheme it incorporates, on Friday I voted yes to ensure that we did not shut down the government. 

I am always proud and grateful to serve the 16th Legislative District in the General Assembly. I urge all New Jerseyans to contact the Governor and urge him to commit to signing the budget in its entirety without conditions, and end the shutdown."

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

(Trenton, NJ) -- Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gabriela Mosquera, Paul Moriarty, Joseph Lagana, Andrew Zwicker and Joann Downey to allow victims and witnesses of domestic violence and sexual assault to testify against their abusers via closed circuit television under certain circumstances cleared the Senate, 38-0, on Monday.

"Having to recount an abusive relationship in front of your abuser can be unnerving for an individual who's been battered," said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). "For children who may have witnessed their mother being abused, it can be equally frightening to have to testify in a courtroom with the abuser, especially if the abuser is a parent. Permitting victims and young witnesses to testify via closed circuit television allows them to confront their abusers without fear."

The bill (A-1199) would permit witnesses and victims to testify against the defendant via closed circuit television in prosecutions for a crime involving domestic violence, certain sex crimes or crimes involving the abuse or neglect of a child.

"Domestic abuse is traumatic. Some victims are so frightful of their abusers that they would rather not press charges or even testify in court for fear of retribution," said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). "This bill makes it easier for victims to come forward and get justice."

"Oftentimes victims struggle over whether or not to report their abusers because they fear for their safety," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "This bill would help victims hold their abusers accountable without fear of doing so under their glare in a courtroom." 

"This is the right thing to do for victims who have already suffered too much," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex). "We need to take whatever humane steps we can if there's a substantial likelihood that the witness would suffer severe emotional or mental distress if required to testify in open court."

"The criminal justice system works most effectively when witnesses and victims can provide the testimony necessary to assess the facts of a case," said Downey (D-Monmouth). "When these individuals have a means of talking without fear, it helps ensure that the judicial process functions the way it should."

Under current law, the court may order the taking of the testimony of a witness 16 years of age or younger on closed circuit television in prosecutions for aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal sexual contact, human trafficking involving sexual activity, child abuse or in any action alleging an abused or neglected child if the court finds that there is a substantial likelihood that the witness would suffer severe emotional or mental distress if required to testify in open court. 

This bill would expand current law to encompass victims and witnesses of any age, and provide that the court, in granting an order to allow closed circuit testimony, shall assure that: the victim or witness will testify under oath; the victim or witness will submit to cross-examination by the defendant's attorney; and the defendant, jury, and judge will be permitted to observe the demeanor of the victim or witness when making testimonial statements using closed circuit television. 

In addition, the measure clarifies certain procedural provisions, including that the defendant's counsel would be present in the same room as the victim or witness at the taking of testimony on closed circuit television, and that the defendant and defendant's attorney may confer privately with each other during the testimony by a separate audio system.

Under the bill, the video portion of the closed circuit testimony would not be recorded and would not be part of the record on appeal. Only the audio portion of the testimony would be recorded. Such audio recording could be part of the record on appeal, depending on the age of the victim or witness and the order of the court.

The bill gained unanimous Assembly approval in September; and it now heads to the Governor for further consideration. 

Lampitt, Quijano, Eustace, Kennedy, Benson, Muoio, Zwicker & Mukherji Bill Establishing State Goal to Reduce Food Waste in NJ Gains Final Legislative Approval

The General Assembly on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Annette Quijano, Tim Eustace, James Kennedy, Dan Benson, Elizabeth Muoio, Andrew Zwicker and Raj Mukherji to establish a statewide food waste reduction goal of 50 percent by 2030.

"Food waste is a major issue nationally and globally," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "Unwanted and discarded food squanders water, land, energy, labor and capital resources. When food waste is dumped in a landfill, it rots and creates methane, a very hazardous greenhouse gas. We should begin to look at alternatives to ridding surplus food, especially if it is still unspoiled, instead of just tossing it in a landfill." 

"One third of the food produced in the world for human consumption -about 1.3 billion tons - is lost or wasted every year," said Quijano (D-Union). "We must take steps to reduce New Jersey's contribution to food waste and plan for the future."

"If a quarter of the food lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people globally," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic), chair of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee and sponsor of a bill (A-1760) that would offer farmers an incentive to donate leftover food to local food banks. "By taking the right steps and encouraging donations of surplus food by farmers we can stock our food banks with fresh fruits and vegetables for residents and reduce unnecessary waste."

"Food loss and waste is the single largest component of disposed municipal solid waste in the U.S.," said Kennedy (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). "We must come up with a plan to decrease food waste in New Jersey that will support families and foster a healthier environment."

"The EPA and the Secretary of Agriculture announced a national goal to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "With this bill, New Jersey would adopt the same goal and support national efforts to reduce waste. We can make sure fewer people go hungry and decrease the potential of unnecessary waste in New Jersey by participating in this effort."

"Hunger is a sad reality for far too many New Jerseyans, which makes it doubly outrageous that such a large percentage of our food supply ends up in landfills and trash heaps," said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "Setting this new sustainable goal will put our state on the road to ending this unconscionable waste of critical food resources."

"A recent report by Feeding America revealed that close to 12 percent of the state's population does not have access to enough food to lead healthy lives," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/ Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "Yet billions of tons of food are discarded a year in this country. We can as a state make smarter decisions by planning for the distribution of unused, surplus food, helping more families put food on their table and reducing food waste."

"Ending food waste in New Jersey starts with setting a goal and making a conscious effort to achieve it," said Mukherji (D-Hudson). "In addition to putting an emphasis on getting food to hungry people, this measure aims to benefit the environment by ensuring that less food waste - the largest component of municipal waste in the country - ends up in landfills."

The bill (A-4631) would establish a state goal of reducing, by the year 2030, the amount of food waste generated annually in the state by 50 percent. 

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

The DEP would be required to hold at least three public hearings during the development of the plan to seek public input. The departments also would be authorized to consult and coordinate with other governmental entities and private, nonprofit or charitable associations, organizations or businesses - such as those in the agricultural, grocery, restaurant, food manufacturer, food supply, food bank, food pantry, and healthcare sectors of the food industry - in developing and implementing the plan. 

The bill, which received unanimous approval from both houses of the legislature, now heads to the governor. 

Zwicker & Johnson Bill to Protect Freelance Workers Approved by Assembly

(Trenton, NJ) -- Legislation Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker and Gordon Johnson sponsored to ensure fair treatment of freelance workers was approved Thursday, June 22nd, by the Assembly.

The bill (A-4410) 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 will now be referred to the Senate.

Zwicker, Muoio, McKeon, Prieto, Kennedy, Eustace, Wimberly & Chaparro Measure Urging Governor to Join Climate Alliance Gains Assembly Approval

Legislation Follows Trump's Decision to Withdraw from Paris Agreement

(Trenton, NJ) -- Legislation Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Elizabeth Muoio, John McKeon, Speaker Vincent Prieto, James Kennedy, Tim Eustace, Benjie Wimberly and Annette Chaparro sponsored to urge the governor to join a multi-state climate change coalition formed in response to President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord gained approval Thursday in the New Jersey General Assembly.

The resolution (AR-264) urges the governor to join the United States Climate Alliance. Twelve states and Puerto Rico have joined the bipartisan alliance aimed at adhering to the conditions of the Paris Agreement since June 1, when Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the global climate change pact. Because the Paris Accord is an international agreement, individual states cannot join, but they can agree to adhere to its standards independently. 

"The anti-science, anti-fact policies of the Trump Administration resulted in a decision that will have deleterious effects on the Earth, our children's future and our economy if we do not stand up for evidence-based policy-making," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "With this resolution, we urge Gov. Christie to join a growing number of states, dozens of mayors and more than 100 businesses in fundamental opposition to President Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement."

"When nearly 200 countries around the globe adopted the Paris Agreement, they acknowledged that climate change is one of the world's greatest challenges and that we have a collective responsibility to respond in order to save the planet," said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "Joining the Climate Alliance would be a declaration that, regardless of what happens at the White House, New Jersey is committed to those ideals." 

"President Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord was a deliberate decision to choose political expediency over science and reason," said McKeon (D-Morris/Essex), vice-chair of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee. "The Climate Alliance is working not only to continue the fight against climate change but also to reassert the nation's position as a global leader when it comes to one of the most pressing matters of our time."

"Only three countries in the world are refusing to participate in a landmark effort to save the planet, and it is nothing short of a shame that the United States of America is among them," said Prieto (D-Bergen/Hudson). "The president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement does not represent the views of the majority of Americans, and it most certainly does not represent the views of the majority of New Jersey residents. For the sake of our state, the nation and the entire world, New Jersey must join the United States Climate Alliance." 

"Since the year 2000, we've had 16 of the hottest years in history, yet President Trump ignored scientific evidence and chose to endanger both the planet and the nation's status as a global leader by withdrawing from the Paris Agreement," said Kennedy (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). "New Jersey has to join the Climate Alliance, because - regardless of whether you live in Paris or Pittsburgh or Plainfield - climate change is a global problem that requires a united global response."

"New Jersey has a history of leadership when it comes to the environment. If ever there were a time to stand up and proclaim our commitment to combatting climate change, it is now," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic), chair of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee. "Becoming part of the Climate Alliance would be a signal to the world that the state of New Jersey remains steadfast in the fight against climate change." 

"President Trump said he was withdrawing from a monumental effort to respond to climate change because he 'was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.' Well, the people of Paterson - where residents with asthma represent two-thirds of Passaic County's asthma-related emergency department visits - deserve better," said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Climate change and environmental injustice are inextricably linked. Members of the Climate Alliance, like the people of New Jersey, understand that connection." 

"Top scientists and military officials have concluded that climate change is a threat to our planet and to our national security. We cannot take their warnings lightly," said Chaparro (D-Hudson). "The president, unfortunately, has failed to lead on this issue, which means New Jersey now has to double down when it comes to standing up for the environment."

The resolution gained approval 51-17-6 from the Assembly.

Assembly Democratic Bill to Ensure Safety of Special Needs Students on School Buses Clears Assembly Panel

Bill sponsored by Muoio, Benson, Vainieri Huttle, Gusciora, Caputo, Zwicker & Eustace


(Trenton, NJ) -- Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Elizabeth Muoio, Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Reed Gusciora, Ralph Caputo, Andrew Zwicker and Tim Eustace to protect special needs students who ride school buses was released Monday by an Assembly panel. 

This bill (A-4332) would establish a minimum ratio of school bus aides to special needs students on a school bus. The bill is in response to a series of assaults that occurred on school buses in the Trenton School District, including incidents against young children with special needs. 

"This is a parents' worst nightmare," said Muoio (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "Students with special needs are especially vulnerable, as they may be seen as easy targets. This helps ensure there is adequate supervision on school buses to help prevent such a terrible incident from happening again."

Under the bill, a board of education or a contractor that provides pupil transportation services under contract with a board of education must ensure that a school bus has at least one school bus aide on board for every 15 students with special needs. The aide-to-student ratio must be maintained at all times when a school bus is transporting students with special needs or a combination of students with special needs and general education students. 

"We cannot be lax when it comes to the safety and security of our children," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "This can help prevent such unfortunate incidents by ensuring there is always an adult on a school bus who can monitor student behavior and step in when problems arise."

"Parents who have no other means to get their children to school should not have to worry every time their child gets on a school bus," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Providing the necessary supervision on school buses to ensure the safety of all students should be a top priority."

"We have a responsibility to students and the parents who trust us with their well-being," said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "What occurred on those buses should have never happened. Having ample coverage on school buses can help deter such behavior and help keep student safe."

"We can't expect bus drivers to supervise students while keeping their eyes on the road," said Caputo (D-Essex). "Making sure that there is sufficient oversight on school buses can help prevent such attacks, and help ensure the overall safety of our most vulnerable students."

"We must protect students who might be more vulnerable to attacks," said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunterdon). "Children should not have to forfeit their safety when they get on the school bus. This can help prevent such reprehensible incidents and keep students safe."

"Parents should feel comfortable knowing that when their children board the school bus, they will be safe," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Expecting children to supervise themselves is impractical. This can help ensure that kids get to and from school without incident."

The bill would take effect immediately.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Education Committee.