News

ASSEMBLY APPROVES ZWICKER “VOTING PRECINCT TRANSPARENCY ACT”

In an effort to maintain a fair election process in New Jersey, legislation promoting voting transparency sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker was approved by the full General Assembly by a vote of 76-0 on Thursday.
The “Voting Precinct Transparency Act,” (A-4564) requires the filing of election district, county district and municipal ward boundary data with the Secretary of State for posting and downloading online.
The bill also requires the Secretary to post a table or database containing the election results per election district in a format that matches the election districts boundary data.
“Some states do a great job of providing precinct-level election results, others do a great job of providing precinct geographies,” said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunterdon). “However, most states don’t compile either, and the few that do, don’t do so in a way that is standardized. Currently, New Jersey is one of the states that doesn’t compile and release them all. This bill would change that and indeed, would make New Jersey a leader in transparency about election data.”
Currently, all municipalities in New Jersey are divided into election districts for the purposes of election administration and voting. Essex, Atlantic and Hudson counties are divided into county districts from which voters elect some or all of the members of the county governing body. Sixty-four municipalities in New Jersey have established municipal wards from which voters elect some or all of the members of their respective municipal governing bodies.
Under the bill, The Secretary of State must make this data available on the official website of the Division of Elections for the public to download free of charge.

It is important to have high-quality data indicating the boundaries of precincts. According to the sponsor, other benefits would include:
• establishing a precedent of releasing high quality, usable data for use by all New Jerseyans;
• possibly making election administration and ballot assignment easier; and
• making it easier for municipalities and counties to comply with federal mandates such as the Voting Rights Act.

The bill awaits action in the Senate.

 


ASSEMBLY DEMOCRAT-SPONSORED BILL EXPANDING NJ MEDICAL MARIJUANA PROGRAM, INCREASING ACCESS FOR NJ PATIENTS ADVANCES

Legislation Bolstered to Provide Support to Medical Needs of More NJ Residents, Broadens Regulation & Strengthens Job Creation and Business Opportunities in the State

Legislation to improve access to medical marijuana for more New Jersey patients who could benefit now heads to the Senate for further consideration. The full Assembly approved the measure 65-5-6.

The measure is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joann Downey, Joseph Danielsen, Eliana Pintor Marin, Andrew Zwicker, Eric Houghtaling and Carol Murphy.

“I am proud to see the legislature moved to provide patients with access to proven effective treatments based on medicinal marijuana,” said Downey (D-Monmouth).  “Movement of this legislation is in honor of residents who are suffering from a life-threatening medical condition and looking for viable medical answers to improve their quality.”

The bill (A-10-3740-3437) would establish the Cannabis Regulatory Commission to oversee the implementation and regulation of medical cannabis in the state. Among the commission’s directives will be to expand access to medical marijuana for patients with a diagnosed medical condition; regulate the cultivation, wholesale and dispensary businesses aspects; develop a new category of designated caregiver for patients who require assistance such as seniors; and broaden the list of approved forms for medical cannabis.

“Any step that removes the many bureaucratic hurdles a patient and their families have to jump through to get access to the medicine they need is a step in the right direction,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset). “Now the medicinal marijuana program can begin to meet the current demand for this type of treatment where in the past they were rendered incapable and ineffective under previous unfairly, strict regulations. This is the way to go for New Jersey improving access and supporting the access with opportunity.”

“This legislation will impact New Jersey residents in two significant ways. We’re helping patients gain access to new treatments that will help them to live better with an illness,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “And, through the expansion of the medical marijuana program, we’re creating new opportunities for business and career growth in a burgeoning industry.”

“Once enacted, this legislation will provide patients with another treatment modality which can give them relief from debilitating symptoms as a result of their medical conditions,” said Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon).  “New Jersey will be taking a significant step forward in how we improve patients’ quality of life and treat the symptoms of severe and chronic illnesses.”

“Too many restrictions have weakened this program and patients have suffered for it for way too long. Medical marijuana has proven to be an effective treatment for some medical conditions,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “The goal here was to really help people who are dealing with life-changing, long-term medical conditions.  We have to make this treatment even more accessible and more versatile- to help residents 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). “These are the reasonable changes to the current system we need to make patient care and their individual needs a priority and support them wherever they are in their lives.”


Hillsborough Teachers Running Out of Time to Save Jobs

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ – Inevitability could be catching up with members of the Hillsborough Education Association.

No progress was made trying to save the jobs of 51 teachers at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting, and with just one more board meeting left before the union teachers’ contract expires June 30, HEA president Henry Goodhue said members seem to be moving on.

The Board of Education at last month’s meeting announced the job cuts; 37 teachers were fired, with the balance of the jobs eliminated through retirements.

 

Read more Here


ASSEMBLY BILLS DESIGNED TO INCREASE SENIOR PARTICIPATION IN STATE NUTRITION PROGRAM CLEAR ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE

Looking to simplify and streamline seniors’ access to New Jersey  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) programs, a three-bill legislative package cleared the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee Monday.

One bill (A-5311) would establish a $140 standard medical deduction for qualifying seniors under the SNAP Program. It is sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Armato (D-Atlantic), Andrew Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset) and Matthew Milam (Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland).

The other legislative effort, (A-5312), would require the Commissioner of Human Services to review and streamline the SNAP application process for seniors and conduct outreach regarding their participation. It is sponsored by Assemblymen John Armato (D-Atlantic), Roy Freiman (D- Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset) and R. Bruce Land (A- Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland).

The third measure (A-5313) would permit self-verification of shelter expenses, utility expenses, childcare expenses, and adult dependent care expenses, unless the information is questionable, on the SNAP application for qualifying seniors. Assemblymen Land, Armato and Freiman are the bill’s sponsors.

The legislators released the following joint statement:

“Less than half of New Jersey residents 60 and older who are eligible for SNAP benefits use them. These bills look to increase senior participation by simplifying the application process, allowing seniors to apply for SNAP through multiple points of entry, and utilizing a comprehensive community outreach and public awareness campaign.

“Taking these steps will make seniors more likely to take advantage of the SNAP benefits which can help them maintain a healthy diet.”

The bills were introduced on May 13 and complement an anti-hunger bill package introduced by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin last fall. They now await further Assembly consideration.


ZWICKER MEASURE ESTABLISHING “ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP ACT” CLEARS ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE

A measure sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset) to establish the “Energy Infrastructure Public-Private Partnership Act” cleared the Assembly Science and Technology Committee Thursday.
The bill (A-4535) would allow private entities to propose energy-related projects to government entities, at government facilities, as part of a public-private partnership.  The measure would create an Energy Public-Private Partnership Unit, known as the Energy P3 Unit, within the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA). The unit would be responsible for formulating and executing comprehensive, statewide policy for public-private partnership agreements.
Assemblyman Zwicker, chair of the Committee, issued the following statement:

“The benefit of this bill is that it will allow government entities to leverage the expertise and financial resources of the private sector to develop a number of energy-related projects. The Energy EP3 Unit would be fully engaged in this process by evaluating the private entity’s qualifications, financial strength, adequacy and other pertinent parameters deemed necessary by the unit.

“With collaborations being a key component of sound energy infrastructures, this legislation will help government entities partner with the private sector to develop crucial state-of-the art, energy-related projects that can help improve the reliability, efficiency and lower the cost of energy services provided to government facilities.”

The bill is now poised for a vote by the full Assembly.


ZWICKER: DON’T LET YOUR INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER FORCE YOU TO BEND THE KNEE

Assemblyman Wants Restoration of “Net Neutrality”

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon), chair of the Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, is staunchly advocating for the passage of three bills in the New Jersey Legislature that would help restore “net neutrality.” Zwicker issued the following statement today:

“Imagine being a ‘Game of Thrones’ fan and having to pay extra to watch the series finale on Sunday simply because your internet service provider (ISP) wanted to make extra profit off of what will be one of the most-watched television shows in history.  If we don’t take steps to preserve the principle of ‘net neutrality,’ this type of scenario will likely be part of our future.

“Under net neutrality, when you pay your ISP a monthly fee for accessing the internet, whether it is to check email, watch a movie, post a photo with friends on social media, or research a topic, you are in control, not the ISP.

“However, under the Trump administration, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) changed the rules and allowed ISPs to engage in content-based discrimination, specifically, speeding up, slowing down, or blocking access to lawful online content based on the ISPs’ political view or business interests.

“This is simply unacceptable.

“Last year, the NJ General Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, of which I am chair, held hearings on three different net neutrality bills sponsored by my colleague, Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). (A-2131, A-2132, A-2139)

“During these hearings, many New Jersey state legislators, from both parties, supported the need for us to do what the FCC and Congress will not do: protect consumers from a slower internet while ensuring that small businesses, content creators and community-based organizations are not discriminated against.

“The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in March, the ‘Save the Internet Act,’ that restored net neutrality rules and received bipartisan support.  However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared the bill ‘dead on arrival’ and it stands no chance of passing the Senate and becoming law.

“The NJ legislature can do what Congress cannot and protect our right to a free and open internet. I hope, in the very near future, to pass our package of bills in both the Assembly and Senate and send them to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

“Don’t let your internet service provider force you to bend the knee.”


Zwicker issues statement about restoring "net neutrality"


TRENTON, NJ - Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon), chair of the Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, is staunchly advocating for the passage of three bills in the New Jersey Legislature that would help restore “net neutrality.” Zwicker issued the following statement today:

“Imagine being a ‘Game of Thrones’ fan and having to pay extra to watch the series finale on Sunday simply because your internet service provider (ISP) wanted to make extra profit off of what will be one of the most-watched television shows in history. If we don’t take steps to preserve the principle of ‘net neutrality,’ this type of scenario will likely be part of our future.

“Under net neutrality, when you pay your ISP a monthly fee for accessing the internet, whether it is to check email, watch a movie, post a photo with friends on social media, or research a topic, you are in control, not the ISP.

 

Read More Here 


ASSEMBLY SPONSORS OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA LEGISLATION RESPOND TO BILL MOVING FORWARD BY JULY

Assembly Democrats Joann Downey, Joseph Danielsen, Eliana Pintor Marin, Andrew Zwicker, Eric Houghtaling and Carol Murphy released the following joint statement following Senate President Steve Sweeney’s announcement that the Senate will act on this legislation (A-10-3740-3437) fixing the flaws in the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act and making medical marijuana more accessible to patients:

“We are glad to see this critical bill move forward. It’s been a long road, but we have not lost sight of our goal of removing restrictions on access to medical marijuana for patients who could benefit from it. This bill will put patients and doctors back in charge of a patient’s medical care plan. We look forward to taking the next steps to ensure more New Jersey residents have access to this potentially life-changing treatment.”


SINGLETON AND ZWICKER CONDEMN GOVERNOR’S CV OF DARK MONEY BILL

The following is a statement by Senator Troy Singleton and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker in response to Governor Phil Murphy’s conditional veto of their “dark money” legislation, Senate Bill 1500/ Assembly Bill 1524:

“To say we were disappointed to learn that the Governor planned to conditionally veto this landmark legislation via press reports, before hearing from the administration, is a severe understatement. However, upon reading the conditional veto today, we are truly flabbergasted by the explanation presented.

“The Governor says that this bill ‘falls short’ of the goal to bring greater transparency to our political process. That is a gross misrepresentation of months, and frankly, years of hard work by not just those of us who prime sponsored this legislation, but the highly esteemed Executive Director of the Election Law Enforcement Commission, Jeff Brindle, who has long championed this issue. The only thing that “fell short” today was the Governor’s will to truly address the behemoth of dark money that has eroded the public’s trust in our government and the political process.

“While we are pleased we were able to draw attention to this important issue, and elevated the conversation about the need for true reform in this area, the Governor’s actions today are, ironically, an example of politics at its worst.”


NOW LAW: PINKIN, ZWICKER & DOWNEY MEASURE TO SAFEGUARD PUBLIC’S RIGHT TO ENJOY THE SHORELIN

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 was signed into law Friday by Governor Phil Murphy.

“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 law (formerly 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 law, the public’s right to the shoreline will continue to be protected for years to come.”

Under the new law, 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.