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Zwicker "Bot" Measure to Prohibit Misleading Communication Involving Purchases, Elections Approved by Assembly

Legislation Aims to Protect New Jersey Residents

Looking to strike a balance between innovation, transparency and consumer protection, a bill prohibiting the use of an online "bot" to communicate or interact for the purpose of misleading a person during a purchase, or to influence the outcome of an election, was approved 75-1-0 Thursday by the full Assembly. The legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset), would protect the public from bad actors who would utilize bots to spread misinformation, a problem not limited to the state of New Jersey.

"The spreading of misinformation used to influence elections or otherwise mislead consumers is a real and credible threat to our democracy and way of life," said Assemblyman Zwicker. "Making sure that New Jerseyans know whether they are interacting with an actual person or a computer helps keep people informed and gives them one more layer of protection against people or entities who may have malicious intent." 

As defined by the bill (A-4563), a bot is an automated online account where most of its posts are not operated by a person

A person who violates the provisions of the New Jersey bill would be liable for a civil penalty of $2,500 for the first offense, $5,000 for the second offense, and $10,000 for each subsequent offense. If the individual discloses that it is, or is using, a bot, liabilities would not be applicable. The disclosure would need to be clear, conspicuous and reasonably designed.

According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, of the 66 percent of Americans who report familiarity with social media bots, 80 percent think they are used for mischievous activities. Another 66 percent view social media bots as negatively affecting Americans' thoughts about current affairs.

The bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration.


Zwicker, Freiman and Watson Coleman on Upcoming White Supremacist Rally in Princeton

Disturbed and concerned about Saturday's scheduled white supremacist rally at Princeton University, Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset), Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset) and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ, 12th District) issued the following statements Friday: 

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesexand Somerset):
"These few people who choose to spew their hatred want to divide our community. They will not and cannot ever prevail here in Princeton, the State, or the country as a whole, because an attack on our neighbors is not just an attack on our neighborhoods, but on our humanity. There is no room in our community for those who would choose hate, bigotry, and ignorance over love, empathy, and understanding. I will stand with my community this Saturday, as we peacefully demonstrate that diversity and compassion for each other is far mightier than the vile hatred of those white supremacists who have chosen to gather because hate has no home here."

Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset):
"Seeing blatant acts of bigotry and hatred like the rally planned for Saturday really infuriates me - especially when they're happening in my own backyard. This behavior does not represent the values we stand for in New Jersey and it will never be welcomed here."

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ,12th District):
"The freedom of speech that protects you and me unfortunately protects the right of those who have planned a white supremacist rally in our community this weekend. While they may come to spout hate and division, I'm confident they will quickly learn that our neighborhoods offer few sympathetic ears. I am proud of those in Princeton who reject this kind of bigotry and inhumanity, choosing to respond with love and inclusivity. I know many in Princeton will want to confront hate and stand up for their friends, classmates and colleagues. If you do, I implore you to protest peacefully. Don't let their hate poison your own heart. Show them that Princeton rejects hate and violence."


“Nosey’s Law,” Sponsored by Mukherji, Zwicker & Holley Providing Protections to Elephants and other Exotic Animals in NJ Signed by Governor; Becomes Law

(TRENTON) – Concerned about the abuse of elephants and other exotic animals in circus acts, legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Raj Mukherji, Andrew Zwicker and Jamel Holley prohibiting the use of these animals in traveling acts such as fairs, carnivals, circuses and flea markets in New Jersey was signed into law Friday by Governor Murphy, making New Jersey the first state to ban traveling circuses.

The law (A-1923) is designated as “Nosey’s Law,” in honor of Nosey the elephant, who is forced to travel the country and give rides at events despite being virtually crippled by arthritis. The arthritis has likely caused unnecessary suffering and permanent disability for Nosey, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture has failed to take action to protect Nosey, and Nosey’s owners continue to use her in shows.

“These are wild, endangered animals, and they should be cared for according to the highest ethical standards to ensure the survival of their species,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “We cannot allow ill-equipped handlers of traveling animal acts to mistreat and exploit endangered species.”

A number of other states are considering bans on wild animal circus acts, including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Hawaii and New York. A federal bill - the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA /H.R.1759) – has gained bipartisan support in the US House, to end the use of wild and exotic animals in traveling shows nationwide. 

“The mistreatment of any animal is inhumane and wrong,” said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunterdon). “But it is particularly disturbing when wild, endangered animals are captured, misused, and exploited for profitable entertainment."

“The conditions some of these animals are forced to endure is deplorable, not fit for any animal,” said Holley (D-Union). “Many of the elephants, large cats and others are among our most endangered species, with only a few remaining. We should be protecting and preserving future generations instead of exploiting them.” 

Any violations would be subject to the penalties provided in section 10 of “The Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act,” which would include administrative penalties, civil penalties and injunctive relief, but not the criminal penalties described in the law.

This legislation does not apply to a non-mobile, permanent institution or facility licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and permitted by the Division of Fish and Wildlife in the Department of Environmental Protection, institutions of higher education exhibiting wild or exotic animals for educational purposes or outreach programs conducted by government entities.

The bill-turned-law cleared the Assembly and Senate on October 29.


Zwicker “Voting Precinct Transparency Act” Clears Committee

In an effort to maintain a fair election process in New Jersey, legislation promoting voting transparency sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker was advanced by the Assembly State and Local Government Committee 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 who do, don't do so in a way that is well-standardized. Currently, New Jersey is one of these 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.


Mazzeo, Armato, Zwicker & Murphy Hurricane Sandy Relief Legislation Advanced by Assembly Panel

Providing relief for New Jersey residents who were affected by Superstorm Hurricane Sandy, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vincent Mazzeo, John Armato, Andrew Zwicker and Carol Murphy was approved by the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee on Monday.

"Though a significant amount of time has passed, we fully recognize that far too many of our families and local businesses are still struggling to regain what was lost during the devastating superstorm," said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). "There is certainly more work to be done, but these bills are a great step forward in helping our residents rebuild."

"It is important that the legislature is focused on the work that we, as a state, still have left to do in order to get to a place of full recovery from Hurricane Sandy," said Armato (D-Atlantic). "That is why we have introduced a number of bills to continue to fight for our residents and business owners who are still struggling to rebuild their homes and communities."

The bills sponsored by Mazzeo and Armato include:

A-4529 (Mazzeo, Armato): Concerns reimbursements to Superstorm Sandy-impacted homeowners who were subject to contractor fraud.

A-4530 (Armato, Mazzeo): Concerns information, such as mold damage, on property condition disclosure statements provided by real estate broker, broker-salesperson, salesperson, government employee or a person licensed by the state to inspect homes.

A-4531 (Armato, Mazzeo): Requires New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism prepare report on state travel and tourism industry recovery since Superstorm Sandy.

Additionally, another measure (A-4536) sponsored by Zwicker and Murphy would require the Department of Community Affairs to track, as necessary, natural disaster-related spending from various outlets in New Jersey in an effort to add a layer of transparency to the disaster recovery process.

"After Hurricane Sandy, far too many parts of our state were forced to rebuild their homes, businesses and communities from the ground up," said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunterdon). "The data collected as a result of this bill will allow us to be more prepared for future storms like Sandy as well as become more aware of the funds needed to restore areas of our state if necessary."

"Unfortunately, there is often little to no way of knowing the amount of damage that will come from a superstorm or natural disaster," said Murphy (D-Burlington). "This can result in surprisingly high costs for our taxpayers. Having a natural disaster spending summary to look back at, should another devastating storm hit New Jersey, will be extremely helpful in helping keep our hard-working families safe while saving money."


Assembly Democratic Bill Greatly Expanding Access to Medical Marijuana by Adding Eligible Conditions and Protections for Practitioners and Patients Advanced by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – To expand access to medical cannabis for all eligible patients in New Jersey, Assembly Democrats have sponsored legislation amending the requirements for the regulation of the state's medical cannabis program. The bill was advanced through the Assembly Appropriations Committee Monday.

The bill (A-10) would revise the regulatory structure for New Jersey's medical cannabis program, shifting the primary administration from the Department of Health (DOH) to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC), which is to be formed under the adult-use cannabis bill currently advancing through the Legislature, as well as increase access to and expand licensure for medical cannabis.

"It is about time we remove the unnecessary obstacles in the way of patients getting the treatment that works best for them," said Joe Danielsen (D-Middlesex/Somerset). "By reversing the onerous restrictions previously in place in our state's medical cannabis program, we are doing a service to patients and doctors all across New Jersey."

"The previous model of New Jersey's medical cannabis program forced patients to jump through countless unnecessary hoops in order to receive the treatment they need," said Herb Conaway (D-Burlington). "Finally, this will no longer be the case."

“We are finally removing the burdensome restrictions in place for our state’s medical cannabis patients,” said Eliana Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “By doing this, we are ensuring that patients in New Jersey are able to receive the best care possible.”

Highlights of the bill include:

•   changing the term "debilitating medical condition," currently used to be eligible for medical cannabis to "qualifying medical condition," greatly expanding access for individuals in need of medical cannabis;
•   codifying conditions added by the Medical Marijuana Review Panel in January 2018, which would include chronic pain of musculoskeletal or nervous origin, anxiety, migraine, Tourette's Syndrome and menstrual pain;
•   amending requirements for authorizing medical cannabis for patients. This legislation repeals the current requirements for physicians to "certify" patients for the medical use of cannabis and allows physician assistants and advanced practice nurses to authorize patients to use medical cannabis;
•   the establishment of three new basic permit types: Cultivator, Manufacturer and Dispensary, as well as a special integrated curriculum permit and clinical registrant permit, with twenty-five percent of permits dedicated to minorities, women and disabled veterans;
•   amending the requirement for a psychiatrist to approve a minor for medical cannabis to instead require approval from a board certified pediatric specialist, or physician assistant or advanced nurse practitioner with equivalent certification;
•   increasing eligible forms of medical cannabis to include transdermal forms, sublingual forms and tincture forms, as well as removing restrictions under current law for edibles for minors; additionally, the bill also explicitly includes "oils" in the list of edible forms;
•   the phasing out of the sales tax structure for medical cannabis, beginning at 5% for FY20 and FY21, 3% in FY22, 1% in FY23, and no tax commencing in FY24;
•   overhauling regulations on caregivers in order to allow them to provide the best care possible to medical cannabis patients; and
•   adding protections for patients, caregivers, physicians and alternative care centers to treat medical cannabis as any ordinary prescription medication.

"For years, our residents have wanted medical cannabis to be a real option for their ailments," said Andrew Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). "Finally, patients will be able to be granted the care they need and deserve."

"What we are doing is making medical cannabis an actual, viable option for patients in need of medical care," said Joann Downey (D-Monmouth). "By treating cannabis as the medicine that the vast majority of health care professionals consider it to be, we are doing a service to practitioners and patients across New Jersey."

"Patients across our state deserve to be able to access their medicine without fear of endangering their professional status," said Eric Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). "By extending protections to patients and practitioners, we are creating a stronger, safer New Jersey.”

"Our hope is that this bill will remove cumbersome restrictions currently in place for New Jersey's alternative care practitioners and patients," said Carol Murphy (D-Burlington). "By allowing professionals to properly care for their patients, our residents can get the health care they need.”

The bill now goes to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.