News

MUKHERJI, SPEARMAN & ZWICKER BILL TO INCREASE CASH SUPPORT PAYMENTS FOR RECIPIENTS OF PUBLIC ASSISTANCE CLEARS ASSEMBLY

To ensure the most economically vulnerable residents in the state are supported during a state of emergency, the Assembly approved legislation 52-1-12 on Monday.

The bill (A-3858) would require the Commissioner of Human Services to issue supplemental cash assistance payments, under certain circumstances, to those within the Work First New Jersey program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and the special supplemental food program for women, infants and children.

The bill sponsors, Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson), William Spearman (D-Camden, Gloucester) and Andrew Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon), issued the following statement:

“Food shortages caused by COVID-19 could have a devastating impact on families who rely on public assistance programs to put food on the table. Too many living paycheck to paycheck are grappling with what do if they are unable to afford extra stocks of food and basic supplies at home. Making sure these families, in times of special vulnerability like a pandemic, have the extra financial support they need is both critical and just.”


ZWICKER ON LEGISLATION ALLOWING CHIROPRACTORS TO OBTAIN TEMPORARY LICENSE TO PRACTICE IN NJ ON A SHORT-TERM BASIS

Bill Now Heads to Assembly Speaker for Further Review

Sports teams that employ a chiropractor on staff often prefer to bring them along when traveling out of state. Under current law, chiropractors traveling to New Jersey with their teams or visiting the state to teach educational programs and seminars are not allowed to practice here.

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker sponsors legislation that would permit licensed chiropractors from other states to obtain a temporary license allowing them to practice within New Jersey for up to 14 days. The chiropractor’s malpractice insurance would carry over while traveling in another state with an athletic team, as per legislation recently passed at the federal level.

Upon the bill (A-1194) passing the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee Thursday, he released the following statement:

“Chiropractors who work closely with professional sports teams understand what the athletes need to help prevent injuries and improve their performance. That’s why more than 90 percent of world-class athletes use a chiropractor.

“Team members trust their chiropractors and should be able to travel with them when visiting our state for a game. Similarly, chiropractors who come here to share their expertise at local seminars through hands-on demonstrations should also receive temporary authorization.

“With this legislation, New Jersey would join more than 30 other states in allowing chiropractors licensed elsewhere to temporarily practice within our borders.”


BIPARTISAN BILL TO BOOST TRAINING FOR ADVANCED MANUFACTURING WORKFORCE PASSES COMMITTEE

Legislation Sponsored in Part by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker

In an effort to help more people acquire the skills they need to obtain jobs in the advanced manufacturing industry, legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker would provide assistance to these businesses by helping more students receive the training needed to enter the field. Advanced manufacturing uses innovative technology to improve the manufacturing process and the resultant products.

The bill (A-1431) was advanced by the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee on Thursday. Assemblyman Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon) released the following statement:

“Advanced manufacturing techniques such as automation and information technologies improve productivity and efficiency by minimizing time and waste, as well as suppling consumers with the high-quality goods they demand. As the manufacturing industry transitions to more advanced techniques, workers need to acquire the skills that allow them to participate in this exciting new field.

“This legislation helps this workforce transition by creating a list of industry recognized credentials to be used in developing educational programs in our county vocational schools and higher education institution. The Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the Secretary of Higher Education and members of the manufacturing industry will be developing the credentials criteria.

“A skilled workforce in the advanced manufacturing field will prove to be an invaluable asset to New Jersey’s thriving science, technology and innovation economy.”

The measure is also sponsored by Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-Essex, Morris, Passaic).


SINGLETON, ZWICKER STATEMENT ON THE FUTURE OF ‘DARK MONEY’ IN POLITICS

Senator Troy Singleton and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker issued the following statement on the future of “dark money” in politics:

“The Attorney General’s action brings closure to the lawsuits that had kept us in limbo for too long. We have already begun working with the legislative leadership on the next steps and we believe there is a clear path forward. With the presidential and congressional elections later this year, we expect tens of millions of “dark money” dollars to be spent in an attempt to influence the outcomes. We will continue to fight to ensure that those organizations that accept anonymous large donations are forced to disclose their sources. We must shine a light on who is working secretly to change the course of our elections. The people of New Jersey deserve nothing less than the fairness and transparency our legislation will provide.”


Asm. Zwicker hosts BPU Forum on How to Lower Your Energy Costs

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D- 16th District-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon) is welcoming Daylight Savings Time by hosting a New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) forum on energy savings, Wednesday, March 11, 2020, noon, Hunterdon County Library in Flemington. The information presented will benefit the individual consumer by describing ways to lower one’s energy costs, while simultaneously benefitting society with reduced energy consumption that ultimately conserves the earth’s natural resources.

BPU ombudsperson Ken Sheehan will provide several different strategies for consumers to improve energy efficiency and reducing their energy bills – including implementing energy efficient structural upgrades, using energy efficient lighting, participating in rebate programs for everyone and special ones for senior citizens, and exploring alternative energy initiatives. Mr. Sheehan will explain the advantages and mechanics of going solar, as well as the community solar project, Referring to a larger, centrally located solar array or facility that is divided among multiple participants or subscribers, the community solar project is particularly suited for renters or homeowners whose homes cannot accommodate solar panels.

“I am so pleased that the BPU can lead a conversation on this critically important topic. Each of us, while saving money on our energy bills, can play a role in reducing energy consumption and our impact on the climate,” said Assemblyman Zwicker.

Hunterdon County Library, 314 State Route 12, Bldg. #3, Flemington, NJ 08822. Main phone: (908) 788-1444.

For information, please call the office of Asm. Andrew Zwicker 732-823-1684 or email phersh@njleg.org


JOHNSON, CONAWAY & ZWICKER BILL TO ESTABLISH NJ FUEL CELL TASK FORCE PASSES FULL ASSEMBLY

Aiming to boost adoption of clean energy alternatives and grow the market for fuel cells in New Jersey, the fully Assembly voted 79-0 on Monday unanimously advancing legislation (A-741) that would establish a 15-member task force within the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) on the use of fuel cell technologies.

Fuel cells facilitate the combining of hydrogen and oxygen to make water, and convert the chemical energy into electricity. The cells can be used in all-purpose generators as well as integrated with stationary machinery, specialty vehicles like forklifts, portable floodlights, and motor vehicles giving them broad applications.

Sponsors of the bill, Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), Herb Conaway (D-Burlington) and Andrew Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon) released the following joint statement:

“As the applications of fuel cell technology continue to grow, we are looking at an ever-increasing capacity to shift away from fossil fuels and toward better, cleaner power sources. By creating a central task force comprised of cross-sector experts, this measure takes the first step in accelerating New Jersey’s implementation of fuel cell technologies.

“Engaging State departments, local government, industry and the public on the topic of fuel cells, the task force would be largely beneficial in helping develop policy recommendations and a course of regulatory action. If we plan to make New Jersey’s goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050 a reality, keeping at pace with innovations and integrating clean energy technologies will be critical.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration.


DO YOU WANT ANYONE TO HAVE YOUR MOST PERSONAL INFORMATION? WE DON’T THINK SO, LAWMAKERS SAY

By Roy Freiman, Andrew Zwicker & Annette Quijano

We would never expect a bank to release our financial information any more than we would want the government to distribute our social security number, or a doctor to share our medical records. So why are we so compromising when it comes to the privacy of our most sensitive personal information: our genetic data.

Containing information as basic as your ethnicity to information comparably as intimate and unique as your fingerprint, genetic data can reveal a lot about who you are both on the surface and beneath it.

With the rise of direct-to-consumer genetic testing, millions of Americans began opting-in to services offered by private companies like 23andMe and Ancestry.com with hopes of discovering more about their heritage, connecting with lost relatives or identifying increased risk for disease like Alzheimer’s and breast cancer. However, as they swabbed their mouth or spit in a tube and mailed in their DNA for analysis, few paused to consider the implications for their data privacy.

As details of how your data could be used and where it could end up remained deep in the fine print of company policies, many remained unaware of what and how much they had consented to give away. A Deloitte survey from 2017 puts the number of Americans willing to consent to legal terms and service agreements without reading them at 91%. That fact, paired with limited industry transparency, has put a huge burden on consumers and made informed consent relatively elusive.

Today, it is quite likely if you submitted your DNA sample for testing, your genetic data sit anonymized in a database owned by a pharmaceutical company, academic research group or some other third-party entity. In 2018, 23andMe struck a $300 million deal to share its genetic database with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, and the company maintains partnerships with Procter & Gamble Beauty, Pfizer and others. Ancestry.com similarly shared data, collaborating with Google’s Calico to study aging.

And, while in the aggregate this data presents enormous opportunity for new drug development and biomedical advancement you can never really be sure that your data won’t be leveraged by bad actors for all the wrong reasons.

As a number of studies have pointed out, anonymized data are not fool proof. With enough effort, a significantly large chunk of data can be traced to the originating individual and their relatives. Running crime scene evidence against DNA profiles publicly uploaded to GEDmatch, police solved the four decades old Golden State Killer cold case. Therefore demonstrating that, despite efforts by companies to detach identifying information, the promise of anonymity and privacy is difficult to guarantee.

We are lacking a regulatory framework to address the privacy of genetic information. As strong federal policy in this specific area has yet to emerge, what has resulted is an industry that remains largely under-regulated and a public that is alarmingly uninformed.

New Jersey can’t wait. We need better safeguards for genetic privacy now. That’s why we’ve charted our own course, sponsoring legislation (A-1170) that not only requires consent to use DNA samples and any resulting genetic information, but also makes DNA samples the exclusive property of the individual.

Stipulating ownership of genetic data is about securing New Jersey consumers’ right to choose. Empowered and informed decision-making can only arise when we are the ones in control of who can and cannot access or use our data. Under the measure, we assure the power always remains in the hands of the consumer.

With this legislation, New Jersey would join 24 other states that require informed consent to disclose genetic information. The state also would become sixth after Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana in explicitly defining genetic information as personal property, and second only to Alaska in extending personal property rights to DNA samples.

Protecting people and ensuring all industry competitors play by the same rules are fundamental strategies to securing greater genetic privacy for New Jersey residents. Laws requiring fair and responsible industry behavior are how we keep genetic data in the right hands – the individual to whom it belongs.

 


ZWICKER & CONAWAY INTRODUCE BILL TO REGULATE NJ LAW ENFORCEMENT’S USE OF FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY

Just recently, the New Jersey Attorney General prohibited law enforcement in all 21 counties from using Clearview AI’s facial recognition software after a New York Times article revealed the start-up had built its database by scrubbing billions of photos from online social media platforms.

In light of many concerns regarding the implications of this new technology, Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker and Herb Conaway introduced a measure (A-1210) to require the Attorney General or governing body of a county or municipality, as appropriate, to host a public hearing prior to the implementation of any facial recognition technology by a State or local law enforcement agency.

“The use of facial recognition technology raises serious data privacy concerns, so we need to be thoughtful in our consideration of policy around this issue,” said Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, chair of the committee. “In creating a public forum for discussion, we can involve local New Jersey residents in the dialogue about facial recognition and its use in police work. While the benefits of facial recognition technology are real, the inherent risks to privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights are severely consequential and must be weighed equally.”

The Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee during the Monday meeting received testimony from academic, policy and industry experts concerning the use, prevalence and risks of facial recognition technology.

“The fact is facial recognition technology is out there and law enforcement is using it,” said Conaway (D-Burling). “But without a better sense of how exactly they are using it, or an understanding of how effective it is in helping apprehend criminals and solve crimes, we can’t make any definitive assessments about whether applications of this technology are necessary, appropriate and ethical.”

‘Facial recognition technology,’ as defined within the bill, is a computer application that uses facial recognition algorithms to identify or verify a person from a digital image or video frame from a video source.

Further provisions of the legislation would require the initial public hearing to identify clear objectives and goals for agencies regarding use of the technology, and that the program’s efficacy be evaluated after five years.

A test run by the ACLU of Northern California further revealed facial recognition misidentified 26 members of California’s State Legislature as individuals from an arrest photo database. Over half of the legislators misidentified were lawmakers of color, indicating a worrisome racial disparity in software’s algorithmic accuracy.


ZWICKER & SINGLETON: WHO’S GIVING N.J. CANDIDATES $100M TO WIN OUR VOTE? NOT KNOWING HURTS DEMOCRACY

By Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker & Senator Troy Singleton

As we mark the 10-year anniversary of the monumental Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which has brought with it an unprecedented explosion in political spending by independent special interest groups, we jointly renew the call for transparency.

Entering 2020, we look back on a decade of court decisions that together have empowered special interests to wield unlimited, undisclosed sums of money funneled in by wealthy donors and organizations to distort our elections and threaten the foundation of our democracy.

The compound of this has been groups who do not disclose their donors flooding federal elections with $963 million in outside spending, according to data from Open Secrets. Shockingly, that number had been only a mere $129 million in the previous decade. In New Jersey alone, according to data from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, “dark money” spending by independent groups ballooned to nearly $100 million in just the 2017 and 2018 election cycles.

This puts spending by these groups at the gubernatorial, legislative and congressional levels together at more than twice the combined spending by county and state political committees – who under law are bound to disclose large donors. By virtue, that puts our ability to identify sources of campaign funding to less than half the total amount of contributions streaming into New Jersey elections.

The relentless increase of dark money spending has steadily eroded our ability to know who is attempting to influence our elections as groups are able to keep their sources of funding a secret, opaque to the public. Their influence is profound and has impacted elections at all levels of government.

But this issue goes beyond electioneering. The interests backed by dark money have become infused into every part of political life, and now also tremendously impact the outcomes of public policy. Without clearer regulation and reforms, this threatens the general interest of the people of New Jersey. That’s why the Garden State needs to take a stand and shine a light on dark money.

This issue is about people and the protection of equitable democracy where the interests of a few aren’t being disproportionately prioritized over the interests of the many. Voters have a right to know where the money is coming from in order to make empowered, informed decisions about the people they want representing them.

We cannot afford for progress on dark money reform to be stunted by groups across the political spectrum who benefit from or advocate for nondisclosure. They know who they are. Our law (S-150), currently on hold since October 2019 due to a court-issued injunction, is timely. As written and enacted, it will require dark money groups to report large sums of contributions when operating in New Jersey.

And despite pending litigation allowing dark money to stay dark, we are committed to continuing the fight because shining a light is the single most important step we can take toward good government.

At present without reform, New Jersey is falling short of its commitments under this law to set a precedent for accountability, transparency and fairness when it comes to money driving politics.

The simple fact is this: Everybody is in favor of disclosure until they have to disclose. The people of New Jersey deserve better and so does our democracy.

Senator Troy Singleton represents the 7th Legislative District. Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker represents the 16th Legislative District. Both are sponsors of dark money legislation (S-150) signed into law by the governor in June 2019.

https://www.nj.com/opinion/2020/01/whos-giving-nj-candidates-100m-to-win-our-vote-not-knowing-hurts-democracy-legislators-say.html


ZWICKER, MILAM AND MAZZEO BILL TO STUDY LONELINESS AMONG VULNERABLE POPULATIONS SIGNED INTO LAW

With loneliness affecting three out of four Americans, a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Matthew Milam and Vincent Mazzeo requiring the Commissioner of Human Services to study how social isolation and loneliness impact certain populations was signed into law Tuesday.

The law (formerly bill A-5314) requires the Commissioner to assess and report on the nature and frequency of social isolation in New Jersey, specifically among people aged 65 and older, individuals with disabilities, and individuals with mental illness. Other vulnerable populations, including military service members, would be included in the study as deemed appropriate.

“Social isolation is not just a social issue, but a public health concern,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset). “For elderly and other vulnerable and special populations, isolation can negatively impact health outcomes and lead to premature death. The Commissioner will have the critically important work of studying this issue and how it impacts certain populations. With the research and evidence discovered as a result, we can begin to effectively address social isolation.”

“The Commissioner’s analysis will uncover how often the people in these groups feel isolated, the number and percentage of people in the groups who feel isolated, and the number of people in the group who are more prone to feeling isolated,” said Milam (D-Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland). “We also need to understand the triggers that contribute to such isolation.”

The report prepared by the Commissioner will identify demographic and other characteristics held in common by members of these groups. It must also include a wide array of information, including symptoms and indicators of social isolation, circumstances and situations that contribute to isolation and trends among the socially isolated.

“Many people don’t realize that loneliness really does impact health and wellness,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “It’s actually a public health issue that is linked to smoking, obesity and the risk of death in older adults.”

The Commissioner’s report will also indicate ways in which other states have addressed issues of social isolation and which resources within our own state are available or could be improved.

The final report will be submitted to the Governor and Legislature, and its findings and recommendations will be published on the Department of Human Services’ website.