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Jasey & Zwicker Bill to Modernize State Documents to be Inclusive of Gender Diversity Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) - To respect gender and sexual identities of all New Jersey residents, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey and Andrew Zwicker to remove blanks and forms requesting gender and sexual orientation information when such data is not relevant was approved Thursday by the Assembly Human Services Committee.

"It's important that we foster a respectful, inclusive environment for our LGBTQ community in New Jersey," said Jasey (D-Essex, Morris). "In most cases, questions about sexual identity and gender on registration forms are simply unnecessary. This legislation would remove those questions, except where medically necessary, to help us embrace gender diversity in our state."

The bill (A-4870) would require that information about a person's sex, gender or sexual orientation would only be collected when such information is vitally necessary for the health and wellbeing of the inviduals seeking the services. This requirement would be applied to all blanks, forms, documents, and applications furnished to the public for official business by every state department, commission, committee, council or agency.

The collection of information about an individual's sex, gender, or sexual orientation for the purposes of statistical research or study would be deemed optional, and be clearly marked as such on each document in order to inform each individual filer that services will not be withheld if the filer chooses not to provide such information. Any questions relating to sex, gender, or sexual orientation would be posed in a sensitive manner, and would not infringe upon or threaten the individual's mental and physical wellbeing; would allow for non-binary designations; and would be consistent with relevant best practices, as recognized by Garden State Equality and other relevant organizations that engage in advocacy on behalf of the state's LGBTQ communities.

The authority to grant or refuse the disclosure of such information would remain with the individual, or with the individual's parent or guardian for a minor under the age of 18. No third party actor, including, but not limited to, a health care provider or a state employee or partner, would have the agency to grant or refuse the disclosure of this information.

"It's no longer appropriate to ask a person about their gender or sexual orientation on a form, particularly if it's not relevant to the matter at hand," said Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon). "Every person has a right to basic respect. This bill will allow us to extend more respect to LGBTQ residents of our state."

Additionally, if the state is required by a federal agency or other federal initiative to collect and report information related to an individual's sex, gender, or sexual orientation, the state department would set rules for the documentation verifying the applicable federal requirements before it would be authorized to include any questions on corresponding forms, blanks, documents, or applications.

The measure now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.


McKeon, Zwicker & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Encourage NJ Businesses to Strengthen Cybersecurity Measures Approved by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) - Most small businesses are completely unprepared for a cyber breach simply due to a lack of awareness and with 'hacking" and data breaches happening almost daily, many consumers are worried that businesses are not doing enough to protect their information.

Legislation helping to inform small businesses of the ways to protect themselves in a cybersecurity attack - sponsored by Assemblyman John F. McKeon, Andrew Zwicker and Valerie Vainieri Huttle--cleared its first legislative hurdle Thursday with approval by the Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee. 

"We've seen, in the last decade, over 20 of the most invasive hacks throughout the country affect millions of consumers -- Target and Marriott corporations included. Large corporations are not the only businesses vulnerable to hacking or data breaching," said McKeon (D-Essex, Morris). "All are at risk. We want businesses to continue to be successful and thrive in New Jersey. Strengthening their data security practices is a major part of that goal in this digital age."

"Hacking or a data breach can happen as easily as opening a corrupted email," said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset), who is a physicist and the chair of the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee. "These incidents have become an unfortunate consequence of the digital age. We can do more to help entrepreneurs prepare their businesses and their customer's information."

The bill (A-4854) would direct the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell (NJCCIC) to develop informational materials for New Jersey businesses concerning cybersecurity prevention and awareness. Materials would include, but not be limited to: 

1) best practices concerning cyber risk management; 
2) guidance concerning cybersecurity training; 
3) guidance for establishing relevant policies; 
4) and a comprehensive list of resources for businesses. 

"When businesses cannot protect their customer's information, the customer loses trust, and their desire to do business declines," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "All businesses, big or small, must take the appropriate steps to ensure their consumer and business data is secure. This legislation will make information that would help protect their businesses from hacking and data breaches more available to them."

Upon request, this information would be provided to any business in the state as well as to any business that registers in the state after the effective date of the bill. The Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell, in consultation with the State's Chief Technology Officer, would also establish a website with data and information concerning electronic mail fraud.

The bill will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further review.


Zwicker Wants NJ to Enact Robust Internet Privacy Laws

New Jersey lawmakers are launching an offensive to try to protect the privacy of residents and allow internet users to prevent the sale of their personal information gathered when they are online.

The Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee is slated to hear today a half dozen measures that would seek to educate individuals and businesses about cybersecurity and put control over the collection and sale of personal information back into the hands of the public.

This discussion comes a day after the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report urging Congress to consider “comprehensive legislation on Internet privacy that would enhance consumer protections and provide flexibility to address a rapidly evolving Internet environment.” The report noted, “The United States does not have a comprehensive Internet privacy law governing the collection, use, and sale or other disclosure of consumers’ personal information.”

That’s exactly why New Jersey needs to put in place its own privacy protections, said Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-Middlesex), who chairs the committee and is sponsoring four of the bills on the agenda.

“This is really about giving consumers power over their data,” Zwicker said. “Should this happen at the federal level? Absolutely. We would want to see these protections at the federal level, but we are not seeing that … Until they do, New Jersey is going to do everything we can to protect New Jersey residents.”

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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.